English Theatre: a lightly seasoned autumn

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

Theatre and the performing arts are among the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, two inspired directors, Eda Holmes and Lisa Rubin, who run the city’s major English-language theatres, have, in their separate ways, rolled up their sleeves and managed to turn the situation around.

September at the Centaur

Centaur Theatre Company opens with The Portico Project: six eclectic performances, integrating theatre with dance, clown, comedy and music, that will transform its grand entryway into an outdoor stage. Spectators will also participate in Vancouver’s innovative Red Phone Project. “I love that it puts the audience right inside the story and was designed to have each hosting company commission a new play for it,” says Centaur artistic and executive director Eda Holmes.

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Holmes arranged for a French translation. All performances are free but donations are gratefully accepted. “I really wanted to turn the building inside-out in an attempt to remain true to our mandate of making theatre that is relevant, high quality and bridge-building.” She says. And this project is a great way to participate in Les journées de la culture.”

Holmes called for submissions around the theme of “unpacking the moment” and had the difficult task of picking six entries out of 80. Support from the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation allows the Centaur to offer a pay-what-you-can system during this very special festival. The productions Black Balloon: Portico Edition (Sophie El Assaad), Covid Vs Menopause (Dayna McLeod), Fanm Rebel (Collectif Théâtral Potomitan), In Memoriam: The Wake of Cheddar Fandango (Sermo Scomber Theatre), Is there anything else I can do for you? (Amy Blackmore), Pandemonium (Tim Tyler and Joe De Paul) and Who We Have Forgotten (Lynne Cooper) will run from Sept. 24 to Oct. 4. www.centaurtheatre.com

October at the Centaur

“The beautiful Centaur building is old,” says Holmes. “To make it meet strict Covid protocol standards will require investment and time. In the meantime, we’ll launch the new initiative, Artistic Diversity Discussion at Centaur (ADD Centaur), supported by Canada Life and a panel of five diverse, established multilingual artists and activists, and begin a discussion about how the Centaur can become an agent of progressive change in the cultural landscape of Montreal.” This content will fuel an online audience engagement program called the Saturday Salon Online, to develop conversation both between artists and the Centaur and between the public and artists. The third pillar of the program will support new work from emerging and diverse Montreal theatre artists. Holmes is optimistic; “The Centaur has an history of offering work from many different cultural communities but we now have the chance to do more than that, and I trust that with ADD Centaur, we’ll become leaders in expanding the cultural inclusivity of Montreal.” www.centaurtheatre.com

Centaur Works is another new initiative that will focus on new work by established playwrights. Eda Holmes plans to workshop and offer staged readings, with or without a socially distanced audience, depending on how the situation unfolds through the fall and winter. The idea is that these texts will potentially be part of its future seasons. “I will have more information about this once Portico Project is over. I am focusing on the theatre of the possible. We’ll do what we can to connect artists and audiences of Montreal to the most compelling theatre we can make. ” www.centaurtheatre.com

November, with a Taste of Diversity

Eda Holmes. Photo: Olivier Clertant

Get ready to bend your mind, because Habibi’s Angels: Commission Impossible is Talisman Theatre’s first commissioned play. The action begins when a pair of non-binary artists belonging to “visible minorities” are commissioned to write a bilingual play focusing on the themes of Quebec, feminism, history of women, love, and immigration… nothing less! The authors don’t want to write just a multicultural feminist show. They’d rather blow up than be confined to those categories. Warning: you’re invited to a scratchy celebration of Montreal; this all-woman play is poetic and deliciously quirky. It is a living X-ray of Montreal that reveals its ancient and modern foundations and asks important questions in our post-COVID-19, post-Bill 21 society. Bilingual production with subtitles. At La Chapelle from Nov. 23 to Dec. 5.  www.lachapelle.org

December at the Segal Centre

“It will take a while to rebuild to the scale we were before, but we are thinking differently now and embracing what we can do as we accept the new, and hopefully temporary, normal,” says Lisa Rubin, artistic and executive director of the Segal Centre. One upside of the shutdown is that it has offered time to have important discussions, make plans to shape the future of the Segal Centre, and develop collaboration between the English and French theatre communities. The trial run could be a masterstroke since the Segal stage will reopen with the one-man drama Underneath the Lintel by Glen Berger, directed by François Girard (director of The Red Violin). The show opened its run in French at the TNM in September; the original will open in English at the Segal Centre this December. It will close in French at the National Arts Centre, starring the gifted Emmanuel Schwartz, who will embody a librarian in pursuit of a mysterious book 113 years overdue.

Lorraine Pintal and Lisa Rubin have been sending scripts back and forth but they were never thrilled. When Underneath the Lintel came up, the two women knew right away they had found something, and things came together really easily. It was the classic moment where preparation meets opportunity. Girard also became passionate about the script. Lisa Rubin notes: “François made it incredibly easy; he was very open and enthusiastic. We hope for more French-English collaborations in the future.” This is the beginning a great partnership. www.centresegal.org

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

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