Two years ago, when Michael James Burgess took on the role of artistic director of Stage Centre Productions he was surprised to learn that the company had never presented a Canadian play, nor had they done a single Shakespearian play.
“So I decided that this year we would right those oversights,” he said.
Jitters, the comedy by David French, opened the company’s season in September and now A Midsummer Night’s Dream is their first play by Shakespeare.
Burgess confesses: “I don’t find Shakespeare’s comedies very funny – they are from a time when a comedy simply meant a play with a happy ending – but I always had a special fondness for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
For the production on stage at York Woods Library Theatre, he has a assembled a terrific cast from the company’s roster including regulars Roger Kell, Heather Goodall, Bob Martyn and Frank Keenan.
“The set is spectacular with trees suspended from the flies and they shimmer,” Burgess said.
He is particularly pleased with the Donkey head mask created by Pierre Rivard. (Rivard documents the creation of the make in a video available on the company’s website.)
“I really am pleased with the production and audiences have been enjoying it,” the director explains, but notes that while some performances have sold very well the audiences have been small and the company is still facing a challenge in getting their long-time subscribers to come to the new venue for the current season.
Fairview Library Theatre closed for renovations last October and is not scheduled to reopen until September. Stage Centre opted to move to York Woods Library theatre for their current season.
This resulted in a loss of over half of their regular subscribers. Despite glowing reviews, the company’s production of Jitters did not attract large audiences. In addition, the group sustained heavy losses when a strike by library workers last spring shut down the facility and cancelled half of the performances of their play Bus Stop.
Despite the best efforts of the board to tap new sources of funding and sponsorship, they are facing a deficit of nearly $50,000. Undaunted, Burgess is forging ahead with plans for Stage Centre’s 2013/14 season, cautioning that unless the financial situation improves the company may not be able to present it.
Once A Midsummer Night’s Dream closes this weekend, Burgess plunges into rehearsal for the next show of the current season, Taking Sides by British playwright Ronald Harwood (also author of the play and current film Quartet.) Taking Sides is adapted from the detailed diaries kept by German conductor and composer Wilhelm Furtwangler during his interrogation after he was charged with having served the Nazi regime.
The director promises the play will be both powerful and thought-provoking –just the kind of theatre we have come to expect from Stage Centre Productions.
Stage Centre Productions presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream at York Woods Library Theatre, 1785 Finch Ave. W., until Saturday, Jan. 19. For tickets, visit www.stagecentreproductions.com or call the box office at 416-299-5557.