This past Saturday may have been one of the more frigid days we’ve seen all winter, but that wasn’t enough to stop two of Ottawa’s professional theatre organizations, the National Arts Centre (NAC) and the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC), from heating things up by announcing their brand new seasons to launch this Fall. Artistic Director Jillian Keiley of the NAC hopes that their 2017/18 season will inspire “great sparks” within audiences to “ignite conversation”, whereas the GCTC is promising a “raucous year ahead” with shows surrounding sex, music, and sibling rivalry. In any case, it looks like the Ottawa theatre scene might be in for a wild ride!
The first season to take place in the NAC’s reinvigorated space, English Theatre, will see some familiar faces return with Keiley’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol and the dance/theatre hybrid piece Betroffenheit– which is again only playing for two nights and comes highly recommended so mark April 6th and 7th on your calendars. You might also recognize the Ottawa-based production and/or production team behind Up to Low (last staged at Arts Court theatre as part of the 2015 Magnetic North Theatre Festival) given that it’s written by former Glebe Collegiate Institute English Teacher Brian Doyle; adapted and directed by local theatre legend Janet Irwin; and performed by an entirely local cast (many of whom have graced Ottawa’s stages countless times before). Don’t let it’s grassroots origins fool you, though, this show has mass appeal outside the ‘Ottawa bubble’. Check out what the theatre students of Solo Theatre (Atlanta, GA) thought of the play when they were in town on a theatre exchange. And, of course, there are familiar ‘classics’, as it were: the great Robert Lepage returns with 887 and what’s sure to be some stunning stagecraft; and, what’s got me even more excited, the co-production between the NAC Orchestra and NAC Dance with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.
Seriously, if you haven’t heard of or seen any of Bausch’s celebrated choreography here are links to some of her most well-known works (watch and then return to this article, if you please). It was during my first viewing of a recording of Café Müller in my Contemporary Theatre class where I (like many other people probably) caught the theatre bug- the magnitude and honesty of expression in the dancers’ bodies through the sheer physicality and creativity of the choreography inspired me to deepen my study of theatre and live performance. Presenting Café Müller and the Rite of Spring along with the highly-acclaimed NAC Orchestra, audiences are in for a real treat. Don’t miss your opportunity to see these theatre giants live, though tickets are currently only available by subscription. To find out more about the NAC’s 2017/18 lineup visit nac-cna.ca.
Heading west, over to the Irving Greenberg Centre, the GCTC looks to present a “broad selection of Canadian voices for all audiences to enjoy.” This includes Trey Anthony’s How Black Mothers Say I Love You, which examines the relationship between a Caribbean mother and the two daughters who she left behind in Jamaica for six years; an historical exploration of the repression of women’s sexual education and freedom in What a Young Wife Ought to Know, by Hannah Moscovitch; and an inside look at growing up in a polygamous community with Joan MacLeod’s Gracie. Similar to this year’s historic Les Passants (if you still haven’t seen it, go now…well, tomorrow #DarkDayMonday), the GCTC will stage, for the first time ever, a full-scale musical with Adam Gwon’s love letter to New York City, Ordinary Days. With Artistic Director Eric Coates at the show’s helm, I am very much looking forward to seeing the GCTC add another theatrical genre to their repertoire.
Other exciting additions to the upcoming season are two productions aimed “squarely at young audiences.” One Thing Leads to Another (written collectively by Maja Ardal, Audrey Dwyer, Mary Francis Moore, and Julia Tribe) is what we might call ‘theatre for the very early years,’ which is a very viable, though not yet popularized, style of theatre aimed at newborns and young toddlers. Making theatre accessible for new parents, while also creating material that is stimulating for the young one, is something really special. Still/Falling by Rachel Aberle, on the other hand, is only open to school groups. It’s worth mentioning here, for any teachers, that the HIVE program offers different workshops and activities geared towards giving students a “backstage” look at how theatre is produced.
Finally, I’d like to give a shout-out to the Shannon Reynolds Endowment Fund recipient, Pamela Feghali, who was chosen “unanimously” (John Ng) to become the resident emerging director for the 2017/18 season. The Shannon Reynolds Endowment Fund aims to support emerging female artists in the disciplines of directing, design, and production/tech and, in collaboration with the GCTC, the selected intern works directly alongside the company’s current Artistic Director as their Assistant Director on the company’s annual Lawyer Play. Feghali has come a long way since her MFA at Ottawa U, having completed a practicum with Soulpepper theatre in Toronto, and currently serving as Assistant Director to Ravi Jain on his upcoming piece Prince Hamlet. Her production of Mark Ravenhill’s pool (no water) received much critical acclaim and, simply put, all of us here at the NOC couldn’t be more proud of our former classmate. Bonne chance Pam!
For more information about GCTC’s 2017/18 lineup or how you can contribute to the Shannon Reynolds Endowment Fund visit gctc.ca.
Though I’ve only touched on a few shows from each respective season, there are many exciting things coming to our professional stages in the next year. We’re delighted that come August we’ll be given the opportunity to cover all of these exciting events (and more!) given our new residency, which will allow us to work the arts’ scene full time. 2017-2018 is shaping up to be a great year for theatre so far and we hope you’ll be coming along for the ride.