Next Stage Theatre Festival

Next Stage Theatre Festival preview 2014

The Toronto Fringe Festival took a small hit this past summer when clouds moved in and delivered more rain in one day than ever on record in the city. The weather wasn't able to dampen the spirit of the 25th annual indie festival though -- there were record ticket sales during the first four days and spontaneous pop-up performances in the wake of cancellations. The Next Stage Theatre Festival, the Fringe's winter programme, provides an annual jump start to another year of theatre. Here are some of the most exciting on offer in 2014.

A Misfortune / Common Descent / Factory Studio Theatre
Adapted from an Anton Chekhov short story of the same name, A Misfortune is a romantic tale about a married woman and her lover, a young lawyer, who take a stroll through the woods. While Sofya knows that she must end the relationship, doing so proves to be more difficult than she ever anticipated. It's a tall order adapting the thoughtful Chekhov, especially into musical form, so it'll be interested to see how Director Evan Tsitsias brings this one to the stage.

Fatherly / Sam S. Mullins / Factory Theatre Antechamber
Writer and performer Sam S. Mullins found success at last summer's Fringe Festival with Weaksauce, a coming-of-age tale about falling in love and losing that love to another guy. Mullins has established himself as a clever, humorous storyteller and an affable performer. Fatherly finds Mullins taking us on a journey from a heart-to-heart conversation with his dad to the eventual death of a Texan firefighter.

Polar Opposites / TiltHAUS / Factory Theatre Antechamber
Intriguingly billed as "2 parts comedy, 1 part tragedy, ½ table tennis, and Ÿ mask theatre," Polar Opposites examines a moment in the life of two polar bears floating on an iceberg that's slowly melting. Don't expect a Coca-Cola commercial. Playwright and performer Nicole Ratjen, who appears alongside Stephanie Jung, has created the polar masks for the production, that will help give animation to the arctic characters.

Rifles / Praxis Theatre / Factory Mainspace
Playwright Nicolas Billon had a memorable 2013, taking home the Governor General's award for his collection of plays, Fault Lines: Greenland -- Iceland -- Faroe Islands. The new year sees him premiering an adaptation of Brecht's 1937 play Senora Carrar's Rifles for Praxis Theatre. Directed by Michael Wheeler, the play explores a widow's desire to save her sons from combat during the Spanish Civil War.

Scheherazade / Nobody's Business Theatre / Factory Studio Theatre
Creative duo Morgan Norwich and Johnnie Walker (The Other Three Sisters, A Maude-Lynne Evening) routinely tour Canada's fringe circuit with thoughtful, clever work. Their newest, Scheherazade, riffs off of the classic One Thousand and One Nights to consider opulence, unions, and well-kept secrets. Re-told through a contemporary sensibility, the play follows the title character's plan to stop a lustful King who kills his bride each and every morning.

Stencilboy and Other Portraits / Paradigm Productions / Factory Studio Theatre
Susanna Fournier's Stencilboy and Other Portraits considers the desires that drive us toward action. Lily moves to the big city in an attempt to fulfill her dream of being immortalized on an artist's canvas. She meets two men who can make her wish come true, one a once successful artist and the other who creates graffiti. The play, an exploration of art, love, and desire, stars Richard Clarkin, Brandon Coffey, and Sochi Fried.

The Next Stage Theatre Festival runs from January 8-19 at Factory Theatre. Visit the Toronto Fringe Festival website for tickets, venue information, and the complete festival lineup.

Photo by Lauren Vandenbrook from Polar Opposites

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