Mackie’s back in town

For a song written only days before the premiere, “Mack the Knife” has not only become the most recognized number from The Threepenny Opera, but also a musical standard performed by some of world’s greatest artists. The history of the song also represents a fascinating journey for how we view one of theatre’s most notorious villains, the character MacHeath—better known as Mack the Knife.

The beggars, prostitutes and down-and-out sing  in Phoenix Theatre's production of The Threepenny Opera (photo: David Lowes)

The beggars, prostitutes and down-and-out sing in Phoenix Theatre’s production of The Threepenny Opera (photo: David Lowes)

Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera is a landmark of modern theatre. After opening in 1928 in Berlin, it became one of the biggest hits of the 1920s. Here was a satire so irreverent and cutting in its humour, so gritty in its reflection of the down-and-out, and so uncompromising in its criticisms of post-WWI German society that it would influence all theatre thereafter. Kurt Weill’s precedent-setting, jazz-influenced music would create a resurgence in the musical worldwide.

Opening November 5 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, this mainstage production of The Threepenny Opera is directed by Department of Theatre professor Brian Richmond who has set it in an absurd, near-future dystopia. Part biting satire and part sheer theatrical innovation, this famed musical is a landmark of modern theatre. “This is quite possibly the most important piece of musical theatre in the 20th century,” says Richmond, who worked with Applied Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta to bring a strong sense of realism to this production.

To learn more about the vision behind this production, director Richmond will be giving a pre-show lecture at 7pm on Friday, November 6. The Threepenny Opera then runs 8pm Tuesday to Saturday to Nov 21 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday, November 21. Tickets range from $15 to $25 and can be charged by phone at 250-721-8000. 

The ensemble cast of Phoenix Theatre's The Threepenny Opera (photo: David Lowes)

The ensemble cast of Phoenix Theatre’s The Threepenny Opera (photo: David Lowes)

The Threepenny Opera borrows from the 18th-century The Beggar’s Opera and offers an edgy mix of biting satire and sheer theatrical innovation as it takes aim at the traditional bourgeoisie and reveals a society where law is fickle, money corrupts and crime absolutely pays. Richmond is well-known for breathing fresh life into classic works, as evidenced by past Phoenix productions like Guys & Dolls, Dark of the Moon, The Wind in the Willows and Romeo & Juliet.

“Mack the Knife,” the song that has since become an iconic symbol of the play, was only added at the last minute at the behest of Harald Paulsen—the actor playing MacHeath in the premiere—as he wanted a number that would better introduce his character. A number of translations and versions of the play were produced following the original, but it wasn’t until Marc Blitzstein’s 1954 New York City version that Threepenny became a hit in America, ensconcing the play and its music in popular culture. Conducted by the preeminent Leonard Bernstein (a friend of Blitzstein) and featuring Lotte Lenya (Kurt Weil’s widow, who had been part of the original Berlin cast), it ran Off-Broadway for over six years and broke records set by Oklahoma.

Mack the Knife (Lindsay Robinson) flees from Polly (Pascal Lamothe-Kipnes) in Phoenix's The Threepenny Opera (photo: David Lowes)

Mack the Knife (Lindsay Robinson) flees from Polly (Pascal Lamothe-Kipnes) in Phoenix’s The Threepenny Opera (photo: David Lowes)

It was Blitzstein’s translation of “Mack the Knife” that was famously recorded by some of the biggest stars in the 1950s and ’60s, including Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra. While based on the Blitzstein version, each artist made the song his or her own, accentuating or repeating different lyrics to highlight Mackie’s exploitive playboy nature. Musically, some interpreted the song with more swing, more jazz, more up-tempo, more lounge, as best fit the artist’s style. Armstrong spontaneously added Lotte Lenya’s name into the lyrics as she watched his recording session. Sinatra added references to many previous singers in his lyrics.

In 1976, a new version of Threepenny opened on Broadway (later made into a movie), featuring a version of “Mack the Knife” that returned to Brecht and Weill’s original idea of a murder song that accentuated MacHeath’s trail of victims more than his womanizing ways. This version was recorded in the ’80s and ’90s by the likes of Lyle Lovett, Sting and Nick Cave. Then, in 1994, Robert David MacDonald and Jeremy Sams hoped to recapture some of the original edginess of Brecht’s irreverent cutting humour and mounted a version of Threepenny with an emphasis on Mackie’s more gruesome villainous ways.

Director Brian Richmond

Director Brian Richmond

It is this most recent translation that director Richmond chose for the Phoenix production. “Directors often ask not only how, but why an audience responded to a particular work at the time of its premiere,” he says. “[We] then try to build an interpretive bridge between this central nerve, or zeitgeist, of the culture from which the work arose and the times in which we live now.”

