Call it an invasion, and Soulpepper’s Artistic Director Albert Schultz demurs. “We don’t like to think of it as an invasion as much as a friendly incursion.”
Schultz is the founding artistic director of Soulpepper, Toronto’s largest and most prolific multi-theatre troupe, and on July 1 he and his company began a 20th season of productions—and did it for the first time on foreign turf.
Specifically, for almost all of July, Soulpepper will be sprinkling the Pershing Square Signature Center at Tenth Avenue and 42nd Street with a dozen shows performed in more venues than Signature itself has ever utilized. You can find performances going on in all four theatres, in a rehearsal hall, and, for its nightly cabaret attractions, in the Signature’s sprawling lobby.
The three mainstage shows are: an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage (July 2–26), which won seven Dora Awards; a musical adaptation of Edgar Lee Masters’ beloved Spoon River Anthology (July 7–27), which earned a Best Musical Dora; and Kim’s Convenience (July 2–15), a comedy set in a Korean convenience store that was subsequently spun off into a national CBC series. The mom and pop of that show will spend their two-week hiatus here reprising their parts.
As Schultz explains, “In the past 20 years, we’ve been so busy creating work and overlapping it (because we’re in rep) and touring it we never had the chance to take it beyond our borders.” But when NYC became the anniversary goal, Schultz did a tour of local stage spaces with more than one venue, and was struck by how similar the Signature felt to their Toronto home.
“We don’t have a lobby as grand as the Signature,” Schultz says, “but we have spaces radiating off of it. There is such a hive of activity there all the time. We wanted to transplant the vibrations of our home into New York, and that’s what the Signature space allows us to do in a beautiful way.”
Sixty-plus New York debuts are being made this month thanks to the Soulpepper project. “We didn’t want to bring a show to New York—we wanted to bring a company to New York,” says Schultz. “What we’re really interested in is opening up trade routes, if you will—artistic conversations across the border. We have an ambassador program where we’re taking our artists and embedding them in relationships with artists and companies in New York. We hope to use this opportunity to start to seed border programs for the future.”
See more of the cast below: