The Transformation of Canadian Stage

I was at the launch of Canadian Stage's 2010/2011 season, the first programmed by Matthew Jocelyn. It's a day that's been long awaited, going back to when the search for Matthew first started. (Here you can find the excellent reportage of Kelly Nestruck on the issue. Sadly, the comments have been lost thanks to server switching.) I had my own ideas of what Canadian Stage should be. And when Jocelyn was named, there was widespread anticipation of change.

Now we know what the change is and I'm totally delighted. It was everything I'd hoped for. Catherine Kustanczy has done a fantastic job of summarizing the season, so I'm just going to talk about what I like about it.

I'm incredibly thrilled about the international Spotlight series. I love that we're starting with Italy, as I can't remember the last time an Italian company was here. It's a nice compliment to the work Tina Rasmussen is doing at Harbourfront with World Stage. In recent years she's been concentrating on Scandinavian, Pacific Rim and United Kingdom countries (with a bit of South Africa, IIRC). If she continues that trend and Jocelyn uses his central European contacts, we should be a long way towards getting to see the best of the world. Speaking of which, local productions of a German play (based on a Spanish novel), a Polish play, and a Scottish play? Love it.

I also love that Canadian Stage will be working with Theatre Passe Muraille on the Project Humanity project. One of the big problems I have had was the feeling that CanStage and Soulpepper operated in isolation from the rest of the Toronto community. This project signals Canadian Stage's integration into the community.

I adore the NAC co-pro. Not only do we get to see Peter Hinton's work and the vaunted NAC ensemble, but they're doing a classic Canadian play. I've never seen Saint Carmen of the Main and didn't think I ever would. I love this reclamation of Canadian theatre history. I also really love that we're getting a contemporary Quebecois piece as well, courtesy of Nightwood.

The Electric Company is coming! This continues the trend of the last couple of years of finally getting to see some of the top companies in Canada. National touring is finally a reality for us. Major kudos must go to Factory Theatre as well for this trend.

Jocelyn plays wisely to the existing subscribers in bringing in Robert Lepage (Ex Machina) and a new piece by Édouard Lock (La La La Human Steps). This gives him recognizable names to sell while still keeping in the new direction he's pointing the company.

Notice what's missing? New York and London plays. I'd rather see Tarragon get a crack at these shows because I believe their strength is text-based work. I'm hoping that's what we'll see in the future. Maybe that will be the Toronto community association next season?

I'm totally thrilled. This was the direction I hoped the company would go in. Now I hope the audiences will support this as well. Can't remember the last time I was this excited about one of their seasons. And with all the other seasons that have just been announced, next year is going to be an amazing one for Toronto stages.

In fact, for the first time in my memory I feel that all the mid-size companies now have distinct identities. (Waiting to see what Brendan Healey has in mind for Buddies.) They're all doing play development but in different areas. Tarragon is focusing on text-based work with an emphasis on the use of language. Passe Muraille is the home of diaspora theatre. Factory is urban focused. The Theatre Centre is the home of Canadian multi-disciplinary creation. And now Canadian Stage is working with an international focus within the Canadian context. These are rough sketches, I know each are doing shows that don't fit this template, but it's what I see. And it's really exciting.


Well for me it is summed up thusly:
This season celebrates the rich cultural diversity of Europe.

And that's cool for some. Less cool for others.