Ready for the Spotlight?

Celine Stubel and Amitai Marmorstein in 2008's Legoland

Okay, pop quiz time! What do the following recent Phoenix Theatre productions have in common: Love Kills, Death of a Clown, The Josephine Knot, Legoland and The Ugly Duchess? If your guess was that they all starred Phoenix talent, well, you’re technically right—but the correct answer is, they were all featured in the annual Spotlight on Alumni showcase.

Sure, they did feature some of the outstanding creative and performing talent Department of Theatre has produced over the years—thus the “alumni” needed for the spotlight—but they were also all shows that deserved to be seen by wider audiences. Whether highlighting the works of directors like Clayton Jevne (Love Kills) and Britt Small (Legoland), playwrights Janet Munsil (Duchess), Meg Braem (Knot) and Sebastien Archibald (Clown), or actors Celine Stubel and Amitai Marmorstein (Legoland), Laura Harris (Knot), Paul Terry (Duchess), Cam Culham and Marina Lagacé (Love Kills), and Cameron Anderson, Chris Wilson and Colby Wilson (Clown), the annual Spotlight on Alumni gives both audiences and students a chance to appreciate the ever-growing talent emerging from the Phoenix.

Sebastien Archibald in 2010's Death of a Clown

With that in mind, the Phoenix is proud to invite its alumni to submit for the upcoming 2012/ 2013 Spotlight on Alumni—which will form part of UVic’s 50th Anniversary season. (Proposals that consider themes related to the 50th anniversary are encouraged.) If you’re alumni and are considering applying, your show must meet the following criteria:
• A production that is full-length and fully produced (minimum 90 minutes)
• Availability for approximately 11 public performances in October 2012 (dates determined by department)
• A production where minimal scenery installation time is required (this production will take place in the Roger Bishop Theatre)
• The production can be new or previously produced (please include previous production history)
• Creative team/cast must consist of at least 60 percent department alumni (please provide names and graduation years)
• Please include the script, if available, and other available materials (photographs, video, posters, programmes, reviews, etc.)
• Alumni/producers are responsible for all creative roles (but a stage crew and operators can be provided for the production by the department)

The cast of 2011's Love Kills

Also, please note there is a $6,000 fee (including travel and accommodation) available for the succesful alumni group or individual

Proposals must be submitted by January 13, 2012, to Department of Theatre Chair Warwick Dobson, University of Victoria, PO Box 1700 STN CSC,
Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2. E-mail:

Submissions will be returned in March 2013 if a self-addressed stamped envelope is enclosed.

Good luck!

Holman talks Lobbying and more

Sean Holman is still a busy guy

Just because investigative journalist and Writing instructor Sean Holman has shut down daily operations at his Public Eye Online blog doesn’t mean he’s any less in the spotlight. In addition to his duties as UVic’s acting Director of Professional Writing and his weekly CFAX political show, Public Eye Radio, Holman will also be a guest speaker at BC’s First Conversation on Lobbying in Vancouver on December 2.

Titled “Why the Road Exists and Where the Rubber Hits it,” Holman will be part of the panel discussion, “Lobbyists Code of Conduct: Necessary, Nice to Have, or Overkill?” Moderated by Michael McEvoy, senior adjudicator of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Holman will be joined by fellow panelists John Langford (of UVic’s School of Public Administration), Elizabeth Denham (BC’s Registrar of Lobbyists) and Elizabeth Roscoe (National Service Leader, Public Affairs, Ottawa’s Hill & Knowlton). Too bad he won’t be on the same panel as former Minister of Public Safety, Stockwell Day (appearing here as president of his own lobbying group, Stockwell Day Connex)—now, that would be a session worth seeing!

With other panels focusing on recognizing lobbying when you see it, the “cooling-off” period between holding public office and becoming a private lobbyist, keeping lobbyist information current, and the difficulties of compliance and enforcement rules, this Conversation on Lobbying promises to be both fascinating and relevant . . . and right up Holman’s alley. (For more information and registration, see the above link.)

And in other Holman news, he’ll also be speaking about investigative journalism at the upcoming Canadian University Press national conference, hosted by UVic’s Martlet and Camosun College’s Nexus newspapers, happening here in Victoria on January 13, 2012. Plus, he’ll be judging the Canadian University Press’s JHM News Writing Award, alongside Lindsay Kines of the Times Colonist and Tim Bousquet, news editor for Halifax’s alternative weekly The Coast.



It’s Anarchie!

Allan Antliff at this fall's launch of the Anarchist Archive digital collection

The past few months have been anarchy for History in Art prof Allan Antliff . . . of course, that’s nothing new. As specialist in anarchist studies—as well as his continuing role as the Canada Research Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art (2003-2013)—Antliff is the department’s go-to guy for all things about anarchy and art.

