Theatre in Covid Times

Written on January 19th, 2021

Coming Events
We are excited to learn about more and more performances in outdoor venues, as well as those being offered online.

Scroll through this list to see what some of Ontario’s theatres have planned.

July 15 to 17 — Globus Theatre, Lakeview Arts Barn, Bobcaygeon
The Great American Songbook, starring Leisa Way, with Doug Balfour (piano), Bob Hewus (bass) and Fred Smith (guitar & vocals) (an early dinner will be served before each show at 4:30/5:00pm)

Thursday, July 22 at 7:00 p.m. EST (New Date)Little Big Band, Drayton Entertainment
A 7-piece “Little” Big Band Plays Modern Jazz Hits and Updated Classics!
It’s all about the music as a “little” Big Band plays an array of modern and classic jazz tunes and Big Band-era favourites. The 7-piece band features Music Director Brigham Phillips on piano, Sasha Boychouk on woodwinds, Howard Gaul on drums, Peter Hysen on trombone, Will Jarvis on bass, Paul Mitchell on trumpet, and Dave Thompson on guitar. Livestreamed from the Drayton Entertainment Facebook page. The concerts are not pre-recorded and cannot be viewed at a later date. Audiences must tune into the livestreams in order to watch. For more information about the free Livestream Cabaret Concert Series, please visit:  https://www.draytonentertainment.com/Online/article/cabaret-series 

July 23 to August 15, 2021 — Blackout, The Musical Stage Company, Toronto
On August 14th, 2003, Toronto was sent into chaos when the largest blackout in Canadian history left millions stranded in the dark and unable to reach or connect with their loved ones.
Inspired by real events,  Blackout depicts three stories of connection that unfolded when the city was dark, and strangers banded together to find the light. A preview production of a new Canadian musical by two of Canada’s most exciting voices, Blackout is a story of hope, resilience, and community.

Thursday, July 29 at 7:00 p.m. EST (New Date) — Kelly Holiff, Drayton Entertainment
Broadway and Pop Hits! Vocal powerhouse Kelly Holiff sings songs by Broadway and popular composers who shaped her life including Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, Céline Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” and “Defying Gravity” from the hit musical Wicked. Kelly is accompanied by Music Director Jeannie Wyse on piano, Erik Patterson on guitar, Pol Coussée on reeds, Jamie Drake on drums and Ross MacIntyre on bass. Livestreamed from the Drayton Entertainment Facebook page. The concerts are not pre-recorded and cannot be viewed at a later date. Audiences must tune into the livestreams in order to watch. For more information about the free Livestream Cabaret Concert Series, please visit:  https://www.draytonentertainment.com/Online/article/cabaret-series 

July 30 – to August 17 – Streaming online, Theatre Orangeville
The Third Life of Eddie Mann by John Spurway.  An online play.
Theatre Orangeville Presents Online.  Get tickets at: https://www.theatreorangeville.ca/

Summer 2021 — Tweed & Company Theatre, Tweed
Either in-person or online, part of their flexible season. Hot Mess, starring Kelly Holiff. Date to be announced. Read more

Summer 2021 – Thousand Islands Playhouse, Gananoque
Managing Artistic Director Brett Christopher has unveiled Thousand Islands Playhouse’s plans to return to the stage for the 2021 season. “In 2004, the Playhouse added a smaller, flexible venue to its operations in order to expand the company’s ability to innovate. Today, that decision will mean that we are able to produce theatre in 2021.” Running July 8 to October 31, the “bridge to brighter days” season will offer four full productions on the Firehall Theatre stage. An outdoor, open-air tent will be part of the experience and every production run will also include streamed performances. Season includes Miss Caledonia, Sexy Laundry, Back in ’69, Serving Elizabeth.

July through December 2021 – The Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake
The Shaw Festival plans to open live theatre with their “duty of care” in place. 
The Devil’s Disciple
Festival Theatre – July 6 to October 9
A comedy, an adventure and a love story set at the height of the American Revolution.

Sherlock Holmes and The Raven’s Curse
Festival Theatre – July 23 to October 10
Family reunions can be murder.

Charley’s Aunt
Royal George Theatre – July 7 to October 10
A celebrated farce that will have you rolling in the aisles.

