Alumni accolades

It was a big week for Fine Arts alumni, with all sorts of graduates making the news. First up, congrats go out to the crop of Phoenix Theatre alumni who picked up a handful of awards last weekend:

The now award-winning Peter N’ Chris will step into Phoenix’s Spotlight on Alumni this fall

• Comedy duo Peter N’ Chris picked up the Just For Laughs Best English Comedy award at Montreal’s famed Fringe Festival for their 2011 Fringe hit, The Mystery of The Hungry Heart Motel on June 25. If you missed it last year, don’t worry—it’ll be back in October as Phoenix’s Spotlight on Alumni. And Peter N’ Chris are now nominated for a 2012 Canadian Comedy Award for Best Sketch Troupe!

• Atomic Vaudeville’s smash musical comedy Ride The Cyclone just won Outstanding Touring Production at the 2012 Dora Awards in Toronto on June 25. This comes right on the heel of it winning Best Musical and Best Director of a Musical at the Toronto Theatre Critics Awards in May. As previously mentioned in an earlier blog post, Ride The Cyclone features the talents of Phoenix alumni Sarah Jane Pelzer, Rielle Braid, Kholby Wardell and Matthew Coulson, as well as choreographer Treena Stubel and co-director Britt Small (as well as co-creator/co-director Jacob Richmond, who is technically just a “previous student” but we’ll consider him a Phoenix-er).

Meg Roe stands a little taller now with her pair of Jessie Awards

• And while the diminutive Meg Roe may be small in size, she’s big in the talent department, as evidenced by her double win in both the large & small theatre categories at Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Awards on June 25. Roe picked up a pair of Jessies for her lead role in the Arts Club’s The Penelopiad (large theatre) and for her work in Electric Company’s All the Way Home (small theatre).

In non-theatre related accolades, congratulations go out to Visual Arts MFA Thomas Chisholm, who was recently named one of the 15 finalists for this year’s RBC Canadian Painting Competition. Chisholm’s Interference 1 (2012) marks the second RBC shortlist in a row on which he has appeared.

Thomas Chisholm’s Interference 1 (2012, enamel on aluminum)

As reported in the Globe and Mail, “the high-contrast Intereference 1 uses spray paints designed for the auto industry, allowing for what Chisholm describes as ‘a smooth reflective surface that highlights small inconsistencies in the support or application of paint.’ Here, the viewer is presented ‘with what appears to be a solid black geometrical shape,’ but the ‘pulsating or bruising out of the space alters’ the viewer’s initial perception of the painting and ‘forces a reinvestigation’ of it. The painting, it turns out, is built from transparent layers of blue and red.”

(On a side note, Visual Arts alumni seem to be doing well in banking-related art competitions; on top of Chisholm’s two RBC shortlists, last year saw grad maegan rose mehler win the BC prize in BMO Financial Group’s national 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition, and alum Matt Shane picked up the national prize in the inaugural BMO 1st Art! competition back in 2004.)

Finally, it was announced this week that 1997 Fine Arts alum Crystal Przybille had won the national competition to create a series of public art sculptures to celebrate Victoria’s 150th anniversary. Her winning entry, “Hands of Time,” will see 12 bronze sculptures of life-size hands installed at downtown locations this fall.

A study for Crystal Przybille’s “Hands of Time”

As reported in the Times Colonist, the now Kelowna-based Przybille‘s three-dimensional hand sculptures “will be engaged in activities related to the city’s history. They will represent various cultures, ages and genders, while telling a story about a downtown location. One pair will carve a cedar canoe paddle, for example. Another will tie a rope to a mooring ring, and another will perform with a Chinese fan.”

Przybille was one of more than 80 artists from across the country who submitted proposals; she was then shortlisted with 15 other artists, from which a final four were asked to submit a more detailed proposal and a maquette; these proposals were then assessed by a jury led by Art Gallery of Greater Victoria director Jon Tupper, who is also chairman of Victoria’s art in public places committee. The artist will receive a budget of $100,000 to complete her 12 sculptures.

