Factory Theatre’s 2020/21 season has entered the atmosphere. The Toronto-based theatre company, founded in 1970 with the purpose of producing and developing exclusively Canadian plays, recently announced The Satellite Season: Canadian Stories in Orbit.
Since 1983, Factory Theatre has been producing plays for live audiences at their unique heritage building at Adelaide and Bathurst. Restrictions for in-person gatherings have incited the need to innovate out of necessity in an industry that is based on continuing the tradition of live performance.
Factory’s 2020/21 season, in this way, will be produced solely online. It will also be completely free. Featuring seven plays running from November 19, 2020 to May 8, 2021, The Satellite Season: Canadian Stories in Orbit is set to provide an unprecedented collection of diverse, accessible works.
Of the seven plays that Factory Theatre is producing this season, six are world premiers of new works.
Nina Lee Aquino is the artistic director at Factory Theatre, and is no stranger to innovation. Credited as a “vanguard of diverse voices” in a CBC feature by Graham Isador published earlier this year, Aquino is among the most pivotal figures responsible for providing platforms and creating opportunities for new voices in Canadian theatre. A familiar face in the York theatre community, Aquino was the director of Theatre @ York’s 2018 production of rochdale by David Yee.
One component of the 2020/21 theatre season that has not changed is the thrill of producing a new collection of works. “I’m excited to discover and explore all kinds of creative ways to tell theatrical stories,” says Aquino. “At the heart of this digital season, it’s still about story and storytelling, and we’re ready to explore the myriad of ways to tell them. We’ve been able to commission a lot of new work for this season and I’m excited to usher them all in, excited for us to take risks.”
Of the seven plays that Factory Theatre is producing this season, six are world premiers of new works. The opening production of The Satellite Season will feature a familiar collaboration. David Yee’s an act of faith, directed by Aquino, will premiere on November 19. This commissioned piece will be presented live digitally and will run until November 28.
We chose to offer free admission this year because we wanted to make our season as accessible as possible.
Even for a theatre company with industry establishment and experienced personnel, creating a season online is no easy feat. “There’s a couple of challenges we encountered in moving our entire season to an online format—the first being finding plays that can translate into a virtual realm,” Aquino says. “Plays are meant to be performed in front of an audience where everything is immediate and urgent. Adapting work online means shifting all of those elements; not every play can make that transition.”
One of the most unique opportunities Factory Theatre’s new season provides is the chance to experience new works of a selection of Canada’s most prominent theatre artists—free of charge.
“We chose to offer free admission this year because we wanted to make our season as accessible as possible,” Aquino says. “Our theatre community and our audiences are facing enough challenges right now amidst the pandemic and we’re very proud to offer a cultural and community connection free of a financial barrier.”
By continuing to produce works, Factory Theatre is providing a service for both artists and audiences. “For now, we are going to continue paying our artists for their creative talents and services,” says Aquino. “We are going to do everything in our power to keep offering stories and sharing them as far and wide as possible because we all need them right now.”