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Full circle: Calgary's Paul Gross to be part of Alberta Theatre Projects 50th anniversary season

Paul Gross will star in Alberta Theatre Projects production of The Seafarer, which kicks off the theatre company's 50th season Oct. 15. (Photo courtesy ATP by Dahlia Katz) Paul Gross will star in Alberta Theatre Projects production of The Seafarer, which kicks off the theatre company's 50th season Oct. 15. (Photo courtesy ATP by Dahlia Katz)
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Paul Gross is coming home to help Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP) celebrate its 50th anniversary onstage at the Martha Cohen Theatre.

The Calgary theatre company, which has staged over 100 world premiere productions by Canadian playwrights announced its 50th anniversary lineup Thursday.

The opening production will be Irish playwright Conor MacPherson’s The Seafarer  (Oct. 15 - Nov. 10), a dark comedy starring Gross, the star of films such as Men With Brooms, Passchendale, and the TV series Due South.

Gross recently returned to the stage at Stratford, where he played King Lear last summer.

When asked how he feels about returning to the stage in Calgary, he wrote, in an email, “Hang on. This production is in Calgary? This is even better than I thought (and I really should learn how to read a contract.)"

As far as coming home goes, Gross said it brings his entire life full circle -- not just his acting life.

“This will definitely be a full circle moment back to where I started,” he said. “Because a very long time ago, I was born there in the Calgary General Hospital.”

The 50th anniversary season will also bring home Rebecca Northan (creator and star of the global hit comedy Blind Date), who will direct the holiday return of Charlotte’s Web (Nov. 26 – Dec. 29), one of the most beloved productions ever produced at ATP. Featuring Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider, Charlotte’s Web tells a story of enduring loyalty and the power of friendship.

A different exploration of a similar theme will come from King James (Feb. 25 – March 16), which explores 12 years in the lives of two Cleveland friends with the backdrop of Cleveland living legend Lebron James coming and going and coming back to help deliver an NBA championship for the hometown Cavaliers. Written by Rajiv Joseph, the author of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, King James will be directed by ATP’s artistic director Haysam Kadri.

Haysam Kadri has been named as the artistic director for the Alberta Theatre Projects. (File/Tim Nguyen)

The final production will be Liars at a Funeral (April 22 – May 11), Sophia Fabilli’s comedy about a grandmother who fakes her own death in order to get her dysfunctional family together in one room.

It’s the first full season programmed by Kadri, who left the Stratford Festival in 2006 to return home to Calgary, where he has acted and directed in some of the city’s most memorable productions of the last 20 years, in addition to spending 11 years as the artistic director of The Shakespeare Company.

It’s not only a full-circle moment for Gross, but also for Kadri and ATP.

“Programming the 50th season at ATP carries special significance and responsibility,” Kadri said. “It represents a celebration of the organization's history, achievements, and contributions to the country.  It's a great opportunity to reflect on the journey that has led to this milestone and to honour the artists, staff, and audiences who have been part of the ATP’s legacy.”

“As a Calgary-based theatre company with a rich history spanning 50 years," he added, "ATP's commitment to showcasing contemporary stories and nurturing local talent underscores its significance as a cultural institution within Alberta and across Canada.”

It also turns out Kadri and Gross have an old theatre connection.

“My first professional gig was working with Paul Gross in Hamlet at Stratford," Kadri said,  "and he brought an immense talent, passion, and dedication to the stage, that left a huge impression on me and set a standard to aspire to in my own journey as a theatre artist.”

For more information about ATP's 50th anniversary season, go here.

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