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Universal Child Care will be at the Canadian Stage next month.Handout

Happy 2024 to those who celebrate.

With few new shows opening this week owing to the holiday hangover, I thought I’d look further ahead at some of the most anticipated Canadian plays having world premieres this winter, spring and summer across the country.

I’ve already published a look ahead at theatre in the new year, but that focused on known quantities (classics, international hit) taking the stage.

What about all the unknown quantities? It is, of course, harder to predict whether a new drama or comedy is going to be a hit or a miss. But all of the following have much-admired theatre artists involved, and are worth gambling on. So here are eight plays with the possibility of being great, in order of opening.

1. Universal Child Care

Canadian Stage, Toronto

Feb. 13 to 24

The Quote Unquote Collective was behind one of the great indie shows of the 2010s: Mouthpiece, a feminist fantasia about a woman mourning her mother that toured widely and was made into a movie.

Now, Amy Nostbakken, Norah Sadava and their expanding group of collaborators explore parenthood from a different angle with this niftily titled show that is part concert, part play. It promises to investigate the state of child care around the world in the collective’s entertaining and inimitable way. (The call to arms even has a babes-in-arms performance, so parents can catch it, sitter or not.)

2. Father Tartuffe, an Indigenous Misadventure

Arts Club in co-production with Touchstone Theatre, Vancouver

Feb. 22 to March 24

I’m always up for a fresh adaptation of Molière’s great comedy about holier-than-thou hypocrites. I’ve seen a Tartuffe set in Quebec during the Quiet Revolution, and another in Newfoundland as it entered Confederation. Now, Herbie Barnes’s version moves the action to the reserve just after the centennial celebrations of 1967. Quelemia Sparrow and Roy Surette will co-direct.

3. 3 Fingers Back

Tarragon Theatre, Toronto

Feb. 27 to March 24

This double bill is by Siminovitch Prize finalist Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, who last rocked Toronto theatregoers to their core by throwing The First Stone at them in 2022. This new pair of plays from her ever-growing universe of shows called the 54ology tells a tale from the perspective of both captors and captives. It is set to be co-directed by Cole Alvis and Yvette Nolan.

4. Open House

Infinithéâtre, Montreal

April 18 - May 5

Drew Hayden Taylor, one of this land’s funniest playwrights (Cottagers and Indians), has a written a new comedy about that most theatrical of subjects: real estate (see: A Raisin in the Sun, Glengarry Glen Ross et cetera). Taylor’s latest imagines five folks competing for the perfect home. It has grown from, in his own words, “an idea I’ve had for a while now, exploring the concepts, humorously, of which culture could claim the right to have been the most oppressed in Canadian history.”

5. The Comeback

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Winnipeg

April 24 to May 18

It’s great to see an artistic director – Kelly Thornton, in this case – giving an original play pride of place on the mainstage at a regional theatre. This romantic comedy of sorts is described as being about a pregnant couple who must navigate “the awkward and sometimes hilarious relationship between their Métis and settler families as they face the idea of raising a child.” It’s written by a pair of playwrights: Trish Cooper and Sam Vint.

6. The Mountain and the Valley

Two Planks and a Passion, Canning, N.S.

June 29 to Aug. 11

Catherine Banks has won two Governor-General’s Literary Awards for drama (Bone Cage, 2008; It is Solved by Walking, 2012) and yet somehow remains under the radar for many Canadian theatregoers. Her latest, an adaptation of Ernest Buckler’s 1952 Bildungsroman of the same name, is set in the Annapolis Valley. Its world premiere will no doubt be worth going out of your way to see at this bucolic theatre in rural Nova Scotia.

7. The Trials of Maggie Pollack

Blyth Festival, Blyth, Ont.

July 31 to Aug. 29

Beverley Cooper, who wrote a great play about the Steven Truscott case called Innocence Lost, now turns her dramatic eye to a long-forgotten questionable Canadian conviction. Pollack was the last woman tried for witchcraft in the country – in 1920 – and, as it happens, she was born in Blyth, Ont., where the festival Cooper’s play is premiering at celebrates its 50th season of all-Canadian plays next summer.

8. Salesman in China

Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ont.

Aug. 3 to Oct. 26

This show concerns American playwright Arthur Miller’s travels to China in 1983 to direct Death of a Salesman there. Co-written by Leanna Brodie and Jovanni Sy, it’s inspired by the memoirs of both Miller and Chinese actor Ying Ruocheng, who played Willy Loman in that legendary production. I’m pleased to see Stratford’s busting its new plays out of their usual confines of the Studio Theatre: This one’s being getting a large-scale staging from Sy in the Avon Theatre.

What new plays are you looking forward to seeing in your part of Canada in 2024? Shoot me a line at knestruck@globeandmail.com.

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