Tag Archives: edmonton

Edmonton Theatre 2013 – what I remember

I saw 104 theatre performances this year, counting repeats but not counting improv shows I volunteered at (about 43 of them I think).  Most of them were in Edmonton (although I also travelled to Toronto, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Red Deer, and Ryley and saw shows in all those places).  And that wasn’t even half of the available theatre here.

The best shows I saw in 2013 were Brad Fraser’s Kill Me Now, at Workshop West in September, and Collin Doyle’s Let the Light of Day Shine Through, directed by Bradley Moss at Theatre Network in the spring.   Honourable mentions would start with The Kite Runner at the Citadel.

The best student shows I saw in 2013 were The Missionary Position, the show written for the University of Alberta graduating BFA class by playwright-in-residence Greg MacArthur, Charles Mee’s Summertime done by Theatre Performance and Creation students at Red Deer College, and the Abbedam (University of Alberta student-led company) production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America Part 1: Millennium Approaches.

The best musicals I saw locally were The Full Monty (Two One Way Tickets to Broadway) and Ride the Cyclone (Citadel).  I also enjoyed the Broadway touring production Book of Mormon in Toronto.

As for Fringe choices … I’m looking at my lists again and I loved so much of what I saw.  Grim & Fischer Rocket Sugar FactoryRiderGirl.  Dykeopolis.  Nashville Hurricane.  ScratchRent. 

My personal theatre accomplishments in 2013

  • kept studying improv with Rapid Fire Theatre
  • started studying acting at Foote Theatre School
  • competed at the Blue Chair Cafe’s Story Slam
  • served a lot of drinks and red licorice
  • stage managed a Fringe show
  • joined Theatre Alberta and started borrowing books from their amazing library
  • joined Walterdale Theatre Associates
  • was inspired by a lot of performers, directors, playwrights, arts administrators, reviewers, production crews, designers, teachers, and bigger fans than I am.

Finster Finds’ 2013 theatre retrospective is here.  I didn’t peek until after I wrote mine – it’s interesting to see where our favourites overlap, and it’s also amazing to me that there were so many good shows that she saw and I didn’t manage to get to.

What were your favourites this year?

Dessert plate: bananas, folded crepe, cinnamon ice cream, a few blackberries

Madison’s Grill – good food, done well

Last night a gathering of friends met up for a celebration at Madison’s Grill in the Old Bank Hotel on Jasper Avenue, having discovered that many Edmonton fine-dining establishments aren’t open Sunday evenings. I was glad of the excuse to try somewhere new to me, and I enjoyed a good meal with friends. Our server told us that they could do wine pairings, drinks chosen to suit three courses, for $35, so I said I’d do that. I never did get around to looking at the rest of the wine list, and although I was shown the labels of everything I drank I didn’t write down enough information to order them again.

My appetizer was beef carpaccio, along with some light but interesting Beaujolais Villages. It was served with some very lightly dressed arugula greens and shaved hard cheese (Grana Padano). The meat was so thinly sliced and tender that I couldn’t pick up a whole slice with my fork, and the delicate flavour made it seem to melt in my mouth. And the garnishes were subtle enough that they didn’t distract. My absolutely favourite carpaccios have a little more of the savoury meat mouthfeel, but I would definitely have this one again.

For a main course, I had the sea bass, moist and simple with a lightly-crisped skin. Alongside it were some seasoned rice and grilled seasonal vegetables, again nothing dramatic or unusual but not overcooked or overseasoned. The wine was a cold Gewurtztraminer from Alsace, with that bright-shiny appearance, a crisp smell reminiscent of flowers (hibiscus?), apple juice, and spice. It worked well with the meal. The portions were just the right size for me, enough to please my palate and make me comfortably full with room for dessert.

There were lots of things I would have liked to try on the dessert menu and on the “holiday” additions page, but I settled on the banana-rum crepe with inn-made cinnamon ice cream, and it was also very good, especially the ice cream. To drink with it, I had some Ratafia dessert wine from Peninsula Ridge winery in Beamsville, Ontario, very close to where I grew up. It was not too sweet, and combined very well with the texture of the ripe bananas.