Flush
Royal George Theatre – July 8 to October 2
The adventures of Flush, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s beloved dog in Italy.

Desire Under the Elms
Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre – October 15 to December 12
Rural New England provides the setting for Eugene O’Neill’s dramatic American classic.

Trouble in Mind
Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre – August 8 to October 9
Racial tension needs no dress rehearsal. A groundbreaking, forgotten classic of Black American Theatre from the Fifties.

A Christmas Carol (2021)
Royal George Theatre – November 12 to December 23
Ebenezer Scrooge is back! Arrive feeling “Bah, humbug!” and leave full of warm, fuzzy Christmas spirit.

Holiday Inn
Festival Theatre – November 14 to December 23
A beloved musical, perfect to ring in the holiday season!

See their calendar for tickets: https://www.shawfest.com/whats-on-tickets/#calendar
Read about their Covid-19 protocol under Duty of Care: https://www.shawfest.com/visit/duty-of-care/
And in the meantime, check out some online entertainment in the Shaw from Home section on https://www.shawfest.com/shaw-from-home/#shaw-on-the-home-front

Summer 2021 – Stratford Festival, Stratford
With hope that lockdown, vaccinations pave way for brighter times
FESTIVAL THEATRE CANOPY
Support for the 2021 season of the Festival Theatre Canopy is generously provided by Daniel Bernstein & Claire Foerster.

Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women
Directed by Diana Leblanc
Featuring: Martha Henry as A, Lucy Peacock as B, Mamie Zwettler as C, Andrew Iles as The Boy
June 24 to July 25 | Opening Saturday, July 3
By turns acerbic, anguished and sarcastically funny, an old woman known to us only as “A” lays bare her inner life in sometimes shocking detail to two others: a middle-aged caregiver identified only as “B” and a young legal professional, “C.”
Originally programmed for the 2020 season, Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, which he called an “exorcism” of his own troubled relationship with his adoptive mother, is a profound meditation on aging, death and the very nature of the self: who are we really, and how do we become who we are?
In keeping with pandemic precautions, the play’s two parts – the second of which brings a startlingly different take on its characters – will be presented as separate performances, scheduled to be seen on the same day. Each ticket includes both parts.
Production support is generously provided by Sylvia D. Chrominska, Dr. Desta Leavine in memory of Pauline Leavine, Sylvia Soyka, The Westaway Charitable Foundation and by Jack Whiteside.

R + J
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Ravi Jain
Produced in collaboration with Why Not Theatre
Featuring: Dante Jemmott as Romeo, Eponine Lee as Juliet, Alex Bulmer as the Friar and Chorus, Tom Rooney as the Nurse, Lisa Nasson
August 12 to September 26 | Opening Sunday, August 15
They say that love is blind – and with blindness comes the freedom to open the mind’s eye to a world of limitless possibility. Likewise, the challenge of staging the world’s most famous love story in a time of physical distancing brings with it the opportunity to explore modes of theatrical presentation that are both unexpectedly novel and as old as the art of storytelling itself.
Intended for blind, low-vision and sighted audiences alike, this radically reimagined version of Shakespeare’s beloved romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, invites you into an up-to-the-minute modern world of sound and music, a world that challenges the identities we construct when we use only our eyes, a world in which the entrenched hostilities of an older generation are challenged by the passions of young people who only want to love.
Production support is generously provided by Dr. M. Lee Myers and by Catherine & David Wilkes.

Why We Tell the Story
A Celebration of Black Musical Theatre
Curated and directed by Marcus Nance
Music Director: Franklin Brasz
Featuring: Marcus Nance, Robert Markus, Vanessa Sears
June 24 to July 11 | Opening Saturday, June 26
Throughout the ages the African-American community has told stories of life, love, pain and hope through the glorious expressions of musical theatre and poetry. This update of the sold-out 2019 Meighen Forum concert, takes you on a journey with the voices of legendary Black poets and the music of the African-American musical theatre canon, including hits from AidaAin’t Misbehavin’Caroline, or ChangeThe Color PurpleHamiltonThe Lion KingOnce On This IslandShowboat and many more. As Maya Angelou said: “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”
Production support is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin.

