It’s safe to say few students would be proud of being called a scam artist, but Department of Theatre graduate Max Johnson’s pride comes from the spelling. Johnson, who has been working for local professional theatrical company Theatre SKAM since 2011 (whose associates are charmingly dubbed “SKAM artists”), is graduating with a double major in Writing and Theatre. But it’s the practical experience he learned at Phoenix Theatre that has made him such a valued member of SKAM’s team.
Max Johnson (photo: Pamela Bethel)
As with many students in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Johnson didn’t wait until graduation to put his experiential learning to work. He was hired into a part-time position as the Administrative and Communications Assistant for Theatre SKAM while only in his second year.
“Theatre is a department where you absolutely get out of it what you put in,” says Johnson. “My entire time at university was spent stepping sideways into things that would lead me places I never expected—which is how I got into marketing and Theatre SKAM in the first place.”
Daniel MacIvor (seated, left) with the cast & director of Inside (photo: Travis Bower)
Even though marketing and communications wasn’t his first choice as a specialization, that’s where he was placed in his second year. “They needed someone with writing experience—and I was part of a group where I needed to solve a lot of crises,” he recalls.
One of those crises? Helping to market Phoenix Theatre’s 2011 production of Inside, a world premiere by Daniel MacIvor, one of Canada’s leading theatre artists. But when Johnson’s communications team of three lost two members due to illness and the Tohoku earthquake (“one of my group was an exchange student from Japan, so she was out of the picture making sure her family was okay”), he soon found himself as a solo act. “It was a crash course on marketing, publicity, photography and media relations,” he says. “It definitely acclimated me to the whole trial-by-fire scenario.”
Johnson at Theatre SKAM HQ
No surprise, then that Theatre SKAM thought Johnson would be a good fit when they found themselves in a similar situation: just as SKAM was beginning to plan a tour of their show Cariboo Buckaroo, a medical crisis and an unexpected resignation left them bust in the dust. “To say Theatre SKAM was desperate for good help would be entirely accurate,” recalls alumnus Matthew Payne, SKAM’s Artistic Producer. Payne contacted Adrienne Holierhoek, Marketing & Communications Manager for the Department of Theatre, who recommended Johnson; as a Phoenix grad, Payne well knew the potential Theatre students had for putting learning into action. “I just wished a tour in Max’s general direction and somehow he pulled it off—a three-week tour in rural B.C. A true SKAM artist was born.”
While it sounds funny now, Johnson recalls it as being anything but. “I had never planned a tour before, but suddenly I was the sole person responsible for finding venues,” he says. “Then while the show was on tour, I was the only person left in the office. But it turned out to be a very harmonious fit—I got the vibe of the company very quickly.” While he started as a tour coordinator, Johnson is now SKAM’s full-time Administrative Assistant, and soon to be Artistic Associate.
Johnson dressed for success at SKAM’s Bike Ride
Given the current drumbeat of practical employability, does Johnson ever worry about pursuing a career in the arts? “I took a couple years off after high school to try and come up with something more practical than the arts, but I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to study outside of that,” he admits. “I could have become an electrician, but that’s not where my skills lay.”
Ultimately, says Johnson, studying Theatre at UVic revealed his true passion. “I wanted to better myself, and I’m a better person now for having come here. I understand the need to be practical, but we clearly want to live in a society that values creativity. That needs to be encouraged.”
Theatre SKAM’s annual Bike Ride mini-theatre festival runs along the Galloping Goose trail July 12-13 & 19-20. Full details here, and be sure to say hi to Max.
The latest issue, on sale now!
If you’re like many of the Garden City’s residents, you’ll be spending part of your summer getting your hands dirty. But whether you have a backyard garden, community plot or simply grown tomatoes on your balcony—or are part of one of the more serious urban agricultural projects like the Mason Street City Farm, City Harvest Co-op, Lifecycles Project Society or the Compost Education Centre—Concrete Garden is the magazine for you.
Now heading into its third issue, Concrete Garden originally began as a project in the Department of Writing’s Magazine Publishing class but has since evolved into an actual hard copy magazine that’s now for sale around the city.
With its focus on sustainable urban agriculture, Concrete Garden is Victoria’s first magazine to focus on sustainable urban food production. As their website notes, “Concrete Garden showcases the agricultural ingenuity of communities, organizations and individuals . . . [and] walks a fine line between activism and educational entertainment.”
“Concrete Garden is a magazine that focuses on how an urban population is feeding itself,” says editor Kimberley Veness. “That’s everything from growing your own food in a planter box to learning about city problems like the current food composting issue.”
Urban beekeeping (photo: Hugo Wong)
“We’re also interested in the ‘culture’ aspect of agriculture—architecture, green businesses, the political structures that make us need to feed ourselves and create a better system—because you can’t have community gardening without community,” says senior editor Quinn MacDonald. “We want to engage younger people, young families who are worried about sustainable agriculture. It’s a best-solution oriented magazine too.”
