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Against the Grain Theatre goes back to its roots for seventh season in 2016/2017

By | Ayre, Media Release | No Comments

A classic remount and a residency with the Canadian Opera Company bring AtG back to where it all began

TORONTO — Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) celebrates its seventh season this year by returning to its roots, offering a fully staged remount of its popular La bohème in a bar, a daring chamber concert of song, a new series of operatic pub nights, and a residency at the Canadian Opera Company,where AtG’s founding members got their start in the business.

After presenting Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre this past summer at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and taking it on the road to the Ottawa International Chamber Festival, AtG brings this haunting song cycle of Arabic, Ladino, Sardinian and Spanish texts home to Toronto audiences in November. It won some kudos along the way, withMusical Toronto commenting that “along with the quality and verve that we have come to expect from AtG, this music is fertile ground for a clever, young company on the rise.” Soprano and AtG Founding Member Miriam Khalilsings this technically challenging and deeply moving song cycle with accompaniment by an 11-member chamber orchestra. The performance is staged by AtG founder and artistic director Joel Ivany, and an evocative setting praised by audiences and critics alike is lit by AtG resident lighting designer Jason Hand.

Ayre takes place at Toronto’s breathtaking Ismaili Centre, 49 Wynford Drive, on Nov. 10, 11 and 12, 2016. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with performances of additional works by Golijov offered by students of the Royal Conservatory of Music commencing the program at 8 p.m. For tickets, please visit Ayre is presented in partnership with the Aga Khan Council for Canada and the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music.

A special preview of Ayre will be offered on Nov. 10, 2016 at 12 p.m. as part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, presented by the Canadian Opera Company (COC) at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Details about the series may be found

The season continues with a return to AtG’s roots: a fully staged production of Puccini’s La bohème, performed out of the Tranzac Club in Toronto’s Annex district. This remount hearkens back to AtG’s first season, when its Tranzac Club production of the beloved classic (with its new English libretto by Joel Ivany) put the company on the map. Joel Ivany directs, and Topher Mokrzewski music directs. Dates, casting and ticketing information will be released at a later date.

As part of its mandate to keep opera fresh, fun and accessible, AtG launches a new initiative this fall: Opera Pub. Launching on Oct. 13, 2016 at theAmsterdam Bicycle Club at 54 The Esplanade, Opera Pub nights are relaxed, casual nights out that offer up your favourite beer on tap with a side of operatic arias and ensembles, performed by both established and emerging opera talent. The festivities begin at 9 p.m. and will continue on the first Thursday of every month.

“This season highlights what AtG does best,” says AtG Founder and Artistic Director Joel Ivany. “We push the envelope, tackle relevant themes within our community and strive for artistic excellence. Being able to present the music of Golijov is an honour, as he’s one of world’s leading dramatic composers. You won’t hear Ayre performed this way ever again.  La bohèmehasn’t been performed by us since our inaugural season and this feels like the perfect time to bring it back.  We look ahead to the future by initiating new endeavours and continue building on our growing relationships.”

In some of the most exciting news of AtG’s season, the company will be participating in a new residency program offered by the COC. Designed as a pilot project, the COC will act as an incubator for AtG during a two-year residency at the COC’s administrative offices at 227 Front St. E. in Toronto.

The COC’s pilot company-in-residence program is designed to support an individual opera company during the critical transition from its initial formation to growing into a more established organization with a viable infrastructure. The residency program is specifically aimed at opera companies that have been in existence for five years or less and offers, in addition to dedicated administrative space and resources, mentorship involving different departments and opportunities for job shadowing, as well as invitations to observe and/or participate in company meetings and events.

“This residency program is a formalization of a long-time mentorship that has existed between the COC and Against the Grain Theatre. Partnering with AtG during the program’s pilot stage gives the COC an opportunity to lend support to an emerging company while also receiving valuable feedback on how this kind of residency works and if it’s a viable structure we can build upon,” saysCOC General Director Alexander Neef. “It’s an exciting time for opera right now with so many independent opera companies establishing themselves within the arts community. Our hope with this residency program is to put a system in place that helps nurture those companies as they grow and seek to establish a sustainable future.”

“Building a company is tough in any industry, but especially in opera,” says AtG General Manager Joanna Barrotta.  “The COC’s leadership in mentoring young companies like ours gives us a stable platform to continue our growth, and allows us to make a meaningful contribution to the opera ecosystem.”

In December of 2010, Toronto’s opera scene received a jolt of energy with the formation of Against the Grain Theatre (AtG). With a goal to reinvigorate the operatic art form by presenting an eclectic array of musical works in unconventional spaces and innovative ways, AtG staged its first performance to a sold-out audience of 50 people, and with that the company was off and running. Since that first season, AtG has packed every single one of its productions with standing room-only crowds, winning a consistent level of critical and public acclaim, and picking up two Dora Mavor Moore Awards along the way. The arts community has embraced the AtG, as has a much wider, more diverse audience of people who may have never considered attending an opera. Founded by an adventurous collective of friends and artists, the company’s mission is to preserve the company’s unique ability to be serious in intent and execution, yet fun and irreverent in spirit.

