Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

National Arts Centre

National Arts Centre

Just finished reading (or at least skimming extensively…) this incredible book by Ottawa journalist Sarah Jennings entitled Art and Politics: The History of the National Arts Centre. It is super informative and includes every bit of gossip you’d ever want to know about the NAC and all the folks involved. It even includes full colour photographs of past productions as well as a number of amusing political cartoons!

I am reading this book as part of my research on festivals that program new theatre in English Canada. I found lots of information about the ups and downs of the Summer Festival, the various English Theatre seasons, attempts at national touring, and the NAC’s partnership with some newer festivals, such as the Magnetic North and the Scenes.

You can find this book in Chapters, and possibly other bookstores in Ottawa. If you want more information, leave me a message and I’ll share with you some of my findings.

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The BC Scene (90 events with 600 artists from British Columbia) and the Ottawa International Writers Festival (literary folks from Ottawa and around the world) are taking over my life this week. And I am fully embracing the insanity!

T.O.F.U. Tons of Fun University

T.O.F.U. Tons of Fun University

Here is a list of all the events I plan to attend between Tuesday, April 21 and Sunday, May 3. Hopefully this will give you some idea of what’s out there and encourage you to check out more events at your leisure. This is also a handy tool for any potential stalkers who want to know where I’ll be at any given time. Knock yourselves out.

*** All Writers Festival events take place at the St. Brigid’s Centre for Arts and Humanities, unless otherwise indicated

I’ll also be updating this blog section more frequently, creating something of a “social column” about the events that I attend and the people I meet. Feel free to post comments if you find time to attend these events and want to offer your own opinion.

Welcome to festival season!

Tuesday, April 21

BC SCENE — SWARM: gallery crawl (6-9pm) and opening night party (9-11pm)

Wednesday, April 22

OSSD (not part of either festival, but I’m still going!) — Mischief City @ 11am, Natalie Stern Studio Theatre
BC SCENE — BIOBOXES @ 1:45, Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre
WRITERS FEST — Earth Day Vernissage @ 5:30pm
BC SCENE — La Vue d’en Haut @ 8pm, La Nouvelle Scene

Thursday, April 23

BC SCENE — T.O.F.U. (Tons of Fun University) and Kinnie Starr @ 8pm, NAC 4th Stage

Friday, April 24

WRITERS FEST — Michael Ignatieff @ 7pm
BC SCENE — Literary Cabaret @ 8pm, NAC 4th Stage

Saturday, April 25

WRITERS FEST — Dusty Owl @ 6pm
BC SCENE — Assembly @ 8pm, NAC Panorama Room

Sunday, April 26

BC SCENE — Jack Pine (opera) @ 1:30pm, NAC 4th Stage
WRITERS FEST — The Bible @ 4pm
WRITERS FEST — Writing Life @ 6pm
BC SCENE — Veda Hille and Penny Lang @ 8pm, Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre

Monday, April 27

WRITERS FEST — Extraordinary Canadians @ 6:30pm

Tuesday, April 28

WRITERS FEST — Big Idea & Poetry Cabaret @ 6:30pm

Wednesday, April 29

WRITERS FEST — Poetry Cabaret @ 6:30pm
BC SCENE — Mei Han and the Red Chamber @8pm, Library and Archives

Thursday, April 30

BC SCENE — Rage @ 8pm, La Nouvelle Scene

Friday, May 1

BC SCENE — Simone Osbourne @ 12 noon, Rideau Chapel
BC SCENE — Mom’s the Word @ 8pm, Arts Court Theatre

Saturday, May 2

BC SCENE — Wen Wei Dance @ 8pm, NAC Studio Theatre

Sunday, May 3

BC Scene — James Hill & ukulele events @ 1pm, 2pm, 4pm, Canadian Museum of Civilization

James Hill and Anne Davison

Anne Davison and James Hill

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Greetings arts fans!

I have been having a truly great time with the Ottawa Arts scene these days: whether it’s an all-night poetry and music party at the Library and Archives, or an amazing show at The Gladstone, or meeting up with charming photographers – the fun never stops!

This month I’m really excited to be celebrating a number of chill holidays, including Women’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and World Theatre Day. You can count on a matching event for each special day… well, except maybe that Irish one, but I expect you’ll all be hitting the pubs by three in the afternoon (or earlier) anyhow.



