Stratford’s indie theatre and arts festival is celebrating its fifth season with a line-up of more than 50 artists and companies.
Running from May 7-17, SpringWorks 2015 features a new puppet festival for families and expanded programming around one of the festival’s most popular themes.
“It’s important to us to stage works that explore a range of life experiences,” says artistic producer Eileen Smith. “Last season, audiences were keen to see not only cross-cultural productions, but also shows that touched on the broader topic of diversity. We’ve taken that interest as a cue for this year’s programming, and we’ve invited artists whose work speaks to themes like ethnicity, mental health, religion and gender.
“Many of these productions are funny and uplifting, and all of them promise an unforgettable audience experience.”
SpringWorks’ 2015 programming includes:
• Sound of the Beast, by Governor General’s Award nominee Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. This piece is an installment of the 54ology, in which St. Bernard writes a play for every country in Africa.
• Inua, by Danish-Inuit playwright Naja Dyrendom Graugaard. Recently featured in Native Earth Performing Arts’ festival Weesageechak Begins to Dance, the drama explores the relationship between an Inuk elder and her granddaughter, a forensic anthropologist.
• Licking Knives, by Melanie Hrymak. The dark comedy is told by a young woman who decides to leave home in the spring of 1939, journeying across Europe from small-town Ukraine to Paris, the City of Lights.
• Jesters Incognito, by Haw! Theatre. An award-winning multimedia production about a man who copes with Bipolar Disorder by inventing a dystopia with underground artists and entertainers.
• Going On, by Elizabeth Richardson. The paradoxical and hilarious life of a Buddhist actress.
• The Two Horsewomen, by Robin Craig, with music by Nancy White. A humorous play in which two respected senior artists take on “as-cast” roles in a new musical—only to be shocked by what “as-cast” entails.
The 2015 season also features a variety of musical acts, including a riotous work of musical theatre.
“We’re delighted to present Brian Kennington’s Elvis and Dick, which takes a comedic look at the lives of two legendary figures—Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon,” says Smith. “It’s based on historical fact, with enough fiction thrown in to make it deliciously funny.”
SpringWorks will also welcome back Dora Award-winning company Tapestry Opera and Stratford chanteuse Lara MacMillan. Returning artist Barbara Dunn-Prosser will present her one-woman show Lest We Forget, a commemorative piece filled with Canadian songs from the First World War.
Sloppy Joe and the Dust Bunnies will be the closing act on May 17 and Trent Severn will play the festival’s opening night on May 7, b ringing the sounds of “Canadian History in Harmony” to Stratford’s city hall.
Kids and adults will have the opportunity to explore the SpringWorks Puppet Festival Family Weekend, running May 16-17. An new day pass will provide access to puppet shows, workshops and free events on the Saturday or Sunday of Victoria Day weekend.
“After the success of our Mini Festival of Puppets last season,” says Smith, “we knew we wanted to expand this stream of programming. I think this will be a very exciting addition for our family audiences.”
The puppet shows featured in the new Family Weekend include:
• Loki’s Big Dream, by Jim Dalling. The story of a boy and his grandfather, and the lessons imparted by spending precious time together building cabins in the woods.
• The Great Red Ball Rescue, by Faye Dupras. A daring adventure undertaken by a boy whose favourite ball has been carried out to sea.
• Good Old-Fashioned Punch and Judy Show, by Mike Petersen. More than 350 years of puppet history spring to life in this revival of one of England’s most popular shows.
• Squirrel Stole My Underpants, by Bonnie Duncan. One girl’s journey to rescue her favourite piece of clothing from the paws of a mischievous squirrel.
• Pandora’s Box, by Jay Wilson. Based on the Greek myth, this one-man, five-character play introduces children to theatre, storytelling and more.
• Sleeping Prince, by The Clever Crones. This family show returns to SpringWorks in a new incarnation—with shadow puppets.
SpringWorks will also present a mainstage puppet production for youth and adults: Kira Hall’s acclaimed solo work, Paleoncology.
With free poetry readings, plus visual art, workshops and late-night cabaret, SpringWorks’ fifth season offers programming for all ages and interests.
“It’s amazing to see how much we’ve grown in just five years,” says Smith. “Each season more and more people come out to SpringWorks—in fact, we’ve quadrupled our audiences since we started in 2011. It’s very rewarding to see that there’s so much interest in Canada’s independent artists.
“We have a terrific line-up this year; I’m looking forward to sharing this work with our visitors.”
Tickets and pricing information for SpringWorks 2015 are available at www.springworksfestival.ca.