Post by Tania Levy
This weekend marks the opening for the fifth incarnation of the Fresh Meat: DIY Theatre Festival. This testing ground for indie theatre has seen more than forty short plays premiere since 2012. Starting October 13th, audiences can sample 10 new and experimental productions in their earliest stages of development. It’s a chance to see nascent ideas tested out before a live audience. And it’s that opportunity to explore potential, without the fear of failure, that makes Fresh Meat such a unique night out.
Some shows never move on from Fresh Meat, but several have gone on to longer productions and workshops at the undercurrents festival, and others have toured Canada. Fresh Meat is a great way to explore Ottawa’s theatre scene, whether you’re an intrepid connoisseur of the art form or you haven’t seen a play since high school. From veteran artists to the newest emerging talent, variety is what’s on the menu.
[Fresh Meat’s artist application] only asks for a very a short description, so they’re willing to take a chance on your risk-taking.
This instalment of Fresh Meat takes place over the next two weekends (October 13–15 and 20–22) with a different set of 20-minute shows playing each weekend. Check the festival website for lineups. Each weekend also features another “shorter than short” play (10 minutes or less). The October 13th kick-off closes with Fresh Meat’s 5th Birthday Party, featuring beer by Dominion City Brewing Co., and food by Seed to Sausage General Store and Moo Shu Ice Cream.
Not quite sure what to look for? We’ve asked three of Ottawa’s most well-known independent theatre artists for their advice. Emily Pearlman is a new work creator, known both for her award-winning solo productions, as well as those with Mi Casa Theatre Company. Patrick Gauthier is a freelance director, curator of the undercurrents festival and producer of the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Catriona Leger is frequently involved in new works, both as a director and actor, and is the Artistic Director of A Company of Fools.
Apt613: Which shows are you looking forward to at this installment and what makes Fresh Meat so unique?
Emily Pearlman: Burger King Lear is a great choice for newcomers. Everyone’s had a taste of Shakespeare in high school. This is fast food puppetry. I told all my students about it. Kate Smith is an engaging creator and Madeleine Boyes-Manseau is wonderful at shaping artistic chaos. This is a great pairing. I’m also looking forward to S.S. Lightbulb. These creators are the “freshest” of meat. They’re still students at the University of Ottawa. Making work while learning is a valuable experience.
Patrick Gauthier: Pierre Brault by Will Somers. It’s is a “response piece” to Pierre Brault’s recent production, Will Somers [a fool in the court of King Henry VIII]. It’s a piece about identity. Will is an interesting creator, so I’m intrigued to see how Pierre’s show sparked this one. There’ll be live music, too.
Catriona Leger: “OH NO!” said the parrot with Mitchel Rose and Madeleine Hall. Mitchel and Madeleine really understand physical theatre. Their approach to creative work is very fresh, very now. Mitchel studied at the École Jacques Lecoq in Paris and has toured Europe. Madeleine has studied with Philippe Gaulier and has toured Canada. I expect it to be very surprising and innovative.
PG: Mitchel and Madeleine won the Emerging Artist award at this year’s Ottawa Fringe Festival, and I really enjoyed that show. Unzipping the Cat is also on my list. I knew Winston [the cat in question], and he’s a bit of a legend in the theatre community. I’ve liked Kevin Reid’s previous Fresh Meat and Fringe work, and he always takes risks.
Apt613: How much experimental theatre is there really at Fresh Meat?
EP: The wonderful thing about the festival is that it’s a launch pad. Their application only asks for a very a short description, so they’re willing to take a chance on your risk-taking.
CL: Fresh Meat is a great place to see artists try things without the pressure of creating a 60-90 minute piece. The festival is a cool, cutting edge experience in a city that can be a bit safe.
PG: It’s great because you can try something short and funky. Even if a piece doesn’t move beyond Fresh Meat, doing the work is important. It introduces emerging artists to the community and gives established artists a chance to experiment. I look forward to it every year.