Jon Jackson, executive director at Theatre Calgary, says the company — in its 51st year — is working to broaden its audience.
Wil Andruschak © Postmedia Network Inc.

Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.

Theatre Calgary has long been a cultural institution in the city. The largest theatre company in Western Canada, it recently embarked on its 51st season.

And this year brings additional excitement with new leadership at the helm.

“A lot of our focus now is growing new audiences,” says Jon Jackson, Theatre Calgary’s new executive director.

Jackson returns to Calgary after heading up Niagara Falls Tourism. He also worked with the Calgary Stampede and the Calgary Hotel Association prior to working out east.

In his second season at the theatre is artistic director Stafford Arima — a renowned trailblazer internationally.

“He moved to Calgary for the job, having worked in New York for about 20 years, working on and off Broadway,” Jackson says.

Among Arima’s achievements is being the first Asian Canadian to direct a musical on Broadway.

“He has a very broad perspective,” and is very “passionate” about the craft, Jackson adds.

Arima’s creative perspective is currently on display with the world premiere of Mary and Max, a musical based on an Australian claymation film about a pen-pal relationship between a 10-year-old girl and a man with Asperger syndrome.

All told, the theatre’s subscribers can expect wide variety among the productions at Max Bell Theatre in Arts Commons, including the perennial favourite A Christmas Carol and Theatre Calgary’s closing production Billy Elliot the Musical.

Jackson adds this season is a mix of crowd-pleasing favourites aimed at building on last season’s success, with total attendance surpassing 126,000 people.

“Our core audience continues to be boomers, but we also want to grow a younger demographic to ensure the sustainability of this important pillar of arts and culture,” Jackson explains.

Such efforts include increased focus on social media to reach younger audiences.

“It’s really about breaking through the clutter.”

And Jackson is confident Theatre Calgary has the chops to do so. “Live theatre resonates in ways other forms of entertainment can’t, making it an incredible product for Calgarians of all ages.”

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.

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