The Pigeon King flies again: Blyth hit on stage at NAC in 2018/19 Season

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BLYTH, ON – The Pigeon King, a play written and premiered on stage at the Blyth Festival in 2017, with an encore run in the 2018 season, will make its way to the nation’s capital in 2019 as part of the National Arts Centre (NAC) English Theatre 2018/19 Season announced Mar. 3.

“This is truly a proud moment for the Blyth Festival. This is the first time in Blyth’s history, that one of our own shows, a show created and realized on our stage will play on the NAC’s definitive stage. Packing up the truck and taking our actors across the province to mount this play at the NAC English Theatre is a testament to the relevance of the plays that the Blyth Festival produces. Relevant here at home, and on a national stage,” said Gil Garratt, artistic director of the Blyth Festival.

The Pigeon King, written by Blyth Company members Rebecca Auerbach, Jason Chesworth, Gil Garratt, George Meanwell, J.D. Nicholsen, Birgitte Solem, Gemma James Smith, & Severn Thompson, closes the season, running April 24 to May 5, 2019 at Babs Asper Theatre.

It tells the story of one of the wildest frauds in Canadian history, in which Arlan Galbraith built a bird-breeding empire called Pigeon King International, using investments from hundreds of his neighbours and fellow farmers. For seven years, he offered a lifeline of financial hope to people whose luck had nearly run out.  The Pigeon King, with its laughs and toe-tapping music, tells Galbraith’s incredible story, and reminds us that what takes flight always comes home to roost.

The National Arts Centre English Theatre Series brings together some of the best musicals, comedies and dramas from across Canada. In 2018/19, many of the stories focus on real people and events. Some of the characters you already admire, others you’ll encounter for the very first time. Some of the stories might cause you to wonder if they really happened quite the way you remember.

“The artists who constructed our stories have looked deep, examined the viscera and challenged the surface assumptions. These are great characters on the surface, however what goes on inside them is where the magnificent humanity bubbles, and where the real theatre lives,” said Jillian Keiley, who is artistic director of the NAC English Theatre.

The Theatre Series kicks off the season with Silence, a remarkable story of the romance between Mabel Hubbard and Alexander Graham Bell which resulted in the invention of the telephone, written by Trina Davies and directed by former NAC English Theatre Artistic Director Peter Hinton. Next, a smash-hit musical by Emil Sher and Jonathan Monro, The Hockey Sweater: A Musical, arrives for the holidays, directed and choreographed by Donna Feore and based on Roch Carrier’s classic yarn of his mission as a young boy to stay true to his hockey hero. In the new year, audiences are invited to a laugh-out-loud romp with a colourful cast of characters at The Wedding Party by Kristen Thomson, followed by Lorena Gale’s Angélique, the powerful story of the last woman to be put to death in Canada, after a mysterious arson in Old Montreal. The series closes with an entertaining tale so incredible it can only be based on real life, as a farmer perpetrates one of the most notorious frauds in Canadian history, sealing his reputation as The Pigeon King.

The Studio Series begins with the story of a legendary Nova Scotia boxer battling against a system that aimed to deny him a shot at the world championship in Chasing Champions: The Sam Langford Story by Jacob Sampson. Next up is Prince Hamlet, an acclaimed, contemporary retelling of one of the Bard’s greatest works, adapted and directed by Ravi Jain. The series wraps with a look at east coast scientist Jon Lien, who over his improbable career freed more than 500 whales trapped in fishing nets, in Between Breaths, written by Robert Chafe and directed by Jillian Keiley.