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Théâtre Ouest End points to community inclusion

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Mother-daughter playwrights Ann Lambert and Alice Abracen are putting the community into theatre with Theatre Ouest End. (Heather Solomon photo)

Their logo is an arrow, pointing west over an aerial photo of Montreal, indicating the heart of anglophone territory.

Théâtre Ouest End is the newest company in what founders Ann Lambert and Laura Mitchell deem to be an under served area, though the presence of both the Segal Centre and Infinitheatre have paved the way.

What will make them different is that Théâtre Ouest End aims to distinguish itself as a community mouthpiece, giving a voice to those who have long gone without one, starting with seniors.

Dawson College English teachers and playwrights Lambert and Mitchell launched the theatre in March on International Women’s Day, in its rented quarters, housed in Westmount Park United Church, 4695 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

They added to their team the talents of the next generation, Lambert’s playwright daughter Alice Abracen as associate artistic director, and her fellow National Theatre School alumna Danielle Szydlowski in the post of technical director.

The four women plan to be hands-on with the aspiring writers they hope to mentor.

“We are inviting people into our space who have stories to tell because everybody needs to be heard,” says Lambert.

Weekly workshops for seniors begin this May. Théâtre Ouest End will help participants write their stories into monologues or dialogues for stage presentation in June or in the fall, with the seniors personally performing the pieces or relegating them to the talents of actors.   

“People will be encouraged to look within their own memories but everything will be treated as fiction. It gives them a lot more freedom to express themselves and connect to the artist within,” says Abracen.

Organizers will use the Amherst Writers & Artists method that had its roots in Massachusetts. The idea is that anyone is capable of writing, regardless of education, income or previous theatrical exposure.

READ: DAUGHTERS OF SURVIVORS REVEAL SECRETS IN NEW PLAY

Abracen has been exposed all her life to the creativity of her mother and is following in her footsteps. Lambert takes pride in noting that her daughter’s play One Rough Beast will be given three staged readings at Centaur Theatre May 10-12, 20 years exactly since the production there of her own play Very Heaven, that also happened to be the professional directorial debut of the now Centaur artistic director, Eda Holmes.

Beast, directed by Jessica Abdallah, is Centaur’s choice of a work by an emerging Montreal playwright for its Legacy Series.

“It’s about a controversial speaker who gets invited to a college campus and the divisions and violence that ensue, exploring the peril of dialogue across political chasms,” says Abracen.

Théâtre Ouest End will follow suit this autumn with Abracen’s The Guest, a political thriller about a woman who travels to the Middle East to visit ruins. It will be their first production showcasing up-and-coming and established playwrights.

“We’re starting with one of Alice’s plays because right now she’s a pretty hot commodity,” says Lambert, referring to her daughter’s win of the 2018 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition with The Covenant, set in the concentration camp Theresienstadt.

Their synagogue, Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, recently staged a reading of that play in the sanctuary that Abracen describes as “an extraordinary experience that was really meaningful for me.”

In the same spirit of provoking discussion, the theatre company plans to schedule a series of monthly political improvisational sketches. Mitchell’s pet project will be Murder Mondays when short murder mysteries will spice up the week. Lambert and Abracen foresee a curated open mike night as well as cold readings for works in progress, corralling professional local actors.

Meanwhile, a gala fundraiser is planned for June. “We have big plans but how much of this can actually reach fruition is contingent on securing the funding,” says Lambert. “We want to make it live and thrive.”

 

For information on the workshops for seniors, contact the company at
[email protected]