Talk Is Free Theatre Announces 2024/25 Season THEATRE. EVERYWHERE.

Marking the official opening of TIFT's 22nd season is a new short play by Nathaniel Hanula-James, Talk Is Free Theatre's newly named Immersive Festival curator.

By: Jun. 04, 2024
Talk Is Free Theatre Announces 2024/25 Season THEATRE. EVERYWHERE.
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Talk Is Free Theatre Artistic Producer Arkady Spivak revealed the Barrie-based company's 2024/25 season, which dauntlessly asks, where WON'T they go to produce theatre?

By this TIFT is not only referring to the far reaches of the globe to which they have already traveled (and continue to go) with their work–it is about their forthcoming productions in a hotel laundry room, a heritage mansion, a lush garden, a local library, and the milestone remount of a production on a moving city bus, among others.

Plus, with recent hits like the Dora-winning Sweeney Todd in 2022 and the critically acclaimed and audience favourite La Bête earlier this year, TIFT will further establish their Toronto presence with five productions, capping off yet another ambitious season of new and past-favourite artist-driven work that, given its entirely site-specific nature, will serve one of the fundamental reasons to create theatre in the first place: to show us who we are.

BARRIE SEASON

Marking the official opening of TIFT's 22nd season is a new short play by Nathaniel Hanula-James, Talk Is Free Theatre's newly named Immersive Festival curator. A hotel laundry room, a soiled wedding dress, a battle of wills. White Taffeta Silk (or, Don't Do It Bestie!) (September 19 - 28, 2024), staged in the laundry room of a surprise Barrie Hotel, is about a desperate bride who demands that two hotel employees clean a soiled wedding dress for her big day — tomorrow.  As the two comrades-in-dry-cleaning do their best to save the dress, they spiral into a surreal marriage plot of their own, and confront the ghosts of their commitments past and present. White Taffeta Silk is a new, site-specific short play directed by Sadie Berlin about the costs of tying the knot — financial and otherwise — and marriage as a haunting.

A remount of Tales of an Urban Indian (October 9 - 26, 2024) follows next, which, since its Barrie premiere in 2009, has been performed in over 20 cities across 5 countries on three continents. Darrell Dennis' play, directed by Herbie Barnes, about a contemporary Indigenous man who grows up on both the reserve and in big-city Vancouver, and staged entirely on a moving city bus, will celebrate its 750th performance with its third revival Barrie run this fall.

The second new work of the season is Madame Minister (November 28 - December 7, 2024) by Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, a world premiere adaptation of Branlislav Nusic's The Cabinet Minister's Wife. The Serbian black comedy tells the story of a woman who is treated poorly by the community until she becomes the wife of the Cabinet Minister, at which point the tables are turned. The play, directed by Layne Coleman, will be staged within the Stevenson residence, a heritage mansion on Collingwood Street in Downtown Barrie.

The award-winning Perfect On Paper (January 30 - February 8, 2025), by Canadian playwright Marcia Johnson and originally commissioned by the CBC in 2009, will take place at a surprise location to be revealed at a later date. Olivia is an independent black woman. She proudly identifies as a feminist. Her deep dark secret is that she writes bodice-ripping romance novels under a pseudonym. When her life is saved by a handsome young white man who dotes on her, he seems too good to be true. Is he just perfect on paper? Perfect on Paper will be directed by Vanessa Sears.

The intense Blackbird (March 20 - 29, 2025), by David Harrower, received the Olivier Award for Best Play in 2007. After years in prison, Ray, fifty-five, has made a new life for himself, thinking that he cannot be found. Upon seeing his photo in a magazine, Una, twenty-seven, has arrived unannounced at his office. Guilt, rage, and raw emotions run high as they recollect the passionate relationship they had fifteen years ago, when she was twelve and he was forty. Blackbird will be directed by Dean Deffett and will be staged in a surprise location within the Barrie by the Bay Commercial Complex at 80 Bradford Street.

Named one of the Best Productions of 2019 Summerworks Festival, Archive of Missing Things (April 30 - May 3, 2025) is a contemplative game happening undercover in a library. Equipped with an iPad and a headset, audiences have ninety minutes to explore a maze-like archive in search of the secret at its centre, guided by a live performance happening discreetly around them. Created by Zuppa with Trillium-Award-winning writer Kate Cayley, this performance, online book and game, travels through the debris of civilization in the age of rising sea levels.

Finally, after a three-year hiatus from Sondheim musicals in Barrie, TIFT will visit a lush residential garden with the rarely produced The Frogs (June 18 - 28, 2025). Based on the play written in 405 BC by Aristophanes, freely adapted by Burt Shevelove, even more freely adapted by Nathan Lane and with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, this boisterously hilarious, yet poignant, musical follows Dionysos, Greek god of wine and drama, and his slave, Xanthias, on a journey to Hades to collect renowned critic and playwright, George Bernard Shaw, so that he may enlighten the easily misled and coerced masses of Earth. Along this journey, Dionysus and Xanthias meet Chekhov, Congreve, Ibsen, Brecht and, of course, the chorus of frogs. Then, Shakespeare shows up and starts declaiming his greatest hits; before long, he engages in a battle of words with Mr. Shaw. Who will win the honor of becoming reincarnated: The Bard or Bernard? The Frogs will be directed by Griffin Hewitt.

