And back at the Citadel — a theatre update

The Garneau Block by Belinda Cornish, based on the Todd Babiak novel

By Liz Nicholls,

It’s not easy to plan, or even to use the word “postpone,” when the “until…” is up in the (thin) air. As Daryl Cloran says, circumstances “are constantly moving the goal post.”

We checked back with the Citadel artistic director this week. And what remains firm, despite the necessary vagaries, is the commitment of Edmonton’s largest playhouse to bring two of the current season’s theatrical victims, The Garneau Block and Peter Pan Goes Wrong (world and North American premieres respectively), to audiences as a number 1 priority.

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As Cloran puts it, The Garneau Block, cancelled by matters COVIDian the night before the final dress rehearsal, “will be a really great way to gather again when we can … a celebration of community!” It is, after all, a Citadel commission of a thoroughly Edmonton story, adapted by an Edmonton playwright (Belinda Cornish) from a hit novel by an Edmonton writer (Todd Babiak) that’s Edmonton in every particular, from Die-Nasty to the Sugar Bowl.

“It’s ready for an audience,” says Cloran. “We just left the set there (on the Maclab stage) and locked the door….”

Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the work of the Brit comedy outfit Mischief Theatre, was to have been running as you read this, in a production featuring 12 Canadian actors directed by Londoner Adam Meggido. It got three days into rehearsal before the pandemic closed it down. “We built the set,” says Cloran. “It’s still sitting in our shop.”

A comedy about theatre in which everything goes wildly wrong is the kind of hilarity that speaks to the moment. “When people come back (to the theatre), they’re going to want to laugh,” says Cloran.

The two shows aren’t cancelled. “Our plan right now is to do one  of them as soon as we can, late in the summer, maybe, or into next season….” Which means that the 2020-2021 lineup dates might have to be adjusted. And that is a complicated prospect, Cloran points out, since “next season has many co-productions. So it’s never just us when we make changes….”

Meanwhile ELVIS has left the building (possibly to check into the Heartbreak Airbnb). But he’ll be back — a year from now. 

The Citadel and the Vancouver Arts Club have put their joint production of ELVIS: the Musical (which was to premiere here in July, in an Ashlie Corcoran production) on hold till the summer of 2021. 

As You Like It. Photo by Dylan Hewlett.

Cloran, who was to have been in Chicago this week rehearsing a Chicago Shakespeare Theatre production of his festive Beatles-themed As You Like It, permits himself a sigh. Constant re-jigging and “shuffling around” a season lineup isn’t the most fun an artistic director can have. “I can’t wait to be back in a rehearsal room…. Today, someone asked me a question about something artistic  And it felt like such a glimmer of hope and light!” he laughs.

The COVID casualties of the current season include the presentation of Punctuate! Theatre’s After The Fire, Matthew MacKenzie’s dark comedy set in the aftermath of the Fort McMurray fire. But MacKenzie’s Bears will be, as scheduled, part of next season’s Highwire series of riskier fare in January 2021. 

Although the debut Collider Festival of new work, slated for this current season, has been cancelled, the Citadel is maintaining its new-play program. Amongst its six scripts at every stage of development is Prison Dancer, a new transmedia musical spun from a hit video about Filipino prisoners and their dance project. Another is Almost A Full Moon, a new Hawksley Workman/ Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman collaboration.

Meanwhile, the Citadel’s Young Musical Company continues to rehearse — on Zoom — their production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, directed by Kate Ryan. Alex Donovan is directing the Young Acting Company rehearsals for The Wonderful World of Dissocia. And Tracy Carroll continues work with the Young Playwriting Company. 

As an alternative to refunds, tickets for postponed events will be honoured later, or the price can be donated. And 2020-2021 subscriptions, helpful in sustaining the theatre through these calamitous times, are available at 780-425-1820 or

Check out the Citadel’s Stuck in the House series —Edmonton artists creating, performing, and sometimes just chatting, from their own homes, to yours.

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