Celebrating 50 years of great theatre

This fall, UVic’s Department of Theatre will celebrate 50 years of creating great theatre—and great artists. Along they way, the Phoenix has also created some incredible moments on their stages. Generations of students (literally, they have several second-generation students from alumni families!) have become successes in the world of theatre, or wherever life has taken them.

Season-Brochure-coverThis year, UVic Theatre is celebrating not only their history but also their alumni, knowing full well these students—past and present—are what truly make the Phoenix such a special place . . . a place where young people become artists, and friendships are formed that last a lifetime. Whether alumni or treasured audience members, we  look forward to celebrating with everyone who has been touched by the Phoenix over the past five decades.

To mark its 50th anniversary, the Phoenix Theatre has expanded its usual fall “Spotlight on Alumni” into a three-week 50th Anniversary Alumni Festival. Internationally acclaimed artists and alumni have been invited to present five different shows during the festival, running from October 11-29.

Self-proclaimed “professional geek” Charles Ross — best known for his One-Man Star Wars Trilogy — will present all of his one-man nerd trilogies: One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, One-Man Lord of the Rings, and his newest, Dark Knight: A Batman Parody. These pop-culture hits have taken this alumnus around the world, from New York to London and Dubai to Glastonbury, including stops in Singapore, New Zealand, and even Lucasfilm’s Star Wars conventions!

50thProlific writer, performer, director, dramaturg and international Fringe icon, TJ Dawe will remount his play The Slipknot, which was performed as the very first “Spotlight” presentation in 2003. Dawe regularly performs his 14 autobiographical solo shows around the world. His play Toothpaste & Cigars (written with theatre alumnus Mike Rinaldi) inspired the Daniel Radcliffe movie The F Word. In The Slipknot, Dawe performs a spellbinding comic monologue about three equally lousy jobs—from stock boy, to driver, to post office customer service. In turns hysterical and heartbreaking, frantic and thoughtful, The Slipknot offers wise observations on relationships, Santa Claus, recreational Gravol, and why you should never put meat in the mail.

Cirque du Soleil clown and co-comedic director of Zumanity in Las Vegas, Shannan Calcutt returns for the festival with her hilarious solo show, Burnt Tongue. Calcutt, who is also a writer, actor and instructor, is best known as Izzy, the charming and radiant clown with a keen sense of timing and a razor sharp wit. In Burnt Tongue, Izzy has met a man on the internet and decides this is the guy for her! She arrives for their blind date wearing a wedding dress insisting she’s just “totally prepared to be spontaneous.”

This is all in addition to the Phoenix’s 50th Anniversary Mainstage Season, featuring Department of Theatre students, which begins in November with Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the Christopher Hampton play that was adapted into the Oscar-winning film, here directed by professor Fran Gebhard. In February, MFA candidate Alix Reynolds will direct Gut Girls by Sarah Daniels. With sharp dialogue and dazzling humour, Gut Girls is set in the Victorian era against the backdrop of women’s struggle for emancipation. The season closes with Nikolay Gogol’s The Inspector. Directed and adapted by professor Linda Hardy, this 19th-century Russian satire about greed, hypocrisy and corruption is no less relevant in today’s political landscape.

50thSite-screen-wwwThe Department of Theatre is also inviting all of its graduates to come back to campus for the 50th Anniversary Alumni Reunion, happening over the November 11-13 long weekend. The Phoenix will host three days of events for alumni to reminisce with old friends, and department faculty and staff.  “It will be an exciting weekend,” says Department Chair Allana Lindgren. “There are already hundreds of alumni interesting in coming—and bringing their families with them. The Department is looking forward to reconnecting and hearing what everyone has been up to in their lives and their careers.”

Phoenix alumni can learn more about these events on a special 50th Anniversary website the department has created. As well as the reunion weekend and Alumni Festival, the anniversary website also features a complete history of the Phoenix Theatre presented through a fun interactive timeline of the department’s growth, the plays they have produced, their faculty and when they worked, as well as many successful alumni and when they graduated. Alumni can send in their own biographies to be posted or share stories and photos from the past.

Vic-Fair-69Generations of Phoenix alumni have become successful artists, working across the world and playing important roles in Canada’s cultural institutions, including Michael Whitfield, Resident Lighting Designer for 35 years at the Stratford Festival; Denis Garnhum, most recently the Artist Director of Calgary Theatre and soon to be at The Grand Theatre in London ON; and Nathan Medd, the Managing Director of English Theatre at National Arts Centre. Many other alumni have created their own theatre companies that have become part of Canada’s cultural landscape, including Britt Small and Jacob Richmond of Atomic Vaudeville and the Broadway-bound hit Ride the Cyclone; Peter Balkwill of Calgary’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop; Ingrid Hansen and Kathleen Greenfield of the now Toronto-based SNAFU Dance Theatre; national three-time Canadian Comedy Award winners and CBC comedy writers Chris Wilson and Peter Carlone of Peter N’ Chris; and Kate Braidwood of Portland’s Wonderheads, to name but a few.

Here in Victoria, our faculty and alumni have been a driving part of the theatre community for the past 50 years, beginning in the early days with the Campus Players, Company One, and the adventurous city-wide fine arts festival, Victoria Fair (1969-71). Our alumni have founded enduring Victoria theatre companies like Theatre Inconnu (1978), Story Theatre (1981), the Victoria Fringe Festival and Intrepid Theatre (1986), the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival (1991), Theatre SKAM (1995), and, more recently, workingclasstheatre (2009) and Impulse Theatre (2011). The Department of Theatre is proud of the legacy these alumni have created for our community.

The Department of Theatre is also in the process of planning many other activities during the year, including an exhibition of Phoenix play posters at the UVic Archives, a human library event and historical displays. Stay tuned for more details!

MFA exhibit offers mix of practices

MFA POSTER[3]Always looking for a new way to present work, the Department of Visual Arts has changed the format of their annual exhibition by graduating students of their MFA program. Rather than presenting one large exhibit featuring all the graduating MFA students, this year’s exhibition has instead been split into two different sections. The first, a three-week rotating Solo Series, ran in March; now, the final three exhibitions by graduating MFA artists Kerri Flannigan, Breanna Fabbro and Victoria Murawski will be on display.

The exhibit opens with a reception from 5 to 8pm Friday, April 29, and then runs noon-4pm daily to May 6 in the Visual Arts building.

Engaging with Kerri Flannigan's work

Engaging with Kerri Flannigan’s work

Kerri Flannigan’s Catching Stones, Throwing Hammers uses drawings and archival footage to map the exterior of Woodlands, a now-defunct institution for the intellectually disabled, using changes wrought to the building’s façade since the mid-19th century to explore the institutional borders of exclusion. Flannigan is a Victoria-based interdisciplinary artist who explores methods of experimental narrative and documentary through drawing, writing, projection, and performance. She has shown locally and internationally, and is a recipient of the Best English Zine at the Expozine Awards (2011 and 2014) and runner-up to the inaugural Lind Prize (2016).

As part of her thesis defence, Flannigan will also present The Secrets of Naming Clouds, a performance accompanied by moving image work, projections, sound and live-narration; this 40-minute performance begins at 6pm on Thursday April 28 at the Intrepid Theatre club (2-1609 Blanshard), with thesis defense to follow. The performance itself will draw 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, my sisters crush.

Breanna Fabbro's "It Held Only Briefly"

Breanna Fabbro’s “It Held Only Briefly”

Breanna Fabbro’s It Held Only Briefly is a series of paintings that depart from the normative apperceptions of still-life in the traditional understanding of an object sitting still in space, but accede the moments before an object meets its final position. Objects are constructed out of shredded canvases and given life through actions such as tearing, raveling, and tossing. These moments of suspended motion are mobilized through painting the memory and experience of interactions with the objects as it relates to the space or scenario it is set against.

