2009 Theatre Subscription Series Profiles – Canadian Stage Company

By Megan Mooney

Next in the subscription series profiles is the Canadian Stage Company.  

Last year’s season had a conspicuous lack of Canadian content on the main stage.  Theatre folks (myself included) were all a tizzy that a place called the Canadian Stage Company was so lacking in Cancon.  Well, I’m very happy to tell you, it looks like CanStage got the hint, so this year you’ll see some excellent Canadian scripts played out on the big Bluma Appel stage.

And so, now, onto the specifics of the 2009-10 season at the Canadian Stage Company and their subscription series:

There are a few types of subscription series at Canadian Stage Company, depending on when you want to go to the show.  For each type there is also one for Bluma and one for the more intimate Berkeley space.  This means there are so many options it’s kind of overwhelming to provide details, so I’m going to do a big overview.  If you want details, they have them on their website.

Broad overview of the subscription options:

– Pricing for full 8 shows (both Bluma and Berkeley) ranges from $141 all the way up to $496

– If you just want the 5 Bluma shows, pricing ranges from $90 – $400

– If you prefer some flexibility, then for $5 you can subscribe to either the ‘pick 5’ or ‘pick 3’ options.  These provide discounted individual tickets to specific shows in both theatres.  That way, if you want to go to 2 shows at Bluma and 3 at Berkeley (or any other combination of 5 tickets) then you can.

Information on the season pulled from the press release:

Bluma Appel

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – Sept. 28 to Oct. 24

In co-production with Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre

Written by Tom Stoppard | Directed by Donna Feore

A runaway hit on Broadway and London’s West End, nominated for four Tony Awards, four Olivier Awards and winner of the Critics’ Circle and Evening Standard Awards for Best Play, Rock ‘N’ Roll is an extraordinary theatrical event about love, rock ’n’ roll, revolution and the end of Communism pulsing to the beat of Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and U2. Michael Kuchwara of Associated Press wrote, “Political argument, family drama, cultural commentary, a love story – Rock ‘N’ Roll is all these things and more. An irrepressible anthem of love and freedom.” Tom Stoppard, world-renowned for plays such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and the Oscar-winning screenplay Shakespeare in Love, wrote this sweeping, rapturous epic spanning two countries, three generations and 22 turbulent years. The play follows the passions and politics of a Marxist professor in Cambridge, England, and his music–obsessed protégé fighting for freedom in Soviet-dominated Prague. In the end love prevails and so does rock ‘n’ roll.

7 STORIES – Nov. 9 to Dec. 5

Written by Morris Panych |  Directed by Dean Paul Gibson

This production marks the 20th anniversary of two-time Governor General’s Award-winner Morris Panych’s breakthrough play. Peter Anderson, the original star of the play, will be reprising his Jessie Award-winning role. A landmark in the Canadian theatre canon, the multi-award winning play scooped up six of Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Awards including Outstanding Original Play, four Dora Mavor Moore Awards and a Governor General’s Award nomination. It became an international success story in New York, London and as far afield as Sydney, Australia. CBC Radio described it as a “mix (of) Magritte, Sartre, Woody Allen, and the Book of Job with Buster Keaton and Magic Realism. It’s a special chemistry with special results.” 7 Stories is the life-affirming story of a man searching for meaning. Perched high on the seventh-storey ledge of an apartment building, a man is preparing to jump. As the lives of the building’s eccentric tenants are revealed through nearby windows, the man comes to realize that everyone one of them has reason to jump – and he may be the most rational of them all. This touchingly funny, surrealist play is about the surprises that come when you take your life into your own hands.

