Department of Writing professor and beloved Canadian playwright Joan MacLeod‘s most recent play, The Valley, has just been announced as being part of The Belfry Theatre‘s 40th anniversary season.
Running February 2 – 28, 2016, The Valley will be directed by former Belfry artistic director and award-winning director Roy Surette. Described as “relentlessly topical—and deeply empathetic” by the Globe and Mail, The Valley focuses on how a dramatic police encounter binds four people together—a mother and her teenage son, a policeman and his wife. As the Belfry put it in their announcement, “the strength and fragility of everyday people is the cornerstone of Joan MacLeod’s work and The Valley is her latest gem.”
“Canadian plays speak to us in a way that plays from other countries don’t,” says current Belfry AD Michael Shamata. “There is a common language, and Victoria’s Joan MacLeod—winner of the Siminovitch Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Drama—speaks that language better than any writer I know. Her writing is subtle; it is calm on the surface with floods of emotion running underneath. This mother’s pain and helplessness in the face of her son’s depression affected me deeply.”
Shamata also notes that Surette’s production of MacLeod’s Homechild was “the first play I ever saw at the Belfry, and I’m so happy he’s coming back!”
After debuting in 2013, The Valley has been mounted at a number of theatres across Canada, and the book of the script was released in 2014 by Talon Books.
Joan MacLeod’s other plays include Another Home Invasion, Homechild, The Shape Of A Girl, 2000, Little Sister, The Hope Slide, Amigo’s Blue Guitar, Toronto, Mississippi and Jewel. She also wrote the libretto for The Secret Garden and has written several scripts for CBC television. She has won several awards including the $100,000 Siminovitch Prize, the Governor General’s Award for Drama, two Chalmers’ Canadian Play Awards, the Jessie Richardson Award, Betty Mitchell Award and Dora Mavor Moore Award.
For seven seasons she was a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto and in 2009 was the Senior Playwright-in-residence at the Playwrights’ Colony at The Banff Centre. The Shape Of A Girl has been playing each year since its premiere in 2001 and has been translated into six languages.
Department of Visual Arts professor and nationally renowned painter Sandra Meigs has been named one of only eight winners in the annual Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts by the Canada Council for the Arts.
2015 Governor General’s Award winner Sandra Meigs in her studio (photo: Michelle Alger)
“It’s such an honour to be recognized in this capacity for my career as an artist,” says Meigs. “You get benchmarks of recognition as you go along—a big review in the Globe and Mail, a major Canada Council grant—but this is something very ceremonial, very special. I feel totally thrilled.”
Highly regarded for her expressive, eclectic and interdisciplinary contemporary artworks, Sandra Meigs is best known for large-scale works like The Basement Panoramas and Strange Loop. Primarily working in the mediums of acrylic and oil, she has led a distinguished 35-year career with over 40 solo and 60 group exhibitions in Canada’s most culturally relevant institutions. Her work has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Banff Centre, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Musée d’art contemporain. She is currently represented by the Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto.
“You can call it a lifetime achievement award, but in a way I see it as the beginning of a new lifetime,” says Meigs. “Some artists make brilliant work in their last 20 years, so for me it’s less lifetime achievement and more career achievement.”
Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts Simon Brault praises the 2015 recipients. “This year’s winners are profoundly shaping Canada’s cultural identity. We applaud their innovative and powerful work, which invites us to question the state of our world and our own personal destinies in ways that we never would have imagined.”
Click here to watch a short video about Sandra Meigs’ creative practice (Directed by Ryan Mah and Danny Berish for the Canada Council, it will play at film festivals across Canada throughout the year and will be seen on Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment system starting in May 2015.)
Open Space will be honouring Meigs with a reception from 5 to 8pm Wednesday, March 25, at 510 Fort Street. All are welcome.
“Red. 3011 Jackson. (Mortality)” from the 2013 series The Basement Panoramas
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1953, Meigs has lived in Canada since 1973. She left the Rhode Island School of Art to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she earned her BFA. NSCAD had just become internationally acclaimed as a place of critical stimulation and theoretical discourse, where the methodologies of contemporary art were in the process of being reinvented; the spirit of this rambunctious art school became an essential part of Meigs’ thinking, and contributed to her MA in Philosophy at Dalhousie University in 1980. A former Chair of UVic’s Department of Visual Arts (1997-2002), she continues to bring that critical eye to her classes.
Meigs (photo: Michelle Alger)
“We have some of the top contemporary artists in the country here and we have very high standards for all our sessional instructors, who are all very good,” she explains about the dynamic learning environment upon which the Visual Arts department is built. “We focus so intensely on studio practice for the students versus doing a lot of theoretical lecturing
. . . we look at everything very carefully, and talk about it in a constructive but critical way—how it’s related to current art context and theoretical ideas of contemporary art. It’s hard for the general public to get that, because you don’t get that unless you’re here, but it’s all very exciting. That’s the great strength of UVic’s Visual Arts program—walk through any of the studios and you’ll feel it.”
