By Suzanne Bowness - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 0 Comments
The incubator for pros and home for amateurs thrives 100 years after its first play
Rich Little was moping around the house. The 18-year-old had vague dreams of a career on the stage, so his mother took him down to Ottawa Little Theatre, where he auditioned for his first role. He got the part—and four lines. “I got a laugh,” he says. “And I walked off stage and said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do for a living.’”
Last week, Little—a master impressionist who has appeared everywhere from The Ed Sullivan Show to Laugh-In to Hollywood Squares—brought his latest one-man act, Jimmy Stewart & Friends, from Las Vegas to Ottawa for a benefit concert to honour the community theatre where he got his start. “I think if it wasn’t for the Ottawa Little Theatre I wouldn’t have gotten into showbiz,” he says. “I learned my craft there.” Although he performed in about 15 shows beginning with that first role in the mid-’50s, Little says he also used to sit in the wings and watch other performances. “It was a great education to see really skilled actors work.”
The oldest continuously producing communty theatre in Canada turns 100 this year; it predates the National Arts Centre by 56 years. Some very early shows were in what is now the Canadian Museum of Nature. Its niche is mainstream productions, the standards as opposed to the edgy and the avant-garde, offered at reasonable prices.