The 2008-2009 Citadel Theatre Season

I’ve mentioned my affinity for local, community-based theatre instead of the more mainstream and well-known Citadel Theatre in the past. But if their upcoming 2008-2009 season is any indication of future offerings, I may have to look at integrating their plays into my yearly theatre schedule.

Ronnie Burkett, master puppeteer, will be premiering his brand new show, Billie Twinkie: Requiem for a Golden Boy, in October. From the media release:

“Billy Twinkle is a middle-aged cruise ship puppeteer who dazzles audiences with his Stars in Miniature marionette niteclub act. His saucy burlesque stripper Rusty Knockers titillates the tourists, octogenarian Murray Spiegelmann invokes sidesplitting laughter with the inflatable balloon in his pants, Bumblebear juggles and roller-skates and steals the hearts of every audience, and Biddy Bantam Brewster brings a bit of highbrow hilarity to the high seas with her drunken aria. Billy is the best in the business and on top of the world as he floats along through life.

“Until he is fired by the cruiseline. Standing at the edge of the ship contemplating a watery demise, Billy is abruptly called back to reality when his dead mentor Sid Diamond appears as a hand puppet. Sid literally will not leave his side, and forces Billy to re-enact his life as a puppet show in order to remember and rekindle the passion Billy once had for puppets, people and the dream of a life that sparkles.

“For anyone stuck in the middle – mid-career, mid-love, mid-life – caught between our own past and future, this requiem for a golden boy shines a little light on the wonder of youthmeeting the wisdom of age with a kick in the pants to finish what we started.”

It sounds whimsical, fantastical, and I have no doubt it will be a visual spectacle that has to be seen. I can already see the beads of sweat forming on Burkett’s brow, as when he last peformed in Edmonton.

March will see the premiere of Extinction Song:

“Meet James. Seven years old, he has escaped to a fantasy world where he is being raised by wolves. Every day is a new adventure until, frightened they are on the verge of becoming extinct, James and the wolves concoct a plan to save themselves. Extinction Song is a funny, tender and heartbreaking account of a child’s way of coping with the troubled world around him.”

The primary reason behind wanting to see this play is attributed to the star – none other than Ron Pederson! He’s more than used to wacky roles after cutting many a tooth on Stewart Lemoine’s creations, and I can just see him easily retreating back into a believable, heartbreaking childlike state similar to the character he played in the last half of Shocker’s Delight! I can’t wait.

I’ve actually already seen Marty Chan’s The Forbidden Phoenix. Or at least, the earlier incarnation without the music and Peking Opera-inspiration. From the release:

“This fascinating new play by Edmonton’s literary genius Marty Chan is loosely based on the experience of the Chinese immigrants brought to Canada to work on the railroad in the 1800s. The enthralling story weaves together elements of history, diversity and environmentalism.

“Sun Wukong is the Monkey King, torn from his son Laosan and exiled to the west after displeasing the almighty Empress Dowager. Forced to work for the mighty Horne in Terminal City, he sets off to make his fortune. He need only conquer Gold Mountain and free the Iron Dragon to realize his dream of being reunited with his son.

“This enthralling fable is a fusion of Peking Opera, martial arts, acrobatics and “western” musical theatre. This powerful story of a father’s sacrifice to provide for his family will stay with you always.”

I remember being disappointed with the original Forbidden Phoenix, but beyond that, I can’t remember any specifics. That said, it’s been interesting following Chan’s process while writing and revising this new version of the play on his blog, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least attempt to see the final product.

It should be clear that my interest in the Citadel is less about the institution itself and more about my desire to follow my favorite actors and writers to whatever stage they will be performing on. And if anything, I hope exposure to these local artists will draw those who rarely venture beyond the Citadel to the other theatre districts in Edmonton.

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