Calgary’s Grand Theatre looks to overcome difficult history to restore its artistic glory

2022-01-29 4:42:00 PM

Calgary’s Grand Theatre looks to overcome difficult history to restore its artistic glory

Grand, Board

Calgary ’s Grand Theatre looks to overcome difficult history to restore its artistic glory

Board of directors creating a new direction for Calgary theatre after artistic director’s departure but some say say efforts aren’t focused on creating an artistic vision

Then COVID-19.The company paid off its debts by selling its building to a developer in 2021. And it is trying out a new leadership model. Rather than employ a single artistic director to lead in-house creation, the board and executive director will bring in curators from different disciplines.

Josh Platt/HandoutIn an interview, Ms. Mion emphasized that she wants the Grand to succeed. More concerning to her, she says, is the bigger picture: the role of a board in an arts company – which has become the subject of much discussion at performance companies.

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Create Free Account What should a theatre company be? Calgary’s Grand Theatre – formerly Theatre Junction Grand – is grappling with this question as it labours to shed some difficult history.Article was updated 5 hrs ago JOIN THE CONVERSATION As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, Ontario theatres are expected to be up and running across the province on Jan.Social Sharing Alert says boy was allegedly taken by his mother, Tamara Jean Vanderjagt CBC News · Posted: Jan 27, 2022 6:09 PM MT | Last Updated: 25 minutes ago An Amber Alert has been issued for a two-year-old boy, Hawkin Thomas.Copy article link Copy link Hours after issuing an Amber Alert, the Calgary Police Service cancelled it after they determined “the child in question is safe.

“It’s a beautiful theatre, it’s a jewel,” says Christine Brubaker, veteran theatre artist and associate professor at the University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts. But, she adds, “there’s been a lack of a clear artistic will for it. 3.” The board is developing what it calls an ambitious, financially responsible and sustainable vision. Calgary police said the boy, Hawkin Thomas, was abducted around 2:30 p. The proposed new direction comes after the hiring and departure of Nicole Mion as artistic director last year. Here are some of the new movies that will be available to screen this week. In the years before that, the company struggled with problems that included near-bankruptcy, huge staff turnover, and allegations of a toxic work environment and willful disregard of complaints about it at the board level.

Then COVID-19. When he asks for help from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to restore his secret, the stakes become even more dangerous as he has to battle the most powerful villains while discovering what it truly means to be Spider-Man. The boy had been involved in a supervised visitation with his mother, which took place in the 1900 block of Ninth Avenue S. The Grand’s current leaders say the changes are meant to ensure the company’s longevity and contribution to the arts in Calgary. “We’re very honest: We know that the Grand has a spicy history and not all of it great,” says executive director Erynn Lyster, who joined the Grand a year ago. Returning to their iconic roles are Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers) and David Arquette (Dewey Riley) along with a fresh new cast. “We want to do things differently, but we need to know what needs to be done differently in order for us to do that. Hawkin Thomas is described as having long blond hair. “We’re not starting from the ground up; we’re starting from six feet under for many reasons – COVID being one of them. Dune Directed by Denis Villeneuve, “Dune” follows Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a gifted young man who travels to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people.

” The company paid off its debts by selling its building to a developer in 2021. And it is trying out a new leadership model. Read . She was last seen wearing a black hoodie and red pants. Rather than employ a single artistic director to lead in-house creation, the board and executive director will bring in curators from different disciplines. “We are experimenting right now, just because we need to find the right model that clicks with the Grand and the community and makes sense in Calgary’s cultural fibre,” says Ms. Their blossoming romance fuels the fire between two rival street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. Lyster, a graphic and web designer with a background in the events industry rather than the performing arts.E.

At this time, the Grand has no plans to create its own work. The 440-seat theatre reopened in 2006 after a major renovation. Josh Platt/Handout That did not align with Ms. Amber Alerts are issued when a child or adult with a proven mental or physical disability is abducted and is at risk of harm. Mion’s plans when she was hired in January, 2021. My vision for the Grand aimed to cultivate local, national and international art of consequence that reflected the issues of our times, while showcasing Calgary’s innovative spirit and placing it in conversation with a global community,” Ms.

Mion wrote in a letter she sent to her professional contacts in the fall. The letter disclosed that she and the company had parted ways. “The board of directors has chosen to take the organization in a different direction,” she wrote. In an interview, Ms. Mion emphasized that she wants the Grand to succeed.

