Posts Tagged ‘ottawa theatre’

Coming Up in February 2016

In Theatre on February 1, 2016 at 7:03 pm

It’s back!  It looks kinda sorta diff’rent!  It’s…oh, who cares, let’s look at all the cool stuff coming to Ottawa Theatres this month!!  We’re talking Undercurrents, the return of La Nouvelle Scene, and the theatrical rise of Live! on Elgin, among many other great things…

Twelfth Night at the NAC Theatre, in collaboration with Old Trout Puppet Workshop. Shakespeare good. Shakespeare with Old Trout…better. Until the 6th.

Love Letters at the Gladstone, from Plosive Productions. AR Gurney’s disarming and affecting look at a lifetime relationship through letters. Until the 6th.


Asylum at Live! On Elgin, from NW9 Collective. 4 Men raise a glass in their fav’rit pub, and I already like this new play from Doug Phillips (and director Jodi Morden, hooray!). The 4th to 6, and 11 to 13th.

A New Paradise at the Ottawa Little Theatre. From Ian Stauffer and director Kathi Langston, a new play and fundraiser for the Ottawa Mission. The 3rd to 6th.


Cat’s Cradle at the Ron Maslin Playhouse, from Kanata Theatre. A whodunit mystery from Leslie Sands. 2nd to 6th, and 9th to 13th.

Cabaret at the Kailash Mital Theatre (Carleton Campus), from Carleton Musical Theatre Society. Singing and dancing! From the 3rd to 6th.

Romantic Poetry at the Gladstone, from Black Sheep Theatre. More singing, and possibly some poetry..? Definitely an amazing cast. The 10th to 20th.


The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Live! On Elgin, from Suzart after Dark. Suzart returns with the greatest play about spelling bees that ever there was! The 18th to 20th.

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest at Ottawa Little Theatre. The Kesey classic gets the OLT treatment, and it should be a gooder. The 23rd to March 12.


Anton in Show Business at the Gladstone, from Three Sisters. Some of Ottawa’s finest gal-actors storm the Gladstone for this highly anticipated followup to their debut last year with Marion Bridge. The 24th to March 5.

BOOM at the NAC Studio. The 24th to March 12.


The Proposal at Studio Leonard-Beaulne, from Red Carpet Theatre Society. A little Chekhov is just what every winter needs.  The 25th to 27th.

Rope at the Kailash Mital Theatre (I think), from Sock’n’Buskin. A little Hitchcock to sharpen your winter nerves. The 25th to 27th.

24h theatre

24 hr Theatre at studio 311 (Ottawa U campus). A one-day adventure in new creation, with a Shakespeare theme this year! On the 27th.

Equity in Theatre Reading Series at the Gladstone. A Free evening of play readings from Darrah Teitel and Adrienne Wong, on the 28th.

Undercurrents at Arts Court (and the NAC 4th stage). From the 10th to the 20th, it’s the wintertime festival that puts the yay! In Februar-yay. Check their website for all the showtimes, but here’s thee rundown of what to expect at the 5th incarnation of this dynamite theatre showcase:


-Mouthpiece from Quote Unquote collective. ‘Harrowing, humourous and heart-wrenching’…sounds good to me.

-A Man Walks into a Bar from Circle Circle. The Smash Toronto Fringe hit from Rachel Blair takes Ottawa.

-Getting to Room Temperature from the Room Temperature Collective. Arthur Milner and Robert Bockstael team-up for a comedy about assisted suicide. Ya heard me!

-Particle from 100 Watt Productions. Kristina Watt on stage, Martha Ross directing…you don’t need any more information that that. Go.

-Moonlodge from NAC English Theatre. Margo Kane’s lauded one-woman show returns with a new star and production…this ones at the 4th stage, folks, don’t forget!

-Monstrous, or the Miscegenation Advantage from Calalou. Sarah Waiswisz stars and Eleanor Crowder directs in this tale of a woman’s search for identity in the modern world, with the weight of history all around.

-Forstner and Fillister from F&F Theatre. The Fresh Meat fav’rit returns! Watch for flying sawdust.

-Macbeth Muet from Fille du Laitier. Macbeth, silent, with 2 actors and a tableful of found objects, and 30 minutes. Unmissable, say I.

-Listen to Me from Resounding Scream Theatre, A personalized theatre experience, as the audience goes speed-dating with the cast of this one-of-a-kind show.

– Theatre Francais

Un Vent se Leve qui Eparpile at the NAC studio. The 10th to 13th (English surtitles on the 12th)


Le Lilas Africaine at Studio  Leonard-Beaulne, from Theatre de Dehors.  French adaptation of Pamela Gien’s The Syringa Tree. The 10th to 14th.

Du Domaine des Murmures at La Nouvelle Scene, from la Caraveille DPI, Mala Noche, and Theatre du Trillium. 12-13.

Avant L’Archipel at the NAC, rehearsal hall A. The French adaptation of legendary Mi Casa hit Countries Shaped like Stars, directed by Joel Beddows! On the 19th only.

Le Long de la Principale at La Nouvelle Scene, from Theatre la Catapulte. 25 to March 4.

– Improv and Other Stuff

Crush Improv continues their epic Bout Time Tournament, with a show on the 1st featuring Reunion tour taking on Bros before Shows. Then semi-finals for all the winning teams thus far take place on the 15th and the 22nd, in anticipation of the final round!


The Improv Game Show at Live! On Elgin. From Experimental Farm and Trevor Comedy, a game show for you to test your improv chutzpah for fun and profit!  On the 8th.

eft valentine

Eft-Up Valentine Improv Duo Show at Pressed Cafe, from Experimental Farm Theatre. On the 11th.

