Stage Door News
Ottawa: Odyssey Theatre’s series of audio dramas “The Other Path” begins today
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
The concept for a new series of audio dramas created by Odyssey Theatre originated a few years ago, when artistic director Laurie Steven had her teenage goddaughter living with her.
Seeing the variety of podcasts, web series and video blogs that engaged the teen was an eye-opening experience for Steven, and it gave her a sense of the creative possibilities of the online world.
”I saw through her eyes that this is an important part of the path forward for theatre, to have some kind of rapport between the live experience and digital,” Steven said in an interview. “At that time, there was no time, no money and no space to do anything about it, but ideas started rooting.”
Opportunity arose when the pandemic struck, forcing Odyssey to scrap plans for its annual Theatre Under the Stars production in Strathcona Park. The 2020 run would have marked the 35th anniversary of the company Steven founded in 1985 to bring outdoor theatre to Ottawa.
A series of digital initiatives was soon launched, which led Steven to dream of a way to create original theatre in an audio format. She came up with The Other Path, a series of five audio dramas each telling a different story. The first one drops on Oct. 5.
“The concept of an audio drama podcast was really appealing because we do a lot of stories and work with a lot of text, and, even though it’s all staged, the kind of work that we do is focused on being imaginative,” she said. “With a podcast, you can tell a story that’s completely imagined and you could set it on the moon if you wanted to, as long as you create the soundscape for it. That was very exciting.”
Steven initially thought the entire project would take six months or so. Instead, it was “two very intense years” that began by commissioning five award-winning Canadian writers to each come up with a 30-minute story, based on a folk tale, that would not only deliver a kernel of universal truth relevant to contemporary adult audiences but also include a dash of comedy.
Multiple drafts later, each story went through two workshops, plus the process of casting, recording and then post-production. Despite her decades of experience in theatre, Steven said it was a steep learning curve for her and the company.
“It was way more complicated than we expected,” she said, “and at times I thought I was going to just tear my hair out, but, as it all came together, it was really exciting and really interesting to work on.”
Although Steven is planning the company’s return to Strathcona Park next summer, for the first time since 2019, she also hopes to raise the funds for more episodes of the podcast.
Meanwhile, her goddaughter, the former teenager, has given the podcast a stamp of approval.
“I was a little worried that she might think we’re coming into her world, but it turned out to be a good thing,” Steven said. “Anyone I’ve talked to appreciates the idea that something that is a fantasy can also have a deeper meaning. People are looking to be engaged with social issues in a different form.”
The five tales will be rolled out in the coming weeks, available at theotherpath.ca and the usual podcasting platforms.
Oct. 5: The Witch’s Circle by Emily Pohl-Weary
Oct. 19: Double Trouble by Marty Chan
Nov. 2: Heart’s Home by Jo Walton
Nov. 16: The Feathered Ogre by Daniel Peretti
Nov. 30: The Belt and the Necklace by C.S. MacCath
By Lynn Saxberg for ottawacitizen.com.