Victoria Summer Music Festival celebrates 20 years

Twenty years is a long time in the life of any festival, and it’s especially exciting when it’s a music festival. As such, this summer marks the 20th anniversary of the Victoria Summer Music Festival, which has been presenting a series of chamber music concerts every summer since July 1996.

School of Music professor & VSMF artistic director Arthur Rowe

School of Music professor & VSMF artistic director Arthur Rowe

VSMF Artistic Director and School of Music professor Arthur Rowe has lined up a fantastic celebration for their anniversary: the artistry of some of North America’s finest soloists and chamber musicians performing music that resonates in UVic’s intimate Phillip T. Young Recital Hall with its terraced, comfortable seating, excellent sightlines and warm acoustic.

Rowe has arranged seven great concerts featuring sublime music by a range of favourite artists from previous seasons and outstanding new talent. Back again too are the popular pre-concert talks, in which the artists get personal about their music and their repertoire (starting at 6:40pm on most evenings).

Returning to the VSMF stage this year are Gary Karr and Harmon Lewis with their amazing evening of 18 double basses, the Alcan Quartet, cellist Eugene Osadchy with pianist Arthur Rowe, and the amazing Dover Quartet, back for two concerts. New for the 20th anniversary are the internationally renowned Gryphon Trio as well as Victoria’s dynamic violin duo, the Chooi Brothers.

All concerts take place at 7:30 pm in the UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, School of Music’s Maclaurin B-wing.Tickets range from $10 to $30, with a 10% discount for tickets to four or more concerts. Here’s the complete schedule:

Basses Loaded 19 • 7:30pm Tuesday, July 28

In the traditional festival opener, Gary Karr, double bass, and Harmon Lewis, piano, introduce 18 double bassists from around the world who have spent July at the KarrKamp summer workshop. Audiences will marvel at the deep, resonant sound of heartfelt music-making.

The Alcan String Quartet

The Alcan String Quartet

The Alcan Quartet • 7:30pm Thursday, July 30

Featuring Laura Andriani and Nathalie Camus (violins), plus Luc Beauchemin (viola) and David Ellis (cello),the Alcan Quartet performs quartets by Haydn (op.52 no.1) and Beethoven (op. 135); Borodin’s A-flat Major Scherzo, and Andrew MacDonald’s Perfect Day—a work specially commissioned for their 25th anniversary.

Eugene Osadchy and Arthur Rowe • 7:30pm Tuesday, August 4

Eugene Osadchy (cello), former principal cello of the CBC Radio Orchestra, joins the Festival’s artistic director Arthur Rowe (piano) in sonatas by Beethoven (G Minor op. 5, no.2), Debussy, and Rachmaninoff (G Minor, op. 19).

The Chooi Brothers

The Chooi Brothers

Nikki and Timothy Chooi • 7:30pm Friday, August 7

Victoria natives Nikki and Timothy Chooi (violins) and Lorraine Min (piano) join forces in a wide-ranging program of works for one or two violins and piano by Saint-Saëns, Prokofiev, Sarasate, and Arcuri. All three have been on the wish list for a few seasons, and it will be thrilling to have these dynamic performers together in one program.

The Gryphon Trio • 7:30pm Saturday, August 8

Long-overdue to the VSMF, this performance by Annalee Patipatanakoon (violin), Roman Borys (cello) and Jamie Parker (piano) highlights the 20th anniversary celebration with piano trios by Haydn and Mendelssohn, as well as Wijeratne’s Love Triangle.

The Dover String Quartet

The Dover String Quartet

The Dover String Quartet • 7:30pm Monday, August 10 & 7:30pm Tuesday, August 11

After two sold-out VSMF concerts last season, the Dover String Quartet—Joel Link and Bryan Lee (violins), Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt (viola) and Camden Shaw (cello)—returns with Wolf’s Italian Serenade, Dvorak’s American Quartet, and Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 2 on August 10, then perform with guest artists Arthur Rowe (piano), David Harding (viola) and Ariel Barnes (cello) as they present Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet and Tchaikovsky’s stirring Souvenir de Florence string sextet.

Voices Without Borders

Looking for the finest in new music? Add a taste of SALT to your musical diet—with an international flair! This year’s fifth annual SALT New Music Festival & Symposium focuses on “Voices Without Borders” and will present a diverse and exciting range of global talent. Running July 23 to 27, SALT will focus around the voice and will provide an opportunity to hear a variety of new and recently composed work for voice and vocal ensemble.

The Tsilumos Ensemble

The Tsilumos Ensemble

This fifth annual SALT festival will feature five concerts at Open Space, as well as a series of lectures, masterclasses and open rehearsals at the School of Music. The Festival’s Hosted by the Tsilumos Ensemble—made up of School of Music professors Ajtony Csaba, Joanna Hood and Dániel Péter Biró, plus Kris Colvin—is pleased to collaborate with the internationally acclaimed German vocal ensemble Neue Vocalsolisten, Austrian flautist/ composer Sylvie Lacroix, School of Music technician Kirk McNally, and local vocalist & School of Music alumna Cathy Fern Lewis. Concerts will feature new works by Biró, plus Canadian and international composers Charles-Antoine Fréchette, Annesley Black, Justin Christensen, Georg Friedrich Haas, and Samir Odeh Tamimi.

