Nine world premieres over nine months: Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre will be home to more new Canadian plays in its 2019-20 season than any other English-language theatre company in the country.
“There are a lot of hot-button issues in the plays we’re doing this year,” Tarragon’s long-time artistic director Richard Rose said in advance of a season announcement set for Monday. “The writers all take current contemporary issues and turn them on its head and make sure we see all sides.”
Hannah Moscovitch and Kat Sandler, two of the country’s most in-demand contemporary playwrights, will have new shows on the Tarragon’s Mainspace.
Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, which looks at a relationship between a student and a teacher through a #MeToo lens, is the latest from Moscovitch, an award-winning writer who has had a steady relationship with Tarragon since her first full-length play, East of Berlin, premiered there in 2007. Sarah Garton Stanley is in the director’s chair for this one.
Yaga is the name of Sandler’s new comedy, a “fairy tale meets whodunit” involving Baba Yaga, the bone-grinding woman of Slavic folklore, and a gruesome murder in a small town. As she did with recent hit Bang Bang at Factory Theatre, Sandler will direct her own play at Tarragon – where she had her debut with Mustard in 2016.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Moscovitch and Sandler were the indie up-and-comers making their Tarragon debuts in the theatre’s Extraspace. Another pair of hotly tipped indie playwrights will do so in 2019-20: Chloe Hung and Ellie Moon.
Hung’s Three Women of Swatow is billed as being about “a grandmother, mother and daughter caught up in a generational cycle of violence by abusive husbands/boyfriends” – and will be directed by Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster. The show will mark the first regular-season Toronto production for Hung, who splits her time between her hometown and Los Angeles and writes for the Ava Duvernay-created TV series Queen Sugar.
Moon’s This Was the World is a play about a sixty-something, white professor of constitutional law and Indigenous rights that Rose, who will direct, describes as being about “the tension between the old academia and the new academia.” Her recent plays include the verbatim hit Asking for It and the drama What I Call Her.
Rose will direct two other shows in the 2019-20 season: Buffoon, a play set in the mind of a circus clown penned by Anosh Irani (Bombay Black, The Men in White) in the Extraspace; and Orphan Song, a play about adoption in the time of the Neanderthals written by the endlessly inventive Sean Dixon (A God in Need of Help) in the Mainspace.
Tarragon’s two other Mainspace shows are Kenneth T. Williams’s The Herd, a new comedy about the hoopla that follows twin white bison being born to a First Nation ranch (to be directed by National Arts Centre Indigenous Theatre artistic director Kevin Loring); and Jason Sherman’s Copy That, set in a network television show’s writer’s room (to be directed by Jamie Robinson).
The Jungle, a new play by Anthony MacMahon and Thomas McKechnie, is a Toronto-set love story about a cab driver and factory worker wondering if their love can “survive a city in late capitalism. Guillermo Verdecchia directs.
While next season will see Tarragon expand its offerings to nine, the Toronto playwright-centred theatre will also shorten its runs from six weeks to five weeks. Runs have been shortening across the city over the past decade – and, as Rose says, "I think we were the last stage in the city and maybe in the country to do a six-week run.”