|Address||10329 83 Avenue NW
The Varscona Theatre is a live performance venue in the Old Strathcona neighborhood of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Since 1994, the Varscona has been operated by a consortium of small theatre companies, including Rapid Fire Theatre, Shadow Theatre and Teatro la Quindicina (collectively known as The Varscona Theatre Alliance). The theatre is also the home of the nationally renowned live improvised soap opera Die-Nasty and the improv variety show Oh Susanna!. In addition, the Varscona has hosted tapings of The Irrelevant Show, a national sketch comedy program aired on CBC Radio. The Varscona holds over 300 performances and has 30,000 audience members per year. It employs 100 local professional theatre artists.
The building was originally constructed as Edmonton's Fire Hall #6 in 1956, which replaced the original Fire Hall #6, built in 1909, across the street (the 1909 building has been home to The Walterdale Playhouse since 1974). Fire Station #6 was later relocated to 81 Avenue & 96 Street, and the building was repurposed as a theatre in 1982.
Prior to being renamed as The Varscona Theatre in 1996, the current building was called the Chinook Theatre, and served as the headquarters of Chinook Children's Theatre and the Edmonton International Fringe Festival from 1983-1993. It is still used as a venue during the Fringe Festival every August.
The Varscona's name is an homage to Edmonton's original Varscona Theatre, a 1940s art deco movie theatre formerly located at the intersection of Whyte Avenue & 109 Street. The movie theatre was demolished in 1987 for the construction of a credit union (later a TD Canada Trust). The 1987 building was subsequently demolished and replaced, in 2009, by a Shoppers Drug Mart.
In 2012, the theatre announced plans for a significant rehabilitation project. The plan would see the majority of the theatre demolished and rebuilt, with only the exterior brick walls and iconic tower remaining in the new structure. The project was to address the significant mechanical and utility failures that had developed in the building over the years, as well as expand the small lobby and backstage areas, which have plagued the building since its conversion from a fire hall. The theatre will also increase in capacity from 176 to 200 seats, with improved sightlines, and the audio and lighting systems will be completely replaced.
In May 2013 the Government of Alberta announced a $2 million grant for renovation of the facility. The City of Edmonton and Government of Canada have also contributed funding to the $7.5 million project, with the remaining of funds coming from public donations. The project officially started construction in Spring of 2015, and should be complete by Spring of 2016. While the renovation project is underway, the Varscona's performances are being held in The Backstage Theatre at the Fringe Theatre Adventures in the ATB Financial Arts Barns, a block away.
- "Our Story". Rebuild Varscona. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
- "Fire Stations". City of Edmonton. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
- "Edmonton Then and Now: 109th Street and 82nd Avenue", Edmonton Journal, October 10, 2015.
- "Varscona Theatre could see demolition next year", CBC News, August 16, 2012.
- "It's Almost Time!". Rebuild Varscona. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
- Paula Simons, "Simons: Varscona Theatre to receive $2 million provincial grant for major makeover: Culture Minister Klimchuk plans onstage announcement tonight", Edmonton Journal, May 30, 2013.
- "Varscona demolition makes way for new $7.5M theatre". CBC News. Retrieved 14 January 2016.