The wide-ranging ramifications of social media and responsibility to our environment are just two of the themes found in theatre productions debuting this spring.
First up, Young People's Theatre (YPT) showcases playwright Christine Quintana's Selfie, a story about students forced to face the impact of a girl's photo taken at a high-school party and posted online. The incident serves as a launching point for the exploration of issues around sexual consent (Selfie is appropriate for audience members age 13 and up). "Kids can hopefully see themselves in the story," says YPT's artistic director, Allen MacInnis.
The world premiere of the comedy-drama Risky Phil (April 9–27) at YPT takes a more lighthearted tone while exploring issues around family and identity. Playwright Paula Wing's work follows the overly cautious Phil, who accidentally learns a family secret through his Aunt Gigi, the wisecracking hairdresser who has raised him. "It's kind of a fathers-and-sons story," explains MacInnis, who praised Wing's writing style. "She has a really great way to getting an authentic voice [for] a 12- or 13-year-old. She really gets the way kids talk."
Salmon Girl (May 1–12), also at YPT, from co-creators Michelle Olson and Quelemia Sparrow, blends theatre, dance and puppetry with Indigenous culture to tell a lively story about Margie and how she makes a connection with her Salmon People roots. The play is also timely in how it explores our relationship to the environment and the need to replenish the natural resources we use.
Meanwhile, Canadian Stage presents the world premiere of "a musical tailoring" for The Overcoat (March 27–April 14). A bold new version of the "non-verbal" production created by Morris Panych and Wendy Gorling in 1997, the play is based on Nikolai Gogol's celebrated short story highlighting the absurd and a misguided preoccupation with social status.
"This is our 30th anniversary, so it's a nod to our past but it's also in keeping with the new artistic mandate of Canadian Stage," says Sherrie Johnson, the theatre company's interim managing director and executive producer. "It's a wonderful combination to have something so dear to the theatre, but to reimagine it as our own."
Award-winning composer James Rolfe has teamed with Panych for this reworked co –production, mounted with Tapestry Opera and Vancouver Opera and featuring a 12-piece orchestra and 13-member cast.
Overcoat is part of a busy couple of months at Canadian Stage, which include Voices3, a newly commissioned work performed by Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq and Greenlandic mask dancer Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (March 22–24). British playwright Caryl Churchill's relationship-exploring vignettes piece, Love and Information (April 10–29), features an eight-member cast (from York University's program MFA in Theatre) sharing more than 100 roles. Making a return to Canadian Stage is the Olivier Award–winning Betroffenheit by choreographer Crystal Pite and actor/playwright Jonathon Young (April 19–22). And the Macau-based Folga Gaang Project makes its Toronto debut (April 26–May 6) with the theatrical concert Picnic in the Cemetery, created by Canadian Stage artist-in-residence Njo Kong Kie.
Top left, Tarragon Theatre's Girls Like That (starring, left to right, Saskia Muller, Brittney Wilson and Thia McDowell) delves into the complexities of relationships between women; Cineplex brings performances by the Bolshoi Ballet to the big screen (top right), while the Stratford Festival features legendary actor-director Martha Henry (bottom left) in The Tempest and a rousing production of The Music Man (bottom right). (Photo Credit: JIM RYCE/E. FETISOVA/CLAY STANG THE GARDEN)
Tarragon Theatre tackles controversy generated by social media with the Canadian premiere of Girls Like That (April 17–May 27). Written by Canadian-British playwright Evan Placey and directed by Esther Jun, this production examines female friendships, double standards and the blistering pace of damage to reputations that ensues when a naked photo shows up on the smartphones of students at a high school.
Meanwhile, Factory Theatre heads to 1960s Saskatchewan with comedy romp Prairie Nurse, about two nurses from the Philippines who arrive in Canada to work at a hospital in a small town, where the locals struggle to tell them apart, including the man who fell in love with one of them. Prairie Nurse, which is based on the experiences of playwright Marie Beath Badian's mother, runs from April 26 to May 14 (previews April 21–25).
Culture lovers can also catch a wide range of international stage performances at Cineplex theatres, which are streaming live events and screenings of previously filmed plays, opera and dance, as well as classic movies. Highlights coming to the big screen include The Met Opera Live HD series of Phelim McDermott's 1950s Coney Island–inspired production of Mozart's Così fan tutte (live, March 31; encores, May 5, 7, 9, 13 & June 2) and Verdi's Luisa Miller, featuring Sonya Yoncheva, Piotr Beczala and Plácido Domingo (live, April 14; encores, May 19, 21, 23, 27 & June 16). Also streaming are encore performances of Franco Zeffirelli's production of Puccini's La bohème (April 7, 9, 11).
Cineplex is also live-streaming the National Theatre production of Macbeth (June 16).
Or you can catch an encore of National Theatre Live's 2015 broadcast of Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (March 24), Stratford Festival HD's Timon of Athens (April 22) and the London West End production of Lady Windermere's Fan, guest-starring actor-comedian Jennifer Saunders (April 26) at the Vaudeville Theatre.
If you're hooked on classics, head out of town to the Stratford Festival, featuring works that span centuries, from Shakespeare's The Tempest (May 10 to October 26) to To Kill a Mockingbird (May 4 to November 4). Modern playwrights are well represented in the 2018 season, which kicks off April 17. Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (May 5 to October 13) and Oscar Wilde's comedic An Ideal Husband (May 11 to October 28) are among the highlights. Theatre goers will have a chance to be interactive in the festival's production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (April 27 to October 31) and hum along with familiar tunes from The Music Man (April 17 to November 3). Canada's Robert Lepage puts a modern spin of Shakespeare's Coriolanus (June 9 to October 20) by incorporating real-time video and social media.
Two original plays commissioned by the festival will have their world premieres. First up is Brontë: The World Without from Jordi Mand (June 6 to October 13). It explores the complex relationships between the three literary sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Then it's Erin's Shield's Paradise Lost, an edgy retelling of John Milton's good-versus-evil themed poem.
Audiences will be excited to see legendary Canadian actor Martha Henry in her return to the stage after serving as a director for three seasons. She'll be portraying Prospero in The Tempest.
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