By Bradley Turcotte
The Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) splices together the worlds of stage and screen in this year’s edition of Lawyer Play with an adaptation of the Oscar-winning screenplay of the 1973 film The Sting.
Presented by the County of Carleton Law Association, the Lawyer Play event subpoenas lawyers to act in a work that is tangentially linked to the legal world. The three-gala night performances benefit Roger Neilson House, a hospice for pediatric palliative care located at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario .
The framing device for the production finds audience members entering a classic cinema atmosphere. But when the projector breaks down, the con is on and the action starts on the stage.
After two sedentary years of watching television throughout the pandemic, director and Hamilton Avenue North resident Kate Smith is eager to connect with audiences again.
“The production is relying on the fact that we are not just here for a one-sided experience. This is an exchange that happens between the audience and the actors that can only happen here, in this medium, and in this space,” Smith says. “From the second that you walk in the door, you’re going to be part of an experience.”
Notable Ottawa lawyers Mitch Charness, of Ridout and Maybee, and Ted Mann, of Mann Lawyers, appear in the play.
“I would never tell a lawyer to quit their day job and become an actor because it is a financially terrible idea,” Smith laughs. “They are fantastic. I have been working for almost 20 years as an actor and director and some of them I would definitely hire.”
Siggy Pantazis, of law firm Quinn Thiele Mineaut Grodzki, is taking part in his sixth Lawyer Play. His first appearance was in the 2011 adaptation of The Crucible where he played “Jail guard #8.” Although his debut role was small, he says he was very nervous but “it’s pretty easy when you are surrounded by professionals and talented people.”
In The Sting, Pantazis plays several roles—as does most of the cast—including Kid Twist, a seasoned con man, an assassin and a burly casino pit boss.
There is some transference between the legal world and acting for the stage, Pantazis says.
“Beyond just the law, communication is much more than the words you use. Body language, tone, pace—all of that is extremely important when you are trying to emphasize a point,” Pantazis says. “The way you ask a question is just as effective as the information that comes from the answer. In that aspect, it is similar to the skills we use in the courtroom.”
Smith’s Hintonburg-based Skeleton Key Theatre has produced irreverent material like the climate change-themed musical Deluge, and Burger King Lear, a Shakespeare inspired short using real cuisine as puppets that Smith conjured while working in fast food. Thyme and Again is one of Smith’s favourite writing spots and she says she loves creating and performing in Kitchissippi.
“There is such a great vibe in this neighborhood. It makes for such a vibrant, cool, dynamic community. We are so grateful to be a part of it and make things for the audiences here,” Smith says. “They like to be challenged—they are smart.”
CCLA/GCTC Lawyer Play: The Sting
Tuesday, June 21, 7:30 p.m., $34
Thursday, June 23–Saturday, June 25,
7:30 p.m., $87
GCTC is located at 1233 Wellington St. W. Visit gctc.ca/shows/lp22 to learn more.
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