The Dale Smith Gallery presents ‘Mother Goose’
Vernissage: Friday, March 6 from 7 to 10pm

Fascinated with the darker side of childhood, Ottawa native Jonathan Hobin has created a photo exhibit entitled ‘Mother Goose’ that depicts young children in odd fairytale scenes based on a handful of carefully selected nursery rhymes. I had the chance to meet and interview Jonathan last week, and we had a great chat about children and their dark, dark thoughts. Check out my article about the artist and his exhibit (on display until March 31) in Capital Xtra’s upcoming issue!

Women in Leadership Foundation presents ‘Gala – a special celebration of all women’
Sunday, March 8 (International Women’s Day) from 6 to 8pm
Bronson Centre, Mac Hall

Do you long for a fabulous evening of fine food and enchanting music among women in leadership positions? Are you looking for an opportunity to celebrate Women’s Day in style? Are you interested in an intimate networking event? Women in Leadership Foundation Carleton Chapter is hosting the first ever GALA to celebrate all women! Don’t miss guest speakers Claire Beckton, Deputy Minister for the Status of Women Canada, and Dr. Runte, President of Carleton University, as well as performances by Erin Felepchuck and Musk Ox. Oh right, and I’m the MC!

(Limited seating – book your tickets in advance!)

Canada Dance Festival’s Fine Wine Evening
Wednesday, March 11 at 5:30pm
Hampton Inn Ottawa & Conference Centre, Ottawa

Don’t miss a magnificent evening that benefits the Canada Dance Festival, featuring fine wines, delectable food, wine and food celebrities, fascinating exhibits and demos, live jazz music, and unparalleled silent and live auctions. The outstanding auctions will boast hard-to-find wines from private cellars, everyday drinking wine and spirits, and unique wine-themed gifts and getaways. Support the Canada Dance Festival and give opportunities to our contemporary dance artists!


There is A LOT of great theatre this month, and I felt rather obligated to include as much as I could. But in the spirit of overcrowdedness (not actually a word, according to my spell-check), I thought I would do some thematic pairing up. So humour me.

The Gladstone presents ‘Doubt’
Until Saturday, March 14 @ 8pm

OLT presents ‘Wrong Turn at Lungfish’
Until Saturday, March 14 @ 8pm

Alright, I’m getting off to a strange start here. These plays really don’t have much in common, except for the fact that they’ve already opened and they finish on the same day. But I tried! Anyway. For the Ottawa Little Theatre show: a blind and bitter college professor, a streetwise woman and a dangerous boyfriend all clash in this edgy contemporary comedy; it is adorably rated PG.

I purposely avoided seeing the movie until this production opened. John Patrick Shanley’s play (after having seen the show, I really think it was meant to be a play) looks at the notion of uncertainty by examining the possibility of an inappropriate relationship between a priest and his young black student. Don’t miss stellar performances from Mary Ellis, Kris Joseph, Emmanuelle Zeesman, and (what an incredible find!) Natalie Fraser- Purdy.

Later this month, from March 19 to 28 at The Gladstone is The Radio Show, an opportunity to journey back to the golden age of radio with some of Ottawa’s great local actors!

Unicorn Theatre presents
‘l’Ours’ & ‘Dark Lady of the Sonnets’
March 5 to 7 @ 8pm
Studio Léonard Beaulne

Drama Guild presents
‘Don’t Blame the Bedouins’
March 17 to 21 @ 8pm
Academic Hall

This connection was easy: both events are being presented at the University of Ottawa! Scouting for new talent, or just looking to see a great show? Come see our amazing students in action.

MFA Directing students Sarah Waisvisz (director of Chekhov’s ‘l’Ours’) and Bronwyn Steinberg (director of Shaw’s ‘Dark Lady of the Sonnets’) present a FREE bilingual evening of one-act plays, featuring fellow students in production and stage roles.

For the university’s mainstage production, director Kevin Orr is taking an unusual approach to an equally unusual play. A Governor General Award-winning play, ‘Don’t Blame the Bedouins’ will be presented in a style which borrows heavily from the graphic novel. The story itself includes Heroes and Heroines, Intellectual Geeks and Monsters, Stalin, Lenin and Santa Claus.

(By the way, the University of Ottawa website is an absolute pain for getting information about anything. If you want to find out more about these shows, I’d suggest looking them up on Facebook – or just ask me!)

Chamber Theatre Hintonburg presents
‘A View From the Bridge’
Sundays and Mondays @ 7pm, until March 16
Elmdale House Tavern

Third Wall Theatre Company presents
‘Peer Gynt’
March 10 to 21 @ 7:30pm
Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre

Two classics of the world repertoire come to Ottawa, staged by two companies reputed for taking chances and showcasing great local talent.

Chamber Theatre, the company that specializes in putting on plays in Hintonburg’s historic taverns brings Arthur Miller’s classic tale of Eddie Carbone’s tragic love to the Elmdale House Tavern. Directed by Lisa Zanyk, this show features a stunning performance (according to Alvina Ruprecht’s CBC review) by Don Laflamme.

Henrik Ibsen often described his play Peer Gynt as being “impossible” to mount. Looks like Third Wall director James Richardson is crazy enough to take up the challenge! The lines between fantasy, reality and the conscious mind blur as we follow Peer Gynt around the world from Norway to the Kingdom of the Trolls and through the deserts of Africa. Don’t miss this new adaptation of Peer Gynt by Henry Beissel, starring local marvel Andy Massingham in the eponymous role.

Orpheus presents ‘Nunsense the Musical’
March 6 to 7 & 10 to 14 @ 8 pm
Centrepointe Theatre

Sock ‘n’ Buskin presents ‘Evil Dead the Musical’
March 12 to 14 and 19 to 21 @ 8pm
Kailash Mittal Theatre in Southam Hall

Time for some musical theatre!!!

‘Nunsense’ is a hilarious spoof about the misadventures of five nuns trying to manage a talent fundraiser to bury their dearly departed. The show offers a cornucopia of hilarity for the whole family, proving conclusively that nun rhymes with fun! You can also catch 2pm Sunday matinees on March 8 and 15.

‘Evil Dead the Musical’ is a laugh-riot, as it simultaneously pays comedic tribute to and pokes fun at Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise (Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness), along with all B-movies in the horror genre. This show contains strong language, blood effects and suggestive content – yes, my kind of show!

That’s about all for now! But don’t forget that World Theatre Day is on March 27, and the Company of Fools uuusually has something planned for that day. So stay in touch with them at www.fools.ca

Visit my website at www.jessicaruano.wordpress.com to check out continuous updates throughout the month. I will post more upcoming events in the Press Releases section. Thanks very much for reading, and have a great time engaging with the Ottawa Arts scene!

Yours artistically,

Jessica Ruano


Jessica Ruano
Performing Arts Enthusiast
Publicist, Critic, and Theatre go-er


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city-of-ottawaLooks like efforts from the arts community actually made a difference! A group of councillors from the City of Ottawa (not including Larry O’Brien) brought and passed a package motion that results in a 4.9-per-cent property tax increase and avoids serious program cuts.

Find out the full details in the Ottawa Citizen coverage.

Thoughts? Opinions? Do you agree with this decision?

Personally, I’m rather amused that Larry O’Brien has so little say in the decisions made by his council.

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What’s new, eh? But this recently released piece of information REALLY ticked me off.

It seems that our municipal government conducted a survey asking citizens of Ottawa where they would like to focus their taxes. They asked about the economy, the police force, public transport… and the arts.

While the government claims that MOST people supported cuts to the arts, the statistics show otherwise:

11% said they wanted to increase funding significantly for arts and culture programs

22% said they wanted to increase funding a little bit

43% said they wanted to keep the level of funding as is

21% said they wanted to cut funding a little bit

8% said they wanted to cut funding a lot

That means **76% of Ottawa citizens DID NOT SUPPORT CUTS TO THE ARTS, but the government WENT AHEAD WITH IT ANYWAY.

This survey was hidden from the public until very recently when an anonymous source let it out. The information was announced today at a press conference at La Nouvelle Scene (Ottawa’s French-language theatre venue) at 2pm.

Please contact Aude Rahmani from Theatre Action at 613 745 2322 or email arahmani@theatreaction.on.ca for more information.

Hope to see you at the rally at City Hall on Monday: 10am for the conference; 12 noon for the protest.

**Also, weirdly enough, their calculations amount to 105%. Not sure who’s working in numbers here…

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Seducing Traffic - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Seducing Traffic - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

On September 23rd, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following statement about our national arts community:

I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see … a bunch of people … at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up, I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people.

