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Friday, June 14, 2024

First season for new Arts Club Theatre Company artistic director is full of diversity

Ashlie Corcoran reveals the company’s 2018/2019 season

Ashlie Corcoran, the incoming artistic director at the Arts Club Theatre Company is looking forward to finally putting down new roots in Vancouver.

While Corcoran officially started with the Arts Club in October last year, she has been fulfilling a few directing contracts before taking up residence in Vancouver full-time.

Speaking with Vancouver Presents from Edmonton in advance of the Arts Club’s season announcement, Corcoran was just wrapping up a production of Mamma Mia!. While the two shows are unrelated, it is ironically the same show programmed by outgoing artistic director, Bill Millerd, as his final production at the Stanley Theatre.

“So, I’ve been in Vancouver for a few weeks, then leave for a few weeks, then back to Vancouver for a few weeks, so at the end of this job, I will be full-time. I’m very excited about it,” she says. “All my stuff, since I moved from Gananoque, is still in storage, so I’m ready to unpack a couple boxes.”

The last time we spoke with Corcoran following her appointment, she talked of having prepared a sample season as part of the interview process for the role. Fast forward several months, she reveals that several of those shows have made it into her inaugural season.

“Four or five of them from my initial fantasy season are in this season, and I imagine that in subsequent seasons the others will also be there as well,” she says.

Among them are the Canadian premiere of the Pulitzer Prize–winning play Sweat, by Lynn Nottage, the family musical Matilda, and Mark Crawford’s Bed and Breakfast.

The biggest news though comes in the level of diversity Corcoran has tried to achieve in her first season. Among the offerings are eleven plays by Canadians, eleven by women, seven by British Columbia artists, and four by artists of colour or Indigenous artists.

Rather than happy coincidence or forced diversity, Corcoran says it is very much to do with her goals for the Arts Club.

“They are to include celebrating local voices and talent, so that’s already a big part of who the Arts Club is,” she explains. “Another goal is ensuring diversity and that our stages and that our staff and other artists reflect the diversity of our community.”

Corcoran also sees partnerships, and what she calls “conscious eclecticism” as cornerstones to what she hopes to achieve, at least in this first season. Beyond, Corcoran has also set goals for artistic excellence, new play development, and creating more impactful experiences for audiences.

One area receiving a bigger push than what has traditionally been seen in previous years are co-productions. In the upcoming season, the Arts Club will present work in partnership with five other companies in both Vancouver and as far afield as Manitoba.

“I have a passion for collaboration, from one-on-one collaboration to institutional collaboration, so I have lots of experience with co-productions in the past,” says Corcoran. “As soon as I got this job I got a thousand emails from institutions that wanted to collaborate with the Arts Club, so then it was just finding the right shows to go with the right partnerships.”

While not originally planned, on the Granville Island Stage, Corcoran has programmed a season of comedies.

“I didn’t really realize that they were until I had kind of put them all together, and then I was like, oh look at, they all are comedies,” she says. “I would say that they also all have amazing heart and emotion behind them.”

On the smaller BMO stage, Corcoran is experimenting with form, style, and the performer’s relationship with the audience.

“I love that space and the flexibility of it and the intimacy of it, and so the plays that I have programmed all experiment or have fun with that,” she says.

Included in the BMO line-up are Blind Date in which the fourth wall is eliminated and an audience member will become the star of the show, and in the use of movement in both Redpatch and The Great Leap.

The new season will also include three touring productions, and Corcoran has introduced a new program for the company’s 55th season, with Vancouver’s Hardline Productions named as the Arts Club’s first resident company.

“I am excited about giving the opportunity for emerging companies and artists here in Vancouver to grow, in artistic, organizational, and financial capacities,” she says.

With a season of 18 shows, getting Corcoran to pick a single show she is most excited about is a tough ask. It is perhaps not surprising though to hear she is most excited about the season opener.

“Oh god, I love all of them, it’s tricky because I just want to direct every single one of these, but I’m really thrilled to direct The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and start the season off with myself at the directorial helm, as well as the artistic director helm,” she says.

A complete list of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s 2018/2019 season follows:

Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, by Simon Stephens, adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon
The innovative and acclaimed play full of theatre magic
September 6–October 7, 2018

SWEAT, by Lynn Nottage
A working-class drama and 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner
October 18–November 18, 2018

DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton
The fairy-tale musical whose tale is old as time
December 1, 2018–January 6, 2019

THE MATCHMAKER, by Thornton Wilder
Mix-ups and match-ups in a classic farce
January 24–February 24, 2019

Set in the Okanagan Valley, a Canadian take on a timeless family drama
March 21–April 21, 2019

MATILDA THE MUSICAL, book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, from the novel by Roald Dahl
The musical based on the Roald Dahl story
May 16–July 14, 2019

Granville Island Stage

MUSTARD, by Kat Sandler
An unconventional comedy about growing up
September 20–October 20, 2018

MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY, by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon
The festive Pride and Prejudice follow-up
November 15–December 30, 2018

THE SHOPLIFTERS, by Morris Panych
A biting comedy about society’s haves and have-nots
February 7–March 9, 2019

BED AND BREAKFAST, by Mark Crawford
A comedy about coming home and coming out
April 4–May 4, 2019

MOM’S THE WORD: NEST ½ EMPTY, by the Mom’s the Word Collective
The return of the moms for a new generation
June 6–July 20, 2019

Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre

BLIND DATE, a Spontaneous Theatre creation by Rebecca Northan
One actor. One audience member. One blind date.
November 22–December 30, 2018

TRUE CRIME, by Torquil Campbell and Chris Abraham
A genre-mixing examination of a con man
January 31–February 24, 2019

REDPATCH, by Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver
A historical drama about a young Métis soldier
March 7–31, 2019

THE GREAT LEAP, by Lauren Yee
A theatrically athletic feat
April 25–May 19, 2019

On Tour

THE PIANO TEACHER, by Dorothy Dittrich
Lessons on life and love
October 4–November 16, 2018

BLIND DATE, a Spontaneous Theatre creation by Rebecca Northan
One actor. One audience member. One blind date.
January 4–February 8, 2019

CIRCLE GAME, created by Andrew Cohen and Anna Kuman
Reimagining the work of Joni Mitchell
February 15–March 30, 2019

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