Last year, it was all about the comedians and musical theatre performers. This year, it’s more about those with political say. Jillian Keiley, artistic director of the National Arts Centre (NAC), unveiled the centre’s 2014-15 English theatre season Tuesday morning, and explained to The Telegram how the season was geared around the members of this year’s ensemble.
Jillian Keiley. – Telegram file photo
“We go across the country auditioning and meeting people. We had one or two in mind, and then we started adding to that,” she said.
“This year, we’re really focused on people who really like to think and talk about politics and think and talk about issues. They are very politically intellectual and always engaged in discourse and very involved that way. We built the ensemble season around them.”
The NAC’s Theatre Series will launch with three pieces featuring the ensemble: Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” a Christmas production of “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” which Keiley will direct; David Hare’s “Stuff Happens”; “Take Me Back to Jefferson” and “Needles and Opium.”
“‘Stuff Happens is all about the Iraq war and what the path was that was followed to get to that.
“It’s a very important show for this particular ensemble, because we have the players who really have the political bit to do it, and who are really great,” Keiley said.
“‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ is a Christmas show, but it’s actually fairly political. It’s a kids’ show and it’s kind of revolutionary. It has a lot of interesting relevance and almost religious statements about who we are and where we are in the world.”
Other productions will include “Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata,” “Obaabarima” and “The Double,” as well as children’s shows “The Great Mountain” and Andy Jones’ traditional Newfoundland fairy tale, “The Queen of Paradise’s Garden.”
“It’s a pretty gorgeous story and a funny story, and I think it’s such a treat,” Keiley said of the latter.
“Andy Jones’ capacity to tell a story to little kids is actually even greater than his capacity to tell a story to adults. I think he’s a national treasure.”
Apart from Jones, Newfoundlanders who will be part of the English
theatre season are Mary-Lynn Bernard, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings, Greg Malone and David Ferry, who will direct “Stuff Happens.”
The NAC will also once again partner on collaborations with about 20 theatre companies and artists across Canada. One of those collaborations from last season, “Oil and Water,” (which Keiley directed), is touring eastern Canada and will play at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s March 13-23, before wrapping up in Ottawa at the end of the month.