Two new professors in Visual Arts

The Department of Visual Arts is proud to announce the appointment of two new members to their acclaimed teaching faculty. Joining Visual Arts from the University of Manitoba is sculptor and photographer Cedric Bomford, and stepping up from her longtime position as a sessional instructor is sculptor Megan Dickie.

Cedric Bomford joins the Visual Arts faculty

Cedric Bomford joins the Visual Arts faculty

Cedric Bomford is leaving an Assistant Professorship at the University of Manitoba, a position that he has held since 2012, to join us at UVic to teach photography,” notes Visual Arts chair Paul Walde. “Professor Bomford’s career is on a upward trajectory as evidenced by an international exhibition record and his work being recently nominated for the prestigious 2014 Sobey Award.”

Bomford’s elaborate installation Bamberton: Contested Landscape ran locally at Open Space in January 2010. An immersive installation that reused materials from the artist’s building demolitions and previous work, the installation confronted land-use issues on the Vancouver Island site of Bamberton and Malahat Mountain through architectural references in the individual structures—which visitors were able to physically move through, over, under and around, allowing for a tactile interaction with the artists’ interventionist strategies and theme of contested space.

Bomford's "Bamberton: Contested Landscape" at Open Space in 2010

Bomford’s “Bamberton: Contested Landscape” at Open Space in 2010

“We believe Bomford’s high profile projects—most recently in Vancouver—will raise the profile of the Department and attract students to the program,” Walde continues. “Bomford’s practice is rooted in West Coast culture and he often collaborates with the brother Nathan and father Jim who live in on Vancouver Island. Additionally, Bomford is known for his curatorial projects, particularly his work with the collective aedc which produced a number of exhibitions in Berlin.”

Megan Dickie teaching the Foundation class in Visual Arts

Megan Dickie teaching the Foundation class in Visual Arts

And it’s a pleasure to see Megan Dickie move up to a faculty position, after her many years teaching with the department. “Megan has been teaching with Visual Arts for 10 years now,” says Walde. “She is consistently one of our most highly ranked instructors and is extremely popular with our students. In the past four years, Megan’s studio research has developed in new and innovative ways bringing her more exhibition opportunities both nationally and internationally.”

Known for her objects and images that are humorous, tactile and interactive, Megan investigates ideas of artifice by making sculptures out of sensuous materials that turn functional forms into exaggerated novelty gadgets. She finds novelty compelling in how it rejoices in excess and is truthful about its moral shortcomings; it’s a form that promotes curiosity over intimidation which allows the viewer to lean in and discover through touch.  Through this tactile experience the viewer ends up struggling between their desire for amusement and their desire for reason.

Megan Dickie's "The Gleamer," last seen at Legacy Gallery

Megan Dickie’s “The Gleamer,” last seen at Legacy Gallery

Megan has exhibited her work across Canada and has had recent exhibitions at Victoria’s Deluge Contemporary, Vancouver’s Grunt Gallery, the Nanaimo Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Ministry of Causal Living and Saskatoon’s Kenderdine Art Gallery. She was also the recipient of a Canada Council emerging artist creation grant in 2004 and a BC Arts Council grant in 2007 & 2009. Most recently, she contributed a piece to Legacy Gallery’s In Session: One, an exhibit focusing on UVic’s sessional instructor

“Megan has also curated exhibitions in Victoria, which have contributed to the vibrancy of the community by bringing in the work of national and international artists,” says Walde. “And, for seven years, she has been leading our Foundations Program—we are currently looking to re-design this area, as was recommended by our Academic Program Review. Megan’s experience within the Department makes her a natural fit for this position. She will continue to work and develop our Foundations Program, but also teach video which is an increasingly important part of her practice.”

Victoria Summer Music Festival celebrates 20 years

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

School of Music professor & VSMF artistic director Arthur Rowe

School of Music professor & VSMF artistic director Arthur Rowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Alcan String Quartet

The Alcan String Quartet

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

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

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

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

The Chooi Brothers

The Chooi Brothers

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

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

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

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

The Dover String Quartet

The Dover String Quartet

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

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

Voices Without Borders

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

The Tsilumos Ensemble

The Tsilumos Ensemble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's early days for the DFL in Visual Arts

It’s early days for the DFL in Visual Arts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

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

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

—Tara Sharpe, with contributions by John Threlfall

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

Fine Arts alumni fuel Shakespeare Festival

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

GVSS Artistic Director & Writing MFA Karen Lee Pickett

GVSS Artistic Director & Writing MFA Karen Lee Pickett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benjamin Butterfield wins Craigdarroch Award

Performer, artistic collaborator and educator—Benjamin Butterfield continues to make an indelible impression on the future of Canadian singers and on audiences worldwide. He is a tenor of international renown, with a repertoire ranging from baroque to classical to contemporary. This much-loved School of Music professor is now the 2015 winner of UVic’s Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression.

Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)

Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)

Benjamin Butterfield is an outstanding performer, artistic collaborator, and educator, whose body of artistic work and song serves as a link to a greater sense and understanding of one’s self, others, and the world around us,” says Dr. Susan Lewis, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “The measure of Professor Butterfield’s impact on the musical world can truly be found in how he applies his talent and expertise to the training of a new generation of singers at the School of Music. He makes the difference for young singers, providing both inspiration and sound teaching to prepare them for the world stage.”

Butterfield’s artistic knowledge and production experience is broad, versatile and widely recognized by peers, critics and audiences for its quality and impact. He has performed with the world’s top musicians and conductors, and is highly sought-after as a teacher who transforms young singers into emerging professional artists. Many of his students have gone on to give performances with major opera companies and symphonies throughout North America.

“This award clarifies the value that the University of Victoria places on the arts by acknowledging artistic expression as a point of recognition amongst it’s community members,” says Butterfield. “To be included with scientists, scholars, historians, technicians and health professionals sends a valuable message that the whole is made stronger by the sum of it’s parts. This award also helps me clarify for myself the importance of continuing to grow and learn as a singer, educator and human being.”

Butterfield, dressed for success on the stage

Butterfield, dressed for success on the stage

As an example of how busy Butterfield is during his off-campus hours, he is performing at two prestigious music events this summer alone: the Ukrainian Art Song project—which will find Butterfield at the Glenn Gould Studio this July recording alongside the acclaimed likes of fellow Canadian vocalists Russell Braun, Virginia Hatfield, Andrea Ludwig, Krisztina Szabó, Monica Whicher and Pavlo Hunka as part of the overall project to record 1,000 Ukrainian art songs by 26 composers as an extraordinary musical legacy to the world—and at Vermont’s famous Yellow Barn Concerts, which presents 23 concerts between July 10 and August 8.

“Music binds, educates and serves—the human voice is common to us all and is at the very core of our collective abilities, story telling and passions. Music can heal and rally, console and inspire. It is a reflecting pool for our common struggles and joys,” says Butterfeld. “Our world today is full of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and conflicts presenting a complicated and challenging future. There has never been a better time to sing. It helps one find the strength of character to be inspired, find solace and understanding and to know our responsibilities towards this world. As a performing artist, how do I inspire others to better appreciate the world around us? By singing about it.”

Butterfield teaching one of his students

Butterfield teaching one of his students

And, considering the range of students he’s had over the years, what kind of impact does Butterfield see UVic graduates having on the world? “An old sailor once said, ‘There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have hit a coral reef, and those who are going to hit a coral reef.’ UVic grads know that true success comes from developing the strength of mind to negotiate and manage failure; they are taught to deal with life’s inevitable ups and downs through UVic’s faculty, staff, facilities and location,” he says.

“They become committed, thoughtful and interested contributors to our society rather than focusing on self serving ventures. Our music grads in particular achieve this through learning to communicate through their music, developing their point of view and by taking chances every day. Their impact on the world is simple: they make music.”

Butterfield joins the likes of previous Craigdarroch Award winners Harald Krebs, Lorna Crozier and Marcus Milwright. The Craigdarroch Research Awards were established in 2003 to recognize outstanding research-focused and creative contributions at UVic, and were named for Craigdarroch Castle—home to UVic’s predecessor institution, Victoria College (1921-1946).

You can view Craigdarroch winners’ “Faces of UVic Research” videos here.

Vikes Band wants you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Remembering former Writing chair David Godfrey

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

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

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

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

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

Born in Winnipeg, Godfrey was educated at Trinity College at the University of Toronto, Iowa State University and Stanford University, and taught English and music in Ghana for several years during the 1960s. Upon his return to Canada, he taught at U of T before arriving at UVic. As the Globe & Mail noted in this obituary, Godfrey’s time at what is now the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (where he earned an MFA in 1963 and a PhD in 1966) was foundational. “He was mentored by the novelist Hortense Calisher, taught by Malcolm Cowley, played tennis with Philip Roth, hung out with Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) and Ken Kesey as Mr. Kesey worked up the manuscript for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and made wine with Raymond Carver.”

Godfrey seen during  his time in the Writing department

Godfrey seen during his time in the Writing department

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Godfrey's GG-winning novel The New Ancestors

Godfrey’s GG-winning novel

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

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

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

From Manila to Broadway

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

Directing MFA Chari Arespacochaga (photo: Adrienne Holierhoek)

Directing MFA Chari Arespacochaga (photo: Adrienne Holierhoek)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI

Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI

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

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

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

—Adrienne Holierhoek

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

Designing Prague

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

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

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

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

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

Allan Stichbury

Allan Stichbury

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

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

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

A stylish Erin Macklem

A stylish Erin Macklem

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

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

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

Patrick DuWors (photo: Jae Kyun Im)

Patrick DuWors (photo: Jae Kyun Im)

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

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

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

Macklem's design work for Eleemosynary at the Phoenix

Macklem’s design work for Eleemosynary at the Phoenix

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

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

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