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Exploring Edmonton with: Meg Roe and Alessandro Juliani

by Leah Paterson

Canadian actors Meg Roe and Alessandro Juliani just rolled into town on the Calgary Hitmen's bus with 5 other actors, 3 musicians, 2 stage managers and a director in tow. Oh, and their three young children too. They’re gearing up for Onegin’s Edmonton premiere, days after closing the Calgary leg of its Western Canadian tour.

Hint: its pronounce ON-YEG-GIN.

The last few of days have been a whirlwind to say the least, but when we met up with the couple at District Café on 109 St, they were nothing short of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

They are both aces at just about every area of the performing arts. From voice-acting, to directing, composing, and even playing a genetically evolved primate on the big screen. Meg is a celebrated performer, director, and musician who recently directed Middletown at the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake. You may recognize Alessandro (AJ) from the epic sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica, or most recently as Spear the chimpanzee in War for the Planet of the Apes.

Their current adventure, Onegin, is a surreal and stunning musical with script, music, and lyrics by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hill. It is a new adaptation of Pushkin’s classic poem and Tchaikovsky’s legendary opera. The show has won an unprecedented 10 Jessie Awards and lucky for us, it runs at the Citadel Theatre in the heart of downtown Edmonton from January 17-28.

“It has the feel of an indie rock cabaret,” AJ says. “It's kind of a concert feel as we all play instruments at different times in the show. We want the audience to feel and know we see them. We need them and use them throughout. It's fun. It's interactive. It's spontaneous. And there's Vodka!"

On show days, which are most days, their commute of choice is the river valley's new funicular and a short walk to the theatre from their accommodations in Rossdale. They won’t get much more than a week and a half in town, and though it will be filled with vocal warm-ups, quick changes, and applause, they’ve already made a point of exploring the city.

And their perfect day-off in Edmonton? Well, we’re so glad you asked.

12-Hours in Edmonton with Meg and AJ

9:00am- Breakfast at District Café

Caffeine is the first thing Meg and Alessandro look for when they roll into in a new city, and District Cafe certainly brings the beans. In addition to a feisty espresso, their brunch menu has items like the waffle benny (hollandaise on anything, am I right?) and the potted french toast. It's also a great place to grab a sandwich to-go at lunch.

11:00am- World Waterpark at West Edmonton Mall
The World Waterpark at WEM is a tropical oasis any time of year. With a gigantic wave pool, dozens of winding water slides, a zip-line, and a snazzy indoor beach, there's something for everyone at this indoor escape.

"I grew up in Calgary, and I’d always wanted to go to the waterpark, but my parents had never taken me. Ever. And I have to say, it truly lived up to all my childhood expectations,” Meg says. “Our whole cast was there, and we were sitting on the 'beach' and we were like, this is amazing. We should have a pina colada.”

1:00pm- Lunch at the Farmers Market
The City Market Downtown makes its home inside City Hall during the chilly winter months. You’ll find everything from fresh local produce to hand-made jewelry, clothing, art and unique home goods. The market attracts thousands of visitors every Saturday for treats like mouthwatering Moonshine Doughnuts. For lunch? Honest Dumplings are a definite go-to.

4:00pm- The Ice Castles at Hawrelak Park
The Ice Castles
are seriously magical. So magical in fact, that Meg and AJ brought their kids and invited the entire cast to this Narnia-like feat of icy engineering. They wasted no time navigating the labyrinth, posing for photos on the ice throne, and zipping down the ice slides. This enchanting acre-sized castle is crafted by hand using only icicles and water, and you'll want to get your tickets before Jon Snow's new digs melt away.

6:00pm- Dinner at Trés Carnales
Who doesn't love a good taco... or three? Tres Carnales takes delicious traditional Mexican recipes and brings them to life in a fresh new way. You can't help but smile when you walk into this watering hole on Rice Howard Way— the walls are painted brightly, the music is always thumping, and the beer and sangria are constantly flowing.

8:00pm- Drinks at Woodwork
Woodwork is nestled in Edmonton's arts district, making it a perfect post-show pit stop for all you theatre goers. It's also the hangout of choice for actors and musicians performing at The Citadel Theatre, just down the street. In addition to the creative cocktails, you have to try the Brussel sprouts. Don't worry, they know how to do 'em right.

Though a trip to Rogers Place to see the Oilers battle it out in our shiny new arena may not be in the cards this time for AJ, it must be mentioned that he is a die-hard Edmonton Oilers fan who lives in Vancouver (surrounded by Canucks fans). Let's have a moment of silence for our brother.

So, What's Next?

Meg's next project will be directing at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, and AJ is writing music for the Stratford Festival coming up this year. Your next chance to see, or rather hear, the couple's work in Edmonton will be in Kidd Pivot's Betroffenheit, for which they wrote the music. This 2017 Olivier Award Winner for Best New Dance Production heads to The Citadel from March 30-April 1. First off though, they're heading to Whitehorse for Onegin's fourth stop.

Though they seem to have their hands in every creative pot, their focus until the end of this tour at least, is live theatre:

“There’s a lot of agency when you’re in the theatre," Meg says. " I decide where I go, what I do, when to turn my head; how it meets you is all about your relationship to me. There’s no intermediary between us. Which makes theatre, from an acting perspective, more fun. It can be really freeing and kind of a wonderful communion between the audience and the performer.”

Catalyst Theatre Presents: Onegin runs at the Citadel Theatre from January 17-28th. It marks a new initiative in which you will see cherished Edmonton theatre company, The Catalyst, bring exceptional new productions by some of Canada's most exciting and ground-breaking companies to Edmonton audiences.