When you hear or see the word champion we often envision someone, or some team, that has triumphed over their rival, like the Stanley Cup champions.
A champion, however, can also refer, as a verb, to someone who has taken up a cause and championed that cause for the betterment of others.
Such is the case for the first in our new series featuring those who have pursued championing the arts, and in particular in support of Theatre Network and its current capital campaign to build the New Roxy.
Nancy Power (1925 – 2019) was on our Board of Directors when one of her business companies purchased three of Edmonton’s movie theatres. In short time, the decision was made to sell two of the theatres, except for the Roxy. This Nancy donated to Theatre Network. Nancy served in many roles including board president and donor for many years and helped to ensure the growth and evolution of Theatre Network. We look forward to honouring her dedication to theatre Network by naming our largest performance venue The Nancy Power Theatre.
Nancy was a tireless advocate within politics and the arts. She worked for decades with the Liberal Party both locally and nationally and served her local community through the Highlands Community League and founded the Highlands Historical Society. She was active with the Board of Family Service Association and served on Canada’s National Capital Commission. She was a founder, board president and supporter of Theatre Network and served on Canada’s National Theatre School’s Board of Governors, efforts that led to the Sterling Award for “Outstanding Contribution to Theatre in Edmonton” in 2009 and, more importantly, an outsize impact on a field she loved and the practitioners she loved even more.
Debra has long been a champion of the arts and a long time supporter, both financially and through her volunteer efforts, of professional theatre. Edmonton born, Debra grew up with the concept instilled by her parents of giving back to the community, to play a part in making her City a better place. In Debra’s words, “I have been very fortunate throughout life and feel very strongly about supporting the arts. As to why she supports Theatre Network – “I enjoy how their plays can take me away for two hours, can transform my appreciation of life by presenting theatre that is edgy, that takes chances, and informs me about the society I live in, even if some of the messages are uncomfortable to deal with”.
Debra sees the capital campaign as an opportunity to rebuild an important City institution, to help improve the Westmount neighbourhood where the New Roxy will return in the months ahead.
We salute Debra and her continued support of Theatre Network; it is because of people like her that we will achieve our goal of rebuilding the New Roxy.
DOUGLAS OAKLEY & BETTY MCAFEE
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
When Theatre Network’s new Roxy Theatre rises on 124 Street again, this much is true: a great theatre will be built where great theatre will be staged.
It was in 1989 that the ROXY movie theatre became the full-time home for Theatre Network’s live theatre. It was also, if memory serves correctly, the year of the production of One Beautiful Evening, the show that hooked us into becoming Theatre Network fans. For us, it was one theatre adventure after another, some productions thought-provoking and challenging, some, comedic delights.
Over the years, by my count, that makes over 100 masterful productions that were eagerly attended.
With the fire in January 2015, the big bright yellow, long- lived and much loved ROXY sign was gone and 124 Street’s glimmer dimmed a bit. After a bit of “stage wrangling” courtesy of Edmonton’s generous and close-knit theatre community, Theatre Network, undaunted, settled into the Roxy on Gateway, the very hot venue with the very cool seating. Still, the award-winning productions kept coming and so did the audiences. All was good. Yay!
In June 2019, things got even better. Back on 124 Street, the ground-breaking for the new Roxy Theatre took place, heralding the construction of not one but two theatre spaces, generous lobbies, technologically advanced production capabilities, and even a grand washroom guaranteed to ‘wow’ everyone. The raising of the iconic ROXY sign again on 124 Street will announce the presence of a brand-spanking new home; the Theatre Network presence will remain the same, that of continuing to produce dynamic, important, insightful, and exciting live theatre in Edmonton.
Looking back at the many years of productions like Mump and Smoot, Thunderstick, Let the Light of Day Through, Armstrong’s War, Metis Mutt, it becomes obvious why wholehearted and unreserved support for Theatre Network and the Capital Campaign to rebuild the Roxy is so important. For those of us with the urge to see live theatre coursing through our veins, it is an honour.
Many of us can say we are proud Albertans but few of us, like Jacquie, can link their affection through family ties for this Province back to 1899.
You may have “met” Jacquie and not known it for she has served at our concession stand, especially on opening nights, since 1999. 20 consecutive years of volunteer service.
Jacquie credits Theatre Network for providing the “best live theatre around. The plays usually have an edge to them, and are on-point dealing with contemporary issues.”
A designer, a planner, and close to 2000 architectural and design projects to her resume, Jacquie has made this City better in appearance and structure through her efforts. This multi-talented and enthusiastic Roxy Theatre supporter is one of our Champions.
Neighbours! Those people, shops, and familiar spots that make our home base all the more comfortable.
The Roxy has been away from its home, neighbourhood base for close to five years – but we will be returning in the Spring of 2021.
One of the families who are relatively new to the Westmount neighbourhood has preceded our official return with a neighbourly welcome in their significant support for our capital campaign.
