Buddies in Bad Times Theatre announced its 2012/13 season April 17, featuring four new Canadian plays, the return of the annual Rhubarb Festival, and a remount of last year’s critical and box-office smash production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart.
The new season begins in September with the world premiere of Obaaberima by emerging playwright Tawiah M’Carthy and directed by evalyn parry. Obaaberima, which is the Twi word for “girl-boy,” tells the story of a Ghanaian-Canadian immigrant’s journey across continents and genders through dance, poetry and live Ghanaian music.
The show was originally developed through Buddies’ Young Creators’ Unit and was workshopped at the 2009 Rhubarb Festival. Its development process and season-opening slot mirror the trajectory of another recent Buddies one-man show with a single-word non-English title, Waawaate Fobister’s Agokwe. While Agokwe struggled at the box office during its 2008 run, it earned six Dora Awards, including outstanding new play, performance, direction, and production, and toured nationally in 2011 to great success.
But M’Carthy says the two shows are very different beyond the surface similarities.
“I’m pretty sure a lot of people who come to Buddies to see shows will see those similarities, but I think the message of storyline and style is completely different,” he says. “I think you’re looking at two completely different stories. It’s a culture that the gay community is not very familiar with.”
In March, celebrated playwright Daniel MacIvor premieres his latest, Arigato, Tokyo, which tells the story of a Canadian author who is pulled into a world of sex, obsession and longing while visiting Japan. It’ll be MacIvor’s first time back at Buddies since his 2007 and 2009 remounts of his hit solo shows Here Lies Henry, House, Monster and Cul-de-Sac.
Arigato, Tokyo will be directed by Buddies’ artistic director Brendan Healy and will feature the Dora-winning design team behind Buddies’ recent productions of Blasted and The Maids.
Buddies closes its season with a co-production, with Ecce Homo, of theatre provocateur and Xtra contributor Alistair Newton’s latest cabaret offensive, Of a Monstrous Child: A Gaga Musical. Newton’s company is best known for its hit shows The Pastor Phelps Project, The Ecstasy of Mother Theresa, and Loving the Stranger, which played in Toronto’s festival circuit.
Of a Monstrous Child dissects the image of pop superstar Lady Gaga and compares her world to that of the infamous New York City underground partiers The Club Kids and their leader, convicted murderer Michael Alig, to explore the relationship between liberation and excess. Newton’s been corresponding with Alig in jail to develop the show.
"He has very interesting things to say. He’s morally complicated but very insightful,” Newton says.
Newton’s excited to have his company make its mainstage debut at Buddies.
"It’s the culmination at various levels of Buddies supporting my work over six years. Without any exaggeration I can say I would not exist as an artist in Toronto were it not for Buddies. It shows the dedication to nurturing artists that Buddies is willing to put in,” he says.
Newton’s developed a reputation for baiting controversy with his plays and tried to get Lady Gaga herself to come see his workshop production of Of a Monstrous Child at last year’s Rhubarb Festival. Perhaps she’ll turn up at the world premiere in May.
Buddies founder Sky Gilbert returns in April to present his latest show, A Few Brittle Leaves, a drawing-room comedy starring Gavin Crawford and Edward Roy as a pair of spinster sisters who are trying hard to age gracefully. Gilbert and Crawford’s last collaboration, The Situationists, netted Dora Awards for outstanding new play and performance. This will be their third collaboration, after the controversial comedy-drama I Have AIDS.
In October, Buddies welcomes Studio 180 as they remount their smash hit production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart. Their production was one of last fall’s hottest tickets and got Dora buzz going early in the season.
“I am thrilled to offer a season of new Canadian plays that reflect a multiplicity of cultural and generational perspectives on the queer experience,” artistic director Brendan Healy says in a press release. “These artists are unafraid to proclaim their uniqueness at a time when difference is feared. They affirm the power of the individual to affect change in the world at a time when so many feel powerless. And, together, they maintain Buddies in Bad Times’ commitment to promoting more liberated, compassionate and multifaceted identities for all.”
Buddies is already selling season passes for 2012/13 and is offering a special deal where orders placed before July 1 receive an extra ticket voucher.
Below, check out a scene from the workshop production of Of a Monstrous Child: