• By: Katie Hartai

A New Paradise On Stage

Actors rehearsing for the new ‘Paradise’ play. 

Ottawa lawyers continue their fight for social justice outside the courtroom. Turning from the podium to a stage, members of the local legal community are coming together through theatre to raise money for The Ottawa Mission.

Officers and civilians at the Ottawa Police Service have also hopped into the spotlight, eager to help fundraise.

PosterThe play, A New Paradise, has five shows at the Ottawa Little Theatre between February 3 and 6. It was written and produced by Ian Stauffer in partnership with his wife, OPS Sergeant Cathy Brown. Stauffer is a civil litigation specialist at Tierney Stauffer LLP who dedicates his spare time to the arts and community outreach.

“It may not be the most efficient way to raise money but it certainly has its benefits,” explains Stauffer. “The police community and law community are sometimes cast in adversarial positions. This is a good chance for people from different worlds to rub shoulders.”

Sergeant Brown agrees.

“People need to know charity work doesn’t have to be a sacrifice,” she says. “Pick something that you love doing and find out how to incorporate that into raising money.”

A New Paradise is a comedy set in a law firm. Taken over by terrorists, there is a question as to who these “people” are and what they want. It touches on subjects of terrorism, alcohol, solar farms and love. Not necessarily in that order.

This play marks the third and final installment in Stauffer’s Paradise series – all of which have been staged as fundraisers for various charities. The 2013 show raised more than $50,000.

This year’s causes are Ottawa Lawyers Feed the Hungry and The Mental Health Supports Program. Both are operated out of The Ottawa Mission.

Lawyers Feed the Hungry programs fight hunger throughout the year in Toronto, Barrie, London, Windsor and Ottawa. Stauffer and fellow lawyer, Jonathan Richardson, formed the local chapter in 2010. It works to put on meals twice a month at The Ottawa Mission for vulnerable individuals in the area.

“It really is about as basic as you can get to feed people,” Stauffer says. “I won’t pretend it is going to save the people or have a dramatic impact on their lives, but there is no question that they need hot food from time to time to keep their bodies and spirits up.”

The Mental Health Supports Program is a new partnership between the Ottawa Mission and the Canadian Mental Health Association. It provides individuals using The Mission’s services with mental health support through assessments, counseling and coordination with outside service providers.

“I really like the fact that we are giving some of the money to the mental health outreach program because ironically, I think the play has mental health benefits on the officers involved,” explains Brown. “It’s a nice outlet and gets the other side of your brain engaged.”

Volunteers at the Ottawa Mission.

Another member of the OPS involved is Inspector Paul Gallant. He plays the role of Offman.

“I love playing the character and can appreciate the type of individual that he is, but he and I have very different approaches to life, and shall we say, the management of people,” Gallant says behind a smirk.

Gallant has been acting since his late teens, but took a break until three years ago when he was asked to audition in Still Looking for Paradise – the second play in the trilogy. The officer explains that his passion for the art brought him back onstage for an encore.

“On stage, it is a giving and a taking. You are giving to the audience and taking in their energy and hopefully their appreciation for what you are doing,” Gallant says. “The process itself creates a positive environment that is extremely good for the soul.”

The performers have been rehearsing since September. During this time Gallant has built up significant respect for the cast and crew in terms of their talent and generosity, especially for the playwright.

“He is definitely one of the most accomplished actors and writers that I have ever worked with,” Gallant says about Stauffer. “Whenever he is on stage everyone around him is better because he is there.”

Other members of the Ottawa Police Service who are involved with A New Paradise include Sergeant Peter Jupp, Constable Peter McKenna, Heather MacDonald in communications and Kim Trites in mail services. Sergeant Cathy Brown contributes both on and off stage.

“People should come and watch the play because I think it is a nice escape to go out and experience live theatre with real people,” says Brown. “Also, February is a ‘blah’ month and the show is funny! I laugh out loud at certain scenes every time.”

To purchase tickets, call the box office (613) 233-8948 ex.1 or visit the Ottawa Little Theatre website at ottawalittletheatre.com. Tickets range in price from $25-$50. Charitable receipts for $25 are available for those buying $50 tickets.