Inside this year’s Next Stage Theatre Festival programming

Production photo from Next Stage Festival production "ECHO." Echo and Narcissus smile as they press their hands against each others, glowing in light from above.
ECHO production photo by Landon Nesbitt.

The Toronto Fringe has unveiled the six-show lineup for the 16th annual Next Stage Theatre Festival, the first in-person iteration of the curated fest since 2020.

A unique selection of dance, sketch comedy, musical theatre, and drama will play from October 18 to October 29 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. 

“Our last Next Stage in January 2022… made a last-minute pivot to a fully online festival, so this return to [in-person] programming is a long time coming,” said executive director Lucy Eveleigh in a press release. “We are so thankful to be back in person for the 16th Next Stage Theatre Festival, and so excited to share these wonderful shows with our new and returning audiences.”

Complimenting the full productions is a dynamic selection of community programming including an American Sign Language-interpreted screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show presented in partnership with The Disability Collective; supplementary programming for each show, created and produced by the Fringe’s Theatre Entrepreneurs’ Network and Training program; and the Indie Arts Workshop & Social, an opportunity (created in partnership with the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts) for indie arts workers of all kinds to discuss community care and work-life balance.

Here is the 2023 Next Stage Theatre Festival’s lineup of full productions:

Black in Canada (Artists in Motion)

Choreographed by Shameka Blake

This episodic performance of dance, spoken word, and recorded archives emphasizes the immense and lasting impact Black people have had, and continue to have, on the social and cultural fabric of the land. The work interprets the consequences of systemic racism and educates the audience about the contemporary climate of racial oppression in Canada and how it ties into history.

Bremen Town (Bremen Town Collective)

Written and directed by Gregory Prest  

Composed by Tatjana Cornij

After 45 years of hard work and dedication, Frau Esel, the longest serving housekeeper of Völksenhaus, is replaced. Inspired by the darkly comic stories of the Grimm brothers, this humorous rural folk tragedy is about the painful truth of outliving our use.

Dead Parents Society: A Dark Sketch Comedy Revue (Dead Parents Society)

Created by Shohana Sharmin Sicilia  

Directed by Kirsten Rasmussen  

This dark sketch comedy revue was created by a group of comedians who each lost a parent at a young age. With equal parts heart and humour, it grapples with the basic truth that everyone will experience loss in their lifetime.

ECHO (a front company)

Written by Kole Durnford  

Directed by Robert Morrison  

Echo and Narcissus lock eyes in a club and the world begins to float. Heartbreak, love, sex, psychedelics, and an adorable dog combine as the two relive their whirlwind relationship. This modern retelling of Greek myth interrogates the place of love in a world in love with itself.

Guildwood (Garner Theatre Productions and Guildwood Collective)

Written and directed by Braeden Soltys

Before their home is taken over by the military for use in a great war across the sea, the residents of an artist commune gather for one final night of soul-searching and celebrations. Inspired by the historic Scarborough-based artist collective “Guild of All Arts,” this actor-musician musical fictionalizes a snapshot of Greater Toronto Area history. It’s a love letter to the artist, the dreamer, and the revolutionary.

Something in the Water (Scantily Glad Theatre)

Created by S.E. Grummett 

Directed by Deanna Fleysher

When Grumms transforms into a horrible squid monster, they must hide their secret identity. With spellbinding video projection, puppetry, and laugh-out-loud physical comedy, this award-winning solo show is an absurd and relatable exploration of gender, comic books, and growing up “normal.”

Next Stage Theatre Festival runs at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre from October 18 to 29. More information is available here.

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Written By

Liam is Intermission’s publishing and editorial assistant. A critic and theatre artist from Toronto, his writing has appeared in Maisonneuve, This Magazine, NEXT Magazine, and more. He loves the original Super Mario game very much.