Saturday, January 1, 2011

THEATRE NEWS: Setting the stage for 2011
1 JAN/11


Even in a largely paperless universe, there is still nothing more daunting than a blank sheet of paper, or in deference to those who don't enjoy seeing a metaphor stretched too taut, than a blank screen. Conversely, there is little in life more exciting than a pristine calendar for a new year, beheld on the last day of the old, offering as it does 365 days crammed to bursting with an excess of possibility.

There are, of course, already dates I know will have to be written in indelible ink in my calendar for 2011 - the long anticipated opening of BILLY ELLIOT at the Canon Theatre in early February, the launch of the Shaw Festival's golden anniversary season, May 25-28, followed by the opening of another season of the Stratford Festival, May 30 thru June 3. There are also Luminato dates, Fringe Festival shows, and seasonal openings for the National Ballet of Canada, the Canadian Opera Company and all of Toronto's glorious array of not-for-profit theatres, interspersed with Mirvish and Dancap operations, just to keep things interesting.

But today, they are chimera, and when I look at my pristine new calendar, I don't see merely openings, I see possibilities. Here are a few of the many things I'd like to see unfold during this brave new year:

We've watched the development of Dancap, Aubrey Dan's nascent theatrical empire, with a lot of interest - watched as he's had the keys to several downtown theatres taken from his hands. This year, by whatever means, we'd like to see him operating in a year-round venue a little more central that the Toronto Centre for the Arts, and showing us what he can do.

While we're at it, we'd like someone to remind the crowned heads of the Mirvish empire that they did some of their most memorable work when they had some competition breathing down their necks. Oops, maybe we just did that.

Theatrefront is slated to open the fourth installment of THE MILL on Jan. 14, and I can hardly wait. Regardless of whether playwright Damien Atkins can redeem this overwrought series of schlock in its fourth and blessedly final installment, it will at least be over. And having put us throughout THE MILL, director Daryl Cloran and his wonderful company can get back to making good theatre, rejoining the ranks of Studio 180, The Company Theatre, Acting Up and a few others, as independents to watch, both literally and figuratively.

Mathew Jocelyn is a man with a vision - and he's only just begun to articulate that vision in the first season he has programmed at Canadian Stage. It's going to take time, however, for him to achieve his vision - and for Toronto audiences to decide whether his is a vision we can embrace. And while 2011 wont supply him all the time he heeds, it will hopefully bring both him and us closer to his goal.

I admit I have occasionally thought Tony Nardi might benefit from a chill pill. But I hope in the year ahead, those who make theatre here in English Canada, and those who love it, will quit dismissing Nardi - the author/actor behind a series of letters highly critical of the Canadian theatre establishment - as a crackpot, and see him for what he is. If you look behind the bluster and bristle, there's a hugely talented man who cares about theatre so deeply, and so passionately, that he's prepared to take on all comers, as he fights to make it better. Frankly, we need about two dozen more just like him. Each with a cachet of chill pills, please.

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