Comments on Dinner a la Art.

by Lynn on April 13, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

I’ve written often about the endless font of creativity that is Arkady Spivak, the Artistic Producer of Talk is Free Theatre in Barrie, Ont. Aside from producing some of the best theatre around pre-pandemic, he produced The Plural of She, a festival of plays and productions by women and female-identifying artists, that took place in private back yards last summer; he created a three year commitment to actors that would guarantee them contracts and a wage; he had private readings for actors to give them work and some income; and to provide stimulus for local restaurants he came up with a scheme for dinner and zoomed play reading called Dinner á la Art.

As Arkady Spivak describes it: “People had to either dine in (from the moment we announced to recent lock-down), have delivered, picked up a meal from a locally owned restaurant in Barrie, Collingwood, Orillia or Midland. They could also buy a gift certificate or donate a meal to a stranger at a rest’s choice. Those from away took advantage of the last two options. When they did any of the options and spent at least $30 on the dinner itself, they received a free link (of the reading) from Talk is Free theatre. So the theatre part itself was free.”

The readings took place last week from April 7-11, a reading per evening. The Series was curated by Richard Ouzounian, who also directed and adapted three of the readings. The conditions were that the plays had to be in the public domain and they had to be cut to 90 minutes playing time.

The readings were: Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw, Riot by Andrew Moodie, She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, Bright Lights by Kat Sandler and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The casts were stellar; a combination of notable international names, leading Canadian actors and up and coming artists to keep an eye on; names such as: Ed Asner, Len Cariou, Cyntia Dale, Alexis Gordon, Eric McCormack, Noah Beemer, Brandon Chandler, Glynis Ranney, Mike Nadajewski, Chilina Kennedy, Malindi Ayienga, Gabi Epstein, Colin Mochrie and Amy Keating, among others.    The results were splendid on the whole with a few murky sound issues that were resolved quickly. The readings were accomplished, the stories were clear and the humour and drama were expertly realized. It was a wonderful initiative to help the restaurants of the local areas around Barrie, Ont. and of course to provide these artists with the opportunity to use their skills.

More of these initiatives will no doubt be coming from Talk Is Free Theatre soon. Watch this space for details.

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