Upcoming GCTC Season Showcases Local Talent

Since 2012, artistic director Eric Coates has been bringing his unique artistic vision to the Great Canadian Theatre Company. With some innovative and interesting partnerships just announced for the Theatre’s upcoming season, it’s safe to say that Coates’ leadership is leading the GCTC into new and exciting territory.

Coates’ first got his start in theatre as an actor working for the Stratford Festival. He then moved to the Blyth Festival and stayed with the company for 19 seasons, 10 of which he worked as an artistic director. It was during his years at the Blyth Festival that he developed new Canadian plays and became passionate about new works. When the position opened up at the GCTC, Coates couldn’t say no.

“I was really interested in working in an urban environment, as opposed to a rural one,” Coates says. “(The GCTC) seemed to be looking for all of the skills I had developed, and I love Ottawa. I’m a huge outdoors enthusiast, so this is absolutely the right environment for me.”

As an artistic director, Coates determines what the upcoming season will look like, including production and directorial choices, along with overall artistic vision. One perk of this role, Coates says, is that he can choose what projects he works on, and who he works with.

“Being an artist is an extremely precarious existence,” he laughs. “Those things are real gifts that very few people in the industry really have access to. It’s a great pleasure.”

Eric Coates. Photo courtesy of Andrew Alexander.

When choosing a play, Coates tells me that he likes works that immediately grab his attention. A play that the theatre recently closed, The Butcher, was a highlight for Coates. Written by Ottawa-born Nicholas Billon, The Butcher has reached steady success across Canada. Coates tells me that its old-fashioned format and structure made the thriller a fun play to work on. An additional highlight for Coates was one of the first plays he directed when he joined the company: This is War, written by another Ottawa-born writer, Hannah Moscovitch.

“That was a very powerful experience,” he says. “It got me in touch with the local actors, and the community of artists that we work with. And it got me in touch with events in the Canadian military, (as well as) our involvement in Afghanistan…It was a pretty special one.”

And the powerful experiences just keep coming for Coates. Big things are occurring at the GCTC, including some exciting new partnerships which have been formed as far as across the country and as close as across town. This November, the theatre is working with the Belfry Theater in Victoria, British Columbia, to help co-produce Kate Hennig’s play The Last Wife. The play, which premiered at Stratford last year, is one that Coates describes as an “exciting feminist piece.” Set in contemporary North America, “The Last Wife” is the story of Henry VIII and his last wife, Katherine Parr.

“Hennig is drawing a direct line from the feminism that emerged in the Tudor age, and how it relates to the struggles that women still experience today,” Coates tells me. “It’s very sexy and it’s very funny. It’s a very, very smart piece.”

The GCTC is also keeping things local for its 2017 season. An innovative partnership with the Ottawa French theatre company Theatre la Catapulte will see an all-French performance (with English surtitles) come to the theatre in February of 2017. Written by Gatineau-based playwright Luc Moquin, Les Passants is a series of vignettes that explore trust, risk, and human relationships.

“We’re really excited about it. It’s been a high wire act for us to put a totally different work in front of an English-speaking audience, but we think it’s going to be hit. We’ll be bringing a French audience into our theatre, which doesn’t happen very often.”

Coates believes that Canadian theatre is at a very exciting point, and it’s still growing. Coats explains that theatre is still a relatively young art form in Canada, meaning that for its first hundred years, almost all work was obtained from Europe, and then gradually from the United States.

“Now, in our generation, almost all the work is being homegrown and we’re at a very exciting point,” Coates says. “We’re finally starting to feel grown up, and it’s finding a place on the world stage.”

If you would like to find out more information about the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s exciting upcoming season, visit www.gctc.ca.