Shelagh Rogers named next UVic chancellor

It’s the kind of news that will warm the heart of any arts supporter: famed CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers has been named the University of Victoria’s 11th chancellor.

UVic's new chancellor designate, Shelagh Rogers

UVic’s new chancellor-designate, Shelagh Rogers Credit: UVic Photo Services

The news was announced to a packed room in UVic’s Mearns Centre for Learning on May 29, as a beaming Rogers took to the stage and said, “To speak in a very non-chancellorian way, I’m thrilled out of my bean.” The genuine laughter and applause with which this statement was greeted was a strong indication of the popularity of the announcement. “I feel like over the last little while I’ve been dating UVic,” Rogers qiupped. “I’m glad now to be in a relationship with you.”

Click here to listen to her interview on CBC Radio’s All Points West with 2013 Southam professor Jo-Ann Roberts.

A longtime associate of the Department of Writing and friend to the Faculty of Fine Arts, Rogers will assume the office for a three-year term beginning January 1, 2015. As the titular head of UVic, the chancellor is the chair of convocation, confers all degrees and is a member of the university’s board of governors, as well as the senate (which governs the university’s academic affairs). The position carries no remuneration.

Rogers hosting the Litereary Celebration of Lorna Crozier in November 2013

“As UVic’s chancellor, Shelagh Rogers will enhance the excellence of our university. She will bring tremendous energy and great insight to her new role. Her national reputation as an advocate for Canadian arts and culture will serve the university well,” write nominators Dr. Sarah Blackstone, Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, and Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Associate Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts. “Shelagh has a deep commitment to higher education and to the Aboriginal reconciliation process. She has the ability to ask the right questions and to tell the whole story so that others can understand complex and urgent issues and ideas. UVic could not ask for a better ambassador as we build on our reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement.”

Speaking at the event, UVic President Jamie Cassels noted that Rogers “exemplifies the values that characterize our university. She is deeply connected with communities across Canada; her cultural contributions and ability to reach into people’s everyday lives as a well-known broadcaster and as an advocate for public awareness on important societal issues will make her an outstanding ambassador for the university. On campus, her trademark warmth, compassion and enthusiasm will help inspire our students and connect with them on a very authentic level.”

Chancellor-designate Shelagh Rogers meets the media. Credit: UVic Photo Services

Chancellor-designate Shelagh Rogers meets the media. Credit: UVic Photo Services

A veteran broadcast journalist, Rogers is currently the host and a producer of The Next Chapter, a CBC Radio program about Canadian writers and songwriters. She moved to BC in 2003 after 23 years working on CBC news and current affairs radio programs. In 2011, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada for her contributions as a promoter of Canadian culture, and for her volunteer work in the fields of mental health and literacy. She has committed herself to working toward reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from coast to coast to coast, and was inducted as an Honorary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in June 2011. As Shelley Ambrose, co-publisher of The Walrus Magazine, has said, “Think of her as Canada’s ear. Then add a brain, a heart . . . and a very recognizable voice. That’s Shelagh Rogers.”

Rogers hosting the 2011 Southam Lecture

Rogers hosting the 2011 Southam Lecture

No stranger to UVic events, Rogers recently hosted the Department of Writing scholarship fundraiser A Literary Celebration of Lorna Crozier in November 2103, as well as the Harvey S. Southam Lecture by Richard Wagamese in February 2011. Better still, it turns out that Writing professor Lynne Van Luven was the person who first thought of nominating Rogers.

“I remembered all the great interviews I had had with her over the years, how she always gets right to the heart of a book, and responds so warmly and honestly to her subject, whoever they are,” says Van Luven. “Then I remembered what a great time we had when she hosted the Lorna Crozier Scholarship fundraiser.  She seemed to be just the best person I could think of because of her wide range of interests, her great interviewing and communication skills and her obvious curiosity about the world around her.  I thought, ‘If I were convocating, I’d like someone like Shelagh presiding at the ceremonies.’”

While Rogers will be UVic’s second female chancellor, she is the first from the world of the arts. We congratulate her, and look forward with to her tenure great anticipation.

More Writing prizes & nominations

There’s never a slow season, it seems, when it comes to honouring faculty, students and alumni of the Writing department.

Erin Frances Fisher

Erin Frances Fisher

Newly minted Writing MFA Erin Frances Fisher was announced as the winner of the 20th annual $5,000 Writers’ Trust RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers on May 27, with the jury praising her as “a writer you will see again.” Fellow top-three finalist and $1,000 winner Leah Jane Esau is also a former Writing student. Both were selected by the jury from a field of 133 blind submissions. The winning and nominated stories can be downloaded free at

Fisher (who also holds a BFA from the Department of Writing) has had her stories been shortlisted and won prizes from The Malahat Review and PRISM international. Her work has also been published in Riddle Fence, Little Fiction, and Granta; she is also a pianist and a faculty member at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Leah Jane Esau

Leah Jane Esau

The Bronwen Wallace jury was quick to praise for her entry, “Girl,” as “a visceral tale guaranteed to make you shiver, ‘Girl’ reminds us of the truth that humans are more than blood and bone,” notes the jury. “With a surprising and perfect ending, flawless sentences throughout, and a consistently realistic tone, this short story is as vast and satisfying as a great novel.”

Former student Esau is a playwright and fiction writer based in Montreal, where she recently graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada. Her play Disappeared won the 2012 Pam Dunn Award as well as the 2012 Tom Hendry Award, and she holds an MA in drama from the University of Toronto. Her story Dream Interpretation” was singled out as being “Compressed and expansive at the same time, ‘Dream Interpretation’ is a story that will leave you both completely satisfied and wanting more. Each new revelation is surprising and disturbing, as Leah Jane Esau skilfully doles out the backstory and brings her characters to life. Nothing is what it seems, least of all dreams.”

Writing MFA alumnus Garth Martens was the 2011 poetry winner in the Bronwen Wallace Awards, and alumna Marjorie Celona won for fiction in 2008. The RBC Bronwen Wallace Award rewards writers who are under age 35 and unpublished in book form, and alternates between poetry and fiction each year.

Madeline Sonik

Madeline Sonik

Meanwhile, longtime Writing instructor Madeline Sonik and current student K’ari Fisher are both on the 12-writer shortlist for the Exile Quarterly $15,000 Carter V. Cooper short fiction prize.  Regardless of where they place in the contest, both will als be included in the forthcoming CVC4 Anthology. The winner of the  Carter V. Cooper short fiction prize will be announced at the end of May.

Congratulations also go out to Writing alum Ashley Little for her pair of wins at the BC Book Prizes in May: her book The New Normal won the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize while her other book Anatomy of a Girl Gang picked up the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize!

FH259Also in the “recent winner” category is alumna Kayla Czaga, who won first the $2,000 first-place prize in The Fiddlehead‘s 23rd annual Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize for her piece, “That Great Burgundy-Upholstered Beacon of Dependability.” Honourable mention in that same category also went to MFA alumna Kyeren Regehr for her poem, “Dorm Room 214, who picked up $250.

Two Writing department playwrights were also recently announced as winners of Theatre BC’s 2013 Playwriting Competition.

Sheldon Seigel (left) with Writing professor Maureen Bradley

Sheldon Seigel (left) with Writing professor Maureen Bradley

Congratulations to current undergrad Shedon Seigel and MFA grad Peter Boychuk. Siegel’s play Last Fall was selected as the winner of the One Act competition from a field of 23 entries, while Boychuk’s one-act play Gamergrlz was awarded the Special Merit prize. (Interesting side-note: Seigel’s play emerged from WR203, the second-year playwriting workshop, and was presented as a SATCO workshop production in the Department of Theatre in 2013.)

Seigel was also recently in the news as one of the final five finalists in the infamous Three-Day Novel Writing Contest.  And Boychuk garnered media attention with a full production of his play Shelter from the Storm by Touchstone Theatre at Vancouver’s fabled Firehall Arts Centre in 2012.

Peter Boychuk

Peter Boychuk

The winning playwrights will have their plays read by volunteer actors during the week of Theatre BC’s Annual Provincial Theatre Festival “Destination Mainstage”  led by host, jury member and Writing grad Michael Armstrong, July 8-10 at the Thompson Rivers University Actors Workshop Theatre in Kamloops BC.  The Playwrights will also be honored  at the Theatre BC “Destination Mainstage” Awards Ceremony on July 12. Seigel wins $750 and a trophy, while Boychuk receives $500 and a trophy.

