Arts

Léo, in a new production from Tarragon, Aluna Theatre, and GCTC, deals with identity in times of crisis. Image: Léo/Tarragon.

Ottawa’s most prolific regional theatre has partnered with Tarragon to give Ottawa audiences access to Rosa Labordé’s acclaimed play

Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company (better known as GCTC) has been shuttered since March due to COVID-19. (Their last in-person production was Daisy, which had only one public performance before the pandemic.) 

Despite their extended closure, GCTC is still working to bring timely theatre that “provokes examinations of Canadian life and our place in the world” with the help of the similarly-renowned Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. Together alongside Toronto’s Aluna Theatre, they have engaged in an audio co-production of Léo by Ottawa’s own Rosa Labordé as a part of Tarragon’s Acoustic Series.

GCTC and Tarragon go way back: avid Ottawa theatre fans might remember last year’s Cottagers and Indians at GCTC, which was an imported Tarragon production directed by Tarragon’s artistic director, Richard Rose. 

This year’s joint venture, Ottawa playwright Rosa Labordé’s Léo, is a timely production, according to Tarragon’s Richard Rose. The play, which first premiered in 2006 at Tarragon, is set in 1973 Chile at the height of the military coup d’état.

“It’s a very good play with elements of universality,” said Rose in an interview. “It’s teenagers finding themselves and their political views during a difficult time – not unlike now. That’s hard, doubly hard when there’s a coup (or pandemic) going on.”

“It’s a time of calamity, both in the play and now,” said Rose. “How do we grow beyond that?”

Tarragon has additionally partnered with Aluna Theatre to present the play in both English and in Spanish.

“We’re partnering with theatres and companies across Canada for our Acoustic Series,” said Rose. 

The Acoustic Series has subcontracted the popular CBC PlayMe podcast series to produce these new audio plays (you may remember our review of the PlayMe production of Huff last month), which opens the series to a range of new audiences. 

Léo, in particular, gives Tarragon the benefit of a host of new potential audiences, thanks to the play being available in multiple languages, and being co-produced by the Ottawa-based GCTC with its own loyal patronage.

There’s no denying that the theatre sector has been hit hard by the pandemic. When asked how Rose (whose tenure at Tarragon is set to end next season) has approached curating an all-online season, he said it’s been difficult.

“We’re doing fewer new plays, revisiting old shows for the acoustic series. Our new play development has halted for a while, which has been hard,” he said. 

That said, Léo is just as relevant as ever. “It still illustrates the Canadian multicultural way really well,” said Rose.