Bear & Co. aims to share love of theatre

With a production of Lawrence Aronovitch’s Finishing the Suit set to premiere next month, Ottawa’s Bear & Co. theatre company is continuing to grow as a local theatre mainstay.

Bear & Co. has spent the last five years bringing what they call “compelling theatre, close to home” to Ottawa. The company is named after a famous stage direction in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, “Exit, pursued by a bear.”

The company has performed a wide range of plays, from contemporary Canadian works to Shakespeare. According to their website, their first production was John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore in 2012.

“We do theatre that interests us. That’s really the guiding principle,” said Rachel Eugster, one of the company’s core members.

The company originally came together with five members, consisting of different local professional theatre artists, Eugster said. While some partners have left, those remaining, including Eugster, are often heavily involved in the plays, either acting or working behind the scenes.

“It’s very hard to find work and make a living in theatre in Ottawa,” Eugster said. “There’s a huge grassroots indie theatre presence in Ottawa, because often the only way to have work here is to make it yourself.”

Their productions feature a wide range of performers, from established professionals to high school students, she added.

Memorable moments in productions over the last few years for Eugster included having a firedancer in Macbeth, a wild west interpretation of The Comedy of Errors, and an all-male version of The Taming of the Shrew.

According to Eugster, one of the main goals of the company is to expose more people in Ottawa to theatre.

“There are many people to whom it does not occur to buy a ticket to the theatre just because it’s not something they routinely do,” she said. “I think it’s an underappreciated cultural richness that deserves more attention.”

“If more of the city understood how fun theatre is, we could probably make work for everybody in town,” Eugster added.

While Eugster said it is a challenge to encourage an appreciation of theatre, most of the community feedback has been “incredible.”

“People love our shows,” she said. “We get really great comments and wonderful feedback. We get begged for more and we’re trying to give them more.”

She cited one story of a woman who was emotionally overwhelmed following their performance of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

“She was close to tears, and every time she introduced herself to another of us, she welled up again,” Eugster said. “It was incredibly touching.”

As for the future, Eugster said she would be happy to see things carry on as they are now, but she’d still love to see the company grow, and gain a “bigger following.”

“I’d like more of the city to know of us, and come see our shows,” Eugster said. “I think that’s the biggest goal.”

Upcoming shows include a musical with the works of Leonard Cohen, and George Brant’s Grounded.

– Photo is provided.