Still reeling in the aftermath of the war, the 1920s German Weimar government was plagued with hyperinflation, political extremists, severe poverty and famine. At the same time, there was false sense of affluence and indulgence among the elite, leaving Germany teetering on the brink of inevitable disaster. As young artists and political activists, no doubt Brecht, Weill and friends could see that this house of cards was about to fall.

The 1994 translation restores the grittiness and angst of the original for today’s audiences. “Looking at the present day conditions—economic, political and social—it’s not difficult for current audiences to relate to this fear of an impending collapse of society,” says Richmond. “Thankfully this has not happened yet . . . which is why we decided to set this production in the future, where we can take for granted that society has already collapsed. We felt that an absurd dystopian future would further highlight the absurdity of how man’s appetite for greed, lust and gluttony, keeps contributing to our downfall.”

—Adrienne Holierhoek

The Threepenny Opera runs 8pm Tuesday to Saturday to Nov 21 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday, November 21. Tickets range from $15 to $25 and can be charged by phone at 250-721-8000

Behind the mask

You might think that wearing a mask is a way to hide from others, but Department of Theatre alumna Kate Braidwood discovered while she was studying here at UVic that masks are a fun and engaging way to express herself on stage.

Phoenix alumna Kate Braidwood

Phoenix alumna Kate Braidwood

Now, as the co-founder of the multi-award winning WONDERHEADS physical theatre company, Braidwood works with her husband Andrew Phoenix to create playful characters through full-face masks. They then integrate these “wonderheads” into performances fraught with exquisite visual storytelling.

LOON, which opened the Phoenix Theatre’s 2015/16 season on October 14, is just one of the acclaimed productions for which this international touring theatre company is known. LOON tells the story of Francis, a lonely janitor with a child-like imagination and a wild fascination with the moon. Unfortunately, Francis hits an emotional rock bottom and he feels like there’s nowhere to go but up . . . and up! It’s a surprising mix of physical theatre, comedy and pathos, all wrapped up in a peculiar, but beautiful, love story.

With their creative use of full-face masks, expressive physical movement and inventive lighting and sound cues in place of words, WONDERHEADS’ shows have been compared by CBC Radio to watching “a living cartoon for lovers and dreamers.” (Watch this online trailer.) With “Critics Choice” and “Best Show” awards ranging from Vancouver to Orlando, they have been successfully changing audience’s perspectives on the nature of theatre and storytelling across North America.


Watch this 2-minute time-lapse video of the full 50-hour process

Braidwood and Phoenix create all of their full-faced, oversized masks from scratch. First they sculpt the head and facial expression out of modeling clay. The head is then covered with liquid rubber to capture expressions into a casting mould, and strips of plaster-soaked cloth are laid around this rubber to construct a hard exterior shell. When it’s dry, the rubber mould is filled with strips of papier-mâché to create the actual mask. The final mask is given eye and air holes, painted lovingly with rosy cheeks, or freckles or whatever is needed for the character, and then topped with a hairdo.

Braidwood attributes much of her direction in life to her studies in the Department of Theatre’s Acting Specialization program. “My time at UVic played no small part in my journey that led to founding WONDERHEADS,” she says. “It was at UVic that I first performed with masks. I was lucky to have Peter Balkwill [of Old Trout Puppet Workshop fame] as a movement teacher at the time, and creating vocal masques in Jan Wood’s class shed light on the path to devising and creating my own original work.”

Love is in the air at LOON (Second Glance Photography)

Love is in the air at LOON (Second Glance Photography)

After graduating in 2003, Braidwood trained at Dell’Arte International, a physical theatre school in California, where she met Andrew  Phoenix. “During the process of creating our first show together, we happened to fall in love,” she recalls. “We got married, and when it came time to create our next show we thought ‘love’ would be a fitting theme. But LOON isn’t just about love; it’s also about loneliness, loss, and letting go. It’s about remembering how a person or experience helped shape who we are, and how we keep them in our hearts as we move on.”

Now based out of Portland, Oregon, and as Co-Artistic Director of her own theatre company, Braidwood is also appreciating other aspects of her education. “The program at the Phoenix trained us to have a wide range of skills in the theatre, and the importance of being multi-faceted is integral for me today now that I run my own company,” she says. “When I moved on from the Phoenix, I kept the experience in my heart, and it is an honour to return to share my work with current students.”

LOON runs at 8pm daily to October 24 (except Sunday, Oct 18), plus a 2pm matinee on Sunday, October 24, at Phoenix Theatre. Tickets range from $15 – $45 and can be purchased here.

