Saturday, Nov 13, 2004

It was two years ago that actor Michael Kash, director Rusty Owen and actor Stephen Najera took in a play in New York called The Chinese Art of Placement. This week, that play marks the debut of the Alley Theatre Workshop, a Toronto-based repertory theatre company, and launches its new 50-seat theatre on Ossington.

Mr. Kash, who has divided his time between New York and Toronto since 1995, envisioned the new space as one end of an open corridor between the two cities. He already has actors and directors waiting in the wings, and if the black-humour post-election banter between Mr. Owen, Mr. Kash and Mr. Najera during rehearsal is any indication, the pro-Canada sentiment in the leftie New York theatre scene may mean a net gain for Toronto audiences.

"There's no real audition process. It will develop organically," says Mr. Kash, being careful to add that it's not a hermetically sealed group. "You have to be open to new folks."

For now, though, it's all about the multitasking trio. Mr. Najera designed the program. The box office is Mr. Kash's home phone number.

The theatre is tucked into the back of the Lennox Contemporary Art Gallery, just north of Queen. (For now, enter through the gallery, though plans for a separate entrance are in the works.)

With the new Camera Bar just steps away, Mr. Kash hopes culture vultures will make the most of Camera's thrice-nightly screenings and Alley Theatre's twice-nightly plays. "You can go see an art house film and an art house piece of theatre in the same night."

For Mr. Najera, who is infected with start-up energy, two shows a night, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, hardly seem enough. "We'd do it around the clock if we could," he says.

The Alley Theatre, 12 Ossington Ave. 416-703-9211. Tuesday, Wednesday, 8 p.m., Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 8 and 10 p.m. $15

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