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The Rubber Chicken Award

Theatre makers vie for title of “Ottawa’s best theatre company” at the annual Theatre Challenge—03.27.19

By Laura Gauthier and Samara Caplan on March 25, 2019

Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever).

So, you’ve been diligently reading Apartment613’s theatre previews and reviews, heading out and checking them all off your list, right? Well, maybe not every one, or even as many as you would have liked, but, lucky for you—and the rest of us!—this Ottawa theatre event is a chance to catch up on multitude of talented companies at once.

The Ottawa Theatre Challenge takes place on World Theatre Day, March 27, at Arts Court Studio and promises to be a show like no other. Theatre groups from across the city have been challenged by a Company of Fools to compete—all for the coveted Rubber Chicken award and bragging rights as “Ottawa’s Best Theatre Company” for a whole year.

Each group is given only 48 hours to come up with an original idea, rehearse, and perform a new piece based on inspiration items provided by last year’s winners. Bribes and trash talk is encouraged, and it’s all for charity—so the actors pony up!

We chatted with Nick Leno, company administrator for a Company of Fools, about what this year’s challenge has in store.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Apt613: How did the Ottawa Theatre Challenge come about?

Nick Leno: It was created by Scott Florence and AL Connors… born to build a sense of community among all of the indie theatre companies that might produce work at the Fringe or other theatre festivals around town.

This is the 19th iteration of the Ottawa Theatre Challenge!

Any tips for newbies who are coming out to watch for the first time?

Anything goes on stage… I’ve seen shows where God throws cocaine at the audience, wet lizards rise out of potted plants, and two mimes fall in love on an OC Transpo bus.

And the judges can be bribed! If there’s a show that you want to see win the evening, be sure to bribe the judges in front of the audience. Trash talking is also encouraged, so don’t be shy!

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Toasted Theatre Company actor poses with the Rubber Chicken Award in 2018.

Are there rivalries? Do companies usually gang up on last year’s winner?

Toasted Theatre Company are the reigning champions and they’ve been throwing down a lot of smack talk. You can check out our Facebook page to see some of the dirt that’s being dished.

Based on the line up of artists we have competing, I think Toasted Theatre will have to work pretty hard to keep their current title. I will say that their My Little Pony Murder Mystery play was beyond worthy of last year’s Rubber Chicken Award.

How has the Theatre Challenge changed over the years?

Companies and participants have come and gone as the event has continued over 19 years. It’s always awesome to see young artists get together and try creating theatre under such a tight format. Sometimes they go on to continue working together for many years to come.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Actors’ Fund of Canada, which we know the proceeds from ticket sales are going to support?

The AFC provides emergency financial aid to assist TV and film actors, theatre actors, and all cultural workers in recovering from an illness, injury or other circumstances causing severe economic and personal hardship.

Many arts and culture workers are self-employed contract workers who don’t have access to some of the benefits that accompany employment at a larger business.The AFC helps fill a need in emergency care for those people.

Why is this an event that audiences should mark down in their calendars and make sure not to miss?

Aside from seeing the results of a 48-hour creation frenzy by more than thirty local theatre artists, we also have Eric Coates from the Great Canadian Theatre Company delivering the World Theatre Day Address and Ottawa’s fave MC Leslie Cserepy hosting the entire evening.

It’s a fun evening of silliness that celebrates theatre and raises money for an important charity. Plus, there’s lots of free salty snacks and a cash bar run by Collective Arts What’s not to like?

The Ottawa Theatre Challenge is happening at Arts Court Studio (2 Daly Ave) at 7:30pm on Wednesday March 27, 2019. Admission is pwyc (suggested odnation $15–35). The show runs about two and a half hours. See Facebook for more details.