Fine Arts at the Fringe Fest

It’s time again for Victoria’s annual Fringe Festival—the 29th annual Fringe Fest, actually, making it the second-oldest Canadian Fringe (next to the mighty Edmonton Fringe). With over 50 shows from across Canada, around the world and all over Victoria, Fringers are primed for 11 days of indie theatre from August 27 to September 6. Remember, the Fringe only comes once a year, so take in as much as you can! Grab a program, get a button and start seeing whatever strikes your fancy.

fringeAs always, Fine Arts is well represented in this year’s Fringe, with a plethora of Phoenix Theatre alumni & students on deck—but there are also a number of Department of Writing alumni active this year too. In no particular order, here’s a quick guide to who’s doing what and when. Just click on the show title and a link will take you to their Fringe page to find out more. Note: any names listed are Fine Arts students or alumni.)

The Dangers of Daphne – Downtown Activity Centre (Venue 2) • Written by Robbie Huebner (Writing MFA), Directed by Melissa Taylor. Projection Design by Max Johnson. Featuring Sarah Cashin, Ian Simms, and Kevin Eade.

The damsel: kidnapped, hogtied, blindfolded, helpless — the old Hollywood standard. Daphne, an aspiring silent film actress, plays the part every day. Sure, she’s getting famous, but what good is fame when you’re always the victim? Nobody loves a woman roped to railroad tracks. If only Daphne could flip the script… A tale of music, celluloid and bigscreen hubris.

Keara Barnes

Keara Barnes

Almost a StepmomWood Hall (Venue 4) • Created by Keara Barnes

A true story:Keara moved to Ireland. She fell in love. Then she became a stepmom…almost. A darkly comic tale about the ups and downs of becoming a stepmother. Multiple characters and a murder attempt round off this tumultuous and touching solo show.

Rumpelstiltskin . . . and Other Tales – Metro Studio Theatre (Venue 3) • Created by & featuring Jeff Leard

Classic children’s stories re-imagined by Fringe Festival favourite Jeff Leard—son of Story Theatre founder & fellow Phoenix alumnus Jim Leard. An exciting solo show of family favourites created for kids, their families and everyone else, too.  “…a young Robin Williams” – LONDON FREE PRESS. “Do yourself a favour and let Jeff Leard spin you his story…” – BEAT MAGAZINE.

Jeff Leard

Jeff Leard

Sperm WarsVictoria Event Centre (Venue 1) • The other Fringe show created by & featuring Jeff Leard!

Sperm Wars takes place in a brutal, futuristic, utterly absurd universe. As sperm and eggs collide in the battle for Uteran supremacy tales emerge of love, loss, betrayal, spaceships, sword fights, life, and death before birth. The result is gametocidal tragedy, sci-fi hilarity, and one surviving oddly placed robot. “5 stars: an epic masterpiece” – Edmonton Journal

The Workingclass CafeFairfield Hall (Venue 7) • Produced by Emma Hughes and Tristan Bacon. Featuring Nicholas Yee, Alexa Carriere, Logan Mitev, Sean Brossard.

The Workingclass Café is a last-minute Fringe show featuring a different performance lineup every night, providing the opportunity to showcase many different artists and their amazing performance talents. Join this celebrate live theatre, local artists and the last minute chances that are always hoped for!

Sam Mullins

Sam Mullins

The Untitled Sam Mullins Project – VCM Wood Hall (Venue 4)  • Created by & featuring Sam S. Mullins

Canadian Comedy Award-winner Sam Mullins (This American Life, The Moth, CBC’s The Irrelevant Show) tells the four stories of his four “truths”. “****1/2 God he’s good. Sam Mullins is a master storyteller.” –WINNIPEG FREE PRESS. “****1/2 Equal parts excruciating and hilarious. Mullins knocks it out of the park.” – EDMONTON JOURNAL

The Problem with Facebook – Downtown Activity Centre (Venue 2) • Created by & featuring Ian Simms

Five teenagers struggle to make the best of the awkwardest time of their life. But thanks to the magic of the internet, they are put in touch with an Iranian rebel with some sage, although offbeat, advice. A show about honesty, the subtext that flows through every social media message, and our perspective through the lens of technology.

4web3webLt.-Nun-Fringe-Image-copy-3Lieutenant Nun – Macaulay Point Park (Venue A) • Directed by Mercedes Bátiz-Benét (Writing) & Kathleen Greenfield. Musical Coaching by Sarah Jane Pelzer. Mask Design by Ingrid Hansen, Bátiz-Benét & Greenfield. Puppet Design by Hansen. Mask & Puppet Construction by Hansen & Andrew Barrett. Stage Management by Delaney Tesch. Featuring Keshia Palm.

The creators of Little Orange Man team up with the makers of El Jinete (Summerworks 2014) to re-imagine this 2004 Theatre SKAM smash hit! In the 17th Century, Catalina escapes the convent and sails to the New World dressed as a conquistador. After years of being male, Catalina’s secret sex is revealed. A true story about gender, identity, war and conquest.

