Catriona Leger’s summer reading ranges from epic, to astrology

Story and photo by Bradley Turcotte – 

Catriona Leger directs A Comedy of Errors, which descends on Westboro’s Clare Gardens Park on Tuesday, July 28 at 7 p.m. Leger recommends solo female travel stories to add adventure to your summer reading list.
Catriona Leger directs A Comedy of Errors, which descends on Westboro’s Clare Gardens Park on Tuesday, July 28 at 7 p.m. Leger recommends solo female travel stories to add adventure to your summer reading list.

Kitchissippi theater troupe A Company of Fools is celebrating 25 years of Shakespearean shenanigans but Catriona Leger, director of The Comedy of Errors currently touring Ottawa parks, says you’ll find more than works by the Bard on her Kindle.

“Sometimes I read Shakespeare,” Leger laughs, but recently, she says, a podcast featuring author Jennifer Pharr Davis sent her on a non-fiction adventure jag.

“I devoured her books and started reading all these books about the Appalachian Trail,” Leger explains. “Then I got into Cheryl Strayed and Wild. The book is amazing. I find a lot of inspiration in solo female travelers.”

If Leger were to embark on a solo expedition she may look to the stars for guidance as, in addition to devouring books on directing and management, she describes herself as a “horoscope nerd.”

“I really love books on astrology but I have a discerning eye. I won’t just read anything,” Leger says.

Sun Signs by Linda Goodman, while dated, Leger admits, is a touchstone for astrology aficionados. Leger says those looking for a more modern approach to astrology, entries by Starsky and Cox are insightful reads.

Additionally, classic authors like Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming and Timothy Findley can claim Leger as a fan.

Leger slowly worked her way through Findley’s bibliography over the years and his biblical alternate history novel Not Wanted on the Voyage is one of her all-time favourites.

“It’s a fictional take on the great flood and Noah,” says Leger. “It’s told from the perspective of Noah’s wife and this blind, pregnant, old cat named Mottyl; who are neither of them wanted on the voyage. It’s about them getting the ark ready and the family coming in. The devil ends up on the ark in disguise. It was the first time I think I ever wept when I read a book. It’s just a wonderful story.”

Adapting Shakespeare’s works for a modern audience while keeping the play riveting can be as arduous as a voyage at sea but Leger says she abstains from taking too many liberties with his classic source material.

“We do have to edit the show. The extra challenge for a director in this case is we only have six actors with budgetary considerations. Sometimes all six actors have to be on stage playing 20 different characters… I try to stay as true to text as possible but I will change a word here or there just to be clearer to a modern audience’s ear.”

Leger describes her interpretation of The Comedy of Errors as a “fun, physical, comical romp” topped off with justified violence and slapstick.

“Our whole concept this year was to be inspired by Where’s Waldo and Dr. Seuss,” Leger says. “These are very human characters. You can recognise yourself in almost any of them. Even though there is crazy hilarity going on, there’s really a lot of humanity to them. They also are these sort of cartoonesque looking people and it’s such a visual treat.”

Area residents can check out A Comedy of Errors at Westboro’s Clare Gardens Park on Tuesday, July 28 at 7 p.m. For more information about A Company of Fools, go to fools.ca.

This post is part of our KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.

All the world’s a stage

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This photo is from the Company of Fools production of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Hintonburg’s Catriona Leger.

Kitchissippi’s Company of Fools is returning to local parks this summer with another original interpretation of one of The Bard’s classic plays.

This season’s production is the romantic comedy, As You Like It and Hintonburg’s own Catriona Leger will be playing Phoebe, Touchstone, and Oliver. There will be two performances in Hintonburg Park on July 18 and 19, and one at Westboro’s Clare Gardens Park on August 5. Audience members are asked to bring a lawn chair or blanket, bug spray, and a sense of humour. All shows begin at 7:00 p.m., and suggested donations of $15 are collected at the end of the performance.

For more information and a schedule of all of their shows, call 613-863-7529 or check out their website at fools.ca.

Theatre in Kitchissippi's Parks: A Company of Fools

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This summer, a Company of Fools will be taking over Hintonburg Park for the tenth anniversary of their summer Torchlight Shakespeare series with their production of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Hintonburg’s own Catriona Leger.

“Downton Abbey meets Bugs Bunny, and they all get together and eat some jellybeans,” are the words Leger uses to describe her latest work with the Fools.

The Merry Wives of Windsor is a classic comedy that tells the story of Shakespeare’s rouge, Falstaff, a con man with a penchant for drink and women and his failed attempts to woo two married women.

“Shakespeare is something that particularly as a director I find I’m doing more and more of,” says Leger. “I love directing Shakespeare because the text is so rich and the stories are so engaging, but it’s also open to interpretation and fantasy.”

Leger’s interpretation brings the story to England’s Edwardian period, a period where women are just starting to find freedom. This is exemplified as we see the merry wives use and abuse Falstaff for their own amusement. Everything is presented with a heavy dose of saturated colour from the costumes and backdrop.

The constant challenge facing a Company of Fools production is putting together an entire cast of characters with only six actors. In this production 19 characters are split between the crew. “It’s a challenge that I embrace,” says Leger.

One of the actors in this summer’s production is John Doucet, also of Hintonburg. Doucet has three roles in the Merry Wives: Parson Hugh Evans, Mistress Quickly and the host of the Garter Inn.

“Catriona has been very good about making sure that we stay within her rules and we’ve been very good about making sure we push her boundaries,” says Doucet.

For added chaos, the play’s final scene requires all characters to be on stage at once. One of Leger’s clever solutions has been to replace actors with puppets, incorporating a ventriloquist style into the production.
“One of the things I love about the Fools, is they take these big plays and they figure out how to do them with only six people. To me that’s exciting theatre,” says Doucet.

Company of Fools received a special honor earlier this month, when Mayor Watson declared July 3 Company of Fools Day in Ottawa.

The Fools are touring the show through parks in every neighbourhood in the city, arriving at Hintonburg Park for performances on July 26 and 27 and Clare Gardens in Westboro on August 6. Doucet is looking forward to opportunity to perform close to home, “Hintonburg park is great, my wife and kids come and we make a picnic of it.”

The performances start at 7 p.m. and run for 90 minutes. The show is free, but donations are greatly appreciated as the support keeps local theatre alive.

Look for Doucet again this September as Company of Fools continues the adventures of Falstaff in Margo MacDonald’s adaptation of Henry IV, Hal & Falstaff.