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The World Premiere of Chris Hadfield’s The Darkest Dark Takes Flight at YPT

/By / Jan 17, 2023

After more than five years of development, the groundbreaking staged adaptation of The Darkest Dark is ready for liftoff at YPT. 

Based on the children’s book of the same name by renowned Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield, the production is a family-friendly adventure into infinity and beyond. With an innovative blend of theatre, multi-media, and magic, The Darkest Dark invites audiences into a universe where anything is possible, and where the dark is more than it seems.

It was director Jim Millan, who also co-wrote the theatrical adaptation with Ian MacIntyre, who approached YPT in 2017 with a proposal to stage the production. Having developed a relationship with the Hadfield family while working on the Commander’s science-based reality show Generator, Millan had big dreams for the internationally best-selling book. The addition of renowned magician David Ben as magic consultant primed the creative team for their journey to create a multi-sensory experience unlike anything YPT has staged before.

Inspired by a true story, The Darkest Dark is set at the Hadfield Family cottage on Stag Island, ON in the summer of 1969. Apollo 11 is just days away from landing on the moon. A nine-year-old space-loving Chris spends his days dreaming of becoming a brave astronaut. But at bedtime, the night closes in and so too does his fear of the dark, wreaking havoc on the sleep schedules of Mom and Dad. For Chris, watching history in the making hinges on conquering his fear – and embracing the unknown.

Featuring an impressive cast of Canadian talent that includes Aurora Browne as Mom (CBC’s Baroness von Sketch Show, director of YPT’s Snow White) and Craig Lauzon as Dad (CBC’s Royal Canadian Air Farce), the sensory-rich production guides audiences alongside young Chris as he battles his very real fear.

“The creation of The Darkest Dark has been another challenging journey in my life,” says Commander Hadfield. “Jim [Millan]’s thirty years of creating incredible theatre and expertise in the world of magic will provide the perfect vehicle to envelop audiences. As Canada’s premier theatre for young audiences, YPT offers over half a century of expertise in arts and education. The commitment the company shows to child development through the arts gives me confidence that The Darkest Dark will be in safe – and extraordinary – hands.”

A Junior Library Guild selection, and named one of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s “Best Books for Kids & Teens” in 2019, Hadfield’s The Darkest Dark has been inspiring children all over the world since its publication in 2016.

The production is set to take flight on the Ada Slaight stage February 20 – April 2. Tickets are available here.

Meet the Cast & Creative Team

JIM MILLAN, Director and Playwright
Jim Millan has a long series of innovative creations in theatre, comedy, magic and variety that has taken him from Canada to the West End, Radio City Music Hall, Broadway, Las Vegas and beyond. After founding Crow’s Theatre in Toronto it quickly became one of Canada’s new play innovators and incubators. Jim began a decades-long collaboration directing The Kids in the Hall comedy group for all of their live shows since 2000. Jim most recently directed Bruce McCulloch in his new one-man play, Tales of Bravery and Stupidity. Among his more explosive creations, Jim co-created Mythbusters Live, which sold out across North America and toured Australia and New Zealand; and served as the original Creative Director for The Illusionists, which set an all-time record for a magic show on Broadway. He has also been a creative producer of the Governor General’s Awards Gala in Ottawa, creating original stage tributes for entertainers such Michael J. Fox, Martin Short, Sandra Oh, Andrew Alexander, Catherine O’Hara and Ryan Reynolds. Throughout his career, Jim has directed comedy, dramas, magic and musicals on five continents in 38 countries and 17 languages, and has premiered over 185 new works.

Ian MacIntyre is a Toronto-based television writer and video game narrative designer. He wrote on four seasons of the Netflix original Degrassi: Next Class, for which he won a Writers Guild of Canada award, and has also written for animated shows including Inspector Gadget, D.N. Ace, 3 Amigonauts, and finally the satirical news comedy The Beaverton. Ian has developed series for Nickelodeon as well as CBC television. Ian is originally from Nova Scotia and is currently thinking about donairs.

DAVID BEN, Magic Consultant
David Ben was bitten by the magic bug at the age of 12 and now, 50 years later, he is still smitten with the craft. David has performed across Canada, the United States and numerous venues around the globe. His shows include The Conjuror (Shaw Festival, Theatre ROM, Soulpepper); The Conjuror’s Suite (ROM, Charlottetown Festival); Tricks (Artworld, Soulpepper); Natural Magick (Luminato); Card Table Artifice (Luminato); and Hocus Pocus (Soulpepper). As a magic consultant, David has worked with the Shaw Festival, Soulpepper Theatre, and the Stratford Festival. David has also been the magic consultant on a variety of films, television shows, novels and museum exhibitions including Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, Murdoch Mysteries, Michael Ondaatje’s novel Divisidaro, and Grand Illusions – The Art of Magic (McCord Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario). He is also author of several books including the biographies of Dai Vernon, and Canadian media mogul (and amateur magician) Allan Slaight. David is the co-founder and current artistic director of Magicana, an organization devoted to the advancement of magic as a performing art.

