College & UniversityPerformanceRegional ShakespeareShakespeare News

Barding Around Town | Shakespeare in Toronto

By November 7, 2014 No Comments

This is part of an ongoing series of regional Shakespeare coverage. It’s Lauren here this week with the latest in Shakespeare news from Toronto.

If you’re in Toronto for the week, there’s some exciting Shakespearean happenings for you to check out!


credit: leroy street theatre

The Leroy Street Theatre will be closing their production of A Midsummer Nightmare this weekend, directed by Harrison Thomas, at the Great Hall (Black Box). This unusual adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays on the ever-emerging immersive theatre techniques. While I have only experienced Punchdrunk‘s Sleep No More as a really good example of immersive performance, the promo shots of A Midsummer Nightmare have the same quality and essence to them as Punchdrunk’s NYC production.

The Leroy Street Theatre’s media promo online encourages an audience of all ages, and reminds potential playgoers that they will have, after all, experienced only a dream. However, in my experience of immersive theatre, I can recall feeling as an adult a little wary of my surroundings. The darkened nature of Shakespeare’s Dream in and of itself is always present, even when companies attempt to lighten the enchanted forest with pixie like fairies and bright frilly colours… in the end, the supernatural plays a large part, and can be overwhelming… I’m not sure I’d recommend a nightmare to younger viewers… but I may very well be wrong…


Sean Sullivan as Puck, and Cam Sedgwick as Oberon. Credit: Leroy Street Theatre

Most recently, The Leroy Street Theatre produced an adaptation of Romeo & Juliet titled the deliverance of Romeo & her Juliet. This production appears to have altered the story lines slightly, making the Montagues and Capulets not so “alike” as the original opening sonnet would have us believe… The company’s mandate seeks to create theatre that reminds its audiences of the simplicity of being present; to allow oneself to be immersed in a moment, to create a moment and space for reflection.

Perhaps we all need a little more immersion in moments like this, rather than our mobile/online lives… and if you tend to agree, grab your ticket online for The Leroy Street Theatre’s A Midsummer Nightmare closing November 8th.


Credit: Hart House Theatre

Have no fear if you aren’t free until after the 8th: Hart House Theatre, on the University of Toronto’s St. George campus, recently opened their production of The Tempest on November 5th, 2014. Hart House’s production runs through November 22, 2014. In the spirit of theatrical conversation and education, Hart House also offers Pre-Show Artist Chats, and Post-Show Talkback Sessions free of charge– just check their website for dates.

The Tempest, directed by Jeremy Hutton, features a number of Hart House debuts as well as some seasoned veterans of that stage. Hutton is also the resident Fight Director for both Hart House, and Classical Theatre Projects (whom I discussed in my last article in Voices). From the looks of production and rehearsal photography (as the show is opening as I write this weeks entry), Hutton has attempted to marry classical and modern images in the performance itself; choreography by Ashleigh Powell appears (in photograph) to be modern, though costume design by Kathleen Black retains classical outline. Perhaps the supernatural is the linking quality; I hope I can swing by the theatre one evening to check it out in person, and for a chat with Susan Bond the resident dramaturg!


Peter Higginson as Prospero, and Amaka Umeh as Ariel. Credit: Hart House Theatre.

And finally, if you’re still not ready to commit to full blown Shakespearean language (but you kinda dig his style…) why not check out Heiner Muller’s Hamletmachine at York University? This piece, presented by the fourth year acting students, is opening the 2014/15 season at York. Muller’s play, a 9 page text, marries, under Paul Lampert‘s direction, anarchy, freedom, and violence.


Design by Hayley Pace. Credit: York University.

The fourth year Conservatory students are drawing inspiration not only from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and from Muller’s text, but also from personal/family life events, war, assassination/public media, drugs, and 9/11 to name a few.

The show opens in preview on November 9th, 2014 and closes on November 15th, 2014. It is being performed in the Joseph G Green Studio Theatre in York University’s Center for Film and Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online, or through the York University box office.

And of course, as I mentioned briefly in my recent Voices posting, Poculi Ludique Societas, in partnership with The Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies at The University of Toronto, will be presenting Henry Medwall’s Fulgens & Lucresdirected by Matthew Sergi.


Credit: Poculi Ludique Societas

Fulgens & Lucres is a “raw, zany, comedy about class and gender written about 100 years before Shakespeare” and comments on the change in performance tropes of the medieval through early modern era as the times, they were a-changin’… The piece also features a rather enormous codpiece, and is seriously worth the ticket price for that spectacle alone. (I jest…sort of!) A meal is also included in your ticket price, and the venues will keep their cash bar stocked with goodies!


Credit: Matthew Sergi.

Fulgens & Lucres is the earliest non-religious play that we have, dating from the 1490s–though this production will feature some significantly younger performers, including 7-time Broadway veteran Don Johanson as Fulgens, the senator! And in keeping with the in depth research of director, Matthew Sergi, Don has not rehearsed with the ensemble, and will not rehearse with them until dress rehearsal. It was thought that the role of the senator was performed by the highest ranking religious official…

Since Ara Glenn-Johanson, the production’s choreographer, has taken the performance to great physical feats, including an extensive Basse-Dance (which I understand was extremely difficult to research because choreography notation was virtually non-existent in the 1490s, but commentary on who did it incorrectly was abundant… comparatively), it is only fitting that Don Johanson join the team as the senator to share with the ensemble his amazing talent.


Pneuma Ensemble and their instruments. Credit: Matthew Sergi.

The production also features music by the Pneuma Ensemble,   who play medieval tunes and fanfares throughout on period specific instruments. Have you ever wondered what a Guitern sounds like? or a Psaltery? Perhaps you’ve never even heard of those? Well, I tell you – they really truly exist, and you can see them November 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16 at West Hall, University College or Luella Massey Studio Theatre. Tickets can be purchased/reserved through CDTPS, or through Poculi Ludique Societas.

Well, I hope that gives you a decent snapshot of the openings and closings this week in Toronto. Check back in two weeks for some further reports on how some of those events went…though I’m partial to Fulgens & Lucres, as I happen to be playing the fool…

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