Avant-garde theater was once the province of the French– the Samuel Becketts, Antonin Artauds and Guillaume Appolinaires and their ilk– who also gave it its name. Theater at the vanguard of social change, social commentary, and experimentalism in staging, subject and presentation has a long 20th century history.
Now, out of the north comes Soulpepper Theatre of Toronto with a brief festival of experimental plays and concerts which it brings to New York’s Pershing Square Signature Theater in July.
The troupe dedicates itself to creating innvoative works of all kinds, in cabaret, cafe and theater formats. Its 65 artists will perform in rep, giving workshops and holding symposia and performances. Billed as Soulpepper on 42nd Street, the month-long event will coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday as a nation. Mainstage productions include Kim’s Convenience, written by Ins Choi, and set in a Korean-run variety store; Vern Thiessen’s adaptation of W. Somerset Maughn’s Of Human Bondage; an immersive musical adaptation of Spoon River by Mike Ross and Albert Schultz. Ensemble pieces like Alligator Pie, created and performed by Ins Choi, Raquel Duffy, Ken MacKenzie, Gregory Prest, and Mike Ross with poems by Dennis Lee; and the (Re)Birth: E.E. Cummings in Song, created and developed by the rebirth collective: Ins Choi, Tatjana Cornij, Raquel Duffy, Matthew Kabwe, Ken MacKenzie, Gregory Prest, Karen Rae, Mike Ross, Jason Rothery, and Brendan Wall, take place on other stages in the Signature Theatre complex. A concert New York-The Melting Pot is a tribute from the Toronto group to its New York hosts.