Toronto theaters have to do with more than big names

Written by Emily Jane Fox, CNN Staff

A small theater is currently hosting a very crowded theater — although it’s not of the musical variety.

This year’s Toronto fringe festival, which kicked off in early September, was delayed for months after the city’s temperature soared past 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) in early July.

More than 130 of the indoor stages at North America’s most populous city’s cultural festivals were shuttered for up to a month due to water damage in the city’s aging infrastructure, leading to a drop in attendance.

‘Room,’ a contemporary staging of the Room/Room for One by Donald Margulies, will run at the Navigator in Toronto from February 24 to April 7, 2019. Credit: Room. / Seung Ok Park

Almost three months later, Toronto’s beleaguered North American art house venue the Navigator announced that it had made the Toronto premiere of one of the year’s hottest theater offerings — a contemporary take on the play “Room for One.”

In addition to selling tickets for the 2018 play, “Wit” by Christopher Durang, the Canadian theater began the process of moving up both tickets and opening dates for more festival favorites in a targeted release of “Springsteen On Broadway” and other featured theatre shows.

“The Navigator is well aware of the benefits in moving productions up to round one of their international run,” the theatre company said in a statement, alongside the news that “Wit” had moved up to June 2.

In an exclusive interview with CNN at the festival last September, director Nick Langley — whose “chap-like” figure is currently responsible for bringing the play “Moonlovers” to the Navigator — highlighted the large role of snow, rain and wind as performing artists require.

“Those challenges are the lifeblood of theater,” he said. “Without the technological advancement that it takes to combat those things, how can a show be performed live?

Symphony of dreams?

“So it’s a pretty stark landscape to fight against, but the glass is half full with love for the audience and love for the physical space.”

This winter’s production of “Wit” will have different landscapes to fight against. Credit: A Photo Editorial/Alamy Stock Photo

The production of “Room” in question, a contemporary staging of Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies’ 2001 play — which follows a relationship that plays out like a literary remix — will be mounted at the Navigator from February 24 to April 7, 2019.

Of the musical theater that has most recently done transformative work in the Russian city, Lar Lubovitch, the artistic director of the Lyric Theatre who works closely with Nick Langley, told a similar story.

“There are always challenges in an aesthetic set-up,” Lubovitch said. “It’s about ‘What’s the angle and what’s the angle on a conflict?’”

‘Room’ will be presented by the Toronto festival in February. Credit: Phone by Nic Wolff Photography.

The opportunity for spontaneous audience interaction would obviously be lacking in a situation like Room in Winter, Lubovitch explained, but was buoyed by the opportunity for “cross-staging” the original play as a snowpocalypse was set to descend on the city.

“What’s hard with a show is the ‘cost’ of doing something like that,” Lubovitch said. “That’s the role of what we don’t know, but we think about a snowstorm? There is a long line of performance that has taken place before.”

That dream-like quality will be expected to be honored in the coming months.

“Next summer’s production of ‘Great Expectations’ will also include “chap-like” actors in front of a giant screen with projections, and ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ was brought to the Arctic Circle so that the cast could feel the elements and perform outdoors.”

A still from ‘Merry Christmas, Darling’ by Jake Heggie and Linda Cho Credit: Courtesy Jake Heggie/Linda Cho and James MacMillan

Operating in secret before its production, “Great Expectations” is the first scheduled out-of-season production at the Toronto festival, while Heggie’s “Merry Christmas, Darling” is the first out-of-season musical production at the international theater festival.

Leave a Comment