Visitors to the Ottawa Little Theatre might be interested in a few facts about this theatre... Canada's oldest continuing theatre.
The Ottawa Little Theatre has been producing plays in Ottawa since 1913. The subscription membership of this theatre is in excess of 8,000. The theatre is a comfortable 510-seat auditorium, designed specifically for their use after the original building was destroyed by fire in 1970
This is a non-professional community theatre. Eight productions running 18 evenings each are presented, one per month from September through May. Summer Theatre presents a popular and entertaining musical each year, also running 18 nights.
Each season the theatre offers the School of the Theatre, the Canadian One Act Playwriting Competition, and other theatre-related extension courses. The Ottawa Little Theatre has a Wardrobe Department which rents costumes.
The Ottawa Little Theatre has never received any financial assistance for its productions from any government source, municipal, provincial, or federal. The theatre is entirely dependent on its patrons and subscribers and other generous donations.
The Ottawa Little Theatre has for the past 8 decades played a valuable part in the life of this community.
Probably one of the best places to learn about the theatre's history is a book called "Staging a Legend" by Iris Winston.
Published in 1997 by Creative Bound Inc it tells the long and fascinating story of one of the Capital's theatres. Iris, a History M.A., is local to Ottawa and has written for a variety of newspapers and magazines. She is also the author of two Social Studies textbooks. As Iris puts it:
"Ottawa Little Theatre has been an integral part of the city for the last 84 years. Much more than the oldest amateur theatrical group in the country, Ottawa Little Theatre, founded as Ottawa Drama League in 1913, is at the heart of Canadian theatre. As the original home of the Dominion Drama Festival, it had a major effect on the developement of acting, directing and technical skills across the country. It has survived two world wars, the Great Depression, and two devastating fires. As the alma mater of thousands of theatrical hopefuls, professionals, and local and international celebrites. it remains a major force in theatre across the country."
A great addition to any theatre, or history, minded person's library, "Staging a Legend" can be purchased at bookstores, by contacting the Ottawa Little Theatre or through Creative Bound Inc in Carp, Ontario at 613-831-3641. Their address is 151 Tansley Drive. P.O. Box 424, Carp, Ontario, K0A 1L0.
The following is a bit of information about how the Ottawa Little Theatre operates
How'd They Do That?
The Ottawa Little Theatre's sets and costumes come in for many compliments, and the praise belongs to a dedicated group of staff and volunteers. These are the unseen heroes whose talent and dedication go to making the Ottawa Little Theatre's productions as great as they are.
The theatre is fortunate in having its own workshop, wardrobe and properties room within the building. Most community theatres have to make do with a couple of nights before opening to erect sets and do all the necessary technical adjustments.
At the Ottawa Little Theatre, it all begins when the director, appointed by the board of directors, seeks out his/her own department heads to design the set, costumes, lights, sound and properties. The Ottawa Little Theatre is fortunate in that there are a number of talented volunteer set designers who will take on the job. A few staff members will also design as well as construct the sets. Set designers must provide the technical co-ordinator with ground and elevation plans long before the play is set to go onstage.
You should know at this stage, that a play takes 10 to 12 weeks of preparation from the first audition call to closing night of the three-week run. When one play closes on a Saturday, the crew comes in Sunday and strikes that show's set and completely clears the stage. Most of the next show's set will have been built in the basement workshop, and Monday will see the crew busily constructing onstage. In most cases, the cast of the next show will be rehearsing onstage the same night, giving them almost two weeks of nightly rehearsals to refine their play before opening.
Gordon Beckingham, a long-time employee is the Ottawa Little Theatre's Technical Director.Gordon is responsible for pretty much everything to do with production and the theatre building. He is the main problem solver for everything from leaky faucets in the rest rooms to the rhinoceros head hanging from the set in front of you. Gordon is a talented carpenter, props builder and set designer. It is almost impossible to count the numbers of small details that Gordon must pay attention to.
Next up, is Edward (Ed) Guignion, their Scenic Artist. If you've ever wondered how a community theatre can afford such things as marble fireplaces, look no further that Eddie, who can work miracles with a can of paint and some of his secret tools of the trade. Eddie, too, is a talented set designer.