Finally, Writing MFA alumna and busy playwright Sally Stubbs will be at Calgary’s Lunchbox Theatre in June, where her script Spinning You Home has been selected for the Suncor Energy Stage One Festival. After a week-long workshop process the play will be presented to the public in a staged reading.

Sally Stubbs

Sally Stubbs

Stubbs’ play Centurions was also selected from 75 cross-Canada submissions to be featured in Nightwood Theatre’s National Play Reading Series, part of the New Groundswell Festival which runs in September in Toronto. The script will receive a workshop and a public reading. Centurionshas also been shortlisted for the 2015 Women Playwrights International Conference in Cape Town.

And, after an intense period of rewrites, Stubbs’ revised script And Bella Sang with Us received a workshop and a very successful public reading at the Firehall Arts Centre’s BC Buds in May 11, and there will be a Winnipeg launch of the published script in October, sponsored by publisher Scirocco Drama.

Good news for Gaston

It’s been a busy spring for new Writing MFA Connor Gaston—who certainly hasn’t waited until graduation to start making a name for himself.

Connor Gaston

Connor Gaston

The talented director-on-the-rise has been touring film festivals with ‘Til Death—the latest short film to emerge from Writing professor Maureen Bradley‘s Writing 420 film production class, for which she was also Executive Producer—which recently beat out all the big American universities to win “Best College Short” at the 2014 Phoenix Film Festival in April. That makes four prizes so far for ’Til Death, which continues to attract attention wherever it screens.

In fact, Gaston is off to the Cannes Film Festival in May with ‘Til Death, where it will be screening as part of Telefilm Canada’s annual Not Short on Talent short film presentation. For those keeping track, this is two years in a row that Writing alumni have been represented at the Telefilm pavilion: last year, it was Daniel Hogg and Jeremy Lutter were on the red carpet with their short film, Floodplain—based on a short story by fellow Writing grad D.W. Wilson. (Floodplain will also be screening in June at the Niagara Integrated Film Festival as part of the “Canada’s Not Short on Talent” Cannes short film compilation, as selected by renowned Cannes programmer Danny Lennon—the only BC film being shown.)

A scene from 'Til Death

A scene from ‘Til Death

But it doesn’t stop there—‘Til Death was also recently nominated for a Leo Award, which honour the best in British Columbia film and television production. This is the second Leo nomination for a Writing 420 project: the campus-created 10-part series Freshman’s Wharf won Best Web Series back in 2010. This year’s nomination is for Best Student Project.

Gaston is also nominated for one of Monday Magazine‘s annual M Awards—in fact, in the “Top Filmmaker” category, he’s nominated alongside fellow alumnus Jeremy Lutter (Floodplain) and Writing professor Maureen Bradley (Two 4 One). Talk about knowing the competition! (Voting closes May 30, click here to offer your vote.)

Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, Connor Gaston’s feature film project The Devout is a finalist for Telefilm Canada 2014-2015 Micro-Budget Production Program. Gaston’s The Devout was selected by local independent film society CineVic for recommendation to the program, alongside—surprise!—Jeremy Lutter, who also successfully applied through the National Screen Institute. (In fact, the only two selections from British Columbia are Lutter and Gaston, both Victoria-based CineVic member directors!)

The Micro-Budget Production Program supports new filmmakers seeking to produce their first feature-length films, with an emphasis on the use of digital platforms for distribution and marketing. Candidates for this year’s program were recommended to Telefilm through a network of 32 institutional partners from the film education and training community across Canada.

Both Gaston and Lutter screened work at CineVic’s Short Circuit event in early May, an annual celebration of Pacific Northwest Short Film.

Phoenix alumni nominated for Jessies

Sebastien Archibald (left) in ITSAZOO's Killer Joe

Sebastien Archibald (left) in ITSAZOO’s Killer Joe

The nominations for Vancouver’s 32nd annual Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards are out, and there are once again a number of Phoenix Theatre alumni on the list! The Jessies  are divided into three categories: Large Theatre, Small Theatre, and Theatre for Young Audiences, as well as the Significant Achievement Award and a few other special awards.

