40 years of Teatro, the more accessible theater Expanse Festival Sound-Off


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It’s spring. Pulling the car out of the lane is like shooting the rapids; drivers dodge chunks of ice as tires bounce through freezing puddles, leaving a wake of hope as they take to the streets.

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But the rapid melt isn’t the only encouraging sign that life is picking up in Edmonton. Quindacina Theater kicks off its new season and returns to in-person performances, a move that coincides with the theater’s 40th anniversaryand birthday.

“We get into comedy here because we think it’s something people look forward to when they come back,” says theater founder and playwright-in-residence Stewart Lemoine.

Stewart Lemoine is the playwright and director of Caribbean Muskrat, the first play that opens the 40th season of Teatro La Quindicina.
Stewart Lemoine is the playwright and director of Caribbean Muskrat, the first play that opens the 40th season of Teatro La Quindicina. Photo by Shaughn Butts /Postmedia

The season opens at the Varscona Theater (10329 83 Ave.) on April 1 with Caribbean Muskrat, co-written by Lemoine and Josh Dean. It’s a trio featuring Teatro sweetheart Rachel Bowron along with newcomers Jackson Card and Rochelle Laplante. The show features a complex love triangle precipitated by the arrival of a rare aquatic rodent in the heart of the Okanagan.

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“I draw everyone’s attention to the fact that this is the only play you will see this year that takes place in Kelowna,” says Lemoine, who directs the show. “Teatro always has something you didn’t expect.”

Later in the season, watch for Teatro favorite Evelyn Strange (a comedic mystery first seen in 2006) and A Grand Time in the Rapids (a four-door farce set in 1950s Michigan). Teatro’s season wraps up with a Fringe performance in August of The Margin of the Sky, a tender exploration of the creative spark.

Like the 40and As the anniversary season dawns, Lemoine looks back at the company’s roots, which date back to a 1982 Fringe production called All These Heels.

“It wasn’t like we were preparing for something we had been dreaming about for years,” says Lemoine, noting that costume designer and Teatro actress Leona Brausen was there from the start. “We kind of did it, not knowing who would come to see these pieces. And then we started to have this feeling that there was something going on in the neighborhood.

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After three or four years, the company had done many shows and developed both a reputation and an audience. When the Phoenix Theater opened downtown in the mid-1980s, Lemoine’s team played the first run of The Vile Governess. Later, there was a slot in the Workshop West season, followed by an opportunity at the other downtown Phoenix Theater near 97th Street.

“We didn’t start focusing until we came to Varscona in 1994 and became part of the group that ran the building,” says Lemoine.

In 2003, Teatro launched its first series of subscriptions. Subscribers today are staunchly loyal to the troupe, Lemoine says, noting that they bought 700 subscriptions to the 2022 season on the first day of its launch. Subscribers have also helped keep the theater running during the pandemic with donations large and small.

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Lemoine says the Teatro came out of the pandemic in great shape. Although ticket sales have been obviously slow – most shows for the past two years have been online – the grants have been lifesaving and the entire cast has largely weathered the plague.

“I think a lot of people didn’t care for a little rest, just to stop the hustle and ask, ‘Who am I when I’m not doing this? “”

For more information, visit teatroq.com.

The Expanse festival breaks down boundaries

the Extent 2022 The festival arrives on March 24. Organized by Azimuth Theatre, it is a celebration of the movement and body work of a cross-section of artists.

One of the world premiere productions at the festival is Tune to A, a new play for young audiences that highlights disability and accessibility.

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Written by Carly Neis, Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks and Cameron Kneteman, the show features Ava, who loves music and wants to play in the band, but finds her cerebral palsy troublesome. Directed by Patricia Cerra, Tune to A is inspired by the teenage experience of Neis, who plays the central character.

Carly Neis, left, and Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks are co-authors of Tune to A, a new piece for young audiences which debuts March 24 at the 2022 Expanse festival.
Carly Neis, left, and Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks are co-authors of Tune to A, a new piece for young audiences which debuts March 24 at the 2022 Expanse festival. Photo by Janice Saxon /Provided

“It’s his adventure trying to fit into a group program, and a school, and the whole world that’s not accessible to him,” Neis says. “Our goal with the show is to teach young people, whether disabled or able-bodied, how to be better friends with people around them who have different needs than their own.”

Neis, who has worked with community musical theater since her teens, felt motivated to write the play after running into trouble during a Fringe production in 2018. Her electric wheelchair proved too big for the stage and his performance was threatened. Eventually, Neis switched to her manual chair, which meant she didn’t have her hands free, an added challenge.

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“I had to relearn the choreography, and it happens, it was one of those curveballs,” she recalls. “I started it and finished it and it was very successful. But from there my thinking was, ‘Man, there’s gotta be a way to make theater more accessible.’

The 70-minute one-act show has two other characters – Ava’s best friend Jordan (played by Michelle Diaz) and band teacher Mr. B (Graham Mothersill). A digital version of Tune to A is available April 12-27 (check Azimuththeatre.com for more details on this). Later, Neis plans to bring the digital version to communities that traditionally can’t get out to theaters.

“We hope to get it across Canada at least,” she says.

Tune to A features six shows in the wonderfully accessible Westbury Theater (ATB Financial Arts Barns Building, 10330 84 Ave.). For tickets and information on other Expanse Festival works, go to azimuththeatre.com.

Next Sound-Off in the festival program

Edmonton’s theater community is growing and productions are starting up willy-nilly. I want to draw your attention to Sound-Off, Canada’s national festival dedicated to the Deaf performing arts, which will take place from March 30 to April 3. There are four main stage performances in the sixth annual festival, all at the Westbury Theatre, including a Rapid Fire Theater event that sees deaf and hearing improvisers face off in a battle for supremacy. soundofffestival.com

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