All concerts will be performed at downtown’s Open Space and the masterclasses will be here in UVic’s School of Music. Tickets range from $11 to $20 and you can get a festival pass for $55 to $75. View the full schedule of events here.

The festival opens with a performance by the Tsilumos Ensemble on Thursday, July 23, followed by Sylvie Lacroix on July 24, Neue Vocalsolisten on July 25, Cathy Lewis on July 26 and the UVic Alumni Ensemble on July 27.

SALT-2015-brochure-500x647Since 2011, the Tsilumos Ensemble has been performing chamber music ranging from duos to large instrumental combinations. Its main objective is to give new and little-known Canadian and international works an optimal performance, regardless of technical and intellectual demands or compositional style. Since its inception the ensemble has brought high quality, challenging new music to the larger community of British Columbia.

The Neue Vocalsolisten established as an ensemble specializing in the interpretation of contemporary vocal music in 1984. Founded under the artistic management of Musik der Jahrhunderte, the vocal chamber ensemble has been artistically independent since the year 2000. Each of the seven concert and opera soloists, with a collective range reaching from coloratura soprano over countertenor to “basso profondo”, shapes the work on chamber music and the co-operation with the composers and other interpreters through his/her distinguished artistic creativity.

Sylvie Lacroix is an accomplished flute soloist and chamber musician with a special emphasis on contemporary and new music. The freelance flutist lives in Vienna, Austria and works regularly with composers side-by-side, searching for new sounds and expressions all the way through until their first performances. This interest in working with living composers has accompanied Sylvie Lacroix since the beginnings of her career. A founding member of Klangforum Wien, she remained an active member until 1997.

School of Music alumna Cathy Fern Lewis is an ambassador and active exponent of the professional new music and art scene in Canada since 1974, versatile and experimental soprano/voice artist Catherine Fern Lewis graduated from UVic’s School of Music, where she specialized in contemporary music. Lewis spent a further three years in Europe, predominantly in Paris, studying French song with the noted Peirre Bernac, Madame Chereau and Winifred Radford.

UVic’s Digital Fabrication Lab the first of its kind in North America

UVic is once again leading the pack with the creation of the Digital Fabrication Lab (DFL). A collaboration between the Department of Visual Arts and the preexisting Maker Lab in UVic’s Electronic Textual Cultures Lab, the DFL is the first of its kind to encompass the arts and humanities in North America. Additionally, no university or college in North America yet has a computer numerical control (CNC) lab in the humanities, meaning the DFL is the first humanities facility of its kind on the continent.

It's early days for the DFL in Visual Arts

It’s early days for the DFL in Visual Arts

“There are far-reaching effects for this type of technology in just about everything we do,” says Department of Visual Arts chair Paul Walde. “Photography was the first area where there was almost a complete paradigm shift towards digital, and we’re now seeing digital technology move into every aspect of visual arts production. This represents a way for us to move forward not only with new sculptural techniques and projects but also printmaking and even certain kinds of painting.”

The DFL will include CNC routers, an industrial grade 3D scanner, a laser cutter, a milling machine, and 3D printers, together with various machining tools. “Visual Arts is a leader in material practices and material culture,” says Walde, who notes they already have extensive workshops and the necessary support staff to expand into this area. “We have purpose-built facilities for the safe handling and research of these applications. It’s a perfect fit for us . . . it’s an investment in the future.”

Materials for making a small solenoid (photo: Maker Lab)

Materials for making a small solenoid (photo: Maker Lab)

The Maker Lab at UVic, housed in the Technology Enterprise Facility, is a collaborative space of new techniques and old technologies involving the invention of imaginative and often outsized revisions of objects that don’t always exist in the world. Because its research is innovative, multi-faceted and occasionally intangible, it does not easily fit a simple definition.

The lab is inspired by experimental art, design and D.I.Y. cultures. The inter-disciplinary research team from UVic English, CSPT and Visual Arts includes faculty as well as undergraduate and graduate students who use physical computing and digital fabrication for cultural research.

The lab was launched in September 2012, under the leadership of director Dr. Jentery Sayers, an assistant professor, English and CSPT, with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada Foundation for Innovation and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund.

Sayers describes the Maker Lab as an “intersection of cultural criticism and comparative media studies with computation, prototyping, electronics and experimental methods. Its design is anchored in blending a humanities research lab with a makerspace—a design that affords its team of students and faculty opportunities to build projects through various modes of ‘knowing by doing,’ such as programming, markup, new media production, data modeling, 3D printing and circuit design.”

The lab’s research will ultimately “inform policies on the ethics, distribution, licensing and derivation of 3D objects,” says Sayers, policies which currently do not exist in Canada. The lab also trains students in physical computing and desktop fabrication in non-STEM fields. Sayers points out that fabrication and physical computing are popular in STEM fields, but are virtually unknown in the humanities.