In addition to being donors, Colleen and Kyle Murray also hosted a gathering of fellow neighbours at their home (2018) to provide a forum for the Roxy staff to let the neighbours know about our plans to return to our true home base.
The Murrays are supporters of the arts and have supported our campaign because, in their words, “ the Roxy is important to our neighbourhood and we want to see it back in the Westmount community.”
The Murray’s appreciate the more intimate space that a smaller venue offers, and welcome the fact that the New Roxy will have two theatre spaces as well as a Rehearsal Hall for arts groups.
It is people like the Murray’s that will make our return to our home all the more significant – we appreciate their warm support for our theatre company.
Kent & Marianne Stewart, Susan Rockwood, and neil gower
The Theatre Network Capital Campaign, now in its final stages, has relied on many different approaches to the community to date – individual donations, appeals to organizations, and potential use of casino revenues from outside parties.
One of the more effective initiatives on our behalf was led by a dynamic team of four – Marianne & Kent Stewart, who took the lead, and then added Neil Gower & Susan Rockwood. Not content with their individual donations, this group next identified several others, approximately 50, that they invited to a large gathering and then encouraged them to join the campaign with their own contributions. And as always, then comes the follow up phone calls or, before Covid, personal contact.
Each member of this team have been loyal supporters of Theatre Network for many years. “We have all benefitted from this Theatre company, as has the City, with a chance to see some of the best theatre in Canada.”
Their support goes beyond just being entertained. “Theatre Network presents works and programs which inspire, inform, and question what we know and what we don’t know. The re-birth of the New Roxy on 124 Street will further encourage and promote live professional Canadian theatre, and provide world class facilities for patrons, actors and developing talent alike that teach, inspire and raise questions about the world we live in.”
Clearly the collective effort, and especially the inclusion of their friends and networks has made a lasting contribution to the success of the campaign to build the New Roxy.
Bruce & Carol Bentley
While the fire of January 13, 2015 destroyed the original Roxy Theatre, the Bentleys saw this as an “opportunity for Theatre Network to reimagine themselves”. And that new reimagined theatre is just months away from being unveiled to the general public.
Bruce and Carol consider themselves very fortunate in their life together and find great pleasure in “giving back”, a theme identified by all of those featured in our Champions Series. “In fact we think it is vital to contribute to and help build community. This is part of the local Edmonton spirit.”
For them, live theatre “interprets a story, not only with the word spoken, but with every gesture, expression or costume, and we admire the many talents revealed during a performance – only live theatre can create such an intimate and full experience.”
“For us, the Roxy plays an integral part of Edmonton’s drama community – it will be great to see them back on the vibrant 124 Street, another jewel of our City.”
“We appreciate the re-build of the New Roxy was accomplished with good stewardship of the funds available, and that was an important criteria in our giving decision.”
Bruce and Carol have been major leaders in our community, both individually and collectively, and we are thankful that they have chosen the New Roxy to receive one of their recent philanthropic gifts – our latest Champions!
Newell Family Foundation
How do you instil a philanthropic spirit in your children and grandchildren – by engaging them in the process of supporting their community and sharing family resources – a call to action.
Eric Newell is very fond of his home community, Edmonton, with “all of the advantages that comes with larger cities, but has the feel of a close, smaller community.” That feeling is shared by the family now numbering 17.
This close family share in the base belief of their family foundation – that of giving back to the community.
The Newell Family Foundation is a fairly new endeavour and Theatre Network is proud to have been one of the organizations selected to receive one of the first Foundation gifts to the community.
“We selected the Roxy Theatre because of its impact on the community and its long history of providing quality plays. They also play an instrumental role in providing leadership to the next generation of artists by assisting in developing the skills and passions of the future performers.”
“Our Foundation has set a priority of supporting the arts and education organizations; we achieve both in support of the Roxy Theatre.
The Newell family – one of our Champions that make the New Roxy possible.
Paul manuel & doug ramsey
Our Champions usually have some traits in common – a love for Edmonton, staunch belief in the importance of what Theatre Network adds to their community, and an endearing appreciation for the quality of and the compelling messages that come from the professional dramas found at the Roxy.
This is also true for our featured supporters of our theatre in this edition of The Champions, but in Paul Manuel and Doug Ramsey, as volunteers and generous supporters, we feature a combined 50 years of dedication and service for The Roxy Theatre.
“Live theatre, especially at the Roxy, is engaging, often offers new perspectives, and opens our horizons to a vision of what could be.”
Both welcome the revitalization of what is now referred to as The New Roxy, and see it as… “a premiere facility, one of a kind.” “This theatre company has an awesome legacy and will, we are certain, continue to hold a mirror to society and awaken us to the challenges of the future.”
Still young and vital at “50”, we look forward to the continued support and engagement of these cherished contributors to our professional theatre family.