Manitoba Theatre for Young People will celebrate the first annual Islamic History Month in October by kicking off its 2014-15 season with a play about a hijab-wearing girl taken away from her high school due to anti-Muslim graffiti.
Jabber (Oct. 27-Jan. 16), by Vancouver playwright Marcus Youssef, is the story of an Egyptian-born teen attracted to a non-Muslim boy with a bad reputation. Jabber is a colloquialism for a female who wears a hijab.
"It's one of those excellent social-issue pieces that also speaks realistically to teens in their own vernacular," says MTYP executive producer Derek Aasland. "It deals with an issue that is so particular to our times in a way that is so disarming."
What's noteworthy about MTYP's 33rd season is that it is returning to a seven-show playbill after downsizing this season to only five offerings. This is the first season Aasland has assembled and represents the first step in restoring the company to prominence in both the Winnipeg and Canadian theatre communities after a financially tumultuous 2012-13 season that climaxed with the dismissal of artistic director Leslee Silverman.
"I was tasked with finding what the optimum number of shows for MTYP is given the budgets we are given. Normally MTYP did nine to 10 but we're going with seven and will expand that number when it becomes financially feasible," says Aasland.
Next season will be highlighted by the re-institution of a Christmas show, Peter Pan (Nov. 27-Dec. 24), with children's music star Fred Penner reprising his role as Captain Hook, which he first performed at MTYP in 2000.
"My first priority was to bring back the fun of an MTYP season that had been deflated through a year of hardship," says Aasland, who projects a "pretty good" surplus on the current season.
MTYP is hosting four touring shows, beginning with Pinocchio (Nov. 6-15), presented by Quebec's Tout è Trac. The new take on Carlo Collodi's classic tale follows the marionette from log-hood to boyhood.
Black Violin (Jan. 7-17) from Florida will be back for an encore after a successful debut in 2010. It features a pair of classically trained violinists on a mission to inspire with a follow-your-dreams message driven by a funky mix of hip hop, jazz, R&B and Bach.
Aasland will bring back New Canadian Kid (Feb. 4-13), Dennis Foon's ever-topical 1978 work, which is said to be the most produced Canadian play ever. The story about immigrant children in Canada explores the experience of being an outsider trying to fit in.
Theatre Terra from the Netherlands will drop by for spring break to stage Spot (March 23-April 2). From the company that brought Little Donkey to Winnipeg comes another puppet show, this time celebrating one of children's literature most beloved dogs.
The season wraps with Kaput (April 16-26), a wordless tribute to slapstick comedy of the silent-film era. The Australian stage export focuses on an eager handyman/projectionist trying to screen a film with a temperamental projector.