(First of all, I’d like to point out that artists who require funding don’t generally attend rich galas. They are “ordinary” [gawd, I hate that word] hard-working people who justify every penny they spend on their work. Government funds go towards organizations – like the Canada Council for the Arts – that distribute these funds amid various arts companies, training programs [including programs geared towards artistically inclined children; and didn’t Pablo Picasso once claim that “every child is an artist”?] and festivals in their beginning years. Many of the artists, companies, and festivals that we know and love once relied on arts funding to become the cultural icons they are today. Without this preliminary support, they would be non-existent.)

Mr. Harper seems to suggest that the majority of Canadian citizens see no value in the arts. He suggests that government funds would only be wasted on theatre companies, literary festivals, concerts, arts education, and urban arts. But a full-house at the Vote Culture town hall in the University of Ottawa yesterday would seem to prove him wrong.

Sylvie Lemieux (Green Party) and Raphael Dery (Bloc Quebecois) - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Sylvie Lemieux (Green Party) and Raphael Dery (Bloc Quebecois) - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

On the panel were members of the artistic community and a representative from each of the political parties. Oh, except the Conservatives – even though they were invited to participate in the discussion. Members of the audience were given time to ask questions of the representatives. Afterward, the large group marched up Elgin Street to the Parliament Buildings, and several people (including myself!) spoke through a microphone with large speakers directed at the building and out into the street so the public could hear.

Student presentation from De La Salle arts High School - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Student presentation from De La Salle arts High School - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Here I have compiled a short list of letters written by members of our community (and a few celebrities!) stating in great detail why the arts are important for all Canadian citizens. Despite Mr. Harper’s knack for public oratory and his talent with fiction, I think you’ll find the following arguments much more believable and infinitely better expressed.

I plan to write my own thoughts on the subject in my next entry. For now, I suppose I should get back to writing my thesis on touring theatre in Canada and doing research for a National Arts Centre festival because – despite what Mr. Harper and his “ordinary people” might think – I believe my work is making an important contribution to our national community.

Photos of the event included here are courtesy of Ming Wu Photos. Thank you so much for sharing.

Joel Beddows - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Joel Beddows - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Wajdi Mouawad - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Wajdi Mouawad - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Paul Dewar (NDP) - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Paul Dewar (NDP) - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Peter Hinton and Mark Chatel - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

Peter Hinton and Mark Chatel - courtesy of Ming Wu Photos

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Greetings arts enthusiasts!

Alas, our summer adventures are coming to a close. In our last few days we try to put aside a few hours for bike rides along the canal, strolls along Westboro beach, eating gelato in the Byward Market, or watching a sunset from Major’s Hill Park.

Wait… just a minute… I’m about to put a positive spin on this. Oh, RIGHT! We have arts events. Lots of them. September is always jam-pack full of show openings and quirky festivals and crazy events. I have to say, I’m very excited.

But there is something that has been worrying me lately. As many of you probably know, the government has cut a lot of funding from the arts. Canadian artists will suffer greatly from these cuts, and the changes will in turn affect Canadians in general. Some people think of the arts as a frivolity. I assure you that this is not the case. I think people take for granted what the arts do in a community: they increase tourism, general aesthetics, general health; they educate people and entertain them; and they define a community, a city, a country with its uniqueness. If this concerns you as much as it concerns me, please write to your Prime Minister directly or sign an online petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Canadian-Arts-Funding. Find out what the government is spending money on. I have a suspicion it’s not just public healthcare and other essentials. A rebellion might be nice, too, but I understand that people are busy.

Besides, I’d rather you spend time supporting the arts by actually attending all these amazing events. If there’s anything I’m missing, please let me know, and I’d be happy to include it on my website. Here goes!


The Zucchini Grotto Theatre Company is looking for a female performer/vocalist to round out the cast of its next “Centre Stage Cabaret”. Auditions by appointment will take place September 7. For more information, check out http://www.zucchini.com/.

Savoy Society is holding auditions for Gilbert & Sullivan‘s comic opera The Gondoliers. Auditions by appointment will take place September 13 & 14. Please visit www.savoysociety.org for more information.


