I was an awkward theatre nerd in high school, more prone to sing along to Gilbert & Sullivan than listen to Top 40. Walterdale Theatre & Associates became my home away from home in high school and the early university years - the scene of countless hours scribbling blocking notes in rehearsal halls, skulking in dark corners backstage as props runner or assistant stage manager, up in the booth calling cues and running lights, or magically under the lights in gorgeous costumes performing in pantomimes, melodramas, comedies, and dramas.
Walterdale was the scene of my first stage kiss and my first real kiss, first drink, first adult friendships. I ditched my grade 12 grad dance in favour of the Walterdale year-end party and, over 13 shows, built a passionate love affair with the arts. Other adventures and priorities led me away from the old firehall, but the love affair remained. It led to stints as an arts journalist, commentator and reviewer, marketer, arts administrator, and communicator. (Although if you'd asked me then, I was going to win a Tony!)
I feel deep gratitude for toward that welcoming and inclusive community; it continues to challenge and support every person who joins in the fun of putting on a show whether as audience, technician, or performer. I hope spaces such as Walterdale, which bridge the divide between "professional" and "amateur", become more accessible, more prevalent, and thrive as Edmonton moves into the next chapter of its cultural life.
(photo by C. W. Hill Photography; The Mumberley Inheritance, 1987 - Walterdale Klondike Melodrama @ the Shoctor)
When I came to Edmonton in 2005, I needed a place to practice theatre. I was primarily an actor, but Walterdale Theatre gave me the opportunity to direct, design, and be a playwright. It's doors are open to everyone and all stories and it's philosophy of mentor-ship means that if you want to try something but don't know how, someone can and will teach you. Not only a place for creating art, it is also a family. My first show there was as an actor in a new work, Lunatic, by Jacqueline Lamb. I met artists that continue to be my friends to this day. The following season I joined the Board of Directors, acted in another play and that led to eventually directing there (Crimes of the Heart) and then I became Artistic Director. I've stayed a part of Walterdale since. I direct occasionally and act occasionally and design occasionally and am back on the Board of Directors as President.
For the future Walterdale is maintaining it's open door policy. It's a space that believes in all voices and welcomes everyone who comes. Unlike professional theatres, it's audition policy is that everyone who requests an audition is granted one, and there is no precasting - they must audition to be considered. For show selections, anyone can submit for consideration. For roles on the Board, all are welcome to put their name forward. We've also instituted a new membership policy which eliminates financial barriers. Membership is simply earned through volunteer hours, making it possible for anyone of any economic situation to become a member.
In thinking about Walterdale, it's hard to pick a favourite memory. So many shows have been wonderful experiences. Because the art was important and so were the people.