TORONTO SEASON

As previously announced, What the Constitution Means To Me (October 31 - November 9, 2024–Michael Young Theatre) is a Soulpepper/Nightwood Theatre co-production in association with Necessary Angel and Talk Is Free Theatre. The play took Broadway by storm when it premiered in 2019, and was a Tony nominee for Best Play and a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Now, five years later and timed to overlap with the US election, playwright Heidi Schreck re-imagines the play specifically for Canadian audiences in this exclusive and limited run. What the Constitution Means To Me is directed by Weyni Mengesha.

Two productions will make use of the same surprise residential location in the city, giving the concept of “upstairs/downstairs” a whole new treatment.

Upstairs will be Ottawa playwright Adam Meisner's For Both Resting And Breeding (January 15 - January 31, 2025), which has been a TIFT staple for over 5 years, having played in Barrie and in three countries on two continents outside North America. In the year 2150, humans have become gender neutral and use the pronoun ‘Ish' to identify themselves. This story centres around two historians, ISH56 and ISH62, who want to transform an old residence for the upcoming sesquicentennial. As the museum is being created, members of the group become too enamoured with their gendered counterparts and eventually start to re-enact the dangerous behaviours of their ancestors. For Both Resting and Breeding, recently shortlisted for the 2024 Lambda Literary Award, will be directed by Maja Ardal.

Taking place beneath Breeding's dystopian world as if in secret is c*ck(January 16 - 31, 2025), a remount of the Barrie production that took place in an office complex loading dock earlier this year. The hit comedy by British playwright Mike Bartlett and directed by Dylan Trowbridge is about John, a gay man, who has been in a relationship with his partner for seven years. But when he meets and falls in love with a woman, he is forced to contemplate the boundaries of his identity and decide what he really wants for his future. It is a hilarious and touching look at the difficulties that pop up when you realize you have a choice.

Rounding out the Toronto season, Tales of an Urban Indian (January 15 - 31, 2025) will take to the Toronto streets.

Spivak also says there are plans for a remount of TIFT's hit production of La Bête that was last on stage at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre in early 2024, with dates and location to be announced at a future date.

TOURING

Fresh off one of the company's most ambitious touring seasons to date–having taken Tales of an Urban Indian to Suriname, Tales… and For Both Resting and Breeding to Chile and Argentina, and Into the Woods, Tales… and What She Burned to New Zealand–TIFT will embark yet again on another mission to bring theatre that wouldn't normally tour (e.g., immersive, site specific, etc.) internationally where audiences wouldn't typically experience those forms of theatre and to other destinations where a professional theatre ecology is highly limited or difficult to access.

Prior to its runs in Toronto, For Both Resting and Breeding, Cock, and Tales of an Urban Indian will play engagements in Windsor, Ontario. The three plays are also set to travel to Tokyo, Japan, in January, 2025.

In Singapore, where TIFT visited last fall to speak at the Communicating the Arts conference about the Augmented Reality for Immersive Accessibility (ARIA) Translation Glasses the company has been developing for the past two years, TIFT will be working with local Singaporean Artists and theatres to establish a new cohort to create two new works.

Finally, Tales of An Urban Indian will have a return engagement in Suriname, followed by tours in neighbouring Guyana and French Guiana, and in Uruguay.

RE-LAUNCH OF TICKET PASSES

TIFT is offering a new pricing structure on admissions to their 24/25 Season with the introduction of the 8-ticket pass.

“With 11 productions in two neighbouring cities, we wanted to offer audiences a flexible way of to take in as many of TIFT's offerings as possible at the best possible value,” says Spivak, emphasizing that the passes are valid for any combination of Barrie and some Toronto performances (not including What The Constitution Means To Me or La Bête). Passholders may also exchange their tickets for other productions at no charge, provided there are tickets available.

Single-ticket sales will not begin until August 26, so pass-holders will have exclusive early-booking privileges, improving their ability to secure a seat for productions with limited capacity.

The 8-ticket pass, available now, is being offered at an earlybird price of $196 (until June 28–regular price $220), which is a savings of 43% off regular tickets. Prices do not include HST.

The 4-ticket pass, also available now, returns at an earlybird price of $110 (until June 28–regular price $130), a savings of about 38%, not including HST.

Artists and students will pay half the above rates (ID required upon entry).

SERVICE PROJECTS

After extensive international testing, TIFT will launch ARIA Translation Glasses in  Barrie this season. “Engaging audiences to connect beyond the language boundary and engaging artists to communicate using their own language, ARIA is a revolutionary tool for immersive theatre makers and traditional producers alike,” says Spivak. ARIA users will be able to view translations of live performed text in their choice of over forty languages using small binocular screens embedded in smart glasses. The glasses can also be used as an accessibility device, providing captioning for those who may need it.

This year also marks the beginning of the second cohort of the three-year Artist BIG (Basic Income Guarantee) program, in which artists are professionally engaged to experiment with new creation and production processes and push the boundaries of leadership and curation. “At TIFT we put artists first. What follows is that we allow the adventures of the season to directly reflect the needs and desires for growth and transformation expressed by those within Artist BIG and by many others who are outside of the program as well.”

TIFT acknowledges annual funding support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Barrie.



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