More concerning to her, she says, is the bigger picture: the role of a board in an arts company – which has become the subject of much discussion at performance companies. Ms. Mion says she wonders how much power a board should have – especially one with little or no artistic representation. The Grand’s board has traditionally been populated with corporate executives, including from the energy and manufacturing sectors. “Who’s responsible for the community asset? Is that the board or the community?” Ms.

Mion says. “When the organization is the steward of something as important as a 440-seat theatre in the middle of a city, whose is that? And who should have a say in that and in its ongoing ability to thrive?” This is not the first time the role of the board at the Grand has come under scrutiny. The Theatre Junction Society was established by theatre artist Mark Lawes in 1991. He was artistic director for more than 25 years and executive director for some of that time as well, including between 2006 and 2011, and September, 2014, and April, 2016. Theatre Junction started at the Betty Mitchell Theatre in the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

In 2004, it began work to save the historic Grand Theatre downtown. The 1912 building was being used as an indoor golf driving range and was threatened with demolition. After a major renovation, Theatre Junction Grand was opened in 2006 to create and present original, interdisciplinary work in Calgary that would also tour widely. Mr. Lawes left in 2018.

In a December, 2018, news release, the board’s then-chair, Duane Hertzer, thanked Mr. Lawes for bringing contemporary live art “into what has become an artistic culture house for Calgarians.” But the Grand was in serious financial distress. “They were at the brink of declaring bankruptcy and looking at restructuring the organization, and then saved the organization by taking out a significant loan to cover all the debts,” says current board chair Jenn Lofgren, who joined the board in 2019 and became chair in 2020. Staff turnover was high amid allegations of a poor work environment – concerns that were brought to the board but not properly addressed, some former workers say.

“It was really difficult to sustain a positive, consistent environment there,” says Elaine Weryshko, who was an intern in 2007-08. She is now an independent theatre producer, curator and artist. At the same time, Ms. Weryshko says, Mr. Lawes developed and brought in excellent programming.

A letter sent by another former employee, Tonya Lailey, to the board chair and executive in 2016 said destructive behaviour and a dysfunctional workplace had become extremely damaging. “There was a huge amount of breakdown in the leadership structure,” says Ms. Brubaker, who arrived in Calgary from Toronto during the turmoil. Mr. Hertzer, who remains active on the board as past-chair, declined to be interviewed for this story.

Asked in December about the allegations of a toxic work culture during his tenure, Mr. Lawes replied: “It’s really hard for me to say, because I stepped away from the financial and human resource management in 2016, and I was in fact pretty much not there between 2016 until I left, in fact.” The theatre was built in 1912 and was threatened with demolition before renovations. Handout He added that the management of the theatre space was all-encompassing, eclipsing the artistic work. Running the operation meant he had less time and energy for the actual shows.

By 2016, he wanted to focus on the artistic side and stepped down as executive director. He also began a paid six-month sabbatical that year. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished. For 10 years, we presented hundreds of artists from all over the world and created work of our own that toured nationally and internationally,” he told The Globe and Mail. Mr.

Lawes took the original name with him. He runs Theatre Junction in Montreal. The Calgary entity is now The Grand. After COVID hit, the Grand’s entire staff was laid off, and in late 2020, the board started talks with Toronto-based Allied Properties REIT, which owns the historic Lougheed Building next door, about buying the Grand. Allied specializes in heritage buildings (including Massey Hall in Toronto), and the sale was finalized in early 2021.

Ms. Lofgren calls it a necessary decision to create a viable and sustainable future. “The sale proved highly beneficial because we are now debt-free,” she says. According to financial statements, the sale was worth $6.3-million – $5-million cash, plus about $1.

3-million in prepaid rent. The Grand has a lease until March 31, 2035, with a guaranteed renewal. The financial statements also show the Grand went from a deficit of more than $720,000 in 2020 to being $2.1-million in the black as of June 30, 2021. Ms.

Mion says the board hired her to build a new artistic vision for the company. She also runs the non-profit multidisciplinary company Springboard Performance, and developed a plan for Springboard to become a resident company at the Grand. In a vision statement, she proposed “a bold and original season of local, national and international programming envisioned as a much-needed platform for creating a new context for the performing arts and innovation sectors here in Calgary.” She shared the statement as an addendum to the letter in which she announced her departure. Many members of the theatre community were shocked – and upset.

