“To me, the joy is watching like-minded multidisciplinary performers come together, and share each other’s world.”

Tickets to Toronto Masque Theatre at BeMused Network!
$20 student / $23 general & over 65
(Oct 25, 2014, 6:45pm) The Soldier’s Tale • (Oct 20, 2014, 8:00pm) The Soldier’s Tale
Performances at Yonge Centre for the Performing Arts.

Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale is often only heard in concert; the full production involving actors and dancers can be an unwieldy undertaking. But for artistic director Larry Beckwith, it is one of many such multidisciplinary productions that Toronto Masque Theatre has presented since 2003.

This coming weekend, presented as part of Soulpepper Theatre’s Global Cabaret Festival, Beckwith will conduct an ensemble of top-notch instrumentalists in collaboration with long-time artistic associates Derek Boyes as narrator and choreographer Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière.

The Soldier’s Tale is one of those works that is in a category of its own. Written at the end of WWI, when Stravinsky was not welcome in his homeland and money for new commissions was not exactly flowing, this chamber work for seven instrumentalists, actors, and dancers packs a punch. It satiated people’s need to put the horrors of war behind them and look forward to a brand new era.

Erika Raum, violinist

Erika Raum, violinist

The production features some big names in the classical music circuit: Erika Raum on violin, Andrew Downing on double bass, Max Christie on clarinet, Christian Sharpe on bassoon, Guy Few on cornet, Alastair Kay on trombone, and Ed Reifel on percussion. Dance performance by Stéphanie Brochard and Sébastien Ventura complete the cast.

Toronto Masque Theatre is one of a kind in Toronto in its commitment to fostering interdisciplinary collaborations in every production, and has become an expert in producing exquisite experiences that the sophisticated audience member as well as the curious performance-goer can appreciate.

“Masque” is a term from the 16th and 17th century, referring to a timeless form of performance that originated in Europe’s private courts during the renaissance, where archetypes represented by masked players put on theatrical performances complete with elements of music and dance.

In the popular sphere, Cirque du Soleil serves as a prime example of what happens when you mash up circus acts with the masque aesthetics. In Toronto, Clay and Paper Theatre produces public theatre and parades in the form of pageants, the public equivalent of the masque, and has built an impressive following in the city.

Larry Beckwith, Artistic Director of Toronto Masque Theatre

Larry Beckwith, Artistic Director of Toronto Masque Theatre

Beckwith’s artistic roots are in early music performance, but he has had a life-long love affair with theatre, as well as a wide range of experiences as journalist and producer. It is no coincidence that he had founded a company devoted to producing and presenting works that fall under the masque tradition, and also those that some may say fall just outside of it.

“We have explored many disparate areas of the masque tradition,” he says. “We have done traditional masques, baroque masques, and operas. We have commissioned eight new masques from Canadian composers, and ventured into other cultures, each of which has its own masque tradition.”

Beckwith met actor Derek Boyes 13 years ago during an Opera Atelier tour to Singapore. With the idea of Toronto Masque Theatre just forming, the meeting planted the seed for a long artistic collaboration with Boyes playing an important artistic role in the company.

“Derek has such an open mind and such a gentle and investigative approach to theatre that I thought he would be a perfect partner. It has been a wonderful experience; we have gotten to a point where we finish each other’s sentences.”

This is the kind of tight-knit collaboration that is essential in producing such multi-disciplinary works. Performers recognize how precious and rare such opportunities can be, especially when they are done with a high level of artistic integrity. Audiences are no doubt drawn to these performances to experience some of the same magic for themselves.

Derek Boyes, Artistic Associate of Toronto Masque Theatre, and resident artist at Soulpepper Theatre

Derek Boyes, Artistic Associate of Toronto Masque Theatre, and resident artist at Soulpepper Theatre

“To me, the joy is watching like-minded multidisciplined performers come together, and share each other’s world,” says Boyes, “What comes together is an explosion and excitement that you can’t get from just watching any one art form. This connective joy happens when we watch each other’s process, and we see what others can do that we can’t do.”

Boyes first performed as narrator in The Soldier’s Tale in 2003 with Via Salzberg at the Glenn Gould studio. In 2008, Toronto Masque Theatre did a version with some choreographed dance, and Boyes was naturally also involved.  As in those two productions, Boyes will play 10 distinct characters for the audience in the upcoming performance, which is no easy feat.

“It is a challenging work, with a depth that makes going back to it as a performer a joy,” says Boyes. “I adore it. It is an odd, interesting, dark, and funny piece. Something to do with war, art, the world then and now. It’s fascinating.”

“The music is unbelievable. It’s just so inventive and groovy,” echoes Beckwith. “It’s also jam packed into just about an hour. The story and the music is so rich that by the end of it, the time has just flown by, because it’s been such a wild ride.”

Toronto Masque Theatre is one of the best-kept secrets in Toronto. They present entertaining, approachable productions, while setting the highest artistic standards. More importantly, this is a company run with a big heart, united by a belief in the power of art in fusion. For the uninitiated, The Soldier’s Tale is an excellent opportunity to discover this for themselves.

The tickets are extremely reasonable at $23 for general admission to either performance: Saturday October 25 at 6:45pm, or Sunday October 26 at 1pm. Don’t miss the pre-show chat half an hour before curtain, and check out their upcoming Christmas-themed Salon on December 8th, 2014.