The Shaw Festival continues to march to its own drummer during the pandemic – heralding a longer-than-usual 2022 season on Wednesday that will run from February through December.
It’s a bit of a surprise: Many Ontario theater companies didn’t even feel confident enough to reveal what they had planned later this fall or early next year.
Damn Yankees, The importance of being serious and Cyrano de Bergerac are some of the best-known musicals and plays slated to hit next year’s bill at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Repertory Theater Company.
Artistic Director Tim Carroll fully admits that the dates of the shows could change and change as did the shows originally announced for the 2020 and 2021 seasons depending on the circumstances.
“We’re doing what we did last year: throw the rope in the lake hoping we can catch it,” Carroll says.
“Psychologically, for us, having a plan and working to make it happen is maybe just easier than having secret plans and changing them all the time.”
Indeed, the Shaw Festival is the rare theater company in the country that did not completely cancel its 2020 season when the pandemic erupted. Instead, he essentially kept pushing openings until he could finally produce some of the productions slated for audiences, which he did from July 2021 – first outdoors. , then inside.
The list of productions for next year, on the other hand, is completely unexpected.
Damn Yankees, the 1955 Broadway hit that crossed Faust legend with baseball, will be the main musical – a decision that was made, believe it or not, before Blue Jays fans shouted the title in droves. as their playoff chances were ruined on Sunday by a walk-off hit by Bronx bomber Aaron Judge.
Brian Hill, the New York-based Canadian music writer, is on the verge of directing.
The other two shows planned for the 856-seat Festival Theater are those by Oscar Wilde The importance of being serious, directed by Carroll; and that of Bernard Shaw The Doctor’s Dilemma, directed by actress-director Diana Donnelly.
The latter is an intriguing show choice given that it is probably the comedy in which Shaw has most shown his skepticism of modern medical science – although it is also the one of his best.
“It doesn’t promote Shaw’s so-called anti-vaccination program,” Carroll says. “This introduces a bunch of ridiculous doctors and invites us to ask ourselves what we trust when we trust medicine.”
In the more intimate Royal George Theater, the acclaimed production of director Chris Abraham Cyrano de Bergerac, in a version of Kate Hennig, is the first on stage in 2022, securing a victory lap at the start of the season from March 20 to May 8.
Then, Gas lamp will open in a new adaptation by Johnna Wright and Patty Jamieson which Carroll says reworks the deus ex machina ending of Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 Victorian-style thriller (which is in the public domain in Canada, but not yet in the US ). Kelli Fox will direct.
Chitra – a century-old one-act play by Rabindranath Tagore based on a tale by Mahabharata – will be the noon show at the Royal George, realized by Kimberley Rampersad. (The epic new stage adaptation of Why Not Mahabharata – announced several years ago now by this Toronto-based company and the Shaw Festival – is, unfortunately, once again delayed due to the involvement of international collaborators.)
Just to get married, an unrecognized 1911 play by suffragist Cicely Hamilton, completes the lineup at the Royal George. Severn Thompson, who starred in a popular production of Hamilton’s play Diane de Dobson all the way back in 2003, returned to the Shaw Festival to direct.
The Jackie Maxwell Studio Theater is being used in several unusual ways in 2022.
First, it will host Native Earth Performing Arts’ production of Keith Barker’s magnificent piece. This is how we got here in February – this is not usually a time of year when the Shaw Festival is operational.
Then, later in the year, it will host a production of Too true to be good, by festival namesake Bernard Shaw, who is generally too good for the smallest stage in the company. It will be directed by Sanjay Talwar.
Everybody, a riff on the medieval morality play Each man by Brendan Jacob-Jenkins (An octoron), will make its Canadian premiere in a production by Hungarian director Laszlo Berczes from June at the Studio, before Jewel of the ocean, the first of August Wilson’s 10-piece cycle on the African-American experience, joins him there, rightly so, in August, conducted by Philip Akin.
In November and December 2022, the Shaw Festival is once again planning a holiday season with A Christmas Carol and the musical White Christmas.
In addition to all this, the theater company has decided to continue the outdoor performances in 2022, pandemic or no pandemic: A brief history of Niagara, a puppet piece by Alexandra Montagnese and Mike Petersen, will perform on the BMO stage and also perform in nearby Fort George, while a promenade production called Fairground will return to the festival grounds.
While that sounds like ambitious lineup given all the uncertainty, Carroll says the company has been buoyed by public demand for its continued lineup in 2021. “There’s good pressure on our box office to be able to grow. our capabilities, ”he says. (Ontario theaters are only allowed an audience of 50% of their capacity.)
Financially, Carroll says it’s a little complicated to say whether Shaw’s 2021 season will end in red or black, but overall the business is doing well. “Everything will be fine, we’ll still be here, and we’re going to come out swinging next year,” he said.
Tickets for the 2022 season go on sale November 6 at “Friends of The Shaw” and December 4 to the general public.
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