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Canadian Stage celebrates 30th anniversary with diverse program

The Canadian Stage production of The Overcoat, at the St James Theatre in Wellington during the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts.

Robert Catto

Canadian Stage is celebrating its 30th anniversary next season by bringing back one of its most memorable shows in a new form.

The Overcoat, playwright Morris Panych and director Wendy Gorling's 1998 hit movement-based adaptation of a Nikolai Gogol story, is being turned into an opera – with a score by Toronto composer James Rolfe. Panych will write the libretto and direct, while Gorling will choreograph.

The new opera will debut in March, 2018, at the Bluma Appel Theatre before travelling to the Vancouver Opera Festival, which is co-producing along with Tapestry Opera.

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It's a fitting show to anchor an anniversary season of a theatre company that has been around for three decades – but has changed radically since artistic and general director Matthew Jocelyn took over in 2009.

Canadian Stage is now an interdisciplinary company as likely to produce or present opera, concerts, dance or circus as theatre – and indeed, all of these art forms are major parts of its 2017-18 programming.

Life After, a new musical by composer and lyricist Britta Johnson about a grieving 16-year-old, will start the season off in the Berkeley Street Theatre, while Picnic in the Cemetery, a concert-theatre performance about time created by La La Human Steps's long-time music director, Njo Kong Kie, will close it.

More music comes in the middle, in February, 2018, as part of a new series called Voices3 that will bring Musica Nuda, from the Italian song deconstructors Petra Magoni and Ferruccio Spinetti; In This Body, a collaboration between vocalist Fides Krucker and three choreographers; and Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq in collaboration with Greenlandic mask dancer Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory to Toronto.

Dance is also a big component of the 2017-18 season: Betroffenheit, Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young's heart-stopping hit, will return as part of an international tour, while Indigenous dance company Red Sky Performance will begin a two-year partnership with Canadian Stage with Sandra Laronde's Backbone (a show which explores "the spine of the continents").

Two Canadian Stage presentations would fall under the category of circus. Les 7 doigts de la main will bring Triptyque to town, while French acrobat Yoann Bourgeois will visit with He Who Falls (Celui qui tombe).

And there will, of course, even be theatre in Canadian Stage's season. It will officially open, as always, with Shakepeare in High Park. This summer, director Alistair Newton takes on King Lear (with Stratford veteran Diane D'Aquila in the lead role) and Tanja Jacobs will tackle Twelfth Night in the open air.

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Canadian Stage's head honcho, Jocelyn, will direct Heisenberg, a new play by British playwright Simon Stephens (Harper Regan), himself in November, 2017, while the multitalented Jordan Tannahill will direct a new play of his called Declarations in January, 2018.

Former Shaw Festival artistic director Jackie Maxwell will bring the recent Tony-winning family drama, The Humans, to the Bluma Appel Theatre in February, 2018.

Love and Information, a recent work by Caryl Churchill, arguably Britain's greatest living playwright, completes the theatrical portion of the season. This high-speed sequence of short scenes will be co-directed by Jacobs and Newton as part of the pair's graduation showcase from the MFA in directing at York University.

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About the Author
Theatre critic

J. Kelly Nestruck is The Globe's theatre critic. More

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