By KIRAN MALIK-KHAN, Connect Contributor
Take a bow – everyone involved. Keyano College received a $10-million grant from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Council for its Theatre expansion. The grant was a result of Councillor Jane Stroud’s motion at the July 14, 2015 regular Council meeting. The Theatre will undergo a massive $40-million expansion with nearly double the seats – from 594 to 1200.
Projected design features balcony level, including two cpremium box seating areas, while the third floor will have a community accessible, studio and gathering space, according to the presentation made to Council by Theatre Director, Alan Roberts, and Paul Taylor, Keyano College Foundation Chair. A professional art gallery is also on the roster.
The Theatre opened 35 years ago in September 1980. Roberts, who has been with the College for 27 years, which means he has been part of 121 of the total 164 productions to date, says it was time to get it a face-lift.
“The Theatre has weathered the years fairly well, but the decor has become dated and the usage and needs of our users has changed so much in the past years. The expansion has been in development for several years. Some preliminary plans/drawings were initiated two years ago and our strategic business plan for the Theatre was completed in the spring of 2014. The business plan was instrumental in supporting the proposed growth in both the seating capacity of the Theatre as well as the new multi-use exhibit gallery and an upgraded, enlarged lobby space that is welcoming and would be a great gathering space before and after events.”
Roberts said plans were made with both current and future users in mind. “Our plans are actually based on our current needs and naturally reflect future growth as well. We have many local community users that have events that exceed our capacity and are either restricting their attendance or have to book a second (or third) night to meet their audiences. This holds true for many touring agencies that would like to use our venue as well.
Our own events, in particular our Syncrude Arts Alive Presents series, showcases professional talent from across the country and internationally, but there is a limit as to what scale of artist we can present in order to keep ticket prices reasonable and be fiscally responsible. We also want to make our current programming accessible to our community be keeping ticket prices affordable and thus facilitating larger attendances,” continued Roberts.
As for expansion, he notes, it would literally mean “tearing off the roof.”
“The lobby doubles in size and we will be adding a second floor “mezzanine” area. This lobby can be used as a venue by itself for exhibits, art markets, readings, almost anything. The expansion to me is seeing the ability to continue being a centre of gathering and engagement and to grow new ideas, plans and initiatives. It is also a chance to review our current technologies and ensure we will be ready for the next 20 years.”
Finally, Roberts hopes the expansion will not only mean more people, but more events at the Theatre.
“I’m planning on both! Not all events will require the added seating, but we will now able to investigate those events that will. The intent is with the Theatre’s presentation that by keeping our tickets accessible we want to encourage more of our residents to enjoy a concert, a play or a film and join us at Keyano,” he said. CW