'Relevant and diverse stories': Network, 2 premieres, new festival coming to Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

"New" might be the keyword for the next season at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre — and not just because that's the title of one of the shows that will hit the Winnipeg stage next year in the first season programmed by new artistic director Kelly Thornton.

Winnipeg’s largest theatre unveils 2020-21 season, 1st programmed by new artistic director Kelly Thornton

Corey Payette's musical Children of God, which premiered in Vancouver in 2017, will come to Winnipeg as part of the Royal MTC's 2020-21 season. It tells the story of the effects of residential schools on two generations of a northwestern Ontario family. (David Cooper)

"New" might be the keyword for the next season at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre — and not just because that's the title of one of the shows that will hit the Winnipeg stage next year.

The city's largest theatre officially unveiled its 2021-21 season on Friday — the first programmed by artistic director Kelly Thornton, who took over from long-time AD Steven Schipper at the start of the current season.

"These are stories for today, relevant and diverse stories that will resonate, entertain and ignite a conversation with our audience," Thornton said in an RMTC news release.

The season includes two premieres, a brand new festival for RMTC (as the current Master Playwright Festival is the final edition) and a production of a Broadway hit that might make audiences "mad as hell" in all the right ways.

Here's what's coming up.

At the John Hirsch Mainstage

Network (Oct. 15-Nov. 7, 2020): Lee Hall's 2017 stage adaptation of the 1976 movie — with its famous quote "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" — was a hit on stages in New York and London, thanks both to Bryan Cranston's performance as an outraged news anchor and inventive use of multimedia. RMTC will join forces with two other theatres — Vancouver's Arts Club and the Citadel in Edmonton — for the Canadian premiere production.

The Sound of Music (Nov. 26-Dec. 19, 2020): The hills will be alive at RMTC heading into the holiday season with the Rodgers and Hammerstein favourite. Thornton will direct the much-loved musical about the von Trapp family.

The Three Musketeers (Jan. 7-30, 2021): Catherine Bush's adaptation of the famous Alexandre Dumas novel promises "swashbuckling sword fights, political intrigue and well-plumed hats." Christopher Brauer, who has helmed acclaimed productions for RMTC, including last season's superlative John, directs the action.

Children of God has been described as 'powerful' and 'must-see theatre for Canadians.' (Emily Cooper)

Children of God (Feb. 18-March 13, 2021): Described as "powerful" and "must-see theatre for Canadians," Oji-Cree playwright Corey Payette's musical tells a story of the effects of residential schools on two generations of a northwestern Ontario family.

The play will also be the centrepiece of a new annual festival called The Bridge, which will pair an RMTC show with programming like plays, panels and concerts to explore what the theatre describes as "the pertinent issues of our times." The inaugural festival, running March 8-14, is focused on the theme of "art and reconciliation."

Calpurnia (March 25-April 17, 2021): This 2018 play by Winnipeg-born Audrey Dwyer, who is now RMTC's new associate artistic director, is a provocative and comedic exploration of race, class and family, centred around a writer working to recraft To Kill a Mockingbird from the perspective of the classic novel's maid, Calpurnia.

Burning Mom (April 29-May 22, 2021): This new play from Edmonton writer Mikeo Ouchi is based on the real-life experiences of her own mom. It tells the story of a 63-year-old woman who, after the death of her husband, decides to take a trip — to the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

At the Tom Hendry Warehouse

New (Nov. 5-12, 2020): Another premiere, this new play from Winnipeg-born Pamela Mala Sinha (whose Happy Place was seen locally at Prairie Theatre Exchange last season) tells a coming-of-age story focused on a group of Indian immigrants in 1970s Winnipeg.

The Wolves (Dec. 3-19, 2020): American playwright Sarah DeLappe's play — a Pulitzer Prize finalist — explores the lives of teen girls through the lens of the weekly warmups of the titular soccer team.

Yaga (Jan. 28-Feb. 13, 2021): Toronto playwright Kat Sandler returns to the Warehouse stage (her Bang Bang opened the theatre's current season) with this play, which had an acclaimed premiere in her hometown last fall. Winnipegger Ann Hodges will direct the show, which has appropriately been described as "genre-bending," blending fairy tales (the Slavic folklore of the terrifying Baba Yaga) with a murder-mystery comedy.


The Runner (April 8-24, 2021): Another show that had an acclaimed debut in Toronto late last year, Christopher Morris's solo play, performed by Gord Rand, follows the aftermath of a decision by a volunteer with an emergency response group in Israel to save the life of a Palestinian suicide bomber. Acclaimed director Daniel Brooks helms the production.

In addition, audiences outside Winnipeg will get a chance to see Marc Moir's Fringe hit Padre X — a remarkable solo show that tells the true story of Second World War chaplain John Weir Foote. It heads out for a rural tour from Feb. 9 to March 14, 2021.

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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