Still yearning for satisfaction after a couple of Women’s Studies courses? Catch up on your feminist schooling by attending Ladyfest Ottawa (September 19 to 21), a weekend of arts and music from talented local ladies who believe that political action can be fun and creative. Discover some unique crafts at Not Your Grandma’s Craft Sale and participate in Take Back the Night, a downtown march led by females. Getting the vote in the 1920s was just the beginning: what’s next for womyn-kind in the world of art? For more, visit www.ladyfestottawa.com

Ottawa-Gatineau’s premier arts awards show The Golden Cherry Awards (September 5) features 50 categories, 5 hosts – including Peter Honeywell, Alex Munter, Oni the Haitian Sensation and Amanda Putz, 5 musical acts, and hundreds of artists from all disciplines at the historic Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts and Humanities. For more information and to check out the nominees, please write to sawprogramming@artengine.ca or visit their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=69800485439

Amanda Lewis, Artistic Director at the Ottawa School of Speech & Drama (OSSD), Ottawa’s pre-eminent theatre school, is opening the doors at OSSD to the public for its annual Fall Open House (September 6). From 10am-5pm, participate in mini workshops, take a tour of the studios, win great prizes, and register for fall courses. For more information, visit www.ossd.com

GuerillaLIVE #17 is Guerilla Magazine’s launch party at the Enriched Bread Artists Studios (September 12). Come celebrate my 22nd birthday and the magazine that features my awesome local-arts column, Arts Smarts. For more information, check out www.getguerilla.ca or visit their Facebook page.


Having lived in the Byward Market for exactly one year now, I’ve been discovering all these wonderful little galleries right around the corner from my home. Just walking down Murray or Clarence Street is a revelation in art and culture. One of my newest findings is the Lafrenière & Pai Gallery at 13 Murray Street. Just recently they featured works from a local art-jewellery design competition. This month they are showcasing the creations of two artists: Maude Bussières, an internationally recognized glass artist (my new favourite type of art work…) and Mary K. McIntyre, who takes her inspiration from the botanical world. While the artists will only be in shop on September 6th from 2-4pm, their work is on display until the 25th. Check out www.lapaigallery.com for details.

Ottawa International Animation Festival (September 17 to 21) highlights what’s new and interesting in the world of professional animation. Whether your interests lie in animated film, web comics, or graphic novels, this festival has a bit of everything to get your artistic thoughts flowing and your pencil crayons back on the page. Hands-on workshops are provided for kids, for teenagers, and for would-be animators. Check out http://www.ottawa.awn.com/index.php for details on this year’s great line-up of screenings in various cinemas and museums.

Only in its second year, Festival X: Ottawa’s Photography Festival (September 18 to 28) has already established a solid reputation in Ottawa’s visual arts community. Taking over numerous galleries in the capital, the festival offers workshops and lectures on photography, as well as providing space for established and emerging photographers to showcase their work. As an aspiring image-smith, I’m looking forward to learning from those with a keen eye and sharp focus. For more information, check out www.festivalx.ca


As most theatre companies are beginning a brand new season, Evolution Theatre is just finishing theirs. Always looking to challenge the conventions of theatre and produce thought-provoking plays, Artistic Director Chris Bedford leads a group of talented local actors – Lawrence Aronovitch, William Beddoe, Jerome Bourgault, Fletcher Gailey-Snell, Kel Parsons, and Chantale Plante – in the English premiere of Playing Bare (September 3 to 13), inspired by Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Check out www.evolutiontheatre.ca for more details!

The Great Canadian Theatre Company opens their season with I, Claudia (September 9 to 28), a critically acclaimed one-woman show about an intelligent young girl named Claudia and the important people in her life. I saw the film version of the original production a couple of years back, and I was very touched by the story. Definitely worth seeing: check out www.gctc.ca for details.

Back again in Ottawa with another great season of contemporary masterpieces is Vision Theatre with their production of My Name is Rachel Corrie (September 10 to 20). This is a play without a playwright, edited from the emails and journals of Rachel Corrie, a young peace activist. An American who went to aid Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Rachel died at the age of 23, killed by an Israeli bulldozer while attempting to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home. Starring Ottawa’s own Sarah McVie and directed by her former teacher at Canterbury High School, Paul Griffin (also a favourite at Odyssey Theatre). For more information, visit www.visiontheatre.ca

Probably the most exciting thing to happen in Ottawa theatre this year, The Gladstone opens its doors this month with hilarious Brit Alan Ayckbourn’s How the Other Half Loves (September 11 to October 4). Owner Steve Martin plans on having the building open for theatre (and other performing arts) all year round and has already booked a dozen productions so far. He plans on hiring all local directors, actors, and designers, which means more work for our artists! For more information, check out their classy website at www.thegladstone.ca

The National Arts Centre English Theatre presents Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days (September 17 to October 4), featuring Tanja Jacobs and local actor Paul Rainville. It’s about a woman buried up to her waist in earth. Would you expect anything less from Beckett? Check out http://nac.ca/en/whatson/results.cfm?EventID=5544 for details.


