So, a little while back, the Ottawa theatre community got some might grim news (and I’m not talking about losing FamousActressNancyKenny to Toronto, tho I’m still a little verklempt about that, thank you very much)…namely, that veteran company THIRD WALL THEATRE was being forced to cancel their upcoming 11th season due to budgetary constraints. Now, I think we can all agree that that’s some goddam horseshit right there, and the next time you see ‘budgetary constraints’, go right ahead and kick them in the nuts.
But life goes on, and so too does Third Wall, who are making the best of a bad situation with what Artistic director James Richardson calls the EMPTY SPACE SERIES. A planned string of one-off events, staged readings and fundraisers, the series got its debut just last night at the Glebe St.James United Church with a night of readings of short stories by Anton Chekhov, by local legends Kristina Watt and Andy Massingham (with an able assist from James Richardson himself). Heading as I was into some serious Third Wall withdrawal, I was all too happy to attend. An added bonus was that, despite all odds, I had never actually been exposed to Chekhov’s work before!
Amidst a nice size crowd, the gang took the stage and took off running with the first of six short stories of the evening, THE TRANSGRESSION. I noticed a few things rather quickly…first, that listening to Andy and Kristina read is a grand bloody privilege. And second, that I’ve been missing out by ignoring messr. Chekhov all these years. His stories were beautiful, heartbreaking and hilarious, often all at once, and the actors did marvelously at bringing his tales to life, even in a simple reading setting.
Amidst the other stories (MISERY, FAT AND THIN, THE CHORUS GIRL, THE BEGGAR and VEROTCHKA) were also readings from the love letters shared between Anton and his actress-amour Olga Knipper, aptly performed by Richardson and Watt. Some wonderful humour amidst the sadness and longing in those words, and it was rather remarkable to hear them read aloud like that. It was an absolutely gorgeous evening…Bravos all around!
The decision to go with the works of Chekhov didn’t spring out of nowhere…Third Wall’s first show of the season WAS to have been a production of AC’s THREE SISTERS, in conjunction with the Ottawa U drama guild. It was happily relayed at the reading that Ottawa U will be going ahead with the production come this December, joined by some of 3rd Wall’s resident acting company, and ya know I’ll be looking forward to THAT one. As for the company itself, the next Empty Space series will take place on January the 18th, with a reading of Henry Beissel’s WHERE SHALL THE BIRDS FLY. And if you wanna help the gang out before that (and get all classily tipsy while you’re at it), their OFF THE WALL wine tasting event is coming up on October the 29th at Mercury Lounge, which I think you know you want to check out.
I’m hoping for nothing but the best during this time of restructuring and planning by James R. and the 3rd Wall gang, and can’t wait for the next reading. And, of course, next year’s triumphant return to a full season…oh yeah, I’m calling it. Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)