Tale Wagging Theatre debuts tonight at Ottawa Fringe

by Patrick Gauthier

June 18, 2010

Published June 17, 2010
by Dan Plouffe

Orléans writer John Cook jumped off a building in an attempt to kill himself. Orléans’ Jen Jarvis (right), along with Tom Charlebois, are two  actors in Tale Wagging Theatre’s debut production, The Rooftop Guy.  Photo by Dan Plouffe

Or at least that was the (untrue) rumour that inspired him to pen the script for The Rooftop Guy, the premiere production for his Tale Wagging Theatre company, which runs June 17-27 at the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

One day several years ago, Cook was talking to a group of friends about a person who was contemplating jumping off a roof, and when he left the conversation, someone else misinterpreted that it was Cook who was the jumper.

“A couple of hours later, some friends were calling and saying, ‘Are you okay? We heard you were trying to kill yourself,’” Cook recounts. “I thought, wow, there’s a good story.”

After attending a couple script-writing workshops, he came up with the roughly hour-long show that was offered a spot in the Ottawa Fringe through its lottery system.

“It’s a fun play,” Cook says, explaining there are three characters in the play who work for the government’s Department of Instruments and Measurements, or DIM. “One distraught employee is supposed to have jumped off a roof. And as soon as his ‘absolutely shattered’ colleagues hear about this, they instantly go into his office and pick it clean of all sorts of office equipment.

“So the rest is the repercussions of this, and also, things aren’t as they really seem to be – that’s all I’ll say about that.”

With his theatre roots in east-end groups Vintage Stock and Orléans Young Players, this will be the first show for Cook’s own theatre company – a project he’s always wanted to attempt.

“There’s a lot of really good community theatre here in Ottawa, and there are a few professional groups, but I just thought we still need more,” explains Cook, who envisions a not-for-profit company that provides opportunities for new, emerging and established artists in a professional environment.

Through his past theatre connections, Cook assembled a cast and crew led by Teri Loretto, who has directed several OYP productions, to perform The Rooftop Guy.

“What’s unique about working on this show is just how normal everyone is,” Loretto laughs. “In theatre and art, you get a lot of very special personalities. With these guys, there have been no arguments, no dissention, they respect each other; our new mantra is, ‘Keep the drama out of the theatre.’”

The Rooftop Guy also features Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School grad Jen Jarvis, who plays Gail. Jarvis, who says she recently got back into acting because it’s more fun than her recent role as casting director for a TV movie, devotes her spare time to the arts when she’s not managing the Rogers store on Orléans Boulevard.

“I’m feeling comfortable about the show,” Jarvis notes, adding the 40-50 hours put into rehearsals all happened relatively quickly. “I just want a lot of people to see it because I think it’s a great show.”

The Rooftop Guy plays on Thursday, June 17 (9:30 p.m.), Saturday, June 19 (11 p.m.), Sunday, June 20 (2 p.m.), Wednesday, June 23 (6:30 p.m.), Friday, June 25 (6:30 p.m.) and Saturday, June 26 (8 p.m.) at the University of Ottawa’s Studio Léonard-Beaulne (135 Seraphin Marion Private). Admission is $12, with audience members receiving 2-for-1 coupons to Absolute Comedy.