Ottawa’s theatre scene lacks attention

Ottawa’s theatre scene suffers from a lack of media coverage, according to many members of the community, despite a wealth of high-quality productions.

There are many theatre companies in Ottawa, including the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC), Bear & Co., and the Three Sisters theatre company, and a plethora of other student and community groups.

Bear & Co.’s media spokesperson, Jessica Ruano, said Ottawa performing arts don’t get the media coverage their counterparts in other cities do.

“Why is theatre so much more celebrated in Toronto?” Ruano said. “I hope for that [kind of coverage] in Ottawa, but I have noticed newspapers are firing their theatre critics and that leaves a huge lack of media coverage in the arts which becomes problematic in this city.”

Ruano said smaller companies often don’t have a big enough budget for extensive marketing, which can cause their productions to fall through the cracks.

“People have this attitude that Ottawa is a political city so they go to work their nine-to-five and that’s it, but Ottawa is so much more than that,” Ruano said. “Ottawa has 50 to 100 festivals each year, so let’s say Ottawa is a festival city, and actually an arts city, all year round.”

Janne Cleveland, a Carleton University drama professor, shared a similar perspective, and said the city is bustling with events students may not know about.

“Ottawa, surprisingly for its size, is very vibrant. There is a lot of theatre going on . . . there really is something for everyone,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland said students should try to stay up to date with local arts venues to keep up with what’s happening. He added the National Arts Center, the Gladstone Theatre, and the GCTC all offer students discounts and special deals.

In addition to discounts, Andrew Soobrian, GCTC’s marketing and communications manager, said there is a lot of student-centred programming at his company.

“We have an interesting program here. Besides our student matinees, we also have a program called The Hive that is offered to high school and university students, designed to expose them to not just GCTC, but the theatre community at large,” Soobrian said.

On a smaller scale, students are likely well acquainted with Carleton’s student-run company, Sock ‘n’ Buskin (SnB).

Meg Sutton, a board member and actor with SnB, said theatre is key to the Carleton community.

“I think that [theatre on campus] could be promoted more, but once you get into it, it becomes a prominent part of your life,” Sutton said. “[SnB] is a very open company . . . the best thing about [SnB] is that it is a friendship company, you just come with this passion for theatre, or tech, or painting, and it becomes central to those relationships.”

According to Sutton, many of the students active in SnB go on to take roles within the larger city theatre community, including things like the upcoming Fringe Festival.

Cleveland said students should begin reading the New Ottawa Critics’ blog to find new and upcoming shows and putting in the “leg work” to find out what’s going on in Ottawa.

“The biggest thing is to just look up theatre in Ottawa, everyone uses our friend Google,” Cleveland said.

Soobrian urged those who are interested in theatre to get involved.

“[The theatre community] is kind of a microcosm of Ottawa. It is a small community but it is a very tightknit community. Everyone knows each other and they are also very supportive of one another,” Soobrian said.

– Photo by Justine Samanski-Langille