Bringing on the hits at GCTC in 2019-20

Evalyn Parry and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory in a scene from Kiinalik coming to GCTC in 2020. Photo: Jeremy Mimnagh

The 45 year old Great Canadian Theatre Company is not offering a world premiere of a new production in its new season, but that fact doesn’t faze GCTC’s Artistic Director who says in a media release: “Every play in our (2019-20) season has been a hit in another major city. I want Ottawa to have the same access to these powerful, topical plays as Toronto, Vancouver and Seattle.”

Eric Coates and the GCTC will stage five award-winning or nominated works that began their lives with other theatre companies. But before the plays become the thing next fall, the Halifax-based Prismatic Arts Festival, featuring arts and culture made by diverse groups including a strong representation of work by Indigenous artists, will occupy the theatre at the corner of Holland and Wellington. 

Prismatic’s plans for the fall of 2019 are not available yet but in the past they have featured works by artists such as the Mohawk dancer/choreographer Santee Smith and the show Tales of an Urban Indian by 22 Minutes actor Craig Lauzon, who was most recently seen in Ottawa delivering his lines on an OC Transpo bus.

The festival runs from Sept. 12 to 22. It will be featured in several venues in the city with GCTC serving as one of those.

GCTC’s season opener is the play Bang Bang by Kat Sandler, who also directed its debut in February 2018 at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto where she is the playwright in residence. Sandler is also the Artistic Director of Theatre Brouhaha.

Bang Bang deals with some pretty hot issues, including police violence against black men, voice appropriation, mental illness and white male privilege. It is particularly timely in Ottawa as the city watches the trial of a police officer charged with manslaughter in the 2016 death of a mentally ill Somali man. Bang Bang is on from Oct. 22 to Nov. 10.

Drew Hayden Taylor is one of the most important playwrights working today. The Ojibway writer is from the Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario. His play Cottagers and Indians debuted at Tarragon in February 2018. The play considers the real life controversy over the harvesting of wild rice in some lakes in Ontario and pits an Indigenous rice harvester and farmer against a white cottager who wants the lake waters clear of rice plants — the better to go boating, apparently. It runs from Nov. 26 to Dec. 15.

Clues have been emerging about the launch of Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre since NAC season announcements a week ago. Another shoe is dropping with the reveal of the first play coming to GCTC in 2020. Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools is being co-presented by the new NAC department.

The Dora award winning play was created by Evalyn Parry, the artistic director of the Buddies in Bad Times theatre company, the Inuk writer, poet, actor Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, who is a co-founder of the Qaggiavuut! Society, Erin Brubacher and Elysha Poirier along with the amazing Cree cellist Cris Derksen.

Kiinalik is a collaboration that brought together a prominent theatre artist from the North with a prominent theatre artist from the South. Parry and Williamson Bathory met as artists-in-residence on a ship filled with climate-change scientists travelling up the Davis Strait from Nunavut to Greenland in 2012. The meeting turned into a project and an exploration of culture, identity and reconciliation. It runs from Jan. 22 to Feb. 9, 2020.

Daisy by Ottawa-based playwright Sean Devine hits the stage March 10 to 29. 

This script debuted in 2016, produced by Seattle’s ACT Theatre, in partnership with Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre, a company Devine co-founded in Vancouver and moved to Ottawa in 2014. These days Devine has stepped away from the company. The current artistic directors are Ottawa theatre artists Brad Long and Mary Ellis. The performance at GCTC is a Canadian premiere.

The play is based on the story of the advertising company that created what is considered the very first modern political attack. The Daisy ad, as it was known, was shown one time during the 1964 presidential campaign of Lyndon Johnson and was directed against his opponent Republican Senator Barry Goldwater. The ad shows a little girl pulling petals off a daisy. Eventually the camera leaves the girl to be replaced by footage of nuclear bombs exploding and warning against voting for Goldwater. 

Unholy by Diane Flacks runs from April 21 to May 10. It’s a talker — literally.

Four female panelists square off in a ‘debate’ about whether women should abandon religion in the Nightwood Theatre production that debuted at Buddies in Bad Times space in Toronto in 2017.

In Unholy, Flacks assembles a lesbian atheist, a progressive Muslim lawyer, an Orthodox Jewish spiritual leader and an excommunicated nun who are recording a panel discussion for a YouTube channel called Unique Ideas Now. Fireworks ensue. Flacks’ best known film role was as the lead in the lesbian film Portrait of a Serial Monogamist (2015). She wrote for the The Kids in the Hall comedy show and has been twice nominated for an Emmy. Flacks has had numerous roles on TV including the comedy series The Broad Side.

GCTC says popular outreach programs such as Prologue, Especially for Seniors and The Hive @ GCTC will continue as will partnerships with Propeller Dance and the Ottawa School of Art. The Chefs & Shows series, curated by Thyme & Again, will return for a fourth season.

For information about the new season and on ticket packages are available at

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.