You Can’t Stop the Beat
The Enduring Power of Musical Theatre
Curated and directed by Thom Allison
Music Director: Laura Burton
Featuring: Alana Hibbert, Gabrielle Jones, Evangelia Kambites, Mark Uhre
July 15 to July 31 | Opening Sunday, July 18
What is it about musical theatre that captures the hearts of millions of fans? Through wars, disasters, heartbreaks and triumphs, musicals have been there to give us a way to understand the human experience and flourish. Has there ever been a better way to represent our inner lives than in glorious Technicolor and song? This tune-filled ride celebrates why musicals have always been the ultimate tonic for the soul in good or troubled times.
Production support is generously provided by Nona Macdonald Heaslip.

Play On!
A Shakespeare-Inspired Mixtape
Curated by Robert Markus, Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis
Directed by Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis
Music Director: Reza Jacobs
Featuring: Gabriel Antonacci, Celeste Catena, Jacob MacInnis, Jennifer Rider-Shaw
July 29 to August 15 | Opening Saturday, July 31
Shakespeare’s influence on Western culture extends even into your favourite pop hits. Whether it be direct lines from his plays appearing in Top 40 lyrics or whole songs inspired by his plots, whether the borrowers be Taylor Swift, Madonna, Elton John, The Beatles, Prince or Radiohead, Shakespeare is still there, lurking in the mainstream, as cool and as relevant as ever. This lively celebration of terrific tunes affords a great opportunity to introduce a younger audience to Shakespeare’s continuing role in popular culture.
Production support is generously provided by Barbara & John Schubert.

Freedom
Spirit and Legacy of Black Music
Curated and directed by Beau Dixon
Music Director: Beau Dixon
Featuring: Robert Ball, Beau Dixon, Camille Eanga-Selenge
August 19 to September 5 | Opening Saturday, August 21
From the moment Black people landed on North American soil, their music took root and became the basis for much of the popular music we hear today. There is an endless list of exceptional Black musicians who have been lost to history while their white counterparts gained fame. From church hymnals to the blues, from jazz to rock ’n’ roll, R&B and rap, we owe much of our musical history to Black culture, and it’s time to give credit where it is due.
Production support is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin and by Sylvia Soyka.

Finally There’s Sun
A Cabaret of Resilience
Curated and directed by Sara Farb and Steve Ross
Music Director: Franklin Brasz
Featuring: Noah Beemer, Sara Farb, Germaine Konji, Steve Ross September 9 to September 26 | Opening Sunday, September 12
Reflecting on this “great pause” as we move forward and get back to living freely, Finally There’s Sun takes you on a musical journey through a year of enormous change and growth. It explores the isolation, the loneliness, the upheaval and the unexpected silver linings that came out of a time like no other.
Production support is generously provided by Jody & Deborah Hamade and by Dr. Robert & Roberta Sokol.

TOM PATTERSON THEATRE CANOPY

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Peter Pasyk
Featuring: Eva Foote as Hermia, Craig Lauzon as Oberon and Theseus, Trish Lindström as Puck and Egeus, Jonathan Mason as Demetrius, André Sills as Bottom, Amaka Umeh as Helena, Micah Woods as Lysander, Bahareh Yaraghi as Titania and Hippolyta
June 22 to July 25 | Opening Saturday, June 26
Spellbound lovers, quarrelling fairies, tradesmen with a fervour for amateur theatricals: they’re all mixed up together in the surreal world of Shakespeare’s great comedy of dreaming and desire.
This deep dive into the sometimes unsettlingly dark and dangerous realms of the subconscious famously culminates in a play within the play: a hilariously inept performance by Nick Bottom and his fellow would-be actors. But even as we laugh at the ham-fisted efforts of these “rude mechanicals,” we are won over by their heartfelt belief in the power of the imagination.
Taking its cue from that insight, this production deploys the most fundamental techniques of theatrical art in a magically inventive staging of a play that is itself a celebration of the imagination at its most extreme.
Production support is generously provided by the Harkins & Manning families in memory of Jim & Susan Harkins.

The Rez Sisters
By Tomson Highway
Directed by Jessica Carmichael
Featuring: Jani Lauzon as Pelajia Patchnose, Brefny Caribou as Zhaboonigan Peterson, Nicole Joy-Fraser as Annie Cook, Kathleen MacLean as Emily Dictionary, Zach Running Coyote as Nanabush, Michaela Washburn as Marie-Adele Starblanket
July 13 to August 15 | Opening Thursday, July 17
They have their dreams and their difficulties, these seven women. One yearns for a singing career; another for a white porcelain toilet. One grieves for her lover, killed in a motorcycle accident; another harbours the memory of a horrific sexual assault. The cancer that afflicts one of them is not the only malignancy they confront.
But one dream they hold in common is that of winning “the biggest bingo in the world” – and one day, accompanied by the transformative spirit guide Nanabush, they leave their Manitoulin Island reserve and set out for Toronto to do just that.
Ribald, harrowing and mystical, this seminal work of Indigenous drama celebrates the spirit of resilience and the powerful beauty these women bring to the tough world in which they live.
Production support is generously provided by Karon C. Bales & Charles E. Beall and by M. Fainer.

Schulich Children’s Plays
I Am William
Text by Rébecca Déraspe
Music by Chloé Lacasse and Benoit Landry
English translation by Leanna Brodie
Book, lyrics and score developed at Théâtre Le Clou
Directed by Esther Jun
Choreographed by Alyssa Martin
Music Director: Njo Kong Kie
Featuring: Shakura Dickson as Margaret, Landon Doak as Will, Allan Louis as John and the Earl of Leicester, Shannon Taylor as Mary and Queen Elizabeth I
August 4 to September 5 | Opening Sunday, August 8
Margaret Shakespeare has a dazzling talent for writing, which she yearns to put to serious use. But in an age lethally suspicious of female intellect and literacy, how can she find a way to fulfil her authorial ambitions yet still survive? Fortunately, she has a brother, William, who isn’t much of a writer but who wants to make it as an actor – and friends in high places have just the role for him.
Tapping into our fascination with the enigma of William Shakespeare’s life and how he came to write those plays – and the seemingly endless speculation in some quarters about whether he really did – this light-hearted yet genuinely passionate interweaving of comedy, song and poetic fancy spins a playful and witty yarn that will delight younger audiences and adults alike.

Serving Elizabeth
By Marcia Johnson
Directed by Kimberley Rampersad
Produced by special arrangement with Thousand Islands Playhouse
Featuring: Sean Arbuckle as Talbot and Maurice, Cameron Grant as Montague and Steve (Casting in progress)
August 24 to September 26 | Opening Saturday, August 28
In Kenya in 1952, Mercy, a restaurant proprietor, is hired to cater the impending visit of Princess Elizabeth. Meanwhile, in England in 2015, a young Kenyan-born Canadian, Tia, is working as an intern on a TV drama series about the British royal family – while writing a script of her own that re-envisions that 1952 visit from an African perspective.
These two time-frames intersect, with a twist, as Tia, in 2015, confronts the series screenwriter about his blind spots and biases, while Mercy, in 1952, does the same with the young queen-to-be.
Audiences are certain to enjoy this ingenious contemporary drama that keeps us guessing as it explores issues of colonialism, nationalism and the question of who gets to have a voice.
Production support is generously provided by John & Therese Gardner and by the Tremain Family.

For more information call the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit stratfordfestival.ca.

Summer 2021 – The Blyth Festival, Blyth, Ontario
Five Canadian productions. Each featuring a lone storyteller.  All performed under the wide open Huron County sky, on the newly built Blyth Festival Harvest Stage, at the Blyth Fairgrounds.
Occupying roughly a five acre natural amphitheatre at the North/West corner of the Blyth Fairgrounds, and backing right onto the Goderich to Guelph rail trail, a brand new, wrap around open air theatre, The Blyth Festival Harvest Stage will be a permanent addition to the Blyth Festival seasons moving forward.

The Downs by Sheryl Scott – August 11 to August 22
This hilarious, moving, and inspiring play began at the London Ontario Fringe Festival in 2015.
Performed by London based writer Sheryl Scott, this show is an intimate, personal, and life-
affirming telling of the story of her family’s farm in New Brunswick in the 1950s. Full of nostalgia
and instantly relatable, the gregarious storyteller reels us all in before cracking our hearts open
with a stirring secret.
Sure to sell out yet again, this is the third time we’ve brought this incomparable gem to Blyth.

