For the first time ever, a Theatre @ York production will be remounted at Toronto’s acclaimed SummerWorks Performance Festival, one of the most important platforms for launching new work in Canada. A whip-smart, funny and politically charged play, rochdale was created specifically for the York University Acting Conservatory graduating class of 2019, with design and production support from undergraduate students and faculty. Written by Governor General’s Award laureate David Yee and directed by Dora Award winner Nina Lee Aquino, rochdale is performed by that same graduating class in a revised version for SummerWorks. The show will run from Aug. 8 to 18 at the Franco Boni Theatre (Theatre Centre) on Queen Street West in Toronto. (Tickets are available online.)
rochdale is a historical fiction set in 1969, based on Toronto’s infamous experiment in co-operative housing and alternative education that was Rochdale College. Described as a “hippie haven” by the media of the time, Rochdale started as an idyllic sanctuary from capitalist institutions, but quickly devolved into a den of scandal, drugs and violence. The play takes place at the precipice of that fall from grace, capturing the visionary intentions of its ideologues and the catastrophic consequences of their failures.
“We’re delighted that rochdale is receiving a second life at SummerWorks this August,” said Professor Marlis Schweitzer, Chair of the Theatre Department in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design at York University. “I watched many of the company members receive their theatre degrees at York’s convocation ceremony. In two months, they’ll be showcasing their skills in a professional theatre environment. It’s a tremendous honour for the production to be accepted into SummerWorks and it’s all thanks to the students who came up with the idea of applying and got everyone on the team to buy in.
The show virtually sold out when it was staged earlier this year at York University’s Keele Campus. “We are excited for more folks to experience it for themselves,” said Schweitzer. “I should add that the production has also received generous support from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada as well as the Office of the Vice President of Research & Innovation here at York.”
Aquino and Yee share this enthusiasm for the remount, which reflects their long-term commitment to creating new works with college and university students: “Almost 10 years after our first bespoke project together, we’re thrilled to bring another play tailored specifically to a singular class of young people to the stage. Our goal is to showcase and challenge these emerging actors and illustrate just how perfect an instrument art is for growth and change. Through the history of Rochdale (both real and imagined), we have been inspired by the spirit of the rebel. We hope that spirit continues to guide and galvanize this next generation of artists as they become the vanguard of their own theatrical revolutions,” the duo said in a joint statement about the production.
Yee is a playwright, actor and the artistic director of fu-GEN Theatre Company. His play carried away on the crest of a wave won the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama.
A recent recipient of the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Margo Bindhardt & Rita Davies Cultural Leadership Award, Aquino is an award-winning director, dramaturge and the artistic director of Factory Theatre.
rochdale sound designer and Juno award-winning musician Debashis Sinha’s creative output spans a broad range of genres and media. Recent projects include his solo album The White Dog as well as music and sound design for Shirley Valentine at the 1,000 Islands Theatre Festival and Secret Lives of a Mother at the Theatre Centre.
Each year, Theatre @ York mounts an exciting season of plays drawn from the contemporary and classical repertoire. The productions feature the work of renowned and rising directors, and showcase the performance and production talents of undergraduate and graduate students in York’s Theatre Department – Canada’s most promising young stage talent. Recent guest directors include Yvette Nolan, Ross Manson, Jackie Maxwell and Peter Hinton. In celebration of the Department of Theatre’s 50th anniversary, the 2018-19 season focused on disruptors, presenting plays focused on the impact and influence of people who are agents of change. Next season’s plays and performances will explore themes around gender and performance, with main stage productions of Ann Marie MacDonald’s Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), directed by Jennifer Tarver, and Timothy Findlay’s Elizabeth Rex, directed by Ted Witzel.
Performance schedule and ticket information
All performances will take place at The Theatre Centre – Franco Boni Theatre, 1115 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario
- Thursday Aug. 8: 9 to 10 p.m.
- Friday Aug. 9: 6:30 to 7:50 p.m.
- Sunday Aug. 11: 8 to 9:20 p.m.
- Saturday Aug. 17: 3:30 to 4:50 p.m.
- Sunday Aug. 18: 6:30 to 7:50 p.m.
Tickets are $15. To purchase tickets, visit https://summerworksperformancefestival.thundertix.com/events/154059.
For more about rochdale, visit rochdale2019.com.
Photos by Jeremy Mimnagh