Ignition Theatre preparing to carry on

With the potential loss of its home base, Ignition Theatre is having to think slightly smaller — without reducing expectations for its 2011-12 season.

With the potential loss of its home base, Ignition Theatre is having to think slightly smaller — without reducing expectations for its 2011-12 season.

“This last week has been brutal,” said Ignition Theatre’s artistic director Matt Grue. Even though he knew The Matchbox’s financial situation was precarious, the announcement that the four-year-old entertainment venue would close if it doesn’t receive a $40,000 operating grant from the province was still a blow. “The reality hadn’t sunk in,” said Grue.

But he confirmed on Friday that Ignition Theatre is preparing to carry on regardless of whether The Matchbox is around after May by staging five of six shows next season in Central Alberta Theatre’s small Nickle Studio, upstairs at the Memorial Centre.

The annual Christmas show, It’s a Wonderful Life, would be staged in CAT’s larger former Uptown Theatre space downtown. There are only 50 cabaret seats in the Nickle Studio. The Matchbox has 110. But the stage area is only a bit tighter, said Grue, who believes the space will work for the short term. With fewer seats to fill, this could allow the company known for tackling edgy productions to take even more risks, said Grue.

“We’ll be able to present some brand-new works and not be too worried that not enough people will show up.”

Grue is hoping The Matchbox board will be successful in its long-term goal of buying a new space with some corporate or business partners.

The Matchbox is leasing space in the old brewery building off Taylor Drive. But its co-founder, Steve Ridge, said leasing is not viable because of higher operating costs and having no equity.

He’s interested in forming a new Matchbox consortium to pursue the development of new art space in a purchased space and believes there might be some interest in the business community.

In the meantime, Steve and his wife, Cindy Ridge, are waiting to hear whether their latest application for a government grant is approved. If they receive the requested $40,000, they might be able to continue another season in the old brewery space.

If not, Steve said The Matchbox, as an entity that brings entertainment to Red Deer, is not going away.

The couple are looking at bringing in acts to the new Central Alberta Theatre venue in the former Uptown Theatre in the fall.

The Matchbox received provincial government grants last year, including a $40,000 operating grant, a $40,000 capital grant, an $8,000 matching grant for lining up corporate sponsorship and a $4,200 grant to help defray the cost of bringing in entertainers.

But two grant applications made this year were declined. He expects to hear about a third before the end of April.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com