Przybille received a BFA with distinction in 1997 and has since studied and practiced art in both Canada and Europe, including residencies in the Netherlands, Nunavut and Kelowna. She has had solo exhibitions at Kelowna’s Alternator gallery and the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

Proud to launch Plenitude

Some students seem content to do the bare minimum; others delight in going the extra distance. Count current Department of Writing student Andrea Routley in the latter camp. In addition to the regular requirements of undergrad life, Routley is currently in the process of launching Plenitude, a brand new online queer literary magazine.

Andrea Routely (photo: Annah Van Eeghen)

Issue #1 is set to debut in late August (featuring a piece from 2012 Journey Prize nominee Nancy Jo Cullen, among others), and Routley says the inspiration for Plenitude simply came from a lack of LGBQT literary magazines. “I went looking for queer literary magazines in Canada and found only one still accepting submissions, No More Potlucks—which limits text contributions to 1,500 words. So apart from that, to the best of my knowledge, Plenitude is the only queer literary magazine in Canada.”

While there are plenty of queer books being published in Canada, Routley—editor of the 2010 collection, Walk Myself Home: An Anthology to End Violence Against Women (Caitlin Press) and a writer whose work has appeared in the likes of The Malahat Review and Monday Magazine—feels there’s still a place for a project like Plenitude. “These kinds of publications can’t take the place of a queer literary magazine, as much as any other ‘non-queer’ novel or collection could replace literary magazines in Canada such as The Malahat Review or Prairie Fire,” she says. “Literary magazines serve the much-needed purpose of fostering the growth of emerging writers and building communities of writers.” And while some literary mags have released specifically queer-themed issues, Routley (also a poet who was shortlisted for the 2008 Rona Murray Prize for Literature) doesn’t feel that fills the same need for writers.

“I recognized that the ‘queer’ in my own writing was typically expressed as a total absence of any sexuality or queer characters at all. I thought, am I really avoiding something? So I set about, with purpose, to write a ‘gay story.’ I did not want to write about coming out or shame—two totally valid themes—but ones that I didn’t feel interested in at this point in my life; so much of what I have seen or read when it comes to film or fiction with queer characters was about those two things . . . . Many heterosexual readers still look for the shame, or ‘coming out’ experience. It is what they expect to read; it is what many think it means to be queer.”

Writing is one thing, but Routley’s other inspiration for Plenitude simply came from her own perspective as a reader. “I want to read hundreds of stories and poems by other people, to discover how they express their lives and interpret this world,” she says. “And if such a venue exists, I hope it will encourage other writers who, like myself, may have been censoring their own writing—maybe without even realizing it.”

But Routley definitely isn’t out to shape other peoples’ definition of queer. “Basically, I am not going to decide what counts as ‘queer content.’ If it is created by an LGBTQ person, then it is queer . . . if it’s great writing about a radical genderqueer on an expedition to find the ultimate double-dong dildo, that’s fine by me.” She pauses, and laughs. “I’m not even sure if that sounds very radical; probably not. But if your blog readers have some better ideas for me, I’d love to hear them!”  (You can email her at editor@plenitudemagazine.ca.)

Plenitude began as self-directed study for UVic’s Department of Writing and will operate under the mentorship of Lynne Van Luven, with technical assistance by Faculty of Fine Arts digital media technician Cliff Haman. (The advisory editorial board also features the likes of Malahat Review editor John Barton, filmmaker and Writing prof Maureen Bradley plus PhD L. Chris Fox, playwright Sara Graefe and author Arleen Paré). But Routley’s vision for Plenitude involves more than just reading text online—as well as the usual fiction, nonfiction and poetry, her call for submissions also includes short films (10 minutes max) and graphic narratives (10 pages max).

Click on photo to read the submission guidelines

Interested in submitting? You can contact Andrea Routley at editor@plenitudemagazine.ca or via the magazine’s website at plenitudemagazine.ca—where you can also find full submission guidelines. (Plenitude is also accepting contributions; see their website for more about the benefits of becoming a “Friend of Plenitude.”)

