‘A centrepiece’ of downtown: Globe Theatre renos entering final stretch

Globe Theatre is awaiting answer on a request for $1.9 million more in city funding to finish its massive project.

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When she’s asked, executive director Jaime Boldt calls Globe Theatre’s total revamp a “pumpkin project.”

“Hollowed it out from the inside,” she’ll say, eyes skating up and over the sprawling skeleton of 350,000 pounds of new steel now filling the top of the Prince Edward Building.

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It’s a fascinating metaphor, and true; the top-to-tail restoration project really did raze the interior of the heritage site nearly clean.

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Demolition began two years ago and since, massive progress has been made to bring to life the new and improved iconic Regina theatre.

“It’s really a building within the building,” Boldt goes on.

The main theatre — the only permanent theatre in the round in Canada — has undergone a complete re-do, to create a world-class facility ready to offer “an improved experience for patrons and artists.”

Though missing finishing details right now, like seats, paint and some more walls, standing at stage level is already magical.

An extensive catwalk outfitted for state-of-the-art lighting and sound installations looms overhead.

In the middle of the audience risers is the stage, currently an open 17-foot trap awaiting the mechanics that will allow the stage to raise and lower itself. The entire space is sound-blocked, fitted for the best acoustics.

Seating is expanding by 30, to a total 428 — and, because it was a request from patrons, will be equipped with cupholders.

“People asked, and so we listened,” laughed Boldt.

Globe Theatre
The view from the new catwalk above the maing stage of the Globe Theatre which is currently under renovations as part of a multi-year revitalization project. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post

All in all, Globe Theatre now occupies all five floors of the Prince Edward, including the basement.

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The main theatre takes up the third and fourth floors, actor’s dressing rooms and rehearsal space the second. A box office and community theatre space live at ground level, as will costuming and the carpentry shop where sets are built.

Both will fill the arching 11th Avenue-facing windows, intentionally giving passersby the opportunity to watch the talent hard at work.

A bevy of specialized consultants have contributed to the project, and Globe Theatre’s team compiled their wish list from “little learns that we had going to different theatres,” said Boldt.

The re-envisioning is only expected to improve the reputation of the Globe, already known as one of the top production companies in Canada.

“You go away someplace and say you work at the Globe, and people just know,” said Boldt. “It really ups our game, having a brand new facility, and it’s a treat.”

Boldt sees it as a jewel of the arts community, and an anchor for the city’s downtown.

Globe Theatre
The costuming and set-building departments at the Globe Theatre which is currently under renovations, will look out onto 11th Avenue, also allowing people walking by to see the crew working. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post

First pegged as a $29 million then $32-million project when it began in 2021, a few surprise discoveries during demolition has since inflated construction costs to now $40 million.

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It’s a hefty figure but final, and one Boldt is positive matches the historical, cultural and emotional significance of the downtown gem.

The new facility will improve life for both patrons and actors at the Globe, but also breathe a new spark of life into the heritage site that’s stood on the corner of 11th Avenue and Scarth Street since 1909.

“That investment into this heritage building, it was more expensive to do, but it was important,” said Boldt. “And it was important for us to stay downtown.”

Boldt expects to bring as many as 16,000 people to the city centre once the theatre reopens in December, proving its worth as a keystone to keeping downtown lively.

“It’s really a showcase of our downtown,” she said. “We know downtowns across the country are struggling, and so you need a centrepiece where people are coming.”

Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre, currently under renovations, has expanded the seating capacity and technical specifications of its stage, which is the only permanent theatre in the round in Canada, including adding a trap room underneath. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post

A total $34 million to date has been raised to cover the project, in which the city has committed just shy of $7 million, federal funding another $10.8 million, and the province $9 million.

Globe Theatre’s public campaign has raised $6.6 million from donors.

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On Wednesday, city council deferred saying yes to providing another $1.9 million until the end of February, after Boldt appeared to advise the project is running about 30 per cent over cost.

Globe Theatre is actively seeking top-ups from all three governments to cover the costs, but is also prepared to engage a bank loan if worst comes to worst.

“It’s a legacy I don’t want to have to carry,” Boldt said, but one not off the table.

For now, she promised the show will go on — so to speak.

The new and improved stage plans to open by the end of this year, regardless of the financials, with a season announcement to come soon.

Past that grand reopening, Boldt said the road ahead for Globe Theatre will only grow wider.

“How to use this space, this is new for us,” she said. “And people around the country are interested in what’s happening here.”

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