Ottawa’s beleaguered backyard Shakespeare troupe finds refuge at Gladstone Theatre

An Ottawa youth theatre group will put on its remaining performance at the Gladstone Theatre this season, a last-minute solution after weeks of toil and trouble bubbled up from a bylaw complaint.

The Company of Adventurers, which has performed Shakespearean works in the backyard of an Old Ottawa South home for the past 10 years, will put on three free performances of The Comedy of Errors with its teenage cast at the Gladstone in Little Italy this upcoming weekend.

Paul Keen, who runs the youth theatre group with his wife Cynthia Sugars, says the Gladstone reached out to the company last week to offer the venue’s stage after bylaw said the planned backyard performances would be a no-go.

Keen said in an email to Global News that the offer was a “life saver” for the group of kids, who had worked all summer to rehearse the show, only to find out on opening week in late August that a bylaw complaint had been filed against the troupe for using a residential property for theatrical performances.

The group received a similar complaint in 2019, at which point the bylaw officer involved asked the troupe to look for a new venue.

This year, the city’s bylaw services team offered Windsor Park as a substitute venue for the play, but transferring a backyard production to an open-air park presented issues with staging that made the idea untenable.

Keen said he attempted to work with the city’s bylaw division to find a better compromise and was willing to discuss the issue with the anonymous complainants but it was to no avail.

The Company of Adventurers opted to put on a few performances over Labour Day despite warnings of potential fines.

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As a result, Keen said they received a court summons for violating the city’s zoning regulations the same day they moved the company’s set to the Gladstone.

“We’re disappointed by bylaw’s approach, but thankful for the generosity of the Gladstone, which has done so much to lift the spirits of the kids in the cast,” Keen said.

“This has provided us with a temporary solution but the future of the group remains uncertain.”

The Comedy of Errors will run on Friday, Sept. 18 at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 20 at 2:30 p.m.

Performances are free with a suggested donation to the Ottawa Food Bank.

Anyone wishing to attend is asked to contact Cynthia Sugars at to register in an effort to ensure physical distancing. Handrails and seats will be disinfected between each performance.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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