New Ian McDougall CD Benefits Fine Arts Students

Sometimes the best charities really do begin at home. That’s certainly the case with Ian McDougall’s newest CD, The Very Thought of You.

Conceived of as a benefit album for Fine Arts students in financial need, The Very Thought of You features 14 beautiful ballads from the ’30s and ’40s with McDougall on his signature trombone, backed by a string orchestra—but the best part is that $10 from each $20 CD goes directly to a new emergency fund created by him to benefit Fine Arts students in financial need.

Nicknamed the “one potato” fund, the idea of creating a means to help out needy students came to McDougall a number of years ago, after he saw a student buying his meal for the night at a local grocery store: a single potato.

“He had one potato,” McDougall told Times Colonist arts reporter Adrian Chamberlain in this recent article. “It was quite a large potato. That’s all he had. I thought, ‘Holy s–t, this guy’s at the end of his tether here.’”

As a parent, professor and professional musician, McDougall well knows the financial pressures with which many Fine Arts students grapple; and, as a national jazz icon, he has long been a strong supporter of emerging talent. Now, The Very Thought of You allows McDougall to merge both these passions for the betterment of Fine Arts students.

“This wonderful project that Ian has initiated is going to help our students immensely,” says Dr. Sarah Blackstone, Dean of Fine Arts. “Students in the arts find it difficult to work and attend school because so much of their work requires additional time in rehearsals or in the studio, so finding a way to make ends meet can be really difficult.  The ‘one potato’ fund will give us the ability to help students across the faculty if they hit a rough patch—and this will help them continue to succeed in their studies.  Ian really understands the struggles of students from his days in the classroom and his generosity and willingness to help is very special.”

More formally titled the Ten Mile Fine Arts Student Assistance Fund, McDougall says the album would never have happened without the generous support of donors to the Ten Mile Limited Partnership—a dedicated team of alumni and supporters, headed by active UVic alumni Jim Crawford (former president of the Victoria Jazz Society) and Tony Gage. And while the charitable aspect of it is primarily aimed at the future Fine Arts students who will benefit from it, McDougall and his wife Barbara donated all their own time and services to this project—including playing, conducting and writing all the arrangements—to the tune of more than $20,000.

McDougall—an Order of Canada recipient, Juno Award winner and School of Music Professor Emeritus who taught at UVic for 15 years—realized right away that an emergency fund would be more practical than a formal bursary or a scholarship. “Scholarships and bursaries are different animals,” he explains. “A scholarship has to be endowed—that’s about $20,000 to begin with—but a little fund for someone who’s in need right away, that’s different.”

To illustrate his point, McDougall shares a personal story from his own past. “I was the beneficiary of one of these when I went to UBC,” McDougall explains. “I was broke at the end of my third year, back in 1959, but there was a fund administered by a pretty famous professor there—Walter Gage, a very kind man. I was going to have to leave UBC after completing five of the six months, because I was completely broke. But I went to him and said, ‘I need some money to get through the year.’ He asked how much I needed, and I said, ‘As much as you can give me.’ I ended up getting $250, and he said, ‘Now, you need to at least try to get this back to us.’”

“I got a job and paid them back at the end of the summer,” McDougall continues, “and that’s the difference between scholarships and bursaries: there’s no academic requirement to benefit from something immediate like this. You don’t have to show any scholarly aptitude, you just have to be passing your courses.”

McDougall hopes that students who benefit from the fund will follow his lead and pay their good fortune forward.  “You can say to them, look, this is a thing we’re giving you now—but at some point during your career, send us it back. It’s a gift, but if it helps you at all, put it back in the fund to help someone else.”

At a time when escalating costs threaten to derail future artists, The Very Thought of You is an album that sounds as good as the cause it serves.