The Daughter of Turpentine – Langham Court Theatre (Venue 6)
Written by Leah Callen (Writing MFA). Directed by Chase Hiebert. Featuring Graham Roebuck, Lindsay Curl, Renee Killough, Pascal Lamothe-Kipness, and Brett Hay.

Meet Pin: a fed up, sexually-frustrated tree nymph who just turned sixteen. Burning to get away from her painted sisters and her guardian Gabriel, she falls for turpentine and a passing arsonist. But will she ever break free from Gabriel’s spell? A flammable fairytale for adults. Originally presented as a Phoenix SATCo production.

3webtwo-copyTwo Metro Studio Theatre (Fringe Venue 3) • Created by Kat Taddei. Directed by Colette Habel. Lighting/set design by Sean Brossard. Sound design by Colette Habel. Featuring Brett Hay, Nicholas Yee, Levi Schneider, Jack Hayes, Sam Lynch.

Ever wondered if out there, in a faraway universe, lives another you? This haunting new work presents two dramatically different versions of one life. Set in parallel worlds, both manipulated by a chorus of mysterious figures, Two blends the unsettling surreal with the familiar hyper-real.

Two St Andrew’s Gymnasium (Venue 5) • Created by Cameron Fraser

The second show in this Fringe so titled, this Two is an unbridled multidisciplinary show centered around a young couple’s evolution from a budding romance through to an established relationship. Combining physical comedy, acrobatics, dance and object manipulation, Two offers a lighter side to the ups and downs of love, lust and peanut butter sandwiches.

3webcasino-royale-copyIan Fleming’s Casino Royale – St Andrew’s Gymnasium (Venue 5) • Directed by Ian Case. Featuring Ellen Law.

Witness the world stage premiere of the first of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Agent 007 declares war on Le Chiffre, French Communist & paymaster of the Soviet murder organization: SMERSH. For incredible suspense, unexpected thrills, and extraordinary danger, nothing can beat James Bond in this, his inaugural adventure.

Band GeeksSt. Michaels University School (Venue 9) • Directed by Cam Culham

Faced with dwindling attendance and funds, a highschool’s beloved marching band is desperate. When a troubled athlete is relegated to their ranks, Elliott, the band captain and Laura, his best friend, must find a way to unite the band, embrace their inner geek, and save the day.

3webthewyrdsisters-copyThe Wyrd SistersMetro Studio Theatre (Venue 3) • Created/Directed by Alannah Bloch. Featuring Colette Habel, Nicola Whitney-Griffiths, Victoria Simpson, Nicolas Yee, Jack Hayes, and Levi Schneider. Costume design by Michelle Bowes. Original sound composition by Carl Keys. Choreographed by Nicola Whitney-Griffiths.

Benevolence and malevolence. Evanescence of smoke whispering across a moor. The glint of a dagger behind a curtain. The Wyrd Sisters is a collective movement theatre piece interpreting the magic of Shakespeare through dance and original sound composition. “Something wicked this way comes…” the Wyrd Sisters are waiting for you.

Fallout – Roxy Theatre (Venue 8) • Written by Shane Campbell (Writing). Featuring Markus Spodzieja, Jenson Kerr.

At the end of the world, two men are trapped in their basement struggling to pull together a forgotten past. Al, who is suffering from amnesia, is stuck with Nate, his roommate. In this dark comedy the two have to come to terms with how to survive the future they find themselves in.

Andrew Wade

Andrew Wade

The Most Honest Man in the World – Wood Hall (Venue 4) • Created by & featuring Andrew Wade

A life-long love story about the pursuit of honesty over all happiness. Andrew Wade builds a working lie detector and straps himself in. Using stories, music, apps, and tap shoes, Wade looks at old relationships and insecurities as he tries to learn how to honestly let go. “A brave experiment in both theatre and life. 4 stars! – Saskatoon StarPhoenix

The Best Meal You Ever Ate Congregation Emanu-El (Venue B) • Featuring Michael Armstrong (Writing MFA)

Avram and his wife are the last two Jews left alive in the ghetto fighting the Nazis and they are starving. To their astonishment a chef, Jean-Paul, brings a wonderful meal complete with wines. He applauds their courage and has persuaded the German commander to allow them one final, sublime meal before they are destroyed. But is it kosher…?

Last-minute electives!

Looking for a last-minute Fall elective to replace the course that sounded good in June but now has you scratching your head? (“Uh, did I really intend to register for A History of Molds and Fungi?”) You’re in luck—Fine Arts has you covered with a wide ranging of fascinating electives guaranteed to enhance any degree.

Missy Elliott's in the house for an Intro to Hip Hop

Missy Elliott’s in the house for an Intro to Hip Hop

Check the technique behind An Introduction to Hip Hop (FA 200). As well as looking at the roots of hip hop and groundbreaking originals like Kook Herc, you’ll be doing case studies on artists like Missy Elliot, Kanye West and Jay Z. You’ll also focus on the role of graffiti, turntablism and bboy/bgirl culture. Taught by Melissa Avdeef—the creator of last year’s popular Beyonce course— An Intro to Hip Hop runs 4:30-5:50 pm MW to Dec. 4.