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

The Maker Lab and DFL are two of several initiatives at UVic—including the Humanities Computing and Media Centre (HCMC); Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL); Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE); Modernist Versions Project (MVP); Internet Shakespeare Editions; Map of Early Modern London; and the annual Digital Humanities Summer Institute—which continue to position the university at the forefront of digital humanities.

“I’m very excited about it,” says Walde about the DFL and this new Visual Arts collaboration with Humanities. “I can’t wait to see what the possibilities are with this equipment. That’s usually what gets the imagination stirring.”

—Tara Sharpe, with contributions by John Threlfall

This story was originally published in a longer form in UVic’s Ring newspaper

Fine Arts alumni fuel Shakespeare Festival

While students and alumni of the Department of Theatre tend to show up on stages all over—and far out of—town, one place to keep an eye on local talent is the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival. Running July 8 to August 8 and this year celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Shakespeare Festival is packed with Phoenix folks past and present, on stage and off.

GVSS Artistic Director & Writing MFA Karen Lee Pickett

GVSS Artistic Director & Writing MFA Karen Lee Pickett

“We trace our genealogy back to 1991, when the first Shakespeare Festival was started in the Inner Harbour by Clayton Jevne,” says GVSS Artistic Director and local playwright Karen Lee Pickett—an MFA alumna of the Department of Writing. (Jevne himself was both an alumni and former instructor with the Department of Theatre.) “And after Clayton moved on, a couple of members wanted to keep it going so they formed the non-profit Greater Victoria Shakespeare Society and eventually found this home at Camosun College—and now it’s our tenth year at Camosun.”

This year’s outdoor productions include A Midsummer Night’s Dream—directed by Bard on the Beach’s Christopher Weddell—and Romeo & Juliet, directed by Phoenix alumna Britt Small, of Ride the Cyclone! and Atomic Vaudeville fame.

“Being the 25th anniversary, it’s good to have two plays with a broad appeal,” says Pickett, who was hired as festival producer back in 2011 and is now in her second year as Artistic Director/Producer. “The last time we did Dream was our first year at Camosun.”

The triple Phoenix alumni Dream, starring Trevor Hinton (Oberon), Sarah Jane Pelzer (Titania) & directed by Britt Small (photo: David Bukach)

The triple Phoenix alumni Dream, starring Trevor Hinton (Oberon), Sarah Jane Pelzer (Titania) & directed by Britt Small (photo: David Bukach)

This year’s productions, running in repertory from July 8 to August 8 on the grounds of Camosun College—include Phoenix alum Trevor Hinton, Sarah Jane Pelzer, Cam Culham, Michelle Morris and Taylor Lewis, plus stage managers Rebecca Marchand and Delaney Tesch. And School of Music instructor Colleen Eccleston’s son Kiaran McMillan will be playing Romeo, as well as Lysander in Dream.

Pickett, who recently performed her own one-woman show Slick at Intrepid Theatre’s Uno Festival in May 2015,, admits her current gig is nominally a year-round position, despite being a summer festival. “It’s a lot for one person,” she says with a bit of a tired laugh. “My big push last year was to concentrate on the artistic quality of the productions. We have a great history of including a lot of students and community actors—which is an important part of our mandate—but I want to make the shows the best that we can make them.”

Phoenix alumna Sarah Jane Pelzer as Juliet with Kiaran McMillan as Romeo (photo: David Bukach)

Phoenix alumna Sarah Jane Pelzer as Juliet with Kiaran McMillan as Romeo (photo: David Bukach)

As a playwright and actor herself, does being an artistic director help her own creative activity? “It’s challenging, especially with a small but growing organization, but I always feel grateful that I work in the arts; I don’t pull down any other jobs. That said, my hours are ‘when I’m awake.’ But living an artistic life means doing a lot of different things.”

Looking to the future, Pickett sees great opportunities for growth in the festival. “I really want to bring our young actors up through the ranks, so they have the opportunity to work with more established actors,” she says. “And I would like to expand our education program, so we can include more youth.”

The Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival runs July 8 to August 8 at Camosun College. Tickets run from $19 to $24, or you can get a festival pass for $33 to $42.

Vikes Band wants you!

Love sports? Play an instrument? With the brand-new Vikes Band course, you can now combine both—for credit!

Join the Vikes Band & help jazz up the games! (photo: Armando Tura)

Join the Vikes Band & help jazz up the games! (photo: Armando Tura)

A new initiative between the School of Music and Vikes Athletics, Vikes Band (MUS 189) is a new for-credit course that will rehearse and perform at Vikes Varsity events and special events on campus. If you played in your high school band or just play for fun, you can still put those skills to use to play game-day music—even if you aren’t a Music major.

“The Vikes Band will make an incredible contribution to creating the most unique and exciting venue in Canadian Interuniversity Sport,” says Vikes Athletics director Clint Hamilton. “Joining the Vikes Band will make you part of our team as we make our athletic venues energizing, fun and inspiring for our home crowds and a challenge for our visiting opponents. The Vikes Band will be a great way to engage with UVic and show your team spirit as you join Vikes Nation and bring your talents to the team!”

Blow your horn—for credit—in the Vikes Band (photo: Armando Tura)

Blow your horn—for credit—in the Vikes Band (photo: Armando Tura)

Open to any student with the basic ability to play a band instrument, Vikes Band is a 1.5 unit course that can even be taken more than once, to a maximum of six units. Better still, there’s no audition necessary!

“This band is both a way to increase school spirit and bolster the atmosphere at sporting events while also giving a fun musical outlet for UVic’s entire population,” says School of Music professor and Vikes Band leader Scott MacInnes. “A dedicated Vikes Band is something that has been a long time coming—and now that it’s here there’s a buzz around the entire city that’s so exciting.”

While the School of Music jazz band has been playing at key Vikes games since 2013, the idea of creating a dedicated band course has been in the works for a couple of years now. “Now that UVic has a top-notch athletics facility like CARSA, it seems only logical that there is a dedicated ensemble to bring live music to already great sporting events,” says MacInnes. “Having a live group at the games will create a level of excitement and energy that will be felt not only by the fans but also by the Vikes athletes.”

Vikes Nation ambassador Dan Mecham is already pumped about signing up for the Vikes Band course!

Vikes Nation ambassador Dan Mecham is already pumped about signing up for the Vikes Band course!

Current student and Vikes Nation ambassador Dan Mecham has already decided he’ll be enrolling in the Vikes Band course. “I’m really keen on school spirit,” he says. “I was on the pep band in high school and I love the atmosphere of people coming together, all united over something like a game. That’s really big for me.”

Mecham, who went to high school in Sacramento, California, immediately noticed the difference between American games with bands and Canadian games without. “In high school it made a huge difference having the band there,” he says. “At first it was just at the football games, but eventually all the sports teams were requesting we show up to their big games. I’m sure we can create the same atmosphere here at UVic, where people will recognize how much the music adds to the energy and enthusiasm.”

Music student Josh Lovell belts out the Vikes Rally Song before a game (photo: Armando Tura)

Music student Josh Lovell belts out the Vikes Rally Song before a game (photo: Armando Tura)

MacInnes is already working on a play list for the Vikes Band (“our repertoire will span popular tunes like ‘Sweet Dreams are Made of These’ and the Rocky theme ‘Gonna Fly Now’ to Balkan gypsy music and New Orleans jazz-style tunes, as well as the Vikes Rally Song by Music teacher Colleen Eccleston”), and says he hopes the Vikes Band will attract the more “energetic and outgoing” students. “A group like this gives students the opportunity to hone their skills and foster relationships with students from other parts of campus that will no doubt last into their professional lives.”

Given that this course is open to anyone who can play an instrument—even if you’re not a Music major—even a super-fan like Mecham is eager to sign up. What’s his instrument? “I played a little marching xylophone in the high school pep band, so I’m going to see what I can do to make that work here.”

2015-05-25-ATRS-VikesBand-infocasterUltimately, Mecham—who plans on becoming an elementary school teacher—compares the Vikes Band to the Vikes Cheer Squad. “It’s part of that whole game-day atmosphere,” he says. “It will be great to both get credit for it and to have that mandatory practice time. I’m optimistic about the whole course!”

Remember, no audition is necessary and Vikes Band is open to any student with the basic ability to play a band instrument, and can be taken more than once.

REGISTER HERE FOR VIKES BAND!

Remembering former Writing chair David Godfrey

An award-winning author, a publishing visionary, a pioneer in on-campus computing and an early Writing department chair—David Godfrey was all this and so much more. The Department of Writing is saddened to announce the passing of this former professor at the age of 77.

David Godfrey, seen later in life at his Cowichan Valley vineyard

David Godfrey, seen later in life at his Cowichan Valley vineyard

The winner of the Governor General’s Award for English language fiction in 1970 for his novel The New Ancestors, Dave Godfrey was also the co-founder of iconic Canadian publisher House of Anansi, as well as the New Press and was the editor of Press Porcépic—which became the publishing house The Porcupine’s Quill. Chair of the Writing department from 1977 to 1982, Godfrey retired from the department in 1998 to operate the 60-acre Godfrey-Brownell Vineyards in the Cowichan Valley.

“I was an admirer of Dave Godfrey’s writing long before I joined him in the Department of Writing,” notes retired Writing professor Jack Hodgins. “His great novel The New Ancestors seemed to be opening up something new in Canadian fiction. That he had attended both the famous Iowa State and Stanford writing programs made him a valuable colleague in a writing program. I was impressed, too, that he had been one of those Ontario writers—like Matt Cohen and several others—who were creating a new Canadian literature for our generation. Somehow he made me feel welcome to join him in this enterprise.”

Born in Winnipeg, Godfrey was educated at Trinity College at the University of Toronto, Iowa State University and Stanford University, and taught English and music in Ghana for several years during the 1960s. Upon his return to Canada, he taught at U of T before arriving at UVic.