The Obsidian Theatre Production of INTIMATE APPARELFeb. 8 to Mar. 6

Written by Lynn Nottage | Directed by Philip Akin

Featuring the company from the Canadian premiere production: Raven Dauda, Kevin Hanchard, Alex Poch-Goldin, Lisa Berry, Marium Carvell and Carly Street

This play, which garnered a New York Drama Critics’ Circle and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Play and a Dora Award for Outstanding Costume Design, met with popular and critical acclaim in New York and in Toronto last season. As rich and beautiful as finely-crafted lingerie, Intimate Apparel is a love story set in New York in 1905, amid the ragtime music of Scott Joplin. Esther, an ambitious and independent African-American woman has aspirations in conflict with turn-of-the-century society. A gifted seamstress who has gained financial independence by sewing elegant undergarments for socialites and prostitutes, she dreams of opening her own boutique. When George, a charming Caribbean islander employed in the construction of the Panama Canal, writes to her, a romance begins that promises to help her realize her dreams. The Globe and Mail called the play “compelling and richly layered,” while The Toronto Star heralded Raven Dauda’s performance as “superb…quite simply the highlight of the evening…wonderfully nuanced…she breathes life into the awkward, slightly prim and dowdy 35-year old woman rushing toward love.”

‘ART’ – Mar. 15 – Apr. 10

Written by Yasmina Reza | Translated by Christopher Hampton | Directed by Morris Panych

This witty, razor-sharp, international sensation won the Molière Award for Best Author, the Olivier Award for Best Comedy and the Tony Award for Best Play. The London Times described it as “A remarkably wise, witty and intelligent comedy. ART has touched a universal nerve.” Yasmina Reza’s play explores the nature of friendship while examining the definition of art. The play revolves around the purchase of a very expensive, white-on-white painting which pushes the boundaries of art and ignites a passionate debate among three friends. Gruff battleaxe Marc, highly-strung appeaser Yvan and burgeoning art aficionado Serge come to a head over artistic merit, modernism and the value of friendship, testing the men’s relationship and ultimately offering reconciliation.

Catalyst Theatre’s FRANKENSTEIN – May 3 to May 29

Adapted from Mary Shelley’s novel | Written, Composed and Directed by Jonathan Christenson

Starring the original cast from the world premiere production: Nick Green, Andrew Kushnir, Tim Machin, Sarah Machin Gale, Nancy McAlear, Dov Mickelson, Tracy Penner, George Szilagyi

This home-grown “monster hit” (The Edmonton Sun) has taken Western Canada by storm, enjoying sold-out runs in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan and collecting eight Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards for Outstanding New Play, Production of a Musical, Score, Set, Costume, Lighting Design and more. Frankenstein, written, directed and composed by Jonathan Christenson, Artistic Director of Edmonton’s internationally accl
aimed Catalyst Theatre, is a stylized musical adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. The cautionary tale about the consequences of interfering with nature and the universal search for love and acceptance revolves around Dr. Frankenstein (Andrew Kushnir) and his lonely creature (George Szilagyi) who becomes increasingly hostile towards the man who made and abandoned him, and the society that repels him. A startling storybook come to life, this multi-award-winning spectacle features the original cast of eight actors in over 40 roles and integrates poetic text, witty song, stylized movement and fantastical costumes and sets made entirely of paper. It is a quirky, beautiful and often ghoulishly humorous take on a timeless story. Bob Clark of the Calgary Herald wrote, “a darkly comic phantasmagoria, whose storytelling elements remind you of everything from Alice in Wonderland and Cabaret, to Into The Woods and Phantom — and then some. A gothic tour de force.”

Berkeley Street Theatre

THAT FACE – Oct. 26 to Nov. 21

Produced by Nightwood Theatre in co-production with The Canadian Stage Company

Written by Polly Stenham | Directed by Kelly Thornton

Canadian Premiere – Mia is at boarding school. She has access to drugs. They are Martha’s. Henry has dropped out of school. He has access to alcohol. From Martha. Martha controls their lives. Martha is their mother. That Face is an explosive portrayal of an affluent family in freefall. Winner of the 2007 Evening Standard Award and the 2007 Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright, Polly Stenham’s dazzling debut took London’s West End by storm. That Face, written when Stenham was only 19 years old as part of the Royal Courts’ Young Writers Programme, is a powerful and darkly comic exploration of children who become parents to their parents. The London Daily Telegraph called it, “One of the most astonishing debuts I have seen in more than 30 years of reviewing…Fresh, passionate and blackly comic – exhilarating…a remarkable and unforgettable piece of theatre”. The Observer declares, “That Face is gob-smacking”.

