Prairie Theatre Exchange goes bigger, bolder with expanded 2018-19 season

If you were to sum up Prairie Theatre Exchange’s 2018-19 season in a word, it might be “bigger.”

That’s mainly because in a rare move, the theatre — which saw a boost in its Canada Council for the Arts funding from $370,000 to $400,000 for the upcoming season — will actually expand its offerings, delivering a new three-show series focused on edgier, more experimental work in addition to its regular five-show season.

“Bigger” also applies to the size of casts onstage — the Winnipeg theatre company’s first two shows of 2018-19 will feature as many actors as the entire 2017-18 season.

Artistic director Robert Metcalfe, who is leaving PTE at the end of this season after 15 years with the theatre, worked with incoming AD Thomas Morgan Jones on programming the new season.

Here’s what’s coming up.

Prairie Nurse (Oct. 3-21): Toronto playwright Marie Beath Badian’s comedy follows the culture clash of two women from the Philippines who come to small-town Saskatchewan to work as nurses in 1969.

Happy Place

The cast of the Firehall Arts Centre’s October 2017 production of Happy Place. Winnipeg-born playwright Pamela Mala Sinha’s play will be part of PTE’s 2018-19 season. (Touchstone Theatre)

Happy Place (Nov. 7-25): Winnipeg-born playwright Pamela Mala Sinha has earned acclaim in her now hometown of Toronto for her work. This ensemble piece follows seven women dealing with their own trauma in an in-patient facility but with enough humour, the playwright says, to ensure it’s not depressing. “It’s about the human experience and the interactions between these women,” she said in a CBC interview last year. “You can’t put a bunch of women together and have it not be funny.”

New Magic Valley Fun Town (Jan. 23-Feb. 10, 2019): PTE will premiere the latest from star Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor in this co-production with Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre. The latest from the GG and Siminovitch Prize-winner takes audiences to Cape Breton, where two old friends reunite in a trailer park — and have to confront uncomfortable memories from their past.

Moms the Word 3

The Mom’s the Word collective returns to PTE with Mom’s the Word 3: Nest 1/2 Empty. (Emily Cooper)

Mom’s the Word 3: Nest 1/2 Empty (Feb. 27-March 17): The latest instalment in the incredibly popular Mom’s the Word series sees the moms with grown kids, “evolved” marriages and aging bodies sharing tales of the later stages of momhood.

What To Do With Albert? (April 10-28): PTE follows up a successful collaboration with Winnipeg’s Cercle Moliere (2017’s The Flats) with another bilingual partnership. This new play from Winnipeg’s Danielle Séguin-Tétreault follows 80-something Albert, recently widowed and bristling when his daughter tries to send him to a seniors home.

Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Son, by Vancouver playwright (and former CBC Radio host) Tetsuro Shigematsu, is based on the remarkable true story of his father, Akira. (Submitted by High Performance Rodeo)

And three plays will make up PTE’s new Leap Series, which promises plays that “push the boundaries of storytelling in theatre.” The three-show series includes:

Empire of the Son (Nov. 28-Dec. 9): This play by Vancouver playwright (and former CBC Radio host) Tetsuro Shigematsu is based on the remarkable true story of his father, Akira. The show’s Vancouver premiere in 2015 was so popular, it sold out its entire run before opening.

Finding Wolastoq Voice (March 21-31, 2019): A mix of theatre and dance tells the story of a young Wolastoqiyik woman’s fight to keep her Indigenous heritage. The play by Natalie Sappier, from Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, premiered earlier this year at Theatre New Brunswick, where incoming PTE artistic director Thomas Morgan Jones is wrapping up his last season.

How It Ends (April 17-28): This new play from popular Winnipeg actor and writer Debbie Patterson also blends theatre and dance to explore end-of-life choices. It’s produced by her theatre company, Sick + Twisted, which Patterson, who lives with multiple sclerosis, created to focus on work exploring the experience of living with a disability.

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