Let’s get Toasted at Live! On Elgin, from Toasted Theatre Company. Launch party and fundraiser for Toasted Theatre, Ottawa’s newest and spunkiest theatre company! On the 14th.

Heart-On at Live! on Elgin, from Elgin St.Improv. Valentines comedy for you to laugh your loneliness away!  You’re probably lonely, right?  On the 14th.

Smut Slam at Clocktower Brewpub in the Glebe, from Cameryn Moore. The creator of Phone Whore and Slut Revolution brings her patented open-mic slam night to Ottawa!  Bring yer smut and get slammed. On the 25th.

That’s it for now!  Let me know what I missed, and I’ll hopefully be back at the blogging sooner with an update on Strange Visitations, Fringe, and probably not much more!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid (and Winston)

Carte Blanche: The Lady and the Spider

In Theatre on February 1, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Had a swell, if chilly No one told me it was gonna get that cold again so fast, dagnabbit!) day off from the drudgery yesterday.  Made my way down to the NAC for a visit, did a little hush-hush, top secret business, then hit the box office to buy a few tickets for upcoming events of the French Theatre and Dance variety.  What the heck, everyone’s gotta expand their horizons eventually, right?  Not that I’ve shied completely away from those two genres in the past…and in fact, my plans for later that same evening would involve one (and sort of both) of them.

It was a few hours later, after dark, when I hitched a bus or two to take me into the wilds of Hull for some new theatre, at what for me was a new venue, l’Espace Rene-Prevost.  I just missed my connecting #8 at Lebreton station, so huddled up against the cold and made the quick march across the Chaudiere bridge, and I’m glad I did.  Brisk at it was, the rapids were fucking beautiful at night…it was a wonderful sight that boded well for the evening.  Didn’t take me long to get over to the strip, and much less time than I thought to find the venue at 38 Leduc, just a short hop off the main drag.  As I entered, I discovered that the night, known collectively as CARTE BLANCHE and something that happens a few times a year at Rene-Prevost as I understand it, basically consists of a group of artists who have been given free reign to produce half-hour works of whatever the Hell they feel like.  Waiting in the main lobby area, which doubled as an art gallery, I had some fun digging into the paintings of the artist called YUGZ, a series of crazy cool images under the title DU $ COMME DE L’EAU.  I really wanted a few of them (save your pennies, they’re worth it), and that Yugz has some artistic chops, no fooling.  It was a nice way to get in the mood for some potentially insane theatre.

There were two performances in this particular CB, and the first one was LA DAME DE COEUR from Diane Bouchard.  Featuring Mam’selle Bouchard herself, along with some musical accompaniment from Bertrand Crepeault, the story was about…well, hang on a second.  Have I reminded everyone in this post how occasionally weak my French language skills are?  Rusty, to say the least?  Have I not?  Well, such is indeed the case, and while sometimes I can follow along or muddle through well enough, this show was giving me quelques problemes, c’est sur. I think my main trouble was that the bulk of the show was delivered in song form by Bouchard, and it’s a little trickier for me to keep up with the narrative when it’s being sung than spoken.  So, nothing against the show, absolutely not!  But due to my own limitations, I didn’t always know what the Heck was going on.  It definitely involved shoes, as the red-clad Bouchard would consistently go back to a tattered old suitcase filled with them, making references to a girl named Cendrillon with very small feet (that much I got..!)  And, as said, many a song ensued…a bit of talking to the audience, then back to the mike for a tune.  Some were heartfelt, some downright silly, but all delivered with style and a beautiful, rich voice.  Ms Bouchard wrote all the songs in the tale too, by the by, so it’s no surprise that she does them justice.  The whole piece had a bit of a 70’s variety show feel to me, which isn’t a dig, just a nostalgic vibe I got.  I also got the vibe that something went terribly wrong in the life of the heroine of the piece, as it took on a darker tone near the end, especially when the chair came into play.  Really, it’s times like this that remind me to get more serious with my French skills, because I’m missing out!  In any case, kudos to Diane Bouchard for belting out some lovely songs and telling her tale, which obviously hit home with a lot of the audience who could actually make sense of it all.  I kinda envy them.  But a solid show from a talented performer, even I could tell ya that.

A brief intermission, then back into the completely reworked studio space (God, I love studios) for the second piece of the night, L’ARAIGNEE from Elise Gauthier and Catherine Boutin. Visitorium readers, and well-heeled Ottawa folk in general, should recognize Elise’s name from last year’s CYRANO DE BERGERAC, or her many adventures with the Ottawa Stilt Union.  Catherine I last saw in the terrific EAST OF BERLIN at the GCTC.  As we entered for the show, I saw the both of them inhabiting a play structure-like set with excited looks on their faces…and also noticed there were several stools and chairs set up right on the stage with them. As the audience approached, the girls squealed and pointed, urging people to sit as near as possible.  And since that’s an offer I don’t get from ladies too often, I took my stool (keep it clean, folks…) as directed, and waited anxiously.  Before long the show unfolded, to a cool, evocative original soundtrack from Marie-Claire Sindon.  Gauthier and Boutin tell an almost childlike, mythic story about the creation of the world by, I do believe, a spider (why not?), going so far as to weave a pretty impressive web right there in the theatre, with the audiences help.


