The History of The Citadel Theatre
A detailed timeline of the history of The Citadel Theatre is below, as well as links to historic documents such as a past seasons list of shows dating back to 1965, playbills, and media releases.
Joseph H. Shoctor, James L. Martin, Ralph B. MacMillan, and Sandy Mactaggart purchase the old Salvation Army building – known as the Citadel – on 102nd Street for $100,000, with the intention of opening a live theatre venue. Joe Shoctor expresses his intention to make the Citadel “the theatre centre of this country.”
NOV. 10, 1965
The Citadel Theatre’s first opening night is held, featuring Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. There are 277 people in attendance, the maximum number of seats in the house. By the end of the theatre’s first year, 1,300 people were subscribers.
Founding of the Citadel Theatre School, later re-named the Foote Theatre School.
The Citadel launches the Citadel on Wheels and Wings. The theatre program tours thousands of miles to schools and communities as far north as the Arctic Circle. The program continues until 1985.
A star of British theatre who immigrated to Canada in 1972, Sir John Neville, is appointed artistic director of the Citadel. His appointment firmly establishes the Citadel as a force on the national scene.
Construction begins on a new theatre complex located on 99th Street on the south side of 102nd Avenue.
Artistic director Sir John Neville and world-famous actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft star in Dear Liar.
Neville launches the Citadel Too series – avant-garde pieces aimed at a younger and more adventurous audience.
Phase One of the new Citadel Theatre, in the heart of Edmonton’s arts district, opens. The first play to be performed in the new complex is Romeo and Juliet, with Brent Carver starring as Romeo. Tom Wood performs as Mercutio.
John Neville and Dame Peggy Ashcroft team up again in a production of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days.
The Citadel appoints Tony Award-winning director Peter Coe from Britain as artistic director, triggering controversy among Canadian nationalists and others. Coe’s era saw the Citadel seek a more international identity as an exporting theatre, with an eye to producing shows that could move to New York or London. Several shows did make the move, and one, A Life, from the 1980-81 season, received four Tony nominations for its Broadway run.
The Citadel celebrates its 15th anniversary with an open house for all of Edmonton, including a command performance for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during the Commonwealth Games. Acclaimed British actress Glynis Johns stars with a young David Ferry in Terrance Rattigan’s Cause Celebre. Also that season, Oscar-winning actor Ron Moody appears in a Nazi-era setting of Richard III.
Internationally renowned actor of stage and screen, Roy Dotrice, plays the lead in the Citadel world premiere of Mister Lincoln by Herbert Mitgang. Directed by Peter Coe, the play goes on to open on Broadway in spring 1980.
The Citadel launches the International Children’s Festival and runs the Festival annually until 1994. The Festival, now located in St. Albert, continues to this day.
Phase Two of the Citadel Theatre complex opens, featuring the Maclab Theatre. When the new complex is completed in 1989, it is the largest in Canada with five theatres, an atrium and a nine-metre tall waterfall.
Gordon McDougall is appointed artistic director and opens the new Maclab Theatre in December with a hugely popular production of Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie. McDougall also directs edgy contemporary works in the Rice Theatre Series.
Actor/director Len Cariou directs American actor James Whitmore in a memorable production of Death of A Salesman. Cariou will serve as an associate director at the Citadel in 1986.
The Citadel launches the Teen Festival of the Arts. The festival runs until 1994.
The Citadel opens its 25th season with Robin Phillips’ production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One national magazine calls it “a cultural milestone, not just for Edmonton but, indeed, the entire nation.” Phillips directs two other plays this season: The Crucible and The Philadelphia Story.
Robin Phillips is appointed director-general of the Citadel Theatre.
Duncan McIntosh is named artistic director. He is the first Canadian-born and -trained director at the Citadel. The Citadel receives a $5-million pledge to its trust fund from Edmonton’s philanthropic Hole family. This is one of the largest single private donations ever made to a Canadian theatre.
The Citadel becomes the first regional theatre to produce a work in association with the Stratford Festival, the Feydeau farce A Fitting Confusion. American/Canadian actress Martha Henry plays “A” in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women. Also appearing in this production are Fiona Reid and Jennifer Wigmore.