Back in September, Antliff helped launch the digital collection of UVic Libraries’ unparalleled Anarchist Archive, of which he is the director. Since 2005, the Anarchist Archive has been amassing all manner of material relating to the anarchist movement (including journals, posters, recordings, monographs and more), with a special focus on Canada—and which now include the recent acquisition of the personal papers of activist and author Ann Hansen (a former member of Canadian urban guerilla group Direct Action), who attended the event. Now that they’re available online, the Anarchist Archives can be of greater benefit to scholars and activists around the world.

Now, a revised and expanded edition of Antliff’s ground-breaking study, Anarchy and Art (2007), has just been published in German by Verlag Edition AV.  “The book begins with artist Gustave Courbet’s activism during the 1871 Paris Commune, and ends with an examination of anarchist art during the fall of the Soviet empire,” explains Antliff. “Other subjects include the Neo-Impressionists and their depictions of the homeless in the 1890s; the Dada movement in New York City during World War I; the decline of the
Russian Avant-Garde during the 1920s and 30s; the West Coast Beats of the 1940s and 50s; feminism and modernism in the 1960s; and the anti-colonial
aesthetics of Indian art critic Ananda Coomaraswamy.”

Since beginning his UVic appointment as Canada Research Chair back in 2003, Antliff has taught courses on activism and art, anarchist aesthetics, Russian Constructivism, New York Dada and a host of other subjects dealing with modernism and contemporary art. He has authored two books and is editor of Only a Beginning, an anthology of the anarchist movement in Canada, and is also art editor for the interdisciplinary journals Anarchist Studies and Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies, and visual arts editor for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. Active as a theorist and historian of anarchism, Antliff has written on a wide range of topics including radical pedagogy; post-structuralism; and aesthetics.

In his role as art critic, Antliff has published numerous art reviews and feature articles in journals such as Canadian Art magazine, Fuse, C Magazine and Galleries West. He has also contributed to exhibition catalogs for the Whitney Museum of Art, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and other institutions. Allan has produced two feature programs for CBC Radio (Guernica: A Political Odyssey, 2007; Anarchy, Art and Activism, 2002).

Antliff with Ann Hansen at the Anarchist Archive digital lauch

Active in the North American anarchist movement since the 1980s, Antliff was a founding member of the Toronto Anarchist Free School (now Anarchist U) and contributor to The Fifth Estate, Anarchy Magazine, Ye Drunken Sailor and other publications. Before entering academia in 1999 he worked as news and issues editor at the collectively owned biweekly newspaper, Between the Lines. Currently, he is a member of the Victoria Anarchist Reading Circle, the Victoria Anarchist Bookfair Collective and the Black Raven publishing collective.

Milwright heads to Shangri La, becomes Fellow, acquires manuscript

Dr. Marcus Milwright and student Natalie Gilson examine the facsimile of the Maqamat of al-Hariri, a famed 12th-century manuscript that was acquired earlier this year. Scroll down for news about another important Islamic manuscript acquisition. (Photo: Robie Liscomb)

History in Art’s Marcus Milwright has been awarded the position of scholar-in-residence at Shangri La, a Centre for Islamic Arts and Cultures, in Honolulu, Hawaii.


Milwright, director of UVic’s Medieval Studies program and associate professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology, will be in residence from April 14 to May 6, 2012, with a focus on studying the late Ottoman and French Mandate periods (i.e. 18th to mid-20th century) Syrian artifacts in the collection. “In recent years I have been working on translating sections of an Arabic dictionary of the crafts of Damascus, written between about 1890 and 1906,” says Milwright. “The aim of this residence is to establish ways in which this valuable written source can be used to enhance museum displays of Middle Eastern art of the later Islamic period (1700-1940).”

One of the rooms at Shangri La

Part of the charitable Doris Duke Foundation, named for the influential American philanthropist, Shangri La’s scholar-in-residence position is a competitive and thematic program that invites select scholars and artists whose work complements the collection, while also advancing the study and understanding of Islamic art and culture. Chosen scholars and artists are given the opportunity to pursue their own academic and creative work, while also presenting public programs such as lectures, workshops and performances. Milwright will be the latest among such other recent scholars as Thalia Kennedy, Olga Bush and Linda Komaroff, and artists Zakariya Amataya and Emre Hüner.

