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Capital Critics’ Circle recognizes U of O play directed by recent grad

Photo courtesy of Ekaterina Shestakova

The University of Ottawa’s department of theatre production Princess Ivona won the award for best student production from the Capital Critics Circle, a club of professional theatre critics.

The award ceremony was held at the National Arts Centre on Dec. 2. The awards recognize the best of Ottawa’s English professional and community theatre for the 2012–13 season.

Ekaterina Shestakova, who was completing her master’s of fine arts in theatre directing in 2013, directed Witold Gombrowicz’s Princess Ivona in March. The play is about a bored prince who decides to marry Princess Ivona, a strange woman no one at court likes or understands. Shestakova’s modernized version examines society’s preoccupation with image, branding, and appearance.

“It was one of the most attended productions at the department of the year,” Shestakova said. “Lots and lots of people came to see the show, it was fantastic.”

Since directing Princess Ivona, Shestakova wrote her thesis on the production, graduated from the U of O, and has been focusing on running her company, Once Upon a Kingdom Theatre. She’s stayed connected with the U of O, working with the director on Princess T in Oct. 2013, a play by Daniela Fischerová about a princess who doesn’t want to get married.

Once Upon a Kingdom Theatre primarily runs theatre classes and workshops for children aged six–14, including a summer camp production at the U of O. Shestakova has been working with children in theatre for more than 10 years and created her company five years ago.

“It’s always very interesting to see what’s coming out of this process,” she said.

While there is a big disparity in the age groups she’s worked with this year, she says there are many similarities in working with children and university students.

“Teaching acting is similar for all ages but obviously there is a difference working with students,” she said. “They’re already young professionals so they have lots of knowledge. Working with children you’re more concerned with the process, and working with adults you’re more concerned with the result.”

For the coming year, Shestakova looks to expand her business through developing her studio, doing administrative work, hiring new teachers, and continuing to grow her student body