By Joseph Hutt –
Eric Coates, Artistic Director at the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC), is trying his hand at a pilot project that puts an emphasis on community outreach. Suitably dubbed as the In the Lobby Series, this free of charge event will turn the GCTC lobby into a venue for the theatre’s very own late-night talk show.
Hosted by Coates himself, In the Lobby will feature music, comedy, and, most importantly, conversations with a variety of local residents who have left their mark on the neighbourhood. With their first showing scheduled for November 14 and the second for mid-March, the community’s enthusiasm for the project really seems to shine through with the guests that Coates has already managed to line up.
In the Lobby’s first round of special guests includes Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper, Thyme & Again proprietor Sheila Whyte, and Shara Weaver, Co-Artistic Director for the Propeller Dance Company. There will even be a house band, led by GCTC Managing Director Hugh Neilson, and the evening’s musical feature will put the spotlight on Gerri Trimble, popular jazz singer and local resident.
Not only will this live talk show give people the chance to learn about and hear from these community figures, it is also Coates’ hope that the show will give its audience the chance to get to know the GCTC better as well.
“It’s a way for us to get people who live in this neighbourhood to get acquainted with us at a community level, rather than purely at a presentational and professional level,” says Coates.
As a patron, it can be hard to see a theatre as much more than a performance venue. If you go into one, it is most likely because you are there for a show that you have paid to see. Coates wants to change this assumption.
“We want people to understand,” he says, “that every time they walk into this building, it doesn’t mean that they’ve had to buy a ticket.”
In the Lobby may very well be the first step in transitioning the GCTC from a largely theatrical venue to a community hub, accessible and open to a larger number of people.
“We have all this fantastic real estate here,” says Coates, gesturing to the empty lobby, “and we’d like to expand on that and turn this lobby into a more dynamic space.”
While the pilot run for In the Lobby has not yet opened itself up to a more involved community collaboration, Coates hopes to see this change once the show has time to evolve. However, for the time being, he is focusing on keeping things simple and, above all, free.
The downside to this is that there will be no recordings or broadcasts of these first shows.
“Right now the goal is to do it using as few resources as possible,” Coates explained.
While this means that many won’t have the chance to view the production, “that’s the beauty of theatre,” Coates explains. “It happens in the moment and people come to see it, and if they miss it they miss it. It’s ephemeral and I like that.”
It also further solidifies the concept of the GCTC as a community hub and getting people to interact with it on a personal level, as opposed to through some digital third party.
As an active member of the community himself, this engagement is central to what Coates is trying to achieve.
“There’s a lot of interesting stories here,” says Coates, “and I just want to get them out there.”
Reserve your free ticket at the GCTC box office in person, or call 613-236-5196.