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The cast of Wildwoman, a comedy that tackles class, gender and power.DAHLIA KATZ

Local theatre gives voice to the unheard and provides great entertainment options for all to start the conversation

When theatre curtains rise over the coming months, audiences will be treated to diverse voices sharing authentic stories.

At SoulPepper, artistic director Weyni Mengesha is presenting programming that resonates with theatregoers and ignites discussion is always top of mind.

“For all productions, we ask ourselves, ‘why here, why now?’” she says. “It’s about tapping into a collective consciousness about what’s happening in the world and in our community. We’re part of the fabric of social behaviour.”

That philosophy is front and centre with the Her Words Festival, which shines a spotlight on new works and works-in-progress from some of Canada’s most dynamic female playwrights and emerging voices, wrapping up Nov. 26.

As Mengesha points out, women playwrights are not commissioned at the same rate as men.

“As a theatre company, we’re connecting people through the gap where [they] might not be heard in major media,” she explains. “It’s one of the gifts of having a cultural institution like Soulpepper. That’s why we were so excited to commission six truly dynamic artists and give them the freedom to choose what they want to write and let their imaginations soar.”

The world premiere of Wildwoman by Dora Mavor Moore Award-winning playwright Kat Sandler focuses on the real story behind the classic tale Beauty and the Beast, and examines the lives of three women wrestling for survival and legacy in the 16th-century French court of King Henry II. Queen-to-be Catherine de Medici must deal with the unruly monarch and his mistress, while trying to produce a much-needed heir. Running until Oct. 29, this bold, sexy comedy tackles themes of class, gender and power.

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The world premiere of The Guide to Being Completely Fabulous, by trans icon Sandra Caldwell, opens at Soulpepper on Oct. 24.GRACIA LAM

Meanwhile, Sandra Caldwell, an American actor and award-winning trailblazer within and beyond the trans community, shares her life’s journey, from a pickpocketing youth to stage-and-screen star. Through inspiring personal stories and music, she bares her soul in The Guide to Being Fabulous (Oct. 24-Nov. 12), another Soulpepper world premiere.

Also on deck is Sympathy for the Devil (Nov. 16-26), featuring the accomplished Iran-born, Toronto-raised multi-instrumentalist Raha Javanfar, who explores the role of the devil in music, spanning from the Baroque era to modern rock ‘n’ roll.

Mengesha, who has served as Soulpepper’s artistic director since 2018, is proud to present such a diverse slate of productions. “We are intentionally connecting and listening to each other in theatres. They are like lighthouses that shine in our city and show how we can grow together.”

Brampton On Stage provides a smorgasbord of options this season. “Our new umbrella branding, Brampton On Stage, celebrates the vibrant venues that make up our city-wide campus,” explains Steven Schipper, executive artistic director of Performing Arts Brampton – the Rose Brampton, Lester B. Pearson Memorial Theatre (LBP), Cyril Clark Library Lecture Hall Theatre and Garden Square Brampton.

“With a diverse and rapidly growing audience, we take pride in offering a wide range of artistic programming this season, from concerts and comedy to music and theatre. Collaborating with Brampton-based organizations like the Hive Performing Arts and Brampton Music Theatre, we bring a fresh twist to beloved productions. There truly is something for everyone.”

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Soulpepper artistic director Weyni Mengesha says theatres “are like lighthouses that shine in our city.”MIKKA GIA

The talent of women creators shines through in many of its productions, including The Vagina Monologues (Oct. 26-28), from American playwright Eve Ensler, which tackles taboos, fights for female empowerment and celebrates women’s lived experiences. Meanwhile, Casting Off (Oct. 26), described as a “feisty feminist circus,” features three Australian performers who bring wit and emotion to acrobatics and storytelling in a fresh, dazzling way.

Suitably timed to mark Remembrance Day, Jake’s Gift, written and performed by Julia Mackey, tells the story of a Second World War Canadian vet who reluctantly returns to Normandy to face some long-ignored ghosts. Funny, touching and moving, the multi-award-winning Canadian play, debuting at the Rose Studio, has toured worldwide and honours those who fought for their country through one soldier’s grave (Nov. 9-11).

On a similar theme, Mary’s Wedding, from Drayton Entertainment, is opening at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse on Oct. 26. It’s an epic tale set in 1920 the night before Mary, a recent immigrant to Canada, and Charlie, a young farmer, are to be wed. The play weaves together scenes of love and war in a story that follows the couple’s relationship during the Great War. Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte spent three years crafting his work, using inspiration from real-life stories of veterans and their wives. The production was a crowd-pleaser when it debuted in 2002 in Calgary, going on to win multiple awards. It has been produced by numerous theatre companies across Canada and was even adapted as an opera in Victoria.

At Toronto’s Factory Theatre, a pair of featured works by veteran Nova Scotian playwright Daniel MacIvor delves deep into the complexities of what it means to be human. Monster (Nov. 16-Dec. 10), a finalist for this year’s Governor General’s Award for Drama, reveals the psychological layers of 16 characters in a chilling one-man performance. In another one-man show, Here Lies Henry (Nov. 23-Dec. 17), Damien Atkins takes on the role of Henry, a self-proclaimed liar who is compelled to share his life story, complete with twists and turns and a quest to find meaning in life, love, beauty, death, truth and deception – elements that are always part of great recipe for a night of entertainment.

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