Apropos to life and mortality in the still-life canon, these works are a return to life and its inherent momentum, subsumed by discovery, failure, and regeneration. Objects in the world are alive – we make them alive with our constant interaction with them. Like food in still-life paintings that depict decay, all objects have a life. Fabbro’s work depicts that movement and process of coming and becoming.

Part of Victoria Murawski's "Coming Forward in Waves"

Part of Victoria Murawski’s “Coming Forward in Waves”

Victoria Murawski will also present her work in the exhibit, Coming Forward in Waves.

Now complete, the Solo Series in March featured work by graduating MFAs Tristan Zastrow, Ryan Hatfield and Rachel Vanderzwet.

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

Siminovitch Prize winner Joan MacLeod

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education, Bangkok-style

From November 3 to 9, UVic will be celebrating International Education Week. Showcasing the significant contribution international education makes to our social, economic, and cultural well-being, IEW also supports Canada’s ongoing efforts to engage on the international stage.

Like to travel? Check out our exchange with Bangkok U (photo: Allan Stichbury)

Like to travel? Check out our exchange with Bangkok U (photo: Allan Stichbury)

Fine Arts will, of course, be participating in IEW. The Department of Theatre will be offering a panel discussion about their current student exchange between Bangkok University and Phoenix Theatre which was announced last year.

“There’s actually a lot of synchronicity between us,” Theatre professor Allan Stichbury said at the time. “Both departments are similar in size and have similar goals and objectives, balancing a sophisticated academic program alongside a very active production program—and both departments have very active Applied Theatre programs. The three prongs we have are the same as what they’ve got, which is actually remarkably rare.”

Learn more about Theatre’s student exchange with Bangkok University at the IEW panel discussion running from 12:30pm -1:30pm Wednesday, November 5, in Phoenix’s Roger Bishop Theatre.

IEW is packed full of information about international opportunities, and affords the chance to hear stories of international experiences and meet some of UVic’s international students and researchers from around the globe. Click here to read the full list of events—including info sessions about work & study abroad programs, film screenings, other panel discussions and more.

Theatre PhD Matthew Gusul (centre) at the field school in India

Theatre PhD Matthew Gusul (centre) at the field school in India

And you can find out more about Theatre’s other international initiatives by reading about PhD candidate Matthew Gusul, who is currently busy over in India running his intergenerational field school with 13 undergrads. (Be sure to watch this fun slide show of their first few weeks in India.)

Paphavee (Poe) Linkul, former UVic student and Bangkok University professor, with Allan Stichbury

Paphavee (Poe) Linkul, former UVic student and Bangkok University professor, with Allan Stichbury

The Department of Theatre’s exchange with Bangkok University was actually initiated by Theatre MFA and current Bangkok U faculty member Paphavee (Poe) Linkul. Intended to be a step towards internationalizing their university, Stichbury says, “This is not intended to remain simply an agreement between our Theatre department and their Performing Arts department; it’s intended to grow into a real relationship with Bangkok University.”

As the world gets smaller, UVic’s place in it keeps growing.

Top 10 Fine Arts stories of 2017 – part two

What else happened in Fine Arts in 2017? More than we can mention in one blog post, so here’s part two of our top-10 stories of the year.

International attention

Considering we’re based on an island at the edge of the continent, it’s surprising how much international attention UVic continues to get — and while there’s no arguing our extraordinary sense of place here in Victoria, credit must go to our exceptional faculty who always seem to be busy across the country and around the world.

