Theatre @ York launches new series with “Three Sisters” and “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Rehearsal Image from the Yellow Wallpaper
Rehearsal Image from the Yellow Wallpaper, image by Katrina Seltzer

Theatre @ York launches its new Foster Studio Series with two plays that tap into the theme of Extraordinary Lives: Difference and Ability to explore longing, loss and self-identity.

The world premiere of a new adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, directed by Matthew Earnest, and Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, translated and adapted by Susan Coyne and directed by Tanja Jacobs, will run in repertory Jan. 25 to 28, in the Foster Studio, 207 Accolade East, Keele campus.

Actors rehearse a scene from The Yellow Wallpaper. Image by: Katrina Seltzer
Actors rehearse a scene from The Yellow Wallpaper. Image by Katrina Seltzer

The Yellow Wallpaper will be staged Wednesday, Jan. 25 and Friday, Jan. 27 at 7:30pm, and Saturday, Jan. 28 at 2pm. Three Sisters will be staged Thursday, Jan. 26 and Saturday, Jan. 28 at 7:30pm, and Friday, Jan. 27 at 2pm. Admission is $20, students and seniors $12. The Friday, Jan. 27 matinee tickets are $5 each. A group rate of $10 per person is available by calling the box office at 416-736-5888. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office.

Matthew Earnest, director of York University's Theatre @ York production of The Yellow Wallpaper
Matthew Earnest, director of York University’s Theatre @ York production of The Yellow Wallpaper

Adapted by Earnest from Gilman’s 1892 short story, The Yellow Wallpaper evokes the emotional, visceral and intellectual experience of a woman fighting to reclaim her identity and her life. The central character, Maybe Jane, is thought to have hysteria after the birth of her child. She is confined to bed rest by her physician husband in their isolated New England farmhouse. “Protected” from all forms of stimulation, forbidden to write or read, and denied any contact with her baby or the outside world, Maybe Jane begins to imagine a world in the room’s yellow wallpaper.

Earnest, an MFA candidate in York’s Graduate Program in Theatre, is a veteran theatre-maker. His productions of contemporary and classical plays, music theatre works, and his own original plays and literary adaptations have been seen across the US and in Europe. His honours include a New York Times Critics Pick for the US premiere of Himmelweg (which had a nine-month Off-Broadway run), Audience Favourite at the Dublin Fringe, a BIFF Award, and the Dallas Theater Critics Forum Award.

Rehearsal image from the Three Sisters
Rehearsal image from Three Sisters.  Photo by Lamia Abozaid

Three Sisters is a moving, occasionally comic story of unfulfilled dreams and inevitable loss.  Three genteel, talented sisters long to return to cosmopolitan Moscow to lead the lives they feel they were destined for. As time passes, they find themselves increasingly disillusioned, bored and fading like the provincial town in which they live.

Jacobs’ production of Three Sisters unfolds as a play within a play, set in a tuberculosis sanatorium in Yalta where Anton Chekhov is a patient. A troupe of actors visiting from Moscow stage the play in the ward for the playwright, who is seeing it for the first time. American Sign Language is an intrinsic part of the production.

Tanja Jacobs, director of York University's Theatre @ York production of Three Sisters
Tanja Jacobs, director of York University’s Theatre @ York production of Three Sisters

Jacobs has worked with many of Canada’s foremost theatre artists and companies, including Soulpepper, Crow’s Theatre, Porte Parole, Canadian Stage, Neptune Theatre, Manitoba Theatre Centre, Tarragon Theatre, Citadel Theatre, Mirvish Productions, the National Arts Centre, Caravan Farm Theatre, and the Stratford Festival. She has directed new plays for the Toronto Fringe and Summerworks, guest-directed at theatre schools in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, and is the recipient of three Dora Awards and 11 nominations for her work as an actor. She is a currently an MFA candidate in York’s Graduate Program in Stage Direction in Collaboration with Canadian Stage.

The Yellow Wallpaper and Three Sisters are performed by members of York University’s Fourth-Year and Graduate Acting Conservatories. Sets, costumes and lighting are designed and realized by undergraduate production students. Presented in the intimate setting of the Foster Studio, the shows offer audiences an up-close and personal theatrical experience.

With Extraordinary Lives: Difference and Ability, York’s Department of Theatre is exploring questions around dis/ability and performance. The department is working with the wider arts community to challenge traditionally ableist modes of making theatre, guided by an advisory panel of prominent Deaf, mad and “crip” artists who are serving as facilitators for the season.

ASL interpretation for Three Sisters is provided by Deaf artist and educator Sage Willow, a member of the advisory panel.