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The Globe and Mail

Soulpepper's 2011 playbill largest in theatre company's history

Stuart Hughes (left) as Kit Carson and Joseph Ziegler as Joe in a scene from "Time of Your Life" by William Saroyan.

Sandy Nicholson/Sandy Nicholson

Business is booming at the Soulpepper Theatre Company. Artistic director Albert Schultz revealed the largest playbill in the Toronto company's history on Tuesday: It will stage a whopping 17 full productions ranging from Shakespeare to The Fantasticks in 2011.

That's a significant jump from 12 in 2010, the company's largest season to date, and puts Soulpepper ahead of both the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the Shaw Festival in terms of number of shows in a season.

"The 2011 season represents, more than any season to date, the scope and breadth of Soulpepper's artistic goals," Schultz said in a release. "To provide the city with the opportunity to see the great stories of our collective cultural inheritance; to establish a year-round repertory system; to prominently feature Canadian playwrights; and to develop original and vital new work based on classical sources."

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Soulpepper's bread and butter continues to be modern dramas by canonical playwrights. Oleanna, David Mamet's controversial two-hander about sexual politics in academia, will open the season in January, followed by plays by Tennessee Williams ( The Glass Menagerie), Arthur Miller ( The Price), Eugène Ionesco ( Exit the King) and Henrik Ibsen ( Ghosts, in a new adaptation by Canadian playwright Morris Panych).

William Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream will appear in the midwinter, as will the Tom Jones/ Harvey Schmidt long-running 1960 off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks. (The latter marks Soulpepper's first production of an American musical.)

As for the Canadian plays on the bill, they include two Governor-General's Award winners - Judith Thompson's 1984 White Biting Dog and Guillermo Verdecchia's 1993 Fronteras Americanas - and a third return of Ted Dykstra's rethink of Billy Bishop Goes to War, starring its original creators, Eric Peterson and John Gray.

Along with Billy Bishop, four other recent Soulpepper successes will return to the stage: The Dora-award winning productions of The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan, Our Town by Thornton Wilder and Christmas-themed comedy Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo (adapted by Adam Pettle and Brenda Robins), as well as 2008's held-over hit production of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, once again starring Schultz and audience favourite Diego Matamoros.

The 2011 playbill will include two original one-act adaptations of works of classic literature: The Aleph, created by founding member Matamoros, director Daniel Brooks and designer Michael Levine based on a Jorge Luis Borges short story; and The Kreutzer Sonata, Ted Dykstra's solo show based on Leo Tolstoy's short story - a sensation at Toronto's SummerWorks Festival.

And, for those of you keeping count, the 17th production of Soulpepper's 2011 season is, in fact, two: A double bill of (re)birth: e.e. cummings in song, a new musical look at the American poet's work, and Window on Toronto, a creation of director Laszlo Marton and the Soulpepper Academy.

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