Arts

The Ottawa-based festival gives students, and new performers a chance to try new things. Photo: Parker Townes.

Fresh Meat Theatre festival explores new ways of taking stage

On Oct. 11, the Fresh Meat Theatre festival kicked off its seventh year with an enthusiastic opening night, filled with 20-minute experimental shows which showcased some of Ottawa’s most passionate performers.

“The short format gives artists a lot of freedom to just try something (new) … you can try something that’s really out there if you know that it’s just a short concept, ”explained Madeleine Hall, one of the co-founding producers of the festival.

The Ottawa festival, which runs on the weekends from Oct. 11 to Oct. 20, provides theatre producers, both new and seasoned, a safe place to throw their ideas against a wall in a way that large-scale festivals might not normally allow.

However, while many of the artists were new, the festival does not limit itself to accepting emerging performers—which, Hall finds as one of its strengths. “Suddenly these very seasoned artists, and these newcomers … (are) on the same level … I think it’s very powerful to put people with different experiences together as peers,” she said.

“We felt that Ottawa was missing this kind of low risk, high reward open-access platform— especially (for) emerging artists to make a new show, and just try it in front of an audience to see if it works,” explained Hall.

Among the lineups for this weekend are Husk, Beth-Anne, and Centripetal Force—all of which are experimental pieces that feature U of O students as actors or creators.

“I’ve been wanting to work on creating theatre—I think it’s a great opportunity to create our own stories and put them out into the world,” said Hayley Dennis, a fifth-year theatre and communications student at the University of Ottawa, and the writer and director for Centripetal Force.

The shows that played this weekend incorporate everything from the personal experiences of some producers and casts, to new techniques aimed at entertaining audiences and telling thought-provoking stories.

While Montana Adams, a fourth-year theatre student, and creator and actor for Husk, worried that the audience might have difficulty relating to the show, she explained that “it’s okay if they don’t get it because this is a safe place to do so. The people who are watching and know what the festival is about will (not judge).”

“I just had this funny idea about (a) girl with the middle part that wouldn’t leave my mind—and this festival felt like the perfect time for me to (express it),” Monica Bradford-Lea, a graduate of U of O, and creator and actor for Beth-Anne. “So I felt like I really had free reign to just go out there and ask—who is (Beth-Anne?),” she said.

While there weren’t many common themes in the opening night’s performances—with some being lighthearted, and others much more serious—that chaotic dynamic helped keep it fresh, as each story showcased an artist’s perspective on what theatre can do.

“Fresh Meat is such a great platform for new emerging artists,” Dennis told the Fulcrum. “I’m brand new, so I thought it’s the best place to get my foot in the door and (hit) the ground writing.”

Catch Fresh Meat from October 11 to 20 at the Arts Courts Studio. Tickets are $20 for everyone at the door, or $15 for students online.