Originally from White Rock, British Columbia, Ashlie Corcoran directs both theatre and opera, working across Canada and internationally. She is the Artistic Director of the Arts Club Theatre Company in Vancouver.
Recent and upcoming projects include Il barbiere di Siviglia for Vancouver Opera, Magic Victrola for the Canadian Opera Company, Mamma Mia! for the Citadel Theatre, Soundstream’s Electric Messiah, and Me & My Girl at the Shaw Festival. The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime and The Matchmaker at the Arts Club, as well as Bed & Breakfast at the Arts Club and Great Canadian Theatre Company are among her productions from last season.
Ashlie has directed Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at Opera Philadelphia and for the Canadian Opera Company. A former Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio intern director, she also directed the COC’s production of William Walton’s The Bear and the touring productions of Cinderella, Isis and the Seven Scorpions, The Brothers Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians, Operation Superpower and Second Nature. Further opera credits include Don Giovanni, Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters and Le Laureat for the Glenn Gould School (Royal Conservatory), Opera North in the UK and the Städtische Bühnen in Münster.
Ashlie was the Artistic Director at the Thousand Islands Playhouse from November 2012 to October 2017, during which time, she directed Das Ding (The Thing), Into the Woods, Blithe Spirit, The Pirates of Penzance, Dear Johnny Deere, Bed and Breakfast, Don’t Dress for Dinner, The Ugly One, She Loves Me, Waiting For the Parade, Driving Miss Daisy, Salt-Water Moon, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and Third Floor.
Ashlie is also the co-founder and Artistic Producer of Theatre Smash, for whom she has directed Abi Morgan’s Tiny Dynamite, the company’s Dora-nominated inaugural production, the staged reading of Lukas Bärfuss’ The Bus, co-produced by Theatre Smash and the Goethe-Institut, Layne Coleman’s Tijuana Cure, Graeme Gillis’s A Boy Called Newfoundland and Marius Von Mayenburg’s The Ugly One (which won the Outstanding Production Dora Award for Independent Theatre), Julia Cho’s Durango and Phillip Löhle’s Das Ding (The Thing) and Guillermo Calderon’s Kiss, both produced in association with Canadian Stage. In addition, she produced Theatre Smash’s second main stage production Norway.Today.
Other theatre credits include: Bed and Breakfast, Belfry Theatre and Centaur Theatre; Mustard and The Ugly One, Tarragon Theatre; The Gay Heritage Project, Buddies in Bad Times and National Tour; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Waiting for the Parade, Driving Miss Daisy, Blithe Spirit, Don’t Dress for Dinner, and The Birds and the Bees, Western Canada Theatre; Die Fledermaus, Cowtown Opera; The Gay Heritage Project, Buddies in Bad Times’ Rhubarb Festival; The Venetian Ball, Villa Charities Opera & Pop Gala; Third Floor, Summerworks Festival; Short Story Long, Toronto Fringe Festival (invited to Best of the Fest Berkeley and Uptown); The Secret Garden & The Jungle Book, Resurgence Theatre; Tijuana Cure for Summerworks Festival; Luna, Luminato Festival’s opera concert; A Boy Called Newfoundland, Gateway Theatre; Electronic City, Goethe-Institut; The Futures Market, The Wrecking Ball; Plighted Troths, Foundry Theatre; Be Kind To Mimes, Alumnae Theatre; The Play About the Baby at the Battersea Arts Centre; Moo, Beyond Chutleigh Productions. She has worked as an assistant director at Tarragon Theatre (No Great Mischief, assisting Richard Rose), the Shaw Festival (Afterplay, assisting Daryl Cloran), and Theatre by the Bay (A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo And Juliet, assisting Daryl Cloran and Mark Wilson).
Ashlie began her training at Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree in Drama. She received a Master’s Degree in Directing, awarded with distinction, from Goldsmiths College at the University of London. These studies were funded through a British Foreign & Commonwealth Office Chevening Scholarship.
