It is now October, and that means it’s time, for our annual look at some of the theatre productions, coming up on local stages. There is plenty, on offer again this season, and with luck, gentle reader, you will find something interesting in the mix. Space prevents us from mentioning absolutely every production, but here is a sample of what is being staged in the next four months.
Opening this week:
9M Theatre debuts their annual Shakespeare production, this coming weekend. It runs from October 4th to the 12th, in the second floor Bright Room, at the Staircase Theatre. This year the play is “Much Ado About Nothing”, a romantic comedy, written in iambic pentameter. It is being directed by David Faulkner–Rundle, and the production features actors Brendan Green and Liz Buchanan as Benedick and Beatrice, with cast of ten.
Meanwhile, on the MainStage of the Staircase Theatre, on the evening of October 5, the LGBTQ2S+ community and their allies, are celebrating the work of local queer performance artists. The group Queer on Stage, presents a showcase of the writing of six playwrights, including Tamai Kobayashi, Laura Piccinin, Erika Reesor, Jade Walker and Rebekka Gondosch. There are four short plays, a comedy act and a devised movement piece, on offer.
“East of Berlin” by Hannah Moscovitch, is a favourite play of mine. It runs at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and is presented by the Essential Collective Theatre, who brought us “September Songs”, which was a VIEW “best of theatre” choice last season This fully professional production runs for seven performances between October 3 and 12, and I think it well worth the drive to St Paul Street, to see this marvellous Canadian play. Expect a police presence, after the shooting last weekend.
Artword Theatre, has sold the “Artbar”, and will soon vacate the facility that they have managed on Colbourne Street, just off James Street North, for the past twelve years. One of their final theatrical offerings in the space, happens this Friday evening, October 4, at 8pm. It is the one man “Emergency Climate Musical”, written and performed by James Gordon. The play is a “a theatrical investigation of what is certainly THE issue in these uncertain times, filled with songs, videos, images, stories, rants, laughter, tears, audience participation, and some concrete ways to combat a crisis.”
Also on at the Artbar, Mark McNeil, on Thursday October 24, presents an extended version of his Hamilton Fringe show “Hamilton for Beginners”, a musical that examines local history.
While I can’t help but be sad, that an era on the Hamilton arts scene, is coming to an end, I know that Ron Weihs and his partner Judith Sandiford, are sure to have some interesting theatre planned for 2020. So I think of this, as not an ending, but rather a new beginning for the company.
Theatre Aquarius’ latest production, a newish Norm Foster play called “Renovations for Six”, closes this weekend. It tells the story of three couples at a dinner party who are examining their relationships, against the backdrop of a major house renovation. Foster, is Canada’s most popular playwright, with more than fifty scripts in his canon, this play debuted at the the Norm Foster Festival this past season. From all accounts, this script should continue his proven formula of adult comedy, with real life characterizations and a strong topical message at the end. The cast includes Amos Crawley and Mary Long.
Continuing to look at Theatre Aquarius’ MainStage season, we discover the plays “Never Not Once” by Carey Crim, which runs October 23 to November 9, 2019, and their holiday musical, which this year is “Hairspray”, the Broadway show with a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, featuring songs by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, based upon the cult film written and directed by John Waters. It runs from November 27th – December 29th, 2019. Set at Christmas time in 1962 in Baltimore, its rock and roll score celebrates diversity and inclusivity. On a positive note, I can report that John Travolta will not appear in this version.
Expect a sell out crowd, on MacNab Street North, for Hamilton Theatre Inc’s production of the Richard O’Brien musical, “The Rocky Horror Show”. Directed by Matt Moore, who previously directed this musical up in Watertown a few years back, it will have the audience doing the “time warp” again and again in aisles. The cast includes, Michael Miguel, Kay Tea, Keri Bishop, Nicholas Paolone, Eric Christopher Gibson, Victoria Kyoko, Gus Adam, Kelly Knight, Paddy Skinner, Allison Dickey, Luis Ernesto, Roy Dear, and Richelle M. Tavernier. It opens on October 25, and runs to November 9. Act quickly if you wish to see this production, as seats will likely be hard to come by. In fact eight of the shows are already sold out.
