Company of Fools

Little Martyrs

Well, the time has finally arrived. About two years ago, Mishka Lavigne approached Evolution Theatre with an idea for a translation. Of all the plays she approached us with, La petite scrap by Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf was the one that appealed to Chris Bedford, our Artistic Director, the most (and I'll let you read his program notes about that when you come and see the show). Mishka and Chris contacted the playwright and went to visit her in Montreal. Dominick was impressed with Chris’ vision for the show and readily agreed to the rights as long as the process would be supervised by Maureen Labonté, a well- known and critically acclaimed dramaturg in the Canadian theatre scene, since this was to be Mishka's first translation from French to English. After many revisions and workshops that were graciously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the piece was almost ready for the stage.

Chris would of course Direct and our company General Manager, Linda, would Stage Manage. I, of course, called dibs on the one female role that I could suitably play, but you can trust that Chris would never have agreed to that if he didn't think I could do it.

On the design front, our long-time collaborator, Pierre Ducharme, would handle set & lights. From seeing his electronic maquette of the set at the first read to the 14 hour days he's been pulling off over the last two weeks, managing technical glitch after technical glitch beautifully and seamlessly, I knew we had the best guy for the job. For costumes, we courted the always incredible Sarah Waghorn who at first thought she might be too busy to take on the show. I can't tell you how thrilled we were when, not only did she realize she could do it, but she could also work within our budget! Finally, for sound, I'd been name dropping AL Connors at company meetings ever since I first saw A Company of Fools' A Mid-Winter's Dreamtale. Dude isn't just a great DJ, he is a fantastic sound designer too.

And for the rest of the cast, well have you seen who we've got onboard? Jody Haucke, Brad Long, Margo MacDonald and Matt Miwa - an incredible ensemble of talent, courage, dedication and pure love of the work.

We, at Evolution Theatre, have been incredibly blessed throughout the entire process of creation for this show and we are now ready to share all of it with you. We hope that you will be able to come out and join us at some point during the run.


World English-language premiere of:

Little Martyrs By Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf Translated by Mishka Lavigne / Dramaturgy by Maureen Labonté

February 9 to 19, 2011 Arts Court - Ottawa Dance Directive, Studio A, 2 Daly Ave Tuesday to Saturday - 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday - 2 p.m.

Directed by Christopher Bedford

Lighting and Set Design by Pierre Ducharme Costume & Properties Design by Sarah Waghorn Sound Design by AL Connors

Featuring: Jody Haucke Nancy Kenny Brad Long Margo MacDonald Matt Miwa

Story Synopsis: Directed by company Artistic Director, Christopher Bedford, Little Martyrs is a fictional account inspired by the real-life events that shocked the world in 1993 when two young boys kidnapped a toddler in Great Britain. Ten years after the sordid crime they committed when they were children, Jacob (Matt Miwa -recent member of the National Arts Centre’s Resident Acting Company) and Ludo (Brad Long - Les Prix Rideau Award, Emerging Artist Nominee) are released from prison. Each strives for redemption in a different way; Jacob finds himself on a higher path and Ludo discovers beauty through creation. The two young men meet again under new identities through Minnie (Nancy Kenny), a former runaway who rents Jacob her late newborn’s room. Searching for his partner in crime, Ludo sets up a studio next door. From this point on the story takes a more complex turn. Rounding out the cast are Margo MacDonald, fresh off her sold-out run of Shadows during the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s Undercurrents Festival, as Minnie’s mother and Jody Haucke as Minnie’s father.


Tickets $25 / $20 students & seniors PWYC Matinee - Sunday, Feb 13 Box Office: 613-564-7240

Artist and group rates available

Summer Theatre in Ottawa

I'm not back in town two days and my schedule is already packed with show after show that I want to go see. First up, A Company of Fools have been running wild in parks across town with A Midsummer Night's Dream.  That's until August 2nd.  Click the link for schedule information.

Today, Arts Court launches it's "Summer Fling" with Educating Rita until August 1st.  They have a bunch of other shows lined up as well: Satin Dolls (August 6 &7), the bilingual play Les Inséparables (August 10 -22), and Swimming in the Shallows (August 12-22).   The fling continues in other market venues as well - check out the link for full schedule and info.

The Glastone has got a musical, The Andrews Brothers, from July 22 to August 14, while Odyssey Theatre premieres They All Do It in Strathcona Park from July 29 to August 29.

Oh and if that's not enough for you, the areas around Ottawa are booming as well.  My old stomping ground, the Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg has got The Long Weekend until August 1st; Perth has a new Classic Theatre Festival that presents Blythe Spirit (also until August 1st) and The Voice of the Turtle (August 6-29); and in Prescott The St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival runs two shows: Macbeth & the Trouble on Dibble Street from now until August 14.

With so much going on, you can be sure that I will see you at the theatre!

Fortune Favours Fools

There's something really interesting about performing a show for young audiences inside a high school. Standing around the girls bathroom while Catholic teens with truckers' vocabulary and skirts so short a stripper might ask you where you got it gossip and bitch, well, I couldn't help but feel the slightest bit uncool... it might have had something to do with the pantaloons and pigtails.