With two issues already under their belt, 500 copies of the latest issue are due to come out near the end of July. A sneak-peek at their story list reveals features on urban beekeeping, land-based salmon farming, the Pedal to Pettle composting company and the problems with urban deer.
Both Veness and MacDonald are enthusiastic about the magazine’s future. “It’s had such a good reception,” says MacDonald. “We already have people watching for the next issue. And instead of just students, we now have a few professionals working with us.”
Do you know where your compost goes? (photo: Hugo Wong)
“It’s really nice to see it expand beyond the university,” says Veness. “We don’t just want it to be a student publication. We want good writing, whether that’s good student writers who we can help grow or people on more of a community engagement level.”
Concrete Garden was showcased during this spring during UVic’s IdeaFest, where they presented as part of the “So You Want To Launch A Magazine” panel alongside other UVic-created publications like The Warren, This Side of West, Plenitude and the online Coastal Spectator. Right now, Veness is focused on the magazine’s business plan. “We’re looking at getting long-term funding so we can focus on the magazine and not on the business side of things,” she says.
With that in mind, Veness just completed a fellowship at UVic’s Centre for Cooperative and Community-Based Economy. “I was looking at the transformative effects of modern print media, specifically magazines, and how they influence communities. Ideally, I’d like Concrete Garden to be a catalyst, a system-changer.”
MacDonald (left) and Veness
As part of her fellowship, Veness interviewed professional magazine editors locally and in Vancouver about the recent changes in the print industry. “But what are doing well are the niche magazines that focus on one thing and are hyper-local in their content” she says. “That really brings people together and creates a community. That’s good for advertisers and good for content.”
And good for Concrete Garden, of course.
“We distributed more than 400 copies of the last issue all over the place—mostly downtown, but also up in Mill Bay and out in Sooke—so the demand is there. The Compost Education Centre in Fernwood took a stack of copies, and Swan’s even put them in their rooms for their guests,” says Veness.
“We’ve always been really focused and our aesthetic quality has always been really high,” says MacDonald. “That’s been important to us since the beginning. Our audience are the people who are out there in the community, the ones with green thumbs who want to talk about these kind of things.”
Scholar, pianist, author, artistic collaborator and professional speaker—School of Music professor Harald Krebs is one of Canada’s finest music theorists, and has been named this year’s winner of the Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression.
Harald Krebs (UVic Photo Services)
“It’s very touching that my colleagues would do this, given the nomination process,” says Krebs. “In fact, I really thought someone else should be nominated this year, but it’s very sweet that the department nominated me. I have such great colleagues.”
Recognized internationally as an expert on musical meter and rhythm— especially in the 19th-century German art song known as Lieder—Krebs was also named a UVic Distinguished Professor in 2010. This award comes with a $1,000 prize, which Krebs characteristically is considering using for the greater good. “One thing I’ve done with other awards I’ve received is to bring in a guest speaker, so it’s not just for my benefit but also for the benefit of the School and the faculty,” he says. “It’s really nice to contribute in this way.”
Now the Head of Theory, Krebs joined the School of Music back in 1986 “It’s been almost 30 years, and there have been a lot of changes over the years,” he says. “Good friends have retired, but we’ve been very lucky with the new people who have come in—they’ve maintained the collegial atmosphere that was there when I came in. I’m really proud of my colleagues, and the students too—it’s not just about doing scholarly work, it’s also about performing.”
Krebs pauses for a moment. “I think that’s probably why I was nominated,” he continues. “The award says ‘uses artistic expression to further knowledge’—and that’s certainly what I try to do. My talks always have a live performance aspect; I always clarify my points by actually performing—which makes it more fun for me, and the listeners too.”
Krebs’ 2007 book
In his 34-year academic career, Krebs has produced two groundbreaking books, a steady stream of peer-reviewed articles and collaborative performances fusing scholarship and musical practice. At the core of this work is his talent as a pianist, which he shares regularly with the broader community of music lovers—notably through his Lieder at Lunch series, which has been running since 2001. “It took a bit of time to take off—it is an esoteric genre, after all,” he chuckles. “But now we have quite a large following from town as well as campus.”
Immediate plans include traveling to Belgium for a pair of conferences (“I’m a little stressed about it, but I’m sure it’ll be fun once I get there”) and a German research trip to both Berlin and Bonn.
Only three other Fine Arts representatives have won Craigdarroch Awards: Marcus Milwright in 2013, Lorna Crozierin both 2012 and 2011, and the Lafayette String Quartetin 2010.
