By Tania Levy
Tucked away in Little Italy, at the corner of Gladstone and Preston, you’ll find yourself on the steps of one of Ottawa’s longest running theatre spaces. It’s hard to miss, with its brilliant marquee and bold white façade. 910 Gladstone has been a cornerstone of the theatre scene since 1982, when it was converted from a garage into the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s first permanent home. When the GCTC moved to their new space in Wellington West, the building was purchased and rebranded as The Gladstone. Eventually, the building was up for sale again. Thankfully, the new owners saw the benefit of retaining its status as a theatre, and The Gladstone Theatre Inc. was born.
The Gladstone Theatre has recently hired AL Connors as the new Theatre Manager. AL has a well-earned reputation as a theatre producer having worked with the Canadian Improv Games (CIG), Crush Improv and a Company of Fools. Apt613 met with AL – all settled into his new role – in the newly refurbished lobby of The Gladstone Theatre. We heard about the transition and what the future holds, both for the theatre and for AL.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: Tell us a little bit about your transition to The Gladstone.
AL Connors: April 2016 is when I stepped down as Co-Artistic Director of a Company of Fools, as well as stepping down as President and National Director of Canadian Improv Games. I had been looking for work throughout the summer, picking up contracts here and there in teaching and design. I saw the announcement for The Gladstone in December and I applied.
“This is very much a reflection of that independent theatre community, in the sense that there are a lot of voices. An immense variety comes in and out of the building. And that’s a sign of, I think, a pretty healthy independent theatre scene.”
You’re a working artist in the community. What were your experiences as an artist using The Gladstone?
I’ve been lucky enough to be an actor in the space a whole bunch of times. Most recently, in the fall of 2015, in The Norman Conquest trilogy. Which is possibly the longest single acting contract I’ve ever had! I’ve directed plays here. Most notably, A Midwinter’s Dream Tale from a Company of Fools. Before it was at the GCTC, we played around in here. I’ve done a lot of design work. I produced a bunch of improv shows and sketch comedy shows here over the years, including Crush Improv anniversary specials.
People may not know, but you come with a pretty extensive background in theatre administration. How long did you work at the CIG?
I worked administratively for CIG for 16 years. I became a co-regional director for the Ottawa region in 2000. Even though I’m most recognized for being onstage, I do have an arts admin background. Arguably, I’ve done more arts administration than other artistic things… You rarely get to see or hear about that stuff.
So, your work with CIG and Crush Improv have set you up for the significant of running a full space like The Gladstone.
One of the greatest things about The Gladstone, in its latest incarnation, is that for a facility with as many amenities, the capacity, the really fun look and aesthetic – it’s very much still a do-it-yourself space. I have, over my career, worked in just about every theatre role there is. I have an appreciation of what all those moving parts are. And an understanding that can help me troubleshoot whatever random element may come up.
“It’s already rented out through the next 18 months. And we still get enquiries all the time.”
What’s unique about The Gladstone?
Having so many different personalities and companies and flavours in the building. But, also operating as its own unique entity. This is very much a reflection of that independent theatre community, in the sense that there are a lot of voices. An immense variety comes in and out of the building. And that’s a sign of, I think, a pretty healthy independent theatre scene. It’s already rented out through the next 18 months. And we still get enquiries all the time.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to in your first year in the role?
This’ll be a story for later on. But soon we’ll be launching the 2017–2018 season. The year after that will be The Gladstone’s 10th anniversary. Because it is still 18 months away, there is actually time to develop some ideas. It’s a bit more opportunity to give The Gladstone visibility and to trumpet all of the successes that have happened in this building over the last ten years. That’s going to be a cool project to work on.
I have been amazed by how many positive messages I received when I announced that I was taking over as the theatre manager. So, that’s been a really heartwarming thing – to be welcomed in by this community, in that way. It puts the pressure on. It’s like “Oh, people are paying attention. I guess I should do this right!”
Visit www.thegladstone.ca to see what’s playing at The Gladstone this season.