Routley will also have a Plenitude table at the Victoria Pride Society’s annual LGBQT literary event, Pride & The Word, on July 7 at Ambrosia Conference Centre on Fisgard.

As for the future of Plenitude, Routley is optimistic. “The great thing about an electronic publication is that it’s relatively cheap to produce and distribute—so those are the main factors in my decision to make it electronic at this time. In the future, I hope to offer the classic paper-based object as well.”

Local filmmakers making a splash

Fresh from his Cannes debut, local filmmaker and Department of Writing alum Jeremy Lutter is ready for his next challenge.

Jeremy Lutter scouting a Floodplain location in Invermere

Lutter just finished working the red carpets at the world‐famous Cannes Film Festival, where his short film Joanna Makes a Friend was invited to screen as part of Telefilm Canada’s “Not Short on Talent” program, after winning Viewers’ Choice awards at both Toronto’s TIFF Kids Film Festival and the Victoria Film Festival.

Now he’s ready to make waves with Floodplain, a short film he plans to shoot this summer with Fine Arts digital media staffer and writer/producer Daniel Hogg. Hogg is both a recent nominee in the BC film industry’s Leo Awards (for his short film Woodrow Without Evelyn) and a previous winner (as part of the UVic team who won for the acclaimed Department of Writing web series Freshman’s Wharf).

Based on a short story by Invermere native and fellow Writing alum D.W. Wilson—winner of the BBC National Short Story Award and a BC Book Prize Finalist—Floodplain is a coming of age tale about two high school sweethearts who learn that love demands sacrifice when they fulfill a childhood promise to raft a floodplain in the Kootenay Valley.

One of Robert Bennett’s storyboards for the Floodplain film project

Using the crowdfunding site Indiegogo.com, Lutter and Hogg are turning to the community to raise $3,500, which will facilitate construction of the hero’s souped‐up raft and to get their cast and crew safely out on the water. You can watch the video, see pictures or get project updates here. If you decide to support the project, you can donate money in exchange for perks, such as original storyboards or a DVD of the finished project.

With their film pitch, Lutter and Hogg were selected for the National Screen Institute Drama Prize, which opens industry doors and provides resources to help make a high-end short film. With that achievement in their back pocket, the two are already attracting Hollywood‐level talent to Floodplain.

Keep track of Floodplain’s progress by following @FloodplainMovie on twitter.com, or by liking their Facebook fan page.

Two wins for Writing

Congratulations to Department of Writing chair Bill Gaston for winning the Gold award in the Fiction category at the recent National Magazine Awards!

His winning story, “Four Corners”, appeared in Event magazine’s Winter issue (40/3). Event is Douglas College’s thrice-yearly literary review, and has been publishing award-winning fiction, non-fiction, poetry and reviews for over 40 years—without sign of slowing down.

This year’s NMA Fiction judges included Quill & Quire editor Stuart Woods, author Zoe Whitall (Holding Still for as Long as Possible, Bottle Rocket Hearts) and Arjun Basu, editorial director of Spafax and president of the board of the National Magazine Awards Foundation.

Gaston’s previously wins at the National Magazine Awards include Honorary Mention for his stories “The Night Window” (published in the Malahat Review) in 2005, and “Mount Appetite” (Malahat Review) in 2001.

Winning student writer Cody Klippenstein

Meanwhile, fourth year undergraduate Writing student Cody Klippenstein has been announced as the winner of the 2012 fiction prize for The Fiddlehead. Her winning story, “We’ve Gotta Get Out of Here,” was originally submitted as a piece for a Department of Writing workshop class led by Writing associate professor Lee Henderson.

“I remember Cody delivered a great, visceral, cut-from-life first story to the workshop—and then she said she really wanted to write a story from the point-of-view of a house cat,” Henderson recalls. “I figured she could pull it off. But then she handed in a story from the point-of-view of an Asian punk girl living in Vancouver in the early 1980s, dating a musician, and going to see bands like the Pointed Sticks.”

Henderson describes that story—”We’ve Gotta Get Out of Here”—as “basically pitch-perfect.”

