Four productions on Toronto stages put York theatre people in the spotlight

York theatre people are making magic on Toronto stages this month, with three shows launching today and another hot on their heels. From the personal to the political, and from close to home to far away, here are four productions that Toronto will be talking about in the coming weeks:

Directed by alumna Jillian Keiley (BFA Spec. Hons. ‘94), and featuring set designs by Department of Theatre Chair and Professor Shawn Kerwin, the world premiere of AfterImage comes to Toronto’s Enwave Theatre via the Harbourfront Centre’s national commissioning program Fresh Gound new works.

Left: Jillian Keiley

The play, developed by Keiley’s St. John’s, NLD-based company Artistic Fraud, is set in the Newfoundland mining community of Buchans. The plot revolves around a family created and devastated by an accidental electrocution and unexpected adoption. Shaped by an ensemble cast, an original choral music score and an electrified set, the result is a living, kaleidoscopic, musical stage where spectacle meets story.

AfterImage was adapted from Canadian writer Michael Crummey’s short story of the same name by Robert Chafe, who with Keiley as director made up the award-winning duo behind the international touring sensation Tempting Providence. Keiley made headlines in 2004 as the recipient of the Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, one of Canada’s most prestigious arts awards. Theatre @ York audiences will be familiar with Keiley’s work from her brilliant staging of Metamorphoses in York University’s Burton Auditorium last year.

Shawn KerwinRight: Shawn Kerwin

Click here to catch a clip on the ideas behind Kerwin’s set. AfterImage will electrify audiences from April 16 to 26. For tickets, visit the Harbourfront Centre Web site, or call 416-973-4000.

Running concurrently is Appetite, an award-winning dance-theatre hit from the 2007 SummerWorks Theatre Festival, which is being restaged at Theatre Passe Muraille. It showcases the talents of York alumna Gillian Gallow (BFA Spec. Hons. ’04) as set and costume designer.  

Created by the Exchange Rate Collective and presented in association with Theatre Passe Muraille and Volcano, Appetite promises to “make your mouth water, your groin contract, and your bowels sing”. Clown, song, text and dance collide in a rumination on where, exactly, our appetites lead us. Conceived and directed by Sarah Sanford of Pig Iron, a leading US physical theatre company, the play reveals the cycles of life, love and mass food production that converge at the dinner table.

Appetite consumes Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace, previewing April 16, opening April 17 and continuing to April 26. For tickets visit Theatre Passe Muraille or call 416-504-7529.

The world premiere of The Madness of the Square, written by Marjorie Chan, directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones and starring York alumna Stephanie Jung (BFA Spec. Hons. ’07), brings to the stage a real-life drama seared into living memory. The play resurrects the silenced voices of China’s Tiananmen Square in a Cahoots Theatre Projects production at Factory Theatre.

Right: Stephanie Jung

The world watched in horror in 1989 as a peaceful student demonstration in China’s capital, Beijing, turned into a bloodbath. Footage of tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square became one of the iconic news images of the 20th century. Two decades later, Chan’s drama sheds new light on this global tragedy. Using rare audio interviews from protest survivors as source material, she presents a personal interpretation of a true story and an historic event.

Jung plays the role of Sun-Yi, the lead character Fan-Ying’s roommate, a conscientious student who is always at the top of her class. Jung’s theatrical credits include Factory Theatre’s Tough! by George F. Walker and roles in numerous Theatre @ York productions including Les Belles-Soeurs, Comedy of Vanity and King Lear.

The Madness of the Square previews from today, opens April 21 and runs until May 3 in Factory Theatre’s Mainspace. For tickets visit Factory Theatre or call 416-504-9971.

Our Lady of Spills, a world premiere production directed by Rhoma Spencer (MFA ’01) and presented by her company, Theatre Archipelago, tells the story of two women of different generations, cultural backgrounds and means. When their lives intersect, racism and bigotry long-hidden are unmasked.

Left: Rhoma Spencer

Lillian, an elderly anglophone Canadian woman experiencing serious memory loss, has been committed to Shady Lane Manor. In her state of dementia, her prejudices manifest themselves on her nurse Sandrine (played by playwright Edwige Jean-Pierre), a Haitian immigrant. As they spar, both Sandrine and Lillian triangulate their existence between present-day Canada, the home for the aged and the "real" home that each of them misses and yearns for.

Our Lady of Spills runs at the Papermill Theatre at Todmorden Mills, previewing from April 24, opening April 28 and continuing to May 10. You can buy tickets in person at the TO Tix booth at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square or online where you can view a video promo by Spencer and her cast.