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Generous by Michael Healey runs until this coming Sunday, September 27 and there are very few tickets left. Each weeknight performance is booked nearly to capacity, so do not hesitate if you want to see this wonderful show.
Generous is an unusual piece of theatre: the playwright presents us with four independent stories, each with its own arc of beginning, middle and end. There are stark stylistic differences in several of the pieces, resulting in a bewildering shift from clown to naturalism to surrealism. Yet, through it all runs a common thread of generosity – sometimes misguided or naive or, as one character says, actually destructive. The pleasure is in searching for these threads in the dense weave of Healey’s script. Like the great classical writers that have inspired him, Michael Healey writes large ideas that are expressed with unnatural gusto and verbosity. Even though some of his scenes spring from a world of harsh realism, the style is always overtly theatrical. Big ideas require big sheets of paper to hold them.
I had an unusually good time directing this production due to my passion for Michael’s ideas and also because of the artists involved. In the cast of six, there are three young actors who grew up in Ottawa and cut their teeth on local theatre. Katie Ryerson, a mainstay of A Company of Fools in recent years, caught my attention when I moved to Ottawa and saw her perform the role of Henry V in the Fools truncated versions of Shakespeare’s Henry IV and V. She is an absolute delight to work with and I suspect that it will become harder and harder to secure her for Ottawa gigs as her career continues to take flight. We are fortunate to have booked her for another plum role in our season closer, Janet Wilson Meets the Queen by Beverley Cooper. Drew Moore and Adam Pierre are the other youngsters in the Generous ensemble. Both graduates of the Ottawa Theatre School, these actors bring a joie de vivre to work each day. Working with emerging actors can be a frustrating exercise for the veterans on the production, simply because the young ones have not had time to build and practice a rehearsal discipline. Instead of a steady and methodical approach, they tend to bolt and jump ahead and then inexplicably lapse behind the pack. As an experienced director, I have learned to watch their progress and identify how and when they are working effectively. We then take time to reinforce the productive practice while excising any bad habits that surface. Both Drew and Adam are spirited young men with bright futures. When you watch them on stage in this production, you’re seeing them take significant strides in their professional careers. GCTC is committed to providing these opportunities and nurturing the young artists who first caught the theatre bug in Ottawa.
No less important are the veterans in the cast. Kristina Watt, well-known to Ottawa audiences for her work with Third Wall and her own company, 100 Watt Productions, Kristina is the professional’s professional. She simply does not stop working during the rehearsal process. When we are rehearsing a scene that does not require her, you will find her in the lobby, armed with an Extra-large Bridgehead beverage and her script, pouring over her lines and blocking. Fans of Kristina can see her again this season when she returns to play in Angel Square, adapted by Janet Irwin from the novel by Brian Doyle. Marion Day, who appeared in The Boy in the Moon last season, has a dizzying pedigree from Stratford where she played Juliet, Ophelia, Lavinia and a host of other roles during her early years as a graduate of the National Theatre School. She and I spent five years together at the Blyth Festival and she is a joy to be with both on and offstage. Marion returns to GCTC for the title role in Janet Wilson Meets the Queen later this season. Finally, new to Ottawa, but no stranger to professional theatre is Matt Cassidy. Matt caught my attention when he graduated from theatre school in the 1990’s and I was working at Blyth. He is that rare breed among theatre actors: a big, strong, deep voiced man who can sing and move with ease. Since moving to Ottawa he has launched a Christmas musical show at the Gladstone and has plans to keep building on this success.
This is a wonderful team and I have enjoyed every minute of working with them. When you come to see the work at GCTC, I urge you to look at the artists onstage and consider the enormous hurdles that each one faces while building a professional career. We are fortunate to have this ensemble here, now, creating such complex and passionate work.