“The class made some basic suggestions for a polish and Cody went back and brushed the story up however she saw fit, sent the story out and won the Fiddlehead fiction award,” he says. “This was an exceptional class of writers, too, so I view this win as just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amazing stuff I saw that semester.”

You can read an excerpt from “We’ve Gotta Get Out of Here” on The Fiddlehead‘s blog—or you can pick up the Spring 2012 issue, which also features a story by Writing alum Yasuko Thanh.

Update: in July, Cody Klippenstein also had a new story published in Joyland, a literary magazine that curates fiction regionally. Selected by Vancouver editor Kevin Chong, here are the opening paragraphs to her story, “Thrown Overboard, Manacled in a Box”—but be sure to click over to the Vancouver page on the Joyland site to read the whole thing.

“Cale is treading water in the middle of the deep end, water sloshing in his ears and lapping at his chin as he listens to the aqueous echo of the moon-faced timer at the end of the pool wind and wind and wind. How many seconds left? He tries to breathe.

“One packing crate, he thinks.  Forty-five planks of wood. One hundred and ninety two nails. Twenty-six feet of rope. Two hundred pounds of lead. One pair of cast-iron manacles. Fifty seven seconds.

“He closes his eyes. When he opens them again, Lula’s orange-sandaled feet have appeared beside the timer, slapping impatiently at the wet tile.

“Yo, she says, and raises an arm. Inside the YMCA’s humid, windowless indoor pool, her shrill voice is amplified.”

Building a future in heritage conservation

Some students have the architecture of their academic path laid out from the start; others see it more as ongoing renovations. Put Genevieve Neelin in the latter category. This year’s winner of the Victoria Medal—awarded annually to the student with the highest GPA in the Faculty of Fine Arts—willingly admits university wasn’t originally a big part of her life plan.

Genevieve Neelin back home at her Ottawa drafting table (Photo: Michael Neelin)

“I’m someone who never thought they’d even get an undergraduate degree,” says the soft-spoken 25-year-old. “I was working in coffee shops, thinking one day I’d open a coffee shop of my own—that was my highest aspiration—and then I started at UVic and somehow magically got really high marks. I don’t know how that happened.”

Hard work and a keen interest in her studies is the shortest explanation for Neelin’s success. “It was all about focus,” she says. “I never stopped; I didn’t even take a summer off. But I also took a couple of years after high school to really think about what I wanted to do, so when I came to UVic I was really focused. My number-one job was to do well in school.” Of course, it helps that she graduated from her Quebec high school at 16, which gave her an extra two years to work out her priorities.

An honours student in the History in Art department, Neelin showed real devotion to her studies in architecture and architectural conservation—success with which she credits both to the faculty and her family. After originally starting in visual arts, Neelin cites associate HIA professor Christopher Thomas with determining her current passion. “His course on sacred structures—from Stonehenge to the Crystal Cathedral—was a huge influence in making me decide to go into the field.” As for her family, she’s worked as a draftsperson with her father’s Ottawa-based home design firm for seven years now. “You can see how heritage conservation would tie into the family business.”

She pauses and chuckles. “So I’d like to thank my parents for making me read as a child; I guess I have a natural gift.”

Neelin is already busy back home at the drafting table, and her immediate plans involve pursuing a master’s at Ottawa’s Carleton University. “It will largely be focused on government policy in heritage conservation,” she explains. “Because I have a background in design, I’m hoping that I can combine those and do some restoration work myself. It’s definitely a growth industry.”

Has her view on cities changed now that she’s formally studied architecture? “It has, especially because I’ve been looking at modern architecture recently. Walking down the street is so much more interesting now; a lot of buildings I thought were just ugly before I’m now seeing differently.”

And did she have a favourite building here at UVic? “The Fine Arts building,” she concludes with a laugh. “I pretty much lived there.”

Note: this piece originally appeared in June 2012 convocation issue of The Ring.

Arno Kopecky’s “Oil Man and the Sea” project

Busy Department of Writing graduate Arno Kopecky has a new project underway: raising his voice in awareness of BC’s threatened coast through a storytelling, art and new media endeavor called The Oil Man and the Sea.

