As is tradition at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, when the final curtain falls on another great season, the time is ripe for GCTC’s annual Lawyer Play. This year is the 19th edition, and to celebrate, the team of lawyers—some fresh, some veteran—is putting on a triple bill of one-act Agatha Christie plays.
Until Saturday, June 9, you’ll be able to catch the Lawyer Play in support of Tungasuvvingat Inuit, an Ottawa-based charity that provides counselling and social services to Inuit people.
One of the joys of the annual event is its grassroots nature. As many as half of the actors have never acted before in their lives, and the audience is witnessing the results of a few months of rehearsal.
If you’re thinking, “It makes sense that lawyers would be adept at acting because of all the time they spend in court. Court is acting, right?” think again. Tara Berish, a veteran lawyer and lawyer-come-actor with 12 years of experience in the annual Lawyer Play, explains that not only is court distinctly unlike acting, many lawyers don’t even to go court. She says the connection does often get made, nonetheless.
“Well, it’s funny, we do actually get that question more often than you would think, but it’s not a bad question,” she says, forgiving my ignorance with grace. She explains that it’s the draw of the theatre itself that has kept her coming back. “Oh my gosh, performing is like the best feeling on Earth.”
Eric Coates, the GCTC’s Artistic Director, feels similarly. He is directing two out of the three one-act plays this year, and the experience has brought him closer to the core beauty of theatre. There’s something raw and immediate about working with such a diverse cast, experience wise.
“There are people doing it for the first time, and there are some that have been here for 15 years,” he says. “That’s an interesting thing to try to balance.”
Coates has been involved in the Lawyer Play since he started as Artistic Director in 2012, often choosing the production for the year. The plays put on in support of charity over the years have tended to veer towards classical, popular theatre, mostly due to the requirement for a large cast. For Coates, part of what is interesting about adapting plays like this is that many of them have to be reworked to suite modern audiences.
“A lot of the large cast plays from the 40s and 50s are hard to stage now because of cultural changes,” says Coates. “What we’ve done is changed the way people may respond to things that happen in the play.”
For the Agatha Christie plays on display this year, that means changing the way certain characters react to blatant sexism. Instead of being complicit in the joke, these characters will now react with shock at something that, in the 1960s, would have been seen as commonplace.
The upshot of all of this is that, with the Lawyer Play, audiences can expect a theatre experience that is more fluid, perhaps more engaged with the art of theatre itself in a way. Watching first-timers perform is something that can be at once terrifying and very satisfying. I guess that’s a little like court, isn’t it?
The GCTC’s annual lawyer play fundraiser is running until Saturday, June 9. The show begins at 7:30pm. Tickets cost $40–110 online.