Other awards and grants include: Theatre Ontario Professional Theatre Training Program Grant, Herstmonceux Castle International Study Centre Award and the Queen’s University Lorne Greene Award (given to a graduating student for excellence in theatre practice). Ashlie has been nominated for three directorial Dora Mavor Moore awards (The Ugly One, Mustard and Kiss) and was short-listed for the Pauline McGibbon Award.
Ashlie was one of the Shaw Festival Director Interns for the 2009 season. At Shaw, Ashlie directed Seán O’Casey’s Bedtime Story and assistant directed Brief Encounters (directed by Jackie Maxwell) and Albertine in Five Times (directed by Micheline Chevrier). Ashlie is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, participated in a Goethe-Insititut / International Theatre Institute’s directing residency at the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin, took part in Nightwood’s Penelopiad Lab, was a member of Canadian Stage’s Bash! program and was the Urjo Kareda Emerging Artist at Tarragon Theatre.
Artistic Director, Thousand Islands Playhouse (TIP), Gananoque, ON
*AD of theatre with 2 venues, 10 shows per season, 44,000+ audience
Artistic Producer, Theatre Smash, Toronto
*Founding member of company, produces Canadian premieres of international contemporary work
Urjo Kareda Emerging Artist Residency, Tarragon Theatre, Toronto
*Season residency focused on Artistic Direction
DIRECTING – OPERA AND CLASSICAL MUSIC
|Die Zauberflöte||Mozart||Canadian Opera Company|
|Electric Messiah||G.F. Handel||Soundstreams Canada|
|Second Nature||Matthew Aucoin||Canadian Opera Company|
|Electric Messiah||G.F. Handel||Soundstreams Canada|
|Bremen Town Musicians||Dean Burry||Canadian Opera Company|
|Operation Superpower||Brancy, Greenhalgh, Ranjbaran||Canadian Opera Company|
|Bremen Town Musicians||Dean Burry||Canadian Opera Company|
|Die Zauberflöte||Mozart||Opera Philadelphia|
|Don Giovanni||Mozart||Royal Conservatory of Music|
|Three Sisters Who Were…||Ned Rorem||Royal Conservatory of Music|
|Le Lauréat||Joseph Vézina||Royal Conservatory of Music|
|Die Fledermaus||Johann Strauss||Cowtown Opera Company|
|Isis & The Seven Scorpions||Dean Burry||Canadian Opera Company|
|The Venetian Ball||Large Scale Opera/Pop Gala||Villa Charities – Four Seasons Centre|
|Cinderella (original adaptation)||Rossini/Massenet||Canadian Opera Company|
|Cinderella (remount)||Rossini/Massenet||Canadian Opera Company|
|Luna at Roy Thompson Hall||Opera Gala||Luminato Festival|
|The Futures Market||Njo Kong Kie & D. Rodger||The Wrecking Ball|
|The Bear||William Walton||Canadian Opera Company|
DIRECTING – THEATRE
|Me & My Girl||Gay, Furber, Rose, Fry||Shaw Festival|
|Bed & Breakfast||Mark Crawford||Centaur Theatre|
|Kiss||Guillermo Calderon||Theatre Smash/Canadian Stage|
|Blithe Spirit||Noel Coward||Western Canada Theatre|
|Das Ding (The Thing)||Phillipp Lohle||Thousand Islands Playhouse|
|Into the Woods||Stephen Sondheim||Thousand Islands Playhouse|
|Blithe Spirit||Noel Coward||Thousand Islands Playhouse|
|Das Ding (The Thing)||Lohle & Schreyer Duarte||Smash/CanStage/TIP|
|Gay Heritage Project||D. Atkins, P. Dunn, A. Kushnir||National Tour|
|Mustard||Kat Sandler||Tarragon Theatre|
|Dear Johnny Deere||Cameron and Eaglesmith||Thousand Islands Playhouse|
|Bed and Breakfast||Mark Crawford||Thousand Islands Playhouse|
|Don’t Dress for Dinner||Marc Camoletti||WCT/TIP/Gateway|
