Season Announcement: Soulpepper January – August 2020

Soulpepper Theatre Company has announced its new season for 2020!

The new season will offer a selection of six powerful plays, four exceptional concerts, and two pioneering partner presentations – all under one unifying theme, Breaking Ground, and the extraordinary leadership of Artistic Director, Weyni Mengesha and Executive Director, Emma Stenning. This is the first season that this leadership team has programmed for Soulpepper Theatre.

“We feel very strongly that all these plays feature this moment and I think that’s focusing in on what we think is important. We want to make work that is vital for our community and for the world. That is something that we focused in on. The theme is Breaking Ground and all these artists, in their time and place were adding something new to the theatre ecology and that was mostly the inspiration,” says Weyni Mengesha, Artistic Director.

Executive Director, Emma Stenning adds, “I think each of these plays, in their own kind of place, have shown something new. Each in their own time and each in their own way has shown us something new about what theatre can do.”

This season, the company has also launched two programs that address the financial barriers facing theatregoers that wish to attend. Starting January 14th, 2020, for patrons who are the age of 25 and under, the Free 25 and Under program will offer two tickets to all Soulpepper plays and concert performances at no cost. The company is also offering an accessible $25 to all Mainstage and Concert performances. A limited number of these tickets will be available to everyone in addition to the company’s standard range of ticket prices. This is an incredible initiative to help make theatre more accessible for the 20-25 demographic. “We want to make sure that they’ll find something exciting. So, part of what we want to do is make sure we remove the barrier of price and push it back as far as possible,” says Emma Stenning, Executive Director.

Soulpepper is also planning to relaunch Soulpepper Academy in Autumn of 2020. The Academy aims to help future generations of actors, designers, directors and playwrights develop their talents as much as possible. It is known to focus on ensemble theatre-making and rigorous multi-disciplinary practical experience and is Canada’s only multi-year, full time, paid, professional training program.

In addition, the company will be joining The National Ballet of Canada to be a part of the Emerging Arts Critics program. It will be the first theatre company to be a part of the program. Throughout the season, aspiring arts reviewers will attend performances and write reviews that will be published here on Intermission Magazine. They’ll also have a chance to be mentored by seasoned theatre critic Robert Cushman.

Performances will run from January to August of 2020 at the multi-venue Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s historic Distillery District. For more information about how to purchase tickets, click here.

Breaking Ground: January-August 2020

Mainstage Plays

Mother’s Daughter

Written by Kate Hennig. Originally produced by The Stratford Festival. Directed by Alan Dilworth.

January 14 – February 9, 2020. Opening night is January 16, 2020.

Keep your enemies close, and your family closer. Three sisters are pitted against one another for the Tudor throne in a deadly struggle that threatens to rip the country apart. Kate Hennig’s trademark style and wit come through in this play about “Bloody Mary” – a contemporary examination of women and power. The cast includes Beryl Bain, Fiona Byrne, Jessica B. Hill, Andrea Rankin, Shannon Taylor, Maria Vacratsis, and Gordon Patrick White. The design team includes Lorenzo Savoini (set and costume), Kimberly Purtell (lighting), and Debashis Sinha (sound).

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train

Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Directed by Weyni Mengesha.

January 23 – February 19, 2020. Opening night is January 30, 2020.

When justice locks you up, what sets you free? From Pulitzer-prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis, comes a gripping murder mystery drama where two men await trial for murder, only to discover justice and goodness in a place they least expect it. An uncompromising drama about contradictions, contrition, and hypocrisy, it will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. The cast includes Diana Donnelly, Daren A. Herbert, Xavier Lopez, Tony Nappo, and Gregory Prest. Costume design will be done by Shannon Lea Doyle.

The Seagull

Written by Anton Chekhov and translated by Simon Stephens. Directed by Daniel Brooks.

March 26 – April 22, 2020. Opening night is April 2, 2020.

The stage is set for a little family drama. A summer weekend filled with unrequited love, creative jealousy, guns and vodka at a lakeside estate falls apart when celebrities come to visit. An incredible examination of the burning need to create art and the destructive power of art while switching between the ridiculous and profound. This is a true masterpiece of the modern era. The cast includes Soulpepper Founding Member Stuart Hughes, Academy Graduates Ghazal Azarbad, Raquel Duffy, Hailey Gillis, Paolo Santalucia, and familiar faces including Oliver Dennis, Daren A. Herbert, Alex McCooeye, and Michelle Monteith. Design will be crafted by Lorenzo Savoini (set and costume), Kevin Lamotte (lighting), and Thomas Ryder Payne (sound).

Winter Solstice

Written by Roland Schimmelpfennig and translated by David Tushingham. A co-production with the Necessary Angel Theatre Company. Directed by Alan Dilworth.

Canadian Premiere
May 7 – June 3, 2020. Opening night is May 14, 2020.

Fascism doesn’t kick down the door; it waits for an invite, then makes itself at home. A charming guest arrives at the home of a polite, intellectual family on the longest night of the year. Though the family aren’t as happy as they seem, the inevitable presence of the past echoes through this razor-sharp comedy about the seduction of extremism. The cast includes Founding Members Nancy Palk, and Diego Matamoros, as well as Cyrus Lane.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead

Written by Athol Fugard, John Kani & Winston Ntshona. Directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu.

July 9 – August 5, 2020 Opening night is July 16, 2020.

What is your name worth? The only way to survive in apartheid-era South Africa for Banzi, is to seize opportunities like faking his own death. A soaring and very personal comedy of identity, memory, and the resilience of the human spirit from one of the world’s greatest playwrights, Athol Fugard. The cast includes Tawiah Ben M’Carthy as Sizwe Banzi, who will play opposite to Daren A. Herbert as Styles/Buntu.

M. Butterfly

Written by David Henry Hwang. Directed by Nina Lee Aquino.

August 13 – September 9, 2020. Opening night is August 20, 2020.

Love can transform you. Based on an incredible true love story international espionage and personal betrayal. Puccini’s opera is flipped upside down when a married French diplomat meets a mysterious Chinese opera singer. M. Butterfly is a modern classic that blurs boundaries and redefines the nature of love and the destructive cost of deceit. The cast includes Jeff Ho as Song Liling, Oliver Dennis, Diana Donnelly, and Louisa Zhu. The M. Butterfly design team includes Camie Koo (set), Joanna Yu (costumes), and Michelle Ramsay (lighting).

Concerts

All original Soulpepper concert performances revolve around a time, place, or artist curated by a team of exceptional performers.

The Secret Chord: A Leonard Cohen Experience

Created by Frank Cox-O’Connell, Marni Jackson, and Mike Ross. Narration by Frank Cox-O’Connell and Marni Jackson. Music direction by Mike Ross. Directed by Frank Cox-O’Connell.

May 8 – June 7, 2020.

Leonard Cohen constantly reinvented himself throughout his long and illustrious career that helped generations of fans understand the constantly changing society around them. Soulpepper brings back its tribute to one of Canada’s most beloved artists, after two sold-out engagements. His incredible life, music, and poetry will be remembered and celebrated by a company of remarkable artists.

Revolutions: Songs that Changed the World

Created by Amanda Parris, Mike Ross, and Weyni Mengesha. Narration and hosted by Amanda Parris. Music direction by Mike Ross. Directed by Weyni Mengesha.

May 16 – June 6, 2020.

There are always artists at the heart of every revolution that inspire, inform, and instigate. From gospel to punk, from Pete Seeger to Tracy Chapman, Mike Ross and Amanda Parris (CBC – Exhibitionists) share the stories behind the songs that helped shape our world.  These are the anthems of protest and progress – voices that the world needs to hear today.

88 Keys

Created by Tom Allen and Mike Ross. Narration by Tom Allen. Music direction and directed by Mike Ross.

June 20 – July 26, 2020.

88 keys, 230 strings, and 7,500 working parts make up every piano. From Beethoven and Chopin to Fats Domino, Ray Charles and Billy Joel, this has been the vehicle through which genius is conveyed and it’s been this way for three hundred years. Last summer’s sold-out concert is back to celebrate the ‘King of the Instruments’.

Behind the Bars: Legendary Prison Songs

Created by Frank Cox-O’Connell, Mike Ross, and Sarah Wilson. Narration by Sarah Wilson. Music direction by Mike Ross. April 20, 2020 at the Lyric Theatre. Directed by Frank Cox-O’Connell.

June 27 – July 25, 2020.

The stories of the guilty and innocent, hitting rock bottom, the road to redemption and everything that’s in between. Featuring legendary artists like Johnny Cash, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley and more. You can lock ‘em up, but you can’t cage the music!

Partner Presentations:

The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale

Written by Haley McGee. A Hayley McGee production presented by Outside the March and Soulpepper. Directed by Mitchell Cushman.

May 19 – June 7, 2020.

“How can we turn sentimental value into cold, hard cash?”

Inspired by a phone call with Visa while promising to pay off her bill by having a yard sale, Haley McGee realized the only things she could sell were gifts from her exes. The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale is a priceless and hilarious show about the cost of love…or what love ends up costing us. A critically-acclaimed show that has had sold-out runs in London and Toronto and returns to Soulpepper this season, also following the success of I’m Doing This for You (2017).

Draw Me Close

Created and directed by Jordan Tannahill. National Film Board of Canada and The National Theatre of Great Britain.

June 23 – July 12, 2020.

Making its North American premiere, Draw Me Close blurs the lines between live performance, virtual reality, and animation to create a vivid memoir about the relationship between a mother and her son, while battling terminal cancer. The performance allows the audience member to take the part of the protagonist, Jordan, inside a live, animated world while weaving theatrical storytelling with cutting-edge technology. This is an individual immersive experience, involving a virtual reality headset. Single tickets are available in a series of timed admission slots.

About Soulpepper: Soulpepper Theatre Company is a not-for-profit theatre company and one of Toronto’s largest. Initially founded and moulded by artists, Soulpepper has made it its mission to create and lead youth and community outreach initiatives and artist training and mentorship programs. Soulpepper has an annual season that grounds its work in classics but also makes sure to curate new works, new forms, and include innovative practices. Soulpepper lives at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s historic Distillery District.


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Written By

Mariam is Associate Editor at Intermission. Mariam earned her Honours BA in English literature from York University and recently completed a Graduate Certificate program from Centennial College in Book and Magazine Publishing. When she's not busy reading books and plays, she takes pictures of books for her "Bookstagram", watches as many movies and shows as she can, and is a self-proclaimed Chocoholic.