Writing grad Arno Kopecky

This summer, Kopecky and his friend, photographer Ilja Herb, will board a 41-foot cutter and spend three months exploring the oil tanker routes along the central coast of British Columbia—a region that may soon be traversed by over 200 oil tankers a year, if Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal is approved.

“We’ll be sailing from Bella Bella to Kitimat, Haida Gwaii and everywhere in between,” says Kopecky. “Our mission is to raise awareness of the threat oil tanker traffic would pose to BC’s central coast, sending stories and images we’ll collect along the way to laptops, magazines and Kindles across the country. Ilja is producing a photo exhibit, I have a contract with Douglas & McIntyre to put a book out by April 2013, and Reader’s Digest is running a two-issue multimedia feature in early 2013 that will reach millions of Canadians.” (And, he promises, “there will be more to come.”)

This is a profoundly volatile marine environment that has already registered 1,275 marine vessel incidents (mechanical failures, collisions, explosions, groundings and sinkings) between 1999 and 2009 alone, notes Kopecky. “All indications are that it is a matter of when, not if, a catastrophic oil spill will occur once the tankers arrive,” he continues. “Our goal is to use a variety of media to raise national awareness around this extraordinary ecosystem and its inhabitants, and the threat that now hangs over them. The participation of the communities we visit will be central to the stories we create; our wish is not only to document our travels, but also to help the Haida, Haisla, Kitasoo, Heiltsuk, Gitga’at, and other First Nations make their voices heard.”

Two examples of the kind of double-exposure photography Ilja Herb will be taking along the route

Since graduating from Writing back in 2001, Kopecky has been busy making a name for himself writing about culture and the environment for the likes of The Walrus, Foreign Policy, the Globe and Mail, Utne Reader, the Toronto Star and The Tyee, among other publications. His dispatches have covered five continents over the past 10 years, ranging from Iceland’s attempt to become the first oil-free nation on earth, to Kenya’s 2008 brush with civil war. In 2009, Kopecky received a Gordon Global Fellowship to investigate free trade agreements between North and South America, and his first book—The Devil’s Curve, describing his journey through the Amazon and Andes (“travelling to Peru and Colombia, [Kopecky] follows radical left-wing politicians on the campaign trail, discusses black magic with villagers, winds up in gunfights and hallucinates in dark huts”)—will be published by Douglas & McIntyre in September 2012.

Their current plan is to depart from Victoria in June, sailing north up the east coast of Vancouver Island until they reach the southern fringe of the tanker zone; once there, the two will spend three months visiting key communities and individuals. “A central character in our narrative will be the Great Bear Rainforest,” says Kopecky. “We’ll visit the communities who call it home in places like Bella Bella, Klemtu, Hartley Bay and Kitimat, all perched at the shores of this two-million hectare wilderness. At the end of August, we will leave the inside waters and cross Hecate Strait in time to greet the sockeye salmon as they return from a lifetime at sea to spawn in Haida Gwaii.”

Their ambition is to bear witness—through photography, video and the written word—to the vital relationships between humans and animals, ocean and forest that characterize British Columbia’s central coast. In doing so, Kopecky and Herb will argue that “the 217 jobs and $86 million a year in tax revenue promised by Enbridge are a pittance compared to the national treasure that a single tanker-wreck would bankrupt.”

Why go now? “With the National Energy Board expected to make a decision on the Northern Gateway proposal by the end of 2013, time is of the essence,” says Kopecky. “Setting sail in June will give us the chance to add our voices, and those of the people we meet, to the national debate before it’s too late. Many people—from First Nations to artists, journalists and scientists—have already made enormous, even lifelong contributions to protecting this magnificent wilderness; more voices are needed still now that the full weight of our political establishment is lining up in support of Enbridge Inc.. Prime Minister Harper, eager to diversify our oil market by shipping oil to Asia, has declared Northern Gateway to be a ‘national priority,’ and Transport Canada recently lifted the moratorium on tanker traffic that has protected the central coast since 1977. The long-term future of our central coast will be decided in the coming months and years; the time to act is now.”