They use sound and light, words and song, and most of all their own bodies to tell their tale of worlds being born and reborn, and I got a little lost as to the how and the why somewhere in there, but never got the feeling it mattered too much.  The gals are incredibly talented performers, using dance (the show is directed and choreographed by the dynamite combo of Fanny Gilbert-Collet and Alix Sideris, and I could definitely see the influence of the Lady Sideris) and physicality to set the stage.  They create a pretty wondrous world on that stage (a world where, I like to imagine, countries are somewhat star-shaped), filled with imagination and excitement for theatre that’s hard to say no to.  To any fellow Anglo theatre fans out there who are NOT seeing French Theatre, I can only say…WHAT ARE YOU THINKING??  Language is only one part of it, ladies and lads, and that’s an important part of what this particular show is all about.  Plus which, it’s always nice to see Elise Gauthier out of her stilts now and again.

It was an evening well spent, I gotta say, and it’s more than worth a look…I would definitely love to see L’Araignee evolve into a longer piece in the future.  Shared a ride back into Ottawa with Pat Gauthier (Undercurrents now only a few days away!) and Lisa L’Heureux, who will be taking part in the NEXT Carte Blanche in April.  And after this one (which continues at Rene-Prevost until the 2nd), I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be there.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Red Oleanna

In Uncategorized on August 3, 2012 at 8:31 am

It’s been a rough few days and weeks here at the Visitorium, or so it seems, so it’s always a delight to spend a night doing what I’m SUPPOSED to be doing for once…seeing some cool new theatre.  And at the Saw Gallery even..!  Oh, weird, artsy, subterranean venue, how I missed you at Fringe this year!  And it was a special enough even this particular evening, as local young theatre punks Red.Collective were kicking off their first ever full season of programming as the Saw’s resident company, which is some cool beans right there.  I became a quick fan after their kick-ass presentation of THE LARAMIE PROJECT earlier this year, so I was eager to see more from them.  And in true upstart rebel fashion, they decided to start things off with maybe the most divisive play they could find, David Mamet’s OLEANNA.

The story of the contentious (to say the least) relationship between unconventional college professor John (Jonah Lerner) and struggling student Carol (Laura Abramsen) as they go from an innocent-seeming consultation into a spiralling clash of perceptions and values that is one of the most beautifully frustrating things I’ve ever witnessed.  Director Iain Moggach solves the problem of the Saw Gallery’s infamously shitty sightlines ingeniously, placing the set in the center of the room…sneakily forcing the audience to ‘choose a side’ even before the play has begun.  And the two leads do pretty damn fantastically with the material and the dialogue, which is even more Mamet-ish than I could have imagined.  I was ready to strangle someone if they didn’t just speak a WHOLE GODDAMNED SENTENCE already!

Ahem.  But that’s Mamet for you, eh?  He’ll frustrate you one way or the other…and this is a play I seem to be having a LOT of trouble getting out of my head.  Lerner, last seen in the slightly different role of the singing and dancing extraterrestrial in ALIEN PREDATOR: THE MUSICAL, brings the self-absorbed John a practiced charm that got me on his side in the early going.  But Laura Abramsen’s Carol, who moves from shrinking violet to strong and calculated aggressor (which may not be the right word at all, at all), makes a more and more persuasive case as the play moves angrily forward, and the slightest action from either character has you questioning their motives.  I won’t say much more about it, except that Abramsen and Lerner do strong work with some of the most challenging material around…I had to do a little GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS at the OSSD, I know what a bastard Mamet-speak can be.  And of course, the dialogue isn’t the most challenging thing about OLEANNA…it’s the material itself, and the prickly issues (power, gender, education, entitlement, etc.) it not only raises, but shoves right in your fucking face and dares you not to pay attention.  Major props to the Reddies for debuting with this piece, and a great version of it at that.  Ottawa, do yourself a favour and get down to the Saw, pick a side…and watch out.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Kisses Sweeter Than Wine

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Holy blue freakin’ Hannah, I finally have regular computer access again!  After a trip out to one of them there big-style computer places, I’m the proud owner of a spanking new laptop, whom I have named Magnus (after the famous Robot Fighter, natcherly).  Now at this point, I’m well behind in reviewing stuff that I’ve seen, and some of it may indeed fall by the wayside.  It’s completely too late to write about Obviously A Theatre Company’s excellent A WALK WITH MR.MCGEE, which I caught on the second-last day of its extended run at the Bytown Museum.  Suffice it to say all of Ottawa should be watching to see what they do next.

What it is NOT too late to write about, is the latest offering from sort-of newbies Bear and Company, their touring production of Wm. Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT.  I say ‘sort of’ new, because the company is comprised of a host of seasoned actors, headed by Eleanor Crowder who recently evolved their way out of Salamander Shakespeare and struck out on their own.  I caught their action last week, my appetite having been solidly whetted with their Fringe production ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE, which sold out its entire run.  And my apologies to the Bear gang for being so tardy with my review, but I promise it isn’t out of a lack of enthusiasm.  Seriously, there’s tons to enjoy in this Will Somers-directed bit of Shakespeariana.

Telling the tale of a pair of would-be lovers, individually exiled from their homelands, and updated stylistically to 50’s-era America (which lends itself to some pretty funky costumes), AYLI stars Zach Raynor as Orlando, the youngest son of a great lord, now put-upon by his domineering older brother Oliver (Leslie Cserepy).  After a spirited match with court wrestler Charles (Nicholas Amott, mugging it up but good), Orlando catches the eye of beautiful Rosalind (Anna Lewis, who also doubled as costume designer), who is about to be cast into exile by a vengeful duke (Eleanor Crowder herself, who digs into her villainy with glee).  With her sister (Dyna Ibrahim), and the court fool (Somers), Rosalind flees into the woods, disguising herself as a beatnik Fonzie to ease their passage (it makes sense when she explains it, trust me).  Things get complicated when Orlando shows up, and Rosalind decides to continue her pretense of masculinity.  Things get even MORE complicated when Orlando finds Rosalind’s Mother in the woods (Crowder again, playing the good mirror to her evil alter-ego the Duke).  Things then get their complicated-est when flighty farmgirl Phoebe (Danielle Savoie) falls head over heels for Rosalind (in her male disguise of Ganymede).  Never let it be said that Shakespeare didn’t like juggling a lot of balls at once.

