Live theatre enthusiasts in Whitehorse have reason to celebrate, as The Guild Hall recently released the lineup of mainstage shows for its 44th season. Between Sept. 20 and May 4, 2024, the community theatre will stage three plays by Canadian playwrights — Coywolf, Mustard and Ride The Cyclone.
Métis playwright Colin Wolf’s Coywolf is getting its world premiere at The Guild Hall, which will run Wednesday to Saturday from Sept. 20 to Oct. 7. Mustard and Ride The Cyclone are local productions of well-known plays.
Brian Fidler, the artistic director at The Guide Hall, says he is excited about all three plays and believes each will resonate with Yukoners.
“I can’t pick a favourite because I love each of them in their own way,” Fidler says.
Coywolf is about a young half-coyote half-wolf character named Isidor, and the story begins after he has experienced a significant loss in his life, leading him to travel across prairies, over mountains and through forests. But when humans encroach on his communities, he is compelled to resist.
“As the human city expansion continues to move coyotes and coywolves off the land in all these various ways […] he’s just trying to figure out, like, where do I stay? Where do I go? How do I make a community for myself? And it’s all about him finding his own belonging and making peace with the history of his own life that brought him here,” Wolf tells the News.
The performance will — via stylized sound — touch on themes of intergenerational trauma, substance abuse, death and guns and is recommended for a mature audience, 14 years and older.
Coywolf explores colonialism and capitalism and how these processes impact those they encounter. But it’s also, according to Wolf, a chance to examine how people affected by capitalism and colonialism respond to these systems.
“Do I participate? Do I fight? It’s also a play about when I fight and when I do not. When is it worth it to, like, throw everything away and go head-on into a fight to change everything, and when is it worth it to maybe turn tail a little bit and hide?” Wolf says. “It’s kind of exploring that, especially in the face of an immovable force like city expansion or colonialism.”
The story told in Coywolf also holds deep personal meaning to Wolf, drawing on his own life experiences and those of his aunties. Thanks to funding from the Yukon government, Wolf previously took the time to interview his aunties about their experiences growing up as Métis people in Alberta and British Columbia.
“What they told me is that, ‘These stories are important to us, but they need to be told with some distance.’ My aunties told me, ‘You can’t just retell the story. You have to put it through some sort of artistic process to make it different,’” Wolf says.
“And so that’s part of what this whole play is. It’s sort of me going to my aunties and learning so much more about my history in the context of how I ended up being the person that I am. But it is told through these animals, these coywolves.”
Tickets for Coywolf went on sale on Aug. 29 and cost $26, except for Wednesday performances and the show on Sept. 28, which are by donation. The play is directed by Sydney Wolf and co-presented by The Guild Hall and The Thumbs Up Good Work Theater Collective.
Up next on the docket of upcoming shows at The Guild Hall is Mustard, winner of the 2016 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play. It was written by Kat Sandler, a Canadian actress, playwright, director and the artistic director of Theatre Brouhaha in Toronto.
Described on Playwrights Canada Press’ website as “a twisted fairy tale about friendship, love, growing up, moving on and finding magic where you least expect it,” Mustard is about an imaginary friend who hangs around much longer than normal, until his human companion is a troubled teenager.
The play’s namesake imaginary friend cannot bring himself to leave his human pal, Thai, even though the teen has begun exhibiting violent behaviour. Adding to the drama is that Mustard is in love with Thai’s mom, a recently separated woman with a drinking problem.
“Mustard is really so absurd and wonderful. I think it will appeal to those who like a little bit of an edge with their shows. And it’s funny […] and that’s something that you really need in the middle of winter — something that makes you laugh,” Fidler says.
Mustard will run from Feb. 21 to March 9. Tickets will go on sale approximately three weeks before the show opens and cost $27, except on Wednesdays, which are pay-what-you-want. A director has yet to be announced.
The final play for the community theatre’s upcoming season is Ride The Cyclone. This musical tells the tale of six teens from Saskatchewan who find themselves stuck in limbo after dying in a roller coaster accident. The play is being directed by Allyn Walton, with musical direction by Scott Maynard.
“[For] Ride The Cyclone, there’s a whole contingent of people who love musicals up here, and this one is so great because it does engage the younger community. And I think there’s a whole audience right now who are hungry to see talented young people on stage,” Fidler says.
Ride The Cyclone will be staged from April 17 to May 4. Tickets should go on sale in late March and cost $40, except on Wednesdays.
Speaking to how the plays for The Guild Hall’s 2023-24 season were selected, Fidler tells the News that he reads “lots of plays” and considers numerous factors when narrowing down possible shows. Once he has a shortlist, he then consults with colleagues before making a final decision.
“I think a lot about who’s here, who’s in town that I know who would be good to work on those productions […] I also think about what the audience here would want to see and what’s been popular in the past and what’s trending right now,” Fidler says.
“And what do I like? What makes me laugh out loud, what makes me drop tears onto the page, what really jumps out for me? And then I make a shortlist.”
Once he has a shortlist, he consults with colleagues at the community theatre before making a final decision.
In addition to the three mainstage plays, several family-friendly activities are scheduled at The Guild Hall in the coming months, including drag storytime events and the haunted house for Halloween. Meanwhile, adults looking for a good chuckle can check out the venue’s comedy nights.
Contact Matthew Bossons at email@example.com