Ajtony Csaba at the Hungarian Liszt Academy of Music (photo: Réka Érdi-Harmos)

School of Music professor Dániel Péter Biró and some Music students participated in UVic’s interdisciplinary field school “Narratives of Memory, Migration, and Xenophobia” this summer, which brought together scholars, students and artists from Canada and Europe to examine issues including the recent resurgence of nationalist and xenophobic movements in North America and Europe. Biró also had a number of compositions commissioned, premiered and performed in Europe this year, as well as in Brooklyn. Ajtony Csaba was honoured to perform a special Canada 150 concert for the Hungarian Ambassador in Ottawa this summer, as well as having the opportunity to lead the orchestra at the Hungarian Liszt Academy of Music this fall. Merrie Klazek presented a solo recital at the International Women’s Brass Conference in New Jersey in June, Joanna Hood was featured on German radio this fall, and Benjamin Butterfield appeared once again at the Amalfi Coast Music Arts and Music Festival, teaching and directing the opera Gianni Schicchi with some of his UVic voice students, past and present (including Kaden Forsberg, Margaret Lingas, Ai Horton and Nick Allen).

Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson saw her art exhibited in solo and group exhibits in Scotland, England, France, China and the United States this year, while Paul Walde had two separate exhibits on view in Norway and Scotland, and Cedric Bomford had work in California, as well as an ongoing public art commission in Seattle. And sessional instructor Charles Campbell had work exhibited at both the Los Angeles’ Museum of Latin American Art and San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora this year.

Finally, Theatre professor Patrick Du Wors was the only Canadian selected for the prestigious 2017 World Stage Design exhibition in Taiwan, and Art History & Visual Studies professor Marcus Milwright published a new book, Islamic Arts and Crafts: An Anthology  with Edinburgh University Press.

Indigenous action

Lindsay Delaronde supported by dancers during ACHoRd (Photo: Peruzzo)

Considering the City of Victoria declared 2017 a Year of Reconciliation, it was perhaps fitting that we saw a great deal of activity by Indigenous alumni, guest speakers and faculty — most notable of which was the announcement that Visual Arts MFA alumna Lindsay Delaronde would be Victoria’s first Indigenous Artist in Residence. “I hope to create artworks that reflect the values of this land, which are cultivated and nurtured by the Indigenous peoples of this territory,” she said at the time. “I see my role as a way to bring awareness to and acknowledge that reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is a process, one in which I can facilitate a collaborative approach for creating strong relationships to produce co-created art projects in Victoria.”

2017 also saw the completion of Rande Cook’s two-year term as the latest Audain Professor in Visual Arts — on top of his duties as chief of Vancouver Island’s ’Namgis Nation and his commitments as an in-demand contemporary artist with an international practice. “Two years in the position allowed me to really reach students,” says Cook. “I was able to delve into the role art plays in politics, and got them to dive deep within themselves. I pushed my students a lot and they seemed to appreciate that — the feedback at the end of the year said it was one of the more profound classes they had ever taken.”

The call is currently out for the next Audain Professor, with a January 31 application deadline.

Theatre professor Kirsten Sedeghi-Yetka continues her applied theatre work in the area of Indigenous language preservation, and Theatre also hosted acclaimed Indigenous playwright Marie Clement as a guest this fall. AHVS professor Carolyn Butler-Palmer‘s 2017 Legacy Gallery exhibit on early female Indigenous carver Ellen Neel was featured in this national Globe and Mail article, Legacy Gallery also hosted an exhibit by Visual Arts MFA alumna Marianne Nicholson focusing on the impact of smallpox on local first nations, and fellow Visual Arts MFA Hjalmer Wenstob had a high-profile longhouse installation on the lawn of the BC Legislature this summer as part of the OneWave Gathering.

High-profile Indigenous Writing alumni Richard Van Camp and Eden Robinson were in the news repeatedly this year, with Robinson being shortlisted for the Giller Prize and winning a prestigious Writers’ Trust Fellowship. And everyone in Writing and Fine Arts were saddened to hear of the passing of former Southam Lecturere, Richard Wagamese.

