Appetite for the Stage

Bill Gaston (photo by Clown Bog Studios)

Department of Writing chair and celebrated author Bill Gaston has now adapted his acclaimed short story “Mount Appetite” for the stage, in partnership with his wife, fellow novelist Dede Crane. The solo show Mount Appetite was recently presented as a staged reading at the 2011 edition of the Belfry Theatre’s annual Spark Festival, as directed by David Ferry and performed by Theatre SKAM artistic producer Matthew Payne, both UVic alumni. This is the second play for Gaston, who also penned 1994’s Yardsale. Mount Appetite, the original collection of short stories, was nominated for the 2002 Giller Prize.
And in other Gaston news, the 2007 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize winner (for the short story collection Gargoyles) has also just signed a two-book deal with Penguin for a novel and another short fiction collection, and will also be writing a memoir for Greystone Books.

Beautiful Dreamer

Joy Fisher accepts her non-fiction win in the 2011 Diversity Writing Awards

Second-year writing student Joy Fisher recently won first place in the non-fiction category of the 2011 Diversity Writing Awards for her piece, How Could Anyone Ever Tell You You Were Anything Less Than Beautiful?. Co-sponsored by the adviser on equity and diversity and UVic Libraries, this year’s Diversity Writing Awards attracted 33 entries from both undergrad and graduate students, covering a wide range of diversity-related themes (including ability, race, LGBTQ issues and privilege).
“I was thrilled with the diversity of responses and the calibre of entries. It was difficult to choose the winners,” says Grace Wong Sneddon, adviser on equity and diversity. “Writing gives students opportunities to share things that touch them, things that may be hard lessons. And it gives the community an avenue to hear, listen and learn. What a gift—from them to us and vice versa.”
In addition to Fisher’s non-fiction win, Laura How got the nod for fiction and Timothy Vander Wekken picked up the poetry prize. First-prize winners receive a cash prize of $200, second-prize winners earn $100 and third-prize winners receive a gift basket. The first-prize entries in each category will be published in the Multiplicity newsletter, and are also available here. The annual contest is supported by the Provost’s Steering Committee on Diversity and Equity, the Division of Student Affairs, the vice-president academic, UVic Libraries, the Office of Equity and Human Rights, the Faculty of Graduate Studies and the Malahat Review, with in-kind donations from the UVic Bookstore and Athletics and Recreational Services.
Joy Fisher is a foreign student from the United States, her main interests are creative non-fiction and drama,  and she’s very happy to be living in a country where gay people can marry and where there is universal health care.
To view creative writing student Joy Fisher’s reading of her winning non-fiction entry, How Could I Ever Tell You You Were Anything Less Than Beautiful?, click here.

Lights, Camera, Action

Maureen Bradley

Department of Writing associate professor Maureen Bradley is once again in the cinematic spotlight thanks to her work with the programming committee of the Victoria Film Festival. This is the fourth year that Bradley has been on the committee, and her award-winning short film Pants on Fire will also be screened as part of the VFF’s “Family Fracases” program on February 10 at the Capitol 6 theatre.

Also on view at the VFF are two shorts films by Department of Writing graduate student Scott Amos.

The Victoria Film Festival runs February 4-13, 2011, at various venues downtown.

They Are Where They Are

Three faculty members of UVic’s department of Visual Arts were represented in the National Gallery of Canada’s 2010 Canadian Biennial exhibit, It Is What It Is. Luanne Martineau, Sandra Meigs and Robert Youds are among the 54 Canadian artists represented in the exhibit, which highlights recent acquisitions of new Canadian art. Also included in the same exhibit is UVic MFA graduate Kevin Yates, currently an assistant professor of visual arts at York University.

Those Who Can, Teach

Iconic UVic Visual Arts retired faculty member Mowry Baden was profiled in the Winter 2010/2011 issue of Canadian Art magazine, as part of their second annual “Art School Special” issue. In the six-page piece titled, “The Great One,” writer Ann Ireland leads with Baden noting, “Teaching is listening. It starts with the student’s vision, however flawed and immature. Somewhere in that vision is the pathway to a deeper and more complex expression.”

The Governor General’s Award-winning Baden, who retired in 1997 after 22 years teaching in UVic’s Visual Arts department, notes that “patience, perseverance and curiosity” cannot be taught, “because these features are in the bloodstream of the creature that stands in front of you—or not. If they can’t hold focus, you can’t implant it.”

