MTYP unveils 2014-15 theatre lineup on tight budget

Manitoba Theatre for Young People has wound up a scaled-back season and has announced its lineup for 2014-2015.

MTYP will present four touring productions and three locally produced plays next season

Pinocchio will be presented in both French and English. (Jérémie Battaglia)

Manitoba Theatre for Young People has wound up a scaled-back season and announced its lineup for 2014-2015.

Artistic director Derek Aasland said audiences reacted positively to the shows on offer this year. Sales for to the school shows were at 97% capacity and touring increased dramatically, reaching 10,000 more people this year, the equivalent of almost three mainstage shows in terms of numbers.

"I think we collectively took the right prescription here and were able to completely overhaul our financial system while taking some of the strain off the production department by having a few less shows," he said.

They were even able to add a show to the five scheduled plays, the holiday special with Al Simmons.

"That really helped us along, in terms of our own morale at MTYP, as well as the morale of the community, especially our subscribers who love to have a holiday show. So it was really a very successful year all around, even though we had to scale back," he said.
Peter Pan will feature Fred Penner and some dramatic flying machines. (Hubert Pantel)

While final figures are not in yet, Aasland anticipates a favourable end to the season. MTYP  has no operating deficit, having eliminated the $330,000 deficit when Aasland first came on board. It has been operating on cash only since last March. 

The debt capital on the cost of MTYP's home at The Forks, which was built in 1999, still looms large, sitting at $1.6 million. Aasland hinted that an announcement about a solution to that would be coming soon. 

"We've made some good tracks here and it's been a helluva team effort with the board, the staff and the public," he said.

"It's such an amazing city to work in, especially with a theatre like MTYP where we're so entrenched in the education system and people's lives. It's just so wonderful to have that warmth flow back when the company needed it most."

Aasland says next season's lineup will go a long way to balance the books.

"We have gone that extra mile. It was part of the season selection process. It's been almost a joyous challenge to make the financial health and the artistic health balance in the middle."

The season will include four productions by guest companies and three locally produced plays.

The season opens in October with Jabber, about a hijab-wearing girl who must change schools because of anti-Muslim racism. "This piece very intelligently confronts the stereotypes that anyone encounters," said Aasland. He also said the production coincides with the first annual Islamic History Month in Manitoba and follows shortly after the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Pinocchio is a touring show from Montreal that will be presented in both French and English.
Spot features some incredible puppetry for the younger set. (Theatre Terra)

Peter Pan was last presented by MTYP 15 years ago starring Derek Aasland and Fred Penner. Penner has been invited to reprise the role of the villainous Captain Hook.

Black Violin is an extremely popular violin/viola duo from Miami that performed for Obama's inauguration balls. Along with a DJ and drummer they mix classical music with hip hop, jazz and bluegrass.

Aasland considers New Canadian Kid to be a Canadian classic. It's one of the country's most produced plays and uses a clever theatrical device to deal with issues of language, tolerance, racism and immigration. It was last presented in Winnipeg in 2000. "I'm sad to say that we still need to put this play on because of what's happening," he said.

Spot, based on the 40 million unit bestseller Spot the Dog, will be presented by Theatre Terra from Amsterdam. "They do unbelievable puppetry work mixed with incredible music. They're recognized internationally as one of the best producing theatre companies in the world for the very young," said Aasland. 

Winding up the season will be Kaput, featuring Tom Flannagan of Australia, about a clumsy 'Mr. Fixit.' Flanagan performs in a Buster Keaton style of physical comedy. "He's a one-man tour de force," said Aasland.