A varied season 57 for Walterdale Theatre

According to Walterdale Theatre’s new Artistic Director, Anne Marie Szucs, Walterdale’s upcoming season 57 will be one of variety and learning for members and audience alike.

On the mentoring program that will be part of this season, Anne Marie says, “If we have this expertise, we need to have a way to make sure we’re guiding the next generation of theatre artists through. Walterdale has always done that but I think what we’re looking at now is something a little more focused. We’re starting a mentorship program and part of the season that I picked, I wanted to make sure I had a good mixture of established directors – Kristen Finlay, Curtis Knecht and myself have directed at Walterdale before and have been in the community a bit longer than two of our other directors who are young and new to the community and Walterdale, Madeleine Stout and Lauren Tamke. [So] we found mentor directors for both of them… We’re making sure that we’re mentoring in costuming, set design, lighting design – making sure that we’re training and preparing people… Walterdale has a lot of infrastructure and learning to navigate that is really critical.”

In addition to selecting plays for a season that allows for many mentorship opportunities, Anne Marie also wanted to ensure there would be a little bit of everything for audiences. “We have some light pieces this season, some darker, deeper plays this season. A lot of challenging pieces for actors.”

Anne Marie gives me the scoop on each of the pieces that will comprise Walterdale’s 57th season:

First up is Ravenscroft by Don Nigro, playing from October 14 – 24. Anne Marie says, “Ravenscroft is a take on an inspector murder-mystery, but it’s sort of about who is manipulating the situation. There’s one inspector and five women in a house and there’s been a murder. He’s interrogating all of them, but as the story progresses it turns out that they’re actually controlling the situation. So someone who comes across as very strong ends up being a pawn in what’s going on around him. We have it programmed for the October time slot which fits well with the thriller aspect to it and the ghostly aspect.”

The December show is the one Anne Marie will direct, W;t  (or Wit) by Margaret Edson. Anne Marie explains it’s not the happiest of plays to stage in December, but it is very moving and offers a challenging role for the actress playing the main character. “Seriously, every time I read it, I cry. It touches me on a certain level because of the main character Vivian has crafted this life for herself so that she’s almost untouchable in terms of [having] a shell around her. She’s middle-aged and she’s had a very successful academic career and she’s intelligent and witty and all those things and looked up to and suddenly she’s telling us a story and she has two hours left in her life because she has ovarian cancer. Just seeing the breaking away of the shell around her and her humanity that’s inside… It’s a sad piece but I think it’s also a beautiful, uplifting piece and I’m really looking forward to directing it.”

The next play in the season, playing February 3 – 13, provides a huge contrast to W;t. Anne Marie says, “I knew I wanted to have a farce in the season because there’s nothing that cleanses the palate quite like a farce… Boeing Boeing is set in the ’60s and it’s about Bernard who lives in this beautiful Parisian loft and has three affairs going on with three separate stewardesses all on different timetables, but Boeing changes its time schedules and they all end up in the loft at the same time. His friend is there trying to help him navigate it and he has this hilarious French maid who manages the whole situation with her lovely sarcasm… It is the ’60s so I hope people don’t come expecting 2015 sensibilities about men and women. It is very different, but that’s the thing about theatre too, is the archival aspect of it.”

Between February and April, the style of play swings again back into a more serious genre. “I’m not sure why we go from something very light and fluffy to something very dark, but in April we have Glengarry Glen Ross. David Mamet’s writing style is very unique, it’s almost hard to describe until you see it. He has a way of capturing the way people speak but in a very intense way. They call it Mamet-speak… It’s a really good example of realism and capturing how people really are. [Glengarry Glen Ross is] set in the ’80s, which is a slightly different time, but it’s so relevant for today. It doesn’t matter whether our economy is up or down, there’s competition and the drive for the dollar and just the need to pay rent, the day-to-day needs, and the desperation behind that as well…. These men are in a real estate office talking to each other and… it’s sort of the very ugly side of the American Dream and the competition with your coworkers.”

In May, as usual, Walterdale will have the annual From Cradle to Stage showcase of new works. This year Anne Marie hopes to get back to producing two one-act plays. Submissions for From Cradle to Stage are due September 15 in hard copy format.

The final show of the 57 season, running July 6 – 16, is the musical Chess, with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus (that’s right – of ABBA fame). The show is directed by Kristen Finlay with music direction by Sally Hunt. Anne Marie says, “The musical is very rarely produced and that tells me two things: it’s going to have a great draw, but it’s also going to be very hard to do. I know Kristen’s vision for it is very workable and I think the reason why it’s not produced as often is if you read it you would see it could be very complex… It’s about these American and Russian chess masters, but really it’s about the woman between them. She’s a second for one but then gets into a romantic relationship with the other. It’s massive but at the same time it’s quite simple and beautiful.”

And there you have it – Walterdale’s 57th season in a nutshell! Offering a lot of variety for both audiences and actors, it should be a good one.

Auditions coming up over the next couple months are:

  • Ravenscroft – July 15 & 17, 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. both nights at Walterdale Theatre
  • W;t – August 25 & 26

Walterdale’s 57 season officially starts in October. Season subscriptions are $60 – $85, flex passes are $35 – $45, and individual performance tickets are $12 – $20. For more information on the season, or tickets and subscriptions – check out Walterdale’s website.

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