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Cohen's songs featured in PTE's 2013-14 lineup

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HALLELUJAH... Prairie Theatre Exchange has included in its 2013-14 season a musical featuring the songs of legendary Canadian troubadour Leonard Cohen.

Chelsea Hotel -- The Songs of Leonard Cohen is the centrepiece of PTE's five-show playlist that also includes the latest works of two big names of Canadian theatre, Daniel MacIvor and Joan Macleod. Trish Cooper, a member of the PTE Playwrights Unit, will also premiere her first mainstage production, Social Studies, next November.

The 78-year-old Cohen has never been more popular in his long and storied career. His current Old Ideas World Tour has earned rapturous reviews and is slated to return to Winnipeg April 26 at the MTS Centre. His timeless songbook and iconic public life have attracted numerous theatre adaptors who have fashioned stage revues. One is a dance/music blend called Dance Me to the End of Love by Denmark's Granhoj Dans Company, which opened this week at the Centaur Theatre in Cohen's hometown of Montreal.

"I've wanted to do a Leonard Cohen show for years," says PTE artistic director Robert Metcalfe, who unveiled his season Thursday.

"There are a few Leonard Cohen shows out there and we even considered pulling one together ourselves, but I never found one I really liked until this one."

Chelsea Hotel, conceived and directed by Tracey Power, debuted in Vancouver last year. It tells the fictional story of a writer alone in a rundown hotel unable to write and needing to sort through his memories of his many relationships through song.

"I think the music is going to surprise people because you think of everybody singing Hallelujah or Cohen songs you slit your wrists to," says Metcalfe, who is entering his 11th season at PTE in the fall.

"This takes his music and blows it up in really fresh ways."

Cooper, a comedian who began her professional career as a member of the Royal Liechtenstein Theatre Company sketch comedy troupe, has penned a story about a family with a grown daughter who has broken up with her husband and returns home to find out her mother has given away her old bedroom to a Sudanese refugee. Social Studies is about cultural differences and how an African man finds a place in this family.

"I like it because it's about the changing face of Canada," says Metcalfe, who will direct.

"The inclusion of this new wave of immigration demands we rethink our own place."

The PTE season opens with Best Brothers, by award-winning Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, a comic drama about siblings whose mother dies and leaves them her little dog to take care for. MacLeod's The Valley debuted in Calgary earlier this month and will open at PTE next February. It looks at the repercussions of a violent altercation on a sky train between a police officer and severely depressed teenager.

The season wraps with Harvest, a play written by Calgary's Ken Cameron that Metcalfe has been meaning to present for several seasons. It's a true-to-life comedy about how Cameron's parents rented their farmhouse to a seemingly upstanding tenant who turned it into a marijuana grow-op.

The PTE family show next Christmas is Portage and Munsch -- 50 Below, for which playwright Debbie Patterson will again adapt the stories of beloved children's author Robert Munsch. Sharon Bajer will direct.

2013-14 PTE SEASON

-- Best Brothers, by Daniel MacIvor: Oct. 17-Nov. 3

-- Social Studies, by Trish Cooper: Nov. 21-Dec. 8

-- Chelsea Hotel, by Tracey Power: Jan. 23-Feb. 9, 2014

-- The Valley, by Joan MacLeod: Feb. 27-March 16

-- Harvest, by Ken Cameron: April 3-20

-- Portage and Munsch -- 50 Below: Dec. 20-Jan. 5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2013 D3

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