Drury Lane Theatrical Productions in Burlington, is doing “Legally Blonde”, the musical based upon the 2001 feature film that starred Reese Witherspoon, in their cosy little theatre space. Directed and choreographed by Michael MacLennan, with musical direction by Anne Barnshaw, it runs four weekends from November 1st to the 30th. They follow it with a musical Christmas Pantomime called “Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs” it runs in December on 13, and 20 at 8pm, and with 2:00pm kid’s matinees on December 14, 15, and 21.
Here we go again! Theatre Ancaster gives us the musical “Mamma Mia”, based upon the music of Swedish Supergroup ABBA. While there will be smoke/haze, flashing lights and a disco beat, I expect the audience will sing along. The show runs from November 15, to 30 at 7:30pm, at the 700 seat Theatre Auditorium at Ancaster High School, 374 Jerseyville Rd. Also in the news is the fact that Theatre Ancaster, has secured final funding to build its new 500 seat theatre space. The project was in jeopardy after the Ford Government decided not to fund it, so it is VERY good news to hear that the new theatre is going ahead. I look forward to productions in the space in a few years time.
Binbrook Little Theatre gives us, the 1979 play “The Day They Kidnapped The Pope” by Joao Bethencourt, in the old memorial hall along Highway 56. It is directed by Shirley Marshall, and features a cast of seven. It opens October 18 and runs until November 2. Binbrook’s next offering is a “panto version” of “Aladdin” by Caroline Smith, a production that, thankfully, does not feature Justin Trudeau in blackface. It will be directed by Rob Blowey and Shirley Marshall, and has not one by TWO genies, in the production. It opens January 31, for a three weekend run.
Dundas Little Theatre, in its wonderful 150 seat Garstin Centre for the Arts, opens its season, October 25, with Canadian playwright Vern Thessien’s “Einstein’s Gift”, a drama that explores the morality around modern science. The play is directed by Ryan Trepanier. DLT’s season continues in January with Joe DiPietro an Italian-American comedy, “Over the River and Through the Woods”, directed by Tamara Kamermans. Performances begin January 24 and continue throughout of February 9.
Waterdown Village Theatre. Gives us “The Unexpected Guest”, a “whodunnit” by the grand master of the genre, Dame Agatha Christie. It is directed by Jordan Toth. The cast includes Maggie Makar, Michael Bedford, Inese Hill, and Valarie King. It runs from November 8 to 23, at the theatre at 317 Dundas Street in Watertown.
The Player’s Guild of Hamilton brings to us, two productions this fall in their studio on Queen Street South. First up, is a Second World War themed musical called “I’ll Be Seeing You: a WW2 Musical Revue”. It was complied and created by David Dayler, and the musical director is Brenda Uchimaru. I expect some lovely nostalgic songs served up ala “Jacques Brel”. The show runs from October 27 to November 9, and should be very popular with the blue rinse crowds and anyone else who has an interest in the time period. Lest we forget.
The Guild, is also doing a production of “In the Time of Old Age”, by playwright Gord Carruth, who has strong ties to Hamilton, as he taught in several local schools. This comedic drama, looks at two elderly gentlemen, a Jewish widower and his friend, an Irish–American World War II veteran, both with little time left to live, unexpectedly come into a fortune.. The play has been done all over North America, but this is the first time it has been done locally. It starts January 17 and continues through to February 1, 2020.
The Aldershot Players presents their fall show, which is “Love All” by Dorothy L. Sayers. A 1940s feminist parlour comedy, that has been compared to the work of Noel Coward, and Oscar Wilde. Expect some silliness and nice dresses, with pretty hats. The performance dates are: October 18, 19, 25, 26, November 1, 2, 2019. They are also doing dinner theatre on October 24, and 31, if you fancy a meal in the same venue.
