COMPASS New Play Development Program

the grand theatre is proud to announce the launch of

COMPASS: New Play Development Program


LONDON, ON, Nov. 15, 2016 -- The Grand Theatre is thrilled to launch COMPASS, a New Play Development Program dedicated to creating and premiering new work on The Grand stages. Dennis Garnhum, Artistic Director as of October 1, 2016, announced the program at a press conference held today at the theatre.

“COMPASS will launch with four commissions that celebrate significant people from our past as well as examine ideas of identity important to our community and country today. This program reflects my belief that in order to be a relevant theatre company, we must develop and premiere our stories on our stages,” said Garnhum.

“This is a very exciting time for our theatre and is an incredible opportunity for London as a region to be on the forefront of theatre in Canada. These plays will have impact on the theatre community not only locally, but nationally. This is the first program of its kind for The Grand and marks a transition to Dennis Garnhum’s new vision for our theatre,” said Deb Harvey, Executive Director of The Grand Theatre.

The program will commission and workshop new plays developed and brought to life at The Grand Theatre. The first productions in development that will premiere on The Grand MainStage include:

Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve, with orchestrations and original music by Dave Pierce, book and direction by Dennis Garnhum, will have its World Premiere Spring 2019. This musical celebration of a local hero will celebrate Lombardo and his orchestra, The Royal Canadians, in a sweeping spectacle that traces his legendary rise to “Mr. New Year’s Eve.”
 

Starlight Tours, a musical drama with music and lyrics by Leslie Arden and book by Cathy Elliott, will be workshopped and developed in collaboration with Sheridan College’s Canadian Music Theatre Project. The production explores a clash of cultures while celebrating the strength and resilience of two young women; one Cree and one white.

“I look forward to working on the book and collaborating with Leslie Arden on Starlight Tours, a subject that means the world to me as an artist, a citizen of Canada, and an Indigenous (Mi’kmaq) person,” said Cathy Elliott, playwright of Starlight Tours. “I am gratified that The Grand Theatre is intent on asking the difficult questions and taking on the challenge of such a difficult story, and I look ahead to meeting that challenge head on.”
 

London Bridges is a contemporary comedy in two acts: Act One in London, England, Act Two in London, Ontario, each written by a playwright of that region. The play tells the story of two worlds colliding during one unforgettable visit. The Grand Theatre will issue a public submission of interest/proposals for these two commissions seeking writers from Canada and England.
 

AMBROSE SMALL: An Extravagantly Musical, Mysteriously Grand Ghost Story, will have its World Premiere Halloween 2020 in celebration of The Grand’s 50th Anniversary Season. Set against the vibrant and wildly scandalous vaudeville era, Ambrose Small will invite audiences to explore the theatre as an interactive, site-specific musical adventure. Directed by Dennis Garnhum with the playwright to be announced in the near future.

As these four plays take shape, the first COMPASS production to have its world premiere on The Grand MainStage is SILENCE, written by Trina Davies and directed by Peter Hinton. Originally commissioned and developed through FUSE: The Enbridge New Play Development Program at Theatre Calgary, Silence will premiere in January 2018 as part of The Grand’s 2017/18 Season. Silence traces the true love story of Alexander Graham Bell and his wife, Mabel, who was deaf. The Grand Theatre dedicates the production to the late Iris Turcott, dramaturg.

“I’m overjoyed that Trina Davies’ play will be premiered at The Grand Theatre as part of Dennis’ first season at The Grand and that it will help launch the future of more new plays at that theatre.  It is such a fitting way to connect our two theatres together, and celebrate the full journey of Trina’s beautiful play to the stage,” said Shari Wattling, Interim Artistic Director at Theatre Calgary.

The first phase of development of the four plays is projected to cost $100,000 ($25,000 per play), an amount that has already been secured from two sponsors: Tourism London and Carlyle Peterson Lawyers LLP. “It’s phenomenal to have this level of commitment from these two partners. We are thrilled to have support from Tourism London and Carlyle Peterson Lawyers to launch this program,” said Harvey.

