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With Ottawa’s critical shortage of affordable housing generating increased media coverage and public discussion, a timely production of a venerable Shakespeare tragedy offers an opportunity to highlight homelessness, mental health, and economic inequality.

PAL Ottawa members are encouraged to purchase their specially discounted opening night tickets for the Thursday, March 21 opening, which will also feature a pass the hat and information handouts on the organization.

In a perfect pairing of art and social concern, Bear & Co.’s production of King Lear will open on March 21 with a post-show reception co-hosted by PAL Ottawa, a charitable organization whose mission is to provide seniors in the capital region who work(ed) in the arts sector with affordable housing and personal support in a creative, caring community.

“We are thrilled to work with Bear & Co. on opening night because this story highlights how easily anyone, regardless of how talented they are, can fall into the world of homelessness,” says Victoria Steele, a founding PAL Ottawa board member who for two decades worked as Managing Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre.

“Many working in the arts have lived on a well-below-average income all their working lives,” Steele adds, noting “PAL Ottawa is a unique resource for arts professionals in all disciplines who, due to age-related challenges, disability, and/or low income struggle to maintain a decent standard of living in their senior years.”

PAL Ottawa is the eighth chapter of PAL Canada, a national network that works to create affordable housing for seniors in the arts while running volunteer colleague assistance program called Supporting Cast.

Bear & Co.’s production of King Lear features, clockwise from lower left, Phillip Merriman, Eleanor Crowder, Leah Cogan, Pierre Brault, Peter James Haworth . (Photo: Julie Le Gal)

Playing King Lear’s title role is Peter James Haworth who, in addition to directing the show, is also the chair of PAL Ottawa. He is joined onstage by a stellar collection of Ottawa acting talent, including Eleanor Crowder, Pierre Brault, Chris Ralph, Phillip Merriman, Laura Hall, Ray Besharah, Leah Cogan, Dave Dawson, Nicholas Dave Amott, Gabriella Gadsby, Neil Kelly, Lydia Riding, Gabriel Schultz, and Kurt Shantz. Music direction is by Rachel Eugster.

Shakespeare’s monumental tragedy continues to speak to the difference between haves and have-nots, with parallels in our own times to homelessness, mental illness, elder abuse, and the tyranny of the super-wealthy. Bear & Co.’s King Lear, produced with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ottawa Community Foundation, and private donors, with assistance from the New Theatre of Ottawa, arrives at the Gladstone Theatre (910 Gladstone Ave.) with a March 20 preview, and then runs Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7:30 p.m, Saturdays and Sunday at 2:30 p.m, with a discounted 11 am matinee on March 27.

For further information, and to arrange an interview with members of PAL Ottawa and Bear & Co., please email info@palottawa.org or bearandcompanytheatre@gmail.com, or call (613) 300-9536 or (613) 290-2707.

King Lear is about many things, not least the story of a man and his three daughters, featuring from left: Peter James Haworth, Gabriella Gadsby, Lydia Riding, Laura Hall.
(Photo: Julie Le Gal)