Big Love launches Theatre@York’s new season

Theatre@York is launching its 2003-2004 season with the Toronto premiere Nov. 4 of Big Love, a play by Charles Mee that takes a fresh look at the battle of the sexes.

Based on Aeschylus’ ancient Greek tragedy The Suppliant Maidens, Big Love is about 50 brides who flee arranged marriages to their 50 cousins. First produced at the Actors’ Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, where it was a favourite at the 2000 Humana Festival of New American Plays, it “is about the yearning and search for an all-consuming, everlasting love in the face of what appear to be impossible odds,” says director Ines Buchli.

Right: From a production this spring at Washington University in St. Louis

“It’s the vitality, passion and wild physicality that excites me most about this play – a physicality that is wonderfully realized through the work of choreographer Paula Thomson. Witnessing characters that embody emotions so large that they become inexpressible within the boundaries of normal behaviour fascinates me. It’s a heightened expression of something that most of us go through at some point in our lives.”

Theatre@York productions showcase the talents of students in York University’s Department of Theatre. The cast for Big Love is drawn from the fourth-year undergraduate acting ensemble. Set design is by Michelle Blore, lighting design by Kalyna Conrad, both fourth-year theatre students. Costume design is by Gillian Gallow and sound design by Ainslie Graham, both third-year theatre students.

Right and right below: Theatre@York productions from past seasons

Buchli, director of Big Loveholds an MFA in directing from York University, where she currently teaches acting and directing. She is a former associate artistic director of Toronto’s Necessary Angel Theatre Company where she directed Mr. Nice Guy and was the co-creator of the Dora Award-winning plays Mein and Desire. She has worked for the Shaw Festival and Young People’s Theatre, and has directed productions throughout Canada. An alumna of the Canadian Film Centre, Buchli is also an accomplished filmmaker. Her latest film, the Genie-nominated Foxy Lady, Wild Cherry, has won numerous awards around the world and continues to be broadcast internationally.

Thomson, choreographer of Big Love, has worked with the Stratford Festival and the Canadian Opera Company. Her career as a choreographer, movement coach and teacher also includes work with the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Julliard School of Music. Her choreographic credits span dance, theatre and opera. She’s the former artistic director/choreographer for Northern Lights Dance Theatre and has created dance premieres for Ballet Jorgen and Dance Works Co-Works. Thomson holds numerous degrees in theatre and clinical psychology and currently teaches movement at York University.

Charles Mee’s plays have been produced in the United States and Europe. They include The Berlin Circle (an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle), Time To Burn, which was nominated for Chicago’s prestigious Jeff Award, The Investigation of the Murders in El Salvador (1989 New York Theatre Workshop), Imperialists at the Club Cave Canem (Public Theatre), and Vienna: Lusthaus, a collaboration with Martha Clarke which won the OBIE for Best Play in 1986. His other plays include Another Person Is a Foreign Country, Trojan Women: A Love Story and Orestes. Mee has also written history books, and has recently begun to write historically based theatre pieces.

Also on the playbill this season are Shakuntala, a translation from Sanskrit of the masterpiece by fifth-century Indian poet and playwright Kalidasa about a king who falls in love with a girl of humble origins; Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, a tale of mistaken identities; and playGround, Adventures in Theatre, the annual showcase of original student plays.

Big Love previews Nov. 2 and 3, opens Nov. 4 and runs to Nov. 8. Shakuntala runs Jan. 25-31, The Comedy of Errors, March 21-27, and playGround Feb. 10-13. Performances take place at York’s Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre and Burton Auditorium. Tickets range in price from $5 to $12. For more information, visit the Theatre@York Web site or call the box office at 416-746-5172, ext. 3.

York University’s Theatre Department has been entertaining audiences with satires, comedies, musicals and dramas for more than 30 years. From Shakespeare to Samuel Beckett, Tolstoy to Voltaire, Tennessee Williams to Thomas Middleton, Theatre@York has staged more than 175 productions.