2 min

Curtain set to rise

Act Out gets a second wind

ON THE AGENDA. The board of Act Out Theatre hopes to set up a Chris Raynsford Memorial Committee. Chris is seen on the left with other members of the cast of Hair. Credit: Capital Xtra files

After being forced to spend several months offstage, Act Out Theatre is working its way into the spotlight again – but this time, with a lot more support.

The community-based gay and lesbian theatre group is incorporating after being on hiatus since October of last year. Behind the scenes, secretary Geoffrey Wale says a new board of directors has also been selected.

“It went through a critical phase late last year but now we’re back on track,” explains Wale, who has taken the stage in three of the theatre’s productions. “To be eligible for funding, you need to be incorporated. Now it will be a more collegial effort. We’ll continue to get the company structured.”

The theatre debuted late in 2001 with Arthur Jamieson at its helm and managed to put on several successful productions including Hair, Poor Super Man, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me and The Laramie Project, before the theatre went dark in the fall of 2002.

“Basically, Jamieson was the theatre. It proved to be a bit much,” explains Wale of the little theatre that ran mainly on sponsorships and donations.

Jamieson remains as the artistic director, but the responsibility for running the theatre will now be spread among several people.

Wale says the next step is to resume production of Naked Boys Singing. “We still have the rights to it, we’re hoping for an extension. We’re attracting lots of talented people. There’s been a lot of interest, a lot of enthusiasm.”

Some members of the gay and lesbian community invested several thousand dollars in the production late last year, representing only a portion of the outstanding debts the theatre is now facing. George Hartsgrove, president of the theatre’s new board of directors says Act Out intends to assume responsibility for most of these debts.

“We will definitely be starting in a position of less than zero,” says Hartsgrove. “But I think it’s really important that the community knows that we are coming back as a new reformed entity.”

While nothing is set in stone, the board is planning to put on four productions this season. Suggestions to date include “Pageant,” “Li’l Abner,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” a French production and even a “gayed-up” version of Scrooge.

But for now, the focus is on membership, stresses vice-president Eric Simard. “One of the things that’s clear is Act Out Theatre is not a job,” he says, explaining the need for volunteers. “You’re never going to make a killing volunteering in community theatre. This is a passion.”

The theatre’s new structure includes four committees – production, promotions, script search and membership activities. More informally, the board is hoping to set up a Chris Raynsford Memorial Committee. Raynsford, a former participant in Act Out Theatre, was found dead in his apartment on Dec 4, 2002.

“We’re not trying to replace one Art with five Arts,” explains Simard. “We’re trying to replace one Art with a community of Arts.”

Treasurer Denis Schryburt supports Simard’s point of view, adding that membership costs $15 per season. “It’s a small price to pay to have queer theatre in Ottawa,” he says. “Membership is open to everyone.”

Board member Lucille Lacelle says, “What we would like to do is get the people who love theatre and are knowledgeable about it involved and share their knowledge. This theatre has to leverage that creativity and that knowledge,” she explained. “We see theatre as a venue to learn and hone the craft.”

For more information on Act Out Theatre, visit their web site at