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The Tarragon Theatre in Toronto.

Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail

Tarragon Theatre didn’t announce its 2020-2021 season on Monday this week as planned. Instead, the Toronto theatre company sent out a season unannouncement to subscribers.

Artistic director Richard Rose e-mailed patrons to honestly describe the situation he – and others running city theatres across the country – find themselves in due to the COVID-19 pandemic: “Depending on government health regulations, we may open in September, January or not at all next season.”

He continued by requesting that his loyal audience members e-mail and tell him what they thought he should do. His questions to them included:

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  • Would you come to the theatre without the assurance of a vaccine?
  • Would you come to the theatre if we practice social distancing with good sanitation?

These are important questions. After all, even when theatres are permitted to reopen, it will still be up to theatregoers to decide if they want to buy tickets at that time or not.

I’m equally curious to know what theatregoers are thinking. Please e-mail me your thoughts on when and under what conditions you would go back to the theatre to knestruck@globeandmail.com.

I called Rose’s e-mail to subscribers an “unannouncement” because he did also list what eight shows he would have announced under normal circumstances, plays he is committed to programming whenever Tarragon does reopen.

They are: Orestes, a “hacking” of Euripides by actor/playwright Rick Roberts; Three Women of Swatow, Chloé Hung’s previously programmed play that was cancelled due to COVID-19; Light, a new Rosa Labordé comedy about a crusading journalist endeavouring to expose hypocrisy at a yoga retreat; Zoe, Bobby Theodore’s translation of Quebec playwright Olivier Choinière’s latest; Ominous Sounds at the River Crossing, a dinner-party play by Jason Sherman; The Herd, Kenneth Williams’s new play about the media circus that follows after twin white bison are born into a First Nation herd; Babysitter, Chantal Bilodeau translation of Catherine Léger’s play about the aftermath of a shouted sexist comment; and El Terremoto, Christine Quintana’s new play about the three Jurado sisters – inspired by a certain Chekhov play.

If you’re missing his work at the Tarragon right now, Rose is directing an online reading of David Young’s classic play Inexpressible Island as part of the National Arts Centre’s #CanadaPerforms next week. The original cast – including Eric Peterson, R. H. Thomson and Julian Richings – of this play about six men who accompanied Captain Robert Scott on an ill-fated expedition to Antarctica are reuniting for the reading, which will stream one act a night from May 11 to 13, at 7 p.m. EST. Details to be posted on the NAC’s website soon.

Here’s what else to watch or listen to this week if you’re craving …

… a classic solo show? Factory Theatre, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is going ahead with its opening night of its season-closing show, Daniel MacIvor’s House starring Kevin Hanchard, on May 7. The twist: This will be the premiere of a new “isolation version” of the 1992 play, which the playwright has rewritten specifically for the online platform Zoom. The one-time online performance is free – and you can register to watch it online here.

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… some new solo shows? Victoria’s UNO Fest – a curated festival of one-person theatre – did not cancel its 19th edition, but decided to move it online. Its second week of programming is under way, featuring performances from Ottawa’s Calalou, Calgary’s Cloudsway Dance Theatre and Vancouver’s Monster Theatre. A pass is $10, $20, or $50 – and it is up to you to choose the price.

… a Shakespeare play? The Stratford Festival’s online film festival continues on Thursday with a free YouTube release of its recording of artistic director Antoni Cimolino’s 2016 production of Macbeth, starring Ian Lake and Krystin Pellerin. I called it “the first truly satisfying large-scale Macbeth I’ve ever seen – taut, thrilling and, at times, terrifying” in my review.

… a new musical? Composer/lyricist Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama on Monday – only the tenth musical to ever win the prestigious award. The New York Times called this show a “gutsy, exasperated musical set within the mind of a black, queer man who’s writing a musical about a black, queer man who’s writing a musical.” You can take a listen to the original cast album on Spotify or track it down on Apple Music.

… a Mother’s Day show? On Wednesday, the PlayME podcast will upload an audio adaptation of Hannah Moscovitch’s Secret Life of a Mother, a 70-minute play that is very frank about pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. As Martha Schabas wrote in her 2018 review: “The good parts are so good I might actually call them groundbreaking.” Find it on Apple and Google podcasts or on the PlayME website.

Keep up to date with the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.

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