Tag Archives: Ottawa

HELP…GET ME OUTTA HERE – I’M HAVING WAY TOO MUCH FUN !

This coming weekend, Ottawa will experience the launch of a fun, interactive live game that challenges problem-solving skills, patience, and bravery at CLAUSTROPHOBIA, the new “escape room” game venue located in Ottawa’s Hintonburg/Mechanicsville neighbourhood.  I recently spoke with Claustrophobia founder and architect of the current two rooms , Jennifer Schnare (below) who kindly shared the who, what, where, when, why and how about this worldwide phenomenon where teams of friends, family, classmates or co-workers are locked into mysterious rooms and have to solve puzzles and clues in order to unlock the door….and escape.  It’s a thrilling, spine-tingling game that results in trust and team building which usually ends up with tons of laughs all around.

Everest 341Jennifer, what inspired you to open an escape room gaming venue?
I played an escape room for the first time about a year ago and was immediately drawn to the concept. Not only did I have an amazing time in the room and trying to solve the puzzles, but I continued thinking about it after I left.

Why Ottawa?
I first started the planning for Claustrophobia to launch in Toronto but it quickly exploded into a phenomenon and there were a significant number of competitors. I moved to Ottawa and quickly saw that there was a market here, too, and only one other competitor.

get me out Key ImageWhat’s the background or history of the “escape room” phenomenon?
The real life escape room phenomenon was inspired several years ago by “escape room” video games popularized in Japan, and the live game has already taken off in the U.S., England, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Mainland China. Over the past couple of years, escape room game venues have mushroomed all across the US and now Canada, and is ideal for families, friends and companies looking to encourage team building with their staff.

trapped2Who writes all the clues and comes up with the room themes for Claustrophobia?
I do with the help of my close family and friends. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without their support!

Did you personally have to search for all the furnishings and nic-nacs to create the correct ambiance for each room? And where did you find these things?
Yes, I found all the furniture and décor accessories! This was a big job, sourced over months. Kijiji was my biggest source for the larger furnishing – I was renting a Uhaul and driving around Ottawa and surrounding areas by myself, relying on the kindness of the seller to help me lift things. Many of the smaller pieces came from sites like e-Bay, Etsy and Amazon.

labWhat business background do you have that suggests you will make Claustrophobia a resounding success?
I’ve worked as a fundraiser and marketer for over 12 years. This has allowed me to gain the skills in everything from managing a budget, sourcing and working with vendors, to finding cost-effective ways to advertise, developing creative ideas and problem-solving.

Do your friends and family think you’re nuts…or are they all supportive and helping out?
Oh yes indeed, they do think I’m a bit of a nut…LOL…but they’re all very supportive and love to help out. Most have said that they “can’t believe I am doing this” and “I wouldn’t have had the guts to do this” but I wanted to take the risk because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. And I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur.

Describe the two rooms your currently offer, and their capacity.
There are two rooms – The Laboratory (see description here: http://claustrophobiagame.ca/escape-rooms/the-laboratory) which accommodates 2 to 5 people. The second room is The Hostel (see description here: http://claustrophobiagame.ca/escape-rooms/the-hostel) and it accommodates 2-4 people. It’s important to me that the rooms don’t feel crowded and that you don’t have to play with strangers. I also wanted to ensure you have a full hour to complete the puzzles.

RoomAny plans to increase or expand the current rooms?
Yes! My current venue has the room to expand and I’m already in the process of mapping out the new game room called ‘The Gallery’.

trapped lockHow do people book the rooms and do you have any plans for a Claustrophobia tournament in the near future?
People can book via the website. For the grand opening weekend coming up (March 12-March 15) we’re offering a special discount: $25 per room using promo code ESCAPE25. I don’t have plans for a tournament at this early stage but there are opportunities for corporate team building, birthday packages and of course we have a prize for the team who gets out the fastest every month by room.

ClaustrophobiaBlack (2)To learn more about Ottawa’s newest live “escape room” venue and to book a room, please visit www.claustrophobiagame.ca

help

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CANADIAN COMEDY AWARDS – On-stage Acceptance Speeches, Tears and Cheers

My tireless PR colleague, Jennifer, managed to capture some of the on-stage Beaver acceptance speeches with her phone camera while tweeting out all the action on Sunday night. Please excuse the less than perfect picture quality but I’m sure you’ll enjoy reliving that special moment when a nominee becomes a winner!   Host Tom Green strode out to centre stage (below) to start the ball rolling….