Godfrey seen during  his time in the Writing department

Godfrey seen during his time in the Writing department

Current Writing professor Joan MacLeod had Godfrey as a professor when she was an undergrad in the Writing department back in the 1970s. “He had a strong reputation not only for his editorial skills but also his fiction. He co-taught the fiction workshop I was in, where I started a novel that eventually became my MFA thesis,” she recalls. “He was incredibly good to me and incredibly supportive. He made me feel like I had a voice.” Fast-forward 25 years to when MacLeod’s play The Shape of a Girl was playing at the Belfry Theatre. “He came down from his home up-island to attend the play. It was so great that he had kept up with me a little bit.”

Retired Writing professor Lorna Crozier remembers Godfrey as being “generous, sharp and excited about ideas and young people. He was a central figure in the Canadian renaissance, in our belief that our own stories have value. We need more of his kind now.” (Indeed, Godfrey is described as a “modern-day renaissance man” in this 2007 article from BC Business magazine about his vineyard—which also played host to the 2013 Rock of the Woods music festival.)

Farley Mowat (left) & Dave Godfrey at UVic in 1982 (photo: UVic Archives)

Farley Mowat (left) & Dave Godfrey at UVic in 1982 (photo: UVic Archives)

Dave Godfrey’s legacy lives on in the three publishing houses he helped create. House of Anansi Press was founded in 1967 by Godfrey and writer Dennis Lee as a small press with a mandate to publish Canadian writers. It quickly gained attention for publishing the likes of Margaret Atwood, Matt Cohen, Michael Ondaatje, Erín Moure, Roch Carrier, Marie-Claire Blais, Anne Hébert, George Grant and Northrop Frye. House of Anansi still thrives today, as does the New Press—which focuses on “books that promote and enrich public discussion and understanding of the issues vital to our democracy and to a more equitable world”—and The Porcupine’s Quill, an “artisanal publisher that values the art and craft of the book, both in content and in form.”

More than just a writer and editor, however, Godfrey was at the cutting edge of the cultural side of computer technology, arguing that decentralized data and computer communication were extremely important for art and literature. In 1979, he co-edited (with Douglas Parkhill), Gutenberg Two, focusing on the social and political meaning of computer technology, and co-wrote The Telidon Book (with Ernest Chang), about electronic publishing and video text. He also founded a software development company called Softwords—which eventually grew to a staff of 22 with annual sales of about $1 million.

“Dave helped hold the department together not long after its difficult birth,” recalls former departmental colleague Derk Wynand. “He also played a huge role in bringing us into the 20th—and perhaps 21st—century, with his expertise in computers and business.”

Godfrey working on the  telecommunications research Project Cue,   with Writing co-op students Rhonda Roy & Michael Quinlan. Project Cue promoted electronic communication using the CoSy conferencing system. (OVPR)

Godfrey working on the telecommunications research Project Cue, with Writing co-op students Rhonda Roy & Michael Quinlan. Project Cue promoted electronic communication using the CoSy conferencing system. (OVPR)

“He was ahead of his time,” agrees Crozier. “He was into computers at the start, before any of us dreamed of giving up our pens and booklets, and he insisted that the department get on board. He was also a proponent of the Co-op program because he was that rare thing—a businessman as well as a writer.”

Described by Wynand as “one of the pioneers of UVic’s Co-op Program,” retired Humanities, Fine Arts and Professional Writing Co-op coordinator Don Bailey recalls Godfrey as “the founding chair” of the Writing Co-op. “He was very committed to introducing students with a flair for writing—and some digital competencies—into careers in the communications, publishing, journalism and tech sectors. He was somewhat of a visionary in this regard.”

Godfrey's GG-winning novel The New Ancestors

Godfrey’s GG-winning novel

Noted author and Writing alumnus Richard Van Camp named Godfrey as one of the UVic Writing professors who led his “spiritual adventure” and “nurtured my hunger as a writer.” Together with the likes of Crozier, Hodgins, Patrick Lane, Marilyn Bowering, Bill Valgardson and Stephen Hume, Van Camp notes their collective “dedication to the structure and magic behind a story was contagious. It was at [UVic] that I learned about theme, that sacred thread that binds characters, intent and story together. I also learned about tone and I learned how to tighten dialogue to make it snap with energy. And I learned the hardest lesson of all: Writing is rewriting.”

One of Godfrey’s children, Rebecca Godfrey, is also an award-winning novelist (Torn Skirt) and non-fiction writer (Under the Bridge), as well as a professor of creative writing at Columbia University.

Posting on Godfrey’s Facebook page, ‪former student Judy Keeler recalls him as “a pioneer, a rebel, a genius who reinvented himself and fought for talent.” That’s pretty tough to beat when it comes to an epitaph for a lifelong writer, editor and educator like David Godfrey.

