Skip to main content

Theatre @ York Presents The Beggar's Opera January 28 to February 1 2014

From a media release:

The Beggar's Opera
Why are the Laws levelled at us? Are we more dishonest than the rest?
Theatre @ York embraces the question with edgy production of
The Beggar's Opera -  January 28-February 1, 2014

- At its London premiere in 1728, John Gay's rollicking Beggar's Opera caused a sensation. Lampooning the politics and public morality of the day, it became an instant hit.

In 2014, York University's Faculty of Fine Arts brings together professional and emerging talent in theatre, music, dance and digital media in an edgy new production of this satirical masterpiece.

Adapted and directed by interdisciplinary theatre artist Gwen Dobie, Theatre @ York's Beggar's Opera previews January 28, opens January 29 and runs to February 1. It unfolds as a play within a play with a decidedly modern vibe, bringing the audience into the action. The show  transforms York University's Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre into the Lincoln Fields Correctional Institute, where visitors are subjected to 21st century  surveillance measures to witness the 'inmates' performing within.

Well-known television host Pamela Parker reports live from Lincoln Fields, a medium-security prison for men and women in present-day Toronto. She's researching a story on the workings of the criminal justice system - in particular, the effectiveness of incarceration and the programs available to inmates to help them reintegrate into society once they're released.

The facility is run by the socially progressive prison warden Beckett Benjamin Graff, a lover of theatre who believes in the therapeutic power of the arts. Graff decides that the gang members, prostitutes, con artists and thieves serving their time at Lincoln Fields will benefit from the opportunity to put on a play that mirrors their plight: a play about the social ills, human failings and moral choices that have put them behind bars. The inmates have volunteered to design and perform a production of The Beggar's Opera.

The story revolves around the love triangle between the thief Macheath, Polly Peachum, the sheltered daughter of Macheath's fence, Mr. Peachum, and Lucy Lockit, the jailer's daughter. It's also a tale of corruption, social inequality, and malfeasance in high and low places. Thieves, gangsters, politicians, lawyers ... who can tell them apart?

Director Gwen Dobie's approach to the production is grounded in the concluding sentence of Gay's play:  The lower sort of people have their vices as well as the rich: the poor are punished for them.

"I considered The Beggar's Opera in relation to our 21st century world," said Dobie. "Is it just a period piece, a quaint relic of a rougher, tougher time? To find out, I researched the issues it deals with - politics and the law, poverty and social inequality, executions, body-snatching and dissections, financial crimes, embezzlement and stock market manipulation - in our time.

"And of course, all these things - even body-snatching! - are still with us today," said Dobie. "It's apparent that since John Gay set quill to paper, the social ills he writes about haven't been resolved. Issues of poverty, inequality and social justice remain at the forefront of our society."

Dobie teaches movement for actors and devised theatre in York's Department of Theatre. She is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Out of the Box Productions, a performance fusion company that creates original works integrating drama, dance and opera. Her directing credits with Out of the Box include Opera Erotique, which toured in BC (2004) and was remounted in Toronto (2010); Sound in Silence, which played at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria BC (2008) and the Theatre Centre in Toronto (2009); and Bugzzz ~ A Cautionary Tale at Toronto's Wychwood Theatre (2012). Other directing credits include the Aventa Ensemble's North American premiere production of the Danish opera On this Planet by Anders Nordentoft (McPherson Playhouse, Victoria BC, 2007) and the world premiere of Canadian composer Christopher Donison's opera Eyes on the Mountain (Opera Studio, Alix Goolden Hall, Victoria BC, 2001). Most recently, Dobie directed the well-received production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas at York University (2012) and Handel's oratorio Solomon, conducted by Stephanie Martin, for Toronto's Pax Christi Chorale (2013).

Musical direction for Theatre @ York's Beggar's Opera is by music professor and noted choral composer and conductor Stephanie Martin, with musical preparation by renowned mezzo soprano Catherine Robbin, head of York's classical vocal music program. The singing cast features students in York's performance programs, with live accompaniment by a chamber orchestra led by Floydd Ricketts. Supporting the action are six members of the York Dance Ensemble, York's pre-professional repertory company, performing original choreography by Professor Michael Greyeyes. Digital media creative production is headed by interdisciplinary media artist Don Sinclair, coordinator of the Digital Media Program in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Theatre professor James McKernan, a specialist in sustainable theatrical scenographic technologies, is the producer.

A talented team of undergraduate theatre students is handling all aspects of the production design and execution, from sets and costumes to sound and lighting design. Live and pre-recorded audio and visual projections created by York's rising young digital media artists create an immersive environment where the audience's every move is tracked by the watchful eye of security cameras and controlled by disapproving prison guards.

York University's Faculty of Fine Arts is one of North America's premier schools for the visual and performing arts, media and design. With more than 3,400 undergraduate and graduate students and 245 faculty, it is the most comprehensive professional training and research institution in the field in Canada, offering conservatory and academic studies in all the fine arts: dance, design, digital media, film, music, theatre and visual art/art history.

