How far would you have to travel to find Canada’s busiest theatre? You might be surprised to learn it’s actually right here in your own backyard. The Gladstone Theatre is tucked away in Ottawa’s Little Italy neighbourhood and is gearing up for its 11th season of non-stop entertainment.
With 23 new plays on the 2019-20 schedule and an average of 25,000 audience members per year, The Gladstone is an engine that drives the independent theatre industry in Ottawa. Theatre manager AL Connors says the single stage at The Gladstone sees action more nights out of the year than any other theatre space in Canada. The idea of calling it the busiest in the country started out more as a joke, and eventually transformed into a motto for the crew.
“We’ve been calling it Canada’s busiest theatre for a couple of years now, wondering if anybody would call us out on it, or prove us wrong, but nobody has,” says Connors.
The momentum of the theatre is propelled almost entirely by local, independent theatre companies. With a core group of seven Ottawa companies making up the eight-show Resident Company Season, the rest of the year is filled out by an eclectic mix of comedies, dramas and musicals created by Ottawa area talent.
“The Gladstone moves at such an incredible pace,” says Connors. “A company will load their stuff in on Sunday, do a tech rehearsal on Monday, often have a preview audience on Tuesday and open on Wednesday. The speed at which the activity happens is one of the most remarkable things.”
Something you might not know about The Gladstone is that the theatre is a not-for-profit organization with registered charity status. The goal of the 230-seat rental theatre is to provide a sustainable and affordable home for the theatre companies of Ottawa.
“The advantage to having an entity dedicated to taking care of the theatre as opposed to having an interest in what shows go on, is that I can do my best to put the patrons first,” says Connors. “If we’re going to spend money at the theatre I want it to be on something that will improve the patron’s experience, no matter what show they see.”
That includes recent upgrades to the theatre’s ventilation system and an upcoming replacement of the building’s heating and cooling unit. The level of care extends to the concession stand, where patrons will find an extensive selection of Ottawa craft beer that will rival even the best pubs.
It’s never been easier to get to the Gladstone, being less than a 10-minute walk from Bayview Station on Ottawa’s new LRT line, and just steps away from the Trillium multi-use pathway that connects Dow’s Lake to the Ottawa River.
Tickets are on sale now for all shows in the 2019-20 season at thegladstone.ca. Packages start at picking two plays to save five per cent, buying four plays saves 10 per cent, a six-pack of shows saves 15 per cent, and the eight show season subscription gives you a savings of 20 per cent. The first show of the Resident Company Season, The Ugly One, presented by Plosive Productions, runs from Sept. 26 to Oct. 5, 2019.
“Probably the best quality of The Gladstone right now is the diversity of programming,” says Connors. “It’s all local, happening all the time.”