NACO’s spectacular 2008-2009 season opens with the Mozart Brahms Festival — masterworks from these two classical titans will be performed from (September 23-October 2) at the National Arts Centre and in the Auditorium of the National Gallery of Canada. On September 23, the first concert of the Festival (in the NAC’s Southam Hall at 8:00 p.m.) features two close friends who are also musical superstars: conductor and violist Pinchas Zukerman and violinist Itzhak Perlman perform Mozart’s ‘Duo for violin and viola’ and ‘Sinfonia concertante’ and ‘Symphony No. 1’ by Johannes Brahms. For more information about the concert, the Festival, and numerous audience enrichment activities, please consult the NAC website at www.nac-cna.ca.

Didn’t get your homework done for class? Forget the “my-dog-ate-it” excuse, and just tell your teacher the truth: I was immersing myself in Ottawa culture. Don’t you want to encourage my artistic education?

Please remember that this newsletter is only just the beginning. My website also features handy advice and resources for those looking to get involved in the Ottawa arts community. I have also been contributing more frequently to my Ottawa Arts Blog, writing accounts of the various arts events I attend. And I always appreciate comments! Check out www.jessicaruano.wordpress.com for more.

Have a great September!

Artistically yours,


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Canadians are coming out in support of the arts. A rally in Montreal attracted thousands of people, and more events are being planned for Québec City, Toronto and London. In the past few weeks, PACT has provided you with letter templates for Ministers, talking points, and an email to send to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Now we have a way for your audiences, colleagues, friends and family to express their support for the arts, and their desire to see new programs created at the Departments of Canadian Heritage and foreign Affairs and International Trade to replace the programs that have been cut.

Click here to sign the Canada Supports the Arts petition. And lend your name to the nation-wide movement to let the Government of Canada know that arts and culture are important to all Canadians.

To find any of the above-mentioned PACT documents, please go to the PACT website.

I signed the petition yesterday, and included the following passage in the comments section.

Without art, a country will eventually lose its spirit, its uniqueness, its value, its tourism, its vitality, its economy, and its place in the world’s cultural community. The government must recognize the importance of supporting our own Canadian artists as representatives of our country as a whole. Like our Olympic athletes, our artists are encouraging a vibrant lifestyle through thrilling performance — but additionally these artists are providing essential intellectual and emotional stimulation. Let us support our artists as much as we support our sports teams. We do not want to become a cultural wasteland. I think it is difficult for people to understand how much our every day existence would change if not for the arts: we would be surrounded by commercialism instead of culture. We are not automatons. In addition to health care and education, we need the arts. They are a basic need, not a frivolity. We read in the news about government officials spending excessive amounts of money, needlessly. Perhaps they should re-evaluate how our tax dollars are spent. Is the national arts community really the only thing upon which our Canadian government is “wasting” money?

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City gems found in local arts trove

By Jessica Ruano

Ottawa residents benefit from having the National Arts Centre, the Canada Council for the Arts, the National Gallery of Canada, and a plethora of national museums and cultural institutions. There is also a thriving local arts scene including the Ottawa School of Art, local theatre groups, numerous galleries, arts festivals, and dance troupes. This has resulted in a multi-layered arts scene that continues to attract both artists and audiences alike. Consider just some of these local arts events that have occurred in recent times.

The new Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre (NAC) English Theatre is known for his work on a national scale but nowadays Peter Hinton is concentrating on making Ottawa an exciting place for theatre. Local projects like The Ark involve theatre students from the University of Ottawa by encouraging them to lay the groundwork for future seasons and explore drama in contemporary social context. Hinton invites out-of-town actors to perform locally, and Ottawa actors had the opportunity to tour this season’s production of Macbeth at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton. The NAC is exchanging artistic ideas on a national level, while still providing opportunities for local actors.

