By Kelly Monaghan, May 28, 2023
From its inception as the “Here For Now 2020 Open-Air Festival,” the company has offered an intriguing alternative to the Stratford Festival. Instead of large-cast shows with lavish production values in state-of-the-art theatres, Here For Now offered small shows with small casts presented in modest surroundings.
It was a return to the essence of theatre itself — people telling stories in intimate spaces. The formula has proven remarkably successful.
Here For Now continues to attract world-class acting and directing talent and is a major outlet for new plays by Canadian playwrights. By any measure, Here For Now has established itself as a vital part of Stratford’s theatrical landscape.
A Stellar 2022 Season
Its 2022 season won widespread praise from Toronto critics and recognition from the theatre establishment. Its production of Dennis Kelly’s searing one-woman “Girls and Boys,” starring artistic director Fiona Mongillo, was picked up by Crow’s Theatre for a three-week run. After the raves poured in, a fourth week was added.
Another Here For Now production from last season, “The Real Poems,” Robert McQueen’s heartrending memoir of the AIDS crisis in New York, Vancouver, and Toronto will be reprised in June by the Stratford Festival as part of its observance of Pride Week.
And so Mongillo’s feisty theatre company enters its fourth season on a high note.
Fiona Mongillo. Photo Anne Baggley
Here For Now has always been something of a moveable feast. It began life during the pandemic in the back of Stratford’s posh Bruce Hotel under a spacious tent that allowed for plenty of social distancing.
After two seasons there, it moved indoors last season into a modest, bare-bones space in The Falstaff Centre, a former school just a stone’s throw from the glitzy new Tom Patterson Theatre.
Here For Now 2023 Playbill
For 2023, Here For Now is on the move again, back to a tent, this one nestled in the lush woods behind the Stratford Perth Museum on the western fringe of town, seating no more than 60 or 65 people.
“The new venue blends the intimacy of the Falstaff Centre with the charm of the tent at the Bruce,” Mongillo says. “The tent is just a short walk down a lighted path from the museum parking lot. We plan to light the trees around the tent. It should be magical.”
Fiona Mongillo. Photo Anne Baggley
The new season, on the theme “Season of Mercy,” comprises six Canadian plays, five of them world premieres.
The season hews to what has become something of a template for Here For Now — limited runs of short one-act pieces, no more than 90 minutes long, with small casts and an emphasis on the lived experience of women. Most of the authors, directors, and cast members are female as well.
For those who maintain there are too few female voices in the theatre today, Here For Now offers a persuasive rejoinder.
Sometimes Cruel, Sometimes Ambitious Characters
Mongillo explains that this “Season of Mercy” introduces us to “characters that, on the surface, would be challenging or difficult to love. Sometimes cruel, sometimes ambitious. Characters that are hurting each other. These characters are being asked to find a way to love themselves, and they are also asking you as an audience to love them anyway, despite their faults,” she says.
First up is “Myth of the Ostrich,” by Matt Murray (June 28 – July 15). Described as a “raucous comedy” about “polar-opposite mothers,” it’s directed by Sheila McCarthy. It’s the only offering that is not a world premiere.
Madeleine Brown’s “Margaret Reid” (July 12 – July 29) is part absurdist comedy, part mystery. Utilizing music and movement under the direction of Monique Lund, the play “explores how we learn to talk about ourselves, the stories we choose to tell, and those we don’t.”
“Frog Song,” by Taylor Marie Graham and William Rowson (July 26 – August 12) marks a first for Here For Now. An opera for children, the show is produced in collaboration with the Stratford Symphony Orchestra. It is directed by Liza Balkan.
Steve Ross Returns
The actor Steve Ross, a long-time favourite at the Stratford Festival, is also a playwright. Be sure to listen to Steve Ross’ episode of The Performers Podcast below. He returns to Here For Now with “Life Without” (August 9 – August 26), about the journey of a close-knit family moving forward after a tragedy.
Ross’s earlier play, “goldfish,” was a hit during Here For Now’s 2021 season.
Daniela Vlaskalic’s “The Fox” (August 23 – September 9), was inspired by a D.H. Lawrence short story. It tells the “riveting story of two young women’s struggle for independence as WWI ends and the men return home.” Kelli Fox directs.
“Queen Maeve” by Judith Thompson (September 6 – September 23) closes the season. Murdoch Shon directs this often hilarious tale of a nursing home resident who transforms into Queen Maeve, an Irish warrior queen.
In addition to its six scheduled plays, Here For Now is planning “limited engagements” of other offerings. The two announced so far are “Mixtape: The Field Sessions” (July 4 – July 9) by Zarana Sadiq, directed by Chris Abraham, and Taylor Marie Graham’s “Corporate Finch” (July 20 – July 22) directed by the playwright.
Myth of the Ostrich: June 28th – July 15th
MixTape: The Field Sessions: July 4th – July 9th
Margaret Reid: July 12th – July 29th
Corporate Finch: July 20th – July 22nd
Frog Song: July 26th – August 12th
Life Without: August 9th- August 26th
The Fox: August 23rd – September 9th
Queen Maeve: September 6th – 23rd
For more information about the coming season and to purchase tickets, visit the Here For Now website
Call the box office: (519) 272- 4368
Kelly Monaghan divides his time between Stratford and the Connecticut shore. He chronicles his love affair with Canadian theatre at OntarioStage.com. Kelly also creates theatre-themed t-shirts at TheatreTops.com