First opening as an alternative high school, the Rosebud Centre of the Arts has been operating for 29 years and has re-defined its image.
When LaVerne Erickson and his brother, Tim, opened the high school, they found that students wanted to express their art so they began to co-ordinate outdoor theatre.
“After a while, the program blossomed and developed,” current Rosebud executive director Adam Furfaro recalled in a recent interview.
The brothers then formed a post-secondary program for the students, the Rosebud School of the Arts, which was put into place by an act of Parliament.
The school started with amateur plays and progressed into more a more professional format and as the brothers realized that many people were coming to Rosebud to see these plays, they opened up the Rosebud Mercantile.
“The Mercantile began to produce, essentially, church hall dinners and home cooked meals,” said Furfaro.
Over the next 29 years, the organization developed in three different directions, in the small village of Rosebud, Alta., 100 km. northeast of Calgary.
There is the Rosebud Mercantile, which now has a conference room and a new restaurant, the school, which has 30 full-time students and a theatre staff, and a professional theatre with two stages, the opera house and the studio stage.
Furfaro estimates that Rosebud now has a full-time staff of 24, a seasonal and part-time staff of 120 as well as the resident actors, teachers, technicians, and designers.
“[These three facilities] are now called the Rosebud Centre of Arts,” said Furfaro. “We now do things like conferences, retreats, and weddings, and we can host and feed up to 175 people upstairs and 230 downstairs, in the theatre restaurant.”
Rosebud also has an art gallery which can handle three large shows and serves as a learning space for students.
In the summer, Rosebud offers workshops and classes in music and art. It is also preparing a new program in production for the upcoming year.
Furfaro said the biggest change in these 29 years has been the growth of the facility.
When Rosebud first started, “they were presenting far fewer plays,” and there was “no resident staff” so people were not making a profit from their work.
“They did it out of the goodness of their heart, and for their love of theatre and for the love of these kids,” said Furfaro.
“We’ve gone from one show outdoors to five that we’re producing and probably another six or seven that we’re presenting,” said Furfaro.
While the plays may have changed in 29 years, the artistic director, Morris Ertman, said that he believes they have a common thread.
“There has always been a tradition here in Rosebud of delivering a combination of entertainment and thought provoking theatre,” said Ertman.
“As time goes on, the language of [the plays] changes because we grow with our audience,” Ertman said.
“Now there’s a seasoned understanding of how to make plays and present artistic expression. That actually means that what we do is of very high calibre.”
There are about 35,000-40,000 people coming to see a production, and about 30,000 people will eat at Rosebud Mercantile each season.
“We’re hoping to expand our audience in the short-term and the long-term, to get more people coming to Rosebud for different reasons,” said Ertman.
Ertman wants people to recognize the varied artistic talents in Rosebud and hopes this will encourage them to visit again to experience the community of Rosebud.
“You can come here, and stay in a bed and breakfast owned by the actor who you’re about to see in the evening,” said Furfaro.
“We have a very strong, recognizable connection with our audience,” said Ertman.
Ertman compares the actors to a band that has worked together for many years, and has a “relationship with the audience.”
The audience will usually see their favourite actor do their first, and their final, performance on the same stage. “That idea to me is the most striking thing in the world,” said Ertman.
“People who come back recognize each other and interact with each other, and it feels like you’re coming home,” said Furfaro.
Furfaro said that the short-term goals are to make sure Rosebud is operating in an “efficient and sustainable way.”
Other than ticket revenue, Rosebud requires government funding, sponsorships and private funding to keep running smoothly.
In the future, Furfaro and Ertman want to see another theatre space offering a better acoustic environment.
“We’re hoping to have new student initiatives,” said Furfaro. “We want to offer programs to high school students who are interested in a theater post-secondary.”
Furfaro also said that in the long term, he wants Rosebud “to be a destination,” where people can come spend a day enjoying local talent and relax, experiencing the full effect of urban meeting rural.
“People come here because it’s peaceful,” said Furfaro. “It’s a piece of rural Canada.”
Furfaro said this is the theatre’s biggest asset, describing it as “a spa for the soul” where you can leave “restored.”
Rosebud Theatre is online and tickets are available for purchase as well as information about performances, showtimes and directions. Check out their site for the latest at Rosebud Theatre.