|Pirates of Penzance||Gilbert and Sullivan||Thousand Islands Playhouse|
|Durango||Julia Cho||Theatre Smash/fu-Gen|
|She Loves Me**||Masteroff, Bock Harnick||Thousand Islands Playhouse|
|Driving Miss Daisy||Alfred Uhry||Western Canada Theatre/TIP|
|Waiting for the Parade||John Murrell||Western Canada Theatre/TIP|
|The Ugly One||Marius von Mayenburg||Tarragon/Smash/TIP|
|The Gay Heritage Project||Atkins, Dunn & Kushnir||Buddies in Bad Times|
|Salt-Water Moon||David French||Thousand Islands Playhouse|
|25th Annual Putnam County…||Rachel Sheinkin & William Finn||Thousand Islands Playhouse|
|Third Floor||Jason Hall||Thousand Islands Playhouse|
|25th Annual Putnam County||Rachel Sheinkin & William Finn||Western Canada Theatre|
|The Ugly One*||Marius von Mayenburg||Theatre Smash|
|Third Floor||Jason Hall||Summerworks Festival|
|Tom’s A-Cold||David Egan||Next Stage Festival|
|The Jungle Book||Kipling (adp. Tracey Power)||Resurgence Theatre|
|Limes from Sicily||Pirandello (adp. by Paula Wing)||Canadian Stage – Festival of New Works|
|Short Story Long||Joel Fishbane||Toronto Fringe Festival|
|A Boy Called Newfoundland||Graeme Gillis||Theatre Smash|
|Bedtime Story||Sean O’Casey||Shaw Festival|
|Tijuana Cure||Layne Coleman||Theatre Smash|
|Plighted Troths||Elmar Maripuu||Foundry Theatre|
|The Secret Garden||F. Hodgson-Burnett/D. Danson||Resurgence Theatre|
|Tijuana Cure||Layne Coleman||Summerworks Festival|
|The Bus||Lukas Barfuss||Theatre Smash/Goethe-Institut|
|Tiny Dynamite||Abi Morgan||Theatre Smash|
ASSISTANT DIRECTING – OPERA
|The Barber of Seville||Dir: Dennis Garnhum||Vancouver Opera|
|Fidelio||Dir: Tim Albery||Opera North, UK|
|Die Zauberflöte||Dir: Diane Paulus||Canadian Opera Company|
|Der Fliegende Holländer||Dir: Andreas Baesler||Stadtische Buhnen Munster|
|Idomeneo||Dir: F. de Carpentries||Canadian Opera Company|
|Fidelio||Dir: Andreas Baesler||Canadian Opera Company|
|Don Giovanni||Dir: Robin Guarino||Canadian Opera Company|
|Romeo et Juliette||Dir: John Fulljames||Opera North, UK|
|Tosca||Dir: Paul Curran||Canadian Opera Company|
|La traviata||Dmitri Bertman||Canadian Opera Company|
|Faust||Nicholas Muni||Canadian Opera Company|
|The Ring Cycle||Alberry, Egoyan, Girard, Levine||Canadian Opera Company|
ASSISTANT DIRECTING – THEATRE
|Albertine in Five Times||Dir: Micheline Chevrier||Shaw Festival|
|Brief Encounters||Dir: Jackie Maxwell||Shaw Festival|
|Albertine in Five Times||Dir: Micheline Chevrier||Shaw Festival|
|No Great Mischief||Dir: Richard Rose||Tarragon Theatre|
|Afterplay||Dir: Daryl Cloran||Shaw Festival|
|Romeo and Juliet||Dir: Mark Wilson||Theatre By the Bay|
|A Midsummer Night’s Dream||Dir: Daryl Cloran||Theatre By the Bay|
SELECTED AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS
Nomination: Dora Mavor Moore Award (Outstanding Production, Direction)***
Nomination: Capital Critics Circle Best Professional Production**
Nomination: John Hirsch Prize
Short-listed: Pauline McGibbon
Awarded: Dora Mavor Moore Award (Outstanding Production)
Nomination: Dora Mavor Moore Award (Outstanding Direction)
Awarded: British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Chevening Scholarship
Awarded: Lorne Greene Award, Queen’s University
Canadian Actors Equity Association/Magnetic North: Director’s Masterclass
10 day intensive, focusing on collaboration, Chekhov and the Greeks
Canadian Stage: BASH!
