SubDevision – A Preview

A few days ago I got invited to come and check out what promises to be just about the coolest, niftiest, and…I’ll say it…squinkiest shindigs Ottawa’s theatre scene has treated itself to in a good long while.   It sounded too good to pass up, and let’s face it…when the lady Catriona Leger sends you an invite to something, a gentleman does not argue, or ask questions.  He simply cleans himself up as best he can, and gets himself to the church on time!

And it was at the church…St.Pauls Eastern United on Cumberland to be specific (home last year of MiCasa Theatre’s Fringe festival entry LIVE FROM THE BELLY OF A WHALE)…that I met up with Catriona, Associate Producer of this inaugural edition of SUBDEVISION, a three-day festival involving eight theatre companies, one church, and enough cool to choke a herd of angry mules.   I met Cat in the spacious basement area, where WHALE went up last year, and ironically enough maybe the only spot in the church that will NOT be used as a theatre space for SDV (my little abbreviation for SUBDEVISION…if you  see it again, that’s what it means, kids!).  For the new festival, that area will just be a mixing ground for talking, drinking, chilling out…and of course, setting forth on new theatrical adventures throughout the evening.

Partially inspired by the HIVE event in Vancouver, and given the breath of life at a backyard barbecue GCTC event in 2010, the concept for SDV is simple but brilliant.  Catriona describes the event as having a core meeting/gathering place, then “…all the little spaces within the church are inhabited by theatre companies, and they’re creating little, approximately 10 minute plays that are site-specific…encompassing the style of the individual company.”  As for which companies are involved and why, Cat told me that many of them were involved from the beginning, while others were invited later on account of the interesting work they were producing.  MAY CAN is one of those companies, and in the midst of working on their second Fringe show, lovable scamps Tony Adams and Cory Thibert are joining SDV with a piece called DECIDING WHAT IS, that will actually take place on the front outer steps of the church.

Now, before you start asking why poor Cory and Tony got stuck outside, you have to understand one of the key ideas behind SDV, which the delightful Miss Emily Pearlman of MI CASA explained to me.  “One of the things that’s really exciting about Subdevision in general, is that…we didn’t have anything until we got the spaces.  We drew spaces randomly, by lottery, and then when they (the companies)  got in there, they were like ‘okay…how can we use the resources that are available?’ ” Yes, the plays/pieces were only created AFTER people saw what space they were to be performing in.  Are you starting to get excited yet?  If not, let me introduce you to miss Tania Levy.  She and Pat Gauthier, co-founders of Epic Ottawa Theatre company GRUPPO RUBATO, have a piece for SDV, coinciding with their 10th anniversary, called LE FIN DE FINS.  It takes place in an elevator.

A shiny, bubbly elevator.

“We hope that people will at least take away something very intimate from our show,” Tania said, a fairly reasonable hope for a performance that can only accommodate two patrons per show.  But Rubato promises some pretty cool stuff with light and shadow in their short piece, and if you want your theatre any MORE intimate, deliver a monologue to a mirror.

Myself and the other papparazzi along for the event (which may or may not have consisted solely of tweedy old Snowdon and his better half) got taken on a whirlwind tour of the various locales and nooks involved in SDV, and provided by the unexpectedly labyrinthine St.Pauls, starting with a complete dress rehearsal of the Ottawa Stilt Union piece KLEO’S WAKE.  Yes, the Stilt Union are performing INSIDE, in the BASEMENT, and it’s AMAZING.  God’s balls, it was so much joy it almost hurt.  Accordions, acrobatics, silts, Germanic verse, and the secret weapon that is Elise Gauthier.  Get ready for some awesome, Ottawa.

Stilts make EVERYTHING better.

But there was SO MUCH MORE.  Upstairs, in spaces so smallish and obscure I don’t think they even had NAMES, were the makeshift homes of the aforementioned MiCasa Theatre, and the Counterpoint Players.  Counterpoint will be showcasing a Yoga-themed piece called OCCUPY ME starring one-woman theatrical army (I am TOTALLY keeping that alive) Brownyn Steinberg, while Mi Casa will be sneaking out of their comfort zone and doing an ‘audio piece’ called HIDE, which Emily Pearlman called “pretty exciting” for her and Nick DiGaetano, and I tend to believe anything Miss Emily tells me.

In the Sanctuary (aka ‘the Church’ to rubes like me), two amazing girl-gangs are doing a bit of a team-up…did I mention that some of the shows, as well as being site-specific, are also TIME-specific?  From 7:30 to 8:30, Deluxe Hot Sauce will perform FIRST DUSK, LAST LIGHT to the setting sun.  Then, from 9:30 to 11, Skeleton Key (in their official public debut) will perform SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD.  A piece designed to be shown post-sunset, Kate Smith (Skeleton Key co-founder, and co-star of this play along with Katie Bunting) told me it was a show inspired by her Nana, whose portrait graces the wall of St.Pauls as their first female ordained minister.  I like personal history stories, and I suspect this one is gonna be a grabber.  I’m not sure what could make this all better.

Until, of course you look in the kitchen.  And lo, there were two little birds, hanging about!

Sigh. Birds are pretty.

That is, of course, Kiersten Hanley and Sarah Conn of 2 Little Birds, the group that rewrote the Ottawa book on site-specific theatre when they swept the Rideau Awards last year with their SIX: AT HOME Fringe show (at Laurier House).  This time they drew the kitchen space, and did what you do in a kitchen…threw a party.  Why?

“Everyone knows the best party is always in the kitchen!”  Hard to argue with the Birds’ logic. CONVERSATIONS WITH STRANGERS also stars Sara Duplancic and Patrick O’Neil, and promises a twist…and possibly Jell-O.  But you didn’t hear that from me.

The evening is $20.  From the central meeting area, you can see one show, all shows, or any number in between.  You can drink, play, experience the most exciting theatre in the city AND there’s an after-party with DJ every night.  Do I really even NEED to be writing a promo piece for this?  I haven’t even gotten into the whole concept of ‘Artist Sharing’ that Emily told me about, but that I wasn’t smart enough to work into this piece.  Thankfully, I get another shot in a few days when I get to see and review all these shows proper.  I can NOT wait.  It’s on for three days, folks.  DON’T miss out.

May 10-12      St.Pauls Eastern United  473 Cumberland (at Daly)   Tickets $20   Shows start at 7:30

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)



  1. Thanks for a great post Kevin! Just a little correction – I was not at the Backyard BBQ bc I was in Vancouver watching Hive (our SubDevision role model). 🙂

  2. […] Here is a great article by Kevin Reid about the upcoming site-specific theatre extravaganza SubDevision, posted on The Visitorium. Be sure to check out Kleo’s Wake, the OSU’s contribution to this awesome festival. SubDevision runs May 10-12 from 7:30 to 11:00 PM at St. Paul’s Eastern United Church (473 Cumberland). Tickets are $20. Share this:FacebookEmailTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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