Café Daughter by Kenneth T. Williams – August 25 to September 5
Inspired by a true story about a Chinese-Cree girl growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1950s and
60s, Kenneth T. Williams’ remarkable play premiered in 2011 in Dawson City to instant acclaim.
This tour-de-force tells the story of Charlie Wong who emigrates from China to rural Saskatchewan,
and opens a restaurant. But provincial law at the time prevents Charlie from hiring white women to
work for him. Katherine, a young Cree woman from a nearby reserve, takes a job at the café. In time,
the two fall in love, marry, and have a daughter—Yvette. The play begins in 1957, as nine-year-old
Yvette Wong helps out in her parents’ café in Alistair, Saskatchewan. She’s incredibly bright but has
been placed in the slow learners’ class because of her skin colour. Her mother Katherine, who was
forced to attend a residential school, is conflicted about her identity and charges Yvette with a
secret— to never tell anyone she’s part Cree.
Seen through the hopeful and undaunted eyes of young Yvette, this play touches us all at a time
when we need it. Williams was originally inspired by the true story of Canada’s first Indigenous
Senator, and our first senator of Chinese descent, the trailblazing Lillian Eva Quon Dyck.

Chase the Ace written & performed by Mark Crawford, directed by Miles Potter
September 8 to September 19
From the writer of Stag and Doe, The Birds and the Bees, Bed and Breakfast, and The New Canadian
Curling Club, comes a hilarious one-man comedy about a down-on-his-luck DJ, a local lottery, and
the search for truth in these unprecedented times.
When big city radio host Charlie King is forced to take a job managing a small-town radio station, he
has no idea what’s in store! Not only does a pandemic begin his first week in, but he quickly finds
himself chasing a story of municipal corruption, and running the Chase the Ace fundraiser, live on
air. The radio jock and the dozens of locals (who keep phoning in) become the touching lifeline to
neighbours under stay-at-home orders.
Festival favourite, Mark Crawford, is back, and this time he’s playing all the characters on and off
the air in this hilarious new comedy.

Assassinating Thomson by Bruce Horak – September 15 to Sept. 25
Bruce Horak plays himself in this show, his Blyth festival debut; A gifted performer and a brilliant
visual artist, Bruce has been legally blind since childhood. In ASSASSINATING THOMSON, Horak
shares the unique way he sees the world while exploring the truth and lies behind the mysterious
death of one of Canada’s greatest artists and unofficial 8th member of the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson.
Weaving the famous painters’ biography with the story of the loss of his own vision,
Bruce draws the audience into a deep connection to life and the true value of art. Throughout the
performance Bruce paints a live portrait of an audience member.

Jewel by Joan MacLeod – September 22 to October 3
A breath-takingly beautiful, funny and heart-breaking play about a young couple who buy a cattle
ranch in Alberta. To pay the mortgage, the husband takes a job in the oil patch for half the year.
When he’s offered the chance to work on a rig in Newfoundland, the couple see a clear way to fulfill
their dreams. An unspeakable loss leads this young wife to relive the greatest love of her life; from
their first Valentine’s day, to their last. Originally premiered in 1987, this stunning Canadian classic,
will be performed by Rebecca Auerbach and directed by JD Nicholsen.

Ongoing Productions

Western University, London
Production of Julius Caesar, directed by Jeff Culbert. An egomaniac destroying a republic and assuming dictatorial power. Available on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P4ptJq65bw

Jeff Culbert Production, London
A new play, Elocution: The Life of Richard Berry Harrison by Jeff Culbert. podcast version (audio only) and also one with visual images to accompany the audio play.  the inspiring story of a Black actor from London Ontario, whose parents escaped slavery in the US in the 1850s, and whose love for literature and skill in elocution drove him to make a living for himself as a travelling performer. The big payoff for his skill and perseverance came at the age of 65, when he became the biggest star on Broadway during the early 1930s. Presented online at www.jeffculbert.ca

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