7 month program explores directorial approaches to large-scale contemporary performance
Nightwood Theatre: Penelpiad Directors Lab
Week-long lab culminating in showcase of 10 female directors’ work
Shaw Festival: Neil Munro Intern Directors Project
8 month program, directed by Sean O’Casey’s Bedtime Story and assistant directed 2 productions
International Theatre Institute/Goethe-Institut: Guest Artist, Berlin
4 month directing residency at Maxim Gorki Theater, shadowed Intendant Armin Petras
Canadian Opera Company: Intern Stage Director, Ensemble Studio
11 month program, blend of advanced study and practical experience
Master of Arts in Directing
University of London, Goldsmiths College: Graduated with Distinction
Bachelor of Arts (Honours), Drama
Queen’s University: Graduated with Distinction
“Director Ashlie Corcoran… creates a staging filled with coy, comic turns. Her approach is invented and loaded with details, both broad and file…” [Il barbiere di Siviglia, Vancouver Opera] Vancouver Sun, David Gordon Duke
“From its stylized cake-pop trees to its finale’s flurry of candy-coloured confetti, Vancouver Opera’s new rendition of The Barber of Seville is a hugely enjoyable treat.
In the hands of director Ashlie Corcoran, who knows a thing or two about farce thanks to her theatre background, this staging becomes an elaborately choreographed celebration of opera buffa.” [Il barbiere di Siviglia, Vancouver opera] The Georgia Straight – Vancouver, Janet Smith
“She has done small-scale touring productions like The Gay Heritage Project, and also The Magic Flute at the Canadian Opera Company. Corcoran has become one of the most productive directors in the country, and her productions often have the speed and agility that she does.” [Me and My Girl, Shaw Festival] The Star, Carly Maga
“Director Ashlie Corcoran has guided the evening with a perfect mix of physical bits and posturing, in addition to spot on pacing, that often induced riotous effects.” [Me and My Girl, Shaw Festival]
Broadwayworld.com, Michael Rabice
“Drew Facey’s set design, or rather Thing design, is as progressively ingenious as it’s initially impressive, and the cast, under Ashlie Corcoran’s direction, hurtle around the stage with great collective enthusiasm.” [Das Ding, Theatre Smash/Canadian Stage] National Post, Robert Cushman
“The play’s Das Ding – and the thing in question is a cotton fibre….So, how do you stage a play in which the main character is a cotton fibre? Director Ashlie Corcoran pulls it off with all the creativity and cheerfulness of an OK Go video.” [Das Ding, Theatre Smash/Canadian Stage] Globe and Mail, J. Kelly Nestruck
“Ashlie Corcoran’s direction is full of whimsy and technical flair… Corcoran’s production is a visual feast.” [Das Ding, Theatre Smash/Canadian Stage] Digital Journal, Jeff Cottrill
“Director Ashlie Corcoran and her wonderful cast land every joke, every laugh-line and firmly establishes every situation be it serious, scary or funny. The key to humour is that it has to be played absolutely seriously and no one knows that better than Ashlie Corcoran.” [Mustard, Tarragon Theatre] Lynn Slotkin Letter
“Credit for the direction of this whole excellent package must go to Ashlie Corcoran.” [The Gay Heritage Project, Buddies in Bad Times] Review Vancouver, Christian Steckler
“Of course, as has been the case with every play she has helmed this year, Ashlie Corcoran’s direction was seamless.” [Dear Johnny Deere, Thousand Islands Playhouse] Kingston Whig-Standard, Peter Hendra
“Ashlie Corcoran’s staging is excellent…she has also encouraged her cast to find some depth in these characters, which gives an unexpected impact.” [Dear Johnny Deere, Thousand Islands Playhouse] NPR, Connie Meng
“Camoletti’s ample number of door-slamming surprises coupled with sharp direction makes for a fun and entertaining two-hour farce.” [Don’t Dress For Dinner, Thousand Islands Playhouse] Richmond News
