Grand Theatre's 2020-2021 season takes audiences outside of the theatre
The season includes two shows offsite, and an immersive experience at a local coffee shop
From a show inside a circus tent, to a show inside a local coffee shop, the Grand Theatre's 2020-2021 season is what artistic director Dennis Garnhum calls "a highly-eclectic journey to unexpected and unexplored territory."
On Monday, the theatre announced the 12 plays Londoners will get a chance to enjoy in a season that comes after an $8 million renovation to the theatre.
Garnhum says that picking the shows for the season is one of the biggest challenges of his role, which is why he makes the task very personal.
"If I'm excited, I hope [people] will be excited because I can't guess what [they] want, but I can tell them what I think is cool and I hope [they] like the playground I play in."
One of the plays, coming to the Spriet Stage in Jan. 2021, is In the Wake of Wettlaufer, inspired by the story of former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer, who killed eight seniors while working in long-term care homes in the area.
"The play is an analysis, which [doesn't look at Wettlaufer,] but it looks at us and at who we are in the wake of these things," Garnhum said.
The play, set in London, revolves around a fictional group of siblings who realize they placed their father into the same care home where Wettlaufer committed multiple murders.
"The ending is actually strangely uplifting," Garnhum said. "There's a real beautiful thing that we can only do in theater to say 'let's look at the story one more time in a different way.'"
"I think some people might be concerned and nervous about that and I get it, but that means we're doing something right," he added.
Two of the shows for the upcoming season will be taking place offsite. This includes the High School Project's production of Barnum, a musical that centres around the career of circus showman P.T. Barnum, which will be staged at a 400-seat tent at the Western Fair in Sept. 2020.
User Not Found, a play only performed at coffee shops, will run at Commonwealth Coffee Co., right across the theatre on Richmond Street.
The play looks into what happens to people's digital lives after they die, giving audiences a real look at how dependent people are on their screens and how lonely people have become, Garnhum said.
"People will show up at Commonwealth, they'll be handed headphones and a cellphone ... then all of a sudden, the phone is going to come alive and people are going to realize they're listening to one person's story in the coffee shop," he explained.
2020-2021 season at a glance
- Barnum: A musical about the career of P.T. Barnum, one of America's showman, from 1835 until the year he joined with James A. Bailey to form The Greatest Show on Earth. The show runs from Sept. 10 to 20 at the Western Fair.
- The East Coast Kitchen Party: The Neptune Theatre's production offers what the Grand Theatre calls an authentically Nova Scotian experience featuring Maritimers joined by local London musicians. The show will be taking place at the Spriet Stage from Oct. 13 to 31.
- What's Up dad? and Other Dangerous Questions: Gavin Crawford, host of CBC's Because News, takes on a one-person, multi-character show about living in divisive times. The production runs for five days opening on Oct. 27 at Auburn Stage.
- User Not Found: The Grand Theatre says audiences will become a "fly-on-the-wall" looking into a stranger's experience with his digital identity. The show runs from Nov. 17 to Dec. 5 at Commonwealth Coffee Co.
- Annie: A re-imagining of the classic musical about orphan Annie that will be directed by Dennis Garnhum. The musical runs from Nov. 24 to Dec. 27 at the Spriet Stage.
- In The Wake of Wettlaufer: A play about a family knowing that a loved one is at the same long-term care home where a nurse committed multiple murders. The play runs at the Spriet Stage from Jan. 19 to 31.
- Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes: A post #MeToo story that takes an archetypical student-teacher romance and re-invisions it. The show runs from Feb. 2 to 13 at the Auburn Stage.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: The story about loving someone from a far through the tale of a 17th century swordsman. The production runs at the Spriet stage from Feb. 16 to March 6.
- Cabaret: The Grand Theatre's production returns after its sell-out run in 2019 which will transform Auburn Stage into the Kit Kat Club. The show runs from March 17 to April 10.
- In the Heights: A look into a Latino community in Manhattan from the creator of the Broadway musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The show runs from March 23 to April 10 at the Spriet Stage.
- Boom X: A show that tackles the music, culture and politics of Generation X. The production runs at the Spriet Stage from April 20 to May 7.
- Jeans 'N Classics: The five-concert series performing the best of rock and pop returns on throughout the season.
With files from the CBC's Chris dela Torre