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Montreal theatre companies have found it slightly more financially feasible to come up with alternative fall seasons of indoor programming than most other theatre companies across the country.

That’s because Quebec guidelines allow indoor gatherings of up to 250 spectators, as long as the proper safety precautions are in place. That’s 150 more and 200 more than generally allowed according to guidelines in Alberta and Ontario, respectively.

Three shows are up already on the boards in Montreal right now: Zebrina: Une pièce à conviction (an update and translation of Glen Berger’s 2001 one-person play, Underneath the Lintel ) at Théâtre du Nouveau Monde; Toutes les choses parfaites (a translation of Duncan Macmillan’s solo hit, Every Brilliant Thing) at Compagnie Jean Duceppe; and Je suis mixte (Québécois playwright Mathieu Quesnel’s 2018 three-person – three! – play about a suburban man who decides to change his life) at La Licorne.

It’s a sign of the times that the first three plays to reopen stages in Montreal are about individuals on a search for meaning in their lives. Every Brilliant Thing, most literally, involves a character making “a list of reasons to live” after a suicide attempt by a close relative.

If you understand French, I recommend Zebrina – which, if you’re not in Montreal or are not up for going in person, is available to watch in a high-quality livestream nightly from the TNM’s lovely 832-seat theatre on Saint-Catherine Street until Sept. 27.

Stage and screen director François Girard, best known for his films The Red Violin and Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould in English Canada, has done an excellent job of creating a piece that looks good on a screen (and, according to the local critics, on stage too).

A scene from Zebrina, starring Emmanuel Schwartz.Yves Renaud/Handout

Actor Emmanuel Schwartz explores the width and depth of an artfully constructed frame in his intense performance as an awkward Dutch librarian who heads off on an international quest after a book is returned 133 years overdue.

I recently spoke to Schwartz, who grew up in Montreal with a francophone mother and anglophone father and will be switching to his father tongue to perform the show in English later this fall at the Segal Centre. Look for my interview with him online and in print soon.

A “world premiere” of a new work by Montreal’s Compagnie Marie Chouinard is usually only accessible by audiences in one part of the world at a time.

But the company’s latest dance work, Time for Time, which runs from Sept. 17 to 19 this week on Zoom, will, in fact, be viewable everywhere on the planet right away – and has a schedule that is designed so that at least one performance is on at a reasonable hour wherever you are located in the world. (In the Eastern time zone, the shows will be presented 6 p.m., 1 p.m. and 8 a.m. respectively.)

During each three-hour presentation, Chouinard’s dancers will take turns interacting with the audience over Zoom, then performing “spontaneous dance creations” inspired by wishes articulated by spectators.

According to the description: “The dancer will play the role of medium between the forces of life and the unconscious mind of the person who has made the wish, initiating a flow of energy, a movement towards a possible enactment of change.” Each wish will be danced for approximately five minutes.

The easiest way for English-speaking audiences in Canada to access Time for Time is through the website of Toronto’s Canadian Stage company, which is presenting the show as part of its reimagined fall season. Time for Time is a free event, but you must register 24 hours in advance to attend on Zoom.

Also on(line) this week:

  • The Vancouver Fringe Festival’s first block of programming continues to Sept. 20. The Globe and Mail’s Marsha Lederman went on Friday night and reported on seeing a show – live and in person – created by Fringe stalwart T.J. Dawe and Ming Hudson.
  • Tarragon Theatre in Toronto has launched its ticketed “acoustic” season with a new audio production of David French’s 1972 classic, Leaving Home. It’s only available to listen to through Thursday. Here’s my review.
  • The Citadel Theatre in Edmonton welcomed audiences back into its physical space again at the end of August, hosting 100 people a night in its Shoctor Theatre for a 10-minute play festival called Horizon Lab. Now, until Oct. 14, audiences anywhere can watch that event on YouTube featuring performances by local talent such as Carly Neis, Christina Nguyen and Sheldon Stockdale, Mohamed Ahmed and Elena Eli Belyea, Tasana Clarke, Richard Lee Hsi and Morgan Yamada.

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