The show itself was a blast to do. People in attendance usually took a little bit of time to warm up to us (especially if we happened to be performing at 8:30 a.m.), but that was mostly because they didn't know what to expect. It's Shakespeare right? Then why is there a guy in a beard running around in a dress with his boobs drooping all the way down to his knees? I giggle as I picture the visual in my head. Hee.

After most performances, we would have a brief talk-back with the kids. Questions would range from "How did you come up with the concept for the show?" to "Did you get any tongue with that kiss?"

But since a lot of these kids were drama students, almost every single time we were asked: "Where did you go to school for acting?"

You could see it on their eager faces: "I want to go there too so I can do what you just did." And that, I found quite dangerous.

Though I was happy to tell them I went to the University of Ottawa, I wish I could have told them what I recently found so eloquently presented on The Mission Paradox blog on The miseducation of the artist:

School doesn't teach anybody to be an artist. They teach skills. What separates (you) from the pack is (your) willingness to mix (your) considerable skill with the art/love/generosity that lies within. It takes a lot of courage to do that. When (you) or any passionate artist is really trying to connect with people, they open themselves up for ridicule. They risk being laughed at. They risk having their ideas challenged. In many ways it's easier to be that second violinist. It's easier to just blend in and do your part. Sure, the wage sucks, but that's the price you pay for being invisible.

I recommend everyone reads the full post by clicking the link above.

I truly believe it does not matter where you go to school if you want to make art. It's about what you do when you are there - the people you meet, the activities you participate in - and knowing that your learning experience does not end when your official education does. You can gain skills anywhere, but what's really going to help you succeed is your passion, your drive, your dedication, and your love of what you do. And you have to love it, every part of it, even especially the rejections because they are only going to make you stronger.

It would have been easy for me to stop auditioning for the Fools after not getting cast the first time, but I kept at it. Maybe 5 or 6 auditions later, after wearing them down enough that they probably went "Well, she keeps coming back even though we made her dance on roller skates to Single Ladies while reciting verse with a mouth-guard on her teeth... maybe we should put her in a show," I FINALLY got to wear yellow tights. It's about persistence. And love.

That's what's going to help you stand out.

And that's what I wish I could have told those kids.

Still Think You're Funny?

It seems like ages now that I was at the Big Comedy Go-To in London (ON). I've been wanting to write a wrap up of the event but I dove right into a school tour with A Company of Fools (which just ended today and is the topic of another blog post) and simply did not have the time. If you want to catch up, you can read all about my first day at the festival here.

That Saturday I slept in for the first time in what felt like ages (even more so now that I've been getting up at 5:30-6 am because of the school shows). Something like 10 or 11. It was bliss. The friend I was staying with had left to go teach an improv class, so I went through my morning routine, grabbed some coffee he was kind enough to have made before heading out, wrote my blog post, and went out for some food.

At 4 pm, I was the first one in line for a panel discussion with many of the performers on what it's like to do what they do. I was so ahead of the pack that I actually helped with the chair set up.

I really enjoyed the panel and I'm glad it's become a regular occurrence at the festival. I don't know how non-artistic people find it, but for me, it makes me feel like I'm not alone. It makes me realize that even the amazing, wonderful, talented people out there who do all this super cool and funny stuff have the same doubts and fears and small bank accounts I do. I had taken some really great notes of this discussion, but unfortunately since my phone was stolen (I've now had it returned, minus the SIM card and everything saved on it), I've lost everything I had jotted down.


Just know that I found it all very inspiring. And I still adore Paul Hutcheson.

I then had dinner with Uncalled For and friends before attending their production of This Is All Your Birthdays. As I said in my last Go-To blog post, I had seen this show previously at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, where it had (justifiably so) won the award for Best Ensemble. When I saw it, there were four guys performing it. This time there were three. And some scenes had changed. It was well worth seeing again. These guys can do no wrong.

That was followed up by some cool sketch comedy from many people I had never met before and then some Improv with Sex T-Rex, Fully Insured, and more Uncalled For.

And then, the big one: The Improv Cage Match hosted by Mikaela Dyke (who I only realized later was in Reflections on Giving Birth to a Squid, which I saw in Winnipeg at the Fringe and is the one who I reviewed with "very strong acting from the lead actress whose name I have unfortunately forgotten" - Glad to know I've now corrected that oversight). The Cage Match (which unfortunately was falsely advertised as I never saw a cage) took almost every performer from the evening, threw them into groups that had never worked together before, and had them compete improv style for the publics affection or elimination. The winning team would walk away with 2 pounds of gummy bears. Oh and honour or something, but really we just all wanted the gummy bears. Yes, I did say "we". Mikeala asked me earlier in the day if I would participate. Since I am crazy, I said yes.

How it all worked: 4 teams all do some short form. At the end, the public votes for the best teams. Top 1 & 2 move ahead. Teams 3 and 4 then compete and the audience decides who stays. I got put into a great group, but our improvs definitely weren't the strongest. We'd always end up in an elimination round, but somehow, thanks to some strong people, we'd end up on top.

We got second place! And gummy bears were shared all around.

