by John Threlfall | Oct 30, 2014 | Alumni, Faculty, Research, Visual Arts
Two recent new public art pieces have been installed by Visual Arts faculty members in different locations across Canada: For Everyone a Sunset by Robert Youds was just unveiled at the Vancouver Art Gallery, while High Five by Jennifer Stillwell is now reaching for the sky in Winnipeg.
Jennifer Stillwell’s “High Five” sculpture in Winnipeg
Stillwell’s large-scale, site-specific commission High Five was recently installed on Waterfront Drive over the left field wall of Winnipeg’s baseball park. Standing 25 feet tall, seven feet wide and six inches deep—but designed to offer a bit of an optical illusion—High Five was designed to resemble either wings, fins in formation, an abstracted human hand . . . or even a baseball glove.
“I wanted to create an artwork where image and meaning are not fixed but flexible with changes in perspective and movement,” says Stillwell. “Even though the size of each the pieces are the same, I worked with the slope in order to create the shape of a human hand from a distance.”
“Hit for the sculpture!” Stillwell’s piece in context of the baseball diamond
As for the “targets” on the sculpture, the artist says they have multiple meanings: abstract fingerprints, roundels on an airplane wing, archery targets, advertising graphics and, of course, actual targets. “They playfully address the baseball diamond and the home run potential of hitting the art,” she says. “A baseball player even hit one of the sculptures during batting practice!”
Installing “High Five”
Talking to Winnipeg CBC in this piece, Stillwell explains that her pieces never have just one meaning. “With my work I tend to try to play around with images and meaning and just trying to allow people to interpret it in more than one direction.” She also received coverage in this Winnipeg cultural blog for the artwork which was originally commissioned as part of the redevelopment of Winnipeg’s Waterfront Drive; the project has been managed by the Winnipeg Arts Council on behalf of the City of Winnipeg.
Meanwhile, veteran Visual Arts professor Robert Youds just opened his latest piece of public art—a light installation commissioned by the Vancouver Art Gallery for their Offsite location on West Georgia Street (between Thurlow & Bute).
Rob Youds’ new art installation in Vancouver (photo: Diana Freundl)
As the VAG explains, “For Everyone a Sunset draws upon the architectural vernacular of downtown Vancouver [and] references the urban surroundings by using their associated materials—aluminium framework, salvaged glass, LED lighting—to construct a sculptural query that creates a space for audiences to contemplate the urban experience.”
The piece will be on view until March 30, 2015, at the base of Vancouver’s vaunted Shangri La Hotel.
The original concept sketch envisioning “For Everyone A Sunset”
Existing in the space between architecture and design, uniformity and variety, For Everyone a Sunset highlights the intersection of built and natural environments. It measures 30 feet long by 12 feet high and 10 feet wide.
“Shifting tonality as it moves through laminate coloured glass, the light in Youds’ work captures our gaze and holds it suspended, suggesting a plenitude of possibilities amidst the
Constructing the piece
regularity of the urban grid,” says VAG assistant curator Diana Freundl.
As part of the commission, Youds also gave an artist’s talk on October 25, addressing the range of materials generally in his work and specifically with this installation. VAG’s Offsite is funded by the City of Vancouver through the Public Art Program.
by John Threlfall | Oct 29, 2014 | Alumni, Theatre, Undergraduate
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)
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
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
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.
by John Threlfall | Oct 14, 2014 | Faculty, Research, Theatre
We all know the colour of money and the colour of jealousy, but leave it to acclaimed Department of Theatre design professor Mary Kerr to bring us the colour of love.
If you’re in Toronto, don’t miss Bella
Kerr’s new play, Bella: The Colour of Love, debuts at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts’ Greenwin Theatre on October 15. Better still, the run is over 85% sold out, with two extra performances added already.
Inspired by the life of Bella Chagall—the writer, actress, scholar and revolutionary who was also the great love and creative muse for her famous husband—Bella is an intricate poetic look at the nature of love and creativity told through words and song, against the backdrop of Marc Chagall‘s colourful paintings. Written by Kerr and Theresa Tova, who also stars in the production, Kerr also (not surprisingly) did the production design for both this and the original 2011 cabaret, commissioned by the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts.
