Edmonton’s arts community was shaken with the sudden loss of the iconic Roxy Theatre in the early morning of January 13. Almost six months after the Edmonton landmark was razed in a fire, Theatre Network, which has called the Roxy home for more than 20 years, lives on. They just wrapped up their season with the 20th anniversary of the NextFest Arts Festival this June, and are now taking a breather this summer before kicking off another season in September.
“I feel like we’ve just been on a little wheel. Everyone’s tired because we had a lot of events to go to and be part of, and then our own problems as well,” says Bradley Moss, Theatre Network’s Artistic Director. “When these things happen, you have to relook at your company and your role in the ecology of the city. Hopefully, it’s given us more clarity as to our role, why we do this, and its importance.”
The loss of the Roxy is felt not only by Theatre Network, but also by the 124th street community that surrounded the building. Moss states that their company gave people another pocket in the city to visit, akin to the areas of downtown and Whyte Avenue.
“We were that other place; it suited our psychological make-up. I always felt that was our job because we weren’t the south, we weren’t downtown… if we did a really good show, you had a really great adventure. Maybe you went to a restaurant you normally didn’t go to, and then you discovered all this art on the street. I think that people were always positively influenced when they came by,” he shares.
Moss is amazed at the generosity that has been extended to Theatre Network after the fire. Businesses and other arts organizations have reached out to them as they plan ahead for future seasons. Organizations like the 124th Street Business Association and the Edmonton Film Society has agreed to house their company as they regroup for the next season.
“You do a show and people come up and go, “That was a great show,” and that’s all nice, but you don’t really know your full impact. He adds, “You lose something like this and then realize that people do care. There is value here. That’s maybe a blessing in the midst of all that hardship.”
As Theatre Network prepares to move in to the Edmonton Jazz Society-owned C-103, their home for the next few seasons, Moss is excited to go on with their usual operations while trying to rebuild what was once their home for two decades. They will go on producing plays for their Mainstage Season, while helping independent artists stage their work through the Roxy Performance Series. After the show “Cheerleader!” failed to premiere after the fire took the building, Moss is looking to have the show return to the stage at their new location.
“We have autonomy to do our thing,” he says,” and use that venue to help others do their thing. As much as everything has changed, our basic nature doesn’t have to. I think that’s going to keep us vibrant and successful. We’re being pushed to reinvent, but we also get to be who we always were. That’s a good combination.”