By Elizabeth Chorney-Booth
The Show Must Go On. It’s the theatre world’s most famous saying because it so encapsulates the passion and tenacity of theatre artists who rise to the occasion even in the most trying of times. The last 12 months have been a challenge for just about everyone in the arts sector and Alberta Theatre Projects had a particularly heartbreaking 2020, but the company is moving onward and upward with the announcement of Haysam Kadri as its new Interim Artistic Director.
Kadri is stepping in after the loss of Darcy Evans, Alberta Theatre Projects’ visionary Executive & Artistic Director who passed away this past December. The company needed a trusted theatre professional to steer it through the remainder of the pandemic as it figures out how to present the theatre projects that Evans had planned for the 2020-21 season and beyond in the safest way possible.
As a longstanding Calgary-based theatre professional, Kadri’s name is likely familiar to Alberta Theatre Projects regulars. He’s led (and continues to lead) The Shakespeare Company since 2012 and has long held a close relationship with Alberta Theatre Projects. Kadri was the director behind the company’s recent streamed readings of The Wizard of Oz. He is slated to also direct the planned upcoming production of Bang Bang and, along with The Shakespeare Company will be a co-presenter of the show Teenage Dick, both as part of Alberta Theatre Projects’ upcoming 50th Anniversary season.
“I understand the organization, I have many relationships and friendships within the organization, so it hasn’t been a difficult transition as far as getting to know people,” Kadri says. “It’s important for them to have someone who can hit the ground running who knows the landscape, knows the lingo, who knows the granting organizations, and all of those kinds of things. There was an immediate need that kind of fit me like a glove and I’m honoured to be able to take on the position.”
Kadri certainly knows what he’s doing. In addition to his position as Artistic Producer at the Shakespeare Company, Kadri, who grew up here in Calgary, has a lengthy resume in the world of Canadian theatre. He’s a graduate of the Stratford Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre and was a company member at the Stratford Festival for six seasons. He’s also an esteemed theatre educator and has served as an instructor at the University of Calgary, Red Deer College, Ambrose University, and Mount Royal University. An actor and a director, Kadri has appeared both on stage and behind the scenes in countless productions and is excited to bring his well-rounded expertise to Alberta Theatre Projects.
To complete Alberta Theatre Projects’ interim leadership team, Kadri is joined by Kyle Russell, who has stepped up from his General Manager position to become the company’s Interim Executive Director. The plan isn’t to jump in and re-invent the wheel — since Evans had plenty of programming lined up that had to be pushed back because of the pandemic Kadri isn’t being charged with coming up with a new direction or even curating a new season of shows for the time being. He sees this interim role as an opportunity to bring what Evans had planned to audiences, whether it’s over virtual streaming or to an audience at the Martha Cohen Theatre (or a combination of both, depending on ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions).
“I’m coming in to support and to recalibrate and help with some major decisions as we navigate these times,” Kadri says. “For the most part I will be executing Darcy’s vision. There’s a definite need for artistic leadership that Alberta Theatre Projects needed to address immediately to help execute the upcoming season.”
While Kadri is stepping into Alberta Theatre Projects at a stressful and difficult time and definitely feels the uncertainty of the pandemic weighing on him, he also feels like everyone at the company is excited about the future. A full year of life without the thrill of putting on a show for an in-person audience has taught both theatre artists and fans just how important the arts are to our city. Kadri is proud to be able to help shepherd Alberta Theatre Projects into its next era.
“I’m really impressed by how positive everyone at ATP is in banding together and keeping the hope alive. Everybody is so optimistic and bringing energy to the table,” Kadri says. “We all know how important arts and culture are to any city’s lifeline. Patrons are clamouring to get back in to see live theatre and to get back into that storytelling habit.”