From Manila to Broadway

Like many MFA students in the Department of Theatre, director Chari Arespacochaga came to UVic already armed with a strong resume and extensive experience in theatre. A native of the Philippines, Arespacochaga directed professionally in Manila for many years, casting big foreign stars, and touring shows across Asia. Her resume is teeming with major productions of Broadway’s best and most popular musicals including Spring Awakening, Legally Blonde, Avenue Q, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Rock of Ages.

Directing MFA Chari Arespacochaga (photo: Adrienne Holierhoek)

Directing MFA Chari Arespacochaga (photo: Adrienne Holierhoek)

So why leave a successful career to travel across North America and return to school? “I didn’t want to rest on my laurels in Manila. Doing my MFA meant starting fresh in a new community so that I could improve myself and my craft,” says Arespacochaga. “When I was researching different programs, I noticed that UVic’s directing MFA was not only very successful, but very competitive—only one person is admitted each year. I thought it would be very challenging and I would be able to focus completely on exploring plays and directing work within a department that has the resources and support to make my ideas a reality on stage.”

Arespacochaga was also looking forward to working in the department’s extraordinary facilities and mentoring with the diverse faculty. “I loved that there were three different spaces in which I could explore staging possibilities in,” she says. “And the faculty has a great diversity of experiences and approaches to creating theatre. I thought this would be beneficial to expanding my ideas and directing process.“

A scene from Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

A scene from Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

While musicals have a special place in Arespacochaga’s heart, for her MFA thesis production she decided to explore music within a more classical-style play and chose Amadeus, Peter Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning fictional play (later a Oscar-winning film) about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his rivalry with Antonio Salieri.

“I was taken by the poetry in Shaffer’s writing and believed that the questions this play asks about the nature of art were very important. What is our accountability to our talent? Is it a gift from a God, or can it be developed? How far would you go to achieve success?” she says. “These are fascinating ideas to explore in school where people are trying to become artists.”

Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI

Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI

Staged in March as part of the Phoenix Theatre’s mainstage series, Amadeus was called “bold and ambitious,” garnering a 4.5/5-star Times Colonist review and a nearly sold-out run. Directing a cast of 16 student actors, Arespacochaga was also able to work with a majority-professional creative team, including professor Allan Stichbury, retired Stratford lighting designer Michael Whitfield, sound designer Brian Linds, choreographer Jacques Lemay and award-winning student costume designer Pauline Stynes.

Returning to school has also opened up Chari’s perspective on theatre. “I love a good musical, but there are so many other genres of theatre that you might not get to do in a commercial environment—so many ways to do theatre, and so many scripts to create theatre with. There’s always something to be excited about, always something to explore.”

Chair CUFor Arespacochaga, coming to Victoria was a stepping-stone to bigger and better things. “As a director, it’s important to venture into bigger theatrical centers and to keep discovering new ways of creating and approaching theatre.  I left Manila to broaden the spheres that I create theatre in,” she says. “What’s next?” she laughs. “I am keeping my bags packed and then I will disappear into Vancouver or Toronto or New York or London or wherever the work takes me . . . and emerge with a Tony Award.”

—Adrienne Holierhoek

This article originally ran in the June 2015 issue of UVic’s Ring newspaper

Designing Prague

When it comes to stage design, the Prague Quadrennial is as good as it gets—and this year, a pair of Theatre alumni will help represent Canada. “It’s the Venice Biennalie of stage design,” says Department of Theatre professor Allan Stichbury. “It’s the top in terms of recognizing stage design in the world.”

The nominated design for the Belfry Theatre production of The Turn of the Screw

The nominated design for the Belfry Theatre production of The Turn of the Screw

With top stage designers from 80 countries, the Prague Quadrennial is the biggest theatre exhibition in the world. Canada will be represented by six different submissions at the June 18-28 event, selected from 33 entries by the three-person jury—which included Stichbury. Among those entries was the Belfry Theatre’s 2008 production of Turn of the Screw, which featured the design work of Phoenix alumni Patrick DuWors (set & lighting) and Erin MacKlem (costumes), plus frequent Phoenix contributor Brian Lynds (sound).

Much like any major international competition, the Canadian teams will be competing for gold, silver or bronze awards. Stichbury—who, along with Theatre professor Mary Kerr, has exhibited at the Prague Quadrennial before—will also be taking 13 current Phoenix students to the event.

Allan Stichbury

Allan Stichbury

“Our students have exhibited in the student exhibition since 1995—and they will again this year—but it’s not the same as being juried into the competition,” he notes. “But it’s still an amazing opportunity. The attendance is supposed to be about 80,000 people—and a huge percentage of that will be students, so our students get to meet colleagues from all over the world.”

As for the competition itself, Stichbury said the jury was obviously impressed by the stunning Belfry design by DuWors and Macklem. “It really met the criteria of inserting itself into the heart of the production—not just paying it lip service or commenting on it.”

Macklem, who graduated with a BFA in 1998, has been the Artistic Associate & Outreach Coordinator at the Belfry for nine years now and is “thrilled” at being selected. “The event itself is so inspiring—it gives you a sense of the national identity of the aesthetic of different places, and how the approaches to scenography vary according to geography.”