“Director Ashlie Corcoran is a highly sensitive director of actors.” [Driving Miss Daisy, Thousand Islands Playhouse] Capital Critics’ Circle, Alvina Ruprecht
“Director Ashlie Corcoran has injected the show with a kind of manic energy that adds to its attractive craziness.” [The 25th Annual Spelling Bee, Thousand Islands Playhouse] Kingston Whig-Standard, Greg Burliak
“A curious German parable smoothly and cleverly staged by Ashlie Corcoran. It’s great to see a talented young director take that next step, and that’s what we saw here.” [The Ugly One, Theatre Smash/Tarragon/TIP] The Globe and Mail Top 11 of 11, J. Kelly Nestruck
“Corcoran’s direction is impeccable…If you only have one hour to spend in the theatre this year, spend it here.” [The Ugly One, Theatre Smash/Tarragon/TIP]cStage Door Reviews, Christopher Hoile
“Ashlie Corcoran directs with both passion and humour.” [The Ugly One, Theatre Smash/Tarragon/TIP] Classical 96.3FM, Paula Citron
“Ashlie Corcoran creates a production that permeates the entire theatre and fairly crackles with life.” [The Ugly One, Theatre Smash/Tarragon/TIP] Toronto Sun, John Colbourne
“Ashlie Corcoran’s production is brisk and often very funny. And her cast is excellent.” [The Ugly One, Theatre Smash/Tarragon/TIP] The Globe and Mail, Martin Marrow
“Corcoran’s work is beautiful and extremely meticulous.” [The Ugly One, Theatre Smash/Tarragon/TIP] Capital Critics’ Circle, Alvina Ruprecht
“Ashlie Corcoran’s direction finds the perfect balance between the emotionally deep and the twee… This show is different, funny, and very well done.” [A Boy Called Newfoundland, Theatre Smash] Torontoist.com, Johnnie Walker
“Ashlie Corcoran’s astute and feather-light direction captures both the fun and the angst of this family.” [A Boy Called Newfoundland, Theatre Smash] Classical 96.3FM, Paula Citron
“Ashlie Corcoran continues to show impressive growth as a director playing out a number of scenes fast and loose… Corcoran does wonders getting cast members to go the distance.” [A Boy Called Newfoundland, Theatre Smash] TorontoStage.com
“Director Ashlie Corcoran’s finely nuanced production delves deep…The result is dramatic fireworks.” [Tiny Dynamite, Theatre Smash] NOW Magazine, Jon Kaplan
“Tiny Dynamite has plenty of spark and power to spare…director Ashlie Corcoran deserves high praise for delivering a satisfying and solid package.” [Tiny Dynamite, Theatre Smash] Toronto Star, Bruce DeMara
“The play’s technical and atmospheric demands are altogether extremely well-handled in Ashlie Corcoran’s production.” [Tiny Dynamite, Theatre Smash] National Post, Robert Cushman
“Of course, as has been the case with every play she has helmed this year, Ashlie Corcoran’s direction was seamless.” Kingston Whig-Standard, Peter Hendra
“Love and commerce make the world go round in Das Ding (The Thing), an inventive satire scrutinizing the effects of desire and money in various countries…It’s smartly directed by Ashlie Corcoran.” NOW Magazine, Jon Kaplan
“Funny, imaginative, thought-provoking… Ashlie Corcoran directs at a cracking pace and gives the guys a wide playing field. “ The Globe and Mail, Martin Marrow
“Adapted by Ashlie Corcoran (who also directed) and Andrew Kushnir, this version is tailored to its setting of the Thousand Islands. While all of the comic opera’s classic numbers remain, this adaptation infuses it with topical and timely humour…Before this season began, Corcoran said she felt that Pirates of Penzance was the perfect show for the Playhouse. She might have been right.” Kingston Whig-Standard, Peter Hendra
“As is often the case with the Playhouse, and particularly those under the watchful eye of director Ashlie Corcoran, the performances shine.” Kingston Whig-Standard, Peter Hendra
Globe and Mail Feature, February 2, 2016
Dora-nominated director Ashlie Corcoran on her workaholic life
From May to October, Ashlie Corcoran runs the idyllic Thousand Islands Playhouse on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Gananoque, Ont., but she doesn’t spend the rest of the year hibernating.