The Bear & co. gang do a bag-up job of presenting this, one of the bard’s funner romps.  Anna Lewis is a positively shining Rosalind, giddy in her love and wholeheartedly engaging every time she graces the stage.  Likewise, Raynor’s Orlando is a stalwart and human hero, and especially shines in his scenes with his elderly servant Adam (a wonderful comic turn by Victor Pokinko).  Music fills thee air in this production, with a host of classic tunes performed by the cast (smooth Tim Oberholzer lives up to the legend his karaoke-mates have raved to me about, belting out several songs in a variety of roles). Mention must also be made of the wonderful Robin Guy as a roving member of Rosalind’s mothers band, and Danielle Savoie’s very hilarious scenes as the scene-stealing Phoebe.  Everyone in the cast is solid from beginning to end, and Somers’ direction serves the material extremely well.  This was a funny, lustrous AS YOU LIKE IT, and I expect most anyone who checks it out will like it just fine.  It still has a few days of park shows left, then ends up its run at Arts Court Theatre.  That’s it for me for now…still getting the hang of Magnus here.  But if you’re reading this, then I guess we’re off to a good start.  Peace, love and soul ,Ottawa,

The Visitor (and Winston)

A Factory of Slogans

In Theatre on April 25, 2012 at 12:37 am

So I was TOTALLY supposed to go and check out the new Ottawa Theatre School show last Friday, but found myself delightfully sidetracked on the night in question.  Although I have to admit I’ve been chomping at the bit to catch this show, for a few reasons.  First, their last show WE WANT LIFE was one of the high points of the theatre year.  Also, it was directed by Pierre Brault, easily a de facto member of Ottawa Theatre royalty.  Plus, any excuse to hit up my alma mater at the OSSD is good news to me.

Sputtering rain aside then, I headed over to Westboro and got ready for Nikolai Erdman’s suppressed Russian classic THE SUICIDE, written in 1932 and instantly banned from production by no less than Joey Stalin himself. It was rediscovered in the 70’s, and that’s good news for us.  It’s a darkly satirical look at Socialism, Marxism, life and death…and there’s a tuba.

You didn't believe me, did you?

Starring the current graduating class of the OTS and featuring a finger-snappingly good soundtrack, THE SUICIDE is almost disturbingly hilarious considering the subject matter, but it works a treat.  Drew Moore is our downtrodden hero Semyon Semyonovich, out of work, short-tempered, and harbouring particularly unlikely dreams of becoming a musician.  He lives with his devoted, overworked wife Masha (Victoria Luloff) and her Mother Sarafima (Dyna Ibrahim).  In short order, Semyon’s despondence leads him to thoughts of ending it all, and worried Masha calls on mysterious neighbour Alexander Petrovich (Mitchel Rose) to help them out.  Alexander (and his gleefully wicked galpal Margarita, aka Jazmine ‘Jazz Camp’ Campanale) have other plans, however.

Before long, Semyon is being courted by one after another cloying strangers (James Smith, Caitlin Corbett, and Adam Pierre, all looking great with awesome, scene-stealing turns), each seeking to manipulate Semyon’s forthcoming suicide to their own self-serving, supposedly righteous ends.  It’s actually a pretty wonderfully clever bit of writing that leads our hero  slowly, and quite amusingly, to his inevitable (?) demise, as well as maybe a new way of looking at life.  Rounding out the cast is Jonah Allingham as Yegor, the politically paranoid and permanently hunched Postman, providing more than a few choice comic moments.  Likewise Dyna Ibrahim, especially the bit about the Wiener Dog (trust me).  The whole cast is great, natch…it was nice to see Luloff back in action after being sidelined by illness for WWL, and she shone as Masha.  And can I just say I’m becoming a big fan of Caitlin Corbett and Mitchel Rose?  Because I kinda am.

But I hate to play fav’rits (except when I do), and the whole gang does great in a very smart, very funny, and fast-moving piece that deserved  a WAY bigger audience that it had tonight.  I didn’t hallucinate that huge turnout of so-called theatre lovers at the Rideaus on Sunday, right?  Well, you know what’s even better than giving someone an award for their theatre work a year after the fact?  Actually SEEING their work TODAY.  So no excuses, you lot!  Get on out there and commit to this Suicide (I said it)!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS: All love to Andrew Alexander, for the above photo!


In Theatre on April 14, 2012 at 8:34 pm

The other day was kind of a special day for me.  Not only was it an NAC premiere day, not only did I actually meet up and hang out with FamousActressNancyKenny thanks to the magic of cellulophonic technologisms, but…wait, were those the only two reasons..?

No, there WAS one more!  The play that night was a Daniel MacIvor piece, COMMUNION.  And I’m still working on piling up a decent amount of MacIvor (he being the closest thing the Canadian playwriting scene has to a rock star), having so far accumulated THIS IS A PLAY (twice!), YOU ARE HERE (from the gang at MAY CAN Theatre), WILD ABANDON, HOUSE and THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT (starring MacIvor hisself!).  Any new rendition is a welcome sight to my fanboy eyes, so I was as excited as a bag of bumblebees for the show.  And aside from Miz Kenny (now less than a week away from the premiere of MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY from Evolution Theatre…get your tickets now!), luminaries like outgoing GCTC chief Lise-Ann Johnson, Margo MacDonald, and…and, yup, by gum, Danny MacIvor himself, in the flesh!  It was gonna be a special evening.