Much of the work of local Indie theatre companies is focused around the two performance spaces at the Staircase Theatre, on Dundurn Street.
Flat Earth Global, brings us “Nicholas Wallace: Ghost Stories and Other Magic”, on the evening of Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at 8 PM. Wallace has been regularly featured on several US TV shows of late, which means that his local appearances are becoming rare. He is the grand master of “close magic”, and illusion - be prepared to be astonished, but act fast if you want to attend.
Laura Welch is the artistic director of a new company, Light Echo Theatre. She will be at the helm of the production of "The Vagina Monologues" for one performance at the Staircase on November 1st. All profits go to SACHA and other charities.
Out at the studio at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, Chasing Shadows Productions gets a third run of Will Gillespie’s Elvis/Newfoundland mash up musical, “Swingin’ in St. John’s”. There are two shows only, on Saturday, November 2nd at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 3rd at 2:30pm. Elvis goes to Newfoundland! “The play, is an award-winning musical comedy featuring 18 original songs and some traditional Newfoundland favourites, with a Memphis Rock & Roll twist! Uh huh. The cast includes Michelle LaHaise, Chris Cracknell, Len Cain, Susan Robinson, and playwright composer Will Gillespie as “Johnny King”. Call the box office at 905–681–6000, for tickets.
Back at the Staircase, and running between November 14 and 17 is the world premiere, of a brand new comedy called, “Saving Grace” by John R Hewson, and Mark M. Mindoroff. It is farce like examination of old age, with an elderly couple seeking love, despite the machinations of their adult children, who know better than their parents. It is directed by Eric Luvisotto and features Valari Kay in its cast.
Meanwhile over at the Pearl Company, David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” gets a revival in early December. The play is presented by Nortesur Productions who presented Arial Dorfman’s “Death And The Maiden”, last season. It runs for two weekends, December 5,6,7 and 12,13,14, with a cast that includes Rod McTaggart, Mischa Aravena, Mark Ellis, (co creator of the TV shows Flashpoint and Camp X), Kayla Whelan, Joel Pettigrew snd others. The production will be directed by David Nash.
Also just a quick note, that the HamilTEN Festival of local plays is accepting submissions of ten minute original plays until November 1. The newly appointed artistic director of the organization, Annalee Flint, tells me that the plays will be performed in April of 2020, specifically, the weekend of Friday April 3 to Sunday April 5.
My personal picks for this season:
I will certainly, be heading out to see, the Pulitzer Prize winning drama “Sweat” by Lynn Nottage, at Theatre Aquarius. It runs January. 29 to February 15, 2020. It will be nice to see a diverse, representative, and multicultural mix of actors cast in this production. Nottage’s powerful play, is set in a steelworker’s watering hole, in Reading Pennsylvania, just as US Steel is downsizing and closing their local mill, so this play should have a particular relevance for a local audience.
Out at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, I am also super keen to see, “Huff”. A play that is written & performed by Cliff Cardinal. It is also directed by Karin Randoja, who was a classmate of mine at National Theatre School of Canada. The play is a darkly comic tale of family, love, despair and the possibility of redemption; Cardinal expertly portrays over a dozen characters in his captivating solo performance. Wind’s fantastic dream world bleeds into his haunting reality, as he’s preyed on by the Trickster through the hallways at school, and the abandoned motel he loves more than home. ”Huff” was the recipient of two Dora Mavor Moore Awards — Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance (Male). There are two performances only on Saturday November 16, and Sunday November 17, 2019.
Finally the annual FrostBites, site specific theatre festival, happens a few weeks earlier this season, running from January 30 through to February 2, 2020, in a venue, as yet to be announced. The eight productions in the festival are all short, with a 20 minute maximum length. Frost-Bites is a theatrical “happening” a shorter distilled and adjudicated version, of the wonderful energy that is created around the Fringe Festival every July. You will see me wandering around whatever space it will be held at, clutching my tiny little coloured flag, that serves as admission. V