This season's World Stage, which will present 11 productions from February to May, includes the kind of exciting international and multidisciplinary performances that audiences have come to expect from the 27-year-old festival.
This year, though, the fest gives a special nod to the works of William Shakespeare. Just don't expect anything like a Stratford production.
"I don't program a festival with a specific theme, but rather play with primary colours, finding textures and threads throughout a season," says World Stage artistic director Tina Rasmussen about the festival offerings, announced today.
"Shakespeare is one of my bibles of vital theatre, but while we have some fine classic theatre companies in the vicinity, we rarely get to see contemporary adaptations of his work."
The season opens with Othello, c'est qui (Othello, Who's That), a German/Ivory Coast co-pro by Gintersdorfer/Klassen that's not text-based but rather explores the idea of who Othello and Desdemona are. The two-hander, featuring a black male and a white female, looks at clichés and characterizations; ironically, the black African actor had never heard of Shakespeare's most famous black character when he auditioned for the role. What begins as a playful conversation develops into a confrontation between two cultures. It runs February 6 to 9.
Deviser/director Philip McKee plays with the King Lear story in Lear, workshopped two years ago as part of Harbourfront Centre's HATCH series. He's cast legendary Canadian actor Clare Coulter in the title role, puts the audience on the stage and looks at the relationship between mothers and daughters in a meta-theatrical manner. It runs March 5 to 10.
Another troupe, Germany's She She Pop, uses the same great tragic tale as the source of She She Pop & Their Fathers: Testament. Three members of the feminist company and their real-life fathers offer views of what it's like to deal with aging parents; the show touches on memory, love, power and responsibility when your parents have started to turn into your children. It runs April 17 to 20.
Rasmussen, who travels internationally 75 days a year to vet productions for World Stage, has just returned from five days in Korea, where she hit the ground running and saw 15 shows.
"I want artists as well as audiences to ‘meet' the pieces I program for World Stage, not simply be passive watchers," muses Rasmussen, who's also director of performing arts for Harbourfront Centre. "It's a chance for local artists to reach international viewers and possibly tour as a result of playing here, as was the case with earlier shows like Dance Marathon and Ajax/Little Iliad."
Here are short takes on the season's other World Stage shows, in chronological order.
Grupo Corpo, always popular with World Stage audiences, returns with a pair of athletic works that blend classical ballet with a reworking of Brazilian and world dance forms (February 19 to 23).
Australia's Bennett Miller brings his performance installation Dachshund UN, in which dozens of dogs replicate the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. It sounds spoofy, but you can expect all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle moments in a show that uses theatre as a political arena and actively involves the viewer (be they dog-lovers or theatregoers); it'll also be webcast. What's suggested, for instance, if the UK dog humps the Uganda hound, or Canada's dachshund sniffs the American's bum (February 28 to March 3)?
Talented local choreographer Heidi Strauss sets her latest work, Everyday Anthems, on members of the Toronto Dance Theatre; the piece includes text by Brendan Gall and music by Thomas Ryder Payne (March 6 to 9).
TAO Dance Theater marks a rare appearance by a contemporary Chinese troupe. Its two pieces "discover the body's unknown possibilities" (March 20 to 23).
Norway's Jo Strømgren Kompani gets physical with A Dance Tribute To The Art Of Football, described as a football match in dance. Look for a blend of consumerism, national pride, hooliganism, homoeroticism (there's a shower scene) and sheer athleticism (April 10 to 13).
The Belgian/Portuguese duo Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido, working with Ghent-based art centre CAMPO, provide more physical theatre with the textless Still Standing You. The two test the strength of their relationship in ways that have us consider what touch, tenderness and violence can mean in terms of men and masculinity (April 23 to 27).
In Public Recordings' what we are saying, Toronto artist Ame Henderson uses text and choreography outside traditional theatre and dance to examine "what we can say about our future and how do we say it together." Think of it as a civics arena (May 22 to 25).
The season concludes with the extraordinary-sounding Kamp (Camp), by Netherlands troupe Hotel Modern. It features a scale model of Auschwitz, with thousands of tiny puppets representing the prisoners and their jailers. A sort of day-in-the-life, the show also uses live actors who become giant reporters of the events in the camp; they film the action and play it back to the audience, which becomes witness to what happens. What's our responsibility today, the company asks, for the events of the Holocaust (May 21 to 26)?
For information, see harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage or call 416-973-4000.