Theatre groups develop local talent

By Sonia Toews

The Great Canadian Theatre Company and the National Arts Centre are joining forces to shine the spotlight on local theatre artists.

Ottawa’s two largest English theatre groups are staging a new artistic development program to give emerging theatre artists experience and support.

“There’s a commitment from both sides,” says Lise Ann Johnson, GCTC’s director of the initiative. “We have to do it — it’s in the interest of our artistic community.”

The program consists of four components aimed at developing various kinds of talent. “The Unit” and “10 x 10” are writing workshops for new playwrights, while “New Directions” and “Beyond Borders” provide directing opportunities for new directors.

Johnson says the idea for the program was conceived out of a common frustration.

“A lot of Ottawa-based artists have no outlet to try something new like producing a script,” she says.
“The Unit” consists of eight local writers aged 18 to 30, with a range of writing experience. The group meets twice a month, and each member will write a new play. The final draft will be presented at a staged reading at Arts Court on Apr. 24 and 25.

Alan Neal is one member of the writer’s group. He hopes the group members will offer valuable feedback for his writing during the workshop sessions.

“The idea of hearing other writer’s voices intrigued me,” says Neal. “Everyone is coming from a range of wavelengths.”

“10 x 10,” will showcase 10 seperate 10-minute pieces, by 10 anglophone and francophone women playwrights. Each playwright will write for an actor or actress of their choice, who will then perform the piece at Arts Court on Apr. 5.

“New Directions,” gives new directors the opportunity to assist established directors with mainstage productions at the GCTC or the NAC.

In September, Linda Balduzzi assisted Micheline Chevrier with the direction of Les Belles Soeurs, the GCTC’s first production of the season. As part of the “New Directions” program, Balduzzi’s duties included working with the chorus, the script and providing one-on-one support to the cast’s 15 female actors.

“I’ve been out of the directing loop for some time, so it was a rare opportunity I felt I had to take,” says Balduzzi.

The last component of the program, “Beyond Borders,” will provide five local directors with the experience of directing readings on stage. The readings will feature new writing by women from England, Ireland, the United States and Mexico, in keeping with the theme of GCTC’s season, Portraits of Women.

The results will be presented in the form of free public readings, staged at the GCTC on Dec. 8, Jan. 26, March 9, Apr. 6 and May 11.