University of Alberta alumna Barbara Mah has a prominent background in the creative arts in Alberta. Now, she is entering the role of artistic director at the Walterdale Theatre for its 66th and 67th seasons.
Mah has a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Commerce from the U of A. She said her parents hoped she’d become a doctor. But much to their dismay, Mah toured with a musical dance group throughout her science degree.
Mah later studied commerce solely to appease her parents. However, the degree ended up being useful in her job working for the Government of Alberta. Combined with a 30-year-career teaching dance, Mah is joining the Walterdale Theatre with extensive experience and knowledge of the arts community.
Amidst her experience in the arts, Mah has “always felt that Walterdale was home”
Mah recently retired from the Ministry of Arts, Culture, and Status of Women, where she worked as an arts development consultant (theatre) for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Even while working for the government, Mah focused on her artistic pursuits.
“I was very involved in the community aspects of theatre and dance. Throughout the years, I have choreographed and directed many musicals, a few plays,” Mah said. She added that she’s done so multiple times for the Walterdale Theatre.
Mah currently teaches musical theatre at the Citadel Theatre, which she has done for over 20 years. Her involvement in the arts in Alberta placed her at several different companies throughout the years. But, she’s “always felt that Waltderdale was home.”
Most recently, Mah directed and choreographed Austentatious at the Walterdale Theatre. A director works with people at all different levels. She said this is especially true at the Walterdale Theatre because it’s a community theatre.
“You get a whole range of people. From students who have graduated freshly out of theatre school, to passionate amateurs, who have decided that being full-time theatre artists is not for them, but they have the passion and the drive to do theatre,” Mah described. “But you also get absolute beginners who are looking to see what this is about.”
Mah looks forward to meeting new people that are passionate for community theatre
According to Mah, Edmonton is unique when it comes to community theatre because of the small divide between professionals and amateurs. This is mainly due to the Fringe Festival, she said, which “lets everyone in.”
“For people who do want to make this a viable career, it’s so great they have a launching-pad like Walterdale. We’ve been around a very long time, and we attract excellence because we’re so well-known,” Mah explained.
“It gives people the fantastic opportunity to try [theatre]. Then they become part of the theatre ecology, both as participants and audience members. I think it’s just great.”
Mah is excited to meet new people with the same interests as her in community theatre.
“I’m really looking forward to growing my circle of people who are very passionate about community theatre. And sharing my interests, learning about their interests, and helping facilitate that.”