Once the residence of the late Doris Duke, Shangri La still houses most of her collection of Islamic art. (One notable exception is the beautiful 18th-century house interior from Damascus that now forms part of the renovated gallery of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum.) The daughter of American tobacco and electric power industrialist James Buchanan Duke, Doris was famously branded “the richest girl in the world” after inheriting his estate when she was just 12 years old. Following her marriage to American diplomat James H.R. Cromwell in 1935, Duke decided to build a seasonal home in Honolulu after visiting both Hawaii and many Muslim countries for the first time while on her honeymoon. Captivated by Islamic cultures and enamored with Hawaii, Duke designed a new residence with the ambition of evoking “the beauty and character of each.” As noted on their website, Shangri La borrows architectural elements and artistic sensibilities from regions of the Islamic world, and blends them with a distinctly Hawaiian landscape that features sweeping ocean views, exotic gardens and a 75-foot saltwater pool. (And hey, if you’re looking for a job, Shangri La is currently on the hunt for a historic housekeeper.)

And in other news, Dr. Milwright has been elected as a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Founded in 1823 (and receiving its royal charter in 1824), this is one of the oldest societies devoted to the study of Asia and the Islamic world. Milwright has previously published articles and book reviews in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Finally, the McPherson Library has purchased a facsimile of the 12th-century Arabic book, Kitab al-Diryaq (Book of Antidotes). Written by an anonymous Arabic author, but making extensive use of ancient Greek medical knowledge, the original of this precious manuscript is now housed in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. “Apart from its importance for the study of Islamic science, this is also one of the earliest illustrated books in the Arab-speaking world,” explains Milwright. “Particularly notable is the double frontispiece that contains a complex set of astrological images which relate to a solar eclipse which occurred in 1199. These sorts of facsimile are vital for the teaching of Islamic art and the history of book.”

Owen Padmore's legacy lives on in the memorial fund that bears his name

The Book of Antidotes was bought using monies from the Owen Padmore Memorial Fund. Established in 2002 by the family of History in Art student Owen Padmore (1970-2001), who was fascinated by Islamic visual culture, the fund is designed for the purchase of books on Islamic art and architecture. The Owen Padmore Fund also contributed to the purchase of another important facsimile last year, the 13th century Maqamat of al-Hariri (seen above), about which Milwright recently gave a presentation as part of the Predigital Book Research Collective in the McPherson’s Special Collections. “This is a tremendous resource for teaching,” Milwright said about the Maqamat of al-Hariri at the time. “When we teach manuscript painting, one of the frustrations is that we can’t take people to see the originals. With this facsimile, you can do almost everything you can do with the original manuscript.”

The Owen Padmore Fund continues to make an important contribution to the study of Islamic visual culture at the University of Victoria. While the McPherson library has been collecting Islamic art books for 40 years, the Padmore Fund has helped purchase over 120 books on Islamic art, architecture and archaeology since 2002, making it one of the most important collections in this field of study in Canada.

Greetings from Absurdistan

Terry Glavin at his October 19 lecture

Last year, an inspiring talk about the power of stories drew a standing ovation; this year, a passionate diatribe about Afghanistan saw people walking out. Such is the constantly shifting nature of the Department of Writing’s Harvey S. Southam Lecture in Journalism and Nonfiction, a position that always reflects the person who holds it.

While past Southam speakers (Richard Wagamese, Jodi Patterson, Sandra Martin, Charles J. Campbell) all engaged their audiences, none has enraged them quite like this year’s lecturer, Terry Glavin. Given Glavin’s topic, however, and the controversial nature of his latest book, Come From The Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan (Douglas & McIntyre), it’s no surprise he ruffled a few feathers. “This book is going to sting,” Glavin stated bluntly at his UVic reading on Oct. 19. “It’s not what I want to hear; it’s not what my friends want to hear. You’re not going to like what it has to say.”

The author of six books, Glavin has been a reporter and columnist for a number of media outlets and has won the Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in BC. (Indeed, former Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnolo was among the hundred or so people in attendance at Glavin’s lecture.) But it was the reality gap between his experiences in Afghanistan and the jarringly different media coverage that was the evening’s focus. “Those are the stories I’ve always been drawn to,” Glavin told the audience, “the stories where a vast gulf exists between an imaginary country and a country that exists in the real world.”

By way of illustration, he offered this simile for the standard Canadian media approach of having a handful of embedded reporters on assignment over the past decade and how it has shaped our view of Afghanistan: “It’s like having a couple of reporters ride around in the back of a police car in the worst part of Detroit for a decade, and that’s all you know about the United States.”

Given his repeated overseas visits and the research that went into his latest book, as well as his role as co-founder of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, Glavin’s seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of Afghanistan often went over the audience’s head—or was the source of their ire. (“This is a pack of lies,” shouted one man. “You’re just toeing the CIA line!”)

