By Bradley Turcotte
Two Filipino Canadian teenagers spending a night under the Saskatchewan sky with a boombox, a contemporary Western about a woman’s right to choose, and a complicated relationship between a father and a trans child.
These are some of the stories that make up The Great Canadian Theatre Company’s (GCTC) 2023-2024 program.
Artistic director Sarah Kitz says they’re about relationships and what we mean to each other, a salient theme post-Covid.
“What has become increasingly clear as we all reemerge back into the world is how much we depend upon other people,” Kitz said. “We are not OK without each other. That is one of the reasons isolation has been so detrimental. We need to be together.”
GCTC will host parties and events throughout the season with no other objective than to foster community, Kitz added.
Originally from Toronto, Kitz came of age in the world of independent theatre. Her personal professional playbill includes winning the RBC Rising Star Emerging Director Prize from Crow’s Theatre and the Women’s Auxiliary Award at Stratford Festival.
Indie theater is about creating significant work with what you have, Kitz said.
After years of small-scale productions, Kitz said she was “eager to tend to a larger vision” and “to care for an institution and a larger staff, and to be in dialogue with a community of artists and audiences.” She accepted the offer from GCTC in 2021, succeeding artistic director Eric Coates.
One of Kitz’s goals as artistic director is to produce work by diverse artists. GCTC’s inclusivity from 2022 onward includes a trans playwright, a number of gender nonconforming artists, and a series featuring BIPOC creators. Kitz also emphasizes hiring local talent.
She will direct the premiere of Daniel Sarah Karasik’s be careful with each other (so you can be dangerous together).
“It is a poetic text about the possibilities and implications of personal, collective and political transformation. It is also about transness and abolition,” Kitz said. “And the core of self that persists through change. It is also at its ultimately most basic, a question of whether we can love each other in a way that is radical enough that we could eradicate ideas of punishment.”
The 2023-2024 season opens with The Supine Cobbler, written by Jill Connell and directed by Kitchissippi-born Emily Pearlman.
A Western for women, one of the characters in the play terminates her pregnancy. While Pearlman acknowledges it is a contentious issue, she said it is not framed as a political issue.
“It is a medical procedure. It is healthcare. It does not enter into the debate of whether one should do this or not. This is a thing that is done,” Pearlman said.
“We had an interesting chat about whether or not to use the word abortion in the promotional material,” she added. “Being explicit about the content is really important as an artistic choice so those who need the play can find it.”
GCTC produces challenging, progressive and controversial work, Kitz said, and this was one factor that drew her to accept her new job.
“There have been strong feelings from some folks about some of this year’s programming and there has been some discomfort. I think that is all right,” Kitz said. “It is our job to make space for these conversations. Art should be challenging, and it should be joyful. Theatre has this incredible civic responsibility to help us take apart really complicated ideas in a way that does not require us to change our lives in encountering them.”
Resident artist Kristina Watt’s 100 Watt Youth Ensemble will end the show with a main stage performance.
“One thing I will say about the season, and the artistic choices, is that they are bold in their politics and their form,” Pearlman said. “It has the opportunity to bring in new audiences and Sarah is unafraid to program work that is necessary.”