But the origins of Bella actually go back more than 30 years earlier, when a mutual Interest in Chagall led Kerr and choreographer Danny Grossman to create the show’s first incarnation in 1976. Danced to the music of Puccini on a painted horse in a bower of lilacs, this early Bella was described as “a satisfying, haunting and poetic observation about love and death.”
A scene from the original production of Bella
After standing ovations and four sold-out houses in 2011, Kerr and her artistic team began taking the production to its next stage. When approached to present a 30-minute segment at the Art Gallery of Ontario in conjunction with their 2011 exhibit Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde, choreographer Grossman was asked to come back on board (and he’s still the choreographer of this latest version of the show, also featuring music composed and performed by Matt Herskowitz). An expanded one-hour version then played at the Singer Festival in Warsaw Poland and the full two-act production appeared at Halifax’s Dalhousie University in fall 2013. This current Toronto production, however, offers a revamped theatrical run, complete with new paintings, costumes and musical numbers.
As Tova tells the National Post in this article, she and Kerr “researched the life of this ‘unrealized artist’ in part to tell ‘the story of women, especially at that time, when Jews were not allowed to go to university’.” You can also read more about Bella in this piece from the Canadian Jewish News. This also marks the second play written by lifelong friends Kerr and Tova, following the success of their Holocaust musical Still the Night.
In the last decade of her life, Bella Chagall—born Berta Rosenfeld (1889-1944)—wrote a series of memory stories in Yiddish, the poetic and visually rich language of her youth. Chagall said of her writing: “She wrote as she lived, as she loved, as she greeted her friends. Her words and phrases were a wash of colour over the canvas.” These two published collections are the parallel poetic stories to Chagall’s paintings and drawings; together they constitute what we believe to be an intricate poetic dance between two friends about the nature of love and creativity.
A good sign: Bella in Toronto
“We feel their love—steeped in Hasidic traditions and imagery of 1909, their time in revolutionary Moscow, their life in Paris, escape to America and her subsequent death there—to be a back drop to the real story: a poetic discussion of what it is to be creative artists in the 20th century,” writes Kerr about the show. “Bella was a brilliant scholar, a privileged modern woman who went to university and also studied acting. The idea that she studied with Stanislavsky in Moscow while he studied design with Leon Bakst in St Petersburg, place these two young people at the epicenter of creative constructivism and cubism in the early years of the century.”
(Interesting side-note: Kerr was originally introduced to Chagall when her painting teacher accused her of copying his style in the first oil painting she ever made. She was mortified, but went on to write her thesis on Chagall and his Hasidic influences.)
Mary Kerr in her office at UVic
Kerr has forged a celebrated career as a production designer in Canadian and
International theatre, dance, opera, feature film, television, exhibition and special events design. Her stage design has been described as“ kinetic sculpture on stage” and is characterized by experimentation with architectural concepts, scale, imaginative materials and colours, nonrealism and often satiric cultural commentary on the human condition through her unique sets and costumes.
She has created for the Canadian Opera Company, The Vancouver Opera, The Banff Opera of the Twentieth Century, Pacific Opera Victoria and The New Zealand Opera. In
1994, Kerr designed the internationally televised Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games in Victoria. For Expo 86 she designed the First Theatre and
production in the Canadian Pavilion.
Mary Kerr, illustration of a costume designed for Copper Thunderbird (Legacy Gallery)
Among her dance commissions are productions for the Paris Opera Ballet, NYC Dance Umbrella, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, The Florida Ballet and 28 pieces for The Danny Grossman Dance Theatre Company in Toronto, New York
and Europe. In 2008, she was the subject of Copper Thunderbird at UVic’s Legacy Gallery, a groundbreaking exhibit which paired Ms. Kerr’s costume plates, model, built costumes, process photographs and nationally broadcast video of the production with Norval Morrisseauʼs (Copper Thunderbird) paintings.
