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Ottawa Fringe’s undercurrents festival Invites Audiences to Embrace Curiosity

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/By / Feb 1, 2023
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Ottawans won’t have to wait until June to experience some of what Ottawa Fringe offers. 

Kicking off on Wednesday, February 8th, this year’s undercurrents festival will see stories of love, racism, climate change, cultural identity, the housing crisis, and… singing nuns.

“Like a lot of good theatre, these shows will hold up a mirror to society and inspire us to ask questions about our world. We invite you to be curious and to join us for all that undercurrents has to offer,” said executive director Alain Richer in the company’s official press release.

Running February 8–18, the annual winter festival will be presented bilingually, with French-language productions as well as some French late-night programming. Additionally, select French performances will feature English captioning, presenting English audiences with an exciting opportunity to explore the festival’s offerings in a new way.

The mainstage lineup features seven shows focused on storytelling, political movement, and identity; meanwhile, the Discovery Series of four plays features clowning, dance, poetic explorations of loneliness, and the aforementioned singing nuns.

Founded in 2011 by Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC), undercurrents festival is produced by Ottawa Fringe and now takes place in the downtown core at Arts Court. Since its inception, the contemporary theatre festival has hosted 21 world premieres and presented 17 productions as part of their “under development” program. Featuring work from local, national, and international artists, it’s a festival not to be missed.

Here is the lineup for the 2023 undercurrents festival:

Mainstage Productions


Why Worry About Their Futures

Three short plays by Keith Barker, Lawrence Aronovitch & Sanita Fejzić
February 8–12

Kicking off the festival on February 8, these three short plays share a common concern for the kinds of futures adults cultivate for their children.

Ça rime avec vinaigre

Created by Katia Café-Fébrissy
An English-Captioned Performance
February 9–11

At the crossroads of a TED Talk, slam poetry, and theatrical performance, this solo performance with “David-and-Goliath-esque” scope tells the story of systemic racism that could have been a story of racism like any other — except this one is the story of the author’s son…

Léna

Created by Ferline Regis
An English-Captioned performance

February 9–12

In a cabaret, flamboyant singer Léna recounts her adventures in Canada through music, song, and dance. She portrays her departure from Haiti to Canada to realize her dream of singing on a big stage in North America.

Pest Me Pet Me

Created by the Animacy Collective
February 10–12

A show following two raccoons who face off with two female roommates undergoing a suspicious “renoviction” from their downtown apartment. United by ongoing compost bin wars and raccoon Instagram funerals, the two species find themselves with more in common than previously thought. A horror-comedy exploring themes of displacement, female rage, and the housing crisis.

Beth-Anne

A World Premiere
Created by Nicholas Leno & Monica Bradford-Lee

February 16–18

Middle-part ponytail. Meet Beth-Anne, a horse-loving girl who can’t work up the confidence to ask her crush on a date, even after practicing on magazine cutouts of sexy male models. In an effort to become more desirable, she decides to transform herself — into a horse. Of course. Beth Anne must become a horse.

Dressed as People: A Triptych of Uncanny Abduction

Performed by Margo MacDonald
February 15–18

A school haunted by troubled children, the mysterious disappearance of a friend in the forest, an encounter with the unknown on open waters. Three characters, three time periods, three tales of abduction and the intrusion of the uncanny into the lives of those who are taken, those who do the taking, and those who are left behind.

Would Virginia Woolf Contemplate Suicide if She Were Filipino

Created by Riley Palanca
February 16–18

Inspired by the Boys’ love phenomenon in Asia, the one-act play tackles issues of intimacy, sexuality, and race through the eyes of two gay Filipinos in Montreal: Lemar, a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant, and Warren, the son of rich immigrants. After matching on Manhunter, they meet for a night of sex, drugs, and mental health.

Discovery Series


Juliana

Created by Cullen Elijah McGrail & Alli Harris
February 16–18

Juliana just wanted to write another best-selling book about animals. Sister Philippa just wanted to be Juliana’s most devoted follower. But was it God or Nature who led the two Sisters deep into the forest? Who separated them and sent them paths full of trials, tribulations, and musical numbers? Who is going to make sure they leave the woods as completely different women…

‘QiGongidaa!’

Created by Hilary Wear
February 17–18

Qi gong may be an unregrettable, calming-energizing practice. A seasonally-directed, culture grounded method to support and sustain wellbeing, it is being offered by this Clown as a trustworthy shared experience activity to do, alone or together. Winter is a period of stillness & these playful movements can maintain our warmth and tranquility. The theatrical Clown piece uses Anishinaabemowin and different musical styles/silence.

Small Tortures (I love you)

Created by Ludmylla Reis
February 9–11

This is a dance-theatre piece that invites you to see the underlying dynamics of relationships. What happens when we learn the language of power?

Three Plays for the End of the World

Written by Cole Hayley
Directed by Chelsea Dab Hike

February 10–12

A poetic exploration about violence in the theatre, and theatre as violence; an examination of the gray-space between personal morality and vigilantism; and a one-person monologue that explores the loneliness brought on by the pandemic and our climate crisis. Although the plays were not initially designed to be performed together, their thematic threads have revealed themselves over time, inspiring the team to envision each play as being a part of a larger trilogy involving the dread and helplessness of our current age. Three Plays For The End Of The World is not a premonition of what’s to come, but instead an offering of what has already arrived.


The 2023 undercurrents festival takes over Arts Court February 8–18, 2023. Tickets and the complete schedule for undercurrents festival are available online here.

Jessica Watson
WRITTEN BY

Jessica Watson

Jessica is a former associate editor at Intermission, as well as a writer, classically-trained actor, and plant enthusiast. Since graduating from LAMDA in the UK with her MA in acting, you can often find her writing screenplays and short plays in the park, writing extensive lists of plant care tips, or working on stage and screen (though she uses a stage name). Jessica freelances with various companies across Canada, but her passion lies in working with theatre artists and enthusiasts.

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