Tarragon Theatre announces 2011-12 season

by Lynn on March 16, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

The Tarragon Theatre announced its 2011-12 season in a press release today. For the past 40 years Tarragon has been one of the etres dedicated to producing Canadian ays, with an occasional bow to international work (The Misanthrope in the Martin Crimp adaptation; The Glass Menagerie, Pal Joey).

But as Tarragon Theatre celebrates its 40th season this year it seems to be expanding its mandate next year with what is described in the press release as “New, global and classic Canadian plays.”

Here’s the list with my comments after:

Tarragon Announces the 2011-2012 season of New, Global and Classic Canadian Plays.

2011–12 at the Tarragon is a season of stories that speak directly to the lives of Toronto residents; featuring international visionaries, warped fairy tales, cultural clashes, the advent of electricity, family dysfunction, a Canadian classic, the Second Commandment, and an occasional cooking class.


In the Next Room or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl.

Directed by Richard Rose

A co-production with The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Winnipeg)

SEP 13–OCT 23, 2011 Canadian Premiere

At the dawn of the age of electricity, and the end of the prudish Victorian era, an ambitious doctor uses a newfangled medical device—the vibrator—to induce paroxysms in his female patients. His young wife is fascinated with the mysterious sounds of pleasure emanating from the doctor’s offices. With all its medical prowess, can this new gadget solve the age-old problems of love?

Sarah Ruhl’s plays include The Clean House (Pulitzer Prize) finalist, 2005; Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, 2004; Passion Play a cycle (Pen American Award, Fourth Freedom Forum Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center); Dead Man’s Cell Phone (Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play); Melancholy Play; Demeter in the City (nine NAACP Image Award nominations); Eurydice; Orlando; and Late: a cowboy song.

The Children’s Republic

By Hannah Moscovitch.

Directed by Alisa Palmer

A co-production with Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company.

NOV 8–DEC 18, 2011 Toronto Premiere

Dr. Janusz Korczak, famed educator, revolutionary champion of children and signatory to the League of Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of the Child, meets his match in a defiant boy named Israel. When the Second World War threatens the survival of the children in Korczak’s Warsaw orphanage, it is Israel who discovers a means of survival. In the face of looming catastrophe, the teacher becomes the student, and the student gives the greatest gift of all: courage over despair.

Hannah Moscovitch is a current playwright in residence at Tarragon. She is considered one of the strongest young voices in the country and was nominated for the prestigious international Susan Smith Blackburn prize. Her works include East of Berlin, Essay, and The Russian Play.

The Golden Dragon

By Roland Schimmelpfennig

Translated by David Tushingham

Directed by Ross Manson

JAN 10–FEB 19, 2012 Canadian Premiere

The diners at the bustling Golden Dragon restaurant would never guess what goes on behind the scenes. While they sit savouring their meals, the kitchen staff rally to save a young illegal immigrant who is desperately searching for his lost sister. The truth about her disappearance can be found surprisingly close by; ask the patron sipping soup, or the chef, or the residents in the apartments above the restaurant.

Roland Schimmelpfennig is one of the most prolific and heralded young dramatists in Europe. At age 43, he has already written upwards of 30 plays that have been translated into over 20 languages. He has received several awards, including the Mülheim Dramatists Prize, the highest honor for a German playwright, for The Golden Dragon. His plays Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God and Arabian Nights have both seen Toronto premieres.

The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs

By Carole Fréchette

Translated by John Murrell.

Directed by Weyni Mengesha

FEB 29–APR 8, 2012 English Premiere

Grace and Henry are newlyweds, and besotted with each other, but there is a catch in this marriage. Grace must never enter the small room at the top of the stairs. When Henry reluctantly goes on a business trip, Grace finds herself irresistibly drawn to the mystery behind the door. Will she tempt fate by turning the handle? Does she dare encounter the secret life of the man she loves?

Carole Fréchette has been a force in Québec theatre for over 25 years. Her plays Seven Days in the Life of Simon Labrosse and Tarragon English language premieres, (The Four Lives of Marie, John and Beatrice, Helen’s Necklace), have been translated into 18 languages and staged all over the world. Her latest play, La Petite Pièce en haut de l’escalier (The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs) was staged in Montreal, at Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, in 2008 and in Paris at Théâtre du Rond-Point in 2009.

The Real World?

By Michel Tremblay

Translated by Bill Glassco and John Van Burek.

Directed by Richard Rose

APR 24–JUN 3, 2012

The Real World? remains a groundbreaking play about art, autobiography and authority. Should or can playwrights truly “write what they know”? If they use their family members as characters in a play, whose play is it? Whose truth is it? And what happens when those family members stand up to their artist son and object to their theatrical selves? Tarragon Theatre is reviving this Canadian classicnearly 25 years after it premiered in English on our stage.