The show itself was a very cooly-formed triptych…three scenes, three actors, two sets,and just about as many combinations of those elements as you could manage in an hour and a half.  Opening in a psychiatrists office (with the boldest scene of extended, uncomfortable silence since the season two premiere of TWIN PEAKS) beneath a dauntingly high backdrop of a set from designer Victoria Marston, we meet seemingly indifferent Doctor Carolyn (Kathryn MacLellan) and her highly agitato patient Leda (Jenny Munday).  Over the course of their one-sided conversation, we learn that Leda is a recovering alcoholic, and is harboring a big secret she has yet to tell her estranged, born-again daughter Annie (Stephanie MacDonald).  Scene two brings us to the meeting between Mother and Daughter (with some secrets waiting on Annie’s side, too), in a scene that’s so terrifyingly and amazingly awkward you want to tear your hair out while watching it.  The final scene returns us to Carolyn’s office, for an unexpected confrontation that I will say no more about.

COMMUNION is a beautiful show, marked (of course) not only by MacIvor’s deft wordplay, but by some joyously human performances.  All three actors are rock-solid…Stephanie MacDonald’s abrasive, know-it-all Annie is so vividly realized I wanted to throttle her (that’s a compliment), and Kath MacLellan does a lovely job transitioning Carolyn from a virtually wordless cipher at the beginning to the person beneath the facade in the finale.  It’s Jenny Munday’s vibrant Leda who runs the show, though, in a performance that none who see will likely forget anytime soon.  And the themes tackled in the show…faith, family, mortality, AA, and all the choices we make along the way, are woven together in a wondrous way that will keep you thinking.  Danny Mac is a smart cookie, and I’m glad that this was the first of his plays to show at the NAC (if only because I was there).

The show was a co-production with Halifax’s KAZAN Co-Op, and directed by VIMY’s Linda Moore, and I hope to see this gaggle of great ladies back again someday.  As it was, I settled for the afterparty upstairs, and managed to restrain myself from snapping a cellphone pic of Daniel MacIvor and Lise-Ann Johnson chatting away.  It was SOOO tempting.

Instead, here's a picture of some bunnies. Happy belated Easter, everyone!

That’s it for me…a few days off now (although I may get around to some FOOFARAH this Monday, at last), before a busy week of theatre.  Which is ALSO at last.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

GCTC 2012-13 – Launched!

In GCTC on April 11, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Not really seeing much theatre lately…missed a couple at the end of last week, on account of interviews are WAY harder than reviews.  And not much new in town this week, aside from the fun Easter Ontario Drama League festival at the OLT (which I may hit up in a day or so), plus COMMUNION at the NAC which I’ll be catching tomorrow.

So today was all about the Great Canadian Theatre Company, who were having a big to-do to announce the lineup for their upcoming season starting this September, even as we approach the final show of THIS season (the upcoming CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION in May).   I was down a little early, so poked a bit in good old St.Vincent, where I found a dirt-cheap copy of the BOOK OF THE SUBGENIUS!  Good omen, no?

Bob already approves of the upcoming season. Praise Bob!

Soon enough it was on the the GCTC, where a big crowd was already gathering for the launch festivities.  I did my usual, slouching best to blend in with the ACTUAL media as were were led inside the Oiving Greenboig Theatre for the presentation.  After an intro from Board Chair Nhanci Wright, outgoing Artistic Director Lise-Ann Johnson took to the stage, to announce the lineup for her bon voyage season.And from the looks of things where I was sitting in the cheap seats, it’s gonna be a gooder.  Here’s the list:

THE SECRET MASK by Rick Chafe.  Described as a semi-autobigraphical story about George, a man abandoned by his Father at age 2 who meets up with said Dad 40 years later, after he’s had a stroke and hardly remembers who he is.  Like several other shows at the launch, this one had a scene acted out in a reading from local supertalents Pierre Brault, Sarah McVie, Kate Hurman and Paul Rainville, and it looked pretty funny.  A good start.

FLY ME TO THE MOON by Marie Jones.  A new play by an Irish playwright, I suppose it was inevitable that Ottawa’s leading Irishman John P.Kelly would be tagged to direct this dark farce about a pair of caregivers whose elderly charge dies on them.  Marie Jones herself chatted with us via Skype at the launch, telling how she got the start to the play by heading away for the weekend with a couple of actress friends and an armful of wine.  Which sounds like a perfectly goddamn fine way to write a play to me.

THE NUMBER 14 by Axis Theatre, and the Number 14 Creative Collective.  This show played at the old Gladstone GCTC 12 years ago, and from the buzz I heard in the room when it’s name was mentioned, this return engagement will be highly anticipated indeed.  Set entirely on a Vancouver bus route known for its, shall we say, colourful episodes (not unlike our own route 14, and I can atest to THAT one personally), the show is billed as a mix of physical comedy, mask, puppetry, and maybe the kitchen sink too.  I already can’t wait for this one.

BLUE BOX by Carmen Aguirre.  Hey, Wayne was right, it IS a mainstage show!  After a successful run at UNDERCURRENTS this year, and just a day after being announced as part of this year’s MAGNETIC NORTH lineup in Calgary, Carmen’s powerful and charismatic one-woman monologue returns for a run in the big room, which will leave even more room for dancing.

