The Next Stage Theatre Festival, returns this month for its 13th edition. Presented by the Toronto Fringe, this carefully festival will feature a showcase for bold, independent voices and a broad range of new, innovative plays.
From the list of twelve shows, I share my personal picks of what to see and experience at this year’s festival.
Saturday, January 11 at 7:30pm
Tallboyz – Live
A one-night only show in support of the Toronto Fringe. Catch the stars of the hit CBC comedy series live on stage. Tallboyz (Guled Abdi, Vance Banzo, Tim Blair, and Franco Nguyen) bring their absurdist but relatable sketch comedy to Next Stage for a one-night-only performance. With a hilarious and upbeat demeanor, the Tallboyz take on friendship, politics, bro culture, and everyday life.
Kitne Saare Laloo Yahan Pey Hain
Creator & Performer: Bilal Baig
Director: Tawiah M’Carthy
Escaping to the West, a young trans woman runs away from Bangladesh with only one suitcase and a secret. As she fears for her life in her new surroundings, can she trust you to keep her safe? Bilal Baig offers a truthful drama that authentically and unapologetically puts queer and trans bodies at the centre of the storytelling.
Playwright: Julia Lederer
Director: Heather Marie Annis
First Daughter, Helen Spectacular, arrives at the world’s largest robot-producing start-up with a plan to free the robots and grant them human rights. She quickly becomes embroiled in both a love triangle and a secret science experiment that might lead to a major robot revolt. Absurdly comic and existentially chilling, U-R-U examines the societal obsession with progress at all costs and the decreasing worth of humanity in this increasingly artificial world.
This is a staged reading, by the way. It means this is a work-in-progress.
Winter Of ’88
Playwright & Director: Mohammad Yaghoubi
An award-winning meta-theatrical and autobiographical piece based on the playwright’s traumatic experiences of the Iran-Iraq war. Recently translated from Farsi, this play creates a window into the not-so-distant past: a window to the days when death was just around the corner, and even though many survived death, no one survived the trauma.
Pearle Harbour’s Agit-Pop!
Creator and Performer: Justin Miller
Musical Director: Steven Conway
Director: Rebecca Ballarin
Developed over five years of live performance, Agit Pop! is an ever-changing collection of Pearle’s favourite, best, and most heart-wrenchingly hilarious short acts. With accompaniment by musical director Steven Conway, Pearle serenades audiences with new arrangements of old classics and little known gems by David Bowie, Judy Garland, Tom Waits and more.
Other interesting shows include a musical romp with queer/disabled artist Ophira Calof’s mind/body divide (Literally Titanium); a feminist burlesque from touring Fringe veteran Lindsay Mullan (Tease); and the return of one of my favourites from the 2019 Fringe Festival, Tita Jokes.
The Next Stage Theatre Festival will take place at the Factory Theatre from January 8 to 19, 2020. For full festival listings, advance tickets and showtimes, please visit fringetoronto.com.