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.
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.
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
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.ca
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