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Weyni Mengesha, who took over as Soulpepper’s artistic director this year.Daniel Malavasi/The Canadian Press

The Soulpepper Theatre Company is touting a slate of reimagined classics in its upcoming season as new leadership takes over the helm of the Toronto institution.

Outgoing acting artistic director Alan Dilworth, who programmed the 2019 summer-fall lineup, says in a statement the theatre has brought in new talent to stage five plays and two concerts, each of which he says qualifies as a “modern classic.”

Weyni Mengesha, who took over as Soulpepper’s artistic director this year, will return to the theatre’s stage in September to direct A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.

“This season offers familiar stories that resonate with our times, but told through new lenses and by new voices,” said Mengesha, whose previous Soulpepper shows include 2008’s Raisin in the Sun and 2012’s box-office hit Kim’s Convenience, in a statement.

Soulpepper Academy graduate Frank Cox-O’Connell will direct Sam Shepard’s western romance Fool for Love in July. The show will run alongside The Promised Land: Steinbeck Through Song, a concert co-created by Soulpepper’s music director Mike Ross and Sarah Wilson drawing from the songbooks of Bruce Springsteen, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan and others.

In November, Cox-O’Connell and Ross will team up for the November concert The Riverboat Coffee House: The Yorkville Scene, inspired by musical icons who played at the Toronto venue, such as Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.

Several familiar names in the Toronto theatre scene will be making their directorial debuts at Soulpepper this season, including Obsidian Theatre Company artistic director Philip Akin’s take on the Tony-winning comedy Art, and a production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal from Nightwood Theatre’s Andrea Donaldson.

Jani Lauzon will direct Almighty Voice and His Wife, after playing the character White Girl in the original 1991 production of Daniel David Moses’s play about the role of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

The season will be the first for Mengesha and executive director Emma Stenning, both hired as part of a leadership shakeup at the non-profit as it looks to close the curtain on a period of scandal.

Soulpepper co-founder Albert Schultz stepped down as artistic director in January 2018 vowing to vigorously defend himself in a sexual-harassment lawsuit filed by four actresses. All parties said in August that they had reached an out-of-court settlement, the terms of which have not been disclosed.

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