Annual Reading Night Returns

Hear new work by some of Canada’s top writers at the annual Writing Faculty Reading Night!

Back for the first time since pre-pandemic days, this event features acclaimed Department of Writing professors Shane Book, Mo Bradley, Danielle Geller, Lee Henderson, Kevin Kerr, Kathryn Mockler, Gregory Scofield plus Lansdowne Professor Deborah Campbell (above). Catch readings of new work in their respective fields of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays and screenwriting. 


Always a fun & fascinating evening, this event will be hosted by Fine Arts communications officer John Threlfall

7pm Thurs, Sept 28 in room A240 of UVic’s HSD building. 

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!

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!”

Diamond in the rough

As anyone who has suffered the slings and arrows of a theatrical life knows, working on stage can be a risky business. But Theatre grad Emily Bailey (née Lindstrom, BFA ’19) has taken her production-management experience in a new direction by putting herself into situations more perilous than a bad review.

Not only is she the co-chief of her local volunteer fire department, but she’s also a certified mine rescuer and member of the Diamonds in the Rough, Canada’s all-female, internationally competitive, mine-rescue team.

“One of my professors once told me that a degree in theatre is a degree in team organization and creative problem-solving,” says Bailey. “I think that’s the best way to describe how I’ve adapted my fine-arts skills into the industrial world.”

Striking gold

Growing up in the small BC industry town of Fraser Lake, Bailey worked in a sawmill for three summers before enrolling in theatre at UVic—a surprise to many, as she recalls. “I was a jock in high school, but what I loved most about sports was the organization of teams and tournaments and events,” she says. “I wanted a career doing that.”

Bailey found her niche behind the scenes in production management at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre. “I realized this was totally where I was supposed to be and knew I’d made the right choice.” And it was those very organizational and problem-solving skills that got her hired as a stage manager in Barkerville Historic Town, BC’s legendary 1860s gold-rush heritage site.

Today, Bailey lives just 10 minutes down the road in Wells—the site of its own 1930s gold rush. But it’s also the centre of the current Cariboo mining renaissance thanks to her employer—Osisko Development, Cariboo Gold Project—where she was hired as health and safety coordinator at the end of 2019. “They saw value in my background, which was surprising but also kind of cool,” she says.

If the idea of gold mining conjures up images of Bugs Bunny-style mine shafts with rail tracks and ore carts, you’re about a hundred years out of date.

“Mining today is very different… it’s a lot bigger than you’d expect for being underground. A pick-up truck fits really comfortably into a mine drift, with room above and beside you. Our mine entrance is basically a road with a small incline—you can walk out of it at any point if you need to, which is a big comfort to my parents.”

Raising the profile of women in mining

The outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020 meant she could put her skills to good use. “COVID-19 hit about four months after I was hired and, with my organizational and first-aid skills, I began to head the screening and management section of our health and safety department,” she recalls. As well as monitoring potential exposures, Bailey focused on workplace injuries (“equipment failure, sore backs, broken legs, an amputated toe”) more than the widely known mining risks such as gas exposure or cave-ins.

“We’re an hour away from the nearest hospital, so critical-injury care is really important if something does happen,” she says. “But mine rescue is also a huge component of what we do. I took my entry-level mine rescue course in 2020, which covers the basics of rescue gear and techniques—but it doesn’t stop there: we continue training monthly with our company.”

It was during one of those training sessions that Bailey first learned about the Diamonds in the Rough (DITR) Emergency Rescue Organization. “During the course, I found myself getting increasingly sassy with the instructor, because all of his material had photos of men, he used all-male pronouns and I was the only woman in the class.” Sensing her frustration, the instructor mentioned that his company sponsored an all-female competitive team, Diamonds in the Rough. She researched to learn more.

Founded in 2016, DITR started as an effort to both raise the profile of women in the mining industry and in non-traditional roles through underground mine rescue. DITR challenges the traditionally male-dominated environment by competing at an international level.

“We compete in a variety of areas, including mine simulation, high-angle rescue, first aid, firefighting and BG4 [breathing apparatus] technician and theory. Our team is made up of women from across Canada… which means that the rescue regulations for each jurisdiction may be slightly different.”

Stage manager in the mining world

While some international mine-rescue teams train together for years, Bailey had never met her other DITR team members and had just four days to train before her first competition in West Virginia in 2022. “It was quite the learning curve,” she recalls. “We all work in different types of mines—gold, hard rock, pot ash—and all have different professions—engineers, technicians, health and safety—yet we had to learn the same mining language and match up our training strength and weaknesses.”

The pressure resulted in a dazzling performance: Bailey’s team came in sixth out of 22 teams, earning a second place in high-angle rescue and third in technician and theory. “The [hosts] said we were one of the best training experiences they’d ever had,” she says. “It was an amazing experience!”

Challenging gender expectations

Winning competitions is all well and good, but the Diamonds in the Rough also have a role to play when it comes to challenging gender expectations. “When you’re a female in mining and mine rescue, it’s always about more than just doing your job,” she points out. “It’s also about proving you deserve to be there. Miners need to have trust and confidence in you: they need to have no doubt in their minds that you’re there to help.” Fortunately, she feels those attitudes are changing, albeit slowly.

“In Canada, it was illegal for women to work underground until the 1970s and, for some of the international teams we compete against, it’s still illegal for women to work in the mines or even be on the mine site,” she says. “Just like sailors have superstitions about women on boats, miners have the same kind of superstitions… we had groups who were so excited that we were there and others who wanted nothing to do with us.”

For Bailey, mining is more than just her day job and competitive pastime: it’s also quite literally the world in which she lives. The house she shares with her actor husband Brendan Bailey—who portrays a historic miner in nearby Barkerville—was originally built for a mine superintendent in the 1930s, and she’s working for the company that’s on the precipice of another potential Cariboo mining boom.

“When you live in Wells, you’re not just living in any town—you’re part of a town that was built by mining,” she says. Together with her husband, she shares the role of co-chief of the Wells Volunteer Fire Brigade, with emergency calls mostly involving vehicle incidents and house fires.

“Given where we live, it’s more about having a helping spirit, being ready and willing to help out,” she concludes. “I’d rather be competent and be able to help than be caught in an emergency situation and be helpless.”

Alumni lead 23/34 Phoenix season

It’s an all-alumni season coming up at Phoenix Theatre this year, with three alumni directors returning to lead the mainstage productions!

First up is Oscar Wilde’s comic masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, running November 9-25. Although it debuted in 1895, it’s hard to believe that this is the first time it will be produced here at the Phoenix!

This famed classic remains one of the best loved and most frequently revived comedies in Western theatre. Although its radically and socially daring author was ultimately too much for Victorian Britain, Wilde’s comic masterpiece of identity, transition and transformation continues to delight audiences to this day.

Guest director for this production is Alistair Newton (BFA 2004). Now a Toronto-based director and co-founder of Ecce Homo Theatre, Newton has produced for Fringe Festivals, indie festivals and has worked on such mainstages as Canadian Stage, the Shaw Festival, Buddies in Bad Times and the Canadian Opera Company. Most recently, he has expanded the range of his theatre practice by creating boutique adaptations of ‘classical’ work for educational institutions.

This fall, he’ll also be teaching a special Theatre department course called “Drag U” focusing on the history of drag from the ancient times to RuPaul’s Drag Race.

All that jazz

Following that, get your toes tapping for 100 Years of Broadway, running February 15-24. You’ll be in safe (jazz) hands with guest director Pia Wyatt, who celebrates the history of musical theatre with this playlist of Broadway classics.

Like a night of speed-dating for musical theatre lovers, this high-energy revue will take audiences of all ages through a century of Broadway in one fun, crowd-pleasing, magical evening. From Carousel to Cabaret, Gypsy to Grease and Peter Pan to The Phantom of the Opera, get ready to revisit the musical theatre songs you know and love while discovering some new favourites. Discover how the Broadway legacy grew from its roots to the multimillion-dollar powerhouse it remains today, with this collection of timeless musical treasures.

Pia Wyatt (BFA ’92, MFA ’94) has a wide-ranging background, including seven seasons producing original musicals for Fort Steele Heritage Town, being the co-artistic director of the local KIDCO Dance Company, working in film and television, and being one of the regional chairs for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Currently head of performance and directing at Louisiana’s Northwestern State University, her students are performing on Broadway, in tours that extend all over the world, on cruise lines, regional theatres, and a variety of amusement parks.

“I look forward to breathing new life into each theatrical production, helping create a masterpiece that entices the hearts and minds of the audience,” she says. “Theatre and dance provide freedom of expression and the power to communicate, to educate, and to entertain—this outreach is what makes it exciting for me to create theatre.”

An American classic

The final show of the season is the American classic THE HOT L  BALTIMORE, running March 14-23.
Winner of multiple awards — including the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play — this classic comedy by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson is set in the lobby of the formerly grand Hotel Baltimore, where a community of outcasts make the now-rundown hotel their home . . . despite a looming eviction crisis and threatened demolition.

During a single day in 1972, we meet an eccentric group of residents, waitresses, students, prostitutes, hotel clerks and cab drivers who create a rich mosaic of human experiences. Humour and compassion highlight Wilson’s celebration of resilience, stifled dreams, past glories and the sheer stubbornness to carry on.

THE HOT L  BALTIMORE is directed by award-winning Theatre professor and alum Peter McGuire, whose most recent Phoenix shows include PicnicWild Honey, Crimes of the Heart and The Children’s Hour. McGuire has enjoyed a 40-year career in the professional theatre that has included stage management, production management, talent management, administration, producing and directing.

He has worked at several major regional theatres including long-term residencies at the National Arts Centre, the Charlottetown Festival and the Stratford Festival. He has toured regionally, nationally and internationally, and worked for the Maybox Group of theatres in London’s West End and as the Associate Conservatory Director at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.

More than just entertainment

Remember, Phoenix Theatre productions are an integral part of the academic requirements for our BFA and MFA students. When you attend the Phoenix Theatre, you experience some of this city’s most exciting and eclectic theatre—while also participating in the education of our students. They are involved in every aspect of these productions, from acting to the design, creation and management of sets, costumes, props, sound and lighting.

Discover the difference that the youth, talent and energy of our students can make and get a preview of Canada’s next generation of theatre artists!

A three-show subscription package is just $48, offering up to 50 percent off single ticket costs!