For more information, please visit AtG online at, on Twitter @AtGTheatre and on Facebook at
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Media contact:

Caitlin Coull
Founding Member & Communications Director
Against the Grain Theatre

AtG’s refreshed look

By | AtG in the News, Design | No Comments

Over the years our signature tree logo (and that cheeky bird*) became a beloved part of the company’s identity, and we’ll be forever grateful to Carrie Klassen for creating our very first brand as a fledgling collective.

AtG is growing and evolving, and with that comes a visual refresh. Michael Barker of Acme Art & Design put on his thinking cap and set out to capture the essence of who we are and what we do. The good news was that the members of the AtG collective share great taste (and loads of modesty, obviously) and we came to some conclusions fairly quickly about what we want to communicate to the world through our brand.

But that doesn’t easily translate to a visual representation. How do you capture the essence of AtG in a logo? Well, Michael had the answer. He played with references to wood grain, sound waves, vinyl grooves (records) and the letter “O”, and eventually came up with the bent design you see here. The design also exists in many changeable variations — a riff on the fluid nature of our company, which performs unconventional productions in unconventional spaces. Cool, right?

AtG offers its deepest thanks to Michael, who really hit this out of the park for us. What do you think? Share your thoughts with @AtGTheatre on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

*Our cheeky bird may still make an appearance from time to time.

34765121315101114 Against the Grain Theatre Posters

AtG's Messiah Home Slide

AtG’s Messiah – Media Release

By | Media Release, Upcoming | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 2, 2015 Against the Grain Theatre remounts its popular, staged Messiah this December

TORONTO — After debuting its groundbreaking take on Handel’s Messiah in 2013 to surprised audiences and resounding critical acclaim, Against the Grain Theatre is heeding popular demand and bringing back the production this holiday season. In partnership with the The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, the bold young company remounts AtG’s Messiah for four performances at Harbourfront Centre Theatre from Dec. 16 to 19, 2015. Tickets are now on sale at

AtG’s Messiah premiered during high season for the perennial favourite in Toronto two years ago. Amid the many versions available throughout the city, it sold out its entire run and became the talk of the holiday dinner table. According to the Globe and Mail at the time, “the most exciting Messiah over the past week or so may well have been that of the small, experimental musical/theatre company Against the Grain Theatre.”

The score remains intact, but forget about the usual gowns and leather-bound choral folders. AtG artistic director Joel Ivany reunites with choreographer Jennifer Nichols to give the piece new form and movement, building on the expressive and captivating choreography that wowed audiences at its premiere. Once again AtG music director Topher Mokrzewski is at the musical helm, conducting an 18-piece orchestra and 16-member chorus. AtG resident lighting designer Jason Hand creates a dramatic and evocative setting.

An all-star lineup of fearless soloists includes soprano Miriam Khalil, mezzo-soprano Andrea Ludwig, tenor Owen McCausland and bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus.

“We pushed some boundaries when we debuted this production two years ago, and I’m so glad we did,” says Ivany. “The response from our audiences and the musical community has been amazing. It proves that you can create such a moving experience simply by looking at something familiar in a different, imaginative way. Our whole company is excited and proud to partner with The Corporation of Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall to bring one of our favourite productions back to the stage.”

“Against the Grain Theatre has proven itself as Toronto’s go-to company for fresh and innovative thinking,” says Chris Lorway, director of programming for Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall. “Its truly unique production of the Messiah adds a new dimension to the excellent line-up available to concert-goers this December–from the TSO’s breathtaking presentation to Tafelmusic’s beloved version–demonstrating the very healthy musical ecosystem alive in Toronto.”

Performances take place at Harbourfront Centre Theatre on Dec. 16, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $25 and are available at

AtG’s Messiah
Dec. 16, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m.; Dec. 19 at 2pm
Harbourfront Centre Theatre, 235 Queen’s Quay W.
Tickets: $25 and up,
More info:

In December of 2010, Toronto’s opera scene received a jolt of energy with the formation of Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), a visionary young start-up founded by a small group of friends who worked in the “biz.” Inspired by a goal of reinvigorating the art form by presenting classical repertoire in unconventional spaces and innovative ways, AtG staged its first performance to a sold-out audience of 50 people, and with that the company was off and running. Since that first season, AtG has packed every single one of its productions with standing room-only crowds, winning a consistent level of critical acclaim that has even surprised its own members. Maclean’s has referred to AtG as “the most successful of the indies,” and the Calgary Herald called it “one of the most important opera companies in Canada.” AtG’s 2013 production of Figaro’s Wedding received seven Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations, winning the award for Best New Musical/Opera. Its 2014 production of #UncleJohn also garnered several nominations. The arts community has embraced the AtG, as has a much wider, more diverse audience of people who may have never considered attending an opera. For more information, please visit

The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall is a not-for-profit charitable organization operating two of Canada’s premier concert halls. Showcasing the world’s greatest performers in all disciplines, the two halls are also prominent venues for diverse activities in the business and entertainment district of downtown Toronto. Managed by a professional management team with a volunteer Board of Governors, the Corporation’s mission is to provide a world- renowned environment to showcase international artists and entertainment; to provide public space for the cultural and corporate communities of the Greater Toronto Area; to support the development of Canadian talent; to increase and enhance its worldwide profile as a leader in the arts community through its professionalism and programming.

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For images, interviews or more information, please contact:

Caitlin Coull, Communications Director

Against the Grain Theatre

Meghan McCready, Media Relations and Promotions Associate