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Gay teen’s fight for equality inspires new play

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The true story of how a gay Canadian teenager successfully sued his Catholic school for the right to bring his boyfriend to the prom is being brought to the stage by the Segal Centre for Performing Arts WIKI COMMONS PHOTO
The true story of how a gay Canadian teenager successfully sued his Catholic school for the right to bring his boyfriend to the prom is being brought to the stage by the Segal Centre for Performing Arts WIKI COMMONS PHOTO

MONTREAL – The true story of how a gay Canadian teenager successfully sued his Catholic school for the right to bring his boyfriend to the prom is being brought to the stage by the Segal Centre for Performing Arts.

Prom Queen: The Musical, which will have its world premiere in October, is an original Segal production, directed by Marcia Kash, who helmed The Secret Annex at the Segal this winter.

In 2002, 17-year-old Marc Hall of Oshawa, Ont., won his discrimination case against the Durham Catholic District School Board in Ontario Superior Court, and found surprising allies in his hometown in his battle.

Prom Queen, which will run from Oct. 27 to Nov. 20, is in the spirit of the Segal’s mission to showcase “stories that touch people, that show what can happen when a community comes together,” said executive and artistic director Lisa Rubin at the unveiling of the Segal’s 2016-2017 theatre season.

Despite its serious subject matter, this is being billed as “outrageously fun.”

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Hall, who was present at the launch, said, “In 2002, I would never have thought [what happened] would turn into something like this. I’m grateful and humbled; this is such an honour.”

Rubin promised that the show is “going to be big, young, hip and inspiring.”

The seven-play season will open with something a little more conventional: My Name is Asher Lev, adapted from the beloved Chaim Potok novel. Running from Sept. 11 to Oct. 2, this Aaron Posner play is being co-produced with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. After its Montreal premiere, it will be performed in Winnipeg.

It’s about the conflict between a young man’s desire to become an artist and the expectations of his religious family. Versatile Montreal actor Ellen David plays his mother.

Third in the lineup is the popular farce, Michael Frayn’s Noises Off from Jan. 29 to Feb. 19. Rubin is excited that Montreal actor Jacob Tierney is back at the Segal to direct this in-house production. He directed Tom Stoppard’s Travesties last year.

This send-up of show business is a classic play-within-a-play about what goes on before the show goes on.

Rubin will direct the paean to early rock ‘n’ roll, Million Dollar Quartet, in its Montreal premiere April 23 to May 14, 2017. It recreates the historic Dec. 4, 1956, recording session that brought together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Segal Centre executive and artistic director Lisa Rubin poses beside a poster for the season opener, My Name is Asher Lev JANICE ARNOLD PHOTO
Segal Centre executive and artistic director Lisa Rubin poses beside a poster for the season opener, My Name is Asher Lev JANICE ARNOLD PHOTO

The immortal songs of the era are heard in this Broadway Tony Award-winner.

Then for something completely different and much more topical, Ital Erdal, a Vancouver-based stage lighting designer, brings to Montreal his touching memorial to his mother, How to Disappear Completely, at the Segal Studio from April 30-May 14, 2017.

Erdal has performed (and lit) this solo show 22 times in 17 cities around the world. He was sent reeling when his terminally ill mother in Israel asked that he help her die.

Erdal, who was present at the launch, said his mother was a “hedonist” and he has taken care that her vibrant personality and humour shine through. “It’s sad, but it’s not depressing,” he said.

Next up is the first Yiddish adaptation of the hilarious Broadway musical It Shoulda Been You, presented by the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre and directed by Bryna Wasserman, from June 4 to 25, 2017.

Rubin said she saw “this ode to wedding day insanity” and the clash of two families from very different backgrounds in New York, and “knew it would work in Yiddish.”

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Unusually, the Segal season will extend into summer next year, with one more English play, What’s in a Name? This Canadian English stage premiere of the popular comedic French-Belgian film Le Prénom, from July 9 to 30, 2017, is co-produced with the Just For Laughs International Comedy Festival.

An uproar ensues when a couple announces the shocking moniker they plan to give their unborn son.

Rubin says to expect a “verbal slugfest” filled with the revelation of scandalous secrets that threaten friendships.

In addition to the subscription season, the Segal will host several productions by local theatre troupes, including the Black Theatre Workshop and Teesri Duniya Theatre.

As the mother of two, Rubin is proud that there will be for the first time a children’s play, Fancy Nancy, put on by the Côte St. Luc Dramatic Society during the March school break.