TORONTO — The Soulpepper Theatre Company is putting a spotlight on female and minority voices in its 2018-2019 season as the Toronto-based not-for-profit forges ahead in the face of lawsuits over sexual-misconduct allegations against its founding artistic director.
The new slate of shows, announced Tuesday, kicks off in October with the Canadian premiere of Marco Ramirez’s “The Royale,” based on the true story of African-American boxer Jack Johnson’s fight to become the heavyweight world champion amid early 20th-century racial segregation.
Spring will bring acclaimed shows such as the Tony Award-winning “Copenhagen,” directed by Katrina Darychuk, and Pulitzer Prize-winning family comedic-drama “August: Osage County,” directed by Jackie Maxwell.
“The Brothers Size” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the writer of the 2017 Oscar-winning best picture “Moonlight” will hit the stage in May, directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu.
“This season includes new voices and voices we have grown to love and cherish,” acting artistic director Alan Dilworth said in a statement. “These are our stories; they are stories for our time.”
In January, four actresses filed separate lawsuits against Albert Schultz and the company, alleging he groped them, exposed himself, pressed against them, or otherwise behaved inappropriately. None of their allegations have been tested in court.
Schultz, who has resigned from Soulpepper, said he will “vigorously defend” himself against the allegations.
In February, the Canada Council for the Arts announced it was rescinding a planned funding increase for Soulpepper but also maintaining its base funding at previous levels.
Soulpepper reported more than $12.5 million in revenues in 2017, around 16 per cent of which came from grants, but still ran a $556,000 defecit, according to an annual report released in June.
After an embattled year, the theatre’s lineup for next season will showcase female and minority playwrights, directors and characters.
Productions include “Oraltorio: a Theatrical Mixtape,” which follows two Toronto girls as they grapple with womanhood and identity through Afro-inspired soundscapes, and Caryl Churchill’s “Escaped Alone,” mounted by an all-female creative and production team.
Joanna Garfinkel will direct “Japanese Problem” in October, about Japanese-Canadians who were sent to internment camps during the Second World War.
This will be followed by the world premiere of the Silk Bath Collective’s “Yellow Rabbit,” directed by Jasmine Chen, which centres on a battle for racial supremacy in a post-nuclear wasteland. The play will be performed in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.
Kate Hennig’s “The Virgin Trial,” a companion piece to last year’s “The Last Wife,” about the sexual intrigue of the Tudor court will enjoy a limited run at the theatre early next winter.
Around the holiday season, the theatre will stage family-friendly offerings such as classics “A Christmas Carol” and “Peter Pan,” in addition to new musical “Rose,” based on Gertrude Stein’s “The World is Round,” which will make its worldwide debut in January with a book written by Sarah Wilson and Soulpepper music director Mike Ross.
Ross will wrap up the season with a “88 Keys,” a concert paying tribute to piano masters from Ray Charles to Chopin.
In addition to interpreting select performances into American Sign Language, Soulpepper will be offering “relaxed performances” for patrons who may benefit from a less restrictive approach to movement and noise in the theatre, including those with autism spectrum conditions, sensory and communications disorders and learning disabilities.