Michel Tremblay has been a dominant figure in Quebec theatre since the late 1960s. Tarragon has produced 13 of his plays, 10 of which were English-language premieres. His plays have been performed throughout Canada and the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia, South America and Australia. Tarragon has toured four Tremblay productions, including The Real World? to Glasgow’s Mayfest.


the sankofa trilogy

Written and performed by d’bi.young anitafrika

Featuring word! sound! powah! World Premiere in repertory with blood.claat and benu

OCT 22–DEC 4, 2011

word! sound! powah! is the story of Benu Sankofa, a young dub poet who is swept up in the violence of the 1980 national election in Jamaica. The country is on the cusp of a political coup, and in the heat of a struggle between young radicals and the establishment, Benu is arrested and interrogated. She finds the strength in her maternal ancestors to remain true to her political beliefs and to stand up for her country, Jamaica.

d’bi.young anitafrika is a Jamaican-Canadian award-winning playwright, actor and dub poet. d’bi will bring back her acclaimed one-woman shows blood.claat and benu which trace the lineage and egacy of Mugdu Sankofa, her daughter Sekesu and her granddaughter Benu. the sankofa trilogy will be performed for the first time in repertory; three extraordinary stories of three generations of strong women and their resolute belief in blood and truth.

Was Spring

Written and directed by Daniel MacIvor

MAR 27–MAY 6, 2012 Toronto Premiere

Three women—one older, one middle aged, and one young—confront each other about a tumultuous episode in their shared past. Accusations fly between the women, but what really happened? The fine lin between pursuing a dream and living a lie creates a vacuum of honesty; this must be filled between the three generations and with each woman.

Playwright in residence Daniel MacIvor is a stalwart of the Canadian theatre scene having written and directed numerous award-winning productions including See Bob Run, Wild Abandon, 2–2 Tango, This Is A Play, The Soldier Dreams, You Are Here, and at Tarragon, How It Works, A Beautiful View and Communion. He has created the solo performances Hous, Here Lies Henry, Monster, Cul-de-sac and most recently, This Is What Happens Next. He won the Governor’s General Literary Award for Drama in 2006 and the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre for Playwriting in 2008.


Name in Vain (Decalogue Two)

By André Alexis

Directed by Richard Rose

OCT 4–OCT 30, 2011 World Premiere

Set in a monastery, in a community of self-sacrifice, contrition and meditation, Name in Vain explores the Second Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”. One monk, in a fit of rage, breaks not only his vow of silence but the commandment. His curse throws the close-knit brotherhood into an upheaval that tests the strength of their faith.

André Alexis is exploring the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue), each exploring a theatrical form or conundrum. He is a novelist, playwright and short-story writer. His debut novel, Childhood, published in 1997, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and was a co-winner of the Trillium Award. Asylum, his most recent novel, was published in 2008 and is set in Ottawa during the Mulroney years. André lives and works in the city of Toronto, where he hosts CBC Radio’s Skylarking, reviews books for The Globe and Mail, and acts as a contributing editor for This Magazine.

A Brimful of Asha

By Asha and Ravi Jain

Directed by Ravi Jain

A Why Not Theatre Production

JAN 24–FEB 19, 2012 World Premiere

Real-life mother and son, Asha and Ravi Jain, share the stage and tell this true (and very Canadian) story about generational and cultural clash. While on a vacation in India, Ravi is surprised and then enraged by his parents who interrupt his trip to introduce him to potential brides for an arranged marriage. Asha explains her side of the story; her love and exasperation with her son are apparent: it’s time for him to find a wife. At time of press release, Ravi still sn’t married.

Ravi Jain is an award winning actor, director, producer and educator, and artistic director of Why Not Theatre. He has worked extensively in Toronto and internationally, most recently reprising his Dora award-winning performance in Spent. Although Ravi is a trained performer, his mother Asha is not. They tell their story together—complete with family history, brief education to Indian marriage customs and full-fledged arguments—letting us into their personal drama.

Sunday performances of A Brimful of Asha will happen offsite at Dish Catering Studio (390 Dupont Street) and feature a pre-show cooking class with Asha and Ravi, the performance, and a shared vegetarian Indian meal.


In the Next Room, or the vibrator play by American playwright, Sarah Ruhl and The Golden Dragon by German playwright, Roland Schimmelpfennig certainly indicate an expansion of Tarragon’s mandate from programming mainly Canadian works, to now include ‘new and global plays.’ And just for the record, in In the Next Room….it’s not only women who avail themselves of the good doctor’s vibrator. There is a rather anxious young man, an artist, who needs it too.

I will be interested in The Golden Dragon because Roland Schimmelpfenning’s plays have left me cold in the past.

The inclusion of the sankofa trilogy by d’bi.young anitafrika raised my eyebrows because she is so unlikely a Tarragon artist. She seems more suited to the edgier Theatre Passe Muraille, a theatre that has consistently reflected the complexion and diversity of the city in the last few years. Similarly programming A Brimful of Asha seems odd as well. Perhaps Tarragon is doing catch-up by including d’bi.young anitafrica, a Jamaican-Canadian and Ravi Jain and his mother, South-Asian-Canadians.

Name in Vain by André Alexis comes out of the Tarragon Playwriting Unit. I saw it in a workshop and aside from exploring the Second Commandment it will challenge an audience to watch the play done almost entirely in mime, as the monks have taken a vow of silence–that is until a monk blurts out two words that throw the monestary into upheaval.

As for the rest, it’s always a treat to see works done by Daniel MacIvor, Michel Tremblay, Hannah Moscovitch and Carole Fréchette.

Subscription and single tickets on sale March 21, 2011.


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