If you’re around 42nd Street this July and happen to hear a few Canadian accents, don’t be mistaken—it’s not the cast of Come From Away—it’s most likely company members from Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Company. The Canadian group, featuring an ensemble of over 65 artists, is taking over the Pershing Square Signature Center this summer with a festival of new works that will include 12 plays, musicals, and concerts.
If it sounds ambitious, it’s because it is—it’s the largest assemblage of Canadian artists in the U.S. during the nation’s sesquicentennial celebration (Canada’s 150th birthday).
“It seems unbelievable, but once we decided to bring Soulpepper to New York City, I don’t think we ever paused,” Soulpepper Executive Director Leslie Lester tells Playbill. “It’s logistically very challenging, but we’ve brought so much enthusiasm. Not a single truck on 42nd Street will stop us.”
Soulpepper on 42nd Street is scheduled to play July 1-29 at the Signature Center.
For the artists involved, who are packing up their lives and moving to New York City for the summer, it’s a dream come true, and for many of them, like Spoon River composer Mike Ross, the festival marks their Off-Broadway debuts.
“[New York] feels like an arrival point, but at the same time, the beginning of something,” says Ross. “When you write shows, you’re hoping that it could make it here…It’s a bit surreal, super-exciting, an honor, and a thrill.” For Ross, the festival will also be an opportunity to connect with New York artists and work towards building some fruitful artistic relationships here.
From the largest theatre company in Toronto, Soulpepper on 42nd Street’s line-up includes something for everyone. Highlights include Ins Choi’s Kim’s Convenience; Vern Thiessen's stage adaptation of Of Human Bondage, directed by Albert Schultz and based on W. Somerset Maugham’s classic novel; Spoon River, an original musical based on the Spoon River Anthology by poet Edgar Lee Masters; Ravi Jain’s A Brimful of Asha; and the the family-friendly stage adaptation of Alligator Pie.
The shows will be staged in various spaces throughout Signature Center, and Artistic Director Albert Schultz encourages audiences to treat Soulpepper on 42nd Street like any other festival: by taking your time and enjoying many of the eclectic works on offer.
Watch company members perform two songs from Spoon River in the video above, and below:
For the complete lineup and to purchase tickets, visit Soulpepper.org or call (888) 898-1188.