Making the most of COVID

The Citadel is reimagining live performances
for the time of the pandemic and beyond

The Citadel has had success with its Stuck in the House program, but everyone wants to get back on a real stage. (Chris Ranta)

By Preston Hodgkinson

THE PERFORMING ARTS community in Edmonton is often overlooked regarding pandemic devastation. Live shows are no longer possible due to public health measures and this is leaving venues and playwrights struggling to make money. 

The Citadel Theatre, off Churchill Square, is no exception. The theatre centre went dark in early March of 2020 and not much has changed a year later. That isn’t to say The Citadel has simply folded its cards.

Kimberlee Stadelmann, the assistant executive director of the Citadel, said the team was quick to respond to the pandemic.

“We started the Stuck in the House series which had performers perform at their homes,” she saId. “That allowed us to be able to connect artists to patrons and also we were able to get a grant from the Edmonton Community Foundation.” 

It was an ambitious project that featured plenty of risks. The electricity of live performance was gone and performers no longer had access to venues like The Citadel.

Spencer Gilchrist, a former Fringe Festival director, told The Magpie about some of the difficulties that could arise from such a situation. 

“You cannot space or stage your performance in any meaningful way online; you’re constricted to standing in a single box. The sense of community you get from working together is eliminated, as downtime is spent on the computer.”

‘We were able to pay all of those artists
and we also fund-raised’

Despite these challenges, the Citadel program was a success. Staff were able to put on an astounding 80 shows and had a great fundraising model to support it. 

“We were able to pay all of those artists and we also fund-raised along with it,” Stadelmann said. “Any additional fundraising dollars that we got went directly to the artists.” 

The success of the Stuck in the House series has weathered the COVID-19 storm for The Citadel. Yet, theatre management is still anxious to get back to live performances, Stadelmann said, and people at the venue are hopeful they can resume regular shows sometime this spring. 

“We think we would fit into Stage 3 of the relaunch plan,” Stadelmann said. “We need to work with our actors to figure out their schedule and then we will begin those performances again.”

However, returning to normal will never truly be what it was before the pandemic hit. COVID-19 has taught society a number of lessons and Citadel management have said they will take those into account, when the theatre is allowed to reopen. 

“The connection and shared experience that live events bring will be treasured more than it was before,” Stadelmann said. “We are also going to have to be careful and smart about how we roll this out, to keep the protection of all of our audiences.” 


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