I had to leave super early the next day (or more accurately, later that morning) since I had rehearsal in Ottawa in the afternoon. That said, the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, the new friends I've made (including a performer I will be potentially billeting throughout the Ottawa Fringe), the new skills I've discovered I have as a performer, and, of course, the great shows and the passion that goes into creating this festival makes it something that I will probably be supporting for the years to come. You should too.

Oh and if the festival organizer is reading this: next year, more Elvis please!

Can You Help?

This was going to be a post about the last day of the Big Comedy Go-To, but since it's now over that can wait a bit. This is a post about my first day performing with A Company of Fools in Shakespeare's Interactive Circus. The show is very fun but also probably the most physically demanding piece I've ever had teh pleasure of working on. And, as with most Theatre for Young Audiences (or TYA), we do the show twice at day with probably about three hours to spare between performances. In those three hours, we must tear down the set, change out of costumes, pack everything up, eat, travel to our next destination and set everything up again. I'm exhausted but exhilarated at the same time.

Performance wise, though I had a few blocking (and by blocking I mean choreographed dance routine) issues, everything went really well.

On the personal side though, things were not as good. We performed our first show in a school cafeteria and we were told we could leave our things in the teachers lounge right next door. During the last bits of the show, I saw a group go into our room. Apparently, it's also used a class. Since, I was on stage, I couldn't exactly go over there. I had left my bag open because I assumed the room was secure for us.

When the show finished, one of the actors and I walked over. We were met by a teacher who was just leaving. We asked about our stuff, she said she moved it all to another table. I went to my bag. Some of my stuff had "fallen" out (lipstick, keys, deodorant, and some of my clean clothes). I looked for my iPhone. I couldn't find it. My fellow actor offered to call it. It went straight to voicemail. I started to panic. I never turn my phone off. It's always on silent or vibrate, it should not go to voicemail. I emptied out my bag and everyone looked around our things.

My iPhone was gone.

Also gone from my bag: an apple I was going to eat as a snack. Would this be considered irony that my apple products are what have disappeared?

I know it's just a possession and it's kind of silly for how upset it makes me, but I feel so gross right now. My entire life is in that phone and this is such a violation of my privacy. If someone wanted to, they could have access to my email, facebook and other accounts. They have phone numbers, private text messages, work videos, notes I've jotted down about ideas and shows, and all of my photos & music. It's also an expensive loss. Not just the phone, but also the apps and music I've downloaded on to it.

I don't really know anyone's number by heart and almost everything on there isn't backed up since my desktop exploded back in December. My hardrive was synched to that phone.

I've tried calling it and friends have left texts with requests to call if found. One friend even put in that a reward would be offered. A part of me keeps hoping that it's all just an innocent misunderstanding and so I've been holding off on getting it deactivated, just in case. At this point, I just want it back. But the phone is still off. Rogers can't track it if it's off or if they threw away the sim card, which is a very distinct possibility. I've spent my afternoon at the police station waiting to file a police report and the school tells me they are "looking into it," whatever that means. The officer at the police station was very kind, but I'm not sure if anything can really be done.

So, instead, I'm putting it out there on the interwebs in the rare instance that someone might know something. My phone is a white iPhone 3GS with no case. It was "lost" this morning, April 26, somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. at Canterburry High School in the teacher's lounge next to the cafeteria (some people at the school also called it the teacher's cafeteria). When you turn it on, the screen-saver is a picture of my cat sleeping in a suitcase.

I honestly won't press charges or ask any questions if I can get it back in one piece. I'm even willing to discuss a reward if found. You may keep the apple (that's not the reward, but you can keep it).

If anyone knows anything, please leave me a message below or email me: nancyjkenny at yahoo dot com

Something Wicked This Way Come

And by wicked, I mean wicked cool! ...

Sorry. I'm writing this right after a performing a preview performance with the Fools and I've got a bit of Mackers on the brain. But you know what else is on my brain and one of the many sources of my current delight? The Big Comedy Go-To!

You may remember from last year (and if you don't, just clock on both those links for a refresher) that I attended this most awesome of festivals. In fact, my picture, to my delight, has actually made it on to the official festival website.

I'm thrilled that the festival survived it's inaugural installment and is now back for it's sophomore year, though not bigger, definitely better than ever. Last year was amazing, but I'm really glad some improvements have been made. For instance, no shows overlap this year (which unfortunately spreads out your audience), it's been trimmed down by a day to end on Saturday (better for those folks who work on Monday mornings), and it finally has its very own website.

But what exactly is the Big Comedy Go-To? Let me put it this way: take all the best, funniest, most jaw-droppingly cool shows you've ever seen at any Fringe Festival and throw them together to form a megawesomesuperfunhappytime festival. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Big Comedy Go-To.

And how good is it? Well, I am going to be driving from Ottawa to London (ON) FOR THE WEEKEND just to be able to indulge in some of the awesome.

Checking out the lineup (producer Jayson McDonald has an eye for the funny), it's definitely not going to disappoint. It all starts tonight, which I will unfortunately miss, but at least I've already seen The Boneyard Man and Boatload in the past (in fact you may remember that Boatload constantly makes my many Must See at Fringe lists). So, if you are anywhere near London (and even if you're not, trust me, it's worth the trip), you should definitely head on down to check those out this evening.

I'll be arriving tomorrow and you can be sure I'll be keeping you posted on all the happenings right here and on Twitter (which I only now realize I didn't have at this time last year... wow).

In the meantime, you might be wondering what I'm so far excited to see the most. Well, as much as I love Jimmy Hogg, Paul Hutcheson, and those boys from Uncalled For and Sex T-Rex (is there a movie they can't dismantle?), my heart is currently going pitter-patter for The King himself.

Sigh. I think I still have the scarf he sweated on and threw at me last year.

Dance Dance Revolution

If you've ever been out to any event with me where there might be any kind of good beat going on, you know that it is practically impossible to stop me from dancing like my fucking life depended on it. I love music. I love dancing. I love move my body because I find it very liberating. It's awesome and fun.

So you'd think that being in a show where I actually get to dance and sing and play would be awesome, right? Well, don't get me wrong, it is, but one of the main reasons I love to dance is because I don't have to think. If you've ever been to said events where I have been dancing, you also know that I am an absolutely spaz on the dance floor who just comes up with random shit and simply pretends no one is watching when I go for it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm always having fun.

Problems arise however when I have to turn that dancing into some kind of choreographed, cohesive ensemble piece. Now I've got to remember where my feet have to go, what my arms are doing, SMILE, breathe, keep singing all the words to that song you just learned and be on pitch. In other words, I have to think.

No, that's not right.

I have to think and not make it look like I'm thinking.


Sheesh. I get frustrated pretty easily.

We preview the show tomorrow for about 25 students and I'm a little worried, but slightly exhilarated at the same time. Shakespeare, musical theatre, rap, improv: not exactly my strong suits, but I'm learning something new and I have to be patient. That said, how fantastic that I get paid to do this?

Can You Keep A Secret?

Apparently, some people think a girl with a blog and an unhealthy addiction to her iPhone social media programs is the best person to entrust with the most TOP SECRET news in Ottawa Theatredom. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, somewhere among the hanging out on movies sets (with Cuba Gooding Jr!), working at the Great Canadian Theatre Company (season launch on Monday!), learning to rap Shakespeare, making women feel beautiful, discovering hidden abilities to translate small documents from English to French, watching some "bloody" good theatre (check out a solid production of Blood Relations at the University of Ottawa before it closes this weekend, as well as the musical Blood Brothers at The Gladstone), working on my own theatre company's project, performing improv with some lovely ladies, and training for a 5K race; somewhere among all that, I became the new anglophone publicist for the upcoming Les Prix Rideau Awards.

(Of course, all of this must have happened after I discovered that necklace from Harry Potter that allows Hermione to attend to classes at the same time, because there is nothing short of wizardry to explain how I manage to do all this stuff...)

After learning that Über Publicist, Crystal Parsons would be leaving the wonderful world of theatre promotion for the civil service, I was approached by the awards committee to see if I could fill her sexy shoes.

My first answer, of course, was no. Re: see above schedule & need for a clone/develop magical powers.

However, after much discussion, I eventually said yes for the following reasons:

  • The workload isn't as excessive as I first anticipated.  There is no need for me to translate documents for these bilingual awards, since there already is a francophone publicist, and I'd be doing a lot of stuff from a social media perspective that I'm doing already.
  • This could all wait until I was done my stand-in gig.
  • Being able to say that I'm the publicist for Ottawa's professional theatre awards is a pretty big deal and adds another notch of legitimacy to my marketing belt.
  • With the GCTC holding a whopping 16 nominations, I can make a lot of what I'll be doing relevant to the day job.
  • I think the awards are important and I want to support them in some way.  This is more than just a big party where people dress up to watch somebody get an award.  By recognizing the contribution of theatre professionals in the community, we are raising awareness of our work and acknowledging that there is a a place what we do here in town.  My dream? That one day, when I tell someone I am a professional actor, they will not ask me when I will be moving to Montreal or Toronto because it will simply be common knowledge that such a scene exists here as well.

All that to say that I will now be only one of three people to know the award winner's identities before they are revealed on April 18th because I need to have the press release handy for media as soon as the ceremony is over.  (Note to self: find dress that coordinates well with handcuffs and a briefcase *insert your own joke here*)  And this confidentiality agreement I signed says that no amount of bribing can make me reveal the secrets before then.

But have no fear!  You too may know the results as soon as they become available.  Tickets are on sale now!  Details below (this also reminds me that I will be performing in my first public Sanitas Playback Theatre show that night as well... where the heck is my clone?):

The 3rd Annual Les Prix Rideau Awards celebration is taking place at De La Salle High School (501 Old St Patrick Road, Ottawa) on Sunday, April 18, 2010.  The first-ever fully bilingual awards ceremony will be cohosted by CBC Ottawa’s Alan Neal and not-from-CBC-Ottawa's Annie Lefebvre, with theatrical reflections by Sanitas Playback Theatre and music by DJ AL Connors.

Tickets are $25 each and may be purchased through the Nouvelle Scène box office:

  • online at
  • by telephone at 613-241-2727 ext 1
  • in person at 333 King Edward Avenue, Ottawa

Les Prix Rideau Awards III -- Sunday, April 18, 2010 De La Salle High School, 501 Old St Patrick Road, Ottawa Doors open at 6:30 PM; presentation begins at 7:30 PM - Tickets: $25

I Like To Move It, Move It

Rehearsals have begun with A Company of Fools for an upcoming school tour at the end of the month. The show is called Shakespeare's Interactive Circus and is based on the loose premise that our lead, Sir Richard Somethingorother (I swear I'll learn his name by the end of the run, but it's really long) has disappeared (in all likelihood he is passed out drunk somewhere) and since he pretty much played ALL the parts, we, the lowly minions, are now forced to present something to the anticipating crowd. That "something" includes Romeo & Juliet: The Rap, the mechanicals bit from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth: The Musical, and the first meeting between Kate & Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew done as a tag-team match. I'm kind of exhausted just reading all of that. Actually, I'm kind of exhausted (in a good way!) doing all that.

I've only had two rehearsals so far and my body is reminding how sluggish it's been for the past few months. I've been either sitting at a desk, driving a car or standing around on a set doing very minimal movements. I'm going through the initial phases of muscle pain. My hamstrings ache from all the high kicks I've been doing (don't ask) and I've got to include more stretching into my daily routine. With all this beautiful weather, it's even inspired me to pick up my running once more, which is great as completing a 5K is one of my goals for 2010.

Rehearsals, as you can imagine, are also incredibly fun. I can't believe that this is a job that I actually get paid do to.

A Learning Experience

Happy World Theatre/Earth Hour Day! It's my only day off from both stand-in work and the day job and my agent got me a sweet little gig on a student film. When she first asked me if I'd be interested in working with students from La Cite Collegiale so they could get experience working with professional actors, I immediately said yes (after all, I would be getting paid to do it). I didn't know what to expect, but figured we'd be in a classroom at the college, working through scenes as they directed us and moved lights around. Boy was I pleasantly surprised when I got the script and callsheet (really?) and saw that we would be filming in an actual bar. Although I brought my own wardrobe, I was called in early for hair and makeup (even more awesome that the makeup person is the same gal who's working on The Stepson - I guess we're both making use of our day off). Wow! I might even be able to use some of this footage in a demo reel.

The crew is really sweet and somewhat nervous. Most of them have never done this before, but you can tell they're very keen.

We have to be done at 7 p.m. before tge bar opens, which means I might still be able to make it to the Ottawa Theatre Challenge at the National Arts Centre, organized by A Company of Fools. I can't think of a better way to spend my 2010 World Theatre Day.

What will you be/have you done this year?

Having My Cake

In the feast or famine world of the arts, I've now parked myself in front of the buffet table. You're already aware of my stand-in work and I've mentioned the Improv (check out my next turn at a special "Ladies Night" Tuesday Make 'em Ups with Crush Improv) and Playback stuff before. Maybe you even knew about my stint with the Cube Salon? Well, things just keep getting better and better. I am proud to finally announce three other wicked awesome gigs that have come my way. First, Evolution Theatre has commissioned a translation of a Québecois play and I will be participating in a workshop and, later on, a public reading of the piece. This is a very exciting undertaking for us as a company on so many levels and I look forward to sharing more information with you about this very soon! Second, next weekend I start rehearsals with A Company of Fools for Shakespeare's Interactive Circus. This production will be toured in schools around Ottawa and Montreal during the last week of April and the first week of May. And thirdly (though hopefully not finally), after much perspiration, I have been officially cast in a production entitled The Amorous Ambassador which will be presented at the Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg this June. This incredible show will also mark my first steps into the Canadian Actor's Equity Association. All I can say is that it's about damn time.

For once in my life, my performer dance card is full for the next four to five months. I'm so happy I'm practically crying. To top things off, I'm still working full-time at the GCTC. Yesterday, I had a brilliant chat with my boss about my schedule and somehow we can make it all work. As I left her office, she had a big grin on her face and said: "See. You can have your cake and eat it too."

I don't know how I'm doing it. I'm pulling 75 to 80 hour work weeks at the moment, but everything gets done, I still manage to see plays, socialize a bit with friends, feed the cat, and keep a somewhat clean home. then again, hasn't my schedule always been like that? The only difference this time around is that I'm getting paid for every minute of it. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Check out my Upcoming Appearances page for frequent updates!

Rideau Awards Nominations

From the Official Press Release: NOMINEES ANNOUNCED FOR THE THIRD ANNUAL RIDEAU AWARDS Peer-assessed awards celebrate Ottawa-Gatineauʼs professional theatre in both official languages

The votes have been tallied and it's time to announce the nominees for the third annual Rideau Awards, which celebrate achievement in professional theatre in the region of Ottawa-Gatineau. This year for the first time, Les Prix Rideau Awards will be fully bilingual, with a full slate of awards to be presented for both English and French-language productions. The awards will be handed out during a celebration to take place on Sunday, April 18, 2010, at De La Salle High School. Tickets go on sale March 15 at La Nouvelle Scène.