But Glavin freely admitted to being “a partisan in this struggle,” noting that, like the majority of Afghans, he supports an extended troop mission to aid in the rebuilding effort, the push towards a more secular society, a greater concern for women’s rights and an increase in education for all. “In Afghanistan, teaching a six-year-old girl to write her own name is a revolutionary act.” And, of course, he decries the hard-right Taliban minority that continues to influence our general perception of the country.  “The course of events over there has been as shaped by our views on Afghanistan as by all the money and bullets we’ve sent over.”

While he is an intelligent and compelling speaker, Glavin’s obvious passion often resulted in a somewhat disjointed delivery; over the course of 90 minutes, he talked not only about Afghanistan but also about his own evolution as a journalist, George Orwell’s media legacy, recent changes to the NDP’s political stance and the current Occupy Wall Street movement (“something may be dying, but something is also being born”). Another point of controversy was Glavin’s reluctance to answer certain audience questions, some of which he dismissed out of hand.

Ultimately, however, his message was clear: get informed, formulate your own opinions, and don’t rely on one media outlet to tell you the whole story—not because it’s a conspiracy, but because they are restricted by financial limitations, political persuasion and lack of general interest.

“People are tired of the symbolic, the play-acting . . . they want change, they want the real,” Glavin said in conclusion. “Check your head, do what you can and you’ll sleep the sleep of the just.”

Check this Youtube video for a short clip of Terry Glavin’s UVic lecture


UPDATE: Brandon Rosario of UVic’s Martlet offered this report of Glavin’s October 19 lecture, noting that while he “stirred up some controversy”, what Glavin reports in his book “is not hateful, anti-Western spite perpetuated by 10 years of war and civilian casualties, but a sense of tentative optimism—a better-than-before place where the people are beginning to find solace in an environment of peace brought by foreign soldiers. The misconception of Western audiences toward Afghanistan—built up from years of increasing political unpopularity on the home front—is irresponsible and dangerous.”

Rosario quotes Glavin as saying, “I don’t want to present myself as some brave person. If you’re embedded with the people it doesn’t require much bravery. I could have interviewed [the Taliban] anytime I wanted . . . but that’s something I won’t do, I confess, I am a partisan. If I had the opportunity I’d call in the fucking drones, make no apologies for it.”


Betty Waynne Allison is married to her role

Betty Waynne Allison has the title role in Mary's Wedding

Double UVic graduate Betty Waynne Allison is certainly getting her fair share of the media spotlight this month. A graduate of both the UVic education program and the music education program ((B.Ed & B.Mus ’05), this talented soprano is in the enviable position of debuting the title role in the world premiere of Pacific Opera Victoria’s Mary’s Wedding.

Based on the 2002 play of the same name, POV’s new opera version features music by composer Andrew MacDonald and libretto by original playwright Stephen Massicotte, who have created a powerful and emotional role for Allison. “It’s wonderful to be back,” says the Ladysmith-based Allison of her return to Victoria. “It’s home and that is a special feeling in this business . . . Since day one, POV has been a supporter of mine and I feel honored that they are taking this chance on me. We all believe in this show and it is rare to be afforded the opportunity to create a brand new opera character.”

A scene from Mary's Wedding: (from left) Alain Coulombe, Thomas Macleay and Betty Waynne Allison (photo: David Cooper)

Ironically, however, opera was not Allison’s only focus while during her undergrad years. “While at UVic I never dreamed or even thought about being a professional singer,” she admits. “My focus was on learning to play all the band instruments and education technique rather than learning performance techniques.”

Now a full-time opera singer, Allison’s career is definitely taking off. She is an alumna of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble—where her roles included Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Tatyana (Eugene Onegin) and Rusalka (Rusalka)—and she also performed the Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro) with the Centre for Opera Studies in Sulmona, Italy; the title role in The Cunning Little Vixen in a new production at the Banff Centre; the First Lady in the COC’s The Magic Flute; and Alice in Falstaff with L’Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole, France. Next spring she will take on the title role in Susannah with Florentine Opera.

Given that it’s the world premiere of a decidedly Canadian story, media coverage of Mary’s Wedding has been expectedly brisk—including Marsha Lederman’s preview in the Globe and Mail, a cover story in Monday Magazine, a nice Q&A with Allison in the backpage “Secrets & Lives” column of Boulevard magazine’s November issue, a review by Monica Prendergast on local CBC morning show On The Island, a review—by yours truly—for the local online arts mag Culture Vulture Victoria (“Allison is absolutely the star here, and not only because she plays the title character. Breathing real life into Mary, Allison hits all the right notes—literally and figuratively; her emotionally complex character is as enjoyable to watch as is her powerful, yet fragile, voice”) plus both a preview and review in the local Times Colonist, where Kevin Bazzana notes, “The fresh-faced young singers portraying the central couple—soprano Betty Waynne Allison and tenor Thomas Macleay—have personable voices that are fortunately not out of proportion to the characters or story or venue . . . Crucially, both have real acting talent; their various encounters are sweet, touching, funny and genuine.”

