I was thrilled when I heard the news. Not because I found anything particularly offensive about Richard Gélinas’ former day job, but simply because I adore seeing him acting onstage and am glad that he’ll be doing so more frequently. From now until November, Richard will be featured in 4 – count them, FOUR – productions in Ottawa. To celebrate his new found employment, I thought I would check in with this busy thespian to see how he’s doing.
Ottawa Arts: So, Richard, I hear you quit your day job to become an actor. Are ya nuts?
Richard Gélinas: Yes, it does fly in the face of conventional wisdom, doesn’t it? The fact is, though, that while I’ve quit my latest dayjob, I haven’t quit the concept of day jobs. We all need dayjobs from time to time; mine had benefits, and paid for the mortgage and the cats and my high-roller lifestyle during the down time between theatre jobs. But I have been fortunate enough to see a few overlapping projects come my way to see me through the Fall, and I was able to say, You know what, dayjob? You can go your own way. And sure, like Paddy Crean said, nothing is ever in the bag, and we’re living in BLEAK ECONOMIC TIMES, but for all that, it seemed like the right time. If sitcoms have taught me anything, it’s that every bad thing that happens to you is funny for someone else, and ultimately, no matter what, no lasting harm will be done.
OA: What do you have planned – theatre wise – for the next few months?
RG: Boy howdy, am I glad you asked. I am right now in rehearsal for Third Wall Theatre Company’s Old Times by Harold Pinter, which opens at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre Studio on September 23. James Richardson is directing, and Kristina Watt and Sophie Goulet are in it with me. James plans some kind of viral internet video campaign to advertise it, and he’s been blogging and everything. Watch out!
Also in September is the remount of Théâtre la Catapulte’s Rideau Project, which was a series of short, site-specific plays performed in the spring at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. The remount is part of the NAC’s Zones Théâtrales. The play I’ll be in is Pierre Brault’s The Rhyme of the Nicholas Street Gaol, a fictional account of the final moment of the last man hanged at the jail that is now the cheery local hostel. It was directed by Natalie Joy Quesnel, and since she gets me most of my work, I would appreciate it if someone could send her flowers or something. The other cast members are Simon Bradshaw, Todd Duckworth, and Kate Smith. We do the show in a former document vault in the basement of Arts Court, to simulate a death row cell. Creepy and dark, sure, but I got a wireless signal down there, which made me feel a little like a tech-savvy Indiana Jones for a really, really little while.
I’m also rehearsing Evolution Theatre’s Arabian Night by Roland Schimmelpfennig, which opens October 16 at Cube Gallery. I’m told there’ll be a gala opening for that one, with real live Germans, so do come out. Natalie Joy Quesnel is directing it (see? hires me all the time). Arabian Night also features Brad Long (who’s also in Vision Theatre’s The Pillowman), Stewart Matthews, Emily Pearlman, and Kate Smith, all of whom I can personally attest are swell actors.
Finally, in November, SevenThirty Productions will put up Shining City at Arts Court, and I have convinced John P. Kelly that I should be in that, too. After that I’m available, if anybody’s got anything. Seriously. High roller lifestyles don’t sustain themselves.
OA: Is there suddenly a lot more acting work in Ottawa? I mean, really: what is happening to this city?
RG: There are people with more sensitive fingers than I on the right pulses who would be better positioned to answer that question. I think we go through cycles, and right now it looks like we’re in something of an upswing. Some indie companies that started up a few years ago are hitting their stride, the Gladstone opened and hired a bunch of people, and these factors and others beyond my ken are making people stay in Ottawa longer, and some people are even coming back. This means that a lot of new work is being made right here at home – just look at a Fringe program if you don’t believe me. There’s certainly a lot of optimism, and sure, it remains to be seen whether a surge of theatre in Ottawa can find an audience big enough and interested enough to keep it going, especially in these BLEAK ECONOMIC TIMES, but aside from bitter and possibly drunken living room speculating, I don’t know how to find out except by doing it. So, keep doing it, independent theatre companies, and keep hiring me! (flash image of Rosie the Riveter with my face) We can do it!
OA: Why should people want to watch you onstage? Aside from the obvious.
RG: There’s an obvious? I mean, I know why I think people should want to watch me onstage, but that probably isn’t why they actually do. Ultimately, I think someone who’s already seen me on stage would be better placed to answer that, so if anybody wants to start a Richard Rocks the Awesome blog, please do. I will provide photos, pithy anecdotes, and interviews with my family.
OA: What is one thing you would never, ever do onstage?
RG: You never know what’s going to happen, so I can’t say there’s anything I would never do. There are things I’d rather not do onstage, like poop, or bite the head off a live chicken, and things I’m not likely to do, like sing an aria or develop rickets. But what if? What if I’m out of Immodium and don’t have time to get any on the way to the theatre? What if the chicken is on a killing spree and is otherwise unstoppable? I don’t want to end up in the moral quandary of comparing people’s lives to my commitment to never bite the head off a live chicken onstage. My morality doesn’t need that kind of strain.