Monday, June 17, 2024

Stages Theatre Festival returns for its 31st edition

Eastern Front Theatre pushes the boundaries of what theatre can be with its Stages Theatre Festival, returning to Dartmouth's Alderney Landing from June 5-9.

Returning for its 31st edition, Eastern Front Theatre once again pushes the boundaries of what theatre can be with its Stages Theatre Festival. On stage at Dartmouth’s Alderney Landing, the curated festival runs from June 5-9.

When I was growing up, I felt like art wasn’t for me, and I want people to feel like this is for them. – Kat McCormack

Unlike Eastern Front’s Early Stages Festival, held earlier this year and focuses on works in progress, June’s Stages Theatre Festival features more polished works.

“Early Stages also tends to be local work, really Atlantic Canadian-focused,” says Eastern Front’s artistic director McCormack. “Whereas with Stages, we’re bringing in work from across the country, as well as from local performances.”

But that doesn’t mean each is mutually exclusive, as one of the shows at this year’s festival is The Dead Letter Office, a production that has transitioned from Early Stages. From British Columbia’s Popcorn Galaxies, the interactive piece based around real-life letters undeliverable by the post office was part of Eastern Front’s inaugural Rotunda Residency.

“What’s exciting about that one is that it started as a work in progress at Early Stages and now they’re back as they’ve continued to develop it,” says McCormack. “Now they have what I would call a full proscenium piece and they’ve also got this cool one-on-one experience that you might happen upon at the library or the market during the week of Stages.”

Another first for Stages is the introduction film to the mix with Les Filles du Roi (The King’s Daughters) from Vancouver’s Urban Ink. “We’ve certainly dabbled in film before, but this is the first time we’re having a full screening,” says McCormack.

Adapted from the award-winning stage musical by Corey Payette and Julie McIsaac, Les Filles du Roi tells the story of a young girl and her brother whose lives are disrupted upon the arrival of les filles du roi in New France, now Montreal, in 1665. “It is a beautiful amalgamation of theatre and film,” says McCormack. “You’re not watching a filmed play, and you’re not quite watching just a film, and it’s really remarkable.”

This year’s fest also features performances of Ottawa’s Strata Inc., a live audio drama that marries virtual reality with real-life storytelling through an immersive sound design and performances.

On the local front, Zoë Comeau’s one-woman show, F*cking Trans Women, returns after making waves on stages since Comeau first performed it at the 2022 Halifax Fringe as a work-in-progress. “It feels like a perfect opportunity to see the show again in its final incarnation on the main stage here at Alderney,” says McCormack. “It’s a show that I would love for people to take a chance on even if they think it’s not for them.”

Zoë Comeau brings her one-woman show to this year's Stages Theatre Festival. Photo by Stoo Metz.
Zoë Comeau brings her one-woman show to this year’s Stages Theatre Festival. Photo by Stoo Metz.

Additional local works include Unicorn, a new poetic movement piece from Kay MacDonald with interactive projections, and Q&A, Joe Cobden’s absurd improv comedy that invites its audience to ask questions about a play they haven’t seen.

For those seeking something more PG, the Family Stages Series includes work for all ages, including Unnatural Disaster’s Bottom Dwellers: A Deep Sea Musical and the newest offering from The Club Inclusion Players, Betrayal at the Big Top.

Halifax's Club Inclusion Theatre Company presents the murder mystery The Big Top Betrayal.
Halifax’s Club Inclusion Theatre Company presents the murder mystery The Big Top Betrayal.

In curating a festival McCormack believes audiences will want to see, she is eager for locals to take it all in. “When I was growing up, I felt like art wasn’t for me, and I want people to feel like this is for them,” she says. “You’re taking a risk on some very cheap tickets to some high quality theatre, which feels like a pretty good payoff to me.”

Eastern Front Theatre presents the 2024 Stages Theatre Festival from June 5 to 9 at Alderney Landing (2 Ochterloney St, Dartmouth). Visit easternfronttheatre.com for tickets and information.

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