HA200PosterThe creation of art has always been a hands-on process, but now you can look back at the historical roots of arts & crafts with How is Art Made? (HA200) Very much a hands-on course  itself, this Art History elective with Marcus Milwright examines how people actually make beautiful objects and buildings. From the painting of an icon to the casting of a bronze figure, you’ll have the chance to connect and handle a wide variety of ancient and medieval objects. How is Art Made? runs 3:30-4:20 pm MWR to Dec. 4.

Last year's Phoenix production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (photo David Lowes)

Last year’s Phoenix production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (photo David Lowes)

Thanks to the likes of the Belfry Theatre, Intrepid Theatre, Theatre SKAM, Theatre Inconnu, Langham Court, UVic’s own Phoenix Theatre and many others, there’s no question that Victoria is a theatre town. But watching—or creating—a stage play can often be daunting if you have no background to it. That’s where An Introduction to Theatre (THEA 101) comes in. Taught by local theatre artist and filmmaker Leslie Bland, you’ll be introduced to practical and theoretical approaches to play analysis, dramatic criticism, theatrical form and to the principles of stage production. Better still, attendance at live performances is required—which means you’ll get to go to plays, for credit! An Introduction to Theatre runs 3:30-4:50 MTH to Dec. 4.–

ICarraccideal for anyone interested in History, Medieval or Italian studies, as well as Art History, consider going for Baroque with the fascinating  Baroque Art in Italy 1550-1700 (HA342A). Taught by Anne Williams, this course explores the innovations in Italian art & architecture at a time marked by clashing dogmas of faith, political upheaval and scientific discovery. We will examine in depth selected works of painting, sculpture, and architecture by artists including Caravaggio, Bernini, and the Carracci. Baroque Art in Italy runs 2:30-3:20pm MWR to Dec. 4.

VA_painting labMore interested in developing your own artistic skills than studying the legacy of others? Check out Foundation Drawing and Painting
 (ART 103), which explores both drawing and painting. Normally reserved for Visual Arts students, ART 103 is now open to general enrollment. Discover how developing basic art skills can contribute to a wide variety of academic pursuits, from anthropology and engineering to law, sciences and more. Through studio exercises and exciting creative projects, you’ll get hands-on with a wide variety of methods and materials. Foundation Drawing and Painting
 runs to Dec. 4 at a variety of times.

Experimental photography by Victoria's own Hannah Maynard

Experimental photography by Victoria’s own Hannah Maynard

We live in a world ruled by Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, but how did we get to the point where everyone always has a camera with, or on, them? Find out with the History of Photography (HA369). Taught by Menno Hubregste, you’ll discover how this medium has developed since its invention in 1839, both technically and aesthetically, as well as the different types of images created by artists, journalists and scientists. From travel and documentary photography to Dada, Surrealism and conceptual art, you’ll also look at the rise of women photographers and how photography changed in the age of Postmodernism and advertising. The History of Photography runs 12:30-1:20pm TWF to Dec. 4.

Interested in learning why people practice thea394.2theatre in places of conflict and war? Want to know how theatre can be used in international development settings? Wondering what kind of techniques work in conflict zones? Back by popular demand, Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta still has space in her popular Applied Theatre elective, Theatre, Conflict & Development (THEA 394). This exploration into the practice of theatre in places of conflict and war—a topic Sadeghi-Yekta knows well—will include examples from the likes of Cambodia, Sudan, Kosovo, Nicaragua, the Congo and Brazil. Theatre, Conflict & Development runs 9-10:20am MR to Dec. 4. To register, contact the Theatre Department secretary directly at

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.

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.”

Enter Vodka, exit Masters student

When it comes to their theses, UVic’s graduate students are always looking for something new. Recently, Master of Education student Mike Irvine became the first person to conduct an underwater webcast defence of his thesis. Now, Department of Writing MFA candidate and playwright Leah Callen will present a staged reading of her thesis—the surreal play Enter Vodka—followed by a public defence . . . in front of a live audience.

Dept of Writing MFA Leah Callen

Dept of Writing MFA Leah Callen

“Originally, I asked to do my defence under-vodka, but that was a no-go,” quips Callen. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to have my play read by some lovely actors to an audience. A script doesn’t mean much unless it is heard out loud.”

Enter Vodka marries the personal histories of two dead Russians—Stalin’s daughter and the Romanov Princess Anastasia—both stuck at 17, and trapped inside a melting Fabrage egg. In Enter Vodka, nothing is as red or white as it seems. The 90-minute show begins at 8pm Sunday, April 26, at the Intrepid Theatre Club (1609 Blanshard, at Fisgard) with Callen’s thesis defence to follow. Admission is by donation.