Hear Meigs speak about her own creative practice in this video from the Faces of UVic Research series.
“In the Highest Room” by Sandra Meigs
A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists who also represented Canada in the Fifth Biennale of Sydney, Meigs has been a professor with Visual Arts since 1993 and feels that working in Victoria is one of the factors that set her work apart. “There’s not a huge contemporary art community here, and I like the sense of delight or freedom that gives me in my studio,” she says. “I take what I do here and show it in Toronto and people always say, ‘Oh, that’s so fresh!’”
Meigs is only the second UVic scholar to be awarded a Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts, alongside sculptor and now-Professor Emeritus Mowry Baden in 2006. She has taught painting, sculpture and foundation courses at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, Toronto’s York University and the Ontario College of Art, and the University of Toronto, Scarborough. She has also been a mentor for generations of artists, among them UVic alumni Patrick Howlett, Althea Thauberger and Marianne Nicolson—all of whom have work in major public collections. Former student Kim Adams also won the Governor General’s Award for Sculpture in 2014.
Sandra Meigs’ “Baby” (installation view, 1994)
“This award represents ours country’s highest honour in our profession, and publicly recognizes a lifetime of achievement and contribution to this field of research,” says Paul Walde, Chair of the Department of Visual Arts. “Throughout her career at UVic, Sandra has continued to distinguish herself and the Department through her outstanding work as an artist and professor.”
With 18 catalogue essays and over 60 articles and reviews, Meigs’ artistic output has been covered in influential journals such as Artforum, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, The Globe & Mail, C Magazine, Parachute and the National Post. She has been awarded major grants, is a sought-after member of peer assessment committees, and has advised boards of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, CARFAC and the Canada Council For the Arts. In addition to her studio practice, Meigs writes, researches and occasionally curates. Her most recent major local exhibition was The Basement Panoramas at downtown’s Open Space gallery.
Viewers considering Meigs’ work at Open Space (photo: Jacquelyn Bortolussi)
“Just when you think you have a handle on how Sandra will next explore psychological or physical space, her passion and focus changes shape and direction,” notes Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “The University of Victoria is fortunate to have an artist of such strong national and international reputation on its faculty.”
Award nominator Helen Marzolf, Executive Director of Open Space, has long admired Meigs’ work. “With each successive series she surprises, jolts, and transforms how we think about the world. I have always been in awe of her confidence and audacity,” says Marzolf. “Her brilliant philosophical paintings always breathe vernacular air—anyone, no matter what his or her background, is susceptible to them. How fitting, and how exciting, for her to win the GG in Visual and Media Arts. Aren’t we lucky to have Sandra Meigs in our community?”
Meigs’ “The Newborn, The Brook” (detail, 2001)
In response to her exhibit The Newborn in 2001, noted Toronto art writer John Bentley Mays expressed his ongoing astonishment at Meigs’ ability: “There is art and duty and sorrow and surprises and, always, the unceasing wonder—in everything, in fact, catalogued in this remarkable and intelligent installation. Ms. Meigs is a painter who thinks critically about everything—painting and thinking included.”
As Open Space’s Marzolf wrote in her nomination package, “Meigs’ artistic process resolutely follows the barest whiff of imaginative speculation into uncharted intimacies. Meigs wills us into spaces of profound, mischievous curiosity from which there is no escape. Her agnostic, non-transcendent politics offers a quantum expansion of the psychogeographies of Canadian identity.”
Meigs at home (photo: Nik West)
Meigs will be presented with a $25,000 cash prize and unique commemorative medallion by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on April 8 and will also participate in a special curated exhibit of 2015 winners at the National Gallery of Canada, running April 9 to August 30.
This year’s other Visual and Media Arts Award winners include Louise Déry, Robert Houle, Micah Lexier, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Paul McClure, Rober Racine and Reva Stone.
The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were created in 1999 by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Governor General of Canada. The awards celebrate Canada’s vibrant arts community and recognize remarkable careers in the visual and media arts.
While the rest of the country may still be dealing with the winter blahs, locally we’re well into spring—which means it’s time once again for WordsThaw. Running March 20-22 at UVic, WordsThaw has grown into a welcome spring literary event over the past three years, nicely balancing what’s always a fall-heavy literary load.
