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Making predictions about live theatre is a tricky business at the best of times – and 2020 turned out to be the worst of times. Theatre critics have chosen clunkers as must-sees before, but most of the shows that appeared in this space last year simply never made it to opening night.
Looking ahead to 2021, at least, we know what we don’t know. Only a very few brave or foolish Canadian theatre companies have announced shows. But the Stratford Festival’s prudent artistic leadership, for instance, is not even going to present a proposed 2021 season to the board for approval until February. Once bitten, twice shy: Here are six theatrical experiences coming up that will happen one way or another.
1. Orestes, Tarragon Theatre
tarragontheatre.com, Feb. 3 to 14
The daring actor Rick Roberts has adapted this Greek tragedy into an “live digital experience” that promises to be more than a doomy Zoom call. Artistic director Richard Rose is directing this ambitious online work where the title character (played by Cliff Cardinal) is pursued not by the furies, but by a social-media mob.
2. Embodying Power and Place, New Harlem Productions presented by Nightwood Theatre
nightwoodtheatre.net, March TBA
Missing and murdered Indigenous women have haunted important Canadian dramas from George Ryga’s The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (1967) to Marie Clements’s The Unnatural and Accidental Women (2000) and beyond. Last year, New Harlem took a different approach to tackling the difficult subject through theatre by commissioning stage artists to respond directly to the final report of the National Inquiry into this systemic violence. With the help of Nightwood Theatre, the results will receive a digital presentation with contributions by playwrights Falen Johnson, Yvette Nolan and recent Siminovitch Prizewinner Tara Beagan.
3. Through the Eyes, Factory Theatre
factorytheatre.ca, April 29 – May 8
Toronto’s Factory Theatre really impressed with its first livestreamed play in November – raising expectations for its second foray into the genre. Director ahdri zhina mandiela is taking on(line) Don Druick’s Through the Eyes, a celebrated solo show about art, truth and power set in the French court of the Louis XIV. Casting is still under way.
4. The Wolves, Atlantic Repertory Company
Atlanticrep.ca, April TBA
For this up-and-coming New Brunswick company, director Laura Vingoe-Cram will stage Sarah Delappe’s Pulitzer-nominated drama about teenage girls on a soccer team in an actual indoor arena in Saint John. If a live audience is not possible, the rest of Canada will benefit – as the backup plan is to livestream this gem of a play with its incredible ear for teen-girl dialogue.
5. Voice, Prairie Theatre Exchange
pte.mb.ca, May 19 – June 6
Winnipeg’s foremost new-work theatre plans to digitally distribute this play by radio journalist Ismaila Alfa whether it can play to in-person audiences or not. Which is great because Alfa recently moved east to host Metro Morning on CBC Radio Toronto – and new fans will be curious about this personal and poetic piece inspired by his need to help his daughters understand the world in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
6. What You Won’t Do For Love, Why Not Theatre
whynot.theatre, May TBA
David Suzuki and Tara Cullis are environmental activists and life partners. In this new show, to premiere in a livestream from Vancouver’s the Cultch, the two take the stage to have a conversation with a younger real-life couple (Miriam Fernandes and Stural Alsvaag) about “loving each other and the planet”. It comes recommended due to being created with and directed by Ravi Jain, who, notably, brought his real mother onstage in his heartwarming hit Brimful of Asha.