The staged reading—directed by Melissa Taylor, featuring Kathleen O’Reilly & Julie Forrest, and designed by Kerri Flannigan & Colette Habel (all UVic students or alumni)—is part of Intrepid’s monthly New Play Reading Series and in support of the Equity in Theatre Initiative, which continues to celebrate the work of local women playwrights at all stages of their careers. “We are happy to be working with the UVic writing program on this project to bring new plays to life,” says Intrepid artistic director, playwright and celebrated Department of Theatre alumna Janet Munsil.

A scene from Callen's The Daughter of Turpentine

A scene from Callen’s The Daughter of Turpentine

Nervousness aside, Callen is looking forward to the opportunity of having her new play presented in public. “UVic’s Writing program is wonderful, but I felt pretty cloistered as a playwriting graduate student, typing away by myself for two years,” she says. “I’m both excited and terrified by the defence part—but if I can’t stand up to a little public scrutiny, what kind of a playwright am I? My characters have to go through the fire literally, so the least I can do is honour them figuratively with a little Q&A.”

The idea behind the public defence came from Callen’s MFA supervisor—award-winning playwright and Writing professor Kevin Kerr—who wanted her project to step off the page. “A stage play is meant to be seen in performance and, as a writer, it’s important to see the work handled by the other collaborating theatre artists who bring the work to life,” he explains. “The success of the thesis is not only on the page, but also in the way that it inspires other artists to create a living experience for an audience.”

Writing professor & playwright Kevin Kerr

Writing professor & playwright Kevin Kerr

Kerr feels this is an ideal opportunity to showcase the creative academic process. “It seemed to be an exciting way to handle this formal step in Leah’s academic journey,” he says. “It’s potentially an opportunity for an audience to get a first-hand encounter with what a Fine Arts graduate degree entails, and demonstrates the connection between the work done inside a university Fine Arts program and the professional practice the students are working towards.”

Both Kerr and Callen expect it to be more than just a standard theatrical talk-back session. “There will be a different level of stakes attached to the process, as the questions—and answers—are part of the final step for Leah to complete her MFA,” he says. “People witnessing the defence will also be able to contribute to that experience with questions of their own.”

Not that Kerr is out to add extra pressure to an already daunting experience. “Will it be nerve-wracking? Yes—but exciting as well,” he chuckles. “Leah is being supported by a team of artists who are invested in presenting the work to the best of their abilities. Their passion is already a vote of confidence in the candidate’s talent and ability, so Leah’s not alone in this experience.”

Callen—who spent the past two years studying with playwriting faculty Kerr and Joan MacLeod—had her first one-act play, The Daughter of Turpentine, produced by Phoenix Theatre’s SATCo in 2014. She has also reviewed theatre for local online magazines Coastal Spectator and CVV Magazine. A revamped version of Turpentine will reemerge as a full production at the Victoria Fringe Festival in August this year; directed by Phoenix Theatre’s Chase Hiebert, Callen promises it will “literally set the stage on fire.”

enter vodkaThe inspiration for Enter Vodka originally came from a poem she wrote about the Romanovs for Writing professor Tim Lilburn’s poetry workshop. “This story is inspired by the two real women, but it’s a metaphor for the places people visit when wounded, to escape or  revisit pain in ways that are as ritualistic as drinking tea, lighting candles or doing shots of vodka,” explains Callen, who cites the likes of Tennessee Williams, Tomson Highway, Sarah Ruhl, and Wajdi Mouawad as influences.

“Anastasia ordering Svetlana about could easily be modern-day Russia trying to drag Ukraine back home. I’m playing with the historical forces that have led to this moment in time, and in the end their holy kiss has explosive repercussions literally and figuratively. But this is not a biographical play. It is symbolic and thematic of the Russian struggle, but it’s mostly about women trying to find joy and freedom in the face of death.”

Kerr is also looking at this as something of a pilot project. “I’d be interested in continuing to find more opportunities to connect our grad students to the larger theatre community and audience as part of their time here,” he says. “I think it could be an important part of what we can offer as a program.”

New Phoenix season offers mix of modern and classics

Hot on the heels of their critically acclaimed (and commercially successful) 2014-15 season, Phoenix Theatre recently announced their lineup for next year. A mix of new work, old classics and rarely seen gems, the 2015-16 season is looking like another great year.

