Next season, Canadian Stage plans to bring some epic drama back to the main stage of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts – the Toronto civic theatre currently the subject of its own epic drama off stage at City Hall, where council will be debating whether to consider demolishing and replacing the complex later this week.
In October, the Toronto not-for profit theatre company run by artistic director Brendan Healy plans to stage A Thousand Splendid Suns, a theatrical adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel of the same name, in the St. Lawrence Centre’s 868-seat Bluma Appel theatre in a production directed by Haysam Kadri and starring Anita Majumdar.
Then, in April, 2021, Paradise Lost, a hit for playwright Erin Shields at the 2018 Stratford Festival, is set to grace the same venue in a brand-new production directed by Tanja Jacobs and starring Louise Pitre as the devil.
On Tuesday, Healy will officially reveal this and the rest of his 2020-2021 programming in an announcement now overshadowed by the looming decision over the fate of the St. Lawrence Centre and Canadian Stage’s place in it.
Might these be the last new Canadian Stage productions at the St. Lawrence Centre – or, at least, this St. Lawrence Centre?
“One of the main things that attracted me to Canadian Stage was the ability to provide opportunities for Canadian artists on a larger stage,” says Healy, who came out of a meeting with Mayor John Tory and Councillor Gary Crawford last week assured that the interest of legacy tenants would be strongly considered in the redevelopment.
Also on the Bluma Stage next season, Canadian Stage will present Japanese Butoh artist Akaji Maro’s new show Crazy Camel and a return of the hit dance-theatre show Revisor by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young.
About a third of the season currently unfolding at Canadian Stage was programmed before Healy became artistic director, so 2020/2021 gives us the clearest picture yet at where the acclaimed artist hopes to take the company. It shows he definitely has an eye for cutting-edge contemporary playwriting in the United States and in the Canada.
Over in the 244-seat Berkeley Street Theatre, the season will officially kick off in September with Shaw Festival director Kimberley Rampersad directing the Canadian premiere of Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury.
This much-talked-about play begins as a comedy about an African-American family called the Frasiers – and, well, that’s about all reviewers in New York mostly revealed about it, not wanting to, as New York Times critic Ben Brantley put it, spoil “one of the most exquisitely and systematically arranged ambushes of an unsuspecting audience in years.”
Later in the season, Healy will direct Public Enemy by the Siminovitich Prize-winning Québécois playwright Olivier Choinière, itself a disturbing deconstruction of a family play. The Globe and Mail gave the show three-and-a-half stars when it premiered in French as Ennemi publique at Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui in Montreal in 2015 – but it has not hitherto been translated into English due to its many detailed and specific references to Quebec culture.
The solution: It will get a “trans-adaptation” by Bobby Theodore that will make it more accessible to English Canada audiences; Evan Buliung, Ben Carlson, Rosemary Dunsmore and Jenny Young are set to star.
Blackout – a musical set during the 2003 blackout in Toronto - will get a world premiere in May, 2021, continuing Canadian Stage’s exciting partnership with company-in-residence Musical Stage Company.
This highly emotional new show has a book by Stephen Gallagher, songs by Anton Lipovetsky – and was originally inspired by a photograph glimpsed in an old copy of The Globe and Mail. (A early draft actually premiered in the The Globe and Mail Centre last fall.)
Other shows in the Berkeley include the return of macabre master of the marionette, Ronnie Burkett, with a holiday show called Little Dickens that riffs on A Christmas Carol; and the return of Red Sky Performance with a new dance show called Miigis.
Finally, a new initiative of Healy’s is CS Platform, a mini-festival that will take place in November and which he describes as “focused on really innovative, edgy work.” The inaugural edition will include Harbinger, a new work by choreographer Ame Henderson, and P.O.R.N. (Portrait of Restless Narcissism), a new collaboration between Siminovitch winner Nadia Ross and Christian Lapointe. “That’s part of our mission as well: To always push forward the conversation of what theatre and dance could look like,” says Healy.
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