You can read much more about the project and follow their journey through their website, OilmanAndTheSea.com, or via their Facebook page, but in the meantime they’re also looking for financial help to make this project a reality. As such, they’re having a fundraiser at Royal Roads University from 7-9pm June 19 (in Hatley Castle’s Drawing Room), where Kopecky and Herb will present a slideshow about their proposed journey, as well as have a silent auction and an introduction by Tsartlip First Nation elder Greg Sam.

“We’ve raised $8,000 so far, but we still need $20,000 for things like a dinghy with outboard motor, GPS/satellite communication system, a new sail, diesel, food, etcetera,” says Kopecky. “Expenses for a three-month journey like this one pile up quick.”

 

Award-winning Medieval Studies student is on her own elf quest

When it comes to planning her academic future, Courtney Burrell looks to the past—which, for a Medieval Studies grad, makes perfect sense. Just don’t chuckle when you find out her current passion is elves.

Courtney Burrell

One of the highest-achieving students in the Medieval Studies program, Burrell not only runs the MEDI Student Union and helped organize this year’s interdisciplinary undergraduate  research conference, but has also twice won the Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Award and will be the only Canadian student presenting a paper at the prestigious sixth Nordic-Celtic-Baltic Folklore Symposium, happening in Tartu, Estonia, this June. Her subject? The Álfar—ancient Icelandic elves.

“In Iceland, there is still a belief in elves, and I’m looking at where that comes from,” says Burrell. “My main study interest is Old Norse language, as well as literature, and the Álfar are part of Old Norse mythology.” Her paper, Álfar and the Early Icelandic Settlers, is an ideal match for the Estonian conference’s theme of “Supernatural Places.”

“I’m looking at it on more of an analytical level,” she explains. “I’m tying the elves to how the Icelanders approached the landscape when they first arrived. Was it the very dramatic landscape that influenced the Old Norse settlers to create new ideas about the elves, or did they make the environment mystical and supernatural because they already had these ideas about elves and trolls and other beings? It’s the same as looking at Odin or Thor and their functions in society; I’m just looking at elves.”

Burrell presenting her findings at UVic

But we’re not talking about Santa’s little helpers here; think more along the lines of The Lord of the Rings. “J.R.R. Tolkien’s representation of elves—especially in The Similarion—is very close to what we actually have that talks about elves,” says Burrell, referring to Old Norse Eddic poetry and the Prose Edda, a compilation of Old Norse myths by 13th century Icelandic historian and poet Snorri Sturluson. “What little there is written about Icelandic elves matches Tolkien’s description: they’re smiths, they’re beautiful, they shine like the light, they’re warriors . . . of course, Tolkien knew Old Icelandic and was a major scholar in that field.”

While this will be Burrell’s first time presenting at an overseas academic conference, she has spent time living and studying in Denmark—where she first got interested in Old Norse culture (“Old Norse is a broad term for the Viking culture that came to Iceland,” she adds)—and plans to pursue a Masters degree in Nordic Philology in Germany.

More than just studying mythology, however, Burrell has a passion for preserving the past. “It’s not just the history and the stories,” she insists. “I believe it’s really important to keep those languages alive. As science and technology become more important, I hope universities and high schools don’t lose that focus of teaching history and literature.”

Note: this piece originally appeared in June 2012 convocation issue of The Ring.

Adventures in Beaverland

When Senator Nicole Eaton publicly derided the beaver as a “19th-century has-been” late last year, little did she realize she was also justifying the research of graduate student Frances Backhouse.

Frances Backhouse takes her first-hand research seriously! (Photo: Pete Wise)

Backhouse, who just received an MFA in Writing for her work on Castor canadensis, well knows why Canadians should give a dam about this hard-working national iconand why Senator Eaton, who described the beaver as both a “toothy tyrant” and a “dentally defective rat” and called for its replacement by the polar bear as our national symbol, was so off-base with her comments.