The nominees for English-language productions are: Outstanding Performance – Female Mary Ellis, Doubt Patricia Fagan, The Syringa Tree Teri Rata Loretto, Shirley Valentine Margo MacDonald, A Midwinterʼs Dream Tale Emily Pearlman, Countries Shaped Like Stars

Outstanding Performance – Male Pierre Brault, Portrait of an Unidentified Man David Fox, The Net Kris Joseph, Doubt Andy Massingham, Peer Gynt Paul Rainville, The Drawer Boy

Outstanding Lighting Design Martin Conboy, Portrait of an Unidentified Man Martin Conboy, The Drawer Boy Rebecca Miller, Henry V David Mcgladry, A Midwinterʼs Dream Tale Jock Munro, The Children's Republic Jock Munro, The Syringa Tree

Outstanding Set Design Robin Fisher, The Drawer Boy Robin Fisher, The Syringa Tree Ivo Valentik, A Midwinterʼs Dream Tale Ivo Valentik, The Final Twist Sarah Waghorn, Old Times

Outstanding Costume Design Louise Hayden, A Midwinterʼs Dream Tale Louise Hayden, The Girl Who Was Eaten by the Dark Jennifer Triemstra & Karen Rodd, A Guy Named Joe Sarah Waghorn, Henry V Sarah Waghorn, Old Times

Outstanding Stage Management / Technical Award Donna Bourgeault, A View from the Bridge Sean Green & Tina Goralski, Noises Off Louisa Hache, The Children's Republic Samira Rose, The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Outstanding Fringe Production Countries Shaped Like Stars, Mi Casa The Girl Who Was Eaten by the Dark, Ottawa Stilt Union Inclement Weather, Mi Casa Squatter Heart, ReduxDelux We Never Clothed, People with Principles

Outstanding Director AL Connors, A Midwinterʼs Dream Tale Todd Duckworth, The Drawer Boy Janet Irwin, The Children's Republic Lise Ann Johnson, The Syringa Tree Brian Quirt, Portrait of an Unidentified Man

Emerging Artist Award Simon Bradshaw, Actor, The Rideau Project Nicolas Di Gaetano, Creator/Actor, Countries Shaped Like Stars Patrick Gauthier, Director, Countries Shaped Like Stars Brad Long, Actor, The Pillowman Emily Pearlman, Creator/Actor/Writer, Countries Shaped Like Stars

Outstanding Adaptation A Midwinterʼs Dream Tale, A Company of Fools Much Ado About Nothing, A Company of Fools The Net, Great Canadian Theatre Company Pirate Jennyʼs Circus, Counterpoint Players The Radio Show, Gladstone Productions Outstanding New Creation The Children's Republic, Great Canadian Theatre Company/Ottawa School of Speech and Drama Countries Shaped Like Stars, Mi Casa The Girl Who Was Eaten by the Dark, Ottawa Stilt Union Inclement Weather, Mi Casa The Rideau Project, Théâtre la Catapulte

Outstanding Production Countries Shaped Like Stars, Mi Casa The Drawer Boy, Great Canadian Theatre Company A Midwinterʼs Dream Tale, A Company of Fools Portrait of an Unidentified Man, Sleeping Dog Theatre The Syringa Tree, Great Canadian Theatre Company

The nominees for French-language productions are:

Interprétation féminine de l'année Nathaly Charrette, (RAGE) Larissa Corriveau, (L'Illusion comique) Geneviève Couture, (L'honnête homme/ une one woman show) Magali Lemèle, (Le Bout du monde) Emmanuelle Lussier, Martinez (Le Bout du monde) Interprétation masculine de l'année Benjamin Gaillard, (Projet Rideau) Richard Léger, (Et si on tuait l'ennui?) Gilles Provost, (Mardis avec Morrie) Pierre Antoine, Lafon Simard (L'Illusion comique) Victor Trelles, (RAGE)

Conception de l'année Marcel Aymar, (Le Bout du monde), env. sonore Josée Bergeron-Proulx, (Le Bout du monde), décor Diane Bouchard, (L'effet réel des polluants sur les animaux imaginaries), marionnettes Julie Giroux, (Les sept jours de Simon Labrosse), décor Guillaume Houët- Brisebois, (L'honnête homme/ une one woman show), éclairage

Artiste en émergence Josée Bergeron-Proulx, (Le Bout du monde) Emmanuelle Lussier Martinez , interprète, (Le Bout du monde) Pierre Antoine Lafon Simard, interprète, (L'Illusion comique)

Prix technique / de la regie Tina Goralski, (L'Illusion comique) Guillaume Houët- Brisebois, (L'honnête homme/ une one woman show) Benoît Roy, (Le Bout du monde) Lindsay Tremblay, (Le Projet Rideau)

Mise en scène de l'année Joël Beddows (RAGE) Dominique Lafon (L'Illusion comique) Marc Lemyre (L'honnête homme/ une one woman show) Pier Rodier (Cyrano Tag) Anne-Marie White (Le Bout du monde)

Adaptation de l'année Le Bout du monde, Le Théâtre du Trillium Cyrano Tag, Vox Théâtre

Nouvelle création de l'année Cyrano Tag, Vox Théâtre L'effet réel des polluants sur les animaux imaginaires, GESTES théâtre Et si on tuait l'ennui?, Théâtre Dérives Urbaines L'honnête homme/ une one woman show, poésie électrique Le Projet Rideau, Théâtre la Catapulte

