New fund to honour Megan Newton’s intrepid spirit

Friends and family of the late Megan Newton have set up a fund at the Victoria Foundation to create a theatre award in her honour. Megan had been the operations manager for Intrepid Theatre at the time of her death from cancer earlier this month. Learn more about Megan from the following tribute by Danielle Baxter, Megan’s mother, and Ian Case, former Intrepid Theatre general manager.

The late, great Megan Newton. Her talent, skill and bright spirit will be sorely missed!

Megan Newton was an artist/set designer/stage manager/crafter and administrator at large. She received her BFA in Theatre from the University of Victoria with a specialty in production management and design. Megan was one of the founding members of Theatre BOMBUS (then known as BumbleBee Theatre).

Megan became the operations manager at Intrepid Theatre in 2007, where she coordinated rentals for the Metro Studio and Intrepid Theatre Club and any other activities, tasks or crafts that came up during production for Intrepid’s annual festivals. For Uno Fest, she created the annual Monobrow Cabaret.

A firm believer in assisting local emerging artists to get their work off the ground, Megan established and curated the YOU SHOW for Intrepid Theatre, an outreach program for artists wanting to road-test original new works in front of an audience. Many YOU SHOWs have gone on to great success on the Fringe and national touring circuits due in large part to Megan’s vision and support. She was always ready to lend advice and guidance to artists and companies navigating the perils of their first full-scale public production.

Highlights of Megan’s arty-ness (and artfulness) include set design for Janet Munsil’s Influence for Intrepid Theatre, The Importance of Being Earnest for Giggling Iguana Productions, Meg Braem’s Potentilla for Theatre Bombus, a summer with Theatre SKAM many years ago, and an assistant director gig with Pacific Opera Victoria on Daphne. She also served many companies as a wonderful and dedicated stage manager. When not inside dark rooms, Megan could be found outside on her bike appreciating the big and small things in life, or painting, knitting or making delicious wheat-free meals in the kitchen or over a camp stove.

Megan’s life was cut short by melanoma; she died on June 16, 2012, shortly after her 30th birthday. Her prodigious organizational skills were in action to the end—even struggling with the catastrophic effects of the disease and under the influence of heavy pain medications, she kept track of every detail of her own treatment. Meg’s mischievous, irreverent humour and enjoyment of each small pleasure were characteristic of her all her life, and sustained her and her loved ones through her illness. Meg stared terminal cancer in the face and never flinched, and in this—as in so many things—she was inspirational to everyone who knew her.

The Megan Newton Memorial Fund has been set up by Meg’s family and colleagues to honour her spirit and resourcefulness through an award for students in theatre.

Donations may be made to the fund via the Victoria Foundation portal at Canada Helps. Select “Megan Newton Memorial Fund” from the fund designation dropdown box or write the fund’s name in the message box.

Thanks to the Victoria Foundation for allowing us to repost this piece about Megan, which originally appeared on their own blog.

UNO Fest thick with Fine Arts talent

From the underground to the mainstream, Intrepid Theatre’s annual UNO Fest is a hotbed of contemporary solo theatre and performance. Originally launched by Theatre alumna Janet Munsil in the basement of Victoria’s Bedford Hotel in 1997, UNO Fest is celebrating 20 years of daring stories and acclaimed artists — and this year’s 11-day festival will once again feature a number of Fine Arts alumni, as well as one current student.

North America’s longest running festival of solo performance, UNO Fest has presented more than 330 solo shows over the past 20 years, and is proud to bring some of the country’s — and the world’s — most innovative solo talents to Victoria every May. From parties to soundscapes, from performance art to a salsa lesson, UNO is packed to the brim with genre-defying, boundary-pushing solo performance.

This year’s festival features performances by Theatre alumni TJ Dawe, Pamela Bethel and Jennifer Braem, plus Writing alumni Kat Taddei and Melissa Taylor, recent Visual Arts MFA alumna Kerri Flannigan, and current Writing/Theatre double major Ann-Bernice Thomas. Add in directorial and technical support from Writing professor Kevin Kerr and Visual Arts professor Megan Dickie, and you’ve got a whole lot of Fine Arts folks proving why we’re one of Canada’s finest interdisciplinary creative faculties. (See below for details on all their shows.)

UNO Fest runs May 17 to 27 at various downtown venues. Tickets range from $18 to $30, with tickets and various mult-show pass options available through Ticket Rocket. And the opening night performance of every show at the festival is Pay-What-You-Can for tickets at the door, with 25% of the theatre’s capacity held for PWYC tickets.

After the Beep

Phoenix alum Pamela Bethel

Part confessional, part story, part show-and-tell, After the Beep uses forgotten voice recordings from Pamela Bethel’s teenage “private” phone line. Instead of erasing the messages, she’s sharing them, 25 years later with a live audience. It’s like The Breakfast Club meets the Watergate tapes . . . in 1990’s Vancouver.

