You might not expect to find the creative powerhouse Edmonton Opera located in a nondescript industrial area, but the company’s new north-side building has been integral to the company’s growth. Now, everything from office to rehearsal space is in the same building, allowing for a seamless creative process. We chatted with General Director Tim Yakimec and Production & Technical Director Clayton Rodney about the new space.
Q: What kind of difference has the new space made to your process and team?
Tim Yakimec: “When artists are here, it’s a space bigger than the Jubilee stage and, when we can, we’ve had the set in there so the spacing problems when they move over to the Jubilee aren’t an issue. It’s exactly as you staged it. We have access to the wardrobe for the costume fittings, it’s not taking an hour out of their time to travel, and even props, it’s all just right here.”
Clayton Rodney: “It’s connected us with the rehearsal process and I think it’s totally changed the vibe… in terms of what it’s done for the company, it’s done incredible things because everyone seems quite a bit happier and more like they work as a team instead of as separate units.”
Q: Has having the space changed what type of productions you can do?
CR: “It’s allowed us to start building shows. We didn’t have that ability before. We’d rent a production from elsewhere, sets and costumes would show up and we’d make the best shows we could out of them. Now, we can take that money and actually put on a show, build the materials and all that money goes to Edmonton.”
TY: “We have great skilled people to build things, whether it’s costumes, paint, props, they’re all here and it keeps them local so, between ourselves and some of the other organizations, they have a full livelihood, here in Edmonton.”
CR: “For example, Hansel and Gretel [currently in production at the Edmonton Opera]. We couldn’t find a rental production that fit what we felt the approach to the story should be. So, we took the same budget we would have to rent a production and we’re building a custom production. It’s going to be something that nobody’s ever seen before. It’ll be custom made for Edmonton.”
Q: The rehearsal space is vast – how important was that to incorporate in the new space?
TY: “There’s a real demand for rehearsal space. Existing spaces are grandfathered in with other groups, and they’re all performing at the same time.”
CR: “It’s really part of the new model of how theatres work. You build and create elsewhere and you bring it to the theatre, because theatres are so expensive to rent and owners need to keep them busy to generate revenue. Spaces like this and spaces like the Orange Hub are what’s really going to change the Edmonton arts scene because it’s going to allow us as artists to all work together in one space, and it frees up all the theatres for the patrons.”
Q: You’ve both been with the company for over 15 years – what has it been like to see such a major revitalization?
CR: “We were kind of only known near our shows in the past, now people can see we have content year round, we have a marketing team that’s working to ensure we have relevance, community relations, engagement, it’s all a priority now and it has a lot to do with this facility.”
TY: “We were always renting spaces. This is the first time we’ve come to call a place our own and it’s really increased the sense of people’s ownership and loyalty, attachment and connection to the company, which I don’t think has been there before. For me, it’s been exciting. I’ve always felt like the opera is a sense of family, and I came from small theatre and I feel like the opera still has that small theatre, family feeling, and I really want to hang on to that. I think we’ve maintained that and this only amplifies it.”