This winter, the Dora-nominated director has three shows at three different theatres in Toronto. The Gay Heritage Project was the first out of the gate at Buddies in Bad Times – and now heads out on tour to the Citadel Theatre in Alberta this month and The Cultch and the Belfry Theatre in Corcoran’s home province of British Columbia in March. J. Kelly Nestruck spoke with Corcoran at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto.
You’ve been working with these three men – Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn and Andrew Kushnir – on a show about the idea of gay heritage. Were you brought in to be the straight eye for the queer guys?
Usually, in my experience as a director, I have come into the first day of rehearsal with a lot of information about the piece itself – the history, the style, the context. This piece is quite different because they had already done four years of research. I was not an expert on queer theory or history. I was also, importantly, not an expert on vocal masque.
What is vocal masque?
It’s a style where the creators are writing on their feet. It’s very athletic and energetic. It can be quite fantastical – for instance, the HIV virus is a character in the play – and very personal. Really what they were looking for was that outside eye – to just respond. And it was through those responses that we then started to work together on the overall structure.
Obviously, the show has been a big success at Buddies where it was just remounted. How will the show change as it tours to theatres without a specifically queer mandate in Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria?
We really thought a lot about the Western audiences who would be seeing the piece and wanted them to feel like they were included in it as well. So we did re-examine some scenes to do that. There is a joke in the show about straight audiences watching shows at Buddies – and every night, that gets one of the biggest laughs. I think the piece is incredibly accessible.
You’re staying in Toronto – and directing Kat Sandler’s new play Mustard at Tarragon Theatre in February. How did you two come together?
It was matchmaking. But Kat and I had a pen-pal relationship before this, because I was curious about her. The things we share in common is, from an aesthetic point of view, a desire for incredibly pacey, quick shows – and comedy. Mustard is a family dramedy colliding with a Roald Dahl/Lemony Snicket, magical/scary/child-like world. It’s that collision of the two styles that really excites me.
Then you move to the German play Das Ding at Canadian Stage. I remember being at the first reading – your indie company Theatre Smash commissioned the translation, right?
Philipp Löhle is definitely one of Germany’s most prolific young playwrights. This play has had a lot of success, but hadn’t yet had an English translation – and we’ve not only translated it, but are also adapting it to take place partly in Toronto.
Das Ding is about a cotton seed that eventually becomes part of a T-shirt – and all the people it crosses paths with. What is it that attracts you to German scripts like this and The Ugly One, which you were nominated for a Dora for directing?
Both plays are talking about really big ideas – narcissism in The Ugly One, and globalization and the way we misconstrue how we are connected to each other in Das Ding. And they talk about them in incredibly theatrical ways – ways in which the form of the play and content of the play are interlinked. So with Das Ding, it feels rambly and bit messy and a bit hard to grasp everything – and that is also a reflection of what the play is about.
So if reviewers say Das Ding feels a bit messy and rambly, you’ll take it as a compliment?
I will. But hopefully, reviewers say it’s feels a bit messy and rambly in a way that connects with the story that is being told.
It was also just announced that you’ll be reviving The Magic Flute at the Canadian Opera Company in 2017. You’ll be the only woman directing at the COC next season and one of only two Canadians. What’s more of an obstacle to breaking into the world of opera direction?
There are definitely more male opera directors than female opera directors. I don’t necessarily think of that as an obstacle, but it is something that I’ve noticed. As for being Canadian, there are not multitudes of opportunities to get your hands dirty as an opera director in Canada. I feel really fortunate that the COC has offered me stepping stones of experience – from being in the young artist program, to directing their young artists, to directing their school tours.
In addition to all this work in Toronto – you run the Thousand Islands Playhouse. You directed four of your eight shows there last season. Are you a workaholic?
Yes. Yep. I have a strong work ethic – I guess I like to think of it more that way than being a workaholic. And right now in my career, I’m getting to do everything that I really want to do and I feel lucky and fortunate and blessed.