When do we become adults? What forges us into the grownups we become? What are the accidental rites of passage for teenagers of the Western First World? After the Beep explores the secret languages of adolescence and memory. It delves into the messiness of this in-between period of life that shapes all adults but that many of us would prefer to keep off the record.

Pamela Bethel is a writer, director, photographer, creative collaborator and former stage manager, who is also a childbirth educator and birth & postpartum doula. She recently toured as a core artist with Theatre SKAM’s Fashion Machine in the UK, was assistant director for 2016’s The Winter’s Tale at the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival, recently co-wrote/directed/built a show called Anxiety for Edmonton’s Theatre Yes — a “pan-Canadian, immersive performance-installation piece” — and also serves on the board of local Impulse Theatre.

After the Beep runs May 18 – May 19 at Intrepid Theatre Club, and is presented by celebrated Phoenix alumni company Theatre SKAM, whose artistic producer is Theatre alum Matthew Payne — who, in addition to being Pamela’s husband, was also director of the recent Phoenix play A Queer Trial.

Burn Job

Celebrated Phoenix alum TJ Dawe

Punctuated with music tracks and manipulated sounds created live on stage, Fringe legend, master monologist and celebrated Phoenix alum TJ Dawe returns to UNO Fest with Burn Job, a story about growing up, blowing things up, LSD and a breathing technique that brings you into a psychedelic state.

TJ Dawe is a Vancouver-based writer, director, performer and dramaturg, mostly of one-person shows. He’s participated in the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, the Adelaide Fringe, the Charleston Piccolo Spoleto Festival, five times at UNO Fest and 106 fringe festivals.

He co-created and directed the famed The One Man Star Wars Trilogy — written by and starring fellow Phoenix alum Charlie Ross, with whom he also appeared at Phoenix’s 2016 Spotlight on Alumni. (Dawe and Ross are currently working on a  One Man Stranger Things.) He has a number of published scripts and his show Medicine can be viewed on YouTube in its entirety. He teaches a course on creating solo shows at Langara College in Vancouver. He leads workshops on creativity and the personality types of the Enneagram. He can be seen rehearsing (also known as wandering around mumbling to himself) in Stanley Park.

Burn Job runs May 26 – May 27 at Metro Studio Theatre.

The Secrets of Naming Clouds

Visual Arts MFA alum Kerri Flannigan

With The Secrets of Naming Clouds, recent Visual Arts MFA Kerri Flannigan offers a performance accompanied by moving image work, projections, sound and live-narration. Flannigan’s creation draws on utopic universal languages such as Blissymbols — an “anti-word” language designed to eradicate miscommunication — and Láadan, a feminist language created to end patriarchy. These idealized forms of communication are interwoven with coming of age stories; home videos and choreographed dances, dating bans, classroom conversations on consent, teen-girl vigilantes and a family trip to LA in pursuit of minor celebrity Adam Sessler, Kerri’s sister’s crush. To get a feel for the show, watch this video trailer.

Primarily working in video and performance, Flannigan’s work comprises an interdisciplinary approach to forms of experimental narrative and documentary. Her recent work has explored themes such as family mythologies, coming-of-age confessions, body language and swimming pools. She has shown locally and internationally, receiving a CALQ Multidisciplinary Arts Grant (2011) and Best English Zine at the Expozine Awards (2011 and 2014) and runner-up to the inaugural Lind Prize (2016). She is currently developing a new video-based performance work, Blue Crush, which will premiere in Victoria in the summer of 2017, and is an upcoming Artist-in-Residence at Open Space.

The Secrets of Naming Clouds runs May 25 – 27 at the Intrepid Theatre Club. Local creative support for this show comes from Visual Arts professor Megan Dickie, with direction by Writing professor and acclaimed playwright/director Kevin Kerr, co-founder of Vancouver’s acclaimed Electric Company Theatre.

UNO Works

Current student Ann-Bernice Thomas (far right)

UNO Works is an evening of three short new works by some of Victoria’s most daring female artists, including current Writing/Theatre student Ann-Bernice Thomas, who was also the 2016 City of Victoria Youth Poet Laureate, as well as an accomplished spoken word artist, activist and actor. She’ll be appearing alongside local talents Eddi Wilson (AKA drag king/performance artist Eddi Licious) and actor/playwright Sarah Murphy.

Commissioned specifically for UNO Fest, UNO Works is artist-driven. There is no formula for making new work for the stage and we invite you to come and witness the thrill ride that is intrepid artists from diverse, interdisciplinary backgrounds redefining what theatre is.

UNO Works runs May 21 at Metro Studio Theatre.

Monobrow Solo Slam VXVII

There’s also the annual late-night festival party and spoken word battle Monobrow. UNO Fest’s signature 3-minute monologue slam, Monobrow brings local talent and festival performers together in a competitive throw-down cabaret of honest truths, blatant lies and elegant fictions. This year’s Monobrow competitors include Ann-Bernice Thomas as well as Theatre grad Jennifer Braem and Writing alumni Melissa Taylor and Kat Taddei, alongside four other daring artists.

