Plagues Pearls and pedophiles

Sage Theatre gears up for another powerful season

For the past two years Sage Theatre has offered seasons rich in so-called “marquee shows” including My Name is Rachel Corrie Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Trainspotting which presented a dilemma this year for Sage’s artistic director Kelly Reay.

“We wanted to do a season that highlights our strengths using evocative plays that allow for top-level performances from the top pros in Calgary” says Reay. “But how do we put together a season that’s equally compelling and interesting without marquee shows that have the name draw?”

The season starts with Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare . (Wallace also wrote The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek which Sage produced during the 2004-05 season.)

Set in London in 1665 when the city is held in the grip of the plague One Flea Spare tells the story of four people who are locked up together within the same house. “It examines the cultural and personal themes of love death and class within the confines of the group” says Reay also noting that themes of eroticism and sexuality have a presence in the play. “Wallace is well-known for her evocative imagery and poetry” he adds.

Sage’s second play of the season comes with a title worthy of a tongue twister: The Attic The Pearls and Three Fine Girls . Written by five predominant Canadian theatre artists including Ann-Marie MacDonald it tells the story of three sisters who are brought together after years of being apart on account of the death of their father. “The three sisters shared an imaginative upbringing. They re-live some of that in the play” says Reay.

Reay says preparation for the roles involved a lot of improvisation and clown work. “There’s a high degree of physical comedy in these flashbacks. We’re proud to say we’re doing a comedy” he laughs as it’s a genre for which Sage is generally not known. Founding artistic director of Sage Theatre Rob Moffatt will come back to direct Attic and well-known Calgary actor Elinor Holt will also take a role in the show. “We’re thrilled to have Elinor. We’ve been trying to find a project we could use her in” says Reay.

Bryony Lavery’s Frozen is the last full show of the season. “It has done the rounds internationally but it has never been done in Calgary” says Reay. “It’s a pretty dark play.”

Frozen tells the story of Nancy whose daughter has been killed by a pedophile and serial killer Ralph. However the play doesn’t paint Ralph as a “stereotypical evil killer” explains Reay. “Rather it tries to figure out what makes Ralph as he is.”

Frozen also explores Nancy’s road to forgiveness. “Is she able to forgive this man who’s done this horrible act? Is serial killing a forgivable act?” asks Reay noting that the play is meant to provoke a dialogue with the audience.

“These three shows really spoke to us and seemed to be a good fit for this year. Now is the time for Sage Theatre to do this after coming off of two pretty strong seasons. We’ve built an audience” he says.