Ottawa lawyers pass the bar they set in 2015

By Joseph Hutt –

The Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) and the County of Carleton Law Association (CCLA) came together on June 1 for the first of four performances of the 17th annual Lawyer Play, The Mouse that Roared. Performed by a group of 26 enthusiastic lawyers with a flair for theatrics, this year’s Lawyer Play was not just a success, it raised unprecedented funds for a local charity.

Lawyers on the main stage at GCTC. From left to right: Marisa Victor, Janice Payne, Julia Kennedy, James Jeffcott, Sig Pantazis, Brett Hodgins, Ginger Warner and Dan Moore. Photo by Andrew Alexander
Lawyers on the main stage at GCTC. From left to right: Marisa Victor, Janice Payne, Julia Kennedy, James Jeffcott, Sig Pantazis, Brett Hodgins, Ginger Warner and Dan Moore. Photo by Andrew Alexander

Through the combined efforts of these local litigators – who, on top of one hundred hours of rehearsal time, were dedicated to securing sponsorships and ticket sales – and the GCTC, approximately $127,000 was raised, making this the most successful Lawyer Play to date. Last year, the performance raised $106,000.

Since 2000, the Lawyer Play has accumulated over $1.2 million in support of the GCTC and other local charities.

Helping to lead these lawyer-actors to success was Lawyer Play veteran Geoff McBride. When the GCTC offered him the role of director, he was eager to take on the project once more, though his feelings were not quite the same during his first year.

“Last year, I was terrified of them,” says Geoff, “because people say the word ‘lawyer’ and you worry about what you’ve done wrong. To go and face a room full of these highly intelligent people is incredibly intimidating.”

However, an opportunity like this is not easily passed up by an emerging director.

“It’s a really challenging project,” says Geoff. “The only other place you’d get to work with a cast this size is the larger houses, like Stratford or Shaw.”

While some of his actors did require some extra attention, Geoff admitted that there are “a lot of veteran’s in the company who are actually quite accomplished,” including Janice Payne (Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP) and Dan Moore (Justice Canada).

Each of the four performances also included special guest cameos, which added their own twist to the performance. Special guests included Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper, Regional Senior Justice Hugh Fraser, Senior Litigator Mary Jane Binks, CBC Personalities David Gerow and Laurence Wall, and MPP Yasir Naqvi.

“People really enjoy it,” says Geoff. “There’s sort of this excited ripple that goes through the audience as they recognize the person stepping on stage. It’s a fun little moment.”

Which is just one of the many reasons why the Lawyer Play remains a successful community-building exercise. As it has continued to grow in popularity, according to Geoff, the GCTC has been able to “put more resources behind it, to the point where it’s almost an extra production in the year, where the production values are as high as they would be for another show in the season.”

As can be expected, a portion of the funds raised by The Lawyer Play directly supports the GCTC, but the CCLA always chooses a charity partner from the community to benefit from the generosity of their sponsors. This year, the CCLA has decided to support SALUS, a Kitchissippi-based charity that is devoted to creating homes and programming for those who live with mental illness.

For Salus, this funding could not have come at a more opportune time as they have just begun construction on their fourteenth housing complex. Dubbed the Clementine Project, this structure will provide 42 people with homes and the support they need to better live with their mental illnesses.

According to Lisa Kerr, Executive Director of Salus, the 42 individuals who will be moving into these residences also “have at least five years of experience” with homelessness.

“The idea behind our model,” Lisa says, “is that people can live very stable and healthy lives in affordable and well-maintained quality housing, as long as they have support to go along with that home.”

The support offered by Salus ranges from illness management to lessons in budgeting, maintaining a home, and getting back into the workforce. They also maintain arts, recreation, and health and wellness programming.

With the construction of this newest building, Salus will “have a lot of new programming needs,” such as “some very interesting programming to include… tenants in becoming environmentally responsible.”

In fact, the Clementine Project will actually be one of the first “affordable, multi-residential” structures in North America to strive towards Passive House Certification, which, simply put, means that the structure will use only 10% of the energy used to power an equivalent conventional structure.

Lisa says that she is glad to see the CCLA taking such an interest in their cause and that these resources are being made available to the community.

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