They had been excited about Ms. Mion’s plans and the potential for the Grand to return to artistic glory. “It’s heartbreaking. They had invested in this idea,” Ms. Brubaker says.

“Of course, there are always bumps in the road, but at least give that particular framework that you had pursued time to grow, time to develop.” On Dec. 10, Ms. Lyster sent an e-blast to artists, audience members and others associated with the theatre titled “A GRAND Update.” She promised new beginnings for the oldest theatre in Western Canada: new board members, with some arts expertise; a new leadership team; and plans to ask stakeholders, including the artistic community, “hard questions” about the Grand’s role.

“We imagine a model that will bring together creative visionaries with diverse perspectives from a variety of disciplines,” she wrote. “We are excited about a collaborative way forward, one where community input is actively solicited and integrated.” In the e-mail, Ms. Lyster invited people to participate in “an involved process to engage key stakeholders” to investigate how the Grand can best serve the Calgary arts community, including artists and other arts and culture organizations. Ms.

Lyster says she has heard from many people who would like to be involved. She told The Globe on Friday she anticipates invitations to participate going out in early February with consultations in March if all goes well. But some members of the arts community took issue with the request, concerned that bringing in curators on an ad hoc basis is not effective leadership. Ms. Brubaker said she was approached about applying for a board position last fall and declined.

She was uncomfortable with the idea of an executive director at the top rather than an artistic director. “That’s a model for me where the alarm bells go off because they’re not centering the artwork. What I worry about is they’re centering the business model rather than an artistic vision,” said Ms. Brubaker, adding that she is worried the Grand could simply become a presenter. “The business model needs to follow the vision.

It can’t be the other way around, for me.” The building was sold in 2021 to Toronto-based Allied Properties REIT, which owns the historic Lougheed Building next door and specializes in heritage buildings, including Massey Hall in Toronto. Handout Veteran actor, director and University of Calgary theatre instructor Valerie Planche responded to Ms. Lyster’s e-mail with a scathing letter that expressed disappointment over what happened with Ms. Mion, whom she called a seminal artist in the community.

Ms. Planche said she would not participate in the stakeholder engagement process. “There is now NO artistic leadership at the Grand, but a management board asking artists, once again, to curate shows for peanuts,” she wrote, accusing the Grand of exploiting artists by seeking their expertise for free. She sent copies to each member of the board. “These types of thoughtless actions are what makes me, and many others, want to replace board structures across Canada,” she wrote.

When Ms. Planche posted her letter on Facebook, she received dozens of comments in support. Ms. Weryshko, who since interning at the Grand has premiered her own work there, responded in a letter that said one element has remained consistently dysfunctional throughout the venue’s history: the board. She chastised the board for decisions that included letting Ms.

Mion go. “Shame on all of you!” she wrote, accusing the board of “mind-boggling lunacy” and prioritizing ego and money. She wrote that she had been potentially going to present new work at the Grand this year under Ms. Mion’s curation, and now that opportunity had been “stolen” from her. “Why have you taken the road of shutting us out, insulting us, distrusting us and making it clear that ‘we’ are not important to you.

Good luck winning back our trust, especially after seeing how you treated Nicole Mion – you didn’t give her a chance to curate and execute a full season.” Ms. Planche and Ms. Weryshko received replies from the Grand. Ms.

Weryshko says she was invited to meet with the board chair, but wasn’t comfortable with a one-on-one meeting at which she would be the sole voice for the community. “I would really like them to just understand that it’s not about me complaining, it’s not about Val complaining, it’s about a longstanding history of dysfunction and distrust with that venue and something has to break,” she said. Grand officials plan to incorporate what they hear in the community engagement process in the strategic plan – although Omicron put a wrench in everything. The theatre’s first performances since the most recent turmoil had been scheduled for this month as part of the High Performance Rodeo. The festival was cancelled because of COVID-19, as was a show planned for early February.

But the Grand officials hope to launch multidisciplinary cabaret-style performances by local artists in late February. And they are planning some co-presentations for the spring. “We are continually dedicated to supporting the careers of our local artists,” Jenna Klein-Waller, the Grand’s director of programming and engagement, wrote in an e-mail to The Globe last week, “particularly during the challenging time for the performance industry brought on by COVID-19.” for The Globe’s arts and lifestyle newsletters for more news, columns and advice in your inbox. Follow .