New Year! And that means new seasons to announce, and that means new sovereigns to crown (yes it does, don’t argue), and that definitely means it’s time for the Company of Fools annual TWELFTH NIGHT CELEBRATION fundraiser show at the NAC 4th Stage. This is my third year attending, and it was a blast the first two times. If anything, it was even Blastier this year. Here’s how it went down…
I actually bought my ticket in advance this year, instead of my previously established policy of just sort of stumbling upon one at the last minute (nice trick, but I’m no Nancy Kenny and I didn’t want to push my luck about getting in to sold-out events). Spent the day doing some much needed laundry, stuffing myself with a little homemade bolognese, then heading out to the show, where the head Fools (Scott Florence and AL Connors) would be mastering the ceremony, and announcing the Fools’ upcoming season for 2013. I spent a little frantic time hunting around for decent seat for my lonesome self before I was dutifully rescued by the lovely Kelly Rigole (soon to become the first actor to appear in TWO separate shows at the UNDERCURRENTS festival, FYI) to the stageside table she’d secured, along with supahstar Dave Benedict Brown of 411 Dramaturgy (soon to knock Ottawa out yet again with HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE, also at Undercurrents). I was mightily thankful for the accommodations, as we listened to the pre-show musical stylings of Mi Casa Theatre’s Nick DiGaetano on the gee-tar. Very nice, as always.
The show proper began as Scott and AL took to the stage to a) encourage us to buy AS MANY RAFFLE TICKETS AS POSSIBLE, and b) introduce the spiffy cast who would take the stage a moment later to perform a not-even-a-little-bit rehearsed staged reading of TWELFTH NIGHT. Alongside themselves, they were joined by Geoff McBride, Catriona Leger, Margo MacDonald, Chris Ralph, Simon Bradshaw, Melanie Karin and Richard Gelinas, a seriously talent-heavy who’s who of Ottawa Theatre that would be hard-pressed NOT to entertain an audience. The show was a hit as expected…major props to Geoff McBride for managing so much scene-stealing on a stage that packed with incredible performers. Also, fine legwork from Gelinas. Many laffs were had, and the audience was primed and ready for the second half and the announcement of the Fools’ 24th season.
First off, of course, is the Fools annual SWEETS AND SONNETS DELIVERY, wherein you can hire your very own Fool to deliver a Shakespeare sonnet to your loved one, in person, on Valentine’s Day (OR Mother’s Day this year!). Tell your sweetheart how much they mean to you by embarrassing them at their place of work! To accompany this announcement, it was time for the annual crowning of the new King or Queen of Fools! With last years departing Queen in attendance, the torch was passed to Rowan, who proved a generous monarch indeed when he appointed his Mother (Fools alum Virginia West, last seen inn HENRY V) to receive an onstage sonnet from AL Connors himself. Hail Rowan, wisely may he rule!
Next up was announcement of the OTTAWA THEATRE CHALLENGE in honour of World Theatre Day on March 27. We were treated to a performance of last years winning piece by Melanie Karin, which I’ll just call LIP SMACKERS in lieu of actually knowing the title. Good stuff! The multi-company battle (with 48 hour prep time to keep things interesting) will happen again this year at the 4th Stage, for the coveted Rubber Chicken Award!
The next proclamation was an exciting one indeed, a the Fools make their first venture into non-Shakespearean territory. From May 7th to 25th, Ottawa will be witness to Nassim Soleimanpour’s hit show WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT at Arts Court library. A play like no other from the sounds of it, the show will feature a different lead actor EVERY NIGHT, for a total of 18 performers over the run…and none of them get to see the script until the moment they get on stage!! I’m so stoked for this I can’t tell ya…apparently the show killed at Summerworks and Edinburgh Fringe, and I’m already making plans to see it at LEAST twice. And the ticket price? Well, you might be delighted to hear that the Fools, fools that they are, have made the official decision to take their pass-the-hat, pay-what-you-can pricing model from their outdoor shows, and apply it to their INDOOR shows as well. So yeah, no excuses for missing this one, Ottawa.
And the big show of the year, the touring TORCHLIGHT SHAKESPEARE park show that will be celebrating its tenth (give or take) year this year? The Fools have tapped directorial juggernaut Catriona Leger, who will take the reins of THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR from July 3rd to August 17th at parks across the region. A short excerpt from Billy Shakes’ goofy comedy was performed to our giddy amusement, and Catriona’s excitement about the show was pretty infectious. Oh, and opening day, July 3rd? That will also, by proclamation of the Mayor, be pronounced officially as COMPANY OF FOOLS DAY in Ottawa. Yeah, I think our little Fools are starting to make people notice them. Good news.
But wait, there’s more!! A second Shakespeare joint (call it TORCHLIGHT TOO) will follow WIVES up in September, this one directed by the Queen herself, Margo MacDonald. Her show, appearing indoors at three different theatres in town, is HAL AND FALSTAFF, an adaptation featuring all the good Falstaff bits from HENRY IV I & II, and a little bit of HENRY V. I think it’ll probably be along the lines of Orson Welles’ classic CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT…but probably with more foam swords. Both shows will star the Fools’ new acting company: Chris Ralph (who will play Falstaff in both shows, too), Simon Bradshaw, John Doucet, Melanie Karin, Geoff McBride, and Katie Ryerson. A sweeter lineup you’d have to be a fool to hope for.
I’d call the night a great success…fun was had, great shows were announced, the Company reached their fundraising goal and then some, and I even won some swag in the raffle! This swag might be turned into contest-fodder on this blog in the next week or so, so stay tuned! And start planning your summer now, gang…it’s a great year to be a Fool in Ottawa. Peace, love and soul,