A stylish Erin Macklem

A stylish Erin Macklem

While she has attended the Quadrennial in the past (in fact, her Turn of the Screw design was inspired by a Latvian entry she saw there), Macklem won’t be going this year due to family and production commitments. “I told Patrick that we’ll just have to work together on something exciting in the future so we get invited again,” she laughs.

Regarding the acclaimed design for Turn of the Screw, Macklem credits fellow Phoenix grad DuWors with the initial concept. “Patrick really took the lead on it with the idea of it being all black and white with a crazy modern red staircase,” she recalls.

“When I heard that he wanted a contemporary take on the Gothic period, I realized I wanted the costumes to key into the script and be true to period, so we didn’t go too far afield. The pieces themselves were very much from the period but they all had a satin contrast fabric sewn onto them so it would outline them and catch the lights in a certain way—the floor was also very high gloss, so we tried to incorporate the idea of light playing off the darkness.”

Patrick DuWors (photo: Jae Kyun Im)

Patrick DuWors (photo: Jae Kyun Im)

The very fact that the Belfry was mounting a Henry James piece originally written in 1898 also made the production memorable for her. “The Belfry specializes in contemporary shows, so doing a Henry James piece was weird and outside of the mandate, even though it was a modern adaptation of the script,” she says. “To approach it with a very contemporary eye to the design made it feel like it was more a part of the world the Belfry’s audience was accustomed to. People still say, ‘what was that one with the crazy red staircase?’ It’s fun that it left that much of an impression on people’s imagination.”

Macklem is also quick to credit her UVic training for her current success. “I had a great experience with the design department,” she says, citing Mary Kerr, past instructor Debra Hansen and Stichbury himself. “Allan is very much a director’s designer, which put me in good standing and helped me understand how bodies move through space, how you really need to analyze a play’s text to understand the traffic patterns—what the positions of power are and how to optimize those in the design.”

She also notes how the variety of design experience at UVic better prepared her for future employment. “I did more set design in school but there were more opportunities in costume design out of school, so I switched to that,” she explains. “But I had the advantage of both Mary Kerr and Debra Hansen alternating in the teaching position, so it was great to have different perspectives from different teachers.”

Macklem's design work for Eleemosynary at the Phoenix

Macklem’s design work for Eleemosynary at the Phoenix

When asked for a standout production from her student years, Macklem points to the 1997 Phoenix show Eleemosynary. “It was all-student design, and we were all undergrads, which was quite rare,” she explains. “It was really quite a utopian experience—we were all on the same page—and that really came though in the design. It showed all of us how you can transform a theatre, take the set off the stage and into the audience and how much that can change things.”

Stichbury notes that it’s the Department of Theatre’s unique hands-on approach that makes it outstanding in a crowded university field. “Unlike many Canadian universities, our students actually get to design something and put it on a stage,” he explains. “At the undergrad level, most universities have faculty members exclusively designing, but we allow our best undergraduates to do it—so when they get out into the profession they’re much more capable of stepping up at an earlier date than many others. They learn by doing—don’t get me wrong: learning by theory is great, but you also have to practice. Our students get more opportunity to do that on a significant scale than most do.”

PQUltimately, Stichbury already sees both Turn of the Screw and UVic as winners in this year’s Prague Quadrennial. “It’s fantastic that UVic is represented in at least one of the six shows,” he says. “It’s already a big victory, because there’s a lot of pretty amazing stuff out there across Canada.”

Performing to perfection

When it comes to academic achievement, good things often come in quiet packages. Consider the case of graduating School of Music student Spencer Davis, who has been named the recipient of the 2015 Victoria Medal—awarded annually to the student with the highest GPA in the Faculty of Fine Arts—thanks to his impressive graduating average of 8.94. Yet as one of his instructors notes after four years of working together, “I had no idea what kind of a player he would be because he is so unassuming.”

“This is a great honour, and one for which he obviously had to work tremendously hard,” notes Acting Dean Lynne Van Luven. “I congratulate Spencer on this wonderful cap to his Bachelor of Music career.” Davis graduates on June 11, along with the rest of the Fine Arts class of 2015.

2015 Victoria Medal winner Spencer Davis

2015 Victoria Medal winner Spencer Davis

Vancouver-born but Calgary raised, Davis returned to the coast to attend UVic. “I auditioned for, and was accepted at, a few other schools but I chose to attend UVic because of the distinct friendliness I experienced from the students and faculty during my audition. I’ve had a great experience at UVic, and I’m glad that I chose to come here.”

When it comes to achieving such a remarkable GPA, Davis puts it down to the fact that he worked “tremendously hard.” “I prioritized school above everything else in my life, and I focused all of my energy on it.” Not that he feels this puts him above his peers. “I have friends who did the same, and I feel strongly that they are just as deserving of this award as I am.”

“Spencer [is] as a musician and performer of the highest caliber,” notes School of Music director Susan Lewis. “He gave major solo performances and collaborative recitals, culminating in a graduating recital featuring music by Debussy, Beethoven, and Chopin.”