2014-09-14 19.33.51-2…then on to the presentations.  Kayla Lorette wins for Best Female Performance in a Web Series, then Ron James accepted this year’s Dave Broadfoot Comedy Genius Award 

2014-09-14 19.58.53 2014-09-14 20.40.20-1An emotional and surprised Garry Rideout Jr. (below) accepts the Roger Abbott Award (shared with Kyra Williams of Yuk Yuk’s)

2014-09-14 20.31.37Then….Adam Cawley was crowned Best Improvisor

IMG_20140914_205819Best Sketch Troupe, Peter ‘n’ Chris (below)

IMG_20140914_210029The Sufferettes took home the Beaver for Best Improv Troupe

IMG_20140914_210436Best Comedic Play was won by Peter n’ Chris Explore Their Bodies

IMG_20140914_210605A happy but tearful Kayla Lorette was a 3-time winner, taking home Best Female Improvisor

IMG_20140914_211329Best Variety Act was Morro and Jasp

IMG_20140914_211832And DeAnne Smith was named Best Female Stand-Up

IMG_20140914_212813Chris Locke was named Best Male Stand-up

IMG_20140914_213233And the wonderfully witty Ken Hall was named Best Breakout Artist, much to the audience’s delight!

IMG_20140914_213719

Our sincere apologies for those we missed – the pictures were just too blurred or bright to post. But again, congrats to all the nominees, thanks to all the presenters, our host, the team of volunteers, Tim P. and everyone who helped create this fabulous fun-filled evening celebrating Canadian comedy talent.   http://www.canadiancomedy.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CANADIAN COMEDY AWARDS – THE WINNERS & THE COOL MOMENTS BACKSTAGE

So the CCA’s are done and dusted for another year….big congrats to awards Founder Tim Progosh and his team of producers, volunteers and particularly to my PR colleague, Jennifer Murray, whose Twitter fingers must be crippled after posting almost a thousand tweets over the 5-day Festival period and the lead-up weeks. Bravo, everyone!  Here is a list of the winners and photos from backstage after the presentations. For more info, please visit the website:  www.canadiancomedy.ca and follow them on Facebook and Twitter, too. Below, Tim poses with Cathy Jones (l), his sister and the Ottawa’s hometown boy, Mike MacDonald (r).

20140914_184024

And Tim welcomed Paul Hartman (below) who was on hand to present a special award in his brother’s name – “The Phil Hartman Comedy Award” later that evening.

Tim with Paul H

So many cheers and tears but everyone had such a blast. Many of the comedians, comic actors, improvisers, writers and directors had not met before as the winners came from across the country – from BC to Nfld!

20140914_195231 20140914_195505 20140914_200144 20140914_200603 20140914_200732 20140914_201736 20140914_201149 20140914_201314

THE WINNERS 2014

1) Comedy Person of the Year                                  Dave Foley

2) Best Feature Film                                                   Lawrence & Holloman

3) Best Writing in a Feature                                        Jeremy LaLonde – Sex After Kids

4) Best Comedy Special or Short                               Torturous

5) Best Male Performance in a Feature                     Jon Dore – Stag

6) Best Female Performance in a Feature                 Ingrid Haas – That Burning Feeling

7) Best Audio Show or Series                                     Stop Podcasting Yourself

8) Best Audio Clip                                                       Bee Circus

9) Best Web Series                                                     Convos With My 2-Year-Old

10) Best Direction in a Web Series     Mike Fly & Simon Fraser –The Dark Night Versus Valerie – Versus Valerie Ep. 10

11) Best Writing in a Web Series         Bob Kerr – Acting Class– But I’m Chris Jericho! Ep 104

12) Best Female Performance in a Web Series        Kayla Lorette – Everyone’s Famous

13) Best Male Performance in a Web Series             Scott Thompson – But I’m Chris Jericho!

14) Best Breakout Artist                                              Ken Hall

15) Best Taped Live Performance                             Darrin Rose – Just For Laughs All Access

16) Best Male Stand up                                              Chris Locke

17) Best Female Stand up                                          DeAnne Smith

18) Best Sketch Troupe                                              Peter ‘n’ Chris

19) Best Improv Troupe                                              The Sufferettes

20) Best Male Improvisor                                           Adam Cawley

21) Best Female Improvisor                                       Kayla Lorette

22) Best Variety Act                                                    Morro and Jasp

23) Best Comedic Play, Revue or Series                  Peter n’ Chris Explore Their Bodies

24) Best One Person Show                                        Weaksauce

25) Best TV Show                                                       This Hour Has 22 Minutes season XXI

26) Best Direction In a TV Series          Nathan Fielder– Gas Station/Caricature Artist – Nathan For You #103

27) Best Writing in a TV Series or Special                 Nathan Fielder-Gas Station/Caricature Artist – Nathan For You #103

28) Best Female Performance in a TV Series           Nikki Payne – Satisfaction

29) Best Male Performance in a TV Series               Nathan Fielder – Nathan For You

SPECIAL AWARDS

Phil Hartman Award:                                                  Kenny Robinson

Dave Broadfoot Award:                                              Ron James

Roger Abbott Award:                                                  Kyra Williams & Gary Rideout Jr.

20140914_205118 20140914_210216 20140914_210508 20140914_211913 20140914_212048 20140914_213220 20140914_213535(0) 20140914_214005

Am so proud that my friend Kenny Robinson was presented with the Phil Hartman Comedy Award. I’ve known and worked with Kenny since the 80’s and he was always reliable and one of the most respectful and respected stand-up comics I’ve ever worked with. Kenny was truly surprised and touched by this award….congrats, big guy, this honour is so well deserved.

20140914_202917 20140914_202957 Paul & Kenny

Phil made the rounds and schmoozed with all the stars – yes, some of the late great comedian’s ashes are in the award itself. Here, Paul introduces “Phil” to Ron James, Scott Thompson, Tom Green and Ben Miner (below)

Paul & Ron Paul & Scott Paul & Tom Ben Miner w Paul

We had the wonderful Mr. Hollywood (Matt Demers) and his crew shooting interviews for the Awards gala at the Ottawa Little Theatre – a great theatre offering professional tech support, box office, bar staff and a beautifully appointed soft-seat auditorium.

20140914_203023 20140914_204256 20140914_205233 20140914_213320 20140914_214105

Thanks so much, Matt, Jessica and Kyle http://mrhollywood.net/ – you can sub-in for ET Canada anytime!

20140914_214609(0)

Lots of activity before the show – lots of schmoozing, comparing jokes, and cocktails!!

20140914_190338 20140914_185722 20140914_190626 20140914_190326 20140914_190759

…and then the lights flickers and the bells chimed…it’s SHOW TIME!

20140914_192119 20140914_192238 20140914_192259 20140914_192412 20140914_192434

“Ladies and gentlemen, your host…..Tom Green!” And so the Awards began and nominees and winners streamed backstage for their photo opps.

20140914_192020 20140914_184411 20140914_184237 20140914_184258 20140914_185101 20140914_185329 20140914_185437 20140914_185913 20140914_190057 20140914_191139

Even the Founder of Yuk Yuk’s and the “godfather of Canadian stand-up” Mark Breslin enjoyed the sponsored backstage refreshments!

20140914_191457

So it’s congratulations to everyone and a big thank-you to Ottawa for making us all feel welcome.

Jennifer and I headed back to Toronto yesterday afternoon, courtesy of our travel sponsor VIA Rail and I think this pic of Jenn taken at the station sums it up well – tired but very happy that everything worked out well.

20140915_145500

Thanks to CTV Ottawa for all your awesome support with interviews and on-site news cameras, radio TSN1200 for having comedian Graham Kay sit in on your sports show and thanks to the Courtyard Marriott who helped out with ongoing WiFi assistance.

Kudos to all the club venues – their patient and hospitable staff and mgmn’t – for hosting multiple shows: Yuk Yuk’s, Absolute Comedy, Arts Court, The Velvet Room, Great Canadian Cabin and PPL

20140914_192251

So it’s goodbye from me…and goodbye from them!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday Walkabout in Ottawa, Canada

The Canadian Comedy Awards week is done and dusted…whew! My PR colleague, Jennifer, and I survived the organized chaos of a major awards show and finally got to play tourist in Ottawa for 2 hrs before leaving for our train back to Toronto. Here’s our quickie trip around the historical parliament buildings and various points of interest…some I covered solo in my previous blog. So much more fun with a friend and some sunshine, yes? Jenn took a quick pick of the big Catholic church opposite the National Art Gallery – the silver covered spires sparkled in the sunshine.

20140915_123644We then took a hike up and around “Champlain Point” which offered stunning vistas across to Quebec and all across the city and hills.

20140915_124103 20140915_124135 20140915_124302 20140915_124315 20140915_124340 20140915_124354 20140915_124416

20140915_124457 20140915_124537 20140915_124613 20140915_124646 20140915_125041(0)I was careful to tell Jenn (above) not to back up too far as the cliff was right there….aaaaaaargh!  Then Jenn got me to do my best impression of Ottawa’s hostess with the mostest! Ladies and gentlemen, may I present….the capital

20140915_125119So much beautiful green space and flower gardens…we snapped away at everything and anything

20140915_125746 20140915_125752 20140915_125905 20140915_125947 20140915_130121Jenn got into the statues and helped a family with their group shot!

20140915_130510 20140915_130613

We circled the fabulous Hogwarts-style Chateau Laurier hotel (below) with all its fancy-schmancy architecture & walkways along the Rideau Canal.

20140915_13081120140915_130858 20140915_130928 20140915_130937 20140915_131052 20140915_131210Then it was back to the hotel to pack out suitcases and head to the train station. Thanks to Kathleen from Yuk Yuk’s Ottawa who graciously offered to drive us and a couple of other comedy guests….

20140915_131249 20140915_142228 20140915_142237…and we finally made it. Poor Jennifer looks tired but happy it’s all over, and I felt exactly the same (hope you appreciate my lack of a selfie here as I looked pretty scary with no make-up, no sleep and no energy).

20140915_145500 20140915_145512 20140915_151050Toronto, here we come……oh, oh, look…. horsies!

20140915_152631The little kid in me made a surprise visit…haa! I also saw a cheeky groundhog and a big white-tailed deer dart away from the tracks – I watched her disappear into the brush alongside the rails – too quick to snap a photo. How wonderful.  Am now home and ready for a nice cuppa tea and the comfort of my own bed. Thank you for such a warm welcome, Ottawa. I’ll be back soon.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

EARLY MORNING WALK AROUND OTTAWA

Woke up early so thought I’d take a brisk walkies around the city. Needed some exercise since I’d been sat on my duff all week, Facebooking, Tweeting and media pitching for the Cdn Comedy Awards – the “Beavers” are given out tonight.

20140914_095820I love the statures and sculptures around the city…this HUGE spider (above) is in front of the National Gallery. Directly opposite ipsy-wipsy was a beautiful heritage building and a stunning Catholic church (below)

20140914_095835 20140914_095901

There’s so much green space, I was very impressed. And how wonderful to be alone…only sharing the scene with a couple of very horny squirrels!

20140914_100329 20140914_100354 20140914_100434 20140914_100444A herd of joggers (above) went by, but other than them, still nobody in the park at 9am Sunday.

20140914_100655 20140914_100705 20140914_100543 20140914_100547

20140914_100938Loved this statue of John By (below)…but a QR code slapped on the front? Oh come on now.

20140914_100850 20140914_100900

The British Lt. Colonel By was one of the greatest early engineers in Canada. He built the 200 km Rideau Canal.

More beautiful vistas of the Parliament Buildings…

20140914_100716 20140914_101038Then a quick breakfast stop at Mello’s on Dalhousie Street (best freakin’ bacon ever!)…

20140914_104107…and an even quicker nibble on my first Ottawa “Beavertail”…way too sweet but when in Rome…

20140914_112751 20140914_112823

One more day then it’s back to reality on Toronto – big art/food event on Thursday at Urban Gallery with Whisky & Spice, then launching/promoting Shelley Marshall’s “Hold Mommy’s Cigarette” 28-day run in Toronto. I guess this morning’s “touristy” walk was my only vacation this year!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

CANADIAN COMEDY AWARDS – Day 4

We had a monsoon-like rain storm here in Ottawa today that kinda dampened the publicity workshop and podcast panel that took place at the Arts Court this afternoon but a few hardy souls braved the downpour….big thanks to Al Connors (member of Crush Improv) who helped coordinate the venue for us. But Shelley Marshall and I were able to share insights and advice about self-promotion and digital/social media publicity and marketing to a small but appreciative audience. Here Shelley gets up close and personal with Garth Merkeley of Hot Thespian Action20140913_131346

Tonight’s big Variety Gala at the Ottawa Little Theatre was a blast! Great crowd laughed non-stop throughout the show. Hosted by Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus (below)….

B&S…..the show featured Scott Thompson, Rebecca Kohler, David Pryde, Wes Borg and Peter’n’Chris. Matt Demers, a.k.a. Mr. Hollywood, was back with his crew to shoot celebrity interviews and first off we had the fabulicious Shelley Marshall who is nominated for her one woman show, Hold Mommy’s Cigarette.

20140913_191207 20140913_191405Then CCA Founder TimProgosh was interviewed by Elizabeth Gray-Smith, social columnist for iPolitics (www.iPolitics.ca)

20140913_190021 20140913_190129Shelley & Elizabeth had an animated discussion on politics and theatre….

20140913_192846…Mr. Hollywood then pointed his camera and mic at Rick Wharton, Founder of the Funniest Person in the Valley contest. Rick and I are old friends, going back over 25yrs. He and his lovely wife Lorelei also tried out the Great White North set. Cool!

20140913_191839 20140913_192322We then asked our CCA nominee coordinator (i.e. comic wrangler) DeannaPalazzo to have a quick chat with Mr. Hollywood. Deanna is also an actor, producer, improvisor…what doesn’t she do?!

20140913_192813Throughout the entire CCA week, our Twitter goddess, Jennifer Murray, has been hard at work every day and night, making sure our social media is constantly updating, informing and entertaining our followers. At least tonight she got to sit down while she tap-tapped away!

20140913_193101We had quite a lot of fun with the Great White North set – here’s Deanna showing us her “inner hoser” …..

20140913_193345….and we just had to put Mr. Hollywood and his lovely camera assistant Jessica on the set, too. Coo-ook-ook-ook-koo-ook-koo-koo!

20140913_193905And then Elizabeth came back to the set with her hubby and they, too, got their “inner hoser” on!

20140913_193741(0)Jennifer and I made a quick pit stop over at Arts Court to catch a little improv action – here The Sufferettes finish a scene to raucous applause.

20140913_213522

We have a fabulous team of hard-working volunteers and the lovely lady on the door at Arts Court gave us a nice smile, even after her long day/night of work.20140913_220022As Jenn and I were about to leave, we ran into Al Connors who was busy hosting the Improv party and I dragged him over to the photo wall for a few party snaps. Al, you crack me up!

20140913_220121 20140913_220126Good luck to all the nominees tomorrow night…see you at the Awards Gala.

http://www.canadiancomedy.ca

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

CANADIAN COMEDY AWARDS, OTTAWA – Day 2 (part I)

Woke to a grey Thursday in Ottawa but the folks here are warm and friendly and all seem ready to laugh their tube sox off during our shows this week! After downloading some more pics from last night’s show at the Velvet Room (below, featuring comic magician David Merry with his unsuspecting volunteer from the audience – 1st pic)….

cca w 3 cca w 8 cca w 12

…I grabbed my morning coffee and a few photos of the city before hitting the laptop and phone to pitch more local media to come out see what amazing comedy talent this country has. Already fallen in love with Ottawa – great stores, friendly locals, extremely polite drivers who let pedestrians go first, and hot soldiers in sexy camo….LOL

20140911_121843 20140911_121859 20140911_122958 20140911_130721 20140911_131347

Some of the old buildings remind me of Hogwarts….

20140911_124734 20140911_124908 20140911_124916

…and then I found where our tax dollars go, too…..

20140911_125016 20140911_125022

On my way back to the hotel, I saw this cool shop window….HAY, is that ceramic head sticking its tongue out at ME?

20140911_125207

TONIGHT: shows at the Yuk Yuk’s and Absolute Comedy clubs – visit http://www.canadiancomedy.ca for details and ticket info.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,