Hart House Theatre kicked off their 2012/2013 season with a line up that includes Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Romeo & Juliet and Robin Hood: The Legendary Musical Comedy.
Exterior of Hart House Theatre; Photo courtesy of Rasheed Clarke/Gleaner News.
zeeBigBang spoke with Jeremy Hutton, Hart House Theatre’s first Artistic Director in 30 years. We talked to him about his job, what makes Hart House unique from other theatre companies and what this season has in store for its audience.
“In 2000, the theatre was going to be closed down by the University of Toronto. A lot of alumni came together to try and raise the funding to keep the theatre open. One of the things that really came up was that the theatre needed to become more artistically relevant and start producing its own work again. So for 10 years Hart House Theatre was doing that. It got to a point a few years ago where they decided that if they were going to continue with that success they would need to have somebody helming the artistic vision of the place and that’s when I got hired,” said Hutton.
Hutton’s job as Artistic Director is to choose what shows the theatre will produce each year as well as hiring staff and directing one or two of the shows in the season.
“The job is half artistic in terms of programming the shows that we think our audience is really going to respond to and directing some of those shows. And the other half of the job is administrative, just trying to keep everything running smoothly. There aren’t very many people that work down in the theatre here so there’s a lot of overlap between myself and the general manager and the production manager just in terms of keeping this place running as much like a well-oiled machine as we can,” explained Hutton.
Jeremy Hutton, Artistic Director at Hart House Theatre
With Hart House Theatre being an amateur theatre company, Hutton says there is a lot of opportunity for growth for the people involved.
“We focus a lot on developing artists and giving them a stepping stone to bigger equity theatre companies around here. Hart House Theatre is a place where burgeoning artists can cut their teeth on a production level that’s a little bit bigger than you’ll find in the indie theatre scene because we have a bigger stage. We have a few more options in terms of what our space can do. As an amateur theatre company, we can have cast sizes that are very difficult to have in professional theatre companies. If you’re thinking of more than 6 actors in a professional theatre company, you have to really worry how that would financially tank your theatre. Here we can have casts of 25 and do work that isn’t getting done anywhere else in Toronto,” he said.
This season, Hutton will be directing Romeo & Juliet, giving it a contemporary twist on the classic by Shakespeare.
Photo courtesy of Hart House Theatre
“We are contemporizing Romeo and Juliet and setting it in modern-day Italy with a lot of flavours of African-militaristic states and civil war-like regions. You see pictures of these kids wearing half designer clothing and half wearing army surplus stuff and holding AK47s and that sort of imagery. The story of Romeo and Juliet is really about just how ugly the world in which those two characters exist in; Verona is really not a happy place; people behave in a really ugly fashion. I think the tendency with Romeo and Juliet is to make it really nice just because it’s a love story and those two characters are particularly nice. But I think it’s a lot more interesting to see them try to make this love survive in a world that is as ugly and messed up and violent as the world Shakespeare wrote it in,” said Hutton.
Another first for Hart House Theatre is the one-woman show, My Name is Rachel Corrie, which is the controversial and passionate account of a 23 year old woman’s involvement in the Israel and Palestine conflict and her death by an Israeli bulldozer as she was trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza.
Photo courtesy of Hart House Theatre
“I’m interested to see how a one-woman show will play in Hart House Theatre, it’s not something we normally do but we thought the play was really topical right now and something that we really wanted to tackle so we added an extra show in our season just so we could be able to do it,” said Hutton.
Hart House Theatre’s season continues with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead playing September 26-29 and October 3-5, 2012. For details on how to purchase tickets or get involved with Hart House Theatre, check out their website.
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