“I see the beaver as something where biology and history intersect,” Backhouse explains. “But I didn’t want to write a standard natural history of the beaver; I wanted to get into it more as an iconic animal—so I’m looking at the beaver as a history maker, a landscape shaper and a national symbol.”

No stranger to biology, history or writing, Backhouse already has five books under her belt (including studies of North American woodpeckers and owls) and was the 2010 winner of the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for her acclaimed work Children of the Klondike. A longtime freelance writer with a zoology degree and a background that includes teaching high school in Africa, Backhouse decided to tackle an MFA for both the immediate learning and future teaching opportunities it presented. “I wanted to be stimulated in new ways, to take my writing in new directions,” she explains, “and one of the appeals of the Writing program here is that it’s multi-genre—so I’d be studying with students and professors who work in other genres, which I really enjoyed.”

Backhouse (with fellow winner Sylvia Olsen) at the 2010 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize gala

But when it comes to the beaver, Backhouse quickly realized that despite its role in Canadian history, ecology and iconography, the definitive cultural study had yet to be written. “Nobody’s brought it all together,” she says. “We’re so used to them being an icon that we don’t actually give them that much thought. I think we take beavers for granted.” (Stay tuned for her next book, tentatively titled Beaverland: In Search of a Canadian Icon, projected for a spring 2014 completion.)

From a hands-on lesson on how to skin a beaver to on-the-ground research in Alberta and Saskatchewan (as well as a trip to our local Beaver Lake, where, alas, there are no more beavers), Backhouse says one of the tricks has been sifting through the sheer volume of information. “There is actually a lot about beavers scattered between scientific papers, popular history and academic papers, so the challenge has been narrowing it down to what I was actually going to talk about.”

As for the brouhaha with Senator Eaton—which prompted a response by Backhouse in the form of a well-received essay for the online magazine The Tyee—she remains grateful for the opportunity to bite back. “It seemed to hit a note with people,” Backhouse chuckles. “I didn’t hear from her personally, but I gather that once she got this outraged reaction from the public, she just backed right off. For me, it was great affirmation that I’m on the right track with this book.”

Note: this piece originally appeared online for The Ring.

Legacy Gallery undergoes a Transformation

Don’t worry—downtown’s Legacy Art Gallery isn’t getting another facelift. This Transformation is simply a retrospective of works by one of UVic’s honourary degree recipients.

Duncan Regehr

No strange to either local galleries or local stages, Duncan Regehr is one of those rare multifaceted talents who has found success in a number of artistic venues—painting, writing, sculpture and acting. This summer, the Legacy Gallery will honour Regehr with a retrospective of his artistic career to date. (Although somehow we doubt they’ll be showing any of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes in which the Victoria-raised actor had a recurring role.)

Instead, the exhibit—Transformation: A Retrospective, Works and Writing by Duncan Regehr—will pair both his visual art and poetry as it brings to life this artist’s remarkable investigations of the notions of transformation and metamorphosis. As Legacy states, “His recent series Omiscience, Revenant and Doppelganger reflect a new intensity and scale of Regehr’s reflection on the human experience and bring together the recurring leitmotifs of his work.”

Duncan Regehr "Untitled" (Oil, mixed media on canvas)

“Through a wide-ranging presentation of media, the viewer will become acquainted with the artist’s working method: to develop a  series of paintings, sculptures, drawings and writings that project and explore a common theme or philosophy. By delving into the collective subconscious and the psyche, Regehr produces images of an intensely personal nature, which invites reciprocal identification by the viewer.” Regehr was awarded an honorary degree from UVic in 2008 for his accomplishments in both theatre and fine arts, and the Legacy Art Gallery is pleased to feature the work of this distinguished honorand.

Over the past 35 years, Regehr has evolved as a prolific multi-media artist of international prominence, with numerous exhibitions in Canada, the USA and Europe. His paintings, sculpture and written works are found in important collections worldwide, including the Smithsonian Institute (USA), the Jilin Collection (China), the Kunsthallen (Copenhagen), Focus on the Masters Archives for the Getty Museum (USA) and the Syllavethy Gallery (Scotland). In 1996 he won the American Vision Award of Distinction in the Arts, and was granted the RCA in the year 2000 by the Royal Canadian Academy of Art for his outstanding artistic achievements.