Production de l'année Le Bout du monde, Théâtre du Trillium Et si on tuait l'ennui?, Théâtre Dérives Urbaines L'honnête homme/ une one woman show, poésie électrique Le Projet Rideau, Théâtre la Catapulte RAGE, Théâtre la Catapulte

40 English and 11 French professional theatre productions were juried by two teams of local arts professionals (14 English and 10 French) during the 2009 calendar year. Nominations were submitted by secret ballot and tallied by local accountants, Chong Pelot and Marcil-Lavallée. Complete details on award definitions, terms and criteria are available at

Les Prix Rideau Awards initiative was undertaken in late 2006 as a result of discussion at an open meeting of the regional Canadian Actorsʼ Equity Association. The program aims to raise the profile of locally-produced professional theatre by celebrating its successes.

Enjoying Theatre on a Budget

It bothers me when actors tell me they don't go to the theatre. Excuse me? What? How can you not go to the theatre? How can you consider yourself an actor in this town and not know what the local companies are producing? Or who the key people involved are? Or who your competition might be? Often actors and crew go for drinks post-show, which then becomes a valuable opportunity to network, socialize and find out what the next big project coming to town might be.

"But Nancy, going to the theatre is expensive!" I hear you clamour. "Ah! But it does not have to be," is my reply.

As many of you know, I see almost every bit of theatre that comes to Ottawa. Out of 45 professional productions juried by Les Prix Rideau Awards in 2009, I've seen 40. that's not including the community theatre, Fringe, Magnetic North and student productions I've seen. I think last year I probably saw over 100 theatre performances. That averages out to 2 a week, which sounds about right.

This may come as a shock to you, but I am not the type to sit around in my tub with my bath pillow eating bonbons and drinking wine as I use my laptop to peruse the "next big theatrical event" I will be attending (though that's probably because using your laptop in a tub is just asking for trouble). Nor do I have an ample supply of disposable income which I use on $20 to $40 theatre tickets. No. I am a poor broke artist who just wanted to know everything there was to know about my local theatre community and I figured out the cheapest way to do it.

So, dear friends, this is how you too can enjoy your theatre on a budget.

Are you a student? TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT! Both the National Arts Centre, the Great Canadian Theatre Company and Third Wall Theatre in Ottawa have rush tickets for students that go for something like $10 or $11 a piece if you purchase your tickets the day of the performance. Not ideal if it's a show like The Drowsy Chaperone, which sold out rather quickly, but trust me, there are a lot of performances in town that do not sell out and you would be more than happy to see your smiling face walking to the door for your rush ticket.

Of course, the tricky thing here is that most of these companies do not clearly advertise their rush ticket availabilities, which I can understand to a point. So how can you find out about them? Well, you could just call and ask. Then again, why would you do that when you have me?

I almost never took advantage of my student status when I had a valid student card and it still bothers me to this day. Think of all the great shows I missed... As an added bonus, the GCTC also has ADULT Rush Tickets for $20. No i.d. necessary, just show up after noon on any show day to get your discounted ticket.

Are You An Artist? Well, since this blog is loosely geared towards actors and other artists, I'm going to go with yes, you probably are. A lot of companies like the NAC, GCTC, Third Wall, Evolution Theatre offer artist rates. How do you prove you're an artist? Usually with your union card. That said, if you are not in any performers union, I believe they will all accept two contrasting monologues at the box office... but don't quote me on that.

Volunteer! Every theatre company in town needs volunteers and it does come with benefits. In most cases, volunteers actually get to see the show on the night of their shift. I know this is the case for Evolution Theatre and it sometimes works out for other companies like The Gladstone and A Company of Fools (unless they happen to need all their volunteers for a secret ice cream experiment...) I wanted to see the amazing Inclement Weather/Countries Shaped Like Stars again when it was presented at the GCTC, but couldn't afford the $20. I offered my services on opening night and boom! I got to fall in love all over again.

The added bonus of volunteering means you get to know the people involved with the production. Today's front of house volunteer may be tomorrow's performer... or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Join Mailing Lists, Facebook Groups and watch Twitter Feeds How else will you know what shows are playing in town? (Other than the brilliantly up-to-date What’s On – À l’affiche listing by the Ottawa Theatre Network) Lots of theatre companies (perhaps taking a page from my book) run online contests and special promotions for their members. Vision Theatre, Evolution Theatre and Third Wall Theatre have all been known to do this. The Ottawa Fringe Festival ran a brilliant Friday Trivia contest on Twitter where you could win free tickets and other gift certificates. A Company of Fools also sends out a very informed newsletter every once in a while, so you probably want to sign up for that one too.

Pay Attention to Pay-What-You-Can! Every single company in town has a Pay-What-You-Can performance at some point in their run (and if they don't, they probably should). For instance, when I did Shining City with SevenThirty Productions, we had a PWYC matinee on the first Saturday in the run. During the summer, the Fools shows are by Pass The Hat donations. PWYC/PTH means whatever you can afford. Really, you have absolutely no excuse not to go. And how do you find out about the PWYC? See the point above this one.

