For the past two decades, Kathi Langston has been the face and the inspirational heart of the Ottawa School of Theatre.
Langston took over the role of artistic director from David Hersh in 2002. At the time the school, which was formerly known as the Orléans Young Players Theatre School, shared space with a daycare in the Cumberland HUB building on Tompkins Boulevard, and they only offered programming in English.
At the time, they had fewer than 100 students. By the time the COVID pandemic swept across Canada and around the world, the theatre school’s annual registration had grown to over 600.
Much of that growth was due to Langston’s efforts to take OST from it’s recreational community roots and turn it into a truly professional theatre school.
“It was pretty much a recreational school at the time,” says Langston. “It didn’t provide a serious theatre education, but it was lots and lots and fun. What I did was keep the fun aspect and make it more of an educational experience.”
The theatre school really took off after the Shenkman Arts Centre opened in 2009 and OST became a resident partner.
“It enabled us to offer our students a truly professional experience,” says Langston. “It also gave us the opportunity to offer a lot more classes, which meant we could offer a greater variety of classes in both French and English which was always a goal of mine.”
Langston had originally planned to retire in December 2020, but then the pandemic hit.
“I couldn’t walk away in the middle of the pandemic. I just couldn’t,” Langston says, recalling the decision to stay on.
As a result of Langston’s leadership and innovation, the OST has been able to weather the pandemic by offering a variety of virtual classes through ZOOM. Registrations have fallen off by 40 per cent over the past two years, but the theatre school is already starting to see a resurgence, especially for their spring and summer classes.
With the future looking brighter than ever, Langston is more than ready to hand the reigns off to the new incoming artistic director, Megan Piercey Monafu who has a background as a playwright, director, pro-ducer and facilitator.
“It’s time for the school to have a new, fresh, young injection of energy and crea-tivity and Megan is the perfect person to do that,” says Langston.
Monafu will officially take over in June. In the interim she will be learning the ropes from Langston, who plans to spend some quality time with her three young grand-children after she exits stage left.
She also plans to continue on in her role as the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association representative in the Ottawa region, and she hopes to get back on stage at some point, proving that you can take the actress out of the theatre, but you can never take the theatre out of the actress.