“Theatre has a way of reminding us what it means to be human,” says Theatre department chair Allana Lindgren. “At the heart of the Phoenix Theatre’s 2015/16 season are four plays that share compelling human stories, and with master playwrights like Bertolt Brecht, Anton Chekhov and Tennessee Williams in this list, I know you’ll love the plays we’ve chosen for next season.” Here’s what’s coming up:

Loon by the WONDERHEADS (photo: Andrew Phoenix)

Loon by the WONDERHEADS (photo: Andrew Phoenix)

Opening the season with their traditional Spotlight on Alumni, Phoenix alumna Kate Braidwood returns to campus with her performance partner Andrew Phoenix and their widely acclaimed WONDERHEADS company. They’ll be presenting the wordless and whimsical Loon (October 14-24), a beautifully surprising mix of physical theatre, comedy and pathos and a love story the likes of which you’ve never seen. CBC enthusiastically described Loon as “a live cartoon for lovers and for dreamers; that is, for everyone. I’d give it more than five stars—I’d give it the moon.”

Loon centers on Francis, a lonely janitor who is plagued by isolation and tickled by whispers of childhood imagination. He has hit rock bottom and discovers that he has nowhere to go . . . but up. And up. And up! But will plucking the moon from the sky bring him the love he is searching for? The Portland-based WONDERHEADS have been hits with every show they’ve brought to town (including Fringe Fest favourites Grim & Fischer and The Middle of Everywhere) and it’ll be a pleasure to see Braidwood back at the Phoenix in the Spotlight on Alumni.

A German poster for The Threepenny Opera circa 1928

A German poster for The Threepenny Opera circa 1928

Up next is Bertolt Brecht’s classic The Threepenny Opera (November 5-21), featuring the music of Kurt Weill—possibly best known for bringing the jazz standard “Mack the Knife” into the world. Directed by Theatre professor Brian Richmond, The Threepenny Opera borrows from the 18th-century The Beggar’s Opera and offers an edgy mix of biting satire and sheer theatrical innovation as it takes aim at the traditional bourgeoisie and reveals a society where law is fickle, money corrupts and crime absolutely pays.

“This is quite possibly the most important piece of musical theatre in the 20th century,” says Richmond, who will be working with Applied Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta to bring a strong sense of realism to this production. Richmond is well-known for breathing fresh life into classic works, as evidenced by past Phoenix productions like Guys & Dolls, Dark of the Moon, The Wind in the Willows and Romeo & Juliet.

Renoir's 1881 painting "Le Déjeuner des Canotiers" catches the flavour of Wild Honey

Renoir’s 1881 painting “Le Déjeuner des Canotiers” catches the flavour of Wild Honey

Moving into 2016, we have Michael Frayn’s Wild Honey (February 11-20). Directed by Theatre professor and Phoenix alumnus Peter McGuire, and adapted from an original play by Anton Chekhov, Wild Honey offers a charming and hilarious love triangle set on a hot summer day on a provincial country estate, where friends, neighbours and family all get caught up in an elaborate game of romantic cat-and-mouse.

“Shakespeare said, ‘what fools these mortals be’ and I want to celebrate that sense of foolishness,” says McGuire, noting that Wild Honey is a lot like “a Woody Allen film—it shows us lives filled with love, sex and intrigue, all with a strong element of farce.”  McGuire also plans to take a decidedly non-traditional approach to the production, with the design mixing old and new, classic and modern—all to a jazzy, klezmeriffic music score. Curiously, Wild Honey is based on Chekhov’s first ever play, which was then sealed in a bank vault until after his death.

Summer and Smoke is evoked in Richard Emil Miller's 1910 painting "The Pool"

Summer and Smoke is evoked in Richard Emil Miller’s 1910 painting “The Pool”

Finally, Phoenix ends its season with Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, as directed by MFA candidate Alan Brodie (March 10-19). Set in Mississippi at the turn of the 20th century, Summer and Smoke sees Tennessee Williams at his most passionate as he gives us the tale of Alma—the daughter of a small-town minister and mentally unstable mother, who harbours a life-long infatuation with her restless and self-indulgent neighbour, John. Of course, Alma and John’s struggle—between body and soul, anarchy and order, love and lust—leads to profound changes in both their lives.

“As a designer, I’ve done plenty of shows but hardly any from the modern American milieu,” says director Brodie. “I’ve always been drawn to early 20th century playwrights like Williams, who emphasize story, character and psychology. This is essentially a love story, just one without a happy ending.” (Better get out your handkerchiefs for this one.)

A bittersweet exploration of love and longing, Summer and Smoke is a true American masterpiece with unforgettable characters that break our hearts even as they touch our souls.

Click here for ticket information, and subscriptions for the 2015-16 season are already on sale here.

Rock me, Amadeus!

It’s the kind of ovation Mozart himself would have loved: Amadeus, Phoenix Theatre’s final production of their 2014/15 season, has been earning raves from local reviewers—and packing the house with almost every performance.

