In a rush of patriotic pride for Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s a year of celebration on many fronts in Ottawa, especially in the artistic world.
One of the most unique and accessible explorations of Canadian arts and culture will take place at The Gladstone Theatre from May 25 to June 10, when Plosive Productions presents the English-language première of Québécois playwright Claude Montminy’s hit comedy, Maestro. A hilarious depiction of the off-stage antics of members of the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO), the play has been previously been presented in French to great acclaim.
“A chance encounter with a Canadian playwright gave me to learn that his original French script for Maestro had just been translated into English by Nina Lauren and Danielle Ellen,” explains Plosive’s founding co-artistic director, David Whiteley. “We felt this play offered an ideal opportunity to present a work in both official languages and we liked that it was a comedy as well. Spring is the time of year for something a little lighter and after the kind of year our continent has had, perhaps something amusing is needed.”
The play revolves around the lives of three characters: the NACO’s principal second violin, her recently estranged boyfriend and the orchestra’s new Maestro. The violinist, eager to become concertmaster, invites the eccentric conductor to her home to convince him to promote her, but the Maestro has something else in mind. To make matters worse, her ex-boyfriend, a composer, shows up and insists on making himself a third wheel for the tête-à-tête.
Directed by l’homme de théâtre Gilles Provost (former Artistic Director of Théâtre de l’Île), this new production will be performed by an illustrious trio of Ottawa-Gatineau actors Manon Lafrenière, Serge Paquette and David Whiteley, with alternating performances in English and French.
“I learned of the living legend that is Gilles Provost the day after I moved to Ottawa, 20 years ago,” says Whiteley. “Not only does he have an amazing six-decade career under his belt, he’s one of those rare artists who bridges the English/French divide. It’s a thrill to finally be directed by him – in both languages, no less – and to have him bring his talent to Plosive Productions. And what better way to do it with a production that’s simultaneously an English-language première and a first French-language show for The Gladstone. On top of all this, it will be Gilles’s last show before retiring, and it’s a true honour for Plosive to work on this, his parting gift.”
Despite its emphasis on humour, the show is by no means a lightweight. “Comedy can still provide a very enriching experience,” offers Whiteley. “This show has real human characters, lots of substance and something to say but it doesn’t feel like a chore in the least to watch it. I think audiences will really enjoy it because the play offers a very fun story, which we’ve chosen to set in Ottawa. The cosmopolitan nature of NACO made it seem very appropriate for our setting; although the institution of the NACO is real, the character of the conductor is not, but he may remind people of famous conductors who have worked in Ottawa.”
Whiteley hopes that people who are keen supporters of classical music will enjoy getting a peek at aspects of the lives of world-class musicians that one doesn’t normally get to see. “Although the play is intended for adults, there are many elements which would resonate with younger audience members, especially if they are keen musicians,” he adds.
One of five resident theatre companies at the newly-incorporated, historical The Gladstone Theatre, Plosive Productions was eager to focus on Canadian content in its 2017 offerings. In addition to Maestro, Plosive’s annual radio play will be themed ‘Canada in the wars’ and is slated for the week of Remembrance Day. Voices from the Front will present a collection of verbatim reports, testimonials, letters and radio broadcasts from Canadians in the two world wars.
The Gladstone affords a great opportunity for independent producers to stage plays in a beautiful space, notes Whiteley, adding that there are almost two dozen productions scheduled in the theatre’s upcoming 2017 – 2018 season. “The theatre itself is a wonderful size and very well designed with great sightlines throughout. Our artistic community in Ottawa is very fortunate to have this venue to give audiences a chance to watch local indie artists practicing their craft. Plosive Productions, like the other resident companies and various guests, is honoured that The Gladstone provides a home to companies like ours.”
The Gladstone Theatre is at 910 Gladstone Avenue. For show times and tickets, please visit thegladstone.ca or call 613-233-4523.