The menu at Madison’s Grill is simply written, without a lot of extraneous geographical name-dropping or adjectives. Snooping at my friends’ plates and asking them about their dinners gave me the impression that everything was actually more interesting than I could picture it from the menu, and everyone seemed to like what they had. The restaurant was not full on a snowy Sunday evening, and the service was attentive. One patron at a table behind me had a carrying voice with distracting snippets of stories, but the atmosphere was otherwise very pleasant and comfortable. There is a big gas fireplace, padded chairs that are not too tall for me, room between the tables, and some dining tables set beside couches. Including my share of the 18% tip written in for large parties, and the three glasses of wine, my meal cost about $100. So I wouldn’t go there often, but I was glad I went.  You can look here for the menu, and elsewhere on the Inn’s website for information about parking (transit is easy, because it’s right by Central LRT station and a block away from the big bus transfer point at Telus Plaza), but be warned that the website plays music on every page as a default.

  sea bass at madisons Beef carpaccio appetizer, Madison's grill Dessert plate:  bananas, folded crepe, cinnamon ice cream, a few blackberries

Changes in my Edmonton

One of the ways a new city starts to feel like home is noticing all the ways it’s changed since I arrived.  When I lived in Kingston, a small city in eastern Ontario, a lot of people in our downtown and old-society social circles used to give directions by the traffic circle (that’s Upper-Canadian dialect for roundabout) that hadn’t existed since the 1970s, and used to call restaurants by names that weren’t on the sign.  It felt exclusive to those of us who weren’t “old stones” (people whose roots were elsewhere), but after several years I found myself also talking about the traffic circle, the place where the beer store used to be, and so on..

And now I find myself doing the same thing in Edmonton.  I’ve lived in one place for four years, and spent most of my time in the Strathcona/University neighbourhoods.  So I’ve been here long enough to see some changes.

Transit When I arrived there were eleven LRT stops and now there are fifteen.  The opening of South Campus station rearranged some bus routes, so that I used to take the #6 downtown and now I take the #7.  Although lately I’ve gotten so annoyed with watching three #8s go by first that to go home from downtown I don’t wait at the Telus plaza for a bus; I take the LRT to the university and home from there instead.  (MasterMaq discussed this problem in a recent blog entry.) The LRT extension north by the Kingsway seems to be really happening, and the next lines have gotten as far as having station names.

Restaurants  Pad Thai is gone. ouSia opened and I still haven’t gotten around to going there.  A crepe place popped up on Whyte Avenue and went away again.  Langano Skies closed for renovations after the building fire, but is back.  A noodles place across the road changed hands and is now NaanaliciousFour cupcakes places opened in Strathcona/Garneau. Death by Chocolate closed and eventually a Dairy Queen opened.  A Funky Pickle outlet near U of A campus closed, but a Papa John’s opened.  Cargo and James tea disappeared.  Chili’s became O2.  Bars come and go, often too fast for me to visit.  The Savoy became the Gin Mill became Tilted Kilt, and I hadn’t been to any of them.  The Iron Horse sat empty for ages, but didn’t wait for me to become a billionaire philanthropist and buy it to run a passenger- train line to Calgary – it became MKT.  I think there was a live-music bar on the north side of Whyte Avenue which is now some kind of billiards-themed place.  On 124 Street, d’Lish opened and closed, and now there’s something new there but I haven’t gotten there yet.  Downtown, I can’t remember what’s new since I arrived and what I was just slow to discover because I barely crossed the river my first couple of winters here – Zinc opened since I got here, and Underground is new.  La Poutine opened in the Garneau Cinema block – oh, and that reminds me.

Entertainment The Garneau Cinema is now the Metro cinema.  I haven’t been there yet.  I think the Metro cinema used to be in Ziegler Hall at the Citadel, but now Rapid Fire/Theatresports is there.  It used to be at the Varscona Theatre.  The Muttart Conservatory was closed for renovations when I got here, and I think the Art Gallery of Alberta was being rebuilt then too.  The Oilers still play at Rexall Place, except that they’re not playing.  The baseball team that played in Rossdale folded and there might be a new one.

Driving I was here before the big construction project that had 99 Street closed all last summer, I figured out how to work around that, and then it all opened again.  I don’t drive often enough to be confident on road directions farther away, but it seems like every time I drive to IKEA, the route changes, the exit to 23rd Avenue looks different, and the sprawl of South Edmonton Common shopping district has gotten bigger.  I also think that Fox Drive and nearby routes have been under construction the whole time I’ve lived here.

