Phoenix season kicks off with shows for the young & the young-at-heart

The cast of The Woman Who Outshone The Sun (photo: Megan Farrell)

Proving that experience matters when it comes to creating impactful productions, Phoenix Theatre is offering an all-alumni directed season—ideally matched to UVic’s upcoming 60th anniversary celebrations.

It all kicks off with two productions that speak to Phoenix’s past and present: Applied Theatre professor Yasmine Kandil directs SETYA, the latest in the continuing Staging Equality series, while sessional instructor Alistair Newton offers The Importance of Being Earnest—Oscar Wilde’s 128-year-old classic comedy that (surprisingly) has never been presented before on campus.

Staging Equality: Theatre for Young Audiences

SETYA offers a double bill of The Woman Who Outshone the Sun and Shi-shi-etko, two children’s stories ideally suited to Staging Equality’s mandate of offering IBPoC-focused performances. “We wanted stories by and about Indigenous and people of color to be accessible to our young audiences and their families, and I think this show will deliver,” says Kandil. “These two stories both talk about important issues facing Indigenous communities in Canada and in Latin America.”

With four productions staged over the past two years (Journey to Mapu, Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story, Im:print and It’s Just Black Hair), SETYA sees the return of previous Staging Equality partners as narrators here: Paulina Grainger of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (The Woman who Outshone the Sun) and Kwakwaka’wakw performer and UVic En’owkin School alum Krystal Cook (Shi-shi-etko).

“Krystal has amazing stage presence and an ability to bring tenderness as well as strength to carry the enormity of the story she is telling. And Paulina has a magical way of drawing the audience into the narrative,” says Kandil. “I’ve enjoyed their approach to creating art and engaging with our students. I felt both stories required actors who were strong performers who could also embrace the community awareness element of the work we are carrying out.”

While theatre for young audiences is a style more often presented by alumni in the community, Kandil believes this is yet another way to welcome diverse audiences into the Phoenix. “We know the audiences who have attended our previous Staging Equality programming will return, and we also wanted children and their families to come to our theatre,” she concludes. “Audiences, young and old, will be able to engage with these topics in a manner that allows them to digest the material, and hopefully the stories might last with them a while.”

SETYA director Yasmine Kandil (photo: Megan Farrell)

“Krystal has amazing stage presence and an ability to bring tenderness as well as strength to carry the enormity of the story she is telling. And Paulina has a magical way of drawing the audience into the narrative,” says Kandil. “I’ve enjoyed their approach to creating art and engaging with our students. I felt both stories required actors who were strong performers who could also embrace the community awareness element of the work we are carrying out.”

While theatre for young audiences is a style more often presented by alumni in the community, Kandil believes this is yet another way to welcome diverse audiences into the Phoenix. “We know the audiences who have attended our previous Staging Equality programming will return, and we also wanted children and their families to come to our theatre,” she concludes. “Audiences, young and old, will be able to engage with these topics in a manner that allows them to digest the material, and hopefully the stories might last with them a while.”

Earnest director Alistair Newton (photo: Catherine Lemmon)

Feeling Earnest

While SETYA focuses on young audiences, The Importance of Being Earnest is a perennially popular production that has never gone out of style since its 1895 debut. What’s the appeal for a very contemporary director like Alistair Newton?

“Aside from the obvious answer that it has got to be one of the greatest works of comic writing in the English language, it’s also a work coded with all sorts of transgressive satire—much of which would only have been legible to those members of the audience with the right ear to hear it,” he says. “Populism with a wicked satirical edge has always been irresistible to me.”

Newton, who is also teaching Theatre’s fall elective on drag culture and was just announced as a director for the prestigious Shaw Festival’s 2024 season, says he enjoys “excavating the hidden histories and secret codes” of what’s often described as classical theatre.

Earnest is so constantly revived that it almost feels like a meme at this point, rather than a play,” he explains. “True, the 19th century gave us hysterical sexual repression and the codification of rigid gender roles, but it also gave us radicals who rebelliously pushed back—like the pioneering sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the Danish artist and trans woman Lili Elbe, and William Dorsey Swann, an enslaved black activist and drag performer who was likely the first person to refer to himself as a ‘queen’.”

Much like SETYA, Newton feels Earnest will also resonate with Phoenix audiences.

“Oscar Wilde loved a paradox, and both his legacy and the history of Earnest has sort of become one: at the time of his arrest for ‘gross indecency’, Wilde had two hit shows running in the West End and had completely conquered mainstream boulevard entertainment in London—but, at the same time, his queerness was considered so scandalous by his society that they had to forcibly remove him from their midst.”

Finally, as a returning alumni, how does it feel for Newton to be back at the Phoenix—both directing and teaching? “A lot of things change in a couple of decades, but some things are exactly how I left them: the graffiti on the scene shop wall and the very particular smell as you first enter the Roger Bishop Theatre,” he quips.

“But I think my favourite change is something I perceive in the students: they seem much more willing to advocate for themselves and to challenge orthodoxies, ideas of canon and the educational status quo. At the risk of sounding like an old queen, the kids definitely seem alright to me.”

SETYA runs October 12-14 + 19-21 while The Importance of Being Earnest runs November 9-25, both at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre

Orion Series presents Lindsay Wong

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Lindsay Wong

Visiting author

“Outrunning the Ghosts of ‘Woo-Woo Wong’: Crafting Vulnerable & Villainous Characters in Creative (Non)Fiction.”

 

11:30am-12:50pm (PST) Monday, October 16, 2023

Room C112, Clearihue building 

Free & open to the public

Presented by UVic’s Department of Writing

For more information on this lecture please email: writing@uvic.ca

Lindsay Wong is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning and bestselling memoir The Woo-Woo, which was a finalist for Canada Reads 2019.

Join us for this free talk at 11:30am Mon Oct 16 in UVic’s Clearihue building, room C112.

About Lindsay Wong

Lindsay Wong is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning and bestselling memoir The Woo-Woo, which was a finalist for Canada Reads 2019. The Woo-Woo won the 2019 Hubert-Evans Prize in Nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2018 Hilary Weston Prize for Nonfiction and longlisted for the 2019 Stephen Leacock Medal.

She has written a YA novel entitled My Summer of Love and Misfortune, and in 2023 released a collection of stories, Tell Me Pleasant Things About Immortality. Her fiction and nonfiction have also appeared in No Tokens, The Fiddlehead, Ricepaper and Apogee Journal.

Wong has served as the writer-in-residence at the University of Manitoba, University of Fraser Valley, Vancouver Public Library, Richmond Public Library, Kimmel Nelson Harding Center in Nebraska City, Studios of Key West in Florida, and Caldera Arts in Sisters, Oregon. She holds a BFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and an MFA in literary nonfiction from Columbia University. She is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing (fiction) at the University of Winnipeg.

 

 

About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Free and open to the public  |  Seating is limited (500 Zoom connections) |  Visit our online events calendar at www.events.uvic.ca

Orion Series presents Malik Gaines

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Malik Gaines

“Star Choir & Other Narratives”

Interdisciplinary artist & scholar
Associate Professor, UC San Diego

 

12:30pm (PST) Tues, Oct 10, 2023

Phillip T Young Recital Hall, School of Music

1:30-2:20pm Wed, Oct 11

Room B120, MacLaurin B-Wing

Free & open to the public

Presented by UVic’s School of Music

For more information on this lecture, please email music@uvic.ca

In this lecture-performance, Malik Gaines will talk about how his research informs his music compositions and other artistic activities. The talk will focus on his work as solo musician and co-artistic director of The Industry opera company in Los Angeles, along with the recent premiere of his opera, Star Choir, which he composed with Alexandro Segade’s libretto. 

Star Choir is an opera about future humans who attempt to colonize a distant planet. Through fantasy and critique, it asks urgent questions facing humanity amid our era’s confluence of natural and political crises, evoking scenes of disaster migration, fugitivity, and colonization as they are entwined with our difficult histories and our best visions of a potential future.

Malik Gaines is a multifaceted artist and scholar known for his dynamic contributions to the fields of music, performance art, visual culture, and critical theory. With a background deeply rooted in exploring themes of identity and social justice, Gaines brings a unique perspective to the intersection of art and activism, inspiring a new generation of creative thinkers.

About Malik Gaines

Interdisciplinary artist and scholar, Malik Gaines is Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at University of California San Diego. His book, Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible (2017) traces a circulation of black political ideas through performances of the sixties and beyond. He is working on a second book dealing with contemporary art and performances that act against the limits of U.S. sovereignty.

Gaines performs and exhibits on his own and in multiple collaborations. Since 2000, he has been a member of the artist trio, My Barbarian. Their work uses musical, theatrical and critical techniques to playfully act out social difficulties. As a solo musician, he sings at the piano, exploring contemporary themes through historic songbooks.

Gaines is a co-artistic director of The Industry opera company in Los Angeles. Among other projects, The Industry will present his opera Star Choir, which he composed with Alexandro Segade’s libretto, in fall of 2023 at the Mt. Wilson Observatory northeast of Los Angeles.

About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Free and open to the public  |  Visit our online events calendar at www.events.uvic.ca