Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gut Punch - You're Welcome

We have the privilege of presenting two dramatic works this week; Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story" in Kingston, at The Baby Grand, and Charles Robertson's "Ghost of the Tree", at Arts Court in Ottawa. The plays have similarities - both are gritty, need few to no props, have minimal sets and are vehicles to showcase talented actors. For actors and directors, these scripts are meaty and exciting. For audiences, these pieces are moving reminders of human connectedness.

The Zoo Story
As theatre artists, we strive to tell stories that touch people. We want to achieve a level of intimacy with strangers that is normally reserved for the closest of friends. We find writing that is honest and poetic, a story that moves in a natural arc, and actors who have the talent to deliver nuanced roles... and then we punch the audience right in the gut. Hard.

Not all dramatic works have this outcome. There are comedies, and histories, and other types of stories - so why choose to produce works that are "hard to watch"? These two particular plays are also hard to define. They are just plain hard. Like life.

But -like life- they are worthwhile. Worthwhile in the writing, worthwhile in the producing, and worthwhile in the watching. In the hands of talented performers, these scripts bring the audience along an
emotional roller-coaster in a risk-free environment.

Ghost of the Tree
Theatre is a safe space for the audience to participate in life, like arenas are safe places for fans to participate in sports. We are not on the field tackling the quarterback, but we are as invested in the outcome as if we were. We share this investment with the other members of the audience. We share the experience, even though we each have a different seat in the stands.

Plays like "The Zoo Story" and "Ghost of the Tree" give watchers  ground to start a discussion (internally or out loud). They stay with you - undefined, truthful, passionate, painful but cathartic.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

At Last – Georgette Fry Offers a Soulful Etta James Retrospective

Ottawa ON – Jazz, blues, soul--the legendary Etta James sang it all--and who better to take us through her songbook than Canada's own 2013 CMA Singer of the Year, Georgette Fry? Backed by her excellent 11 piece band, with 50 members of the local chapters of her Shout Sister! choir providing gospel harmonies, Fry's retrospective will be filling the Harold Shenkman Hall on July 3rd.

With thanks to Josh Lyon
Like Etta James, Fry has a big voice that seamlessly glides across musical genres. Her love of “good music” does not sit solely with one particular iteration, making this retrospective a powerful work in its own right. Georgette never needs to imitate; she brings her own solid, sensitive self to these treasured songs and honours Etta's legacy.

Fry's excellent band are all-stars from her hometown, Kingston. Jon 'Bunny' Stewart (sax) arranged the music for the show. He plays on stage with James Wannamaker (sax), Janet MacRae (trumpet), Dave Barton (guitar), Zak Colbert (bass), Ken Hall (organ), Alain McCann (piano), Duncan Holt (drums) and vocalists Kevin Head, Anna Robertson and Christina Foster. Rounding out this already spectacular lineup is Shout Sister!, offering gospel backup during the finale.

With thanks to Josh Lyon
Shout Sister!, is Fry's own choral love-child. “I started Shout Sister at the suggestion of one of my vocal students. The idea of gathering women together to sing without judgement was appealing and daunting at first, but I knew that if I had at least 50 singers, willing to blend, that we could make a beautiful sound.” From that humble beginning, just a few years ago, to 19 chapters across Ontario, Fry invites 50 Ottawa-area women to back her up on stage at the Shenkman.

At Last! Georgette Sings Etta has toured Eastern Ontario to rave reviews and sold-out houses, but has never been performed in Ottawa. This is your chance, at last, to see this phenominal show at the Harold Shenkman Hall, the Shenkman Arts Centre on July 3. Tickets, $48.75, available in person at the Box Office, by phone 613-580-2700, or online at