Manitoba·Preview

The Bard, the Beatles and Austen-inspired Christmas story coming to RMTC next season

A version of Shakespeare's As You Like It featuring the music of the Beatles, the musical version of The Color Purple and a new made-in-Manitoba play from Frances Koncan are among the highlights of the last Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre programmed by longtime artistic director Steven Schipper.

2019-20 Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre season includes The Color Purple, As You Like It, Tony winner Fun Home

Daryl Cloran's 2018 production of As You Like It, presented by Vancouver's Bard on the Beach. The show, which mashes up Shakespeare and the Beatles, will be part of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's 2019-20 season. (Tim Matheson/Bard On the Beach)

As he leaves the theatre he's helmed for 30 years, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre artistic director Steven Schipper has lined up a season centred on stories of change.

Royal MTC's 2019-20 season will be its first under new AD Kelly Thornton, but the last to feature a lineup chosen by Schipper, who is moving on to become artistic director at Brampton, Ont.'s Rose Theatre after heading up RMTC since 1989.

Here's what's coming up next season at RMTC.

At the John Hirsch Mainstage:

The Color Purple (Oct. 24-Nov. 16): It may not be ideal timing given the recent controversy surrounding Alice Walker, but The Color Purple remains a classic — and this musical take on Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the American South was a Broadway hit, including a 2015 Tony win for best revival of a musical.

The cast of The Color Purple on Broadway in New York on Oct. 31, 2005. The musical version of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel will be part of RMTC's 2019-20 season. (Paul Kolnik/Producers of The Color Purple/Associated Press)

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (Nov. 28-Dec. 21): Following this year's Sense and Sensibility adaptation, RMTC offers a festive spin on Jane Austen next season. This "sequel" to Pride and Prejudice comes from Margot Melcon and Lauren Gunderson, whose name isn't terribly well known in spite of the fact she's been hailed as "the most popular playwright in America today." 

Daryl Cloran's 2018 production of As You Like It, presented by Vancouver's Bard on the Beach. It will run at the Royal MTC as part of the 20th annual Master Playwright Festival, dedicated in 2020 to Shakespeare. (Tim Matheson/Bard On the Beach)

As You Like It (Jan. 9-Feb. 1, 2020): This co-production with Citadel, helmed by the Edmonton theatre's artistic director, Daryl Cloran, transplants Shakespeare's comedy to 1960s British Columbia — and mashes it together with the music of the Beatles. The production won rave reviews and broke attendance records for Bard on the Beach earlier this year in Vancouver, and will be RMTC's entry in the 20th annual Master Playwright Festival — Shakespearefest.

The New Canadian Curling Club (Feb. 13-March 7): This "only in Canada" comedy from Mark Crawford follows a group of newcomers, including a Syrian refugee, learning curl under the tutelage of a Zamboni driver who holds certain strong opinions about immigrants. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns (March 19-April 11): Based on the novel from The Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini, this adaptation follows the bond between two women in Afghanistan, from the 1960s to the early 2000s, and the oppression they face in a country torn by war.

The Legend of Georgia McBride (April 23-May 16): An Elvis impersonator tries his hand at a different type of performance when he becomes a drag queen in American writer Matthew Lopez's comedy.

At the Tom Hendry Warehouse:

Bang Bang (Oct. 3-19, 2019): Acclaimed Toronto playwright Kat Sandler's darkly comic drama explores what happens when a white writer takes on the story of a black youth shot by a black police officer — and asks who gets to tell a story. 

Fun Home (Nov. 14-30): This coming of age musical, based on Alison Bechdel's graphic novel, is a Broadway hit that spans three time periods as the central character comes to terms with her father, her own sexuality and growing up in a funeral home.

Every Brilliant Thing (Jan. 23-Feb. 8, 2020): Told with the help of the audience, this one-man show centres on a seven-year-old boy listing a series of wonderful things to help cheer up his mother. Steven Schipper directs the co-production with Talk Is Free Theatre from Ontario, where the show is currently running to high praise.

Michael Torontow in the Royal MTC/Talk Is Free co-production of Every Brilliant Thing. The show is currently running in Ontario to high praise, and comes to Winnipeg as part of RMTC's 2019-20 season. (Talk Is Free Theatre)

Women of the Fur Trade (Feb. 27-March 14): A world premiere of the full-length version of Winnipeg writer Frances Koncan's comedy, which puts a contemporary spin on the lives of three women in the Red River Colony in the year "eighteen hundred and something."

About the Author

Joff Schmidt

CBC theatre reviewer

Joff Schmidt is a copy editor for CBC Manitoba. Since 2005, he's also been CBC Manitoba's theatre critic on radio and online. He majored in theatre at the U of M, and performed in many university and Fringe festival productions along the way (ranging from terrible to pretty good, according to the reviews). Find him on Twitter @JoffSchmidt.

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