You can listen to his graduation recital here, which features Davis performing Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque,” Beethoven’s “Bagatelles, Op 126,” Chopin’s “Mazurkas, Op 24 Nos 3 & 4” and “Sonata No 3 in B Minor,” as well as some of his other performances.

But the soft-spoken Davis downplays his academic accomplishments (“To be honest, receiving this award feels like my greatest achievement here,” he says), calling his solo graduation recital “an incredibly daunting challenge—and one of the most character-building experiences of my life.”

Bruce Vogt

Bruce Vogt

Describing him as “a quiet-spoken young man who would always come to his lessons with very particular ideas about interpretation,” supervising professor Bruce Vogt calls Davis “a special talent . . . I never had to push him or remind him that things were behind. He basically was taking almost the equivalent of two degrees, and yet he kept the highest standards in everything. He is indeed a special student—thoughtful, compassionate and extremely intelligent.”

Beyond performance, the other of those “two degrees” came about as a result of Davis taking professor Andrew Schloss’ “Music, Science & Computers” course. “It introduced me to new ways of thinking about music and sound, and stoked my interest in music technology,” Davis recalls. “It also got me interested in studying math and science, at which I had excelled in high school, but for which I had never felt any passion.”

Following Schloss’ class, Davis swiftly registered in two introductory computer science courses. “At this point, I knew I wanted to pursue my new interest academically, but also felt driven to finish my music degree, so I supplemented my music courses with courses from the software engineering program, applied for it, and was accepted,” he says. “I’ve long had an interest in electronic music, and am well-acquainted with modern digital audio tools. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to draw on my background as a musician and performer to create new kinds of tools for digital audio that are less restrictive and more intuitive.”

With his departure from the School of Music, Davis singles out piano professor Bruce Vogt. “I should take this opportunity to thank Bruce Vogt, with whom I have worked closely for the past four years, and for whom I have a great deal of respect. I’ve learned a lot from him, and he has had a really positive influence on me personally and artistically.”

As for the future, Davis says he hopes to find an occupation that “capitalizes as fully as possible on my unique set of aptitudes, and on what will be, at the close of my time at UVic, my unusual and diverse educational background.”

Curious who else has won the Victoria Medal? Read about such diverse winners as Art History & Visual Studies architectural student Genevieve Neelin, Department of Writing poet Kyeren Regehr, and Art History honours student Regan Shrumm.

 

The Aesthetics of Anarchy

Being the first to gain access to an archive is the kind of research opportunity most academics dream of—and it’s how Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff will be spending his summer.

Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff

Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff

Antliff was recently announced as the inaugural Research Fellow in Residence at the Clyfford Still Museum Research Center in Denver, Colorado. Named for the famed American painter—whom Antliff describes as “a leading artist in the abstract expressionist movement”—the position at the CSM represents a rare opportunity.

“No scholars apart from those at the CSM have had access to his archive or library before this—I’m getting first crack at it,” says Antliff, who will be spending two months on site. “The archives are still being catalogued. I have no idea what I’m going to find there; I’ve just been told it’s substantial.”

Clifford Still

Clifford Still

Considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Still developed a new and powerful approach to painting in the years immediately following World War II. But after his death in 1980, Still’s estate was sealed off from public and scholarly view.

His will stipulated his estate be given in its entirety to an American city willing to establish a permanent museum dedicated solely to his work, ensuring its survival for exhibition and study—which Denver committed to in 2004. The CSM opened in 2011 and represents 95 percent of his output—more than 3,000 works created between 1920 and 1980.

Still's work in the CSM

Still’s work in the CSM

“Professor Antliff’s appointment as the first Senior Research Fellow at the CSM promises to shed fresh and exciting new light on Clyfford Still’s art and thought,” says Dr. David Anfam, Director of the CSM Research Center. “In particular, Professor Antliff’s deep knowledge of anarchism and the arts should yield though-provoking insights into Still’s lifelong belief in libertarianism and its aesthetic consequences.”

Antliff will be focusing on Still’s “groundbreaking contribution” to abstract expressionism. “I’ve been exploring debates concerning aesthetics and romanticism during WWII in Britain and the United States, and tracking art’s configuration as a means of resistance to the forces of state power, mass conformity and dehumanizing military violence,” he says.

Still's "1949-A-No.1"

Still’s “1949-A-No.1″

Much like contemporaries Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman (whom Antliff describes as “the three anarchist abstract expressionists”), Still’s work commands a steep price: his painting “1949-A-No.1” went for $61.7 million at the New York Sotheby’s in 2011—one of four of his paintings that were sold and collectively raised $114.1 million for the endowment of the CSM.

In addition to his research, Antliff will also be working on an article for publication while at the CSM. “It’s part of a larger book project on the abstract expressionists,” he says. “I‘m revisiting the entire movement in relation to the anarchist concerns I’m examining.” He will also present a public lecture on July 23.

“It’s a big adventure, because I don’t know what’s in the archive,” Antliff concludes. “There’s no record of the contents—we’ll see what I discover.”