In Victoria, The Very Thought of You is for sale at Lyle’s Place, Munro’s Books and Larsen Music. At UVic, it can be purchased through the Bookstore, the School of Music, the Department of Theatre, the Fine Arts office and Arts Place cafe in the Fine Arts building. You can also purchase it through Ian McDougall’s website. Remember, $10 from each $20 CD will go directly to the “one potato” fund.

Phoenix announces upcoming season

How can you be a good person in an imperfect world? What does it mean to be “pretty”? Why does it matter what others think? What is the meaning of life . . . and what does have to do with the love of a good dog? And what do you learn about your best friend when there’s a psychotic killer chasing you?

The Department of Theatre ponders the serious—and maybe not-so-serious—questions about life in their 2012-13 Phoenix season through comedy, parable, drama and song. “We’re giving the Philosophy department a run for their money,” jokes department Chair Warwick Dobson. “But in all honesty, I think we’ve programmed a varied, engaging and exciting season that reflects the diversity that the Phoenix is known for, one where we can give our students experience in several genres of theatre—from a classic Brecht play, to a contemporary drama, to a Broadway musical.”

Peter N’ Chris are hungry . . . for a mystery!

Each year, the season begins with the department’s annual Spotlight on Alumni that welcomes theatre graduates back to the stages of the Phoenix Theatre to present their current work. Chris Wilson and Peter Carlone became good friends over their four years at the department; since graduating in 2008, the pair have morphed into Peter N’ Chris, the dynamic duo who toured across North America, winning awards and acclaim at Fringe Festivals, SketchFests, Just for Laughs and Second City. Their unique brand of physical comedy really stretches reality, literally saving the world (in Peter N’ Chris Save the World) or just learning how to pay the rent (the original Peter N’ Chris). Now they take on a psycho-killer and the entire “whodunit” detective story genre in The Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel, which runs from October 11-20.

Then from November 8-24, movement instructor and faculty member Conrad Alexandrowicz brings Bertolt Brecht’s famous parable play Good Person of Setzuan into the present by setting it in modern-day industrial China. Alexandrowicz, also the Artistic Director of Wild Excursions Performance, last directed the much-acclaimed version of La Ronde in 2009 for the department. “I’m curious to see how the philosophical questions and moral lessons of Brecht’s original will translate to a world that has grown more thoroughly corporatized and materialistic than that of his day,” says Alexandrowicz.

In the spring of 2013, the Phoenix Theatre looks into the effects on our self-esteem of living in a beauty-obsessed world in Neil LaBute’s Tony Award-nominated play Reasons to be Pretty. Directed by MFA candidate Christine Willes and running February 14-23, the play tells the story of four friends and lovers whose cutting and often cruel remarks change the nature of their relationships and asks why do we care so much what theythink?

The season closes March 14-23, 2013 with the Broadway musical and Grammy winner for Best Musical Show Album (twice!) You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Revised), directed by faculty member Fran Gebhard, whose previous Phoenix shows include The Marowitz Hamlet, Wreckage, The School for Scandal and Crackpot. An ode to the loveable gang in Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts”, this super fun family musical is also playing at the Stratford Festival this summer. It follows a day-in-the-life of the favorite purveyor of “Good Grief!” and his trusty dog Snoopy as they ponder the meaning of life and what it means to be good. “We’ll end the year with a bang and let these students really show us what they can do,” says Gebhard

Subscriptions for the 2012/13 season are now available for as little as $36 for 3 mainstage shows. Details about the season as well as subscription information are available online or order through the Phoenix Box Office or by calling 250-721-8000.

Talking Trimpin

The School of Music/Open Space collaboration with Seattle-based sound sculptor and inventor Trimpin on his (CanonX+4:33=100) piano-based sculptural piece has been getting good press since its March 16 opening. With the exhibit itself running through to April 27 at Open Space Gallery—closing night will feature a live concert with UVic’s MISTIC group “playing” Trimpin’s creation—there’s still lots of time left to pop down to 510 Fort Street and check it out. We guarantee you’ll never look at a piano the same way again!

