4-D theatre puts Alberta history in Twilight Zone

The province has this cool, state-of-the art 4-D theatre. But it seems almost no one has heard about it.

Pehonan theatre is showing an 11-minute educational film about the history of the province

In the film, an actor playing Princess Louise Caroline Alberta introduces the audience to the province named after Queen Victoria's fourth daughter. (CBC)

Apparently, the province has this cool, state-of-the art 4-D theatre.

But it seems almost no one has heard about it.

Your first question might be, in a three-dimensional world ... what the heck is the fourth dimension?

Italian mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange might have said - "time."

But this is Alberta, so the answer has to be … "snow."
The film is an 11-minute dash through the history of Alberta. (CBC)

That's right. Down at the Federal Building on 107th Street, the Pehonan theatre is showing an 11-minute educational film about the history of Alberta, where in addition to the three dimensions of traditional Euclidean geometry, the fourth dimension really is snow.

And wind.

In the film, an actress playing Princess Louise Caroline Alberta introduces the audience to the province that is (who would have guessed?) named after her.

As she speaks, images appear on the walls, and on a circular screen that drops from the ceiling into the middle of what is actually a theatre in the round.

A dozen projectors and eight computers are used to tell the story, and to give the audience the feeling they are part of the film.

"You'll see images on the screen, and then the room takes on those images," said Al Chapman, manager of visitor services for the Alberta legislative assembly. "So the wind the snow and the fog and the steam."

You might expect a theater where you can feel the wind and touch the snow would be packed, but that hasn't been the case. At least, not yet.

At one showing on Wednesday, only two people were in the audience.

Still, Doug and Marg Lemke gave the 4-D effects passable marks.

"As the screen changed, the air flow changed in the theatre," he said. "It added a lot to the show, actually."

"I enjoyed the fire effect that was on the round screen when it came down," she said.

The province spent $808,000 to make the film and build the theatre, which seats from 80 to 120 people, depending on the configuration.

About 1,600 people have seen the film since it started playing at the start of July.

Chapman said the budget for promotions has been kept to a minimum.

"We put our money more into our programming," he said. "What we're trying to do with all of our programming here is get people involved in the democratic process, and help them understand what the parliamentary process is.

"And so, being immersed in that and feeling it and sensing it, just takes it to a whole other level."

Chapman said the Legislative Assembly of Alberta Visitor Centre, which includes the theatre, a retail store and an art gallery, plans in the future to work with Travel Alberta and have a social media campaign.

If you've read this far, you deserve the answer to the next logical question.

What's the fifth dimension?

  • a) 1960s R&B group
  • b) something out of the Twilight Zone
  • c) either, or both, of the above.   

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.