Tom Pidgeon is the Master Carpenter. Tom not only builds walls and floors, he also builds, doors, cupboards and whatever else comes out of the fertile imagination of the designers. Tom, too, is a fine set designer.
Susan MacKinlay is Wardrobe Coordinator. While she designs costumes for one or two plays a year as a volunteer, her main duty is building individual costumes and overseeing the main wardrobe area, which has a vast array of clothing from almost every period. Much of the clothing in the wardrobe department has been donated by friends of the theatre. Recently, it was discovered that the Ottawa Little Theatre owns tuxedo pants once belonging to Canada's great First World War flying ace, Billy Bishop. Susan is also in charge of the burgeoning costume rental business the Ottawa Little Theatre does.
Barry Charles is a recent arrival as a full-time employee. Barry is the theatre custodian, but he also doubles as the man in charge of their warehouse on Thurston Drive, as well as the props and furniture rentals. Barry has catalogued all of the furniture and props, complete with photos.
Everyone connected with the Ottawa Little Theatre, including the President and board of Directors, is more than grateful that such a competent and talented group is on staff to ensure the continuing quality of the plays.
Besides the eight full-time employees of the Ottawa Little Theatre, there are part-time employees who work in several positions: Ushers, Bartenders, Checkroom Attendants, and a weekend cleaner.
Although there are no vacancies at present, if you are interested in any of these positions, please contact Sandra Ponech at 233-8948.
All the plays at the Ottawa Little Theatre are put on by people who do so as volunteers - people who do it for love of the theatre alone. This includes not only the Director and the actors, but also those who design the lights, sound and the set for each show; people who create props, costumes and set dressing; people who do make-up and hair, prompting, and every other imaginable task associated with putting on a play.Without people to work in these important areas, the play cannot go on.Volunteers can learn the techniques from experienced operators and designers on first-class equipment.
If you are interested in working on a play, but don't want to be on stage, there are still many positions needing to be filled on any play. For more information call their Administration office at 233-8948.
Auditions at the Ottawa Little Theatre are held two to three months before each play begins. The director determines the nature of his auditions, but most are held on a Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in the auditorium of the Ottawa Little Theatre, and those auditioning are asked to use the backstage door on Besserer Street. No particular experience is necessary, and newcomers are welcome. Those auditioning are usually asked to do a cold reading from the script, which the director will provide. Auditions usually last several hours, depending on how many people try out for the parts. If you want to be part of a play, but don't wish to act on stage, you may offer your services to the director and the assistant to the director to help backstage.
Co-op Student Programme
The Ottawa Little Theatre regularly participates in the Co-op programme of the Board of Education and Algonquin College Theatre Department, through which students acquire hands-on training working with the experienced backstage staff at the Ottawa Little Theatre in erecting sets and constructing costumes. These students are also encouraged to further expand their skills by volunteering to help in the production of the plays in their off-hours.
How do you become a director of a play at the Ottawa Little Theatre?
If you wish to direct a play at the Ottawa Little Theatre, please call them.
How are plays selected at the Ottawa Little Theatre?
Plays are selected annually by the Ottawa Little Theatre Play Selection Committee, made up of six people who carefully study many, many scripts before selecting the entertaining nine that you will see gracing the Ottawa Little Theatre stage throughout the year. Some of the members of the Committee are from the Board of Directors, others are technical volunteers, while others may be interested subscribers.
If there is a play you would like to suggest for production at the Ottawa Little Theatre, write to the Play Selection Committee with the title, author and any other information you may have about it.
Annual General Meeting
The Annual General Meeting of the Board of Directors is held in the auditorium of the theatre at 2 p.m. on the first Sunday in December each year. Members of the Board of Directors will present reports on the various facets of the theatre during the preceding year. At this meeting, six of the twelve members of the Board of Directors are elected to the board. Any subscriber is entitled to vote, if they have indicated their desire to be a voting member when they applied for their tickets, or if they have stated their desire to vote in writing more than four weeks before the Annual General Meeting. Proxy votes must be received in the Business office before the end of business on the Friday preceding the Annual General Meeting.
Election of the Board of Directors
The candidates will be elected for a two year term. You are reminded that in accordance with the By-law of the Theatre, only voting members are eligible to vote in the Annual General Meeting.Ottawa Little Theatre
400 King Edward