In his Times Colonist piece, Adrian Chamberlain talks with Trimpin about the importance of Conlon Nancarrow and how cuckoo clocks in Trimpin’s native Germany may have been an early influence on his work.

Open Space director Helen Marzolf talks to CTV’s Adam Sawatsky about the Trimpin exhibibt

To get a sense of the piece in action, check out this interview where Adam Sawatsky of CTV Vancouver Island talks with Open Space director Helen Marzolf (just click on the picture to the right, then slide along to the 1:30 mark for the start of the Trimpin piece).

Meanwhile, in her Monday Magazine article, Mary Ellen Green spoke with project originator (and now School of Music Concert Manager) Kristy Farkas about the idea of music. “Every object is an instrument,” Farkas told Green, while discussing Trimpin’s work. “I don’t always like to play instruments in traditional ways. I always used to play with the inside of pianos and I really connected with his work. It’s very creative, playful, sculptural and imaginative.”

Trimpin (centre) works with UVic students to build (CanonX+4:33=100) Photo: Dallas V. Duobaitis

Trimpin himself offers a breakdown of the (CanonX+4:33=100) project in this article for The Ring, and recently spoke on-air with the campus radio show U in the Ring (scroll down to the February 28 podcast, and it’s about two-thirds of the way through). And the good folks at MediaNet posted this video of the exhibit’s opening night.

If you’re interested in the mechanics of the installation, on-site specialists will be available for demonstrations and Q&A sessions every Thursday from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at Open Space.

And there’s a weekly series of talks and discussions called Plugging In: Talks on Sound, Technology & Art featuring UVic speakers:

• Project co-creator Andrew Schloss of the Music & Computer Science degree program talks about “Approaching Public Art from a Sonic Perspective” at 7:30pm on Wednesday, April 4.

• New Visual Arts instructor Paul Walde will discuss “Composer as Inventor” at 2:00pm on Saturday, April 7.

Steeve A. Bjorson talks about “Micro-controllers and Their Use in (CanonX+4:33=100)” at 2:00pm on Saturday, April 14.

• And finally, in advance of the MISTIC concert, Darren Miller will discuss “Invention on Invention: The Compositional Opportunities and Challenges of Writing for a Trimpin Installation” at 2:00pm on Saturday, April 21.

Lilburn Launches New Book

Acclaimed Department of Writing professor and Governor General’s Award-winning author Tim Lilburn launches the Louis Riel-inspired Assiniboia, his ninth book of poetry, on March 27 this week.

A richly textured imagining of a Western Canada that could have been, Assiniboia is not intended to be a literal interpretation of Riel’s story. Instead, Assiniboia envisions a new land of western mysticism, where the land and people speak as a kind of ghostly army bent on overturning more than a century of colonial practice.

“My work is preoccupied by Riel’s vision, his idea of a political community that was mixed race, polyglot, indigenous and visionary,” says Lilburn. “I think Riel is a very important political figure now—he represents a vision for Western Canada that is quite oppositional to our current version, which is a source of extractive industry, more or less racially homogenous, unilingual and non-visionary.”

Click on this photo to watch the video of Lilburn discussing Assiniboia

Assiniboia also breaks new formal ground in Canadian poetry by employing theatrical and operatic techniques in the text—including a masque and a pair of choral performances—which will be brought to life by multiple poets reading at the book’s Victoria launch. Learn a bit more about the idea behind the book in this video clip shot on campus in Lilburn’s office.

Amy Smart of the local Times Colonist spoke to Lilburn in this article, where he talked about the musical aspects of the work. “I think that poetry arises out of ritual speech and ceremony and I’m quite keen in this book to see if I can pull my work back to that original source,” he told Smart. “And because this is a political work and this is an attempt to reimagine a different Western Canada than the one we have now—extractive, exploitive—I’m interested in the possibility of transformation. And I think it’s there in performance. I think it’s there for work on the page, but I think it’s even more there if that work actually lifts off the page and gets into people’s mouths and bodies and movements.”