The TC also highlighted UVic’s companion exhibit, The World of Mary’s Wedding: Reminiscences of WWI, running through to November 17.


Speaking of Pacific Opera, eight School of Music students took to the Royal Theatre stage back in October as part of POV’s production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. As members of the massive 50 plus-person chorus, Andrew Buckley, Josh Lovell, Mary-Ellen Raynor, Jeremy Roszmann, Anna Shill, Cedric Spry, Claire Stewart and Marlee Wetter brought their dynamic voices to the stage with verve.

Having the opportunity to work with the Opera Company has given these students a valuable glimpse into the world as a professional musician. “POV has shown me what the real world is like,” says Jeremy Roszmann, a fourth-year student. “The ability to study professionals in their element—without feeling like an intruder—is invaluable experience and education.” First year Master’s student Anna Shill, felt honoured to be a part of the production: “What can’t you learn from your peers and those ahead of you? Sharing space with people that spend their lives living the career you hope for puts everything that we learn at school into perspective.”

Hot on the heels of their Wagnerian experience, Andrew Buckley, Anna Shill and Cedric Spry are also appearing in the 20-person chorus for Mary’s Wedding.

Media roundup

From left: Siminovitch jury chair Maureen Labonté with Joan MacLeod, Dr. Lou Siminovitch, playwright and $25,000 Siminovitch Protégé Award recipient Anusree Roy, and BMO Senior Vice-President Andrew Auerbach

No question, it’s been a busy couple of weeks in the media for Fine Arts faculty and alumni. In case you haven’t been able to keep up on it all, here’s a quick roundup of recent media coverage.

Joan MacLeod – As the winner of this year’s $100,000 Siminovitch Prize for Theatre, the acclaimed playwright and acting chair of the Department of Writing was splashed across numerous front pages, including the Globe and Mail, the Times Colonist, the Vancouver Sun and MacLean’s magazine, among others, as well as being interviewed by CBC radio and CBC television.

Lorna Croier receives her Order of Canada from Governor General David Johnston (Photo: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall © 2011 Office of the Secretary to the Governor General of Canada)

Lorna Crozier – The beloved poet and longtime Writing senior faculty member received her Officer of the Order of Canada on Friday, November 4. Local TV station CHEK provides a clip of the ceremony.

Esi Edugyan – The $50,000 Giller Prize win by this uber-talented Writing graduate and former Writing instructor (mistakenly described as “Vancouver writer” by the Toronto Sun) has earned coverage in most Canadian media outlets, as well as some international headlines, as seen in the New York Observer and this BBC article. Check out the CBC coverage, which features an award clip and a morning-after interview. Geez, who’d wanna get up that early after winning the literary prize of a lifetime? She also talks with Q’s Jian Ghomeshi (November 9 podcast).

Esi Edugyan accepts the Giller Prize on Nov 8 (Photo: Tyler Anderson/National Post)

Plus, the National Post ran a lovely reflection on the crazy year that Edugyan and her husband, Writing instructor Steven Price, have had—including new books by both of them (Price’s was the local earthquake novel, Into That Darkness) and the recent birth of their first child. “You each became the other’s first reader, and most essential editor. You brainstormed together, solved the work together, sought out and quarreled with whatever you were in the thick of over dinner, or while washing up. You remember that first apartment, with the tiny kitchen, where one of you wrote on a card table next to the garbage can in the mornings, the other late into the nights—and how you often left work out for the other to read over, and make suggestions on.”

Sean Holman talks to Andrew MacLeod (A.MacLeod, photo)

Sean Holman – In addition to teaching journalism in the Department of Writing, and filling in as the acting Director of Professional Writing, Holman got plenty of coverage recently with the news that he was shutting down the daily reporting aspect of his infamous investigative journalism watchdog blog, Public Eye Online. After seven years of scrums, breaking a whopping 6,000 stories and dealing with ever-dwindling resources, Holman’s announcement caught more than a few people off-guard. Here, he talks to Andrew MacLeod, legislative bureau chief for the Tyee, about why he’s bowing out. And then the Tyee ran an opinion piece by The Ubyssey student newspaper editor Justin McElroy called, “What Sean Holman Taught Me”. “As journalists, the world of public demand teaches us to focus on our ‘brand’ and our Klout score,” writes McElroy. “We’re told that having the skills of a writer, photographer, editor and on-air talent, all in one, is the best hope for success. But at the same time, we’re also told that investigative journalism skills are important, and that the role of the fourth estate is vital. Holman’s decision gives a hint as to which priorities are winning.”

