October is practically bursting at the seams with the numerous theatrical events taking place in Ottawa this month. The impressive Norman Conquests trilogy wrapped up at the Gladstone only a few days past and the remount of two wildly successful shows at the Fringe Encore happening this last weekend, we are now looking forward to the next two weeks of fresh new work from the local and independent theatre scene. With the first of two installments of Fresh Meat 4 literally only a couple of days away, the ‘steaks’ are high for these artists who are hoping to gain some creative momentum within the emerging theatre community.

In its fourth year running, the Fresh Meat DIY Theatre Festival is quickly solidifying its standing in Ottawa as the platform where local emerging artists can experiment and express their voices in a relatively non-competitive arena.  A curated festival that dedicates two weekends to showcasing ten new twenty minute pieces, Fresh Meat is unique in its desire to promote original work exclusively from resident artists who have little to no professional affiliations or standing. I have attended this festival since its inaugural year at Pressed Café and now, seeing it take place in Arts Court Lobby under the mentorship of the Ottawa Fringe Festival, I can’t help but feel excited about the direction in which Fresh Meat is going.

So, without further ado, here is what you have to look forward to Weekend #1 (October 15-17) at Fresh Meat 4:

Resounding Scream Theatre presents ‘Joseph and Amarise’

Taking real life online chat transcripts and adapting them for the stage, director Catherine Ballachey has assembled a crack team of performers to take on her new adaptation called Joseph and Amarise. Starring Chandel Gambles, Jake William Smith, Alain Chauvin and Hailey MastersonDanielle Savoie (edit: the ensemble was changed post-poster printing), it will be interesting to see what Ballachey does with the four bodies on stage in this relatively short period of time. I’m further fascinated by the content itself, being a child of the internet and having frequented many a chat room (don’t judge me), and how Ballachey will transpose online chat dialogue into a meaningful and provocative narrative on stage. Overall, I imagine that this piece will no doubt speak to the digital generation.

Egodeath presents ‘Stephen and Me’

Full disclosure: I have an immense artistic crush on this performer (who will remain unnamed) and it is incredibly excited to see her back on this roster. If you’ve been to past Fresh Meat festivals, or even just around Ottawa, you may have seen this artist once or twice at such events like SubDevision and/or the recent Wrecking Ball installment. At Fresh Meat 3 she presented a piece about her experience at the Burning Man festival and the kind of sensory overload that these ‘transformational’ festivals are prone to. This year her piece could not be more aptly timed; taking place literally days before the federal election, Stephen and Me explores one woman’s ‘passion’ for a certain Conservative politician and the lengths she’s willing to go to in the name of her fantasy.

‘Mr. Eff’ created and performed by Jesse Buck

I have to admit, I am not familiar with the work of Jesse Buck with the exception of seeing him on stage in A Company of Fools’ Shipwrecked that was a part of GCTC’s 2014-2015 season. Doing a little research, however, guided me to many articles that speak to Mr. Buck’s expertise as a trained clown. Given that he’s had success touring with Cirque du Soleil for four years as well as respective critical acclaim for his show BUBKUS, some might question whether or not an artist (who could certainly be seen as a professional) fills the “Fresh Meat quota”. I would argue that programming Buck adds more legitimacy to the festival and further proves the need to have an arena dedicated to this kind of work. The Fringe is often too competitive (with 50+ shows) for a local artist to really experiment and make a success out of it (there are exceptions, of course, such as The Elephant Girls or Hip Hop Shakespeare: Live Music Videos). In any case, I would look forward to seeing what Buck has to offer and this seems to be an excellent opportunity to experience new work from such a high calibre performer.

Disposable Theatre presents “Train Compartment”

Speaking of clowns, Train Compartment, under the direction of local entertainer Adam Zimmerman, features Mike Kosowan and Joel Garrow (one half of Ottawa improv troupe Grimprov) as two clowns on the run who are trying to stay on the down-low by stifling their natural silliness. This is undoubtedly a strong comedic team and you will be hard pressed to stifle your own laughter. It is also always refreshing to see Kosowan and Garrow outside of Grimprov and working with different comedic and theatrical styles.

Bee/see/together created and performed by Karen Balcome and Kara Nolte

“You are invited to play” is the last of a mere three lines of text given to us in the program description for this piece and certainly the most intriguing. What does this mean for us as spectator? How will the performers immerse their audience in the theatrical event at hand? How will the fusion of dance, theatre, and text embody the concepts of “warmth” and “vulnerability”? Already this piece sparks your attention despite the description being only thirteen words long.

On the whole, Weekend #1 is shaping up to be incredibly entertaining with a variety of performance styles being advertised ranging from clown, to physical theatre, and to dance. Not only that, but the strong lineup of performers means that there is more than a good chance that you are going to get the most bang for your buck (sidenote: this isn’t to say you aren’t already getting a good deal- 5 shows for $20 = $4/show). All of this being said, we haven’t even touched on Weekend #2 yet which boasts an equally strong program. So, what are you waiting for? Skipping this festival would be a giant ‘mis-steak’ (I had to).

Fresh Meat Weekend #1 plays October 15-17 at Arts Court Studio Lobby

Doors/Bar @ 7pm

Shows @ 8pm

Tickets: $20 General Admission

Brie McFarlane



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