About The Grand Theatre
The Grand Theatre, a leading regional theatre, is located in the heart of Downtown London, Ontario. It produces and presents professional performances on the MainStage and in the McManus Studio Theatre. The Grand season runs from September to May. The 2016/17 season is on sale now.

For more information, please contact:
Kate Rapson, Communications Manager: krapson [at] grandtheatre [dot] com: 519-672-9030 ext. 247


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New Play Overview

GUY LOMBARDO’S NEW YEAR’S EVE

A Musical Celebration of a Local Hero

Orchestrations and Original Music by Dave Pierce

Book and Direction by Dennis Garnhum

World Premiere Spring 2019
The man renowned for ushering in the New Year to millions of homes across North America for nearly half a century was born in London, Ontario in 1902. Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve brings to life Lombardo and his orchestra, The Royal Canadians, in this sweeping celebration that traces his legendary rise to “Mr. New Year’s Eve.” The production begins at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City as the band prepares for their New Year’s Eve broadcast and the countdown to midnight.

The development of this production is sponsored by Tourism London.

STARLIGHT TOURS

Musical Drama

Music/Lyrics by Leslie Arden

Book by Cathy Elliott

Starlight Tours is based on factual events reported in Saskatchewan in the early 2000s that trace back as far as the 1970s. A series of inquiries and media investigations would reveal a practice by Saskatoon police of picking up First Nations people, driving them outside the city limits, and abandoning them in the dead of winter at the side of the road. After three Indigenous men are found frozen on the prairie, the question would arise as to whether or not their deaths were a result of this practice, which has become known as “starlight tours.” This musical mystery explores a clash of cultures while celebrating the strength and resilience of two young women, one Cree, one white, who are able to find hope and a way forward.

This production is to be workshopped and developed in collaboration with Sheridan College’s Canadian Music Theatre Project.

The development of this production is sponsored by Carlyle Peterson, LLP.

LONDON BRIDGES

Living in London, Ontario one is surrounded by references to the other, larger, London, England. From the Thames River and Covent Garden Market to Oxford Street, there are so many shared associations. London Bridges is a comedy in two acts: Act One in London, England, Act Two in London, Ontario, each written by a native of that region. The play tells the story of two worlds colliding during one unforgettable visit.

The Grand Theatre will issue a public submission of interest/proposals for these two commissions – one from Canada and one from England.

The development of this production is sponsored by Tourism London.

AMBROSE SMALL

An Extravagantly Musical, Mysteriously Grand Ghost Story

Writer to be announced
Directed by Dennis Garnhum

World Premiere Halloween 2020 in Celebration of The Grand’s 50th Anniversary Season
Ambrose Small, a Canadian theatre tycoon and self-made millionaire, owned seven theatres across Ontario and built London’s Grand Theatre in 1901. On December 2, 1919 at the age of 56, he sold all of his properties and vanished, never to be found. Set against the vibrant and wildly scandalous vaudeville era, Ambrose Small will invite audiences to explore The Grand Theatre as  an interactive, site-specific musical adventure.

The development of this production is sponsored by Tourism London.

SILENCE

Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell

By Trina Davies
Directed by Peter Hinton

World Premiere January 2018
Alexander Graham Bell connected people around the world by inventing the telephone.  But it was of little use to his wife, Mabel, who was deaf. A beautiful (and true) love story about how we communicate.

This script was originally commissioned as part of FUSE: The Enbridge New Play Program at Theatre Calgary.

The Grand Theatre dedicates SILENCE to the late Iris Turcott.
London born IRIS TURCOTT was the dramaturg who worked with the writer on the development of this play. Iris was known as an extraordinary champion of new work for stages across Canada. SILENCE will be the first play to emerge through our COMPASS program.

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BIOS

Leslie Arden

Leslie has written over a dozen musicals, including the critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning The House of Martin Guerre, the Chalmers Award winning The Happy Prince, and the Dora Mavor Moore nominated The Princess and the Handmaiden. She wrote the score to Harvest Moon Rising and a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which was produced by Chicago’s American Musical Theatre Project in August 2006 and showcased by the National Alliance of Musical Theater in New York City. Leslie composed the music for Canadian Stage’s productions of The Beard of Avon and It’s a Wonderful Life (in which she was also a performer), and the Stratford Festival’s productions of Cyrano de Bergerac and The Three Musketeers.

