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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Shaw Festival Announces 2011 Season

The Shaw Festival is planning a 2011 season that includes a new musical and two contemporary plays that are to have their Canadian premieres, as well as works by Shaw and his contemporaries.

Artistic director Jackie Maxwell announced the 2011 season for the annual theatre festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., on Tuesday.

She said she has chosen plays with a contemporary thrust, including one of George Bernard Shaw's most visionary works, Heartbreak House, for the coming season.

Other Shaw works include Candida and On the Rocks, in the new reworking by Canadian playwright Michael Healey.

"This play has fabulous ideas, but the denseness of the writing makes it difficult for audiences," Maxwell told CBC News. "This version of it is a provocative look at how a prime minister operates."

Other works lined up for the festival's 50th season:

My Fair Lady, the Lerner and Loewe musical, which has never before been performed at the Shaw.
The Admirable Crichton, a comedy by J.M. Barrie.
Drama at Inish — a Comedy, by Lennox Robinson.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams.
The President, by Ferenc Molnar, a reprise of the 2008 festival hit.

Maxwell calls The Admirable Crichton and Drama at Inish "rediscovered gems" by Shaw's contemporaries.

With the new musical, Maria Severa, she is trying something quite different — it is only the second time the festival has attempted a new musical work. Written by Shaw music director Paul Sportelli and ensemble member Jay Turvey, it was developed by the festival over the last four years in a series of readings and workshops.

Maria Severa follows the life of 19th century Portuguese singer Severa, who is credited with making the fado style of singing famous. The music has a mix of musical styles, including fado, Maxwell said.

"We're interested in visiting new worlds," Maxwell said. "This musical is set in Portugal and is a very different piece for us to be doing."

Maxwell has also programmed two contemporary plays that capture the "same sense of politics and wit that Shaw himself had."

Topdog/Underdog, which earned a 2002 Pulitzer Prize for American playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, gets its Canadian premiere with a short run in a smaller theatre. It follows the lives of African-American brothers Lincoln and Booth as they confront history, family and the future.

The other contemporary play, When the Rain Stops Falling, by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell follows a family's story over four generations and two continents.

"It feels abstract — it begins with man standing holding a fish in the rain, but it develops into a very human story told over generations," Maxwell said.

The Shaw Festival expanded its mandate to include new plays in the spirit of Shaw in 2009. Most of the plays in the 2011 season were written by Shaw and his contemporaries.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/theatre/story/2010/09/21/shaw-festival-season.html#ixzz112Gk5I2B

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