Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre, an Ottawa-Vancouver company with new roots in Nepean, will stage its production Re:Union at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival in June.
Magnetic North is an annual festival which celebrates performing arts in Canada. The festival is held in Ottawa every two years and in other Canadian cities in the alternate years. This year’s festival will take place at venues across Ottawa from June 4 to 13 and will showcase 10 productions including four by Ottawa based theatre companies.
Sean Devine is the co-artistic director of Horseshoes & Hand Grenades who wrote and co-directs Re:Union. Devine is also a playwright-in-residence with the Great Canadian Theatre Company, based in Hintonburg. He said the strong presence of Ottawa companies in Magnetic North’s main programming this year is unprecedented. Usually shows by Ottawa companies are scheduled as part of the festival’s smaller satellite events.
“This is one of Canada’s largest theatre festivals,” he said. “And it’s rare that Ottawa companies get showcased there.”
Devine co-founded the theatre company in Vancouver in 2004 but moved to Ottawa with his wife Alexa and their three children in 2014, settling in Nepean. Alexa Devine and Ottawa actor Brad Long will co-star in Re:Union. Long is a Barrhaven resident who teaches in the performing arts department at Algonquin College.
Devine said despite being a newcomer to Ottawa and its theatre scene, his family and his theatre company feel welcome here.
“We’ve got a more active community life here already than we did in Vancouver. We couldn’t be more thrilled with it,” he said. “Just like the social experience we’ve had with our neighborhood, the local theatre community has openly welcomed Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre. From what I’ve heard, we fill a void here, in that we’re an established, professional, small theatre company.”
The cast of Re:Union will begin rehearsing on May 18, logging 42 hours each week for two weeks leading up to the festival. Devine has hired a team of 15 cast and crew members from Ottawa, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Montreal. He expects the production to cost between $65,000 and $70,000 and relies on grants from the Ontario Arts Council and fundraising campaigns, including an Indiegogo.com crowdfunding page, to cover that cost.
But it’s not for nought.
For the people behind Horseshoes & Hand Grenades and other companies participating in the festival, putting their works on display at Magnetic North represents an opportunity for exposure on the world stage. The festival draws an audience of producers and presenters from across North America and Europe who look for exceptional content to bring to their local theatre markets.
“This opportunity at Magnetic North is the best showcase we could have imagined,” Devine said. “This festival is a launch pad for exporting Canadian theatre.”
Re:Union deals with the true story of a Quaker man in America who died after setting himself on fire to protest the Vietnam war with his baby daughter and United States Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as witnesses. The story fictionalizes the journey of the man’s daughter 36 years later to confront McNamara about her father’s death.
“It’s a very powerful story, and the ending is quite sad,” Devine said. “Essentially, it’s a David and Goliath story about the impact that individuals can have against social injustice.”
Re:Union will run from June 5 to 9 at Academic Hall, on the University of Ottawa campus. Tickets can be purchased at the National Arts Centre box office and through ticketmaster.ca.
Donations to cover the cost of the production can be made through the company’s crowdfunding campaign at igg.me/at/reunion-mag-north.