Aidan Correia plays Mozart in Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Aidan Correia plays Mozart in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Written by acclaimed British playwright Peter (Equus) Shaffer in 1979 and directed here by Department of Theatre MFA candidate Chari Arespacochaga, the multiple Tony Award-winning play—which also inspired the much-loved Academy Award-winning movie—has been thrilling Phoenix Theatre audiences since it opened last week.

Amadeus continues daily at 8pm to March 21, with a bonus 2pm Saturday matinee on March 21, but tickets have been flying out the door.

Salieri (Jenson Kerr) and Mozart (Aidan Correia) in Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Salieri (Jenson Kerr) and Mozart (Aidan Correia) in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Often considered the greatest musical genius the world has ever known, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was also seen as vulgar, boorish, unforgivably brilliant—and thus an enemy to be eliminated—by Antonio Salieri, his 18th-century contemporary and fellow composer. Seen through the envious eyes and skewed memory of the aging Salieri, Amadeus chronicles their tumultuous rivalry and Salieri’s devious efforts to destroy Mozart’s career, even while recognizing the genius of his music.

“Director Chari Arespacochaga . . . has imbued the show with wonderful vitality,” writes Times Colonist theatre critic Adrian Chamberlain in this glowing review, praising Arespacochaga’s re-imagining of the show in an insane asylum as “an intelligent approach that works well.” Chamberlain also notes the strong work by lead performers Jenson Kerr (Salieri), Aidan Correia (Mozart) and Samantha Lynch (Constanze), all of whom ensure “the pathos is evenly leavened with humour and hijinx.”

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

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

Chamberlain also praises the show’s design elements, noting Theatre professor Allan Stichbury’s “terrific set [that] resembles a giant dungeon—a dark, forced-perspective vault that encourages us to consider the serious themes underneath the comedy” and the “superb costumes” by undergrad student Pauline Stynes—”The costumes are sumptuous, a feast for the eye.”

CBC Radio’s On The Island theatre reviewer Monica Prendergast enjoyed the show, noting that “the production is working well on a number of levels. It has an extremely strong design, a lovely set by Allan Stichbury . . . . beautifully lit by Michael Whitfield who gives us a gorgeous design . . . . and really nice costumes by Pauline Stynes, so the whole thing gets lifted to a whole other level.” She also notes “the ensemble work was particularly strong.” You can listen to the entire review here.

Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI

Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI

Interestingly, Arespacochaga and Stynes both have well-established professional careers long before they enrolled in the Department of Theatre—Arespacochaga has been directing major Broadway musicals in Manila for the past decade, many of which then toured across Asia or were remounted in Singapore, while Stynes has a 30 years of tailoring and costume creation behind her—a good decision, it turns out, as Stynes won the local  Critics’ Choice Spotlight Award for Best Costume Design for Phoenix’s Picnic in 2014.

You can see director Arespacochaga talk about the play in this preview from CTV Vancouver Island News (around the 4:34 mark), and you can read more about designer Stynes in this preview from the Times Colonnist. And there was this great conversation on the local CFAX1070 Eye on the Arts radio show (starts around 34 minutes) between Arespacochaga and show host (and Fine Arts alumnus) Adam Swatsky, as well as actor Jenson Kerr (Salieri). The Oak Bay News also spoke with Arespacochaga in this article, where she noted the production is “a great interactive mix of students and industry pros. New thoughts colliding with more experienced thoughts. It’s been dynamic.”

The scheming Salieri (Jenson Kerr) in Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

The scheming Salieri (Jenson Kerr) in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Local arts blogger Janis LaCouvee noted in this review that “director Chari Arespacachoga does not shirk from difficult questions; her Amadeus is a bold and ambitious undertaking which brings essential reflections on the nature of talent, ambition and legacy to the forefront. Under her inspired direction the students of the University of Victoria theatre department have once again delivered superior theatre to the stage, ending the year with a production that is as complex as the men it immortalizes.”

UVic’s student newspaper Martlet also really enjoyed the production, noting in this review that, “The two male leads, Salieri and Mozart, worked brilliantly together, allowing the audience to feel sympathy for both characters.”

Constanze (Samantha Lynch) is tempted by Salieri (Jenson Kerr) in Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Constanze (Samantha Lynch) is tempted by Salieri (Jenson Kerr) in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

And Monday Magazine was also impressed with the production, with reviewer Laura Lavin primarily highlighting the cast in this blog review—noting that Aidan Correia “does an admirable job of making Mozart both boorish and endearing,” Jensen Kerr plays Salieri with “spirit and confidence” and the “supporting cast was superb.” She also acknowledges that the “music, lighting and staging of this performance were again superb. The set is dark and gives focus to beautiful period costumes by designer Pauline Stynes.”

Finally, if you missed director Arespacochaga’s pre-show lecture, you can listen to it here and hear her in conversation with Theatre professor Peter McGuire discussing the differences between the play and the film, playwright Peter Shaffer and her own creative process.