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Albert Schultz, founder, director and actor at Soulpepper Theatre is photographed at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, Jan. 12, 2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Albert Schultz, founder, director and actor at Soulpepper Theatre is photographed at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, Jan. 12, 2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Theatre

Soulpepper’s 16th season to include two marathon productions Add to ...

Soulpepper has been in training for 15 seasons, so it makes sense that the Toronto theatre company would start running marathons.

What is astonishing is that, to celebrate its sweet-16th season in 2013, the Soulpepper Theatre Company will mount not one, but two acclaimed cycles of plays in their entirety, artistic director Albert Schultz announced on Tuesday.

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First, Tony Kushner’s powerhouse pair of plays, Angels in America, will open in July for a two-month run. Schultz will direct both Part One: Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika himself.

Then, in September, Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy The Norman Conquests will open under the direction of Ted Dykstra. These three English plays depict the same dysfunctional family over the same weekend, with each taking place in a different area of the home: Table Manners in the dining room; Living Together in the living room; and Round and Round the Garden in the backyard.

Kushner’s bifurcated 1990s epic about the United States in the era of AIDS and Ayckbourn’s 1970s comic trio both have had successful, starry resurrections in London and New York in recent years. For Soulpepper to program both in one season – and offer marathon runs – announces its 2013 season as the most artistically ambitious since the actor-oriented company was created.

As it happens, Soulpepper will also have 10 other plays on offer in 2013. The highlights:

Two hot, young local directors will get their debuts with the company. Buddies in Bad Times head honcho Brendan Healy will tackle Joe Orton’s dark farce Entertaining Mr Sloane, while Alan Dilworth (Crash, If We Were Birds) will bring a new adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde to the stage.

Other classics appearing in new versions are Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations, adapted for the stage and directed by Michael Shamata, and The Barber of Seville, in a mash-up of the Beaumarchais play and the Rossini opera directed by Leah Cherniak.

John Murrell’s late-career renaissance continues. In a year that will see the 67-year-old Canadian playwright with new and newish plays at Shaw and at Stratford (starring Martha Henry), Soulpepper will remount Farther West, a play about a prairie prostitute that premiered at Theatre Calgary with Henry in the lead role 30 years ago.

Two of Soulpepper’s favourite, still-living, heavy-hitting, non-Canadian dramatists will open the season: Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Sam Shepard’s True West.

And back for an encore run will be three Soulpepper successes: Alligator Pie, Parfumerie and Kim’s Convenience. Ins Choi’s story of a Korean variety store will be part of a national tour that will take the play from Toronto to Calgary.

A final note: In the press release announcing the 2013 season, Schultz flexed his marathon-ready muscles by declaring that Soulpepper was “Toronto’s largest theatre company” – a title long claimed by Canadian Stage in the not-for-profit realm and Mirvish Productions in the commercial. We will have to pull out the measuring tape, but it’s hard to deny that Soulpepper is indeed large and in charge.

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