Toronto’s World Stage 2014 unveiled

Gender politics, South African apartheid, society’s obsessions with celebrity, even a play starring a basset hound – they’ll all have their place on the World Stage 2014 line-up, announced today.

Running from 1 February to 18 May at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, the season of contemporary performance features provocative work from Scandinavia, Germany, the UK, South Africa, the US and Canada.

World Stage artistic director Tina Rasmussen told IAM: ‘I approach the programming of the season like I would if I were a perfume designer. I imagine first that a ticket-buyer will want to experience all of the shows in the season. So I look at the shows as a blend to make up a complex fragrance – a citrus top note, an oaky centre, a patchouli base and so on. But also recognising that perhaps not everyone will go through the entire season and see all the shows, but might see just one show, and how could it stand alone and have the same impact.’

Among the shows on the 2014 programme are Untitled Feminist Show by Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, a play entirely without words and clothes which examines gender identity; Conte d’amour, a dark co-production exploring patriarchal control from Markus Öhrn, Institutet and Nya Rampen; and Mies Julie from Yael Farber and the Baxter Theatre Centre.

Rasmussen explained that while she doesn’t believe in festival themes, strands of ideas tend to recur. ‘An important idea in the 2014 season is a proposal of gender fluidity. It certainly seems to be in the zeitgeist. Another recurring idea is utopia, a search for a different space for us to be together. More and more I believe that the theatre is a political space, a space for us to be citizens. The notion of absence and presence also weighs heavily in the season, as well as tackling the dark side of romantic love.’

Certainly some of these works will test audiences – Rasmussen said that’s the idea. ‘Contemporary performance can often be challenging. The bold curation means pushing comfort zones, and introducing new ideas with an eye for ideas that will entice and inspire.’

‘I do find that World Stage audiences are always up for the challenge,’ she adds. ‘What I aim to do in every season is to reinforce that the audience does not play a passive role in the theatre, but are active in what they’re witnessing, that there is a true exchange. We have to put work out into the ecology that encourages audience development and appreciation for these practices. Audiences can have a better understanding when they see themselves in the global context. It is this exchange that makes us better citizens.’

A full-length interview with Rasmussen and Harbourfront Centre’s CEO William Boyle will feature in IAM issue 20.

Photo: Major Tom by Victoria Melody