The Craigdarroch Research Awards were established in 2003 to recognize outstanding research-focused and creative contributions at UVic. They were named for Craigdarroch Castle, the estate that was once home to UVic’s predecessor institution, Victoria College, from 1921 to 1946.
What else is on the horizon for Fine Arts faculty members?
Department of Writing professor Lee Henderson has his sophomore novel, The Road Narrows As You Go, coming out this fall . . . which he’s, uh, still putting the finishing touches to this summer. But it has already been touted as “one of the most anticipated (Canadian) titles of 2014” by the National Post . . . no pressure, eh? Henderson has previously released the short story collection The Broken Record Technique and the novel The Man Game (which the Post described as “an audacious, wildly inventive novel that deserved a wider audience”). For The Road Narrows As You Go, Henderson is fusing his love of art and graphic novels into a story about Victoria-born comic artist Wendy Ashbubble, who may or may not be the illegitimate love-child of then-US President Ronald Reagan
Described as “a highly entertaining and unendingly surprising novel about love, comics, Ronald Reagan, and the true meaning of success,” The Road Narrows As You Go is “simultaneously the portrait of a young woman struggling to find her place and a bright, rollicking, unflinching depiction of the 1980s.” Stay tuned for more details.
Hogg, (left) on the set for Two 4 One (photo: Arnold Lim)
Over in the School of Music, sessional instructor Anita Bonkowski spent the month of June performing in Europe and will have a full summer slate of playing gigs as well, both locally at out in Winnipeg.
After producing Maureen Bradley’s transgender rom-com Two 4 One this spring, busy digital media staffer and filmmaker Daniel Hogg just finished shooting the short film Gord’s Brother with Writing department alumnus filmmaker and frequent collaborator Jeremy Lutter. “Gord’s Brother is about a boy trying to find a place for his monster brother to fit in, the film grapples with unspoken issues of discrimination from a child’s perspective, accessible by a layer of fantasy,” says Hogg.
The Lafayette String Quartet has a busy recording session ahead of them this summer, thanks to the August release date set for their world premier recording of Piano Quintet by Canadian composer Kelly
The Lafayette String Quartet
Marie-Murphy, featuring pianist Alexander Tselyakov. Marie-Murphy was commissioned by the Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival to compose a piano quintet for Alexander (the festival’s artistic director) and the LSQ in celebration of the festival’s 10th anniversary. As a bonus, the CD will also feature the Shostakovich piano quintet. The LSQ will perform the world premier of Marie-Murphy’s quintet at the fest in August, where they will also launch the CD.
And in other LSQ news, having just completed QuarteFest West here on campus, the busy quartet will be in Ontario for a large part of the summer performing in Leith, Waterloo, Ottawa, and the 35th annual Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound. Just by way of showing the range of works they’ll be tackling this summer, their lineup of composers includes Murray Adaskin, Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn, Benjamin Britten, Beethoven (“Op. 95 String Quartet and the 9th Symphony with a smash-up band organized to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Festival of the Sound,” says the LSQ’s Ann Elliott-Goldschmid), Alberto Ginastera, Felix Mendeslssohn, Luigi Boccherini, Arthur Foote, Rebecca Clarke, Joseph Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Dmitri Shostakovich (quartet and piano quintet), and Ernst Chausson.
In addition to getting up to speed on his duties as the new Department of Writing chair, David Leach will be off to Madison, Wisconsin, for the Games Learning Society conference. “I’ll be presenting a paper on the results of our research study into the benefits of ‘gamification’ tools—badges and leader boards—to promote online learning,” he says. “David Broome plus colleagues in Education, the Library and an undergrad research assistant are listed as co-authors for helping with the research.” Leach will also be on a panel about using augmented reality tools in the classroom, as his TS400 students created AR guides to the future of the campus, using a geolocative tool called ARIS. Got all that? (Good, ’cause there’s going to be a quiz!) Any extra spare time will find Leach “finally finishing my damn book! (Maybe…)”
Noted pianist and School of Music professor Arthur Rowe is back in his role as the artistic director of the 19th annual Victoria Summer Music Festival in July—a position he has held for at least 10 years now. “It’s a good festival, ever growing in stature and popularity,” he says.
Although it’s a bit further off than the summer, acclaimed theatrical set designer, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Department of Theatre professor Mary Kerr is in the planning stages of her upcoming musical about Bella Chagall—the wife of famed artists Marc Chagall. Titled Bella: The Colour of Love, Kerr designed and co-wrote the production with Theresa Tova, who will be playing Bella. The show will have a 3-week run at Toronto’s Harold Green Theatre in October
Also in the theatrical vein is news from famed playwright and Writing professor Joan MacLeod. “I’m just writing, starting a new play,” she says. “What it’s about? No clue!” MacLeod latest play, The Valley, was most recently mounted in Winnipeg, and the book of the script was released this spring by Talon Books.