Here’s something new: Lawyers backstabbing one another. No, no, I mean it. Literally. With a knife, in cold-blooded murder.
The County of Carleton Law Association and Great Canadian Theatre Co. are partnering up to take on one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, Macbeth, in order to raise big bucks for the professional theatre company, along with this year’s selected charity partner, Parents’ Lifelines of Eastern Ontario. It offers support for families with children and youth struggling with mental health and addiction challenges.
There are still tickets available for Thursday and Saturday’s gala shows but Friday is sold-out thanks to a brief on-stage appearance – happening that night only – by Daniel Alfredsson, former captain of the Ottawa Senators. He will be showing off his acting chops with Cyril Leeder, one of the club's cofounders and, up until January, the hockey team's president.
To date, the annual Lawyer Play has raised more than $1.3 million and remains the longest and most successful fundraiser for the GCTC.
The time and effort that the lawyers devote to the cause is impressive. Since early March, the 26-member cast has been meeting after work twice a week and once on the weekend, for up to four hours at a time, to rehearse.
“It’s a big commitment for people who have busy legal practices, especially during the month before the show, when it kind of takes over your life,” said Justice Canada lawyer Tara Berish.
She co-chairs the Lawyer Play committee with Dan Hohnstein, who described his involvement as “joy, pure joy.”
“We love going to the theatre as members of the audience but being part of it is a hell of a lot of fun, and the people here at the GCTC are top-notch. They are consummate professionals.”
Hohnstein, a senior associate with international trade and investment law firm Tereposky & DeRose, considers it “a privilege” to be part of the play and “to see the production side of things and to sort of see ‘how the sausage gets made.'
“It’s an opportunity to work with people in the artistic and creative community, and to do something that is completely outside our day-to-day experience.”
Being in the play also gives him the opportunity to interact with legal minds from other areas of law.
“We all practice in different fields, and we all have very different professional experiences,” said Hohnstein. “And, getting to rub elbows with some people in practice areas that we would otherwise never come into contact with is a very enriching experience.”
The play, directed by Geoff McBride, stars federal Crown prosecutor Kirk Shannon as Macbeth and Marisa Victor, from Greenspon, Brown and Associates, as Lady Macbeth. Joining them on stage are such Lawyer Play veterans as Janice Payne, senior partner at Nelligan O’Brien Payne; Ted Mann, managing partner of Mann Lawyers; Stephen Acker, counsel at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, and Mitch Charness, partner at Ridout & Maybee.
Organizers are hoping that Macbeth, a play about ambition, fate, treachery and deception, is as well received as its last Shakespeare production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Famous Macbeth quotes include “Out, damned spot!” and “Is this a dagger which I see before me?” (although, I can't hear that line without thinking of John Wayne’s voice, impersonated by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society).
In addition to the main charity partner, the GCTC is collecting in-kind donations for a different charity on each of the gala nights. Donations of non-perishable food will be collected for the Ottawa Food Bank on Thursday. New or nearly new books suitable for children up to age 12 will be collected for Twice Upon a Time on Friday and new or gently used professional attire will be collected for Dress for Success on Saturday.
Cameo appearances will also be made during the show’s four-night run by the likes of Regional Senior Justice James McNamara, criminal defence lawyer Donald Bayne as well as Ottawa politicians Catherine McKenna and Yasir Naqvi.
Tickets are $110 and include a post-show reception and $60 tax receipt.