THE EDWARD CURTIS PROJECT by Marie Clements.  This one we already knew about, as it was announced at the NAC season Launch last month (like VIMY, this is a co-production between the 2 theatres). Part theatre work and part photo gallery, I’m even more intrigued about this show NOW than I was when I first heard about it.

LIKE WOLVES by Rosa LaBorde, one of GCTC’s writers-in0residence last year.   A world premiere show about an elderly couple whose anniversary celebrations go from bad to worse, this is a seriously promising looking dark comedy that should make for a strong finish to the season.

Couldn’t help but notice that 4 of the 6 shows this season are from female playwrights (including one Canadian and one World Premiere), giving the NAC a run for their money in the girl power department.  And hey, about time, right?  All the shows look faboo from here (and yes, UNDERCURRENTS is back for another go, yay!), although it was really hard to think anything but positive when there was free cake and champagne once the launch was over.  That Lise Ann Johnson is one sharp cookie, and we’re gonna miss her.  My only real note of theoretical complaint is that Maja Ardal’s YOU FANCY YOURSELF (cancelled this season due to health concerns) isn’t getting another crack, but who knows what scheduling woes were involved therein, so I won’t balk too terribly.  I can wait. 🙂

All  in all, good stuff. Can’t wait for CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION next month, and what looks to be a solid season upcoming.  I’ll see you all there, right..?  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS  Feel free to keep your eyes on a certain Adorkable website for my guest-blogging-appearance in a day or so…or don’t.  To be honest, it gets a little sappy, and certainly features no assless chaps whatsoever. Hey, I’m no Sterling Lynch! 🙂

Evolution 2-Bill: the Rehearsal Interviews, part 2 of 2

In Theatre on April 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm

So for those of you just joining in, this post follows hot on  the heels of the last one, which featured my interview with the gang from Evolution Theatre’s upcoming [boxhead], part of their April Double bill.  And as soon as I was done popping my interview cherry with them, it was off down the hall in Arts Court for interview the second, with the cast and crew of the other half of the bill.

That other show, which will actually be kicking off the double-bill each evening during the run (something noted in their rehearsal hall with just a hint of cheeky one-upmanship) is MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY by Newfoundlandical playwright Berni Stapleton, who performed the solo show herself at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival in St.John’s, 2006.  This time around, it’s actor, playwright and blogger Nancy Kenny who will be filling the potentially blasphemous role, in her first time back on the Ottawa stage since officially relocating to Toronto (Booo!).  It will also be her first major stage role since her one-woman Fringe hit ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL, currently up for a mess of Rideau Awards, because sometimes good things happen to the right people.

Along for the ride with her are Director Andy Massingham (himself up for a jaw-droppingly impressive three Rideau Awards for acting this year), and Stage Manager Hilary Nichol.  Hilary has been there and done that as far as the Rideaus are concerned, having taken home the prize for Emerging Artist LAST year.   And she sounded pretty impressed with the star of their show.

Almost as impressed as Nancy is with this rock.

“Watching her in rehearsal, you can see the love she has for the role and why she chose it,” Hilary explained, tracking the path that brought them all this far.  “It really did start with Nancy…she’s the reason we’re all here.”

Nancy, a co-founder of Evolution Theatre (she stepped down from the company board last year), explains that a friend of hers handed her Stapleton’s script last year, and “…fell in love with Mary Magdalene.  Instantly.”  Needing a director, she thought of Andy Massingham, and, in her words, ‘dragged him along’, although Andy immediately disputes the notion that any coercion was required.

Andy, who most recently helmed the beautiful Ottawa Theatre School production WE WANT LIFE (and handles the reins this summer on Odyssey Theatre’s THE GAME OF LOVE AND CHANCE), recalls first seeing Nancy Kenny onstage at the 2009 Ottawa Fringe in her play NO EXIT UPSTAGE with Natasha Jette (also, FYI, my own intro into the Kennyverse), and deciding then that they needed to find something to work on together.  “You get drawn to people’s talents and unique voices,” he said, going on to tell how Nancy read some of the script for him on his front porch last summer, and he was instantly sold on the project.

“Her entry level is HIGH,” Andy says of the energy Nancy brings to rehearsals.  Comparing this show to her Fringe experience, she knows she’ll be needing that energy.

“This is harder,” she admits, smiling at the challenge of a decidedly more  intense rehearsal schedule than with her solo show.  And as she learned during her  Fringe tour, a one-woman show is more plural than you imagine.  “In the theatre…you’re never alone.  NEVER alone.  And that’s a great feeling.”  She’s clearly stoked for the show, and her enthusiasm is matched by that of director Andy.  “Very smart writing…It will get people talking.  You cannot be unmoved by this play.”

Andy, Hilary and Nancy, not being unmoved.

So far, 2012 has been a great year for theatre in Ottawa…but as is often the case, so far Women have been getting the short end of the onstage stick. Great work abounds, but not many great roles.   MARY MAGDALENE is one of very few girl-centric professional works so far this year…how does Nancy feel about that?

“I think that’s why I started doing my own work,” she explained, citing perhaps not only her Fringe shows but her co-founding of Evolution Theater itself,” …to create those standout female roles.  If something’s not working for you, then fix it for yourself.”

As for this ‘standout female role’ in particular, Nancy’s enthusiasm is pretty infectuous.  “This show’s a great show because it has a lot of fun, it has a lot of heart, but it still deals with themes that can be considered very dark,”  she says, but later adds with a delightfully goofy smile, “…but it’s still fun!”