Holman also offered the Canadian Centre for Investigative Journalism these five lessons learned from his years of doing Public Eye Online. And Shaw TV’s Dan Kahan offered this end-of-an-era interview with Holman. Finally, Vanessa Hawk of UVic’s own Martlet offered this in-house interview with Holman, which also offered some thoughts on the next generation of journalists he’s helping to teach: “It’s so fantastic when I see my students being able to write an exclusive story that could easily be published in any major newspaper across the country. That’s extraordinarily rewarding.”

Frances Backhouse – This MFA candidate in Writing and award-winning writer herself recently penned a fascinating and informative ode to the beaver for the Tyee, in response to Senator Nicole Eaton’s push to have this “dentally defective rat” and “toothy tyrant” removed as our national symbol.

Visual Arts grad Mike McLean in front of his year in photos (Photo: Darren Stone, Times Colonist)

Mike McLean – A Visual Arts alumnus and former sessional instructor, McLean’s new Open Space exhibit, Thirty-Five Thousand Forty, was featured in the Times Colonist. McLean took 96 photos a day for an entire year, from June 2010 to June 2011, which now cover every inch of the gallery’s walls. “Photography in the digital era is developing its own language, forging unique processes and technologies,” writes McLean in the show’s description. “It seems to have reached the democratic potential that George Eastman predicted one hundred years ago, when he took the process out of the studio of the trained craftsman and put it into the hands of the unskilled hobbyist.” As Open Space notes, “McLean turns the idea of digital photography inside out, conferring an analogue physicality and monumentality onto a format that proliferates effortlessly, flooding websites, Facebook, memory cards and hard drives in an unimaginably deep cloak of images.” The exhibit runs to December 10 at Open Space, 510 Fort Street in Victoria.

Will Weigler (Photo: Darren Stone, Times Colonist)

Will Weigler – A sessional instructor in Theatre specializing in Applied Theatre, Weigler’s doctoral dissertation about  why audiences connect to live performances—what he describes as “ah-ha!” moments—was featured in both the Times Colonist and the Calgary Herald, as well as the Victoria News, and was interviewed for CFUV’s campus news show, U in the Ring, and on-air at CFAX 1070. “Weigler asked more than 90 people—including scholars and critics—to describe unforgettable moments they had experienced in theatre,” writes Chamberlain. “He then analyzed these descriptions to see if any identifiable patterns emerged. And they did. A theatre director and actor, Weigler will publish his dissertation in book form to help others create compelling and memorable theatre . . . . Weigler discovered a number of recurring factors that typify ‘ah-ha!’ theatre. For instance, something unorthodox might happen that alters the traditional actor/audience relationship. It works to yank us into the action. An actor may be suddenly held upside down, or have a pie thrown in his face. In his research, Weigler also found other physical things – perhaps an onstage gesture – can embody an emotion, a relationship or some other aspect in a powerful, revelatory manner. This, too, can break down any performer/ audience barrier.”

John Gould, centre, with judges Page (left) and Stenson (photo: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist)

John Gould – This longtime Department of Writing instructor and acclaimed author was one of the three judges for the Times Colonist‘s second annual “So You Think You Can Write?”contest, alongside fellow professional writers Susan Stenson and Kathy Page. This year’s winner was UVic English graduate Maija Liinamaa, about whom Gould said, “A kid’s algebra class—what a superbly unlikely place to experience supernatural intervention! A fresh concept, brought to life with fresh prose and tons of finely observed detail.”

Writing alum Esi Edugyan wins $50,000 Giller Prize

Congratulations to Esi Eudgyan on her Giller Prize win! (photo: Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Whew! What a week for the Department of Writing. First, longtime instructor and beloved poet Lorna Crozier received the Order of Canada at a ceremony in Ottawa Friday night, then acting chair and acclaimed playwright Joan MacLeod won the $100,000 Siminovitch Prize for Theatre on Monday night—now, Writing graduate and former instructor Esi Edugyan has won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for her book, Half-Blood Blues. With a prize of $50,000, the Giller is awarded annually to Canada’s best English-language novel.

