Fine Arts at IdeaFest

IdeaFest is coming up soon at UVic and Fine Arts is all over the programming this year!

ideafestWith more than 50 ideas worth exploring, UVic’s second annual IdeaFest looks pretty exciting. Running March 4-15 in every corner of campus, this free festival connects you to experts working on the kind of ideas that really can change everything—whether you’re a rocket scientist, artist, gamer, zombie fan or something else entirely.

New and emerging research will be brought to life in panels, workshops, exhibits, lectures, performances, film screenings and tours. Ideas up for discussion run the gamut of political upheaval, creativity, heart health, Canada’s north, urban planning, big data, #IdleNoMore and whether or not English should emerge as a global language—just to name a handful.

Take a few minutes to browse through the full program on the IdeaFest 2013 website— the hardest part will be deciding which idea to start with!

Here’s a quick breakdown of what Fine Arts has on tap:

Enacting the ArtistEnacting the Artist / Researcher / Educator: Six UVic applied theatre graduate students engaged in a theatre-based PhD research project will discuss utilizing playbuilding as qualitative research, as well as a variety of theatre conventions as a way to generate, interpret and (re)present data. The result is a devised play about enacting the artist/researcher/educator with a post-show dialogue. 2-4pm Monday, March 4, in room 109 of the Fine Arts building.

Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards: Celebrate some of the outstanding research produced by the 2012 Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards scholars at this day-long presentation of their work. Here’s a list of who’s representing Fine Arts, but you can read abstracts of their research here: Sara Fruchtman, Alexandra Macdonald and Christine Oldridge (History in Art), Stewart Gibbs, Sarah Johnson and Jennifer Taylor (Theatre), Bronwyn McMillin and Willie Seo (Visual Arts), Claire Garneau and Liz Snell (Writing). The JCURA runs 11am-3pm Wednesday, March 6, in the SUB’s Cinecenta, Upper Lounge and Michele Pujol room.

Film FestMini Film Fest: Join some of the Department of Writing’s emerging filmmakers for a screening and discussion of several recent, award-winning student films—including the Leo Award-winning web series Freshman’s Wharf, and Connor Gaston’s recent TIFF and VFF-screened short, Bardo Light. 7:30 pm Thursday, March 7, in room 162 of the Visual Arts building.

Sonic LabSonic Lab: Join UVic’s contemporary music ensemble as they present two compositions that explore the sound itself as musical material. Imagine a brick wall with a human figure painted on it, which can be taken apart & rebuilt as a fence or a house—meaning the parts of painted body would show up in an unexpected context. The same happens here, where usual & unusual sounds will be taken apart and put together in a new context. 8pm Friday, March 8, in the Phillip T Young Recital Hall.

  “Have you ever had an idea?” Get in on this interactive, community-involving project aimed at enabling ideas to be more accessible and more attainable. Participants become part of Victoria’s biggest idea—a giant run-on sentence created by texting, calling or e-mailing in their ideas. It all culiminates in an installation with video & audio components of real-time projection, discussions, idea-counseling, etc. 7-10pm Friday, March 8, in room A111 of the Visual Arts building.

Games Without• “Games Without Frontiers: The Social Power of Video Games”: Join professors, grad students, undergraduates, high-school students, local game designers and curious citizens of Victoria at this mini-conference to explore, discuss and marvel at the power of video-game technology to bring people together and improve the world. Faculty and students will give demonstrations and offer a Q&A about the innovative use of “gamification” techniques in their research, including games that help to improve the lives of children with autism, teach about First Nations treaties, combat obesity and explore the ocean floor, among others.

Don't miss the Minecraft documentary

Don’t miss the Minecraft documentary

Other events will include demonstrations of new games by students and local designers, a “journalism game jam” to apply game tools to improve public-service reporting, various competitions and panels of local experts to debate the power, the pitfalls and the future of game design. The UVic student music ensemble Flipside will also be performing a selection of video game soundtracks (1:30-3pm), and Cinecenta will be hosting a screening of the documentary Minecraft: The Story of Mojang, a look behind the scenes of the popular online game, with an Orion-sponsored talk and Q&A with the Portland-based filmmakers from 2 Player Productions to follow—that’s at 7:15 pm Friday, March 8, at Cinecenta. Games without Frontiers runs 11:30am-6pm Saturday, March 9, in the David Strong building.

“Is There Still Potential for Human Creativity?” A good question, and one which promises a lively back and forth at this Fine Arts discussion panel featuring Jennifer Stillwell (Visual Arts), George Tzanetakis (Computer Science-Music), Lee Henderson (Writing), Victoria Wyatt (History in Art), Jonathan Goldman (Music). Moderated by the Times Colonist‘s Dave Obee. 7:30pm Monday, March 11,  in B150 of the Bob Wright Centre.