Daniel Laskarin with his new public art sculpture, now installed in Richmond

Art with impact

Visual Arts faculty had a busy year with a number of prominent exhibitions and projects. Paul Walde’s Tom Thomson Centennial Swim project received a great deal of local, provincial and national media attention this summer — with 10 different radio interviews and day-of coverage by the Toronto Star — as well as making UVic’s list of top news stories of 2017.

The spotlight was definitely on the recently retired Sandra Meigs — now professor emeritus — who was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in September, opened a solo exhibit at Winchester Galleries early in 2017 featuring work created after winning the Gershon Iskowitz Prize, and launched an impressive solo show at the Art Gallery of Ontario in October, in collaboration with Music’s Christopher Butterfield. Listen to this interview with Meigs on CBC Radio’s Q, in which Butterfield’s audio component is also discussed.

Daniel Laskarin debuted a new public art sculpture at the Cambie Fire Hall No. 3 / Richmond North Ambulance Station and had a local solo show at Deluge Gallery, while Robert Youds had no less than three solo exhibits this fall, with two in Victoria and one in Toronto. Cedric Bomford had his work on view in California, Quebec and Toronto’s Nuit Blanche this summer, and very busy new professor Kelly Richardson participated in 14 solo and group exhibitions across Canada and Europe — with more planned in 2018.

10 years of acclaimed journalists

The stage may have been crowded, but not as much as the audience!

For the past 10 years, Writing students have benefited by learning from veteran journalists and authors, thanks to the Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction. In November, Writing celebrated a decade of Southam Lecturers with a special “all-star” anniversary panel featuring six former Southams together for the first time, in a lively moderated discussion on “The Future of Journalism in the Age of #FakeNews”

“The idea for the panel was sparked by a perfect convergence,” says Writing chair David Leach. “A chance to mark the 10th anniversary of the Southam Lectureship, the opportunity to thank the Southam family for their generosity, and to respond to a sense of global urgency around the role of journalists as guardians of our democratic institutions — especially when the most powerful elected official on the planet keeps attacking the free press as #FakeNews.”

Leach acted as emcee and moderator for the event, which broke all previous Southam attendance records and saw close to 250 fill every seat, aisle, ledge and doorway. six returning Southams — Jody Paterson, Terry Glavin, JoAnn Roberts and Tom Hawthorn, plus departmental alumni Mark Leiren-Young and Vivian Smith — as well as recent Writing grad Quinn MacDonald, now the publisher/editor of the local urban agriculture magazine Concrete Garden.

“All were keen to talk about their experiences as guest lecturers and debate the future of journalism,” says Leach. “Taken together, it offers a broad range of ways to look at contemporary journalism.”

A strong year for new donors

Samantha Krzywonos (far right) marks the
98th birthday of longtime donor Tommy Mayne, with three Theatre student recipients of his scholarship, in 2016

Another way to measure a faculty’s health and success is through the strength of its donors. And while Fine Arts couldn’t boast of another monumental donation like the one we received in 2016 from Jefferey Rubinoff — who sadly passed away earlier this year — 2017 remained a healthy year for donors and donations. Fine Arts Development Officer Samantha Krzywonos reports that we attracted 103 first-gift donors this past year — as compared to 48 in 2016 — and received an overall 476 donations for a total of nearly $500,000 that will support students.

Donations of all sizes are essential not only for scholarships and awards, but also for the need for innovative technology, space modifications and equipment upgrades — all of which contribute to the success of Fine Arts students in all our departments. Donors can range from alumni and retired faculty to parents of students, corporate partners, arts patrons, current and former staff, and community members. Indeed, we currently have over 250 active donors and nearly $10 million in planned gift expectancies invested in Fine Arts students.

Krzywonos feels meeting with donors is the most rewarding aspect of her job. “It’s all about saying thank-you and sharing the impact of that support. If a student can focus on their studies and not have to take on extra work just to get by, that donor support can make a huge difference in their life.”