Chekhov, make way for Choi.
It’s taken 15 years, but Soulpepper is about to launch its first production of an original, full-length play – by a young playwright who recently went through the company's in-house academy.
Kim’s Convenience, a recent Fringe festival hit about a Regent Park convenience store written by Ins Choi, gets the honour of opening the classical theatre company’s anniversary season in January.
“I went to see it at the Fringe,” says artistic director Albert Schultz. “I particularly loved that it reminded me of the experience I had watching [Trey Anthony’s] Da Kink in my Hair.”
Like that little Fringe show, which found an untapped audience and turned into a big commercial hit, Kim’s Convenience is directed by Weyni Mengesha (another former member of the Soulpepper Academy).
Aside from Choi’s 21st-century play, Soulpepper – which has weathered a 10-per-cent decline in attendance this season thanks to its new repertory model – will focus largely on 20th-century American playwrights next year.
The greatest of all of them, Eugene O’Neill, will have his long-overdue Soulpepper debut. Diana Leblanc is directing O’Neill’s masterpiece Long Day’s Journey Into Night with a cast that includes Nancy Palk, Joseph Ziegler and Evan Buliung of Stratford Shakespeare Festival and Shaw Festival fame.
“A lot of the time, you’re almost there and somebody beats you to the punch,” said Schultz, who planned in the past to program O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten and Hughie but each time was scooped by Shaw and Stratford.
Other American playwrights returning to Soulpepper’s stages will be Arthur Miller (via The Crucible and a remount of Death of a Salesman, both directed by Schultz), Neil Simon (courtesy of The Sunshine Boys, starring Canadian stage veterans Eric Peterson and Kenneth Welsh) and David Mamet (with his showbiz satire Speed-the-Plow, directed by David Storch).
You Can’t Take it With You, the 1937 Pulitzer-prize winning comedy by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, will also appear on the bill. Eric Peterson and Republic of Doyle’s Krystin Pellerin are set to star; Joseph Ziegler is set to direct.
Hughes will also be directing the other Canadian play in 2012: High Life, Lee MacDougall’s 1996 black comedy about four morphine addicts planning a robbery.
Hungarian director Laszlo Marton – Soulpepper’s spiritual guide from overseas – will be back in Toronto to direct Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Royal Comedians, a play about Molière’s battle with the Catholic church that’s really about the Russian playwright’s experience writing under Stalin.
Europe will also be represented by Home, a 1970 play by English playwright (and Booker Prize-winning novelist) David Storey that originally starred John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.
Finally, to finish the season next fall, Soulpepper will return to two plays the company has previously produced: Michael Shamata will once again helm his version of A Christmas Carol, while director Daniel Brooks will take a second swipe at Samuel Beckett’s Endgame.
Note to readers This story has been changed to reflect the following print correction: Joseph Ziegler will direct Soulpepper's production of You Can't Take It With You. Incorrect information appeared on Tuesday.