Stage Door News

Toronto: Why Not Theatre reveals its programming for 2019

Monday, January 21, 2019

Why Not Theatre continues to change the game of theatre with their pioneering, thought-provoking, and award-winning theatre, created in Canada and around the world. Why Not Theatre’s 2018–19 programming has already seen its fair share of workshops, presentations and productions, but that was only the beginning.

The new year kicked off at the Banff Centre with the first leg of a national tour of Prince Hamlet, adapted and directed by Why Not Theatre Artistic Director Ravi Jain. This critically acclaimed, award-winning, remixed, reimagined, bilingual, cross-cultural, gender-bent version of Shakespeare’s classic, challenges conventional ideas of who gets to tell this story. Starring Christine Horne as Hamlet (Dora Award Nomination for Outstanding Performance) and Dawn Jani Birley as Horatio (Toronto Theatre Critics Award for Best Actress in a Play) this groundbreaking production combines English and American Sign Language to create a fully integrated retelling for both hearing and Deaf audiences.

Prince Hamlet, featuring Rick Roberts as Claudius, Karen Robinson as Gertrude, Barbara Gordon as Polonius, Jeff Ho as Ophelia, Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah as Laertes, Miriam Fernandes as Rosencrantz, and Hannah Miller as Guildenstern will run at the PuSh Festival in Vancouver, January 23-27; at Canadian Stage in Toronto, February 6-24; and at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa February 27-March 9, 2019.

Also ramping up again in January is the ongoing tour of Quote Unquote Collective’s Mouthpiece, created and performed by Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken, directed by Amy Nostbakken and presented in association with Why Not Theatre. A critical-darling, Mouthpiece is a heart-wrenching and humorous journey into the female psyche with virtuosic performances of physical ingenuity and vocal orchestration. Between January and March, Mouthpiece has four engagements across California including Santa Barbara, Stanford, Los Angeles and Berkeley.

As part of the Progress Festival with partner The Theatre Centre, (and supported by the British Council) Why Not Theatre co-presents the Edinburgh smash hit salt., Selina Thompson’s journey to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Two artists got on a cargo ship and retraced a route of the Transatlantic Slave Triangle, from the UK to Ghana to Jamaica, and back. salt. is what they brought back. A solo performance about grief, colonialism, and home, it is a long journey backwards, in order to go forwards. salt. runs at The Theatre Centre January 31 – February 2, 2019.

So, that’s January!

In February, it is back to Banff. As the new Director of the Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program, Ravi Jain and Why Not Theatre will curate and lead the 2018–19 professional development opportunity combining national and international techniques into their teaching and training.

The Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program, presented by the Citadel Theatre and The Banff Centre, is an advanced creative development program to enrich the skills of established theatre professionals. Why Not Theatre has reinvigorated the four-week training program to reflect the diversity and talent of Canadians with master classes with renowned international directors, voice and movement techniques, physical theatre techniques, Shakespeare, and classes in ASL and Deaf Culture training.

In April, Civic Theatres Toronto, in association with Why Not Theatre and Native Earth Performing Arts present the smash-hit cabaret show Hot Brown Honey at the Bluma Appel Theatre. Created and performed by Briefs Factory, an Australian creative collective who manufacture, cultivate and present evocative, irreverent, physical performance. Another Edinburgh Festival success story, the unapologetically fierce cabaret packs a potent punch of hip hop politics to rival Queen Bey. Three performances only from April 5-7, 2019.

In May, a queer masterpiece is reimagined with Walter Borden (African/Mi’qmaq/Choctaw) leading a cast of Indigenous, Black, and culturally diverse artists in Michel Marc Bouchard’s tragic love story, Lilies; or, the Revival of a Romantic Drama. Directed by Cole Alvis, the cast also features Bruce Dow, Mark Cassius, Waawaate Fobister, Ryan G. Hinds, Indrit Kasapi, Tsholo Khalema, Troy Emery Twigg and Joseph Zita. Centering on Indigeneity and diverse world views, the creative team bring this romantic drama into the 21st century, unearthing love, lies, and colonialism. Co-produced by lemonTree Creations, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Why Not Theatre, running at Buddies May 4-24, 2019.

Also in May, the sixth edition of RISER, Why Not Theatre’s collaborative producing model, returns with four new productions at The Theatre Centre. Along for the ride are 12 senior theatre companies who support the RISER model, contribute resources, and build long-term relationships with RISER’s emerging artists. Initially developed to address the challenges of producing independent theatre in Toronto, including the high cost of production, difficulty of building audiences and inefficient use of resources and infrastructure, RISER has also proven to be a successful incubator with a track record of more than 80% of shows receiving future productions.

RISER 2019 will present 11:11, from Samson Bonkeabantu Brown and d’bi.young anitafrika, examines fear through the eyes of a young transman struggling to obey the ancestral messages saturating his dreams; 1991 from Cole Alvis, is a coming of age tale of a young drifter in the savage south’s culture of misogyny; WRING THE ROSES  from Amanda Cordner and David di Giovani, explores one dizzying night at a bachelorette party, examining racial and sexual identity on the dance floor; and Eraser from Sadie Epstein-Fine and Bilal Baig, a physical theatre experience created for 11-13 year olds told from the perspective of a student who arrives in Canada from Pakistan for their grade six year.

Throughout the spring and summer development continues on the Mahabharata, a new adaptation of the classic Sanskrit epic poem in a contemporary take on the ancient story. Bringing together an incredible ensemble of artists from across the South Asian diaspora, Why Not Theatre in partnership with Shaw Festival are developing this project for the Festival’s 2020 season.

Why Not would like to acknowledge the numerous champions whose generous support has helped us make, share and provoke at an unprecedented scale. A major thanks to our public funders, the Canada Council for the Arts, Government of Canada, Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Council for the Arts, as well as our private partners: a group of visionary individuals, foundations and companies, including Pilot Support from the Kingfisher Foundation, the Metcalf Foundation, all of our Ignite partners, and new partners TD Bank Group as our New Perspectives Partner, and RBC as our Emerging Artist Partner.


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Photo: Scene from Prince Hamlet. © 2017 Bronwen Sharp.