Produced by Studio 180 in association with The Canadian Stage Company

THE OVERWHELMING – Mar. 8 to Apr. 3

Written by J.T. Rogers | Directed by Joel Greenberg

Canadian Premiere  – Named the 2007 Top Ten Play of the Year by Time Magazine and Time Out New York, The Overwhelming, by award-winning playwright J.T. Rogers, is a riveting examination of the mounting tensions in 1994 Rwanda and a war that cannot be comprehended or controlled. American academic Jack Exley travels to Rwanda to interview his old friend Joseph Gasana about struggling for good against daunting odds. But when Jack arrives in Kigali, he is unable to find the Tutsi doctor – or anyone who will even admit to having known him. Befriended by both locals and diplomats with veiled motives, Jack and his family become enmeshed in the tension, terror, professional risks and personal betrayals that they ultimately realize mark the start of a genocidal war. The New York Times called it a “panorama of perspectives on a nation on the edge of civil war” while the Sunday Telegraph in London described it as “Shatteringly powerful but also unexpectedly entertaining…with the atmosphere, moral urgency, and hurtling momentum of a Graham Greene novel."

The Necessary Angel production of THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT – Apr. 12 to May 8

Created by Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks |  Written and Performed by Daniel MacIvor | Directed and Dramaturged by Daniel Brooks

This one-man show is the highly anticipated new collaboration from Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks, the innovative creators of House (1991), Here Lies Henry (1994), Monster (1998) and Cul-de-sac (2003), their last association. The duo has two Siminovitch Prizes, two Governor General’s Awards, four Chalmers Awards and five Dora Mavor Moore Awards between them. This is What Happens Next is a journey deep into the heart of the Kingdom of Kevin with an astrologer, a lawyer, an absent father, the embodiment of our own Will and Me which takes us through the dark forest of addiction, divorce, Arthur Schopenhauer, The Little Mermaid and the life of John Denver. A scary fairytale with a happy ending, this explosion of character and storytelling tries to make sense of life in the modern world.  Workshops of the play were presented in Toronto in December and then in Montreal in January. Pat Donnelly, theatre critic for The Montreal Gazette, called the production, “genius…a high-octane blend of autobiography, anecdote, philosophical musing and fairy-tale fantasy, leavened by mordant wit…riveting.”


Some things that may (or may not) influence your decision:

– The productions at Bluma tend to be ‘safe’ theatre.  Hard to describe what I mean by ‘safe’, I guess that it’s generally straight-up, what people expect from theatre, kind of productions.  They also have a lot of money behind them (comparatively|) so they’re generally pretty slick and well crafted. 

– Productions at Berkeley are also generally pretty slick, but tend to be a bit edgier.  It’s where things can be tested and experimented with.  That said, you’re unlikely to get “way-out-there” theatre there either.

– Bluma is right downtown at Front just west of Church, which means there are restaurants galore within easy walking distance of the theatre.  Parking can sometimes be tricky, but there is a ‘Green P’ lot right nearby, and transit-wise, you can just get out at Union and walk east

– Berkeley is (surprise surprise) on Berkeley Street, just south of Front.  This means that there are not a ton of restaurants in easy walking distance.  Also, there is a ‘Green P’ lot across the street, but it’s a tiny bit more complicated transit-wise. 

– If you get the full 7 shows, or the choose 5 or 3, then there is a nice opportunity to try out two different venues, with different types of productions.