“A prize like this does so much to promote literature in Canada and the world,” Edugyan said in her acceptance speech. “It’s been the greatest privilege to be one of the nominees and to be shortlisted with such brilliant writers.” Like Edugyan, fellow nominee Patrick DeWitt was also on the same four-award shortlist—the Giller, the Man Booker Prize, the Writers Trust Award and the Governor General’s Literary Award; DeWitt won the Writers Trust, and the Governor General’s will be announced next week.

Esi Edugyan gives her acceptance speech at the Giller Prize in Toronto (Photo: Tyler Anderson, Postmedia News)

Focusing on four black jazz musicians in Nazi-occupied Germany, Half-Blood Blues is the second novel for the Colwood-based Edugyan, who is married to award-winning poet, author and UVic Department of Writing instructor Steven Price. As well as being a Writing graduate, Edugyan was also a sessional instructor with the Department for two years, specializing in fiction writing. (Edugyan and Price also celebrated the birth of their first child in late August of this year, making the past two months a dizzying time indeed.)

The Giller jury praised Half-Blood Blues as a “joyful lament,” noting that “any jazz musician would be happy to play the way Edugyan writes.” Ironically, while Half-Blood Blues had been released in England earlier this year, it was almost not published in Canada following the bankruptcy of original publisher Key-Porter Books. “The book was actually homeless for a few months until it was bought by Thomas Allen Publishers,” Edugyan said back in August. “It was intensely worrying; I love the Brits, and I love my editor there, but when you write a book, you really want to be published in your own country, to make an impact in your own sphere.”

In addition to her BA from UVic, Edugyan has a Masters in Writing from Johns Hopkins University and she has held fellowships in the US, Scotland, Iceland, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Spain and Belgium. Her well-received debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, was also published internationally, and her work has appeared in several anthologies, including Best New American Voices 2003 and Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing (2006).

The other Giller Prize finalists, each of whom receive a $5,000 prize, include David Bezmozgis (The Free World),  Lynn Coady (The Antagonist), Patrick deWitt (The Sisters Brothers), Zsuzsi Gartner (Better Living Through Plastic Explosives) and Michael Ondaatje (The Cat’s Table). The Giller was founded by Jack Rabinovitch in 1994 in memory of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller.

Other notable prizes for the Department of Writing this year include alumnus DW Wilson‘s
£15,000 win of the BBC National Short Story Prize (nearly $24,000 Canadian) and current student Erin Fisher‘s $2,000 first-place win in the PRISM International poetry and fiction contest, plus retired Writing prof Jack Hodgins recent City of Victoria Butler Book Prize win. Congratulations to all!

Joan MacLeod wins the $100,000 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre

Siminovitch Prize winner Joan MacLeod

Acclaimed Canadian playwright and acting Department of Writing chair Joan MacLeod has won the 2011 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre. With a prize of $100,000, the Siminovitch is Canada’s richest theatre award.

“For well over a decade now my time to write has been steadily diminishing,” says MacLeod. “The Siminovitch award changes all that. What a generous and perfect gift. What a great reminder of what drew me to writing in the first place—there is joy to be found in creating a piece of writing.”

The Vancouver born-and-raised MacLeod is the author of nine plays, including such beloved works as The Shape Of A Girl, Amigo’s Blue Guitar, Homechild and Toronto, Mississippi. The Tarragon Theatre production of her latest play, Another Home Invasion, is currently on a national tour, and The Shape of a Girl has been produced continuously since its 2001 premiere. MacLeod’s plays have been translated into eight languages and she has received numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Drama and two Chalmers Canadian Play Awards; this is her second time on the Siminovitch list, following her nomination in 2005. MacLeod also graduated from UVic’s Department of Writing in 1978—where she has taught since 2004.

“The jury wanted to recognize Joan’s unique voice, her masterful storytelling and the impact that her work has had among audiences in Canada and beyond,” noted jury chair Maureen Labonté, “Joan is a master of expressing the profoundest human emotions, putting to paper the vulnerability, the compassion, the weaknesses and strengths of the human spirit. Moreover, as a teacher, mentor and role model, she has no doubt inspired a generation of new Canadian theatre artists.”

Joan MacLeod was joined at the Siminovitch Prize gala in Toronto by former UVic MFA student Sally Stubbs and Department of Writing colleague Maureen Bradley, along with Fine Arts associate dean Lynne Van Luven (taking photo)

But while MacLeod may be cutting back on her teaching duties in the near future, don’t count her out of the department anytime soon. “It’s a very rewarding job,” she told the Globe and Mail about her position at UVic. “I love my students and I’m honoured that the teaching part of me is also part of this award.”

One unique aspect of the Siminovitch Prize is its designation of a $25,000 protégé award; MacLeod has chosen Toronto playwright Anusree Roy as her protégé, whose plays Brothel #9 and Pyassa have each won a Dora Award for Outstanding New Play.

