I arrived for the celebratory event, and found myself walking through the shiny glass doors bathed in Roxy’s bright yellow light. Thinking of how awkward it would be if I didn’t decide to put on my only occasion-appropriate dress at the last minute, I strolled down the red carpet alone, and saw a lovely smiling face on the feature screen. A strange sense of encouragement pulled me to smile back at the smiling portrait of the friendly white-haired lady.
Half an hour later, I found out that it was a portrait of the endearing Nancy Power, first president of Theatre Network, the woman whose passionate spirit encouraged generations of artists in Edmonton’s arts scene.
Seven years after the devastating fire at the old Roxy Theatre, this city landmark is now back to life and ready to open its doors again. Roxy’s first feature for the upcoming spring season is William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, A Radical Retelling by Cliff Cardinal, running April 26th to May 15th, at the new 200-seating mainstage, Nancy Power theatre.
“This will be an entirely different experience than before. We tried to preserve the intimacy in the theatre space like before, but also expand it to art exhibitions and event holdings,” says Jared Tabler, board president of Theatre Network. “It feels good to come home.”
For those who have loving memories of the old Roxy, the first returning visit is going to be a nostalgic experience combined with surprises.
The new Roxy was designed by Group 2 Architecture and Interior Design. It includes two performance spaces, a rehearsal hall, two visual art galleries, an open bar and a rooftop patio with great views of 124th Street.
“There was a time we thought we lost everything,” says Tabler. “It took a whole community to rebuild, and it was people’s passion that kept us along the way. Especially after the pandemic, the spirit of our community truly survives.”
Walking along the street in the evenings, Roxy’s signature yellow light sign shines fondly on the sidewalk, as laughter and cheerful spirits fill up the space. I could feel the vibrant energy in the air: the band jamming for the first time on the new “black box” stage, the bartenders trying out different light selections behind the bar, the volunteers gently placing flower bouquets alongside the red carpet. Everything was in harmony.
Do I need to confess? I was not an Edmontonian when the old Roxy Theatre was destroyed by fire in 2015. My heartbreak was postponed when I saw the reel of that fire, my moment of silence was for a history that I didn’t take part in, but my awe in the newly rebuilt Roxy is real, and I manifest on a wonderful future with her.
I was a party crasher at a family reunion when I first walked in, but I guess it was OK to be the new guest at the welcoming new home. We’ve all gotta start somewhere.