Theatre Preview: Pirates and madness in ATP’s future

By Stephanie Shewchuk

In an interesting spin on launching the upcoming season of new plays, Alberta Theatre Projects staged a mock awards ceremony in front of Calgary’s enthusiastic theatre community. The ceremony, named the Martha Awards after Dr. Martha Cohen, helped ATP Artistic Director Bob White unveil the 2005/2006 season.

The new season will showcase a diverse assortment of plays, spanning locales from 18th century Austria to pirate-infested tropical islands.

“What does make this season different than past seasons is that there is more of an international theme,” says White.

The theatre year begins its captivating journey with the colourful character sketch of Mozart in Amadeus, by Peter Shaffer. Following the pageantry of the Austrian court comes The Syringa Tree, a tale by Pamela Gien set in South Africa during apartheid. The season lightens up around the holidays with the classic pirate saga Treasure Island, adapted by Michael O’Brien. Emotional entanglements pervade the last two plays of the season, The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl and the Tony-winning Vincent in Brixton by Nicholas Wright.

The Enbridge playRites Festival of New Canadian Plays will also return in the new year with a wide variety of themes and stories. The festival will include a dramatized account of unconventional Nazi propaganda filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl in Mieko Ouchi’s The Blue Light. The innocence-infused tales Hippies and Bolsheviks by Amiel Gladstone and Picking up Chekhov by Mansel Robinson will also appear in the festival’s exclusively Canadian line-up.

Although this season deals with some dark themes, White emphasizes this year’s material is decidedly more hopeful in comparison to last season. He also maintains, in gearing up for the theatre company’s 20th anniversary this year, there has been a return to the more traditional elements and familiar actors audiences commonly associate with ATP.

Also included in anniversary celebrations is a series of events to mark the occasion. White describes the addition of selected gala events as particularly exciting, though there will also be plenty of informal gatherings as well.

“I think events like Pizza Night are helping to foster the link between the stage and the audience,” he asserts. “The 20th anniversary will certainly include a lot of fun events.”

The night wrapped up with a donation of $175,000, presented by the Alberta Performing Arts Stabilization Fund in order to strengthen the financial and governance base of ATP. Described by some representatives of the theatre company as a generous “rainy-day fund,” the endowment will be used to improve the positive working capital position of the company.

The long-standing theatre company’s new season should provide an exciting and diverse assortment of entertainment and, honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a good pirate story?

“We’re boldly voyaging where no one has been before, and you’re invited along for the ride!” White exclaims.