Soulpepper Theatre Company announced the inaugural season of artistic programming under the leadership of Artistic Director Weyni Mengesha and Executive Director Emma Stenning, marking a new chapter for the organization. Built on the unifying theme: Breaking Ground, the new season includes a collection of six powerful plays, four extraordinary concerts, and two pioneering partner presentations, running from January to August 2020. The company also launched a new program offering free tickets to patrons 25 and under and announced updates on artist training initiatives, and board appointments.
Mainstage programming begins in January with Kate Hennig’s contemporary and fiery portrayal of women and power with Mother’s Daughter, directed by Alan Dilworth after a successful World Premiere at the Stratford Festival. Artistic Director Weyni Mengesha directs the gripping Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train by Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephen Adly Guirgis. In March, Soulpepper will produce Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece The Seagull for the first time, translated by Simon Stephens, directed by Daniel Brooks.
Soulpepper is pleased to partner again with Necessary Angel Theatre Company in a co-production of the Canadian Premiere of Roland Schimmelpfennig’s timely and cautionary play Winter Solstice, directed by Alan Dilworth, in his inaugural season as the new Artistic Director of Necessary Angel, who previously directed Schimmelpfennig’s Idomeneus to critical acclaim.
Soulpepper’s popular Concert Series, led by Slaight Family Director of Music Mike Ross, continues in June with two brand new concerts. Revolutions: Songs that Changed the World is a new concert created and hosted by Amanda Parris (CBC’s Exhibitionists), Mike Ross, and Weyni Mengesha celebrating the songs of protest and progress that have fueled social movements with the power to inspire, inform, and instigate. Revolutions will play in rep with the return of Soulpepper’s sold-out tribute to one of Canada’s most beloved artists The Secret Chord: A Leonard Cohen Experience created by Frank Cox-O’Connell, Marni Jackson, and Mike Ross.
Behind The Bars: Legendary Prison Songs is a new concert about the songs and stories of artists hitting rock bottom, and the road to redemption, created by Frank Cox-O’Connell, Mike Ross, and Sarah Wilson, and will play in rep with the return of Mike Ross and Tom Allen’s sold-out hit about the “king of the instruments” 88 KEYS.
Following her celebrated productions of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brothers Size, Academy Graduate Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu returns to Soulpepper in July to direct the pioneering South African play Sizwe Banzi Is Dead by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona. This pivotal anti-apartheid work blends humour and pathos with political bite, such that following their world tour, the creators were arrested when they returned to their home country.
Capping off the season is the Tony Award-winning play M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang, the first Broadway play to be written by an Asian-American, directed by Nina Lee Aquino, Artistic Director of Factory Theatre, in her directorial debut at Soulpepper.
Soulpepper is pleased to include works by two genre-defying partners in the new season. Following the success of her 2017 show I’m Doing This for You, Haley McGee returns to Soulpepper with The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale which builds on the show’s critically-acclaimed engagements both at home and abroad, and represents the company’s first co-production with Outside the March. In collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada and the National Theatre of Great Britain, Soulpepper presents the North American Premiere of Jordan Tannahill’s form-bending virtual reality performance Draw Me Close. This is a solo interactive virtual reality experience where patrons take the role of the protagonist, Jordan, and experience the relationship between a mother and her son, in the wake of her terminal cancer diagnosis.
Beyond the artistic season programmed, 2020 will be a year of bold growth for Soulpepper.
Soulpepper is proud to play an educational and artist-training role in our community. The company is sharing plans to relaunch its esteemed Soulpepper Academy in the autumn of 2020. Pending confirmation of government funding and donor support, the call for submissions and the national search process will commence in the spring. The Academy has played a significant role in the development of future generations of actors, designers, directors, and playwrights, including Artistic Director Weyni Mengesha in the inaugural class, and many other alumni who have gone on to play leadership roles across the industry. Known for its focus on ensemble theatre making and rigorous multi-disciplinary practical experience, the Soulpepper Academy is Canada’s only multiyear, full time, paid, professional training program.
Soulpepper announced the launch of a new pilot program called The Training Room. Programmed by Gregory Prest, Soulpepper’s Baillie Fellow, The Training Room is a series of workshops and master classes aimed at providing accessible artist training regardless of professional experience. The first two series include Audition Monologue Workshop with guest instructors Philip Akin, Maev Beaty, Founding Member Martha Burns, Daren A. Herbert, Jani Lauzon, and Founding Member Joseph Ziegler; and Masterclass Series: Hedda Gabler with Founding Member Nancy Palk. Applications are open now, and more details can be found at: soulpepper.ca/trainingroom.
Further training extends beyond the stage. This year, Soulpepper has joined with the National Ballet of Canada to be the first theatre company to be a part of their Emerging Arts Critics program. Aspiring arts reviewers will attend performances through the year and write reviews to be published online on Intermission Magazine, with mentorship from seasoned theatre critic Robert Cushman.
Beginning spring 2020, Soulpepper will introduce a new series of Scratch Nights. Building on the success of these events in Europe, Scratch Nights invite audiences to experience new works in their earliest stages of development. Audiences will be able to hear readings and see workshop presentations from new pieces that Soulpepper is involved with developing. Details, including participating artists, will be announced at a later date.
These training initiatives join the company’s existing and ongoing educational programming, including: The City Youth Academy; March Break Programming; Curtain up Program; Alumni Program; ESL In-the-Schools Program; the Play Creation In-The-Schools Program; and the Ada Slaight Youth Link Program; which are all delivered free of charge.
THEATRE FOR ALL
In celebration of Weyni Mengesha and Emma Stenning’s inaugural season, Soulpepper unveiled two new programs to address financial barriers for patrons wishing to attend the theatre. Starting January 14, 2020, the Free 25 & Under program will offer patrons 25 years old and under, two tickets to all Soulpepper mainstage and concert productions at no cost. Starting at 8:00am, all remaining tickets for that day’s performances become available for online booking. Participants are allowed to book two tickets to bring a guest of any age. Some conditions apply, please visit soulpepper.ca/waystosave for full details.
In addition, Soulpepper has introduced an accessible tier ticket price of $25 to all its Mainstage and Concert performances. A limited-number of these tickets are available to everyone at every mainstage and concert performance of the season in addition to the company’s standard range of ticket prices. This initiative further demonstrates Soulpepper’s commitment to inviting people from all communities to the theatre. These accessible pricing programs compliment the company’s existing Artsworker, StagePlay (Under 30), Rush, Youth Rush, and Student Group pricing initiatives.