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Photo by Benjamin Laird

Teenage Dick premieres in Calgary

By Charlotte Dover, April 20 2023— 

Alberta Theatre Projects’ production of Teenage Dick written by Mike Lew and directed by Jenna Rodgers will be the show’s Calgary premiere. This modern adaptation will transport audiences to the hallways of a fictional American high school.

The story is populated by a cast of six talented actors. Richard, who has Cerebral Palsy and is taunted with the nickname “Dick,” his best friend Buck, a nonbinary quick-witted wheelchair user, Eddie, the junior class president, quarterback and most popular boy at school, Anne, the most popular girl at school and Eddie’s ex, Clarissa, the junior class vice president and goody-goody and Elizabeth, their English teacher. As the senior class elections approach, will Richard be able to outplay his classmates in his bid for presidency or will this charismatic anti-hero fall deeper into a pattern of manipulation and greed? 

Teenage Dick is an adaptation of Richard III written by William Shakespeare. With the discovery of Richard’s skeleton in a Leicester parking lot in 2012, it was learned that he did have a severe case of scoliosis, but he didn’t have a withered arm or some of the other physical characteristics he’s been attributed with. As new facts about the play and the historical figure of Richard III come out it affects how some view the play. 

“Of course what we know in 2023 inevitably affects us, as it’s part of our collective knowledge. That said, there’s also a history and legacy of Shakespeare’s performance that we want to honour,” Rodgers explained. “Shakespeare has portrayed Richard as a ‘deformed’ villain for years. This play casts Richard as disabled and asks us to consider what it means — in a contemporary sense — to cast disabled actors, but also to consider how history treated people with disabilities.

“I went into this process knowing that theatre is a team endeavour, and it was really important to me to express that to the incredible group of designers and performers who agreed to do the story. No single one of us needs to be an expert but all of us need to work together to tell the story possible,” she continued. “We can keep each other accountable and engaged.”

Photo by Benjamin Laird

Rodgers hopes that audiences will want to talk about what they just saw. 

“I hope we start opening up space for more conversation on how to make this art form more inclusive and accessible,” she said.

Teenage Dick brings a new, contemporary and diverse look at a nearly 500-year-old play. By mixing a high school drama and a teen sitcom, audiences will meet characters that are familiar yet new. 

 “You’ll be surprised by the laughter and hopefully caught off guard by some of the darker moments,” said Rodgers. “It’s contemporary, it’s fun, and I think that it’s culturally accessible.

“Contemporary adaptations of classical work are fantastic opportunities to engage new audiences,” she continued. “If we want to keep theatre fresh and relevant, we need to keep finding interesting ways to tell stories, and we need to ensure we’re appealing to broader and more diverse populations.” 

Teenage Dick runs from April 18-30 at the Martha Cohen Theatre. Tickets and more information on the performances can be found on the Alberta Theatre Projects website

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