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|Written by Agnes Cadieux|
|Wednesday, 14 July 2010 14:20|
I walk out of the sweltering heat and into the cool, high-ceilinged building on the corner of Nicholas and Daly. The Arts Court, a hub for Ottawa's artistic expression touts the city's finest performing, literary, media, and visual art.
With summer in full swing, the theatre is geared for a full season of romance, laughter, and some of the best local entertainment money can buy. Ottawa Arts Court Foundation's (OACF) Summer Fling - A Theatrical Affair began as a pilot project last year, but with the help and partnership of the Province of Ontario Ministry of Tourism and the Downtown Rideau Business Improvement Association (BIA), the festival has grown from a single play that ran for a mere thirteen days to nine plays, seven restaurants, and three hotels coming together to create a love-affair of dining, entertainment, and local getaways. That's eighty performances running over forty-one days in six venues all within a six-block radius.
"The best thing about this festival," says Linda Balduzzi, Executive Director of the OACF, "is it's almost 100 percent local. Arts Court alone is hiring upwards of 75 Ottawa-based performers and production personnel. It's really a chance for us to showcase some of the best this city has to offer." And according to the artists who get to work with such a great organization, this is yet another opportunity for Ottawa's art scene to keep their local talent local.
With five of the nine plays showing on the Arts Court three stages, the Theatre, Studio, and Studio A, you can have a wonderful evening on the town with tickets ranging anywhere from $12 to $65. This price also includes a booklet for a 2-for-1 Dinner and Show Pass at one of the seven restaurants who have come onboard. And there is an option for every taste bud and budget. Dining Partners include: Santé Restaurant and Art Gallery, Trio Restaurant/Novotel Hotel, Daly's Restaurant/Westin Hotel, Don Cherry's Sports Grill/Quality Hotel, Highlander Pub, Red Room Lounge, and Minglewood's Tap and Grill. For those who are spending the night, a Stay the Night promotion is available, offering special room rates with three contenders at the heart of downtown Ottawa: the Novotel Hotel, the Westin, or Quality Hotel. But if you're just in the mood for an afternoon treat, you can beat the recession (and the heat) and come in for their "Pay What You Can Matinee" (see schedule for details). Other venues participating in the festival include: Ottawa Little Theatre, National Arts center (4th stage) and The Underpass (an outdoor venue located at Rideau and Colonel By).
The festival opens Wednesday July 14th at 8:00 p.m. with two Ottawa-based actors, John Koensgen and Sarah McVie, performing Willy Russell's Educating Rita. Best known for its movie rendition starring Michael Caine, it is a long-standing favourite amongst audiences, portraying just what happens when opposites attract, roles reverse, and both student and teacher are sent on a journey of self-discovery.
I have been to many plays in my life; I have sat up in the balcony, down in the front, off to the side, and bent my neck, back, and knees into unimaginable angles to get the most out of a play I paid good money to see. Therefore, I was more than a little curious to see what downtown Ottawa had to offer in terms of theatre. I already knew I was in for a treat when I walked into the small theatre and couldn't find a bad seat in the house. With only a few rows of rising up from the stage, the room had a very intimate feel to it, and, even though I chose to sit in an aisle seat, I still had an excellent view of the stage. The brief scene the actors performed was smooth, unhurried, and it was clear they had great chemistry. When they repeated the scene, I was sure someone had just hit a rewind button. Their talent and skill was evident through their re-enactment, and despite the hot stage lights and layers of makeup, they looked, cool, composed, and completely in their element.
Summertime is an opportunity for us to head out, explore the world, and make some good memories while we're at it. It's great to see that we don't have to travel far, or pay a lot for a good night out with some great talent. So if you're planning on taking in some theatrical arts this summer, forget Stratford or Toronto, it's time we experienced just what the capital has to offer.