Described in the article by sculptor and UVic alum Kim Adams as “the most important sculptor in Canada,” Baden is lauded by current Visual Arts prof Robert Youds for being more than just a teacher: “It was much deeper and more philosophical; he would keep an eye on what students were doing and offer a cryptic response. You never knew it it was in support or a put-down; you had to figure it out.” And Jessica Stockholder, former UVic student and current director of Graduate Studies in Sculpture at Yale, describes Baden as “the best teacher I’ve had.”

The same issue also recognizes UVic’s Visual Arts department as offering “Innovative Options” in the realm of Digital Art education “boasting an impressive inventory of high-tech studio equipment” and noting such graduates as Althea Thauberger and Jackson 2bears.

See the complete article at Canadian Art.

Eyes on the Prize

Phoenix Theatre's Yerma is on the M Award long-list (photo by David Lowes)

UVic’s Fine Arts faculty are once again well-represented as nominees on the ballot for Monday Magazine’s annual M Awards. Included in the many categories now open for voting are Phoenix Theatre’s production of Yerma and Blue Bridge Theatre’s UVic-heavy A Streetcar Named Desire (Favourite Overall Production); the Belfry’s new play The Life Inside, which featured associate professor Jan Wood (Favourite New Play); artist-in-residence Joanna Hood of the Lafayette String Quartet and sessional instructor Yariv Aloni (Favourite Classical/New Music Performer); head of voice Benjamin Butterfield (Favourite Performer); Visual Arts chair Daniel Laskarin and sessional instructor Megan Dickie (Favourite Visual Artist); Legacy Gallery’s Graphic Radicals (Favourite Art Show); Department of Writing graduate advisor Maureen Bradley (Favourite Filmmaker) plus sessional instructors John Gould’s 7 Good Reasons Not to be Good (Favourite Fiction Book) and Melanie Siebert’s Deepwater Vee (Favourite Book of Poetry).

There are also write-in options for a number of categories, many of which could include UVic talent (eg: the Lafayette String Quartet for Favourite Classical Ensemble), and plenty of FA alumni can be found amongst the nominees (eg: Jim Leard for his new play Thank You, My Love, Goodbye, Matthew Hooton for his book Deloume Road). Gosh, there’s even a student project on the ballot: theatre student Jay Mitchell’s Fringe Festival favourite Z-Day: Anthem for the Post-Zombie Apocalypse (Favourite Musical).

The M Awards are a people’s-choice awards, with the winners based solely on the public’s voting. Winners will be announced in the April 7 issue. You can click one for team UVic by voting here at or by picking up a paper copy and filling it out the old-fashioned way. Deadline for voting is 5 p.m. Friday, March 18.

If The Glue Fits

Lynda Gammon's "Interval 3" (2007, Installation) at Silent as Glue

Visual Arts faculty member Lynda Gammon is one of three Canadian artists participating in Silent as Glue, the new contemporary exhibit at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Along with Vancouver’s Elspeth Pratt and Matt Harle (currently based in New York), Gammon will be offering a “contemplative exploration of the relationships between architecture and space” using “handmade processes and humble everyday materials.”
Silent as Glue is curated by Micah Lexier and runs February 18 to June 5, 2011, at the AGGV, 1040 Moss Street.

Milroy on Meigs

Visual Arts faculty member Sandra Meigs was also recently profiled in the summer 2010 issue of Canadian Art magazine. The article, “Eminent Victorian”, was written by former Globe and Mail art critic Sarah Milroy and included four glossy images of Meigs’ work, noting that she “is known for her eclectic influences—country-and-western hurtin’ songs, movies, children’s television, opera—but the art-historical backstory is also dense, with Meigs surveying painting’s history with characteristic eccentricity.”

"The Earthquake" by Sandra Meigs

Milroy, the former editor and publisher of Canadian Art, also highlighted the importance of UVic’s Visual Arts department. “Anchored by the example of Mowry Baden . . . and the late Roland Brener . . . the leading artists formerly and currently centred on the University of Victoria are part of an emerging tradition that challegnes the pure visuality of Vancouver photoconceptualists. These works hit you first in the gut; then the mind scrambles to compute.” Milroy goes on to note the UVic-trained likes of Jessica Stockholder (director of graduate studies in sculpture at Yale), prominent sculptors Charles Ray (Los Angeles), Kim Adams (Toronto) and  current faculty member Luanne Martineau. “Maybe Victoria is . . . just far enough off the art-world grid to offer an ideal space for experimentation and vibrant idiosyncrasy,” she concludes.

