The Howland Company tests the waters with brand new revival

Jonathan Zagrodnik

Staff Writer

The Howland Company, a Toronto-based theatre ensemble, will be launching its workshop weekend on Nov. 19. The company has been involved with Toronto theatre for over two years now. Ensemble artist Alexander Crowther recalls the company’s genesis: “[It] is an ensemble of several different artists, and we all met up in different ways. Some of us went to school together at University of Toronto, and others met through various workshops throughout Toronto, and we started reading plays [together]. [The] reading group is still very much a thing. And that’s how we came to be.”

Throughout the workshop weekend, The Howland Company will be performing a staged workshop of the 1930s German play, Casimir and Caroline. This play was written in 1932 by German playwright Ödön von Horváth, and is being bought back to life with a brand new English translation by University of Toronto Professor Holger Syme. “It’s been great working with Holger,” says Crowther. “He really has a deep understanding of Horváth. There are so few modern English translations of this play, that it’s been a very interesting process. He has been able to give us a great insight into our characters' motivations and actions. Sometimes we would be looking at our lines thinking, ‘Why would I say that?’ or ‘Why would I say this line like this?’ and Holger always had a really great explanation [as to] why.”

Crowther will be taking on the titular role of Casimir this weekend opposite Hallie Seline’s Caroline. Casimir is a very conflicted character,” Crowther explains, “so it was a bit challenging for me to find a proper balance.” This marks the second revised play that The Howland Company has taken on. “The last show we did was 52-PickUp, and we were all paired off for that show. So this is the first time we have really attempted working as a complete ensemble, and for me, that’s what I really wanted to get out of this process,” says Crowther.

The Howland Company’s mandate says, “Our curiosity is in stories that impact our generation. Through our own development as an ensemble and by bringing people together through workshops and readings, we seek to build a community ready to take on tomorrow’s challenges.”

In modernizing and translating this play, Crowther says he feels like the company is really aiming to reflect that mandate.

“Being in our twenties, we’re at a point in our lives with a lot of uncertainty and unfairness. We’re trying to show the unfairness [of] class separation, and how the world that our parents raised us in [was] very different than the one we’re about to head into.”

According to the Howland Company’s website, “Casimir and Caroline is a play about love in the cold atmosphere of modern capitalism. Its world is full of chronically unfulfilled characters, whether they see themselves as victims, winners, or just living in the moment. They all desperately long for something more. None of them can say what that might be. But at least their lives look dope on Instagram.”

The workshops will run from Nov. 19 to 22 at 8 p.m. in the Luella Massey Studio Theatre. There will be talkbacks after each of the performances. Crowther says, “We’re really interested in what people have to say about the piece, what translated well and what they actually took away from this. We wanted to get both the public and several other theatre artists from around Toronto [to share] what they thought about this piece. That’s our real end goal, so we can have some idea of where to go from here.”

Workshop tickets are $15 and are available through http://howlandcompanytheatre.com. 

Check out the preview for this revived piece here