Layne Coleman 's inviting audiences to a two-month-long block party at Theatre Passe Muraille. He's devoting the company's fall season to Stage3, a repertory of nine plays, seasoned by post-show musical evenings every Thursday.
And importantly, he's giving lots of play to cultural communities who don't usually see themselves on Toronto's main stages.
"I think it's time to take risks and invest in these voices," says Coleman. "I want to turn Passe Muraille into a cultural meeting place. If you invite people into your home, give them a good time, listen to their stories and have them listen to yours, they're gonna come back."
Coleman parallels the scene he wants to create with that of the theatre's early days in the 70s.
"Most of those presenting shows are both writers and performers," he adds. "Performance-oriented work is empowering for the actor. Very Theatre Passe Muraille, it harkens back to the time of Jim Garrard and Paul Thompson.
"What we're presenting is a modern manifestation of that energy. Passe Muraille is at its best when it's not a literary theatre but one based on performance."
Co-produced with Obsidian Theatre, the rep season - which revives shows that have had brief runs in SummerWorks and other festivals- includes the work of several African-Canadian artists, including Joseph Jomo Pierre and Nicole Stamp (see pages 81). Also on the bill is dub poet and performance artist d'bi.young 's Blood.Claat. A related work is Jamaica Man, by John Blackwood , about his growing up white in Jamaica.
"John was a cultural oddity to me, so Jamaican, and he inspired me to go there in the 80s," recalls Coleman. "That visit and my discovery of the African-influenced culture impressed me strongly. John's show demonstrates the consequences of exploiting a culture, both for the oppressed and the children of the exploiters."
Also look for Anita Majumdar 's Fish Eyes, which blends Indian dance and a Canadian coming-of-age story, and Niki Landau 's Territories, a theatrical and political dialogue between a Canadian Jew and a Palestinian.
"Each of these artists has a following in their own community," smiles Coleman. "I hope when an audience comes to hear their own voice onstage, they'll be turned on by other voices on the same bill."
Gaining a big rep
Theatre Passe Muraille's ambitious Stage 3 kicks off with nine shows in repertory
STAGE3 A repertory series of nine plays and late-night music. Presented by Theatre Passe Muraille and Obsidian at Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Runs through November 27. $15-$30, Stage3 pass $80. 416-504-7529, www.passemuraille.on.ca