Since 2013, The Malahat Review has invited dozens of poets, novelists, short fiction writers, and journalists to mark the coming of spring with a symposium celebrating Canadian literature. Held each year here at UVic, WordsThaw brings together writers, students, editors, publishers, and others with an interest in creative writing for a weekend of readings, panel discussions, workshops, and socializing. There are too many writers to list, but you can see the full lineup of participants here. Tickets range from $15 to $35, depending on whether it’s a full pass or an individual event; you can get all the ticket info here.
Not surprisingly, the Department of Writing is heavily involved in this year’s WordsThaw, with a flurry of faculty and alumni participating in either the weekend events or some of the prequel events, including faculty members Lynne Van Luven, David Leach, Patrick Friesen, Kevin Kerr, Derk Wynand, John Barton and Mark Leiren-Young plus alumni Arleen Paré, Kayla Czaga, Hanna Leavitt, Garth Martens, Matt Rader, Jane Silcott, Eve Joseph and D.W. Wilson.
You can read the full schedule of events here, but at a glance, here’s where Writing will be represented:
Governor General’s Award-winning poet Arleen Pare is a featured reader at WordsThaw
• Words on Ice: An Evening of Readings (7:30pm Friday, March 20 in HSD A240, doors 7pm) featuring eight Canadian writers: Yvonne Blomer, Karen Enns, Kevin Kerr, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Peter Midgley, Arleen Paré, Matt Rader and D.W. Wilson. Hosted by John Barton.
• Natural Divide or Shape-Shifting Chic: Negotiating Creative Nonfiction’s Extremes (10:30-noon, HSD A240) featuring Fiona Tinwei Lam, Mark Leiren-Young and Jane Silcott. Moderator: Lynne Van Luven.
• Vanity or in the Vanguard: Self-Publishing’s Makeover (1:30-3pm in HSD A240) featuring Mary Hughes, Patrick O’Connor and Sid Tafler. Moderator: David Leach.
• Has it Got Better: Minority Voices or Major Talents (3:15-4:45pm in HSD A240) featuring Hanna Leavitt, Janet Rogers and Daniel Zomparelli. Moderator: Aaron Devor.
It’s the kind of ovation Mozart himself would have loved: Amadeus, Phoenix Theatre’s final production of their 2014/15 season, has been earning raves from local reviewers—and packing the house with almost every performance.
Aidan Correia plays Mozart in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)
Written by acclaimed British playwright Peter (Equus) Shaffer in 1979 and directed here by Department of Theatre MFA candidate Chari Arespacochaga, the multiple Tony Award-winning play—which also inspired the much-loved Academy Award-winning movie—has been thrilling Phoenix Theatre audiences since it opened last week.
Amadeus continues daily at 8pm to March 21, with a bonus 2pm Saturday matinee on March 21, but tickets have been flying out the door.
Salieri (Jenson Kerr) and Mozart (Aidan Correia) in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)
Often considered the greatest musical genius the world has ever known, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was also seen as vulgar, boorish, unforgivably brilliant—and thus an enemy to be eliminated—by Antonio Salieri, his 18th-century contemporary and fellow composer. Seen through the envious eyes and skewed memory of the aging Salieri, Amadeus chronicles their tumultuous rivalry and Salieri’s devious efforts to destroy Mozart’s career, even while recognizing the genius of his music.
“Director Chari Arespacochaga . . . has imbued the show with wonderful vitality,” writes Times Colonist theatre critic Adrian Chamberlain in this glowing review, praising Arespacochaga’s re-imagining of the show in an insane asylum as “an intelligent approach that works well.” Chamberlain also notes the strong work by lead performers Jenson Kerr (Salieri), Aidan Correia (Mozart) and Samantha Lynch (Constanze), all of whom ensure “the pathos is evenly leavened with humour and hijinx.”
A scene from Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)
Chamberlain also praises the show’s design elements, noting Theatre professor Allan Stichbury’s “terrific set [that] resembles a giant dungeon—a dark, forced-perspective vault that encourages us to consider the serious themes underneath the comedy” and the “superb costumes” by undergrad student Pauline Stynes—”The costumes are sumptuous, a feast for the eye.”
CBC Radio’s On The Island theatre reviewer Monica Prendergast enjoyed the show, noting that “the production is working well on a number of levels. It has an extremely strong design, a lovely set by Allan Stichbury . . . . beautifully lit by Michael Whitfield who gives us a gorgeous design . . . . and really nice costumes by Pauline Stynes, so the whole thing gets lifted to a whole other level.” She also notes “the ensemble work was particularly strong.” You can listen to the entire review here.
Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI
Interestingly, Arespacochaga and Stynes both have well-established professional careers long before they enrolled in the Department of Theatre—Arespacochaga has been directing major Broadway musicals in Manila for the past decade, many of which then toured across Asia or were remounted in Singapore, while Stynes has a 30 years of tailoring and costume creation behind her—a good decision, it turns out, as Stynes won the local Critics’ Choice Spotlight Award for Best Costume Design for Phoenix’s Picnic in 2014.
You can see director Arespacochaga talk about the play in this preview from CTV Vancouver Island News (around the 4:34 mark), and you can read more about designer Stynes in this preview from the Times Colonnist. And there was this great conversation on the local CFAX1070 Eye on the Arts radio show (starts around 34 minutes) between Arespacochaga and show host (and Fine Arts alumnus) Adam Swatsky, as well as actor Jenson Kerr (Salieri). The Oak Bay News also spoke with Arespacochaga in this article, where she noted the production is “a great interactive mix of students and industry pros. New thoughts colliding with more experienced thoughts. It’s been dynamic.”
The scheming Salieri (Jenson Kerr) in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)
Local arts blogger Janis LaCouvee noted in this review that “director Chari Arespacachoga does not shirk from difficult questions; her Amadeus is a bold and ambitious undertaking which brings essential reflections on the nature of talent, ambition and legacy to the forefront. Under her inspired direction the students of the University of Victoria theatre department have once again delivered superior theatre to the stage, ending the year with a production that is as complex as the men it immortalizes.”
UVic’s student newspaper Martlet also really enjoyed the production, noting in this review that, “The two male leads, Salieri and Mozart, worked brilliantly together, allowing the audience to feel sympathy for both characters.”
Constanze (Samantha Lynch) is tempted by Salieri (Jenson Kerr) in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)
And Monday Magazine was also impressed with the production, with reviewer Laura Lavin primarily highlighting the cast in this blog review—noting that Aidan Correia “does an admirable job of making Mozart both boorish and endearing,” Jensen Kerr plays Salieri with “spirit and confidence” and the “supporting cast was superb.” She also acknowledges that the “music, lighting and staging of this performance were again superb. The set is dark and gives focus to beautiful period costumes by designer Pauline Stynes.”
Finally, if you missed director Arespacochaga’s pre-show lecture, you can listen to it here and hear her in conversation with Theatre professor Peter McGuire discussing the differences between the play and the film, playwright Peter Shaffer and her own creative process.
Love films? Love music? If you’re interested in learning more about the world of music scoring for film, television or gaming, you’re in luck—three-time Emmy Award-winning film composer Larry Groupé will be hosting a three-day workshop here at UVic’s School of Music, culminating in a recording session of active participant compositions. But the best part is you don’t have to be a UVic student to enroll—it’s open to anyone in the community.
Film composer Larry Groupe
“Larry is a Hollywood professional in a unique position to offer an in-depth examination on the art and practice of writing music to picture at the highest level,” says workshop organizer and School of Music instructor Kirk McNally.
Running April 23 to 25, Film Composition Workshop with Larry Groupé will offer lectures, masterclasses and recording/mixing sessions on two different levels: active participants (10-12 students) will work closely with Groupé and engage in all events, ultimately doing hands-on mixing of one original cue featuring live musicians; passive participants (10-20 students) will also have access to all events, but won’t be doing any presentation of works or mixing—their role will primarily be limited to observation and questions.
The fee for active participants is $250, while passive participants is only $50. All classes happen at the School of Music’s room B037 of the MacLaurin building B-wing. For more details, contact Kirk McNally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“For anyone who’s interested in film and TV scoring, this workshop will be a stellar introduction to the field,” says McNally. “Whether you’re a beginner, a student or a budding music professional, you’ll learn an abundance of valuable information, from artistic considerations, to orchestration techniques, to the more business side of things.”
Groupé, who last visited campus in November 2013 to present the lecture, “Film Music: An in depth look and discussion on the current state of composing in Hollywood today,” is one of the most talented and versatile composers working in the entertainment industry today. With an impressive musical résumé in film, television, concerts, gaming, documentaries, popular music and cultural events, his achievements have received both critical praise and popular acclaim.
His recent movie projects include the likes of The Contender with Joan Allen, Gary Oldman and Jeff Bridges, Straw Dogs with James Marsden, Nothing but the Truth with Kate Beckinsale and Resurrecting the Champ starring Samuel L. Jackson, as well as TV shows like Commander in Chief and Line of Fire. Among his gaming credits are NFL Gameday, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball, all for SONY PlayStation.
A graduate of the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific, Groupé went on to earn his Masters of Music in Composition at the University of California at San Diego. He just received his fourth Emmy nomination, this time for Best Original Score for the feature film Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story. And Canadian skater Kevin Reynolds earned his silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in February 2014 skating to Groupé’s title score for Excelsius.