Previews and Dress Rehearsals These shows are often free or cheap and take place before the official opening night. Sure you might not be getting a final polished performance, but when is a performance ever final? Besides, you're doing the theatre company a great service by being part of the test audience.

Know Somebody Finally, if not a single one of these suggestions works for you, call someone you know who might be involved with the production. (See, this is where all the networking you've been doing after attending performances is going to pay off.) Let whomever know that you can't afford to see their show but you really want to. Perhaps they will be able to offer you a comp or a discounted ticket. That said, only use this method if you really can't make it to the show otherwise. You do not want to abuse of this privilege! It's just not nice.

Or be friends with someone who happens to get a lot of invitations to shows (you know, like me). Typically these people get two free tickets to a performance and they might not have anyone to go with that night (because they happen to be single and can't meet anyone new because they spend all their time attending the theatre by themselves... ahem) I'm sure I they would be happy to have some company with which to discuss the performance post-show. Just make sure you buy me them a drink after. It's only fair.


What? This still isn't working for you? Alright. Fine. Here's my final solution: start your own theatre company, build it from the ground up over at least five years, somewhere in there start a blog, become a valued and indispensable part of your city's theatre scene, and watch the invitations pour in. It worked for me, but it's a lot of work. You might just want to pay the $10 instead.

I'll be seeing you at the theatre!

Breathe Again

We're all born knowing how to breathe and how to use our full voice, but somewhere along the line, social conditioning and habits get in the way. Most people can get by, for the rest of their lives, with survival breathing and a quiet voice, but if you want to be an actor, you kind of have to go back and retrain yourself in those early ways. On Saturday, I had an incredible voice class with Julia Lenardon, a former voice teacher with the National Theatre School and now an independent voice and dialect coach. I was so blown away by this course that I've already signed up for her advanced class in February.

We started things off, after a quick intro and chat about the voice, with some breathing exercises. We laid on our backs on yoga mats for almost 3 hours and just breathed. Yup, 3 hours. And it was awesome!

Ok, not always awesome. Julia likes to call them "thresholds" but I hit what I like to call the Five Stages of Resistance. Here they are, in no particular order:

Bored/Numb: "How long are we going to be doing this? I can't feel my feet." Anger: "This is fucking stupid. Why am I doing this?" Panic: "Oh my God! I can't breathe! How can you expect me to just lay here and breathe?!?! My body hurts!" Tears: "My throat hurts too much. I can't do this." Giggles: "Hee! Hee! Hee! I think I need to pee."

All of this is your body's reaction to something new happening within it. My main problem area was my throat. It was painful and I wanted to stop. But really, what was I doing that was so terrible except breathe? When we finished the breathing exercises, we did some grounding work, some posture work and I learned the real reason behind my sore throat.

Put it this way: Take your hand and squeeze it tightly into a fist. Now imagine holding it there for a couple of years. After a while, you'd start to think this is how your hand is suppose to be since that's how it's always been. Then imagine that after all those years you tried to open your hand up again. There's bound to be some stiffness and pain. So much so that you'd be tempted to squeeze your hand shut again to make it go away. But your hand your hand is meant to be open...

In the second half of class, we got some one-on-one monologue coaching. After watching some incredible work from people with very little stage experience, but an incredible amount of heart, I went up with my tried and true Shakespeare.

After sharing my piece with the class, I was given some special activities to do. First, I was asked if I sung. I paused for a moment because I'm pretty self-conscious about my singing voice but then simply replied: "I want to sing."

Good answer, apparently.

I was told to do my monologue again, but this time to sing it in my biggest, boldest, diva-est operatic voice. Oh, and there would be props! Julia loves props. So quickly armed with a fluffy orange pillow (my shield), half a coat rack (my spear), and a sweater wrapped around my head (my viking helmet. or course), I wholeheartedly committed to belting my little heart out of Helena's How happy some o'er othersome can be. You'd think I was auditioning for The Fools or something.

That finished, no time to think, just go and do the monologue again normally. Boom! That's done, here! I want you to throw an item from this pile of junk on every end of a thought. No, that's no working. Hurry! Go run around the dressing rooms. Run, run, run! Faster! Use those legs! Quick, run again! Ok, now go! Grab the junk and throw!

And once that was all done, I did my piece one last time. I can honestly say it was probably the best I'd ever done it.

Crazy, I know and you may be wondering how the heck I would apply all this in, let's say, an audition situation, but I learned a lot that day. I realized that my true voice is deeper than what I normally go around with. I learned that I have a lot of power and that I don't need to push out and strain against my throat to be heard. And I especially learned that I have to stop thinking so much. I also took away some great breathing exercises to keep this momentum going and was told that I should recite lines out loud while running. This last one makes absolute sense to me and reminded me of a documentary I saw on Destiny's Child where they would sing while running on a treadmill to increase lung capacity.

When I told Julia that I was actually a runner she retorted with "But I bet you never really breathed while you were running, yeah?" Yeah, I totally believe that.

A big thank you to the fine folks at the Ottawa Little Theatre, as well as my friend Chantale for bringing Julia in. I can't wait to work with her again in February!