Undercurrents runs from Feb. 7–17. Photo: Courtesy of Undercurrents.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

undercurrents festival to offer “pay what you can” deal for students

From Feb. 7–17, undercurrents festival, part of Ottawa Fringe Fest, will present more than 30 theatre performances in the Arts Court Theatre and the National Arts Centre.

This is a great opportunity for students as there is no fixed price. You just show your student ID, pay what you can afford, and you’re in.

As their tagline, “Theatre below the mainstream” suggests, Undercurrents festival is looking to present work that would not usually be seen on Ottawa stages. The spirit of this event is precisely to be a platform for non-conventional and experimental theatre.

“We try to change the perception of the theatre. A lot of people can be intimidated by not knowing what to wear, maybe showing (up) at the wrong place or not knowing what to do when they go to a theatre. We try to break that down with an open atmosphere,” said Patrick Gauthier, the undercurrents festival’s director. “A lot of people have the perception that theatre is what you learn in high school: Shakespeare, Molière.”

Gauthier is hoping to change this perception and introduce people to alternative modes of theatre.

“Theatre is not one thing, it can be many different things,” he said. “I want someone to come for the first time and say, ‘I didn’t know that theatre could do that.’”

undercurrents also intends to speak about subject matters that usually stay away from the stage, like The Pipeline Project, which discusses fossil fuel dependency, cultural heritage, and first-world privilege, as well as political conflicts in Canada’s oil industry. Another example is The Twilight Parade, a movie screening combined with live storytelling with actors.

This year, the undercurrents festival aims to connect with students, especially university students. For this reason, the admission for students will be “pay as you can, no questions asked,” as Gauthier said. The offer is valid for all performances except Daughter—which will take place at the National Arts Centre. According to Gauthier, this will also help to get people to know more about what theatre can be.

“You never hear someone say, ‘I don’t like music’, but you hear people say, ‘I don’t like theatre.’ And it’s not that they don’t like theatre, but they haven’t found a theatre that they like, that speaks to them,” Gauthier said. “We want to introduce to people theatre that is for them.”

The Ottawa-based festival intends to serve as a platform for emerging local artists—as well as artists from three other provinces—to show their work. The majority of these plays are being shown for the first time, and undercurrents intends to help these up-and-coming artists gain the support and experience they need to boost their careers.


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper