Stratford boasts two world premieres

'Moby Dick,' 'Palmer Park' to debut next year

TORONTO — Canada’s Stratford Festival will be premiering two new plays next year, in addition to its previously announced bill of five Shakespeare plays, three other classical works and two musicals.

“Palmer Park,” by Joanna McClelland Glass, and a new adaptation of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” by Morris Panych are both expected to debut next August.

Set in a once-prosperous suburb of Detroit in 1968, the year after the devastating riots that shook the city, Glass’s “Park” shows an integrated community being jolted from its seeming complacency when black children from a poorer neighborhood are bused into their school.

The Canadian-born scribe’s first play, the double-bill “Canadian Gothic” and “American Modern,” had its initial production at the Manhattan Theater Club in 1972. Colleen Dewhurst starred in her “Artichoke” at New Haven, Conn.’s Long Wharf in 1975.

Glass’s plays have been seen on Broadway twice, in 1981 for “To Grandmother’s House We Go” and in 1984 for “Play Memory,” directed by Harold Prince, which earned her a Tony nomination for play.

More recently, her two-hander, “Trying,” enjoyed a successful Off Broadway run in the 2004-05 season and has been staged by numerous regionals across the country.

“Park” has had readings at the Goodman Theater in 2005 and Ford’s Theater in 2006.

Panych has remained in Canada throughout his career, although some of his works, such as “Vigil” and “Seven Stories,” have been seen in America and Europe as well.

His biggest hit to date, “The Overcoat,” is a 1998 piece of physical theater based on Nikolai Gogol’s short story of the same name, but set to the music of Shostakovich and without any words.

“Moby Dick” is expected to follow much the same pattern, with the music of Claude Debussy stepping in on this occasion. There are, however, expected to be significant passages of spoken text, which will differentiate it from the Gogol adaptation.

“Moby Dick” will be making its debut in the 260-seat Studio Theater, the smallest of Stratford’s four venues, a notable choice for an epic work.

Next year marks the first season for the new regime at Stratford under general director Antoni Cimolino, with three artistic directors (Des McAnuff, Marti Maraden and Don Shipley) sharing the duties.

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