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Arts centre's new season heads in edgier direction

What do Irish lesbians, a man arrested during the G20 summit in Toronto and the Lebanese community all have in common? More than one might think. Each of these stories will be featured as part of the NorthwesTel Arts Lover’s series at the Yukon Arts Centre.

What do Irish lesbians, a man arrested during the G20 summit in Toronto and the Lebanese community all have in common?

More than one might think.

Each of these stories will be featured as part of the NorthwesTel Arts Lover’s series at the Yukon Arts Centre. The lineup for the coming season was announced last month.

The schedule includes seven shows, featuring a range of dance, theatre and musical performances. The first show hits the stage Sept. 12, with the final work slated for March 26, 2014.

Season passes can be bought for $126. This brings the cost of each show down to $18. Passes are transferable, said Eric Epstein, the centre’s artistic director. So, for example, two couples could purchase one pass together and then divide up what shows they want to see.

But if they have children, it’s a good chance they will want to hire a babysitter. The content of some of these shows is “walking a lot closer to the edge,” said Epstein, noting this season is bent towards a more adventuresome audience.

Take the first performance, You Should Have Stayed Home, a play the arts centre originally tried to have at the end of last season. The drama is based on an 11,000-word note Tommy Taylor wrote on Facebook after the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010, an event that resulted in what the Ontario ombudsman called “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history.”

Taylor was a Canadian who had his liberties compromised. As a passerby, he was arrested and held without charge for nearly 24 hours. That sparked the Facebook note, which went viral on the Internet before being adapted into an award-winning presentation performed by Taylor himself.

Part of this show requires making the centre look like a warehouse, to resemble the Toronto Film Studios where Taylor was held, said Epstein. Taylor will take questions from the audience after the show.

The audience will also be a big part of the final show of the season, Terminus. It’s a “vividly grotesque tale,” Epstein said of Mark O’Rowe’s play, which is really three interspersed rhyming monologues set in Ireland. The story follows three different characters, including a mother trying to rescue a stranger from the afore-mentioned lesbians, during one evening and explores how their lives become connected.

Despite some of the play’s gruesome images, there’s “grace in the midst of this,” said Epstein. And the audience will really get to know this by the end of the evening. It will sit at the edge of the stage, something that’s never happened at the centre before. This limits the audience to about 100 people, but increases their involvement, he said.

The show has won rave reviews. In Toronto, it was the hottest ticket at last year’s Summerworks Festival and ran as part of the new Off-Mirvish season.

“I can see it becoming a hot ticket,” said Epstein.

That’s one of the reasons the centre has released the schedule for the Arts Lover’s series now, rather than August as usual. It gives people more time to purchase tickets, and it lets the centre know what shows appeal to the local audience.

Another goal of the season is to make the audience consider exactly where “here” is, said Epstein. Enter the Lebanese. Right in the middle of the season is Body 13, a performance by the Kitchener, Ontario, dance group, MT Space. Their name stands for Multicultural Theatre.

Lebanese-born director Majdi Bou-Matar formed the company after arriving in Canada over eight years ago. Body 13 tells the story of how a diverse group of characters, ranging from a Syrian refugee to a man from Newfoundland to a woman wanting to scatter her father’s ashes, spend a day at the beach. “It’s a day at the beach in the middle of winter,” Epstein said of the show, scheduled for Jan. 29.

But it’s more than that. The play also provides an interesting exploration of what it means to be Canadian, he said.

“There’s more and more great work coming out of Canada,” said Epstein. He’s spent decades in Canadian theatre, and has seen the trend shift from bringing in scripts from other countries to seeing a greater variety of theatre developed within the country.

This provides a taste of “where Canada stands in the world (of theatre) right now,” he said.

And this is what connects the Lebanese with the Irish with the man arrested during the G20.

These shows explore “themes of outsider, or being outside,” said Epstein. All characters in Terminus experience this at some point in the play, he said. And Tommy Taylor’s arrest at the G20 made him a kind of outsider as well.

But this doesn’t mean the centre is neglecting local content. Artists from the Whitehorse-based record company Headless Owl Records and the artist-run label You’ve Changed Records will host what Epstein calls a mini-festival on Oct. 11.

Several of the artists will be recording an album together, and performing that night. The full lineup isn’t announced yet, but it includes Ontario band The Burning Hell, which recently shot a music video in Whitehorse. It will also include a performance by Old Time Machine’s Kyle Cashen.

And while some of these shows may be aimed at younger audiences, the centre is bringing up some more established artists in the next few months. Ian Tyson and Corb Lund will take the stage on Sept. 4. Lund has previously played the Frostbite Music Festival, and Tyson has played to crowds in Haines Junction. Folk singer Martha Wainwright will return for the first time in over a decade on Nov. 4. And New Brunswick singer David Myles will perform on Oct. 30.

Tickets for these shows are already on sale. Individual tickets for the shows in the Art Lover’s Season will be available after July 1. For more information and schedule changes, people can visit the art centre’s website at or call the box office at 667-8574.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at