An Edmonton theatre company needed a venue for their shows — so they made one

The Grindstone Theatre at 100th Street and 81st Avenue opened Thursday. The 75-seat space is Edmonton’s first comedy theatre and has a restaurant and bar in the building.

The Grindstone Theatre, Edmonton's first comedy theatre, opened Thursday

The Grindstone Theatre opened Thursday and seats 75 people. (Grindstone Theatre/Instagram)

A man walks into an Edmonton building. He decides to open a live comedy theatre in it.

Byron Martin started Grindstone Theatre in 2011. The non-profit theatre company had been performing in the Varscona Theatre but recently had to move out while it's being renovated.

"We started looking around for venues, knocking on doors to see who could host us — and there wasn't anybody," Martin told CBC's Radio Active Thursday.

After coming up short on the venue front, Martin, the founder and artistic director for Grindstone Theatre, decided to open his own. The 75-seat space at 100th Street and 81st Avenue, which opened Thursday, is Edmonton's first comedy theatre. There is a restaurant and bar in the building.

"It feels like throwing a big party where people are coming over and you have to build all the tables and chairs and make sure the floor is painted," Martin said. "It's a little wild, for sure."

Byron Martin is the founder and artistic director of Grindstone Theatre. (CBC)

The theatre schedule is ambitious, with up to three shows a night, six days a week.

Martin saw an obvious need for the theatre building because his company needed the space. But he also saw a need for the comedy theatre in Edmonton, too.

'A Fringe city'

"I find Edmonton is a Fringe city," Martin said. In the months leading up to and during the Fringe Festival in Edmonton, locals are busy producing and putting on their own performances for that two-week stretch.

After the Fringe, Martin said, there are few places for these plays to go.

"It's really hard to make a name for yourself, for your show or as a performer if there's only so many spots at the Citadel for your casting," he said.

He's hoping the Grindstone Theatre can help bridge that gap. They're looking to have all types of shows, including stand-up, sketch and improv comedy, as well as magic and late-night talk shows.

The variety of shows and the restaurant that serves comfort food will act as a space for the artists to meet up and will provide a space for collaboration, Martin said.

"Having those people in the same space … [and] seeing what's going to come out of that is going to be really exciting," he said.

More information on the theatre is available on their website.