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Canadian Stage Presents Shakespeare in High Park, 6/26

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For the first time in more than 20 years, Canadian Stage presents two Shakespearean productions at the High Park Amphitheatre (1873 Bloor St. W.), pairing Shakespeare's powerful tragedy, Macbeth, and one of his earliest comedies, The Taming of the Shrew. Performances run on alternate nights from June 26 to September 1, Tuesday through Sunday at 8 p.m. with gates opening at 6 p.m. As always, this favourite summer tradition is pay-what-you-can, with a suggested contribution of $20. The productions, directed by York University MFA Program graduates, Ker Wells and Ted Witzel, respectively, are presented by Canadian Stage in collaboration with the Department of Theatre in the Faculty of Fine Arts, York University, with Presenting Sponsor BMO Financial Group.

"Shakespeare in High Park is a highlight indeed of our season at Canadian Stage, an opportunity to share inspiring new takes on Shakespeare's plays with the larger Toronto community. This year's double bill is a new departure for the company, an ambitious way of extending this essential urban dialogue with the arts," said Canadian Stage Artistic & General Director Matthew Jocelyn. "Performed by an incredible company of actors in a stunning outdoor setting and helmed by the inaugural graduates of York's MFA Program in Stage Direction in Collaboration with Canadian Stage, there will be reason to come back for more!"

Considered one of Shakespeare's most compelling and powerful tragedies, Macbethtells the story of a general's (Hugh Thompson) battle with ambition, the temptation of power and his struggle to retain his grasp on his humanity. Director Ker Wells set out to create a production that is thought-provoking and viscerally thrilling to watch. Audiences will be challenged by Shakespeare's remarkable text to empathize with a charismatic and deeply human tragic villain, asking themselves under what circumstances they might be tempted to commit similar acts. Inspired by natural materials such as iron, stone, and wood, the set is austere, emphasizing the play's eerie, elemental tone. The accessible script, a favourite of high school reading lists and film adaptations, will entertain while starting a conversation for audiences.

The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays - a battle of the sexes situated in a materialist, superficial society. The story follows the romantic entanglements of two sisters: Katherina (Sophie Goulet), notorious for her scolding tongue, is a quick-witted and headstrong woman who refuses to conform to the standards of femininity, while her younger sister Bianca (Jennifer Dzialoszynski) is her opposite - quiet, compliant, and agreeable. Frustrated by the swinish men who populate her world, Kate vows she'll never wed. Bianca has suitors by the truckload, but is forbidden to marry until her older sister has. Bianca's situation seems hopeless until Kate meets Petruchio (Kevin MacDonald), a lost soul with a gambling problem and a wit that rival hers. Director Ted Witzel has transposed the play to a contemporary setting in a brightly coloured, plastic world where Eurotrash meets West Hollywood to highlight the enduring relevance of the play's provocative gender politics that audiences of all ages will enjoy.

Shakespeare in High Park extends the partnership between Canadian Stage and York University's theatre department to include design and production, plus the opportunity for undergraduate students to work alongside professional theatre artists as assistants and apprentices. Set designer Lindsay C. Walker, who graduates in June from York's new Design for Performing Arts MFA program, has created two aesthetically opposite sets containing similar elements that work for both productions to allow a simple transition from play to play in the outdoor theatre space. Set and costume pieces were built in York University's studios by undergraduate theatre students, supervised by faculty members on the creative team.

In addition to sharing the stage, both productions feature the same 12-person cast bringing to life these two starkly different productions, transitioning into their respective characters from night to night. The talented company of established and up-and-coming actors includes Tiana Asperjan, Hume Baugh, Philippa Domville, Jennifer Dzialoszynski, Greg Gale, Sophie Goulet, Ryan Hollyman, Marvin Ishmael, Mina James, Kevin MacDonald, Thomas Olajide, and Hugh Thompson.

This year, Canadian Stage introduces a series of new initiatives, including advance seat reservations online and the option to pay with debit or credit online or at the gate. Backstage tours and pre-show workshops for groups are also available. Details will be available at www.canadianstage.com. Pack a picnic and enjoy a night in the park!

Macbeth runs from June 26 to September 1 with performances on Wednesday, Fridayand Sunday at 8 p.m. Opening night will be July 3 with previews June 26, 28 and 30. The Taming of the Shrew runs from July 6 to August 31 with performances on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Opening night will be July 16 with previewsJuly 6, 9, 11 and 13. Both performances run 90 minutes with no intermission at the High Park Amphitheatre.


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