Hannah Forest Briand is a queer film and theatre actress with training from George Brown Theatre School, along with an extensive dance and movement background. Her on-screen credits include a leading role in Les Liaisons dangereuses (Théâtre Français de Toronto); a recurring role in Échec et Moi (TFO); and the lead in the feature, Camping Trip (Fuica Productions). Hannah is fresh off closing the plays Les Zinspiré.e.s : Dix-joncté.e.s and Flush (TFT). A Québécois artist, she is proud to represent French Canadian works on stage and screen while also enjoying an expansive career in English.

Aurora Browne is proud to be one of the co-creators, writers, executive producers, directors and stars of CBC’s multiple Canadian Screen Award-winning Baroness von Sketch Show. In 2019, Aurora appeared as the co-host of CBC’s The Great Canadian Baking Show Season 3. In addition, she has appeared on Run the Burbs, Nurses, The Writer’s Block, Man Seeking Woman, Orphan Black, The Gavin Crawford Show, InSecurity, and Corner Gas among others. Aurora was also a co-creator, co-writer, executive producer and co-star of the hit web series Newborn Moms, which appeared both on CBC’s and ABC’s digital channels. An alumni of The Second City Toronto Main Stage, Aurora has been nominated for many Canadian Comedy Awards for her work in Toronto’s red hot live sketch and improv scene. She was a nominee for the 2000 Tim Sims Encouragement Fund Award and in 2008 won the Canadian Comedy Award for Best Female Improviser. Aurora is a long-time member of the award-winning Toronto theatre company VideoCabaret. Aurora recently directed YPT’s holiday production of Snow White.

Originally from Ottawa, Craig is of mixed settler and Anishinaabe descent. Craig is a member of the sketch troupe Tonto’s Nephews, and is the former Artistic Associate of Native Earth Performing Arts. Theatre credits include: Where the Blood Mixes (Soulpepper); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Stratford Festival); The Drawer Boy (Theatre Passe Muraille); Thunderstick (Persephone Theatre); King Lear (National Arts Centre); and Trudeau and Levesque (VideoCabaret).

Originally from Vancouver, Xavier completed his BFA at the University of Victoria in 2012 and quickly made his way to Toronto. His work can be seen in Y: The Last Man (FX); Sort Of (CBC); Blue’s Clues & You (Nickelodeon); Titans (Netflix); and Pretty Hard Cases (CBC). Xavier also lent his voice and performance to ‘Paolo’ in the video game Far Cry 6 (Ubisoft). Theatre credits include For Both Resting and Breeding (Talk Is Free Theatre); No Clowns Allowed (Blood Pact Theatre); and Jesus Hopped The ‘A’ Train (Soulpepper), where he was nominated for a Dora Award in the category of outstanding performance in a lead role.

Ziska is an actor, musician and physical theatre performer born in Switzerland and raised in Wales. From a young age they began performing in the National Youth Theatre of Wales, going on to graduate from Manchester School of Theatre. Select credits include: Russell’s World (YPT); Back to the Future (Secret Cinema Presents); dead born grow (Frantic Assembly); Kindertransport (Capitol Theatre); Little Gem (Theatre Clwyd).

Shaquille is a graduate from the University of Toronto, Sheridan College, and the Soulpepper Academy. He hails from the various plots of suburbia North America has to offer, but distinctly caught the acting bug in Barrie, Ontario. When he isn’t acting, Shaquille also enjoys writing for stage and screen. And when he isn’t writing, he’s probably catching Pokémon. Selected credits: Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God, Negro, Drowning, King Lear (Soulpepper); Ragtime: A Concert Performance (Theatre Calgary/Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra); The Lost Heroes of Oro (Theatre by the Bay); and There is No Word for Wilderness (Animacy Theatre Collective).

Recent graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada (Montreal), Evelyn has had the pleasure of working with a number of directors and coaches, including Philip Akin in his production of 7 Stories, and David Latham in his production of Macbeth, in which Evelyn played the role of Lady Macbeth. Evelyn has appeared in CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries, and is the lead in the short film I Wanna Be Famous (Humber Film School). Recent theatre credits include The Judas Kiss (Talk Is Free Theatre).

Jessica Watson

Jessica Watson

Jessica is a former associate editor at Intermission, as well as a writer, classically-trained actor, and plant enthusiast. Since graduating from LAMDA in the UK with her MA in acting, you can often find her writing screenplays and short plays in the park, writing extensive lists of plant care tips, or working on stage and screen (though she uses a stage name). Jessica freelances with various companies across Canada, but her passion lies in working with theatre artists and enthusiasts.



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