Named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2010, Kerr is the only scenographer to be so elected. A member the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, her work is housed in many collections including The Mary Kerr Collection at the Metro Toronto Library and The
Paris Opera Archival Museum. She was nominated for British Columbia Distinguished Academic of the Year Award in both 2003 and 2004.
Mary Kerr’s bold design for Eurydice at the Phoenix in 2012 (photo: David Lowes)
Kerr is also one of 10 Canadian designers judged to be included in the 2012 publication World Scenography: 1975-1990, as well a featured designer in the first published book on Canadian stage design Scenography in Canada (2004). A Bravo Fact Film Mary Kerr: the Creative Process has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and she is profiled in the 2008 Banff Centre publication Inspiring Creativity: 75 Years of Creation at the Banff Centre.
Kerr has taught at tUVic’s Theatre department since 1998, teaching general, directed and graduate studies in the aesthetics, design, history of scenography and culture, costume design and costume history. She continues to create bold designs for the Phoenix stage.
by John Threlfall | Oct 10, 2014 | Alumni, Events, Faculty, Writing
If you think there’s nothing funny about censorship, Mark Leiren-Young
would like to change your mind. A prolific freelance journalist, screenwriter, playwright, memoirist and award-winning author, Leiren-Young is this year’s Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer
in Journalism and Nonfiction for the Department of Writing
. And while his current Writing course Finding the Funny
focuses on humour writing, his upcoming public lecture will examine the fine line between comedy and censorship.
Mark Leiren-Young is the latest Southam Lecturer
“I’m fascinated by the question of, ‘Where’s the line?’,” says Leiren-Young. “What can you make fun of? What can’t you make fun of? What’s taboo? How soon is too soon?” By way of example, Leiren-Young looks east to Toronto’s frequently lampooned mayor. “Rob Ford and his tumor—too soon for jokes?”
As the author of the 2009 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour-winning memoir Never Shoot A Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo and one-half of the long-running satirical comedy duo Local Anxiety, Leiren-Young well knows the fine art of funny. A graduate of both UVic’s Writing and Theatre departments, he is also the first UVic alumnus to hold the Southam position.
His October 15 annual Southam public lecture You Can’t Say That!? Comedy, Censorship and Sensitivity in the 21st Century will draw not only on his own experiences as a journalist and performer but also on examples from popular culture to illustrate how the line between comedy and censorship keeps shifting.
“Think about the first time you ever saw South Park,” he says. “We all said, ‘Oh my god, you can’t say that on television!’ And that’s one of the thing I’ve told my class—you can critique anything you want, just don’t tell me it’s not funny. It’s okay to say you’re offended by it, but I’m not talking about anything that people haven’t laughed at.”
After writing three plays about censorship and spending the past 25 years on the Freedom to Read organiztion’s free expression committee, it’s a topic that’s clearly close to Leiren-Young’s heart. “It gets at the heart of what we are ‘allowed’ to write, and why we write,” he says. “Riffing on what’s funny versus what’s offensive is going to make for a great conversation.”
The secret, he says, always lies in context: given our rapid-fire media messaging and instantaneous technology, it’s all too easy for a joke to cross the line. “These 10-second Youtube clips that are killing careers now—all too often they’re taken totally out of context. It’s one thing to be funny in a comedy club, but play that same joke on the evening news…”
As the eighth Southam Lecturer for the Writing department, Leiren-Young follows in the footsteps of the likes of CBC Radio’s Jo-Ann Roberts, author Richard Wagamaese and sports journalist Tom Hawthorn. And, given the topic, will his public lecture actually be funny?
“It better be,” he chuckes wryly,” or I’m already in deep trouble.”
You Can’t Say That!? Comedy, Censorship and Sensitivity in the 21st Century 7:00 pm Wednesday, Oct. 15 in room A240 of the Human & Social Development Building. Admission is free.
by John Threlfall | Oct 9, 2014 | Alumni, Events, Theatre
Most people come to UVic in pursuit of education. Two Phoenix alumni, however, found love and a life together in theatre
“It feels like coming full circle,” says alumna Kaitlin Williams (BFA’09).
