Shakespeare in Ottawa’s Great Outdoors

July 27, 2012 9:00 am
Photo: Andrew Alexander

Every summer, local theatre enthusiasts gather in parks around the city to experience productions by A Company of Fools. As part of Torchlight Shakespeare, the company has presented an outdoor production during the summer season since 2003.

Scott Florence is the artistic director of A Company of Fools, which is Ottawa’s longest running, independent professional Shakespeare theatre company. “What makes the Fools unique is how we combine the style of physical and popular theatre with Shakespeare,” Florence explains. The company’s goal is to make Shakespeare accessible to audiences.

MacDonald as Henry V. Photo: Andrew Alexander

This summer, the Fools are mounting a production of Henry V. Florence explains, “We don’t parody Shakespeare; we bring a loving sense of play to the work, and that joy of playing with the text. That’s what makes the company special, and keeps audiences of all ages engaged.”

The production of Henry V includes everything from clowns to puppets, comedy and singing. The cast includes five actors who each play several roles, except for Margo MacDonald, who plays the main character of King Henry. MacDonald, one of the founders of A Company of Fools, shines in her role as the young King of England. Most of the characters in the play (both primary and secondary) are male, and four out of the five cast members are female, so gender-crossing plays a big role in this production, which adds an element of fun and surprise to the experience.

Over the summer, the company will mount 42 performances in 31 different locations in the city. “We have performed in many of these parks for many years,” says Florence, “but we always add a couple of new parks each year to explore new neighbourhoods and find new audiences.”

Photo: Andrew Alexander

The Fools present two shows a year, an outdoor production in the summer, and one indoor production during the cooler seasons. According to Florence, the summer production is chosen based on something that will challenge the group artistically. “We’ve never done one of the histories outdoors before, and Henry V is a beautiful piece that has some very, very funny scenes in it,” he added.

The Fools’ outdoor summer productions are family friendly. When putting an outdoor production, the Fools ensure that the content is appropriate for people of all ages. “Many families come and bring their kids,” says Florence. “We often get feedback from parents saying how surprised and delighted they were to discover that their four-year-old was held entranced by the entire production!”

Not only are the productions family friendly, but some shows also require audience participation, keeping patrons engaged. “We work to include audience participation into our shows,” says Florence, “sometimes in a very passive way, sometimes in a more active way.”

Photo: Andrew Alexander

To mount their productions, A Company of Fools relies heavily on volunteers. According to Jasmine Murray-Bergquist, assistant festival coordinator, the company has a team of approximately 80 volunteers assisting in various capacities. Most volunteers assist with front of house duties during the summer, including handing out programs, helping people find places to set up their chairs or blankets, setting up torches, selling t-shirts, pins and clown noses, as well as answering some general questions from patrons. “We have about six volunteers helping every night,” added Murray-Bergquist.

So far, the group has received very good feedback from patrons. “The truest test of positive feedback is how many people are coming to each show, and how generous they are being with the hat!” shares Florence. The production has also received good reviews from both traditional media and the various theatre blog sites.

Photo: Andrew Alexander

Interested in catching Henry V? No need to worry. There is still plenty of time to catch the Fools in action. There will be a show in Strathcona Park every Monday night from July 2nd to August 18th. A full schedule and list of locations is available on the company’s website. According to Florence, Torchlight Shakespeare is worth checking out because it’s a great way to spend a summer evening, and enjoy comedy under the open sky.

Performances begin at 7 p.m. sharp and are 90 minutes in length, without an intermission. Admission is “pass-the-hat-and-pay-what-you-can” with a $15 suggested donation. Organizers recommend bringing a blanket or lawn chair to sit on, and bug spray.

Summer Sizzlers: Stacey and Kania FLAUNT it all

July 18, 2012 9:00 am

Local fashion designer, Stacey Bafi-Yeboa knows how to throw a party.

Ladies from Sun of a Gun were on hand to turbo spray tan partygoers.

Flaunt was part cocktail party, part spa, part boutique and a brilliant way to throw a fundraiser. The third, semi-annual event was held on the rooftop of the National Arts Centre on June 29 in benefit of the Canadian Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.

Bafi-Yeboa said she never stops working, in an interview earlier this year. This must be the case. Bafi-Yeboa pulled together Ottawa’s fashion community, including Frash, Demu Label and Victoire, alongside Ottawa’s beauty authorities The LOFT, Murale and Sun of a Gun and topped it all off with a DJ and treats from the Flour Shoppe and The Candy Bar. All in addition to her day job as owner and designer of Kania, found at 145 York St.

A make-up artist from Murale gives a guest a new look.

Event attendees flocked like peacocks to shop at the trendy pop-up boutique in the middle of the dance floor, after experiencing pampering at multiple beauty stations. Eyebrow threading, manicures, hair styling and make-up applications were available for guests.

Entertainment was provided by gravity-defying pole dancers, from Cherry Blossom Pole Dancing Studio Inc. The dancers stacked four-to-a-pole and earned ohhs and ahhs from the crowd.

Ladies of all ages and some gentlemen too, came out to support Bafi-Yeboa. “We were really pleased! It was a great turn out, we had amazing sponsors and giveaways, the DJs were fantastic and all our guests shopped and had fun on the rooftop,” said a spokesperson for the event.

At the end of the night Flaunt-goers left with a swag bag full of goodies and were left wondering what Bafi-Yeboa will come up with next.

Stacey Bafi-Yeboa

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