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Dr. Joe Shoctor’s influence on Canadian theatre development is legendary. He introduced Edmonton to professional theatre in the old Salvation Army. Mr. Shoctor was also an original founder of the Edmonton Eskimo football club, involved with the United Way, and appointed King’s Counsel.
Joe Shoctor was born in Edmonton, an “east end kid” who grew up in the inner city. His immigrant father had a junk business where the Edmonton Art Gallery now stands.
“My childhood was rich,” Mr. Shoctor says. “My parents taught me, by example, to be a survivor, to conquer adversity, and to do so with spirit and zest.”
Downtown remained a focus for Joe Shoctor’s life and his creation of professional theatre in Edmonton. His influence on Canadian theatre development is legendary.
His theatrical bent was evident early in life. As a teenager, he originated, produced and directed Victoria High School Varieties.
While studying law at the University of Alberta, he originated the Varsity Show, served on student council, was president of the Literary Association, and won a Literary “A” ring, the Inter-Collegiate Debating Trophy (the McGowan Cup) and a football “A”-and-Bar with the U of A Golden Bears.
He introduced Edmonton to professional theatre in the 60’s with a controversial performance of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The opening night performance to an audience of 300 people won rave reviews and by the end of the first year, 1,300 Edmontonians were Citadel subscribers. Audiences continued to grow, along with The Citadel’s national reputation.
The Edmonton facility became internationally renowned, with developers of new art centres across North America frequently requesting site visits.
One national magazine said: “When the Citadel opened its 25th season in September 1989, with Robin Phillips’ production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights’ Dream, it marked a cultural milestone not just for Edmonton but, indeed, the entire nation.”
The Citadel on Wheels and Wings, founded in 1968, has toured thousands of miles to schools and communities as far north as the Arctic Circle. Drama classes at the Citadel have been offered to countless students.
Mr. Shoctor was governor of the National Theatre School of Canada and Honorary Patron of the National Screen Institute. While he was often associated with theatre, he was a multidimensional man.
He was one of the original founders of the Edmonton Eskimo football club and served as its first secretary-manager.
Beginning in 1968, he worked with United Way and in 1972 served as general campaign chairman spearheading a campaign that put Edmonton over its goal, the first city in Canada to do so that year, and, surpassing the city’s fundraising objective for the first time in three years.
Mr. Shoctor was chairman of the Mayor’s Task Force on the Heart of the City in 1984, and served as chairman of the Edmonton Downtown Development Corporation (EDDC) from 1986 to this year.
His work toward downtown revitalization has been widely recognized and he was credited with convincing Toronto-based corporations operating in Edmonton to finance EDDC projects. Mr. Shoctor provided the leadership for establishment of the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation and has been instrumental in bringing about Jasper Avenue improvements as well as moving plans forward for the Old Towne Market Project.
His awards include: Performing Arts Publicists Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Performing Arts (the Sterling Award), 1989; Induction to the Edmonton Cultural Hall of Fame as a Builder, 1987; Officer of the Order of Canada, 1986; Honorary Diploma in Theatre Administration, Grant MacEwan College, 1986; City of Edmonton, Silver Ribbon Award, 1985; Honorary Doctorate of Laws, University of Alberta, 1981; State of Israel Prime Minister’s Medal, 1978; The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal, 1978; Province of Alberta Achievement Award for Outstanding Service in the Theatre Arts, 1975.