The launch of a full season of programming always comes with pressure but this year, there are a lot of changes at Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre. Not all of them are popular. The end of the second stage Deep End series, for financial reasons, means more eyes are on the main stage and ticket holders expect results. I had a chance to sit down with Artistic Director Del Surjik to have a closer look at the 2016/17 season.
Brit – You just announced your picks for next year, how are you feeling about the season?
Del – I’m pretty excited about the kind of innovations we are making in how theatre engages with the audience. When we look at how people fill the entertainment components of their lives, theatre has a unique space and unique capabilities. A couple of our shows this year involve the audience in more ways. In our production of Blind Date (Oct. 19-Nov. 2), we are actually pulling someone from the audience to join us on stage for the entire play.
In Shear Madness (Apr. 26 – May 10) we have a comedic who done it. It’s fantastic because the audience gets to look for clues and question suspects. This is an investigation guided by the cast and it’s another example of how we are interacting with our audience. This is where we want to go with theatre.
B – You made a very tough decision this year to cut the Deep End Series. How did that decision inform your choices on the main stage?
D – Without the Deep End, the hope is to make stronger choices on the main stage. Vigilante (Mar. 1-15), for example, pushes further than our typical main stage shows. You try to recoup what the Deep End had, what it allowed.
B – So where’s the challenge for the audiences in next year’s season?
D – On the main stage it’s for sure Vigilante. In this show we are adapting a true story, this piece is going to prompt debate. It’s a tale of immigration. This family fled Ireland only to encounter the same hatred here in Canada. They couldn’t escape it. That’s very allegorical to what’s happening in our world right now.
B – Do you have any actors in particular in mind when you are programming a season?
D – There’s a bit of a moveable feast on that front. I’m always thinking of the local pool of talent. This past year, we worked hard to have roles for local women. There are times where you’re likely to see more local actors, based on the skills required.
B – Do you take cues from previous years when putting together a new lineup?
D – Many shows are years in the making. The Theo Fleury story Fire & Ice for example, my discussions for that one go back to 2013. Sometimes you have to sit and wait on a piece, put it on the back burner. I always have a running short list of plays; I look at those to see if they have any relevancy on my current plans. You try to tap into the zeitgeist of society. You find what’s in the collective unconscious. With The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble we got lucky and it landed right during the right to die debate.
B – If you had to pick a few highlights what would they be?
D – Bringing back Catalyst Theatre from Edmonton. We had them here for Frankenstein and Nevermore. They have a soft spot for Persephone and Saskatoon and they are bringing back a rock musical, a really dark piece. Vigilante is a dark, stormy tale based on Canadian lore. It’s got aggressive choreography. The design is lush and vivid and very gothic in style.
For families it has to be the classic A Christmas Carol (Nov. 23 – Dec. 7). There’s the tradition of the piece but it’s also going to be exciting for children in the audience, as they will see children on stage. This always adds a special quality for a young audience.
I’m also really excited about Neighbourhood 3 (Nov. 17-19 & 24-25) in our Young Theatre Series. This is a type of new programming where we are bridging the gap between our mainstage shows and our youth shows. It’s for youth and adults age 14-25 and it has zombies. Who doesn’t like zombies?
For a full list of shows, check out www.persephonetheatre.org