Disaster (a play)
Geoffrey Brown (Ottawa Xpress June 12, 2008)

Local writer David O'Meara peers deep into the darkness with Disaster

When John Koensgen, one of Canada's finest actors and directors, approached David O'Meara with the idea of collaborating on a production for the stage, O'Meara's initial reaction was mixed. "I was extremely flattered," he says, "given John's high standing in Canadian theatre, but it also freaked me out for the same reason. My gut dropped, but I knew that I wanted to give it a whirl." That reaction is certainly understandable given that O'Meara is a poet, not a playwright (O'Meara is the author of two books of poetry, Storm still, and the 2004 Archibald Lampman Award winner, The Vicinity), but with the New Theatre of Ottawa set to stage the world premiere of the O'Meara-penned, Koensgen-directed Disaster, that's about to change.

Paul Rainville and Sarah Finn
photo: John Koensgen

Exploring our collective fear in a post-9/11 society, and starring Sarah Finn, Kate Hurman and Paul Rainville, Disaster presents us with a situation in which "something has happened, a terrible thing, that has triggered and magnified what we all share - the fear of death, and the ensuing guilt, and the guilt that culminates in grief," says O'Meara.

Written after hours of discussion with Koensgen, discussion that covered all aspects of theatrical production, but in particular the power of images and theatre's unconventional use of narrative, O'Meara began with a single image: a woman standing in the centre of the stage, dazed and suffering from a massive head wound. Where is this woman and what has happened to her?

In order to bring a
heightened sense of realism to the play, the Paramedic Association of Ottawa has been involved directly, reading through and advising O'Meara on the script, improving the spirit of the paramedic character. In addition, Finn has been receiving training from advanced life-support paramedic Darryl Wilton, who has told O'Meara that "the parallels between [the] script and the job itself really are eerie - more than you likely realize."

It doesn't get more realistic than Finn's first ride out with Wilton, a call that involved a vital-signs-absent patient in cardiac arrest, an amazing, but discomforting, experience for Finn: "It was just an hour out of my day, I was going to a barbecue later that night, but this woman's entire life was changing within 40 minutes right in front of me."

"When a terrible thing happens, we ask ourselves a lot of questions," O'Meara says. "Why me? How could I have stopped this from happening? What could I have done differently with my life? I hope, in the dramatic structure of the play, to have asked these questions through the three different characters. I hope it's surprising and thought provoking. And funny too - I hope there's some humour in there as well."

DISASTER (a play)
Written by David O'Meara
Directed by John Koensgen
Starring: Sarah Finn, Kate Hurman and Paul Rainville
@ Natalie Stern Theatre, Ottawa School of Speech and Drama (294 Picton Ave.)
June 17-28


The Ottawa Citizen
Critics' picks

Published: Saturday, June 14, 2008

Editor's pick Peter Simpson

David O'Meara is well-known about Ottawa for his books of vibrant poetry (Storm Still, The Vicinity), as a bartender at the Manx Pub, and as a man of literate ways. Now he's taking to the stage. O'Meara's first play, Disaster, premieres next week in the Natalie Stern Studio of the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama. It's directed by John Koensgen, and stars Sarah Finn, Kate Hurman & Paul Rainville. O'Meara's poetry is full of insight and colour about real people and city life. His play "sets out to explore and reveal the root of our worst fears." There's a lot of talent on this stage. Preview is Tuesday, with shows on various nights to June 28. Tickets & times, 613-567-6788.


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