This summer being the second to last of the century, the Soulpepper Theatre Company will present a season of five 20th century classics in repertory at three venues. The actor-run company was founded one year ago by veteran thespians of diverse ages from the esteemed Shaw Festival, in Niagara-On-The-Lake, and Canada’s equally prestigious Shakespearean Festival in Stratford, Ontario.
Thornton Wilder’s Our Town will be seen May 7-June 19 at the historic Royal Alexandra Theatre. This is a co-production with Mirvish Productions, the highly respected father and son team who, along with the seven-year old Princess of Wales Theatre, own and operate two of Toronto’s premiere playhouses and -- with the Livent organization in current disarray -- are the city’s leading commercial producers. Astonishingly, though produced often by local amateur and regional summer stock companies, this is the first time that Wilder’s perennially popular view of small-town American family life has received a professional Toronto production.
It will be directed by co-founding member Joe Ziegler, whose directorial skills were critically acclaimed at the Canadian premiere of How I Learned to Drive, a Canadian Stage Co. production seen at its St. Lawrence Centre home. Casting is complete for this Our Town: Peter Donaldson plays the Stage Manager, John Jarvis and Martha Burns play Mr. and Mrs. Webb, respectively, and Oliver Dennis and Nancy Palk will portray Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs.
Tickets for this production are $26.50 to $61.50, now on sale at the Royal Alex box office, 260 King St. West, or via TicketKing at (416) 872-1212 or 1-800-41-3333 for out of town ticket buyers.
During July, August and September, four productions will be presented in rotating repertory: Ferenc Molnar’s The Play’s The Thing, (using the P.G. Wodehouse adaptation), directed by Laszlo Marton, artistic director of the National Theater of Hungary; Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, directed by Daniel Brook, one of Canada’s up and coming younger generation theatre artists; Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by company co-artistic director Diane Leblanc; and in September, Anton Chekhov’s seldom seen Platonov (whose characters struggle to regain the passion of their lost youth) under Marton’s direction. Casting is to be announced. The productions will be staged in the multi-configured du Maurier Theatre and the proscenium Premiere Dance Theatre. The two 400-seat venues are both located at Harbourfront, the popular visual-performing arts and musical entertainment park, adjacent to Toronto’s downtown marina on Lake Ontario.
A major coup for the Soulpepper company is the participation of Laszlo Marton, resident director of Hungary’s National Theatre since 1979. He is recognized as an internationally known expert on the plays of Chekhov and Molnar, his countryman, having directed them in Europe, the U.S. and Israel’s Habima Theatre.
He is Associate Professor at Budapest's Academy of Dramatic Art and has taught around the world. He will be involved also in Soulpepper’s training program and master classes, to be detailed in a later story. Mr. Laszlo’s 1995 Dora Award-winning best production of The Three Sisters is fondly and respectfully remembered by Toronto’s numerous classic theatre lovers.
Single priced tickets for the Harbourfront season are $22-46 and go on sale April 10 via the two box offices either in person or by (416) 973-4000. Three cost-saving season passes are also available for this “Summer of Theatrical Splendour.” For all other information call (416) 203-6264.
-- by Alan Raeburn, Canadian Correspondent