Foremost among the nominations is alumni company ITSAZOO Productions, whose presentation of Killer Joe earned seven nominations in the small theatre category, including Outstanding Direction, Production, Set Design, and Supporting Actor categories—as well as the Georgia Straight Critics’ Choice Innovation Award. Co-Artistic Director Chelsea Haberlin is nominated for direction, and Co-Artistic Director Sebastien Archibald is nominated for supporting actor.

Also twice nominated is accomplished actress and frequent Jessie nominee Jennifer Lines, up for best supporting actress (large theatre) for Bard on the Beach’s Twelfth Night, and (in small theatre) for Whose Life is it Anyway?

Other nominated Phoenix alumni include Susan Hogan, up for Lead Actress (small theatre) for her role in Kayak, Peter Carlone (of Peter ‘n Chris fame) for Supporting Actor (large theatre) for his turn in The Foreigner, Michelle Deines for Outstanding Original Script for Ghosts in Baghdad and and former student Kim Collier, who is nominated for Outstanding Direction for Bard on the Beach’s Hamlet. (Collier, it’s worth noting, is co-artistic director of Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre, as is our own Writing professor Kevin Kerr.)

Jenny Cassidy (far right, with yellow & blue bears) in Avenue Q (photo: Emily Cooper)

Jeny Cassaday (far right, with yellow & blue bears) in Avenue Q (photo: Emily Cooper)

Alumnus Andrew Wade was also a cast member of Patrick Street Theatre’s Floyd Collins, nominated for Outstanding Production Musical (large theatre), and incoming Directing MFA Alan Brodie is nominated for his work on Blackbird Theatre’s Uncle Vanya (small theatre). Finally, stellar alumna puppeteer Jeny Cassady is among the cast of the Arts Club’s Avenue Q, nominated for Significant Artistic Achievement – Outstanding Ensemble Performance.

The awards ceremony will be held at Vancouver’s famed Commodore Ballroom on June 23.

Conrad Alexandrowicz’s new production earns praise


Linda Quibell, Vanessa Goodman and Peter Anderson (Photo: Tim Matheson)

Mother Tongue, the latest stage production by Department of Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz, earned praise and wowed audiences in its debut performance this month.

Conceived, directed, and choreographed by Alexandrowicz with text by recently retired Writing professor Lorna Crozier and Governor General’s Award-winning poet Erin Mouré, Mother Tongue ran May 14-18 at Vancouver’s Scotiabank Dance Centre. Presented by Alexandrowicz’s Wild Excursions, the productionuses a company of six actors and two dancers to explores the poets’ texts. And chalk one up for interdisciplinary mingling—the germ of Mother Tongue came from the 2011 Fine Arts faculty retreat, where Alexandrowicz met Crozier. From that opportunity came a nearly $175,000 SSHRC grant that resulted in the production that Vancouver theatre reviewer Jo Ledingham described as “cerebral . . . and mind-expanding.”

Mother Tongue1

Peter Anderson, Lucas Hall, Sandra Ferens, Brahm Taylor and Linda Quibell (Photo: Tim Matheson)

Georgia Straight reviewer Colin Thomas was also quite taken with the production, noting in one scene that, “Alexandrowicz’s choreography is powerfully simple . . .  the performers sit in two lines of stools and face one another, their arms raised . . . their hands float away: we know we’re in the memory of a destroyed church. In moments like these—and there are more than enough of them to make the evening worthwhile—Alexandrowicz and his company catch the ineffable in their net.”

Thomas also praised Crozier’s text: “[Her] language is so alert and sensual that listening to it feels intimate—even erotic.”

(Photo: Tim Matheson)

(Photo: Tim Matheson)

In his director’s notes, Alexandrowicz explains his inspiration for Mother Tongue: “If dance is a kind of ‘visual poetry’, so poetry is perhaps ‘dancing with language’”—and clearly, he has found success with this form. Describing the director/choreographer as “a big thinker who has gone on to explore and challenge the way language works or fails to work,” Ledingham notes the show has in fact inspired her to return to poetry. “I have all but given up on poetry but I will now seek out Crozier and Moure’s work. And I will try to let linearity go and give searching for ‘meaning’ a rest.”

Ledingham offers a concluding thought: “Alexandrowicz doesn’t let you out of the theatre without a desire to learn, to discover and to explore. Challenging your brain is seldom packaged so gorgeously.”

Fingers crossed for a local production!