Casting Announced and Rehearsals Underway for Tarragon Theatre World Premiere of
WORMWOOD
Written by Andrew Kushnir
Directed by Richard Rose
Starring Benedict Campbell, Luke Humphrey, Chala Hunter, Amy Keating,
Nancy Palk, Ken James Stewart, Scott Wentworth and bandura player Victor Mishalow

TORONTO (October 22, 2015) – Casting is announced and rehearsals are underway for the world premiere of Wormwood by actor and acclaimed playwright Andrew Kushnir (Small Axe, The Middle Place, The Gay Heritage Project) in his first play for Tarragon Theatre. With a powerhouse ensemble filled with some of Canada’s finest actors, this stirring and politically-charged work explores identity, mythology and the fight for human dignity as it tells the story of a young Canadian’s journey to Ukraine during the Orange Revolution. A modern-day folktale directed by Tarragon Artistic Director Richard Rose, Wormwood previews from November 11, opens November 18 and runs to December 20 in Tarragon’s Mainspace.

Tarragon Playwright-in-Residence Andrew Kushnir brings us a Ukrainian-Canadian fantasia (in three languages: English, Ukrainian and Russian) about reconciling one’s ideals with a complex political reality. Benedict Campbell, Luke Humphrey, Chala Hunter, Amy Keating, Nancy Palk, Ken James Stewart, Scott Wentworth and renowned bandura player Victor Mishalow star in this potent new work.

Says Kushnir, “Wormwood is the first time I’ve written a love story. The play has a young man of the Diaspora coming to observe the 2004 elections in Ukraine, only to be drawn into the revolution in ways he hadn’t bargained for. He is finally encountering the place and people he was taught to love. He wants them to achieve their dignity because, on some level, it affirms his own.”

Luke Humphrey, soon to be seen in the title role in Shakespeare in Love at Stratford ​next season, plays Ivan, a Canadian of Ukrainian heritage, who travels to Ukraine to observe the elections following the Orange Revolution with his brother, Markiyan (Ken James Stewart, seen recently in the title roles of Montreal’s Segal Centre’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Stratford’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown).

Unexpectedly, Ivan finds himself a player in Ukraine’s fractured politics, its tumultuous history and the fate of a beautiful woman, Artemisia (performed by Chala Hunter, seen in The Stronger Variations for Theatre Rusticle/Buddies in Bad Times). As he falls deeper in love with the mysterious young woman, the more transparent his delusions about her country and its complicated past become.

Tony Award nominee Scott Wentworth (with 22 seasons in major roles at the Stratford Festival) plays the Doctor and the Kobzar, a blind balladeer (based on a centuries-old tradition of Ukrainian itinerant musicians – the “beat poets” of their time). Victor Mishalow, recipient of the Order of Merit in 2009 from the Ukrainian government for his contributions to the culture, accompanies throughout on the multi-stringed Ukrainian bandura.

Benedict Campbell, an acclaimed veteran of 10 seasons at the Stratford Festival and 12 at Shaw, plays a gregarious Professor; Nancy Palk, a lauded founding member at Soulpepper, his enigmatic Housekeeper; and Amy Keating, a founding member of Outside the March where she was part of the cast that earned the 2014 Outstanding Ensemble Dora Award for Passion Play, portrays the Housekeeper’s Daughter.

Kushnir, whose grandparents are from the Ukraine, notes, “I’m drawn to stories about human beings fighting for their self-worth, as individuals and as members of marginalized communities. In 2004, the Orange Revolution was the moment in my adulthood when I viscerally felt, from afar, the Ukraine that I had been taught to love. Ukraine had become a visible, tangible entity to me. And thrillingly so: a million people draped in Orange in Kyiv’s Maidan Square, in peaceful protest, calling out for their dignity against a stolen election. It was an incontestably arresting image – my cultural heritage suddenly became hyper-visible. This sort of image would amaze us in the West again and again during the Arab Spring. But in 2004, for me, the image was new, previously unseen, inconceivable.

“That was the inspiration for me to write Wormwood some years later. I travelled to Ukraine in 2011, I conducted interviews, I tried to get a reading on whether or not Ukrainians felt hopeful. I asked myself if, as an outsider, it was fair to ask about hope. About change. The demonstrations and civil unrest that followed in Ukraine in 2013-14 along with the annexation of Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine have only drawn me deeper into my inquiry. The play is in conversation with these developments. The events and conflicts we’re seeing now in Ukraine are tethered to long histories and old, recurring narratives in the region.”

Andrew Kushnir is a playwright, actor and community arts worker. He is creative director of Project: Humanity (PH), an organization raising awareness of social issues through the arts. His produced plays include Small Axe (Project: Humanity/The Theatre Centre), The Gay Heritage Project (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, three Dora Award nominations including Outstanding Play) and The Middle Place (Project: Humanity, Theatre Passe Muraille, Canadian Stage, Toronto Theatre Critics’ Award Best Production, Dora Award nomination Outstanding New Play). He is working on a remount of The Gay Heritage Project at BIBT and a national tour. He is currently associate director at Crow’s Theatre and a Playwright-in-Residence at Tarragon Theatre. A BFA (Acting) graduate, he received the 2013 Alumni Horizon Award from the University of Alberta for his verbatim theatre practice.

The set and costume designer is Camellia Koo, lighting designer Graeme S. Thomson, sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne. The fight director is John Stead and the stage manager is Kate Porter.

Opens November 18 and runs to December 20, 2015 (Previews from November 11)
Tarragon Theatre’s Mainspace, 30 Bridgman Avenue, Toronto, M5R 1X3

Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 2:30pm; select Saturdays November 21, 28 and December 5 at 2:30pm;

Tickets can be purchased by calling Tarragon Patron Services at 416.531.1827 or by visiting www.tarragontheatre.com

Regular Tickets range from $28-$60 with discounts for seniors, students, groups and artsworkers.

Rush Tickets: For every performance excluding opening night, specially priced $15 Rush Tickets will be sold (subject to availability) in person at the Box Office two hours before show time.

Follow Tarragon on Twitter @TarragonTheatre for updates on rush ticket availability and special ticket offers.

-30-

Media refer: Dianne Weinrib / DW Communications 416-703-5479 dw@dwcommunications.net