Fine Arts PechaKucha: Unfortunately, this event has been cancelled.

IndiaIntergenerational Theatre for Development in India: After being displaced by the 2006 tsunami, a new community in India is using Applied Theatre to reconnect its citizens. The creation of an intergenerational theatre company to perform the stories of seniors and rural youth of the Tamilnadu community has the potential to create lines of dialogue across generations by positively highlighting the life experiences of residents of Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village and students of the Isha Vidhya Matriculation School. Theatre PhD student Matthew Gusul recently visited India and will tell the story of this developing project. 4:45pm Thursday, March 14, in the Phoenix Theatre’s McIntyre Studio.

Fine Arts benefit CD nominated for Juno Award

Big news for School of Music Professor Emeritus Ian McDougall‘s 2012 album The Very Thought of You—the Fine Arts benefit CD has now been nominated for a Juno Award!

McD CD_coverA gorgeous collection of 13 jazz standards featuring McDougall’s signature trombone backed by a lush string section, The Very Thought of You—produced by Ian’s wife, Barb McDougall—has been nominated in the “Instrumental Album of the Year” category. (In case you’re curious, his disc is up against the likes of Five Alarm Funk’s Rock The Sky, Hugh Sicotte & Jon Ballantyne’s Twenty Accident Free Work Days, Pugs & Crows’ Fantastic Pictures, and the Ratchet Orchestra’s Hemlock.)


McDougall on CTV

“Barb and I are overjoyed about the Juno nomination,” says McDougall. “This CD however, could never have been produced without the support—both financial and moral—of Jim Crawford, Tony Gage and the other generous partners involved in the forming of Ten Mile Music Production. Our gratitude also goes out to the fine musicians on the CD, the magnificent arrangements by Rick Wilkins and all those involved in bringing the production
to completion.”

CTV Vancouver Island talked with McDougall about the nomination on their February 19 broadcast, which you can watch here. (Scroll down to “Arts & Lifestyles.”)

As reported earlier on this blog, $10 from every $20 copy of The Very Thought of You goes directly to McDougall’s “one potato” student benefit fund—officially titled the Ten Mile Fine Arts Student Assistance Fund. Back in December 2012, McDougall presented Fine Arts with a cheque for $16,000, the first payback from the CD to the fund. “That’s the real bonus,” says McDougall of the CD. “Students in the Fine Arts now have a fund to turn
to in times of need.”

McD_5x7McDougall is no stranger to the national award scene. “I’ve been a significant part of many Junos as a musician and writer, particularly with Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass,” he says. “I have one on our mantel as a soloist, writer and conductor with the Brass Connection in 1982.” He has also received Best Big Band at the National Jazz Awards, Grammy Awards with the Boss Brass and a SOCAN Established Composer Award.

If you haven’t picked one up yet, The Very Thought of You is available in the Fine Arts office, UVic’s Bookstore, Arts Place cafe, the School of Music, and Phoenix Theatre, as well as Lyle’s Place, Larsen Music and Munro’s Books. Online, you can find it at CD Baby or through McDougall’s own website.

Winners of the 2013 Juno Awards will be announced on April 21 at a gala ceremony in Regina. We’re already cheering for Ian!

Update: unfortunately, The Very Thought of You didn’t win the Juno, which went instead to the album Fantastic Pictures by the Vancouver band Pugs and Crows.

Reasons to see Pretty

The reviews are in for Phoenix Theatre‘s latest production, the Tony Award-nominated black comedy Reasons to Be Pretty, and the local critics are holding their thumbs way up for this one.

Reese Nielsen and Robin Gadsby pull out the stops in Reasons to Be Pretty (photo: David Lowes)

Reese Nielsen and Robin Gadsby pull out the stops in Reasons to Be Pretty (photo: David Lowes)

“UVic’s theatre department has done a terrific job with this black comedy, which boasts an unusually strong student cast and crisp, stylish direction from Christine Willes,” raves Adrian Chamberlain in his Times Colonist review. “Reasons to Be Pretty is bound to be one of the season’s highlights.”

Meanwhile, in her CVV Magazine review, critic Erin Anderson describes Pretty as “a strong show—the best I’ve seen from Phoenix yet—and a thought-provoking, empowering one at that.” She felt that “all of the elements of theatre come together exceptionally well in this production, so much so that it’s a shame it has such a short run.”

Busy local arts blogger Janis LaCouvee calls it a “naturalistic, sprawling juggernaut of a tale” in her review, describing it as a “slice-of-life for the 21st century that speaks to the heart of many young people today, and confronts us all with our own attitudes.” And Kelly J. Clark of The Marble online theatre blog says Reasons to Be Pretty features “a talented cast and crew, who elevate it to a production of merit.”

