Louis B. Hobson | Calgary Herald | February 4, 2019
Darcy Evans, the new artistic and executive director of Alberta Theatre Projects, unveiled his first season and the company’s 48th at a launch party in the Martha Cohen Theatre on Monday.
He acknowledged a great deal is riding on the six plays he has selected to illustrate his vision for ATP and to regain and reinvigorate an audience base.
“Throughout this current season, I have been talking to our subscribers, donors and audience members to learn what they want to see on our stage. I was determined to be guided by them when I put together the 2019/2020 season.
“At the top of their list was comedies. They told me they wanted to laugh and to have a good time when they come out to the theatre,” says Evans, adding the sold-out run of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead last October “told me they also want recognizable titles.
“People told me they came to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern because they knew the play or knew of it and they were looking forward to laughing.”
Evans says he was also guided by ATP’s history.
“In its heyday, ATP was programming landmark international contemporary plays with new Canadian works. I want to keep up this tradition and I hope this is reflected by the six plays I have selected.”
Evans will open his new season in September with Kristen Thomson’s The Wedding Party, which was a runaway hit in Toronto in 2017 and which has just completed a sold-out run at The National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
The Wedding Party allows audiences to intermingle with the wedding guests from two wildly different families — the upper class, snobby Sealey-Skeetes and the hard-living, hard-drinking Boychuks.
“This play will showcase six multi-talented Calgary actors and my hardest task and biggest joy will be selecting which six to cast because there is such a wealth of talent in Calgary,” says Evans, who will be directing this show.
He’s also excited because it will be the first time in 22 years that ATP will offer cabaret seating. The entire orchestra and stage areas on the main floor will be turned into the wedding reception area.
“It will be true environmental staging. The table seating will be available to subscribers first and only those tables left over at a particular performance will sell on a first-come basis.”
Evans’ second play, opening in October, is Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
It is about a successful Pakistani lawyer who agrees to defend his nephew against a charge of terrorism and the repercussions this has on his marriage and close friendships.
“This is one of those real hot button conversation pieces that ATP was always famous for doing. The play’s themes might be terrifying but there is a great deal of humour among all the shocks.
“Nigel Shawn Williams, who starred in this season’s The Virgin Trial, is directing and the play will be staged in the same thrust configuration we used for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, making the experience all the more intimate.”
Evans will also direct ATP’s holiday show, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Joseph Robinette’s stage version of the C.S. Lewis fantasy classic and it will also use the thrust configuration.
“My intention is to make this one an event show by making it as magical as possible. Aslan the Lion will be a life-size puppet and there will be 10 actors playing all the roles. Once again, it will be a showcase for Calgary actors and designers as we recreate the mythical world of Narnia.
“We will be running this play for six weeks which is why it was essential for me to find a show with a recognizable title. I am determined to let people know this production is the best possible reason to get off the couch and off their phones.”
In February, ATP will present Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, conceived and created by Hannah Moscovitch, Christian Barry and Ben Caplan, a whimsical fantasy inspired by the true love story of Moscovitch’s grandparents who emigrated from Russia.
“What they have created is not a traditional musical but rather a concert mash-up of Klezmer folk music. This show originated in Halifax and has travelled all over the world and even had a seven-week run at an off-Broadway theatre. This is a touring production that is coming to us and it is a fine example of real Canadian theatre.”
In February of 2020, ATP will present Anna Ziegler’s Actually, a two-character drama that was one of the most produced plays of the 2017/2018 season in the U.S.
College students Amber, a privileged Jewish girl, and Tom, an African-American on a scholarship, meet at a party. Their talking and drinking leads to an encounter that changes their lives forever and they will each plead their very different versions of events directly to the audience.
Jenna Rodgers, the artistic director of Chromatic Theatre, will direct this riveting 90-minute drama but Evans promises “audiences will be talking about it long after the show ends.”
The season will end in April with the premiere of Anna Chatterton’s comedy Cowgirl Up, directed by Christine Brubaker.
“Anna’s play has been in development at ATP for 18 months and as soon as I read it, I knew it was an ideal play to end the season. It’s a made in Calgary, made for Calgary comedy. Its lead character is a barrel racer from Okotoks. Three cowgirl goddesses on Mount Olympus decide to use all their magical powers to help her get her first buckle at the Canadian Finals Rodeo.
“The play is a love letter to rodeos. The horses will be brought to life through movement and contemporary dance, an approach that was used in ATP’s female hockey play, Glory.”
Vishal Saini, president of ATP’s board, gives Evans’ new season an enthusiastic endorsement.
“The board is beyond thrilled by Darcy’s vision for the future of Alberta Theatre Projects.
“We have really enjoyed being involved in his play selection process and it has been rewarding to watch his vision become a reality with this 2019/2020 season.”
Season subscriptions go on sale on March 5 starting at $140 for all six plays. For more information about the plays in the season and to learn how to become a subscriber go to albertatheatreprojects.com