Home Month and Year August 2023 Reviving the magic in Calgary theatre

Reviving the magic in Calgary theatre

An extraordinary season ahead

Javelin Laurénce and Risha Nanda in The Jungle Book (ATP). Photo by Benjamin Laird.

As the curtains rise and the lights come back on in theatres across the country, the live theatre scene in Calgary is gearing up for an extraordinary season. After facing the challenges posed by the pandemic, theatre is determined to revive the magic of live performances and attract audiences with a series of changes and exciting offerings.

Theatre Calgary, Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP) and Vertigo Theatre (Vertigo) are just a few of the companies that are getting prepared to light up the stage and welcome theatregoers of all ages and walks of life.

Theatre Calgary

Recognizing the economic stress and competition from digital entertainment platforms, Theatre Calgary is taking a bold step to entice audiences back to live theatre. For the first time ever, they are pricing all tickets on the main floor (orchestra seating) at $39 for every show.

Executive director Maya Choldin says, “This year marks the introduction of Theatre for All, a new initiative that will make the high-quality theatre we produce more accessible and affordable than ever. As Calgarians continue to pay more for groceries and gas, we’re making it easier to escape for a night of theatre. This is truly a great opportunity for more of Calgary to be entertained by Theatre Calgary.”

This initiative aims to not only encourage the return of loyal theatregoers but also cultivate a new and diverse base of dedicated attendees. Generous donors, who have a vested interest in the survival and growth of theatre in the city, have made this groundbreaking move possible.

Theatre Calgary is also thrilled to expand its season offerings for the upcoming year. Traditionally featuring six plays, they have now increased the lineup to a total of seven captivating productions.

“The 2023/24 season will offer a diverse and exhilarating experience for theatre enthusiasts. It commences with the iconic Agatha Christie mystery, The Mousetrap, setting the stage for an intriguing journey. Following this, the hilarious one-man show, Made in Italy, will captivate audiences with its unique charm. Rekindling the holiday spirit, A Christmas Carol will delight spectators with its timeless tale of redemption and joy,” says Choldin.

The second half of the season will bring a delightful comedy, Meteor Shower, written by the renowned Steve Martin. As You Like It, a Shakespearean classic, will receive a fresh twist as it intertwines with the unforgettable music of The Beatles.

Theatre Calgary also proudly presents the world premiere of Selma Burke, a captivating drama written by local playwrights Maria Crooks and Caroline Russell-King.

The season will conclude with a grand musical production, the details of which will be announced soon, promising an unforgettable finale.

With the upcoming changes at Theatre Calgary, including affordable ticket pricing and an expanded season lineup, the stage is set for an exceptional year of live theatre.

As Calgary’s oldest and largest professional theatre company, “Theatre Calgary continues to be a beacon of artistic excellence. Our responsibility is to entertain, enlighten and reflect the city of Calgary. We are excited to offer not only new and affordable ways to see our work, but to tell stories that resonate with our diverse and ever-changing community,” says Choldin.

Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP)

Theatre is a unique opportunity for the public to connect and experience wonderful storytelling, explains ATP’s newly appointed artistic director Haysam Kadri. “The act of gathering together to share a live performance creates a sense of community and belonging that is a key part of our culture and economic growth.”

Theatre in Calgary is special for many reasons. Kadri believes the city has a vibrant arts scene and is home to many creative and innovative companies that are knowns for their diverse programming including new works, classics and devised/experimental pieces.

“Calgary is home to some beautiful venues including the beautiful “Wooden O” of the Martha Cohen Theatre, home to ATP. Calgary is also home to a strong community of theatre artists who are dedicated to creating high quality programming.”

“Calgarians can look forward to another exciting lineup of stage productions with ATP. Stay tuned for the official announcement of all shows. Check the ATP website for updates,” says Kadri.

Vertigo Theatre

Vertigo Theatre (Vertigo) is the preeminent theatre in North America working in the intrigue genre including mystery, thrillers, horror, noir, crime drama, courtroom drama and suspense.

In September, nationally renowned theatre artist and artistic leader Jack Grinhaus took up the mantle of artistic director, followed by Kristen Dion joining the team in April as its executive director. With a long history of running successful theatres, Grinhaus and Dion are guiding Vertigo into its future with a revitalized and focused passion and energy.

Grinhaus says, “Vertigo’s new focus and vision will continue the exciting work both new and seasoned audiences have come to know but will also expand the genre form and see shows become even more engaging, visceral, magical, fast-paced and highly theatrical. Vertigo aims to deliver projects and engagement initiatives that help deepen the audience’s experience and their relationship with us.”

“This is a time of profound transformation,” says Grinhaus. “As we emerge from the shadows of the pandemic, we embark on a journey to discover our identities in this unfamiliar world and determine the mark we will make upon it. Our current season reflects this theme, presenting five extraordinary plays that encapsulate this profound sensibility.”

This season’s lineup includes the North American premiere of Nick Lane’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, directed by local director Javier Vilalta, the classic Sleuth, by Anthony Shaffer and directed by Cherissa Richards, the world premiere of Heist, by Calgarian playwright Arun Lakra and directed by Haysam Kadri, and the Canadian premiere of The Girl on the Train, adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel and directed by Jack Grinhaus.

The season will wrap up with the Canadian premiere of Ms. Holmes & Ms. Watson, by Kate Hamill and directed by Kathryn Smith.

With a stellar line up of stories and performances, theatre enthusiasts are thrilled that live theatre is back in action. Calgary-based drama specialist at West Island College, Brittany Babott says, “Admittedly, when I saw my first play after the restrictions were lifted it did feel a little strange or taboo to be in a large group, but there was also an excitement to be with people again in an audience.”

Babott says that theatre in Calgary is remarkable and captivating and she looks forward to exploring the different offerings around the city. “Art reflects society. Plays that are created in Calgary are vastly different from those created in Nova Scotia, for example, but there are still elements that are similar and relatable because we are all connected as people. There is this beautiful feeling in Calgary of people coming together and sharing stories and ideas. I feel as though theatre here really embodies that.”

Babott encourages everyone to get out and see live theatre this year. “We’ve all been through such a challenging time these past three years and COVID-19 caused feelings of isolation and divisiveness amongst people. Coming together to see a play and listening to stories and experiences that might be different from our own is important. Given the diversity and variety of theatre in Calgary, there is truly something for everyone.”