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January 19, 2017: Nurturing Art and Business; Chamber Theatre Hintonburg.

January 19, 2017: Nurturing Art and Business;
Chamber Theatre Hintonburg.

By Allyson Domanski.

“Participate in your own life—fully. Don’t sink back into that which is easy and safe. You’re alive only once, as far as we know, and what could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it?”

This quotation, a laudable New Year’s resolution, comes from Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright Edward Albee. He gave it while referring to his final play, the 2009 “At Home at the Zoo”.

Set in New York, it will soon premiere in Wellington West, aka Hintonburg, Ottawa’s ‘it’ neighbourhood according to the New York Times on January 5, 2017.

Albee, like his iconic cultural contemporaries Cohen and Bowie, died last year.

This play will be staged from February 1st to 11th by the Chamber Theatre Hintonburg (CTH) team of Donnie Laflamme and Lisa Zanyk. Not only will CTH be featured in the spring 2017 Canadian Theatre Review, but this group has a noteworthy history in our ‘hood.

Way back when the Hintonburg Community Centre was expanding and seeking ideas to engage the community, Laflamme (born and raised in Hintonburg) was there representing CTH. CTH rehearses in the HCC, employs and mentors locals, both established and emerging theatre artists.

It produces plays (like Mechanicsville Monologues) that it considers relevant to Hintonburg and Mechanicsville audiences and that those audiences relate to.

Its productions are unique. They’re mounted in taverns ( the Carleton, the Elmdale, Irene’s Pub ) where Laflamme says “the text and venue suit each other.”

CTH has a tradition of bringing plays it loves to places its audiences gather. Laflamme and Zanyk attribute their 16-year success at performing world-class theatre in local joints to keeping the audience close and engaged in an intense experience.

For instance, CTH performed Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in 2014 without its signature set but instead, on a six-by-twelve-foot riser surrounded by the Carleton’s wooden chairs and tables. Mood and time changes were suggested by simple lighting and precise choreography.

Moved by the characters’ psychological realities unobstructed by transparent staging, people (like me) wept in response. An audience at arms-distance away feels not just the characters’ emotions but the actors’ too. The same can be said for CTH’s 2015 production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape.

This is why people love CTH and its intimate brand of theatre: the personal experience of exceptional acting, little more, is affecting. Such encounters are harder to come by in traditional theatres with abundant technical effects, which can distance the audience in both spatial and emotional terms.

Expect “At Home at the Zoo” to be as affecting as CTH’s earlier productions. Albee plays peel back the emptiness and fear below the surface of everyday life.

For this three-person production (in which Louis Lemire is Peter, Jennifer Ford is his wife Ann, and Matt Smith is Jerry), CTH moves to a smaller part of the Carleton, attesting to its commitment to suit venue to text.

With the large-cast Miller and O’Neill works, CTH needed the bar’s larger side. But this smaller-cast play pushes their “intimate plays require intimate settings” emphasis further still. It uses the Carleton’s smaller side and gives audiences the best opportunity to engage with characters and text.

CTH continues to adapt. It commits to a good business arrangement with Carleton Tavern owners the Saikaleys, ensuring that art and business nurture one another.

Tickets are $20, call 613-791-4471 or 613-791-0097, or go online to https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/at-home-at-the-zoo-by-edward-albee-chamber-theatre-hintonburg-at-carleton-tickets-30644020089 for more details or to purchase.

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Photo Caption: Donnie Laflamme and Brent Rouleau in “The Hairy Ape” performed at the Carleton Tavern. Photo by Glen McIntosh.

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Photo Caption: The Carleton Tavern is also the venue for the coming production of “At Home at the Zoo”, staged from February 1st to 11th.

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Photo Caption: Plays at the Carleton Tavern are close intimate experiences with the Audience and Actors in close proximity. Here Laura Hall and Brent Rouleau perform in “The Hairy Ape” at close quarters. Photo by Glen McIntosh.

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Photo Caption: In 2014 CTH performed Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”. Here are the core cast members in rehearsal. Photo provided by CTH.

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Photo Caption: And Donnie Laflamme has himself played Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”..

jan19-2017_pg17_WE_Bob Reynolds as Uncle Ben
Photo Caption: Bob Reynolds as Uncle Ben.

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Photo Caption: CTH also produces plays like “Mechanicsville Monologues” for local neighbourhood interest. Photo by Lisa Zanyk.

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