Just over a year after moving into its first permanent home, Crow’s Theatre is growing again – and getting set to take flight outside of its walls once more.
On Thursday, Siminovitch Prize-winning artistic director Chris Abraham will announce programming for a 2018-19 season that will be the company’s biggest-budget to date, filling its own two-theatre Streetcar Crowsnest complex in Toronto’s east end and touring across the city and the country.
With recent critical and popular hits such as The Wedding Party, Jerusalem and True Crime, Crow’s Theatre has had what Abraham calls “a great year” in its first 14 months owning and operating its own space – leading the company to expand from a $1.8-million budget to a $2.5-million one (putting it on par with the longer-established Tarragon Theatre).
Sales targets for the current season, which started in September, have been surpassed – and Crow’s has hit over 85-per-cent capacity for each production the company has either led or been a partner in.
Broken Social Scene creator Kevin Drew’s play A&R Angels has been the biggest box-office smash so far in the Crowsnest, playing to 95-per-cent capacity – and attracting audiences who had not been to a theatre since high school, according to Abraham.
“What’s been nice has been to see not just the usual suspects walking into the theatre,” he says. “Forty per cent of our audience is coming from the east end, the rest are coming from all over the city.”
The Wolves, American playwright Sarah DeLappe’s Pulitzer-nominated play about the young women on a high-school soccer team, will kick off Crow’s mainstage season in October – in a production directed by Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster and co-produced with the Howland Company.
Then, in November, the Shaw Festival’s deeply moving production of Will Eno’s Middletown – which got a four-star review from The Globe and Mail last summer – will be remounted with its original cast. “I saw it, I loved it and I asked right away how do we get it to Toronto,” Abraham says.
Two new documentary plays follow in Crow’s main space in 2019. Grace, an anonymously written show produced by Nightwood Theatre, concerns a childhood sexual assault and a family’s subsequent heartbreaking journey through the legal system; and Towards Youth: a play on radical hope, a Crow’s co-production with verbatim playwright Andrew Kushnir’s Project: Humanity that dives into drama classrooms and clubs around the world.
More documentary theatre will be presented in Crow’s second, smaller theatre space in 2018-19. The Assembly: Episode 1, opening in October, is the first in a series from Montreal-based playwright Annabel Soutar’s Porte Parole company (The Watershed; Seeds) that will tackle “the rise of extremism and tribalism in political discourse today.” In early 2019 will come a new version of We Are Not Alone, Dora Award-winning actor Damien Atkins’s deep dive into UFOs, crop circles and other mysterious phenomena.
Playwright Ellie Moon – who made a splash in the fall with her documentary theatre debut, Asking for It – will premiere a new fictional work that seems no less topical. What I call her concerns a 25-year-old woman considering publishing a scathing obituary of her estranged mother on Facebook. Abraham describes it as “a very personal play about what you do when you believe something happened to you and other people don’t believe you.”
In 2018-19, Crow’s will also open its doors to independent companies such as Obsidian Theatre (with an as-yet-unannounced project), Puzzle Piece (with Richard Lam’s family adaptation of The Little Prince), Soheil Parsa’s Modern Times Stage Company (with The Cherry Orchard) – and, courtesy of Maudie producer Mary Young Leckie, the long-overdue Toronto premiere of Stephen Massicotte’s much-produced First World War play Mary’s Wedding.
But the company, which for 34 years produced peripatetically around the country, will also once again be taking its shows on the road. The Wedding Party will land at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa; The Boy in the Moon, based on Globe writer Ian Brown’s memoir, will head to the Grand Theatre in London, Ont.; and Torquil Campbell’s True Crime will tour to Montreal, Vancouver and Saskatoon.
It’s already been announced that Crow’s will partner with Canadian Stage and the Groundling Theatre for a Toronto remount of Abraham’s hit Stratford Festival production of Tartuffe with its original cast, but that may not be all for the show. “We’re working on a plan to get the production south of the border and this is part of the plan,” Abraham says of the Trump-tinged take on the Molière classic comedy that some critics (well, this one) have mused could have life on Broadway.