World Premiere of Raymond Storey’s South of China, the first new Canadian work to appear on the Citadel mainstage since 1980.
Bob Baker is named artistic director. He is the Citadel’s first Edmonton-born and –trained artistic director. His term, which lasted for 17 years, is the longest in Citadel history. Baker introduces new play development as an important component at the theatre. He also brings the Citadel’s various educational initiatives under one roof, creating the Robbins Academy, which today is the most diverse and comprehensive creative development program of its kind in Canada. Baker also converts the Rice Theatre into a cabaret performance space. He initiates the Beyond the Stage series as part of an audience development drive; featuring musical cabarets, lectures, and workshops as a way to introduce new people to the Citadel.
World premiere performance of Tom Wood’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. The play achieved a 17th consecutive season of performance in late 2016, setting an all-time record for attendance at the show.
On April 19, lawyer, community builder, philanthropist, theatre impresario, and founder of the Citadel Theatre, Joe Shoctor, passes away at the age of 78.
Marty Chan is appointed the Citadel’s first playwright-in-residence.
Playwright Vern Thiessen’s new work, Einstein’s Gift, premieres at the Citadel, going on to win the Governor-General’s Award for Drama.
Vern Thiessen succeeds Marty Chan as Citadel playwright-in-residence.
Artistic director Bob Baker announces the formation of the Robbins Academy, a creative development institution that will feature four programming streams: The Foote Theatre School (theatre arts training aimed at the general public from youngsters to adults); the Play Development program (mentoring selected playwrights in the development of new work); the Young Companies (advanced training and mentorship program for aspiring artists between the ages of 16-21) and the Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program (advanced creative development program to enrich the performance skills of established theatre professionals).
The renowned comedy improv troupe, Rapid Fire Theatre, moves into the Citadel’s Zeidler Theatre as a resident company.
World Premiere of Make Mine Love, an original play by Tom Wood.
Internationally-acclaimed theatre company Catalyst Theatre moves into the Citadel’s Maclab Theatre as a resident company.
The Citadel Theatre’s Board of Directors announces that Daryl Cloran has been selected as the new Artistic Director and will start his duties in September 2016. Bob Baker announced in January he was stepping aside after 17 years as Artistic Director.
Artistic Director Daryl Cloran announces the appointment of prominent Edmonton arts activist Christine Sokaymoh Frederick as the theatre’s first Indigenous Associate Artist.
Executive Director Penny Ritco announces that she will be stepping down after 14 years in her position. Ritco remains at the Citadel through a period of transition. The Citadel Theatre’s Board of Directors commences a search for the theatre’s new Executive Director.
World Premiere of Sense and Sensibility, an adaptation by Tom Wood of the popular Jane Austen novel.
Pre-Broadway Canadian Premiere of Hadestown by Anaïs Mitchell.
Executive Director Chantell Ghosh begins her tenure at the Citadel.
World Premiere of The Silver Arrow: The Untold Story of Robin Hood by Edmonton playwright Mieko Ouchi.
World Premieres of the interconnected comedies The Candidate and The Party by renowned Canadian playwright Kat Sandler. The groundbreaking shows featured the same cast of 10 actors in two shows, taking place in two theatres at the exact same time, with the cast running back and forth between the Rice Theatre and the Maclab Theatre.
Pre-Broadway Canadian Premiere of Six
Citadel Theatre closes on March 13, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citadel Theatre safely welcomes back audiences to the building with Horizon Lab: Where Are Your Stories.
Executive Director Sarah Pocklington begins her tenure at the Citadel.
Past Artistic Directors
John Hulbert (1965-1966)
Robert Glenn (1966-1968)
Sean Mulcahy (1968-1973)
John Neville (1973-1978)
Peter Coe (1978-1981)
Joseph H. Shoctor (1981-1984, as Producer)
Gordon McDougall (1984-1987)
William Fisher (1987-1989)
Richard Dennison (1989-1990, as Producer)
Robin Phillips (1990-1995, as Director General)
Duncan McIntosh (1995-1999)
Bob Baker (1999–2016)
Daryl Cloran (2016 – present)