Named for renowned scientist Lou Siminovitch and his late playwright wife Elinore, the Siminovitch Prize has awarded over $1 million in prizes since its 2001 debut. Previous winners include Toronto playwright Daniel MacIvor, Vancouver director Kim Colier and Calgary designer Ronnie Burkett.

Media coverage of MacLeod’s win has been brisk, with noticeable features in the Globe and Mail (“I’m so far from being the bright new thing, so it just feels great to be celebrated like this. It’s not something that happens often at this point in someone’s career.”), MacLean’s magazine (“”This is the big one. For a playwright in this country, it really doesn’t get better than this and it isn’t anything that I had imagined.”), CBC, the Vancouver Sun and the front page of the local Times Colonist.

MacLeod also offered praise for her days as a student in UVic’s Department of Writing: “They believed in my voice and thought I had talent,” she told the TC’s Adrian Chamberlain. “That really meant a lot to me.”

Sonik nominated for $40,000 non-fiction prize

Award nominee Madeline Sonik

Afflictions & Departures, the latest book by Department of Writing instructor Madeline Sonik, has made the longlist for the $40,000 BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. After perusing 134 books submitted by 35 publishers, the jury—made up of former Vancouver Public Library City Librarian Paul Whitney, author Shari Graydon and former Vancouver Sun editor-in-chief Patrician Graham—then whittled that list down to 10 diverse books, including Sonik’s autobiographical offering, plus Charlotte Gill’s Eating Dirt, Brian Fawcett’s Human Happiness and Chris Turner’s The Leap, among others.

“Canada’s authors continue to inspire, engage and enlighten, and this year’s nominated titles well reflect our tradition of truly remarkable literary non-fiction,” said Keith Mitchell, chair of award organizers the British Columbia Achievement Foundation.

Sonik—an award-winning novelist, short-story writer, children’s author, poet, editor and non-fiction writer whose previous books include the likes of Drying the Bones and Arms (both from Nightwood Editions), plus Belinda and the Dustbunnys (Hodgepog) and Stone Sightings (Inanna)—has been nominated for prizes before, but says this is the shortest list she has appeared on to date.

“It means a lot to me personally,” says Sonik of Afflictions & Departures (Anvil Press). “Right from the beginning, this book has been a bit of a wild child. When I went looking for a publisher, I got so much, ‘Wow…, this is fantastic,… but how would we ever market it?’ ‘It’s not conventional memoir. It’s not conventional personal essay. It’s not like anything we’ve ever seen.’ Brian Kaufman at Anvil Press said the same thing—but fortunately, that’s what he was looking for.”

Unfortunately, says Sonik, the use of the word “essays” as the cover descriptor has been a bit of a stumbling block for Afflictions & Departures—which tackles the author’s life from conception to my mid-teens, as well as her touching on her late parents and the particular historical period through which they all lived as a family. “When the book was published in the summer, book editors didn’t want to review it . . . so really, word of mouth has been the only thing sustaining the book so far. This nomination will at least get the title out there a little further.”

Regardless of the outcome, Sonik says the BCNA nomination has inspired her to come up with a name for the new nonfiction genre in which she’s been working. “I’m going to call this book a ‘fracture’—a series of short, linked memoir pieces that uses techniques of hard-boiled journalism and literary fiction, and self-consciously disrupts or fractures conceptions of linear time. I think postmodernists will love this label!”

Last year’s winner was John Vaillant for The Tiger, and UVic’s Patrick Lane won in 2005 for There Is a Season.

Finalists for the seventh annual award will be announced December 5 and the award presentation will take place in Vancouver on February 6, 2012.

Sonik’s new poetry collection, The Book of Changes, is forthcoming in 2012.

And, as one of the 36 contributing authors, she is also participating in the local launch for the new collection, Slice Me Some Truth: An Anthology of Canadian Nonficiton (Wolsak & Wynn), at 7pm Thursday, November 24, at The Well, 821 Fort Street.


REVIEW: Madeline Sonik’s Afflictions & Departures was reviewed in the November 13 issue of the Times Colonist. Reviewer Candace Fertile describes the book as a “fascinating and deeply moving memoir” that “pulsates with raw, straightforward truth.”

“In addition to the realism contained in these essays is the tough and beautiful language,” praises Fertile. “It’s evident that words matter enormously to Sonik, and she consistently finds the right ones to use . . . . Afflictions & Departures is guaranteed not only to satisfy but also to inspire. Sonik has overcome enormous challenges and turned them into literary jewels. This book encourages readers to think about family, memory and history—and above all, resilience.”