Inspired by our local theatre scene chock full of talent, a handful of professional artists programmed Ottawa’s first annual Rideau Awards show in April 2008.These peer-assessed awards recognized knock-out performances and stellar productions from Ottawa companies such as Third Wall Theatre Company, New Theatre of Ottawa, Gruppo Rubato, and 7:30 Productions.

With a shortage of performance venues in Ottawa, several new buildings have been created to provide outlets for local artists. The appearance of a brand new theatre building, several art galleries, and a better focus on general aesthetics has made the neighbourhood of Hintonburg one of the hottest new spots for Ottawa culture. The major contribution to this transformation was the creation of the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre, home of the Great Canadian Theatre Company and Third Wall. Also providing “found” performance spaces are Cube Gallery and the Elmdale Tavern, demonstrating that shows can be enjoyed in the most surprising of locations.

St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts and Humanities has become a most astonishingly beautiful venue for local arts events. The newly deconsecrated Roman Catholic Church on St. Patrick Street is the ideal spot for hosting Ottawa Writers Festival readings, unique art installations and other arts celebrations. In terms of festivals, the annual Magnetic North Theatre Festival and Québec Scene made quite an impression last spring by providing Ottawa arts fans with an infusion of national culture in the capital. The Ottawa Fringe Festival mixes local, national, and international theatre performances in its 10-day celebration of alternative arts in June. The Jazz and Blues festivals still trumpet celebrity acts, but also focus on amazing local bands like Soul Jazz Orchestra. A notable addition to the festival scene is Ottawa’s Photography Festival, which began in November of 2007 and showcased local photographers’ artwork in various downtown studios.

There also exists something artists like to call “poetry clubbing.” From the time that Ottawa hosted the very first Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, the slam poetry scene has been booming with new artists constantly adding themselves to the mix. Slam, by the way, is poetry in competition form: poets perform 3-minute poems that are scored by a handful of randomly selected judges from the audience. It is fast-paced, exciting, and encourages a variety of styles. Since the Capital Poetry Collective appeared on the scene a few years ago, a number of sister companies, such as the Oneness Collective in downtown Ottawa and the Spoken Word Plot in the Ottawa valley, have been spreading the word.

Ottawa’s arts scene is extensive. The events that have occurred in the past couple of years have played a major part in the improvement of certain communities, contributed to the education and involvement of artistic youth, and provided opportunities for artists to live and work in Ottawa. Our local arts community is alive and thriving, and there is still much more to come.

Jessica Ruano is a freelance theatre professional and the creator/writer of the Ottawa Arts Newsletter.

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My article found at Guerilla Magazine website: http://www.getguerilla.ca

I have made a fantastic discovery about Ottawa – a mind-blowing, unbelievable, revolutionary secret that I have decided to share with you all right here, right now. Believe it or not, Ottawa has a living, breathing, gorgeously subsisting local arts scene.
This summer our nation’s capital is simply brimming with thrilling events to keep you out and about every day. And I consider it my personal responsibility to inform each and every citizen of Ottawa of the best places to get your cultural fix.
Ottawa Festivals

Summertime in Ottawa is festival season, so pitch a tent, bring a lawn-chair, and enjoy chocolate fondue amidst the rifts of blues and jazz. Here, I would like to recommend a few hidden gems this summer: some lesser known, though no less exciting, festivals that sometimes fly below the mainstream arts radar.

Put on your breakdancing shoes and check out Hip Hop 360 (June 11-15), presented by the Canada Dance Festival. This national urban arts festival features performances by some of Canada’s wildest and most talented hip hop groups, including Montreal’s Rubberbandance Group. On the last day of the festival catch House of Paint—a summer block party with b-boy and b-girl battling, DJs, workshops, and freestyling—under Dunbar Bridge near Carleton University. Decypher Cru member Sabra Ripley is the passionate local voice behind this event, determined to bring together Ottawa artists in celebration of legal graffiti in the city. For more: www.canadadance.ca/hiphop360.htm and www.houseofpaint.wordpress.com.Image

For theatrical types with an edge, the Ottawa Fringe Festival (June 19-29) features local, national, and international performances in venues across downtown Ottawa. All 40 or so companies are chosen by lottery, so the performances range from good to bad to really, really ugly. Want to make sure you catch the top-notch stuff? Hang out around the Fringe tent and eavesdrop on artists gossiping about which shows are utter bombs and which will change your life for the better. My experiences with the Fringe have included getting kissed onstage by an Australian busker, verbally harassed by a casting couch cougar, and photographed for a mosaic art piece. For more: www.ottawafringe.com.

