Phoenix subscribers play a vital role as patrons & donors

Student Ximena Garduño Rodríguez in 2023’s Phoenix production of Mojada (photo: Megan Farrell)

As anyone who has ever been to the Phoenix Theatre well knows, our students learn by doing. They’re involved in every aspect of our productions—from running the box office and acting on stage, to working on the design, creation and management of sets, costumes, props, sound and lighting. 

But our audiences also play a vital role as patrons and donors, whose contributions allow us to provide the best education we can by hiring industry professionals, renting and building costumes and sets, and purchasing state-of-the-art production equipment.

“To me, it’s important to support theatre, as I feel it’s a vital part of life,” says Anne McLaughlin, who has not only been an annual subscriber for over 30 years but, as a donor, has also funded a graduate scholarship in applied theatre.

Many season subscribers also find it gratifying to be able to follow the careers of graduates as they move forward with their professional lives. “If you’ve never been to Phoenix Theatre, give it a try,” she continues. “You might get hooked!”

McLaughlin is just one of many longtime subscribers and donors who are vital to the Phoenix’s success. “Theatre as an art form cannot exist without our audiences and we are thankful for every patron who walks through our door,” says Audience Services Manager Sandra Guerreiro (right)—herself an alum of the department.

“I’ve worked here for over 37 years and pride myself on the relationships I’ve built,” she says. “Our loyal patrons even supported us through COVID and helped us weather a year without any performances in order to support students on their educational journeys.”

Tickets and subscriptions are now on sale for the 23/24 Phoenix season, which features three shows—The Importance of Being Earnest, 100 Years of Broadway and Hot L Baltimore directed by returning alumni directors!

Have you signed up for the Sept 5 New Student Orientation?

Wondering what it’s going to be like to be a UVic Fine Arts student? Get a snapshot of your upcoming year while meeting other students at our annual New Student Orientation event!

RSVP now for this free session & get a jump on the semester!

Date: Tuesday, Sept 5
Time: 2pm ~ 4pm (directly following UVic’s Welcome to the Territory event)
Location: Gather at the Phoenix Theatre building

Event description: The Dean of Fine Arts invites all first-year & new transfer undergraduate students in all five of our units (Art History & Visual Studies, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing) to attend this short introduction & overview of the Faculty, including speakers from Fine Arts Academic Advising & Co-op + Careers. You’ll have the chance to ask questions before breaking into groups for short, peer-led departmental orientation sessions and facility tours, plus a brief orientation in our computer labs.

By the end of this session, you’ll know what’s in which of our four buildings, where the faculty cafe is, how to access the computer labs, where to print assignments and art projects, who to talk to about your concerns, and so much more!

Awi’nakola as a way of being

Paul Walde, Rande Cook & Kelly Richardson on stage at the Rifflandia Festival in Sept ’22

It would be difficult to imagine two more different audiences than those at Montreal’s COP 15 UN Biodiversity Conference and Victoria’s Rifflandia Music Festival, but both were on the schedule for the Awi’nakola: Tree of Life Foundation in 2022.

Founded by a group of Indigenous knowledge keepers, scientists and artists with a common commitment to create tangible solutions for the current climate crisis—and educate others through the process—Awi’nakola seeks to share cross-disciplinary research practices and develop ways to heal the planet, heal the people and change culture.

Led by Makwala Rande Cook—former UVic Audain Professor, Visual Arts MFA and hereditary chief of the Ma’amtagila First Nation—and Ernest Alfred, hereditary chief of the Tlowit’sis Nation, Awi’nakola (pronounced “A-weet-nah-kyoh-lah”) takes its name from a Kwak’wala word which loosely translates to being one with the land, ocean, air and all living forms. “When elders say this, it’s the embodiment of respect and relationship to all living things,” Cook explains.

But what began with five people in 2019 has now grown into an international group of more than 40, including Visual Arts professors Kelly Richardson, Paul Walde and Lindsay Delaronde.

In July 2022, Awi’nakola members spent a week in Kwakwaka’wakw territories documenting the loss of old-growth ecosystems—some of the last primary forests on the planet—and coming up with ways to communicate the severity of the loss to BC’s coastal rainforests. While there, the scientists conducted research that could one day help regenerate damaged forests, while the artists gathered imagery for future projects.

And in December 22, Cook and David Mungo Knox | Walas Namugwis (shown here) presented to the UN biodiversity summit COP 15. “We need radical change and that needs to come now,” Cook said in this Narwhal article following the summit. “We’re in a place right now where it literally is about the planet and we’re putting a timeline on the existence of humanity. For the health of all of us we need to make some real radical changes.”

The Awi’nakola Project is also working to secure exhibitions in locations where the BC government is known to purchase by-products of old-growth trees. Together, they are working collectively to build a better future for generations to come.

You can read more about their efforts in this story from The Ecologyst.

Legacy gifts transform student experiences

Performance infrastructure may not be top of mind when it comes to supporting the student experience, but it’s always a primary concern in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Such is the case with the School of Music’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall: named for the former professor whose vision led directly to the construction of both the Music building and UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium, the 220-seat PTY is an exceptional performance venue that has provided essential opportunities for generations of student musicians.

“We know so many people find solace, beauty and meaning in music at our beloved PTY,” says School of Music director Alexis Luko.

Yet while the PTY hosts over 140 events a year, it is showing its age. Case in point? A ceiling-mounted projection screen and laser projector may not have been on the plans when it was built in 1979, but both are now must-haves in this increasingly multimedia era. Both were included in phase one of the recent donor-assisted audio-visual renovations; phase two will see the installation of a built-in sound system.

“The generosity of our donors is fundamental: it shapes the future of music performance, creation, research, technology and education here,” says Luko, who notes the new AV system will offer myriad opportunities for screenings, slideshows, multimedia performances and projected surtitles during concerts.

“This new system will position our students for success with 21st-century tools to create and perform at their best,” she says. “And an upcoming campaign focusing on stage and seating renovation will further enhance our audience experience and ensure the longevity of the PTY—where we are always excited about the next performance!”

Staging an immigrant experience

2022 was a busy year for playwright Thembelihle Moyo, who came to Fine Arts from Zimbabwe as a Visiting Artist in 2021 and currently splits her time between our faculty and UVic’s Equity & Human Rights office.

In addition to being named playwright-in-residence with locals Puente Theatre, seeing her play The Prophetic Place run in Canadian Theatre Review and having a new play The Dark Bridge go into development with Puente and partners at the Arts Club Theatre, Electric Company, Playwrights Theatre Centre and ZeeZee Theatre, Moyo also saw the Phoenix Theatre mount both a staged reading and workshop production of her immigration play, It’s Just Black Hair.

“It’s about the experience of immigrants—especially those from Africa—and the microaggressions that people don’t discuss,” Moyo said during an interview with CBC Radio (above, with host Jason D’Souza). “You might think it’s easy to talk about our hair, our food, the way we think . . . the play talks about all the issues that surround us as people who are trying to get into a new culture.”

A group effort

Directed by Theatre professor Yasmine Kandil, produced by EQHR executive director Cassbreea Dewis and supported by EQHR’s Mandy Suen and Theatre’s Staging Equality research project and professor Sasha Kovacs, It’s Just Black Hair also featured Theatre student Divine Mercy Ezeaku in the lead role.

“About half of it was based on my experience as a new person to Canada,” says Moyo. “I lived in Africa for 39 years and it’s not easy for me to just throw away everything that I came with . . . it takes time for a person to learn a new place.”

Yet while her experiences were very specific, Moyo feels the play offers a universal with which people from many countries can empathize. “I just want people to get to know each other, accept each other, learn from each other. I want to commit to my Canadian lifestyle 100 percent, but I still have my African experiences with me. I just want people to be mindful as I’m learning the ways of Canada.”

Black Hair actors Wendy Magahay & Divine Mercy Ezeaku