Stores  Two record stores have closed on Whyte Avenue, Southside Sound and the big one I forget the name of, and Permanent Records opened on Gateway.  Alternative Video Spot moved and became Videodrome.  Urban Knitter opened on Whyte Avenue, moved to Gateway, and closed.  Ewe Asked for It and Knit and Purl closed.  River City Yarns opened a second location and moved its first location.  Greenwoods Books moved back to Whyte Avenue (it’s the one store I knew about from before I moved here), and then closed.  Earth’s General Store moved from a central upstairs location on the busy part of Whyte Avenue to a bigger place with parking farther away from the crowds.  Lucid Lifestyle moved from a storefront to a pop-up kiosk to a different storefront.  Blush Lane Organic Market and other interesting outlets opened in a new building where Pad Thai’s parking lot used to be.  A Shell gas station closed on Whyte Avenue.  It looks like some progress was made on remediating the other gas-station site on Whyte by 106.  A Vespa-scooter dealer with bar closed.  I think Blockbuster Video closed, but I haven’t checked.  The Shoppers Drug Mart at Whyte and 109 moved across the road to a bigger two-story space, and the old space sits mostly empty.  Home Depot just south of Strathcona doesn’t have a Harvey’s in its lobby any more; just more things to buy.  Scottish Imports moved from Whyte Avenue to 124 Street just when I was becoming aware of 124 Street as a destination.  My hairdresser (Mousy Brown’s), on 124 Street, opened a second location in Old Strathcona.  And now I’m one of those people who call things by their old names, because I just learned about Treestone Bakery around the time it was changing hands and becoming Boulangerie Bonjour.

While some of these specific changes make me sad, I love living in a city that’s prosperous enough that I can look forward to new ventures, and that’s big enough that I still have lots and lots to explore beyond the fifteen blocks of Whyte Avenue I’ve gotten to know.

What Edmonton changes make you happy?  Which ones make you sad?

First four years in the Festival City

Stratford’s also called the Festival City, but they only have one. Edmonton’s called the Festival City because they have a lot of events. I’ve lived here for four years plus a week, and here are some of the numbers.

  • Fringe – 5. I haven’t missed a year at the Fringe Theatre Festival. It’s the closest to home of all the events, accessible by bike or bus, and it’s easy to participate in.
  • Winefest – 4. Haven’t missed a year at this one either, but it’s in February.
  • Folkfest – 3.
  • Heritage Festival (aka Heritage Days) – 2.
  • Giant Used Book Sale at the Downtown Library – 2.
  • Ice on Whyte – 2
  • Taste of Edmonton – 1
  • Canada Day Fireworks – 1
  • Sonic Boom – 1
  • Oilers games – 1
  • Eskimos games – 1
  • baseball games – 1
  • Film Festival – 0
  • What the Truck – 0
  • Deep Freeze – 0
  • Silly Summer Parade – 0
  • Capital EX – 0
  • Freewill Shakespeare – 0
  • Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival – 0

What other festivals should I be watching for and trying to fit in?

Tales of the (River) City and other stories

The Garneau Block, Todd Babiak, 2006

You know that kind of story genre that’s a whole series of newspaper-column-length chapters? Like Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City and sequels, Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series, and so on.

I just discovered that a newspaper columnist here, someone whose tweets I sometimes follow, wrote a book like that about five years ago. I found it when I was looking for library books to stick on my kobo for my trip last weekend.

It turned out that it’s a very funny sendup of the institutions and character archetypes of this city and mostly the parts between my home and my work. Of course because it’s five years old, there are some dated lines like how if you want to oppose the Conservatives around here of course you join the Liberal party even if you’re a communist or something. But otherwise I enjoyed it for the recognition just as much as I enjoyed it for the story.

I love this place.


Following on from The Garneau Block, I’ve since read two more novels set in versions of my usual orbit of Edmonton. The protagonist of one seemed to be living at around 108 Street and 87 Avenue; the other was a bit harder to place and could be anywhere from 109 to Bonnie Doon, somewhere between Whyte Ave and the river. Maybe all of these people did their writing in Remedy and looked out the window for their settings.

Gayleen Froese, Grayling Cross, 2011: This is the kind of supernatural+detectives story that people like Tanya Huff and Mercedes Lackey have done well. A psychic and a public-relations specialist have an agency, and get tangled up with big mysterious powers. It wasn’t as good as Summon the Keeper, the Tanya Huff book set in our old neighbourhood in Kingston, but it was fun. Turns out it’s second in a series, and I’ll probably look for the other one.

Janice MacDonald, The Monitor, 2003: Another recurring feature in all three books about this neighbourhood is that they all include characters who would like to be U of A academics and aren’t. Sigh. Anyway, this one is a more straightforward amateur-detective-with-cop-boyfriend thing, part of a series. The weird thing is that it’s a book about internet chat rooms set about 10 years ago I think and copyright 8 years ago. So some of it is really dated, the stuff the author has to explain, the number of characters who aren’t on the net at all, etc. And I was never involved in any kind of internet-socialising thing that was quite as flirt-heavy as what was described, but other features sound credible. Some things near the end were annoying me, but not so much that I want to spoil the book for anyone else who might feel like reading it. Again, I’d probably read the rest of the series but I wouldn’t buy hardcovers.