Later this summer the city of Almonte (only a short drive from downtown Ottawa) becomes positively infested with dozens of gorgeous puppets. I’ve attended the Puppets Up Festival (August 9 and 10) every year since its inception in 2005, and I have always been impressed with the variety of puppetry styles from all around the world. This year the festival features ten puppet troupes from across Canada, the United States, Mexico and, Budapest, Hungary. But wait, there’s more! You can also witness a wonderful parade featuring look-alike puppets of politicians and celebrities made by local craftspeople. Find out more about this amazing festival and their pre-festival workshops at www.puppetsup.ca.

More cool festivals this summer:
Westfest (June 11-15) www.westfest.ca
Jazz Festival (June 20 to July 1) www.ottawajazzfestival.com
Blues Festival (July 3-13) www.ottawabluesfest.ca
Buskers Festival (August 1-4) www.sparksstreetmall.com
Folk Festival (August 14-17) www.ottawafolk.org

Outdoor Theatre

Most theatre companies take a break over the summer months, but luckily there are a few choice outdoor productions in parks across Ottawa to keep us entertained. Braving wind and rain, black flies and mosquitoes, as well as vandals and voyeurs, these companies overcome all obstacles for local audiences to enjoy theatre in the great outdoors.

Throughout the Italian Renaissance commedia dell’arte theatre troupes would act out hilarious scenarios by playing stock characters (the lecherous old man, the seductive young woman, the melodramatic lovers, the mischievous servant) in elaborate and colourful masks. A mere few centuries later, Odyssey Theatre began performing commedia-inspired shows in Strathcona Park to the delight of Ottawa audiences. Now in their 23rd season, Odyssey Theatre presents a new “In the Works” Festival (August 6-17) that showcases seven new plays by local writers, including a theatrical adaptation of a Mozart opera, two one-man shows and a youth matinee. For more: www.odysseytheatre.ca.

Meanwhile, the local troupe A Company of Fools tours Ottawa parks this summer with Shakespeare’s most popular comedic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet (July 3 to August 4). The Fools are famous for their wacky interpretations of the Bard’s works, played in past seasons with garden tools, puppets, and musical numbers. Directed by Fools favourite Al Connors, this show features Emmanuelle Zeesman, Richard Gelinas, and the entire Theatrophy group (Nick di Gaetano, Aron de Casmaker, and Jesse Buck) who recently performed their show Moribund at the new Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre. The Fools are fun for all ages! For more: www.fools.ca.

More outdoor theatre to enjoy this summer:
Salamander Theatre presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream (July 8-31, August 19-24 and 27-30) http://www.salamandertheatre.ca
Ottawa Stilt Union presents This is a Very Old Story (June 19-27 and July 4) www.ottawastiltunion.ca.

Urban Arts Scene

Ottawa is crammed full of independent art galleries showcasing the best of local artistic talent. One of my new favourites is La Petite Mort Gallery just outside the Byward Market. Each exhibit at this gallery sparks conversation and controversy, and once in awhile they have one that is just plain adorable. Puppy Love: The Artist as Dog (June 6-29) is just what it sounds like: the artists were asked to present themselves in their chosen mediums as dogs. Expect some very unusual interpretations from these artists: cute dogs, devilish dogs, and dogs with serious attitude. For more: www.lapetitemortgallery.com.

Slam poetry is Canada’s hippest new art form and is now securing its place in the Ottawa arts scene. The Capital Poetry Collective hosts monthly slam competitions at the Mercury Lounge where local performance poets show off their stuff for enthusiastic crowds, and each performance is critiqued by a handful of randomly selected judges. At the final competition this year (June 7), find out which four poets will make the Ottawa team that will then compete at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. The Ottawa team will perform collectively for the first time at the Dusty Owl Reading Series (July 20). For more: www.capitalslam.com and www.dustyowl.com.

More hot picks for the summer:
Ottawa Storytellers (various events) www.ottawastorytellers.ca
Ottawa Writers Festival (various events) www.writersfestival.org
Art in the Park (June 7 and 8 ) www.artinfoboy.org
New Theatre of Ottawa’s Disaster (June 18-29) www.geocities.com/newtheatreottawa
Toto Too Theatre’s Memoirs of a Single Gay White Male (July 16-19) www.tototoo.caImage

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