Prairie Theatre Exchange
By Thomas Morgan Jones, Artistic Director
It’s a dynamic time here at Prairie Theatre Exchange. For those not familiar with our theatre, we are a regional theatre dedicated to Canadian work, often producing world premieres, with a commitment to regional (Manitoban, Winnipeg) playwrights. We have a Playwrights’ Unit with nine members who are supported by the theatre in their creative work (for our stages or others) and we have recently created a bi-annual Emerging Playwrights’ / Creators’ Unit to foster new voices. Until this past season, our programming would include five Mainstage productions and one TYA production (which tours to 60+ communities). Being new to PTE, I have to express how proud and privileged I feel to be a part of a company that produces theatre with this focus and with such passionate rigour. And what an amazing time, given that our producing model is growing.
An increase from the Canada Council has made it possible for us to include what we have named the LEAP Series. This series aims to fill a need in the Winnipeg theatre ecology, which is for more works that experiment or innovate in terms of form or interdisciplinary approaches to creation and production. Notions of theatre are changing, definitions are changing, practice is changing, and it is important that there be homes in the Prairies where artists can showcase their contemporary performance practice. The idea with the LEAP Series is to present a national touring work, to develop/produce/present a project that PTE has helped to bring to the stage, and to showcase work by a Prairie company or artist that is provoking conversations about what theatre is and can be.
In our first season with a full compliment of LEAP programming the three works include Tetsuro Shigematsu’s Empire of the Son (Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre), Natalie Sappier’s Finding Wolastoq Voice (Theatre New Brunswick production in association with PTE) and How It Ends by Debbie Patterson (Sick + Twisted Theatre). An intimate solo production with innovative use of technology, an Indigenous dance-theatre production, and finally a promenade-style new creation from Winnipeg’s only theatre whose mandate is focused on “creating work exploring the experience of living with a disability.” Each of these three plays is outside of our audience’s usual experience and each offers a rich diversity of form and content. The shows are so beautiful, so daring, and feel urgent in their need to speak (and in the multiplicity of ways they speak).
Our community is full of extraordinary creators and storytellers and this additional series will undoubtedly lead to inspiring new works in the future here in Winnipeg.