Alberta Holden and Alex Frankson (Photo: David Lowes)

Alberta Holden and Alex Frankson (Photo: David Lowes)

Praising the performances (“All the actors are strong—all obviously have careers ahead of them if they so choose”), the TC’s Chamberlain puts the spotlight on student actor Reese Neilsen as Steph, calling her “a standout” who captures a “complex, contradictory character with great heart and verve.”

CVV’s Anderson also highlighted the cast, noting Neilsen “gives an affecting, sharp performance as Steph, balancing intense emotion with intelligent convictions” and felt Alberta Holden did “great work in her monologue on the unnerving, alienating nature of beauty and brings a light playfulness to the role even when [her character] Carly is on the warpath.” She also noted how director Willes delivers “an honest and lifelike portrayal of average people who manage to capture something very profound.”

The Marble‘s Clark noted the show is “graced with a talented cast”, and credits director Willes “who coaxes wonderful performances from her cast and her fantastic crew” and creates an overall “slick production.”

All the reviewers highlighted the design work as well, created by Breanna Wise (set), Halley Fulford (costumes), Erin Osborne & Michael Whitfield (lighting) and Hayley McCurdy (sound).

Director Christine Willes with CVV's Leanne Allen

Director Christine Willes with CVV’s Leanne Allen

Interest was also high in advance of the show’s opening, with local online arts mag CVV Magazine doing this video interview with Reasons to Be Pretty director Willes. The Times Colonist also spoke with Willes in this preview article, noting she had previously worked as an actor with Pretty playwright Neil LaBute when he was filming the horror film The Wicker Man in Vancouver a few years back. Willes is also interviewed on this U in the Ring radio interview from CFUV; the interview starts about halfway through the podcast. 

Reasons to Be Pretty runs 8pm nightly through to February 23, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday, February 23. Showtimes and ticket prices can be found here.

Writing alum update

Seems hardly a month goes by when there isn’t news about Department of Writing alumni earning some kind of accolades.

Shoemaker (centre, with bat) and her Iowa Writers' Workshop softball team

Shoemaker (centre, with bat) and her Iowa Writers’ Workshop softball team at their annual Fiction vs Poetry game

First up this time around, Writing grad Jeanne Shoemaker was recently named one of the winners of the latest Pushcart Prize for her short story, “Sonny Criss.” Originally published in the Iowa Review, Shoemaker’s western was originally written as a way of avoiding an essay assignment. “I wrote ‘Sonny Criss’ while at UVic,” says Shoemaker. “I workshopped it with Lorna Jackson.” You can read a brief interview with Shoemaker here.

pushcart cover_2013Shoemaker, who received her BA from UVic back in 2002, went on to receive her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2010. “Sonny Criss” was published in the Iowa Review in 2011 and currently appears in the Pushcart Prize 2013 Anthology. But just to prove that persistence is anything but futile, Shoemaker says her manuscript was rejected 40 times before being accepted. “I kept sending it out because I felt I had something to say with this story, something I discovered while writing it,” she told the Iowa Review. “I had recreated a world that doesn’t exist any longer—a world I miss terribly.”

Marjorie Celona

Marjorie Celona

Also just announced is word that Writing grad Marjorie Celona is a finalist for the $7,500 First Novel Award. Celona, of course, is up for her debut novel Y, which received rave reviews when it debuted last fall, and earned a spot on the prestigious Waterstones Eleven list. Past winners of the First Novel Award include the likes of Michael Ondaatje, Nino Ricci, Rohinton Mistry, Anne Michaels and Joseph Boyden. The winner is  announced on April 24. Fingers crossed!

Arno Kopecky with his new book

Arno Kopecky with his new book

Meanwhile, busy alum Arno Kopecky tackles the Enbridge pipeline in the February issue of Reader’s Digest and asks the $273 billion question: is the payoff worth the risk? Kopecky also recently launched his first nonfiction book, The Devil’s Curve: A Journey into Power and Profit at the Amazon’s Edge—which the Georgia Straight reviewed as “a vivid example of immersive journalism” and “a trenchant critique of both our representatives and of us [as Canadians].” Arno was also one of the alumni authors featured at last fall’s All-Star Alumni Reading night.

And if you check the longlist for the CBC Short Story Prize, you’ll find four familiar names included: Writing grads Yasuko Thanh (for “Dolls”), Eliza Robertson (“L’Étranger”), Judy LeBlanc (“The Truth About Gravity”) featureda-shortstorylong-thumb-180x101-174234and former Writing instructor Holly Nathan (“Breathing in Siberia”). Thanh made headlines not so long ago for winning the Journey Prize and publishing her first collection, Floating Like The Dead, while Robertson was in the news for both her Booker Scholarship and winning various writing prizes, and LeBlanc won the recent Antogonish Review fiction contest.

