New theatre group Acts Out gay issues

By Laura Scarfo

Canada’s first gay and lesbian community theatre company, Act Out Theatre, has set up shop in Ottawa, says the company’s founder and artistic director, Arthur Jamieson.

“It is the first theatre based in the gay community and mandated to the gay community,” he says.

Act Out Theatre’s first production, Poor Superman by playwright Brad Fraser, begins its run on Nov. 23. Jamieson says that he has had no trouble publicizing the play because of the overwhelming support he has received, especially from the gay community.

“They really are out there to help one another however they can,” he says.

Jamieson, a former artistic director for a Smiths Falls community theatre company, was inspired to start the company after witnessing the large number of people in attendance at Ottawa’s Gay Pride parade last summer.

“I was overwhelmed with the numbers at Gay Pride,” he says. “There is a definite market out there and there is some fantastic material that should be given a stage.”

Jamieson promptly sold his home and moved to Ottawa this past summer to launch the company.

He is the primary financial backer of the company and says he will not ask for any grants until he sees that the company is well on its way. That’s not to say he isn’t looking for sponsorship. Act Out Theatre does receive some support from Ottawa’s gay and lesbian publication Capital Xtra.

Brian Gallant, editor-in-chief of Capital Xtra, says that he believes Act Out Theatre is filling a gap in the community.

“One thing that has always been missing in the GLBT community is a venue that expresses the cultural side,” Gallant says. “We just happened to have the perfect vehicle to help them get off the ground. We support them by making sure the word gets out not just through the news but by providing them with contacts. We also provide them with office space so that they have someplace to call home.”

Jamieson says the subject matter of Act Out’s productions is not ordinarily dealt with in theatre. However, he says, participation in the company is not limited to the gay and lesbian community.

Poor Superman, the company’s first production, is the story of a gay artist, David, who works as a waiter during a creative dry spell. He has an affair with the married man who owns the restaurant and becomes newly inspired. In a subplot, David’s transgendered friend Shannon deals with HIV.

Ian A. Duffy, an Algonquin College theatre graduate, plays Matt, the married man who has an affair with David.

He saw the audition notice after he picked up Capital Xtra as a joke on his “slightly homophobic” brother.

Duffy, who is not gay, says that the show can appeal to a mass audience.

“Yes, it is targeted towards a gay audience, but it can be appreciated by anybody. It’s about people, life and love,” he says.

Dani Kind, another Algonquin theatre graduate, plays Violet, Matt’s wife. She says that Act Out Theatre is a source of pride for the city of Ottawa. It also appealed to her professionally as an actor.

“I do think it’s important to have a group like this because there isn’t one that pertains specifically to gay and lesbian issues,” she says. “But I think the company is very open to the public. They’re reaching out not only to the gay community but to everyone.”

Jamieson has high hopes for the company. His goal is to achieve a status similar to that of The Great Canadian Theatre Company – financially stable and reputable in the world of Canadian theatre.

Eventually, he says, he would like to do one production a year about homophobia and positive self-image that would be marketed to schools.

“I think theatre has a social responsibility,” he says. “There are all sort of meanings and messages that can be effectively conveyed.”

In the meantime, Act Out Theatre is preparing for its first production and gala opening.

Poor Superman runs at the Albert Street Theatre (formerly Ottawa Tech School) from Nov. 23 to Dec. 1. All performances begin at 8 pm and tickets are $15.

On Nov. 24, the company will hold a gala presentation with a silent auction and a wine and cheese reception. Tickets are $50 each and the guest of honour will be Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury.

Tickets are available at After Stonewall, 340 Bank St., or by calling (613) 237-7133, ext. 32.