Monobrow runs May 19 at the Intrepid Theatre Club. Admission by donation, the bar will be open, and all proceeds benefit the Megan Newton Scholarship Fund — named for the late Theatre alumna and much-loved Intrepid Theatre employee Megan Newton, whose life was cut short by melanoma in 2012, shortly after her 30th birthday.


Finally, UNO Fest kicks off on May 17 with WTF? (or What’s Theatre For?) by acclaimed theatre artist Daniel MacIvor, who was commissioned to write the world premiere of Inside specifically for Phoenix Theatre. With WTF?, MacIvor takes us on a journey through his personal and professional life to help us (and him) understand the accident of intention, the profundity of the random, and the wisdom of not knowing. WTF? is a keynote talk commissioned specifically for the 20th annual UNO Fest.

Unity (1918) is history in the making

Kevin Kerr is coming full circle. Back in 2002, the noted playwright received the Governor General’s Literary Award for Unity (1918); now a professor in the Department of Writing, Kerr is directing his first show for Phoenix Theatre this month—and it’s Unity (1918), a play that is regularly studied in first-year theatre classes. More significantly, however, it’s the first time he’s ever directed it.

Kevin Kerr on the set of Phoenix's Unity (!918), opening March 13 (photo: Adrienne Holierhoek)

Kevin Kerr on the set of Phoenix’s Unity (!918), opening March 13 (photo: Adrienne Holierhoek)

Set during the final few weeks of World War I, Unity (1918) is a touching and darkly comic tale about the fear and desire sparked by the convergence of the Spanish Flu pandemic and a returning soldier in the small town of Unity—a real town in Saskatchewan. But while this critically lauded play has been mounted repeatedly across Canada over the past decade, Kerr—an accomplished director himself—has never had the opportunity to tackle it before.

“I never really thought of directing it,” he says of Unity, which he’s also adapting for the screen. “There was always another director interested in doing it.” But after Kerr was hired by the Writing department in 2012, Phoenix offered him the chance to direct a mainstage show—and they were already considering Unity. “It was such a generous welcome to the Faculty of Fine Arts,” he says. “Granted, I felt a little funny about directing, as my relationship to it had always been from a writing perspective. And since I’d seen a lot of the other productions, I felt a little intimidated—how do I let go of those other shows, and shake up my own expectations of what the script is?”

Kate Braidwood and Zachary Stevenson in Theatre SKAM's 2002 production

Kate Braidwood and Zachary Stevenson in Theatre SKAM’s 2004 production

A good question for any writer tackling his own material. “Sometimes I say to myself, ‘What was I thinking when I wrote that?’,” he laughs. “But overall, I’m enjoying the process of trying to figure it out again, instead of creating it new.”

This is also only the second time Unity has been performed in Victoria; the first was Theatre SKAM’s 2004 production featuring eight Phoenix alumni in both cast and creative roles. (For Phoenix fans, here’s the impressive list, which almost reads like a “who’s who” of current theatre: Kate Braidwood, Annette Dreeshen, Amiel Gladstone, Lucas Myers, Megan Newton, Matthew Payne, Zachary Stevenson and Jennifer Swan.)

Listen to this podcast of Kevin Kerr’s March 14 preshow lecture about Unity (1918).

Tear The Curtain! at Vancouver's Arts Club

Tear The Curtain! at Vancouver’s Arts Club

Kerr co-founded and is now an artistic associate of Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre—a collaborative company that specializes in “spectacular physical and visual imagery, cinematic vocabulary, and the quest for authentic connection in an accelerated culture.” He has earned accolades for his Electric Company productions (including the likes of Brilliant!The Score, and Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands) and for his skill in conceiving plays that push the boundaries of theatre itself. But how does he square recent work like the acclaimed film/theatre hybrid Tear The Curtain! with an early show like Unity?

“This is my ‘straightest’ play, so it lends itself to a particular style of direction,” he admits. “It’s not quite the process I’m most familiar with—usually, with Electric Company, we create and build a show collaboratively—but I’m finding it really satisfying to work in a more traditional model.” But, he hints, we can still expect a few surprises with the upcoming Phoenix production. “It’s going to have some great physical elements that give us both the strength and scope of the Prairies, but still play with a sense of intimacy.”

Clearly, Kerr is enjoying the process of returning to an earlier work in a whole new role. “For me, it’s the balance between finding the authenticity and naturalism in the acting, but still allowing the piece to have the necessary theatricality to really embrace what theatre does—to activate our imaginations and let us be participants in an image world that’s not as literal or singular as a photograph,” he says. “It’s fun to find those parts in the play.”

Unity (1918) runs March 13-22 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre. Call 250-721-8000 or click here for tickets.