Women, diversity, and Canadian content took the spotlight this morning as incoming Arts Club Theatre artistic director Ashlie Corcoran announced her first season lineup for 2018-19.
The roster features the major West End hit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the Broadway Pulitzer Prize winner Sweat, as well as shows that separately dig into Punjabi, Chinese-American, and Indigenous heritage, and several classic contemporary plays with strong female characters. Though there are no locally written premieres on the lineup, several Vancouver plays, including Redpatch and Mom's the Word: Nest 1/2 Empty, are seeing remounts next season.
At the press conference announcing the programming, Corcoran, who comes here from Thousand Islands Playhouse and has been mentoring with outgoing artistic director Bill Millerd, said she was aiming for an "eclectic mix".
"My long-term goals are to drive the development of local talent here in Vancouver while still strengthening our reputation internationally," she said at the BMO Centre press conference today. She listed as other aims: reflecting the diversity of the community, collaborating with other companies, and shooting for the highest levels of artistic excellence possible. Reflecting that, she's curated 11 plays by Canadians, 11 by women, seven by B.C. artists, and four by writers of colour or Indigenous artists.
Corcoran also introduced a new resident-company program for the company’s 55th season, naming Hardline Productions as the inaugural troupe. Hardline will remount its multiple-Jessie-Award-nominated Redpatch on the company's Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Centre next March. The Straight called its inventive take on the Indigenous participation in World War I "brilliantly inventive" when it played at Presentation House and Studio 16 last spring.
Hardline's Sean Harris Oliver called the residence launch "a profound shift in Vancouver theatre", unprecedented in the support from a large company for the small theatre community. "It will foster unprecedented growth for independent artists throughout Vancouver," he said. "In short, it will greatly strengthen theatre in Vancouver and leave a lasting impact for future generations."
The season kicks off at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Simon Stephens, adapted from Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel. It will be directed by Corcoran, who said she fell in love with it after seeing it in London. "It was one of the most appealing pieces that I'd ever scene," said Corcoran, speaking from a lectern on the set of Topdog/Underdog. "Simon Stephens is one of my favourite playwrights...and he uses all the magic we have available to us in theatre to tell the story."
The Stanley will also host the Canadian premiere of the Pulitzer Prize–winning working-class drama Sweat, by Lynn Nottage. Two musicals will also hit that venue, with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast appearing around the Christmas holidays (directed by Millerd), and the Roald Dahl–inspired Matilda the Musical there in May, a copro with Edmonton's Citadel Theatre and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. And Corcoran will direct the classic Thornton Wilder farce The Matchmaker, collaborating with set designer Drew Facey on a look they said would mash the 1880s with contemporary touches.
The Stanley will also be home to the Punjabi-Sikh Chekhov spin The Orchard (After Chekhov), the Sarena Parmar play premiering at the Shaw Festival this summer. In a video message played at the announcement, Parmar said she drew from her own experiences growing up in Kelowna in a family that owned orchards.
"When I think of the Stanley, the word big comes to mind: it's all about scope there—big shows with big ideas," Corcoran commented.
As for the Granville Island Stage roster, it features a number of comedies, opening the season on September 20 with Toronto indie favourite Kat Sandler’s Mustard, a warped, Dora Award-winning teen fairy tale that Corcoran directed at Tarragon Theatre. (Corcoran stressed she'll find a new director for the production here.) The programming also includes Morris Panych’s lighthearted look at crime and punishment, and haves and have-nots, The Shoplifters. The now T.O.-based Panych appeared by video with his partner, set designer Ken MacDonald, who he'll create the show with. "It's a design with hundreds and hundreds of boxes stacked up and floating," enthused MacDonald.
Corcoran said she was pleased to find Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, a seasonal Pride and Prejudice follow-up by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, over the holidays. Local director Chelsea Haberlin will take the helm. And she's also bringing Bed and Breakfast here, a two-hander by Mark Crawford that was a hit at Thousand Islands and went on to be praised in Montreal and Victoria. The Mom's the Word Collective's latest, Mom's the Word: Nest 1/2 Empty, rounds out the Granville Island season in June and early July.
At the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Centre, look for the Rebecca Northan’s clown-nosed Blind Date, which achieved off-Broadway renown after playing the Cultch here in 2012; it now stars Tess Degenstein on-stage with one lucky audience member. The Goldcorp also presents the local debut of Stars member and Bard on the Beach alumnus Torquil Campbell’s True Crime, a blend of autobiography and a story about a real-life German con artist. Corcoran said, "It plays with form: it's a live podcast, it's a musical, or a drama or a lecture, or maybe none of those things." And local theatremakers Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver see the return mounting of their Indigenous war story Redpatch next March, followed by The Great Leap by Lauren Yee, the San Francisco-based Asian-American writer behind the similarly autobiographical King of the Yees, which was at the Gateway Theatre in 2016.
The company's touring schedule includes local writer Dorothy Dittrich's The Piano Teacher, a result of the Arts Club's Silver Commissions Project, plus Blind Date, and Vancouverites Andrew Cohen and Anna Kuman's Joni Mitchell-inspired musical Circle Game, a coproduction with the Firehall Arts Centre, which premiered the work last spring.
The entire lineup is as follows:
STANLEY INDUSTRIAL ALLIANCE STAGE
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, by Simon Stephens, adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon, September 6–October 7, 2018
SWEAT, by Lynn Nottage, October 18–November 18, 2018
DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton, December 1, 2018–January 6, 2019
THE MATCHMAKER, by Thornton Wilder, January 24–February 24, 2019
THE ORCHARD (AFTER CHEKHOV), by Sarena Parmar, March 21–April 21, 2019
MATILDA THE MUSICAL, book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, from the novel by Roald Dahl, May 16–July 14, 2019
GRANVILLE ISLAND STAGE
MUSTARD, by Kat Sandler, September 20–October 20, 2018
MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY, by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, November 15–December 30, 2018
THE SHOPLIFTERS, by Morris Panych, February 7–March 9, 2019
BED AND BREAKFAST, by Mark Crawford, April 4–May 4, 2019
MOM’S THE WORD: NEST ½ EMPTY, by the Mom’s the Word Collective, June 6–July 20, 2019
GOLDCORP STAGE AT THE BMO THEATRE CENTRE
BLIND DATE, a Spontaneous Theatre creation by Rebecca Northan, November 22–December 30, 2018
TRUE CRIME, by Torquil Campbell and Chris Abraham. January 31–February 24, 2019
REDPATCH, by Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver, March 7–31, 2019
THE GREAT LEAP, by Lauren Yee, April 25–May 19, 2019More