Theatre @ York presents The Beggar's Opera
by John Gay, adapted and directed by Gwen Dobie

musical direction by Stephanie Martin
choreographed by Michael Greyeyes

preview January 28, opening January 29, runs to February 1
Tues-Fri at 7:30pm; matinees Fri & Sat at 1pm
Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre, Accolade East Building, York University
4700 Keele St. Toronto | Map & Directions:

Performance Schedule:
Tues. Jan. 28, 7:30pm - PREVIEW
Wed. Jan. 29, 7:30pm - OPENING
Thurs. Jan. 30, 7:30pm
Fri. Jan. 31, 1pm & 7:30pm
Sat. Feb. 1, 1pm

Box Office: 416-736-5888 |
Admission:  $17 | students & seniors $12
Preview: $5 Tues. Jan. 28
Groups: $7 (10 or more). Fri. Jan. 31 matinee group: $5


What Else Is Hot This Week?

Jazzy Pop: Shihori - Soul Trip (Independent / 4 September 2020)

Jazzy Pop:
Shihori - Soul Trip
(Independent / 4 September 2020)New York City based singer and songwriter Shihori's new single Soul Trip is atmospheric and ambient. Interesting rhythms and interwoven melodic vocal lines showcase jazzy harmonic progressions in a slow groove mode. 
As a songwriter, she uses electronic effects with impeccable musical taste. As a singer, her flexible vocals range from a sweet soprano to a strong mid-range.A veteran of the Japanese pop scene, Shihori moved to New York City in 2018, a move she talks about in a media release."I was so surprised when I came to NY for the first time. Independent and strong women are respected and there are lots of different preferences in music and style. I thought, 'oh my God! This place really accepts uniqueness and freedom! I didn't know there is a place like this totally different world that allows you to be yourself. Everybody looks so different. So many races, colors, cultures, fashion, ideas...I am so happy…

Recently Released | The smallest Creature: Magic Beans (Independent / 30 September 2020)

Recently Released
The smallest Creature: Magic Beans
(Independent / 30 September 2020)Stream it on SpotifyWith influences from The Beatles to Alice in Chains, The smallest Creature's Magic Beans is an album of alt-rock with an intimate, almost alt-folk feel to it. The lyrics are poetic and integral to the song, lit up with tight chops and accomplished musicality.
Would You Blink has a nice sense of urgency and a driving rhythm, contrasted by October Song, something of an old blues song with a 21st century rock makeover. Their grunge influences come to the fore in Glow, with Let Burn another guitar-heavy rocker. The band goes softer in Break Me, an acoustic song that spotlights Stefanos Marnerides' soft tenor. The smallest Creature hail from Larnaca in Cyprus in the sunny Mediterranean. The smallest Creature is the brainchild of Stefanos Marnerides, with the name starting off as an alias in NYC where Stefanos was performing solo gigs and recording demos. When later Stefanos moved …

Alt Country | Doc Straw & the Scarecrows: Get on By (Independent / July 31, 2020)

Alt Country
Doc Straw & the Scarecrows: Get on By
(Independent / July 31, 2020)Stream it on SpotifyClever lyrics that tell a story and an appealing acoustic bounce give the new single by Doc Straw & the Scarecrows a classic modern folk vibe. The vocal harmonies are pleasing and the words are an upbeat ode to persevering during tough times.
It's a timely message, and Doc talked about it in a release."I wrote this song after getting off of a 3-hour long phone conversation with my sister, Jessica, and a lot of our conversation that evening  centered around some of the tougher things in life and how we were dealing with these struggles. If a person lives long enough then at some point they will experience these trying seasons. I've learned that it's important to pay attention during those times because that is when we have some of the best opportunities to grow."It has a nicely haunting harmonica line and builds to an emotional peak. Virginia based Mike Straw is…

Missing Italy? A Virtual Exhibition Can Help

From a release:Missing Italy? A Virtual Exhibition Can HelpCheck Out The Exhibition OnlineENIT and Italy: A Beautiful Tale, is a three-dimensional online virtual exhibition presenting the origins and development of ENIT (the Italian National Tourist Board) and its fundamental role for more than one hundred years in promoting Italy, as an international tourist destination. Telling our story means presenting part of Italy’s history.
You can visit the exhibition through four sections:Establishment of the National tourist board and its development;A historical selection of posters presenting travel throughout Italy;Editorial pages promoted by the tourist board;A selection of photographs from our archives covering all of the Italian peninsula from north to south.The goal is to let the public about the agency's work in promoting Italy in a digital, interactive display.

Psychedelic Punk Rock | Lord Sonny the Unifier: (All My Friends Live) Underground (Independent / 25 September 2020)

Psychedelic Punk Rock
Lord Sonny the Unifier: (All My Friends Live) Underground
(Independent / 25 September 2020)Stream it on SpotifyLayers of rhythm and percussive piano characterize this earworm track from Brooklyn's Lord Sonny the Unifier. With spooky harmonies and guitar that is all distortion with a psychedelic vibe, it's a compelling single for the time. Sonny builds the track with an almost orchestral sensibility to a big sound finish.
Greg Jiritano, the main impetus behind Lord Sonny, talked about the song in a media release."(All My Friends Live) Underground is a song about iconoclasts and outsiders who find their group of freaks, or Tribe in the shadows and underbelly, outside the conventions of  society. It's a calling to join us and leave behind  what society has embraced as the norms and the acceptable, the well trod path above. Leave the trivialities being thrust upon us since birth and join our Tribe and rediscover there the truths that will enrich you and…