Reason #69 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

The Troupes

By Emil Tiedemann

I think that the rest of Canada is finally beginning to realize just how much of a theatre-centric town Edmonton really is, although theatre-loving locals have been well aware for decades now. Every single week in Edmonton there are amateur and professional actors, comedians, dancers, musicians, and improvisationalists taking to one of the many stages around town to entertain us through some form of theatre. And although we couldn’t name them all, here are some of the best theatre, dance, and comedy troupes in all of Edmonton. #yegtheatre

Capital City Burlesque.

Edmonton’s premiere burlesque dance troupe has been voted our city’s “Best Burlesque Show” for several years now, entertaining locals with their Rockettes-inspired kick lines, their revealing and glamorous outfits, and their themed performances - everything from Santa Claus to Star Wars. Registered as a not-for-profit organization, the troupe has also performed at local festivals, private events, and on the road, from Vancouver to Vegas. 

Committed to producing and developing new works since 1996 (although founded in 1977), the Catalyst Theatre - which operates out of the Citadel in the downtown - has had their award-winning work performed all around the world, from Australia to the United Kingdom. Some of their more memorable works include The Blue Orphan, The Soul Collector, Vigilante, and The House of Pootsie Plunket

One of Edmonton’s most enduring and prolific improv troupes, Die-Nasty is essentially a live and improvised soap opera that has been running every Monday since 1991, with a continuing storyline, recurring characters, and live music. Produced out of the Varscona Theatre, the award-winning Die-Nasty has welcomed some pretty impressive guest performers over the years, including Mike Myers, Joe Flaherty, Alan Tudyk, Mark McKinney, and Robin Duke

Brian Paisley and partner Ti Hallas founded the Chinook Theatre back in 1977 in Fort St. John, B.C., but relocated to Edmonton a few years later and then produced what would become known as the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in 1982. The group eventually changed their name to Fringe Theatre Adventures, and continue to put on world class theatre productions all year long at the newly-renovated Varscona Theatre.

The KidsFringe Youth Troupe is a professional development program for teens by teens, focused on training and encouraging young and emerging artists how to perform and work with children. They meet up during the summer months to develop interactive children’s plays based on whatever the Fringe’s theme is that year, delving into acting, playwriting, directing, and audience interaction strategies. 

Dedicated to dynamic performance, dance training, collaborations, and community outreach, the Mile Zero Dance Society is a contemporary dance company that specializes in producing interdisciplinary and original pieces. Mile Zero Dance also offers workshops, classes, and cabarets, and prides itself on partnering up with other Edmonton performers and events. 

Mile Zero Dance Society.

Dark, poetic, provocative, funny, and language-rich scripts are the heart of what the Northern Light Theatre group strive to produce for their loyal audience at the ATB Financial Arts Barns. This “purposefully controversial” not-for-profit theatre is made up of individuals who have a philosophy of artistic risk, which sets them apart from the rest.

Since 1981, Rapid Fire Theatre has been providing Edmontonians with high-energy improvisation and alternative theatre through weekly shows like Theatresports and CHiMPROV, and festivals such as Improvaganza, BONFIRE, and Wildfire. Edmonton’s premiere destination for improvised comedy, Rapid Fire is also active in Edmonton’s annual International Fringe Theatre Festival, and regularly tours across the country.

The RCR Burlesque troupe “combines high production value, political satire, and of course their womanly wiles” to bring you one of the most entertaining shows in the city! Inspired by American burlesque and classic stripteases, the RCR make themselves available for a limited number of shows each year, although they also take on the Fringe Fest, and can be booked for private functions all year long.

Born out of the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in 1990, the Shadow Theatre was incorporated two years later, established by artistic director John Hudson, playwright David Belke, actor Coralie Cairns, and artistic advisor John Sproule. Shadow typically produces modern classic productions, as well as new Canadian works and innovative contemporary plays from across the globe. 

Playwrite Stewart Lemoine formed this comedy theatre troupe in 1982 with a group of colleagues that has evolved into one of Canada’s premiere theatre ensembles. They focus on the plays of Lemoine, though also put on vintage comedies and new works from fellow troupe members, all under the roof of Old Strathcona’s Varscona Theatre. 

Teatro La Quindicina.

Founded in 1975 as a co-operative, the Theatre Network took up residence at the former Roxy Theatre on 124th Street, where they would commit to producing plays “about Alberta for Albertans.” They have evolved substantially since their inception, now a registered nonprofit charitable organization that operates within the jurisdiction of the Canadian Actors Equity Association (CAEA). 

The Toy Gun Dance Theatre was formed in 2013 by an artist, an engineer, and a business student who “stopped listening to reason and started listening to a much more powerful force.” This ambitiously creative troupe now shows off what they can do through outdoor productions, art installations, summer Fringe tours, and even film work. 

Founded in 1959, the award-winning Walterdale Theatre Associates is one of the oldest amateur theatre groups in Western Canada, and continues to produce exceptional original theatre out of the historic Firehall No.1 building (now known as the Walterdale Playhouse) in Old Strathcona. For more about this volunteer-operated group, check out Robin Whittaker’s book Hot Thespian Action! (2008). 

In addition to those we’ve listed, Edmonton is home to many other talented dance, theatre, and comedy troupes, groups, revues, and societies, including Brian Webb Dance Company, CRIPSiE, The Debutantes, Good Women Dance Collective, Grindstone Theatre, Guys in Disguise, Kill Your Television, MAN UP!, Panties Productions, Plain Jane Theatre Company, Secret Burlesque Society, Send In the Girls Burlesque, Sorry, Not Sorry Productions, Theatre Alberta, and Two One-Way Tickets to Broadway Productions



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