Regehr in his Star Trek: Deep Space Nine guise

A classically trained actor, Regehr began performing Shakespeare at the age of 15 and has acted in and directed national and international productions for stage, film, radio and television. And if you’re a keen Netflix user, you can probably find some of Regehr’s less gallery-bound TV work on the likes of The New World Zorro (in which he played the swashbuckling title role), Deep Space Nine (where he had a recurring role as Bajoran Minister Shakaar), the original 1980s sci-fi miniseries V, and as the villainous Count Dracula in the under-appreciated kids cult classic The Monster Squad.

But, no question, his gallery work is far more interesting.

Transformation: A Retrospective runs June 13 to August 18 at the Legacy Art Gallery, 630 Yates (on the corner of Broad Street). Gallery hours are 10am to 4pm Wednesday to Saturday, and admission is always free. 250-381-7645.

 

Curtain calls

Congratulations are due to a whole whack of Phoenix Theatre alumni this week!

The cast of Atomic Vaudeville's Ride The Cyclone

Local theatrical success story Ride the Cyclone picked up a pair of awards at the Toronto Theatre Critics Award at the end of May, including Best Musical and Best Director of a Musical (Britt Small and Jacob Richmond). And it’s currently in the running for Best Touring Production in the forthcoming prestigious Dora Awards, due to be announced June 25.  

Ride The Cyclone is a classic overnight success story that was, of course, years in the making. Springing from the twisted genius of Atomic Vaudeville co-creator Richmond and noted local composer Brooke Maxwell, it was originally workshopped for three years here in Victoria before premiering at a two-week run in October 2009 at Intrepid Theatre (at the time run by Phoenix grads Janet Munsil and Ian Case, the latter of whom is now back at UVic as the new Director of University Centre Farquhar Auditorium). After that, it went back into workshop and a shorter, slicker version was presented as part of the National Series at the acclaimed SummerWorks Festival in Toronto in August, 2010; Cyclone was then picked up by the local Belfry Theatre for its 2011 Summer Series, where the current cast wowed sold-out audiences before heading out on a short Canadian tour.

Among the cast and creators are Phoenix-trained actors Sarah Jane Pelzer, Rielle Braid, Kholby Wardell and Matthew Coulson, as well as choreographer Treena Stubel and co-director Small (as well as Jacob Richmond, who is technically just a “previous student” but we’ll consider him a Phoenix-er). And if that last name sounds familiar, yes, Jacob is the son of former Theatre chair and current acting & directing professor Brian Richmond.

Comedy kings Peter N' Chris are up for an award before stepping into the Spotlight on Alumni this fall

And in other talented alumni news, it was announced recently that popular comedy duo Peter N’ Chris—who just happen to be in Phoenix’s Spotlight on Alumni this fall—were nominated for Best Sketch Troupe in the Canadian Comedy Awards & Festival, a Toronto-based national award supported by the Comedy Network.

Longtime Fringe Festival favourites, Chris Wilson and Peter Carlone write and perform all their own work and are a hit with audiences wherever they go. Don’t miss the chance to see them in hilarious action when The Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel returns to Victoria from October 11-20 at the Phoenix Theatre.

Meg Roe

Finally, award-winning fellow Phoenix alum Meg Roe just got a hearty thumbs-up from the Globe and Mail for her direction of The Taming of the Shrew for Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival. “In [Roe's] hands, Shrew is the absolute romp Shakespeare designed it to be, with a strong, believable and yes, even beautiful love story at its heart,”  writes Marsha Lederman.

“Roe focuses on two essential elements of the play: its humour, and what she interprets as a real love match between Kate and Petruchio. In Roe’s vision, Kate isn’t just a challenge to be won – and conquered – by Petruchio, but a woman he truly desires.

“Roe (who is best known as an actor) highlights the humour—with varying degrees of success—refusing to not have a blast with a play that was fun before it was controversial.”

Congratulations to all!