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Artists to Watch in 2016

These six Toronto theatre artists are doing big things in 2016

Ashlie Corcoran

As 2015 comes to an end, it's fun to look back at what a great year it's been for theatre in Toronto. Even more exciting is the promise of what lies ahead. Here, we list six inspiring artists who are poised to make their mark on the city's arts scene in 2016.

1) Ashlie Corcoran, Director

Theatre Smash co-founder and artistic producer Ashlie Corcoran is on roll these days. In 2011, her production of Marius von Mayenburg's The Ugly One was nominated for six Dora Awards, and Corcoran was subsequently appointed artistic director of the Thousand Island Playhouse in 2012. Since then, she has directed other critically-acclaimed projects, such as Julia Cho's Durango and The Gay Heritage Project, which returns to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre this season from January 6 to 31. Also on the bill for 2016: Corcoran will helm the world premiere of Kat Sandler's play Mustard, opening in February at Tarragon Theatre, in addition to directing the North American premiere of Philipp Löhle's ambitious social comedy Das Ding in April at the Berkeley Street Theatre (a Theatre Smash production in association with Canadian Stage and The Thousand Islands Playhouse).

2) Benjamin Blais, Actor/Director

If Toronto's indie theatre scene has a champion it is surely The Storefront Theatre's rockstar founder and artistic director Benjamin Blais. Since opening the venue in December 2013, Blais and the theatre's resident company Red One Theatre Collective have presented more than 20 productions in collaboration with many of the city's brightest talents, including Kat Sandler and David Ferry. Whether he's acting, directing or uniting people for the love of indie theatre, Blais is set to keep moving and shaking in the new year. Next up at The Storefront: Toronto’s Cue6 Theatre presents a groundbreaking seven-city simultaneous world premiere of Evan Linder’s racially charged family drama Byhalia, Mississippi (January 7 to 17, 2016).

3) Chris Abraham, Director

Chris Abraham has enjoyed much success since he took over as Crow's Theatre's artistic director in 2008. Besides receiving the Siminovitch Prize in 2013, perhaps Abraham's biggest feat to date is his recent announcement that Crow's has secured $3.75 million in funding for a new Leslieville performance facility opening in the 2016-17 season. The new building will include three dynamic spaces suitable for performances, events, classes, workshops, meetings and rehearsals. And if that isn't enough to keep him occupied, Abraham is directing the North American premiere of Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica at the Bluma Appel Theatre from March 29 to April 17 as part of Canadian Stage's 2016 season.

4) Frank Cox O'Connell, Actor/Director

Soulpepper Academy graduate Frank Cox O'Connell has an influential new year ahead of him, tackling both acting and directing roles as part of the Soulpepper company and beyond. In January, the Toronto native will join the cast of Jenniver Tarver's production of Hedda Gabler at the Berkeley Street Theatre (Necessary Angel in association with Canadian Stage), and in March he will direct Gregory Prest, Raquel Duffy, Peter Fernandes, Katherine Gauthier, Brendan Wall and Diego Matamoros in Albert Camus' The Just, a true story of the assassination of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich in 1905. After seeing him shine in Spoon River and Marat/Sade this year, it will be interesting to watch what he brings to the stage in 2016.

5) Jordan Tannahill, Playwright

Recently awarded the Governor General's Award for Age of Minority: Three Solo Plays, Jordan Tannahill is on an unstoppable creative path, developing new plays for Canadian Stage, UK's Panic Lab, Necessary Angel/bluemouth inc. and the National Theatre School of Canada. Tannahill has made a name for himself as one of Canada's most exciting independent theatre artists, showcasing his multidisciplinary projects through Suburban Beast, the theatre company he runs with Erin Brubacher, and Video Fag, a storefront arts space in Toronto's Kensington Market which he runs with William Christopher Ellis. This season, Canadian Stage will present the world premiere of Tannahill's double bill Botticelli in the Fire and Sunday in Sodom in collaboration with the Theatre Department in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University (April 26 to May 15, 2016 at the Berkeley Street Theatre).

6) Weyni Mengesha, Director

Weyni Mengesha has some monumental projects lined up for 2016. After remounting her popular production of Kim's Convenience for Soulpepper in 2015, she will direct the company's Canadian premiere of Suzan-Lori Parks' Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts I, II, III), a poignant tale of homecoming, family and heroism set against the US Civil War (July 25 to August 27, 2016 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts). Additionally, Weyni is slated to co-direct Graham Abbey's distillation of Shakespeare's epic histories Breath of Kings: Rebellion and Breath of Kings: Redemption with Mitchell Cushman at the Stratford Festival this season (May 30 to September 24, 2014 at the Tom Patterson Theatre).

Lots to look forward to. Happy New Year! xo


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