Leslie collaborated with Norm Foster on The Last Resort and Ned Durango. Her choral works include The Best Years, commissioned by Toronto’s Viva Youth Singers, and Feathers on the Page, which was commissioned and premiered by the King Edward Choir in 2012.  The Reformation of Jimmy Valentine, her musical adaptation of two O’Henry short stories, premiered in 2015.  She composed the music for a musical version of Goethe’s Faust, which premiered in 2016.  She is currently working on Moll, a loose contemporary musical adaptation of Defoe’s “Moll Flanders.”

Trina Davies

Trina is a playwright based in Vancouver. Trina’s award-winning plays include ShatterMulti User Dungeon, The Auction, and Waxworks. Her play The Romeo Initiative was a finalist for Canada’s top literary prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama in 2012, and was the winner of the National Enbridge Prize for Established Artist. Her plays have been performed across Canada and in a number of countries including the United States, Germany, Italy, and India. Her work has been translated into Italian and German. She has participated in artist residencies at the Stratford Festival and the Banff Centre for the Arts. She is currently working on a commission for the Canada 300 project, as well as a play entitled The Bone Bridge (recent winner of the National Uprising Award for plays concerning social justice) and a commission from Theatre Calgary for Silence.

Cathy Elliott

Cathy is a multi-disciplined Mi’kmaq artist and a proud member of Sipekne'katik, Nova Scotia. Her screenplay for the DAREarts documentary Fill My Hollow Bones was narrated by Graham Greene. She wrote and directed The Talking Stick, the first all-aboriginal musical in the history of the Charlottetown Festival. The finale of The Talking Stick was featured at Will and Kate’s Royal Visit to PEI in 2011. A concert version of The Talking Stick was presented at the TRC Gathering in Halifax. In 2012, she was the Indigenous Liaison for New World Theatre Project’s The Tempest in Cupids, Newfoundland. She portrayed Ariel as a Beothuk Grandmother, and translated portions of the script into Beothuk and Mi’kmaq. Fireweeds, her Yukon musical premiered at the Red Barn Theatre and had several productions. Moving Day, her one woman musical, premiered at Talk is Free Theatre and had productions in the inaugural Next Stage Festival, Halifax and Orillia.

She has been working with Native Earth Performing Arts as a playwright, and her Annie Mae Pictou Aquash play Aluasa'sit was featured in 2016 Weesageechak Festival. She is currently writing a musical about Mi'kmaq Ethnologist, Jerry Lonecloud.

Dennis Garnhum

Dennis is the Artistic Director of The Grand Theatre as of October 1, 2016. His writing credits include:  Lost – A Memoir (Governor Generals Literary Nomination), Timothy Findley’s The Wars, and a recent adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that has played at Theatre Calgary every holiday season for the last six years.

Aside from his work at Theatre Calgary, Dennis has directed plays, musicals, and operas at companies across the country, including Vancouver Opera, National Arts Centre, Shaw Festival, Stratford Festival, Tarragon Theatre, Manitoba Theatre Centre, Bard on the Beach, Pacific Opera Victoria, Belfry Theatre, Neptune Theatre, and Theatre New Brunswick. His co-adaptation (with author Cathy Ostlere) of Lost – A Memoir was nominated for a 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award.

Dave Pierce

Renowned composer and orchestrator Dave Pierce will orchestrate and shape this big band celebration.  Calgary-based, Emmy award-winning Pierce regularly works in all major markets, including New York, L.A., Nashville, Toronto, and Vancouver.  He orchestrated music for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Concert Tour and Jesus Christ Superstar Gospel, and has worked with legendary entertainment producers to develop many successful projects including The Calgary Stampede’s Evening Grandstand Show, Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular featuring The Rockettes, NBC’s Macy’s Parade, and many television awards shows including the ACMA’s in USA and the Gemini Awards in Canada.  In 2010, Pierce was the Music Director and Composer for the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.

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