U of O alumnae team up for podcast on Ottawa theatre scene

As the CBC sells off their production centres, Canada’s largest print media company buries itself in more debt, and newspapers lay off journalists left and right, covering the arts is one of the last things on most journalists’ minds.

Fortunately, Ottawa theatre writers Kat Fournier and Jessica Ruano are here to fix that—with a podcast.

Fournier and Ruano, both University of Ottawa alumnae and active members in the local theatre scene, premiered their new podcast Just Another Gala on Soundcloud on Feb. 15. The podcast is a weekly series, releasing new episodes every Monday, and is hoping to give the Capital’s theatre field the coverage it deserves.

“In a lot of professional media you see less and less (arts) coverage, merged newsrooms, and that kind of thing,” says Fournier. “Jessica and I are both passionate about talking about theatre and the importance of theatre and our community, and having that discussion… and it just came out of that, like a ‘what if?’ kind of scenario.”

Both women are passionate about what they believe is an emerging theatre scene in Ottawa, with theatre series like TACTICS popping up in the past few years and the U of O’s theatre department getting new digs at the Ottawa Art Gallery’s new home in 2017, and feel that wider coverage will help inspire more growth in the already growing scene.

“We’re seeing more spaces, we’re seeing more theatre companies, we’re seeing more conversations… there’s this tiny bit of growth that’s happening, and it’s all about catching that growth, and being enthusiastic about it, and really encouraging it,” says Fournier.

Although both Fournier and Ruano come from a print media background, they decided to try their hands at podcasts, as they noticed the rising popularity of the format and felt it would be a good way to attract a wider audience with whom to share their love of local theatre.

Ruano feels that with the extensive amount of print content accessible online people are often sharing articles on social media and reading things quickly, but that podcasts are a more relaxing medium that give you the chance to “let yourself get into it.”

“(You can) listen to it while you’re cooking or doing something else. It can become part of your day,” says Ruano.

For those curious about the name of the series, Ruano and Fournier chose it as a tongue-in-cheek reference to a comment that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper made about government arts funding back in 2008. Harper made a statement saying that “ordinary people” were not interested in funding “rich artists hosting and attending galas,” says Fournier.

“What came out of it, really, was a political movement, and it was a shared movement in the arts community across Canada,” says Fournier. “We were both really inspired by this shared moment in arts history in Canada.”

“And the idea being that like all the plays at work, all the events we go to, all the panels we attend, it’s ‘just another gala’,” said Ruano.

As the podcast grows, Ruano says her and Fournier will be brainstorming new segments and other tactics to cover local theatre, and staking their place as active voices in Ottawa theatre in general. After all, there’s always another gala to cover in the Capital’s blossoming art scene.