Stage Door News

Toronto: Orpheus Productions presents a new chamber opera “Shakespeare’s Criminal” April 26-28

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Orpheus Productions will present three performances of a workshop presentation of Shakespeare’s Criminal, a new chamber opera with music by Dustin Peters and libretto by Sky Gilbert, starring Marion Newman, Dion Mazerolle and Nathaniel Bacon, April 26-28, 2019 at Factory.

Shakespeare’s Criminal is an opera in one act about an older male poet named Shakespeare who is not able to admit that he is a homosexual; instead he hides his attraction for men in the flowery language of The Sonnets, for which he is much esteemed. He meets a beautiful young HIV positive man to whom he finds himself attracted, but whom he resists.

A wild, fierce, hysterical, voyeur enters; she urges the older poet to fall in love with the young man and have sex with him. The woman is so persuasive that it seems the older closeted poet will succumb; but at the last moment he cannot bring himself to risk his reputation. In revenge, the woman turns the old poet into a tree. 

Dora Mavor Moore Award winner Dustin Peters is a Toronto-based composer whose works range from concert and chamber music to film scores and pieces for voice and dance. Peters has worked with some of Canada’s finest artists such as Kent Monkman, James Kudelka, Bill Coleman, Kevin Mallon and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. His works have been performed across Canada, USA and in Great Britain.

Sky Gilbert is an award-winning writer, director, filmmaker, professor and drag queen. His many critically acclaimed plays that have been performed in theatres worldwide include: Drag Queens On Trial, Lola Starr Builds Her Dream Home, Ten Ruminations On An Elegy Attributed To William Shakespeare, The Emotionalists, Bad Acting Teachers, The Situationists, A Few Brittle Leaves, and It’s All Tru (soon to be published by Playwrights Canada Press). He has published eight novels, several poetry collections, and a theatre memoir, Ejaculations From The Charm Factory; Guernica will publish Sky’s investigation of Shakespeare’s rhetoric — Shakespeare: Beyond Science later this year.

Kwagiulth and Stó:lō First Nations, English, Irish and Scottish mezzo-soprano Marion Newman most recently starred as Tsianina Redfeather in I Call Myself Princess, a new musical play by Jani Lauzon; Messiah with Symphony Nova Scotia; and her debut with Edmonton Opera as the Mother in Hansel and Gretel. Acadian baritone Dion Mazerolle’s recent credits include the Mandarin in Edmonton Opera’s production of Turandot; and a début with the Canadian Opera company in the role of F.X. Lemieux in Louis Riel in 2017. A frequent collaborator with Sky Gilbert, actor Nathaniel Bacon originated the lead role in two of his recent plays: St. Francis Of Millbrook and My Dinner With Casey Donovan.  In 2015, Bacon won Best Leading Actor (Musical) at the Broadway World Toronto Awards for his performance of Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

The structure of Shakespeare’s Criminal is inspired by musicologist Ellen T. Harris’s notion that male composers were able to ground the emotional core of their operas through the wild, uncontrolled female voice (something which eventually led to the tragic romantic heroines of Verdi and Puccini). Presented opera-in-concert-style, Shakespeare’s Criminalraises several important questions: do gay men need women? If so, why? Why do gay men often gravitate towards friendships with women and visa-versa?

“Has gay culture become mainstream, or is there a stigma which centres on gay issues, situations and present-day life with HIV?” asks Gilbert. “Our opera is reaching back to examine the present; we are writing ourselves (as queers) into a history that so rarely acknowledges our existence.”

A Chamber Opera
Music by Dustin Peters
Libretto by Sky Gilbert
Starring Marion Newman,
Dion Mazerolle, Nathaniel Bacon

Factory Studio, 125 Bathurst Street at Adelaide, Toronto
Workshop Presentations April 26, 2019 @ 8pm and April 28 @ 2 pm

All Tickets $35 | Students/Arts Workers/Seniors $25
Purchase tickets online at, call 416.504.9971,
or in person at the box office 125 Bathurst Street (at Adelaide)

Special ‘Studio 54 Memorial Voyeur’ Fundraiser
Saturday, April 27, 2019 @ 8pm
All Tickets $80

Includes the workshop presentation, pre-show talk with the creators,
post-show cocktail party with disco deserts,
and scandalous performances for your voyeuristic pleasure
by Hélène Ducharme and Shane MacKinnon!
Dress in your favourite 70s outfit and dance the night away Studio 54 style!
To purchase tickets:

All proceeds will support the budget for future productions of Shakespeare’s Criminal
Your contribution also expresses your support for Sky Gilbert’s new motto ‘poetry must be free!’.

Photo: Nathaniel Bacon.