While, yes, this is only the longlist—the shortlist is announced the week of March 11—it’s still gratifying to see so many UVic names appearing there.

Page-turner Yasuko Thanh

Page-turner Yasuko Thanh

And speaking of Yasuko Thanh, word is the much-tattooed mom will be one of 12 authors to doff their duds in the new Bare it for Books 2014 charity calendar, due out in October 2013. (What, nobody asked Bill Gaston?) All proceeds will go to PEN Canada, an organization that supports freedom of expression in Canada and around the world. “The fact that there’s an organization out there, fighting for people’s freedom of speech, well that’s great,” the future Miss July told the the Coastal Spectator recently. “And I want to support that any way I can.”

As reported in the National Post, the inaugural Bare It for Books calendar will feature past winners of the Giller Prize, the Booker Prize, the Journey Prize, the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and CBC’s Canada Reads—specifically, Angie Abdou, Trevor Cole, Farzana Doctor, Dave Bidini, Miranda Hill, Daniel MacIvor, Terry Fallis, Sachiko Murakami, Vincent Lam, Saleema Nawaz, Yann Martel and, of course, Thanh.

When Coastal Spectator writer and fellow Writing alum Will Johnson asked Thanh how she feels about appearing alongside  Life of Pi author Yann Martel in the calendar, her answer was characteristically frank. “It feels friggin’ awesome!”

Faculty in the news

J-Ro Boulevard

What were J-Ro’s secrets and lies?

Current Harvey S. Southam guest lecturer and CBC All Points West host Jo-Ann Roberts picked up some coverage for her recent public lecture, “Public Broadcasting and the Public Good: Making the case for the CBC.” Her January 30 talk, which looked at the proud history and somewhat uncertain future of public broadcasting in Canada and around the world, attracted  well over a hundred people.

In advance of that, however, Roberts appeared in the January issue of Boulevard magazine, dishing in their “Secrets & Lies” Q&A column. “When I started at CBC in 1978, we didn’t have this convergence of media ownership,” she told Boulevard‘s Shannon Moneo. “We still had a fair bit of competition and the CBC was robust and healthy, so I’ve experienced probably what it was like at its best.” (Indeed, one of the audience members who spoke at the event had been hired at CBC back in the 1940s, and wasn’t shy about sharing his opinions regarding the current state of the public broadcaster.)

Jo-Ann Roberts holds the crowd's attention at her recent public lecture

Jo-Ann Roberts holds the crowd’s attention at her recent public lecture

Roberts also spoke with Monday Magazine news editor Danielle Pope (and Department of Writing alum and former Martlet editor) in this article, in which the CBC personality said she felt Canadians need to “take more responsibility for what they want . . . . Governments will listen, but you have to make yourselves heard … sometimes we do need a little more outrage.” And you can hear Roberts talk with U in the Ring host Phoenix Bain in this podcast interview, which originally aired on UVic’s CFUV.

Snizek's piece from the current issue of Zachor

Snizek’s piece from the current issue of Zachor

Meanwhile, over in the School of Music, visiting professor Suzanne Snizek appeared on CBC Radio and in the Times Colonist at the end of January, thanks to her classroom guest— “suppressed” Iranian-Canadian composer Farshid Sammandari. Both Snizek and Sammandari were interviewed live on CBC’s morning show On The Island and appeared in this TC article.

Snizek will also be speaking about suppressed music during World War II at Vancouver’s upcoming Chutzpah! Festival; that lecture & recital happens at 7pm on February 24, and you can get full details about that event here. If you’re not up on your WWII history, take a moment to read her latest article, “Music in Internment,” in the current issue of the Zachor newsletter, produced by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.

In other School of Music news, instructor Bill Linwood talked about his pan-Canadian new music group, ensemble1534, in this Times Colonist piece from January.

hidden livesFinally, on February 18, Acting Dean of Fine Arts and Department of Writing professor Lynne Van Luven appeared on CBC Radio One’s The Next Chapter with host Sheilagh Rogers. Van Luven was discussing her essay in the new volume Hidden Lives: Coming Out on Mental illness. The interview will also be re-aired between 4 & 5pm Saturday, February 23, and you can listen to it online here.

Described as a “groundbreaking collection” featuring “well-known and cutting-edge authors,” Hidden Lives boasts a foreword by physician and bestselling author Gabor Maté, and offers “evocative essays by writers who either suffer from or have close family members diagnosed with mental illness or a developmental disorder.” The book’s aim is “to break down the stigma that surrounds one of the most devastating of human tribulations.”