Mack Gordon & Katlin Williams in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Ten years ago, Williams met Mack Gordon (BFA ’08) when they were two fresh-faced first-year students in the Department of Theatre. Now married, they return to the stages of the Phoenix Theatre for our annual Spotlight on Alumni with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, running October 9-18, 2014.
Update: due to popular demand, this show has now been held over, with two extra shows added—8pm Friday October 24 & 2pm Saturday October 25.
“Kaitlin and I are blessed to work together as often as we do,” says Gordon. In 2012, they were cast as Peter and Lucy in Pacific Theatre’s much-loved adaptation of the classic Narnia tale.
Read more about the pair in this Times Colonist interview. And you can read some of the reviews here, where the TC calls it “enjoyable”, “engaging” and “charming,” while CVV Magazine says “there is much to praise in this production.”
Written and published in 1950 by C.S. Lewis, this novel is the first and most well-known story in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Ron Reed, the Artistic Director of Pacific Theatre, adapted The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the stage, setting the play years later when Peter and Lucy are adults. Stopping off to tour their Uncle Digory’s house they find themselves returning to the same spare room where the old wardrobe sits and begin to recount all the adventures they had as children. Their imaginations take over: using only the furniture in the room and a few old coats from the wardrobe, they travel back to Narnia—bringing the audience along with them.
A seasonal favourite, Pacific Theatre has remounted this play many times to great acclaim since it first played in 1998. Over the past few years, Williams and Gordon have toured this show across the province sharing the clasic story with many BC communities, including stops at Kamloops’ Western Canada Theatre, West Vancouver’s Kay Meek Centre and, of course, the play’s home: Pacific Theatre. This presentation at the Phoenix Theatre brings the play to Vancouver Island for the first time.
Williams & Gordon in Barkerville
Not many of us get to bring our spouses to work, but for Williams and Gordon, acting together makes their careers more rewarding. They keep an eye out for projects where they can perform together, whether it’s playing fiancés in the Jessie-winning production of The Foreigner or Mr. Jake and Nellie Webster, a gold miner and his wife at Barkerville Historic Town. “We joke that we are a 2-for-1 package,” laughs Williams.
Besides the built-in convenient carpool, working together makes a big difference on stage. “Sharing the stage with someone you already trust completely allows you to take risks that you might otherwise be apprehensive about,” says Gordon. “I sometimes feel akin to husbands and wives who work in the circus on the flying trapeze; our first safety net is always each other.”
Having their show selected as the Spotlight on Alumni presentation this year also means an opportunity to share post-graduating advice with current students. “Our comprehensive education helped get us involved in many areas of theatre, not just acting. The skills and connections we gained—whether backstage, studying marketing, working in the box office, or collaborating with community groups—have kept us working in theatre over the years,” says Williams.
Both actors have busy and multi-faceted careers that provide what they call their “patchwork pay cheque.” Gordon is an actor for theatre, film, and TV and also writes his own plays, works as a director—he recently assisted director Meg Roe (BFA ’04) at Bard on the Beach—and does simulation acting for training purposes. Williams has performed on stages around Vancouver and was also the Community Engagement Manager for Pacific Theatre, where she began right after university as an apprentice. She now finds acting takes up all her time.
Kaitlin Williams in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
For Williams especially, this show is close to her heart. As a 12-year old girl, she attended Pacific Theatre’s adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and watching the actors transform into the story’s various characters—from Mr. Tumnus and the Beaver, to the evil White Witch and the mighty lion Aslan—inspired her to become an actor herself. “Not only am I performing in this same play, but I get to perform with my husband at my side, at the school where we met, 10 years later! It feels like coming full circle—times 10!”
If you’re planning to attend The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, take a look at our entire Phoenix season. For the regular ticket price of just two plays, you could attend all four plays by subscribing to the entire season for only $48. Or, choose just three plays for only $36.