Read the piece here by visiting Canadian Art.

Name That Tune

Dániel Péter Biró of the School of Music recently won the Vienna Jeunesse Choir vocal music competition and has been commissioned to write a piece

Dániel Péter Biró (photo by Linda Sheldon)

for their 2012 concert season. This year will also see the associate professor of composition and music theory working with the Meitar Ensemble at the Hateiva Studio in Yafo, Israel, and in April his new composition for countertenor, piano and electronics will be performed in the Fromm Concerts at Harvard University by contertenor Kai Wessel and pianist Sven Thomas Kiebler. Biró will also be teaching at the Matrix Academy at the Experimental Studio in Freiburg, Germany, in 2011.

Jonathan Goldman

And in other School of Music news, Jonathan Goldman, associate professor of music history, musicology and theory, recently had his book, The Musical Language of Pierre Boulez, published by Cambridge University Press. Goldman also just won the Quebec Music Council’s Opus Prize for “Article of the Year” for his article, “Charting Mémoriale: Paradigmatic Analysis and Harmonic Schemata in Boulez’s … explosante-fixe …


Girl Gone Wilde

Sara Topham on the Importance of her Broadway debut

Sara Topham as Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest (photo by Boneau/Bryan-Brown)

She’s played Stratford for more than a decade and earned raves for her work at the Belfry; now, Sara Topham, BFA ’98, can add one more feather to her much-plumed theatrical hat: conquering Broadway. Topham just spent the winter appearing in the Oscar Wilde classic, The Importance of Being Earnest, alongside veteran performer and director Brian Bedford. Already a hit during the 2009 Stratford Festival, Earnest was remounted on the Great White Way in December 2010, and Topham was one of only thee members of the original production asked to reprise her role—playing Lady Bracknell’s vivacious daughter, Gwendolyn, to Bedford’s own cross-dressing turn as Lady Bracknell, no less. Yet despite the play’s vintage (Earnest debuted in 1895 and hasn’t appeared on Broadway in 33 years), Wilde’s comedy of errors clearly still clicks with New Yorkers, as it’s currently held over until July 2011.

“It’s a perfect play,” offers Topham on the show’s continued success. “Human beings haven’t changed over the century—mistaken identity, people in love and being thwarted, two guys competing with each other—it’s instantly recognizable if you’ve ever watched a sitcom. Dare I say the quality of the writing is significantly higher, however . . . it’s like spun gold, and it’s a joy to do.”

Clearly influenced by her years performing the likes of Shakespeare and Shaw, Earnest has also been a great showcase for the effusively eloquent Phoenix Theatre grad. Variety described Topham’s performance as “vivacious” while the New York Times felt she played her part with “silken self-satisfaction” and looked “ravishing in [her] most beautifully wrought costumes.” But while show business tradition insists that performers not read their reviews, does she sneak a peek when they’re this strong? “I do not,” Topham says, with just the right touch of earnestness. “Of course, when they’re as good as these ones clearly are, it’s impossible not to have a sense of that—especially when they’re printed up in front of the theatre. But I manage not to look at them as I walk by.”

And as an A-list Phoenix alum, does Tophahm have any advice for current UVic students? “Mainly that it is possible to make a living pursuing this—particularly when you live on an island, where you often feel isolated and wonder if the bridge from the student world to the real world even exists,” she offers. “When you’re in school, it’s important to know that it is possible, and that everybody has been where you are at some point or other. You just have to keep moving forward.”

Alas, while Earnest will continue playing into the summer, Topham herself will be moving back to Stratford this spring to prepare for her 12th season—this year playing Olivia in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, as well as Celimene in Moliere’s The Misanthrope. Still, despite what she cheerfully describes as the “great adventure” of it all, there is one down side to her New York run. “I no longer have the opportunity to make my Broadway debut,” Topham sighs happily, “as I’ve now made it!”

—John Threlfall