One might expect that two theatres located within a twenty-minute walk from one another—and with a similar core audience demographic—would have some kind of frosty, dramatic rivalry. Not so, in the case of the Great Canadian Theatre Company and the Gladstone Theatre. These two theatres have somewhat of a shared history; before the GCTC moved into its current location, the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre at the corner of Holland and Wellington, it occupied the theatre that, after extensive renovations, became the Gladstone.
By what we are to understand is happy coincidence, the Gladstone is opening its season with Irish playwright Marie Jones’s Stones in His Pockets, starring Zach Counsil and Richard Gélinas and directed by John P. Kelly, while later in the fall the GCTC will present Marie Jones’s Fly Me To The Moon, starring Margo MacDonald and Mary Ellis, and also directed by John P. Kelly.
The logical thing to do in such a case is to have 1) a party, and 2) a discount on tickets. So on Tuesday evening, the GCTC hosted an Irish-themed “Fly with Stones” party from 5 to 7 in their spacious lobby, featuring Shepherd’s pie, lemonade, and Guinness, as well as a live Irish band.
The highlight of the well-attended event was an informal “script-off” between the two casts, each performing a staged reading of a scene from the other’s play, sight unseen, and then each presenting a full scene from their own play. This was a great opportunity to see four experienced, versatile actors having a lot of fun with each others’ material; as Stones in His Pockets is already halfway through rehearsal, Counsil and Gélinas had a more polished scene to work with, but MacDonald and Ellis seem to have fairly developed ideas of their characters even this far ahead of their end-of-October opening night. At the very least, everyone had their Irish accents primed.
After the script-off, there was plenty of time for attendees to meet and converse with each other and the artists. This is always the best way to learn things about productions that you wouldn’t otherwise know until you held the program in your hand; for example, Counsil mentioned afterward that in Stones in His Pockets, he and Gélinas will get to perform an Irish dance, choreographed by Gladstone Theatre co-owner, fellow actor, and accomplished dance instructor Steve Martin.
Stones in His Pockets opens the 2012–2013 Gladstone season on September 7th, while we have to wait until October 30th for the GCTC première of Fly Me To The Moon (the GCTC season opens with The Secret Mask on September 11th); the theatres are offering a two-show voucher granting admission to both plays for $60, a significant cost savings (I am informed that subscribers to either theatre’s season get an equivalent discount, so nobody loses out).