Goofy, smart, blasphemous AND fun?  Okay, fine.  I know I’LL be there.  And you should too.  Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,

The Visitor (and Winston)

– MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY and [boxhead] play from April 18th-28th at 7:30 pm Arts Court Theatre (Pay What You Can matinee on the 22nd at 2 pm)  Tickets $25, $20 for Students/Seniors, no shows Monday


Evolution 2-Bill: the Rehearsal Interviews, part 1 of 2

In Evolution Theatre on April 6, 2012 at 11:26 pm

It took me awhile, but I finally found the rehearsal room.  Once everyone inside had put their clothes back on (just go with it) I went inside and began the interview.  I remember, at one point, we were all just staring at my cellphone/tape recorder as it sat on the table, as if waiting for it to take charge of the situation and start asking some damn questions, which I seemed oddly reluctant, despite being the interviewer du jour, to do.

In all fairness, this was my first interview…and I didn’t realize I’d even be DOING it until about an hour earlier.

It all started the day before when, while wandering carefree thru downtown Ottawa on a day off, I bumped into the man Andy Massingham at Rideau Centre.  He was on a break from rehearsals for Evolution Theatre’s upcoming double bill show, featuring both MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY by Berni Stapleton, and [boxhead] by Darren O’Donnell.  Andy’s directing Mary M, and invited me back to say hi to Famous Actress Nancy Kenny, hard at work prepping for her solo role as the tile character.  It was a fun little visit that turned into an impromptu photoshoot (oh, the things you can do with a cellphone!), and even a semi-joking invite to come back and do a full-on interview.  I kind of dismissed it at first, having never done such a thing before (sorry, NEW DREAMHOMES AND CONDOS magazine, you don’t count), but gave it another thought later on.  ‘I could do this’, I imagined in an unusually optimistic vein, and made the official request to Nancy for a timeslot.  She invited me back the next day.

Which was FINE.  I prepped a few questions, had lunch with my folks, missed the text Nancy sent asking if I could come in early to interview the gang from Boxhead first…

Yoinks!  I caught the errant text with an hour to spare (sorry, I’m new to the cellphone game), chugged a coffee, and bolted once again to Arts Court where the lovely Jess Preece, Assistant Stage Manager (as well as prop and costume-meister) for both Evolution shows, told me where to find my interviewees.  Which brings us back to the beginning of this rather rambling intro…the [boxhead] cast and crew, all fully clothed, and awaiting my gentle interview stylings.  If, when push came to shove, I in fact HAD any.

So who ARE the cast and crew?  Good question, wish I’D thought of it.  Well, on the acting front we have Evolution Theatre co-founder and artistic director Chris Bedford, stepping out of the director’s chair for this one (recent helming jobs of Chris’ at Evolution include IN THE EYES OF STONE DOGS and LITTLE MARTYRS), and Stewart Matthews of the legendary SCREWED AND CLUED troupe that helped put the Ottawa Fringe Festival on the map.  Lately he’s been hanging around the Gladstone theatre (I DO NOT LIKE THEE DR.FELL, CYRANO DE BERGERAC), and seems quite comfy at Evolution from what I could see.  For the crew, I was greeted by the always heartwarming sight of the lady Alix Sideris (recently seen on stage in Odyssey’s THE FAN, as well as working the MAGNETIC NORTH industry series), wearing the director’s hat for this show and making it look SO good.

If you took the table away, she wouldn't fall. That's how awesome she is.

By her side was the hardest working man in show business, Stage Manager Nick Alain…you’ve probably been struck by lightning more times than he’s had days off this year, and that seems to be the way he likes it.

I started off easy, asking the gang what drew them to this show in particular, and found the answers pretty similar, in a wonderfully bizarre fashion.  Chris Bedford, who was originally set to direct this show before succumbing to the urge to meet the rather unique acting challenges it poses, said that while he was drawn to a lot of things about the show, it boiled down to a few choice traits.  “I’m a fan of cheesy bad jokes interspersed with big ideas” he admitted with a smile, calling the show “…a little gem…something very intelligent framed in a very stupid framework, and I think that’s what makes it sing.”

Stewart Matthews puts it a little more bluntly.  “It’s dumbass,” he deadpans disarmingly,  quickly adding that the show has a sneakily sideways intellectual bent. “The philosophy is very simple, basic philosophy,” he notes, “… but is presented in such a way that it comes across as mere tomfoolery.”  Alix Sideris takes the theme a step further, calling the show both a ‘metaphysical meditation’ and ‘a hoot’ in the same sentence.  But how else could you describe a show where both actors have cardboard boxes on their heads for the duration?

I'll let you decide which one is better looking.

Asked about what made her want to direct this obviously mad little show, Alix Sideris admitted to becoming VERY excited several times during her reading of Darren O’Donnell’s script, which she calls “Brilliant…funny and true”, as well as one O’Donnell specifically wrote to terrify actors into paying attention to what they’re doing.  It also offers the kind of challenges she relishes…it’s a movement, dance, theatre, AND song piece, as well as being heavy on some rather unique tech, much of which falls to SM Nick Alain to handle.  Running this show, he says, is taking everything he learned in school about being a stage manager and “Turning it right on its head”.  I get the impression he’s both delighted and horrified by the challenges.

Bedford was especially proud about the double-bill aspect of the shows going up, noting that while both pieces of relatively new Canadian Theatre had been previously performed at Magnetic North Festivals (Boxhead in Vancouver, 2008; Mary Magdalene in St.Johns ‘06), neither has ever been performed in Ottawa.  And as he quite rightly pointed out, “How often do you get to see two shows in one night?”