The author of eight previous books of poetry and two essay collections, Lilburn has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award in Literature twice: in 1989, for Tourist to Ecstasy, and again in 2003, when he received the award for Kill-site. In addition, Lilburn’s work has received the Canadian Authors Association Award, the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award, and the Saskatchewan Nonfiction Award. His work has been widely anthologized, and translated into French, Chinese, Serbian, German and Polish.

Assiniboia launches at 7:30pm Tuesday, March 27, at Intrepid Theatre, #2-1609 Blanshard. Free and open to the public.

Learning from a Legend

Charles Marowitz working with Kenney (left) and Lo (right) Photo: Adrienne Holierhoek

Can you imagine getting the chance to work with a legendary Shakespearean master? This was the opportunity offered to more than a dozen talented actors, designers and aspiring directors at the Department of Theatre when the illustrious playwright, director and critic Charles Marowitz came to UVic this spring to direct his reinterpreted version of Hamlet that will be performed at the Phoenix Theatre, running March 15–24.

An elder gentleman of the world of theatre, Marowitz has worked at the revered Royal Shakespeare Company in London’s famous West End, directed hit plays on Broadway and written for most of the leading theatre media including the London Times, New York Times, Theater Week and American Theatre.

He has also, somewhat notoriously, reinterpreted almost a dozen Shakespeare plays over his celebrated career. Viewing them as “collages” of the original, he uses the same poetic language as Shakespeare, but rearranges the lines and scenes, sometimes attributing lines to different characters. What emerges is a contrasting view of the characters’ motivations and a new perspective on the play’s meaning.

For students involved with the UVic presentation of The Marowitz Hamlet, it was a unique chance to glean insightful information from his vast experience. “Because it was his play that he had directed so many times, he understood the motivations of each character so clearly and was able to express the difference from Shakespeare’s original and this play to the actors,” says Mika Laulainen, a fourth-year student and assistant director. “I could see how well the actors responded to his depth of knowledge about their characters.”

The two met regularly to discuss the progress in rehearsals, however sometimes conversations wandered and revealed great stories from his past. “He told me about his first directing gig in New York where, straight out of high school, he walked in to an Off-Broadway theatre and asked them to let him direct a show—and they did! It’s amazing how times have changed.”

Michelle Lo, fourth-year student and costume designer for the play, also received the benefit of his clear ideas. “He allowed me to explore ways to have fun with his characters, to make them more ‘theatrical’, while still encompassing the direction he wanted. He’s a very interesting person. Sometimes he could come across as quite serious, but then his wry humour would randomly surface and he’d spontaneously say something hilarious.”

Preparation for the set design necessarily begins almost a year in advance. For MFA candidate Bryan Kenney, this meant the opportunity to visit Marowitz at his Malibu home to discuss their ideas. “It was interesting. He showed me a lot of examples of his past productions, and I was able to understand the minimalist aesthetic he is interested in. We talked about ways of making the vast space of our proscenium theatre a more intimate experience for the audience.”

Leaving California with a basic concept, Bryan communicated by phone, mail and email to finalize the design. After Marowitz arrived in Victoria, the conversations continued in more detail. “We had some really insightful discussions about how the actors could best use the set to get his story across. He was very open to my ideas in the rehearsal process.”

And what does the Shakespearean master feel about his experience working with students? “Refreshing!” says Charles Marowitz. “There’s a clean slate with young students. They avoid clichés and haven’t developed any bad habits. Professionals tend to draw from their experience, recycling and distilling actions or ideas from other productions, other experiences. There’s a freshness to working with young people that I think is healthy for a director.”

In the end, Marowitz was pleased with the cohesion between his “more traditional director’s vision” and the new ideas of the students. “The kick is working with kids that are really smart to produce something that, while exactly what the director wants, is an ‘entente’ between the two.”
—Adrienne Holierhoek