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MTYP plays it safe

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The financially strapped Manitoba Theatre for Young People has introduced a five-show 2013-14 playbill, half the size of recent seasons.

It's a dramatic downsizing for the cash-poor organization but necessary, given it is almost $2 million in debt, says newly installed artistic producer Derek Aasland.

"Doing five shows allows the company a little bit of breathing room," he says.

That means being safe rather than sorry. The company, which experienced a tumultuous year that included the dismissal of founding artistic director Leslee Silverman, had indicated it would be presenting seven shows, down from the nine of the past season and the 10 that has become the norm of recent MTYP playbills.

"It could be argued that bringing in more mainstage shows could attract more revenues," says Aasland, who took over the theatre on April 27. "The truth of the matter is the company has to handle its payables and debt, so we need to reduce the numbers of show to decrease the chance of having to borrow from future operating grants."

Conspicuous in its absence is a Christmas show. It's the slot in which MTYP would typically program its biggest, most attractive title. Pencilled in had been popular musical A Year With Frog and Toad, but it was ultimately dropped.

That production lost $30,000 owing to overtime, Aasland says. Then he learned that the props, costumes and set pieces had been damaged or were missing. Those extra costs made it not worth the risk.

"At this time, prudence is the watchword for getting MTYP through its current situation."

The MTYP season opens in October with Jack and the Giant Beanstock, which puts an ecological spin on the children's folktale. That is followed by a revival of Dying to be Thin, about the secret life of a teen struggling with an eating disorder.

The season theme of exploration is most evident with Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer, a one-man puppet show from Australia about the human race needing a new place to live underwater. Next up is Quebec's Dynamo Theatre production of I On the Sky, in which dance and acrobatics are used to relate the story of a new immigrant. The year ends with the popular Nightlight, a drama about bullying.

*  *  *

The Tara Players concludes its season with Doubt: A Parable, which later this month will be its entry into the 2013 Acting Irish International Theatre Festival in Chicago.

Director Mary Kelly-Campbell jumped at the chance to present it, especially when she discovered that U.S. playwright John Patrick Shanley's father was born in Ireland and so qualified the Pulitzer-winning drama to be staged at the festival.

In Doubt, a tyrannical nun suspects that a priest who takes a special interest in a student must be a pervert. It's a cautionary tale about the dangers of blind justice and baseless certainty.

Doubt opens at 8 p.m. May 2 and runs through May 5 at the Irish Association of Manitoba, 654 Erin St. For tickets and info, call 204-774-8272.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 2, 2013 C14

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