Our impromptu interview session was joined at the last minute by Pierre Ducharme, who is heading up the set/light design for both shows, and was merrily cryptic (but enthusiastic) about what we can expect from this one…think a set that’s not a set, and I’ll say no more.  And just so you’ll forgive me for that teaser…remember when I said there were songs in the show?  Well…

That’s it for now…Let me know how I managed on this, my first ever solo piece of slapdash interview work.  And don’t go anywhere!  Because as soon as I was finished with this one, here’s what I found waiting outside the rehearsal hall, from the MARY MAGDALENE gang:

A Visitor's work is NEVER done!

Stay tuned for part two, kids!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

– MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY and [boxhead] play from April 18th-28th at 7:30 pm Arts Court Theatre (Pay What You Can matinee on the 22nd at 2 pm)  Tickets $25, $20 for Students/Seniors, no shows Monday

My Mamamouchi

In Theatre on March 27, 2012 at 1:32 am

I’m working on day 4 of having a cellphone/personal hate machine, and I think I’m finally starting to suss out its function.  It’s there to remind you that nobody loves you, right?  Also, to tell the time.  Both  useful functions, to be sure, and I thank my dark and hateful god for my PHM, every lonely second of every awful day.  I’m thinking of loading ANGRY BIRDS, too.  I hear that’s cool.

However, despite having the voice of destruction in my breast pocket, there’s still fun work to be done, ie: theatre to see and review (fun theatre fact: the reason they make you turn your cellphones off during a performance?  They love you.), and in tonite’s case that was back at good old Ottawa U, and Academic Hall.  Now, as a semi-useful amateur fan/reviewer, even I have learned by now that if at all possible, you don’t review preview shows, OR dress rehearsals.  But in tonite’s case, I happen to have been invited to do exactly that, and so I headed out on normally dark theatre Monday to check out a much-anticipated show…MAMAMOUCHI, aka Le Bourgeouis Gentilhomme, from that French rascal Moliere.  The show was directed by Jodi Sprung-Boyd, who helmed last year’s dee-liteful EURYDICE and…

…okay, confession time.  I had actually planned on auditioning for this show, when the offers started coming out late last year.  I read the play, and even prepared a monologue from another Moliere play (which I still have half-memorized, if you should feel like challenging me to a read).  But in the end I chickened out, worried that the play was more of a student thing and I’d be the creepy old man at the auditions.  Which I totally WOULD have been, but I was still really intrigued to see the show…after reading the play, and realizing what a fucking funny cat Moliere WAS, little would have kept me away.  And now as I HAVE seen it…shit, I wanna see it again.

The play, a skewering of class structure and ambition, centers around the hopelessly deluded Monsieur Jourdain, a working-class man of wealth who longs to be part of the ‘noble’ aristocracy.  To this end, he hires several different Masters (a music master, dance master, fencing master, philosophy master…) to better him…and he perfectly fails to grasp even one of their lessons.  After nearly starting a war between the lot of them, we learn that the boastful Jourdain has a hopeless crush on the Marquise Dorimene, whom he maintains contact with through the ‘friendship’ of the leeching gentleman Dorante.  Meanwhile, his wife and maid suffer his indignities, while his daughter is denied the marriage to her love she desires, because he lacks the station  Jourdain holds above all else.

Amidst all this class warfare and self-hatred/delusion, a fantastic show emerges.  From the opening moments in the lobby where the action gets underway, to the astonishingly opulent set decoration awaiting inside the theatre, Jodi has managed to quietly put together what I’m happily calling one of the most outstandingly fun shows of the year in this town.  Set to a rousing musical score by Jean-Baptiste de Lully, and featuring loads of positively gorgeous singing and dancing (worthy of the masters indeed), MAMAMOUCHI is a joyous, raucous hit from moment one.  And I admit…I was kinda tired when I arrived, and when I saw in the program that the runtime was 2 and a 1/2 HOURS…I kinda cringed.  I didn’t know if I’d make it that long.  But trust me…you won’t want it to end.

The performances are solid all around, and in some cases just bloody wonderful.  Alexandre Gauthier fucking KILLS it as Monsieur Jourdain, dimwit and underdog all in one.  Zach Raynor does epic double-shift work as both the Dance Master, and the scheming fop Dorante, and excels at both roles.  Likewise Dramturge Adriane Epprecht as the Music Master and loudmouth maid Nicole, a joy every moment on stage. Matthew Harding as the slightly-too emphatic Philosophy Master and hopeful boyfriend Cleonte, does great work here, as well as his man Friday Covielle, aka Kyle Cunningham (who himself doubles as the splendidly dismissive Tailor earlier on).  And Mado Manseau knocks it out of the park several times as Jourdain’s wife, easily the most sensible member of the mostly insane cast.  Jess laFrance as Dorimene, hoop skirt and all, is perfectly endearing, as well as Rideau-award nominated Cory Thibert and Tony Adams as the ever-present lackeys of Jourdain, lending new meaning to the term ‘supporting role’.  Seriously, they have to lift things a LOT.

The show is a gem, a perfect fun ride from beginning to end, and as crowded as my current week is already, I’m trying to figure out a way to see it again.  The name of the show, MAMAMOUCHI, is taken from a nonsense word used in a closing-act deception against the witless  Jourdain that culminates in a musical number that will be hard to beat for sheer fun in this theatre year. Gotta mention the choreography from Rachel O’Brien, and Pirate Jenny Gabby Lalonde, as well as the wicked costumes from Patrice-Ann Forbes.  And, well…everything else.  It’s so much god-damn fun…why are you still reading this?  Clear your evening, because this only runs until the 31st (tho I personally think they should consider extending it an extra week).

Also, there’s dancing at the end.  What more do ya want?  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)