Top Knight stage dilemma leaves Yellowknife performers in limbo

Boolesque, a Halloween-theme burlesque show, debuted in 2018 and instantly became a popular attraction. Tickets sell out in minutes when Boolesque returns, and events now take place at all times of year.

At the start, Top Knight – the second floor of the Black Knight pub building, a space that doubles as a performing arts venue – had a solid wooden stage that performers said could hold a large cast or heavy equipment.

Show producers Samantha Marriott and Paige MacIntosh say that stage worked well, but was soon replaced by a portable metal platform after renovations to Top Knight.

"Performers expressed discomfort even just standing on this stage, let alone dancing or performing with larger and/or multiple bodies," the duo said in an email. Moreover, the unwanted clang of metal created disruptions "with even a single person stepping lightly across."

When entertainers raised safety concerns, Marriott and MacIntosh held a 2022 conversation with bar manager Terry Hartwright. That ended with an agreement for Boolesque to construct a new stage that Top Knight would then host, with the stage made available for broader community use.

Volunteers helped design and build the stage. The producers say it cost around $2,000.

Jessica Davey-Quantick says she found the new stage sturdy and comfortable, with custom-made steps that allowed people onto and off the stage with ease, even in a dark room.

"That's the biggest thing accessibility-wise. I'm a bigger person. I'm not the biggest person that performs. I'm not worried that I'm going to break the stage, that I'm going to be on stage and it's going to crack underneath me, that I'm going to move and it's going to shatter, that I'm going to hurt myself or hurt somebody else or just be humiliated," Davey-Quantick said.

"Burlesque is a really intimate thing and we are so lucky that we have an incredibly supportive community open to all genders, all bodies, all kinds of expressions. And if I have to think whether the stage will support my weight – that's a hard thing."

Davey-Quantick says more community group are planning to use the stage in forthcoming performances – but that might not be possible.

Earlier this month, Marriott and MacIntosh said they were asked by the Black Knight's owner to take the stage apart and place it outside the pub.

"We were told they do not have the space to keep the stage at all times, claiming most events do not require the stage and that it is 'in the way and unsightly,'" the two said in their email.

"Based on the community events advertised past, present and future, we feel the stage is getting more than enough use to maintain being in the space year-round. We have groups asking us directly about the stage being available for use, and many are simply expecting it to be there as part of the venue when booking the space for events."

Hartwright declined to comment, stating the situation was an internal matter. Marriott and MacIntosh said Boolesque has received "incredible support" from the management at Top Knight and wish to continue producing more shows at the venue.

The producers say if the stage has to be taken down and moved outside the pub, that might be too large a workload to justify transporting it back and forth and rebuilding it each time it's needed. In other words, it might be the end of Boolesque at Top Knight.

"They need help getting it out of there because it's a huge stage. Who moves it? How do we move it? Who transports it? Where do we put it? And then come Halloween, where do we take it?" Davey-Quantick asked, raising the issues the producers face.

"So, is it the end of that show? As part of a really hectic show setup, they're not going to be pulling that stage in and out, in and out, in and out," she said.

"If somebody else can come forward and say, 'Hey, actually I have this great space,' or maybe they have an idea, we keep the show alive."

Aastha Sethi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio