Third Season of TV's "Slings & Arrows" Pokes Lear in the Eye Feb. 18

By Kenneth Jones
16 Feb 2007

The third season of "Slings & Arrows," the comic Canadian miniseries about a dysfunctional Shakespeare festival, makes its American TV debut Feb. 18 on the Sundance Channel.



Theatre people have been swapping tapes and buying the DVDs of the first two seasons of the series, which was co-created by Tony Award winner Bob Martin, the librettist and star of Broadway's The Drowsy Chaperone.

The series' first season showed the fictional New Burbage Festival's creation of Hamlet, and season two offered Macbeth.

"The third season of this Canadian mini-series follows the further fortunes of the comically dysfunctional repertory company as it struggles with artistic egos, conspiratorial board members, unstable actors and one meddlesome ghost," according to the Sundance Channel.

Season three "finds Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross) under pressure to deliver another hit. But when he settles on King Lear, his ghostly mentor Oliver Welles (Stephen Ouimette) is nowhere to be seen."

The first episode of the third (and likely final) season is called "Divided Kingdom" and was penned by Susan Coyne, Bob Martin and Mark McKinney (who is a "S&A" co-creator). The season was shown in Canada in 2006.

Drawing on the rich acting pool in Canada, including members of the Stratford Festival, which the show freely spoofs, the season will include Martha Burns, Catherine Fitch, Susan Coyne and acting legend William Hutt, who plays — natch — acting legend Charles Kingman, who, while, rehearsing the role of King Lear, lashes out mercilessly at the cast, alienating a TV star who has returned to the New Burbage Festival.

"Slings & Arrows" will be seen 8 PM (ET) Sundays on The Sundance Channel. Visit www.sundancechannel.com.

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The first two seasons of the miniseries "Slings & Arrows" — a cult hit among those who relish the comic backstage tales — were released on DVD in 2006.

The series proved popular enough to be expanded to three six-episode seasons, which was not the original intent of the creators.

The first two seasons have appeared on Canadian TV and American cable's Sundance Channel.

The first season followed the New Burbage Theatre Company troupers putting on Hamlet starring a hot young movie star named Jack Crew (seemingly inspired by Keanu Reeves, who tackled the classics in the provinces several years ago; Luke Kirby played brooding Crew). The six-episode season one arc also featured Rachel McAdams as an ing้nue, and Drowsy co-librettist Don McKellar as a pretentious experimental stage director (he also pops up in seasons two and three). McAdams has since become a film star, and made a brief appearance in season two.

The main trio of characters in "Slings & Arrows" are played by Stephen Ouimette (as the talented, aging windbag artistic director Oliver Welles), Paul Gross (as the emotionally broken bad boy actor-director Geoffrey Tennant) and Martha Burns (as the self-involved actress Ellen Fanshaw, who inspires them). The fictional collaborators created a famous Hamlet years ago that drove Geoffrey mad, and broke up the creative friends.

In season one, after the sudden death of Oliver, Geoffrey and Ellen reunite to solve the Shakespeare play — with the help of Oliver's ghost. Geoffrey is named artistic director of New Burbage, arousing mixed feelings for both. Paul Gross is known for the TV series "Due South." Burns is a respected stage actress in Canada, with credits at the Stratford and Shaw festivals. Ouimette is a respected actor and director most associated with Stratford.

The second season of "Slings & Arrows" followed the New Burbage Festival through difficult financial times, with McKinney's managing director being seduced by a marketing guru played by Colm Feore. Macbeth was the mainstage play addressed, with a boorish stage star sparring with Geoffrey.

For more information, visit www.acornmedia.com.