Visual Arts MFAs connect across institutions

Sometimes the most inspiring work occurs while students are still enrolled in university. Consider MFA Connect, an inter-institutional visual arts exhibit that literally connects UVic Visual Arts MFA candidates with fellow graduate students at UBC Okanagan.

Works by Conner Charlesworth & Crystal Przybille

Organized by second-year UVic MFA candidate Marina DiMaio, MFA Connect runs November 6-10 in UVic’s Audain Gallery in the Visual Arts building; the first part of the exhibit ran October 10-20 in the FINA Gallery at UBC Okanagan’s campus in Kelowna.

MFA Connect is like a conference for visual arts,” says DiMaio. “Other departments make these kind of ‘connections’ all the time, but when we get together we share a visual language. This is about challenging each other’s research, getting our research out into the world, creating our own opportunities, establishing communities, and continuing the larger conversation of the place of the visual arts in an academic institution.”

As emerging artists and creative researchers, it’s essential for MFA candidates to connect with both local and international art centers, and to encounter and share visual methodologies. With that in mind, MFA Connect aims to deepen and challenge graduate student practices, as well as equip the larger academic communities with new records of interdisciplinary understanding.

David Michael Peters helps install the exhibit at UVic

“The academic community we are temporarily placed in while being in an MFA is perhaps the most valuable part of being here,” she says. “We have an immediate network of support, of individuals striving towards similar goals with a common passion for creative research.”

The first in what’s hoped to be a series of MFA art exchanges, MFA Connect will showcase the work of six UVic MFAs — Conner CharlesworthLeah McInnisDavid Michael PetersEvelyn Sorochan-RulandXristia Trutiak, and Di Maio herself — and five UBCO MFAs: Steven Thomas Davies, Jessica Dennis, Joe Fowler, Crystal Przybille and Meg Yamamoto.

“Conceptually, we are all working in very different ways,” DiMaio explains. “You will find some similarities in the general tendencies of each program toward materiality, craft, and the handmade — the show is filled with objects pointing toward a physical human experience — but this show ultimately finds its affinities in the ongoing conversation of visual art as a form of research.”

Xristia Trutiak

Pieces on display will tackle concepts ranging from discussions of labour and conversations with the history of art to investigations into process and material politics, explorations of internal and external gender identity, studies of soundscapes and perceptual experience, the mapping of place and possessions, and an examination of Indigenous rights and truths.

“We’re only in our MFAs for two years,” DiMaio concludes. “That goes by fast and we need to make the most of our time here and take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to us.”

MFA Connect runs 10am-4pm Monday-Friday, November 6-10 in the Visual Arts Building’s Audain Gallery, with a closing reception beginning at 4:30pm on Thursday, November 9

Expert panel celebrates a decade of inspiring journalists

For the past 10 years, students in UVic’s Department of Writing have benefited by learning from veteran journalists and authors, thanks to the Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction.

Named for UVic alumnus Harvey Southam — who, before his unexpected death in 1991, worked as a journalist before serving as director for a number of companies owned by one of the country’s leading publishing families — this influential journalist-in-residence program sees a mid-career writer join the Writing department each year to teach a course and give a public lecture on their chosen topic. Courses have varied widely, ranging from print and broadcast journalism to sports, humour, popular culture, Indigenous perspectives on storytelling, and changes in the media landscape itself.

Now you can join the Writing department in celebrating a decade of this prestigious position with a special 10th anniversary panel: “The Future of Journalism in the Age of #FakeNews” brings six former Southam Lecturers together for the first time for a lively moderated discussion at 7pm Tuesday, November 7, in room 105 of UVic’s Hickman Building.

“The idea for the panel was sparked by a perfect convergence,” says Writing chair David Leach, author of Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel. “A chance to mark the 10th anniversary of the Southam Lectureship, the opportunity to thank the Southam family for their generosity, and to respond to a sense of global urgency around the role of journalists as guardians of our democratic institutions — especially when the most powerful elected official on the planet keeps attacking the free press as #FakeNews.”

Leach, who will act as emcee and moderator, will be joined by recent Writing grad Quinn MacDonald — now the publisher/editor of the local urban agriculture magazine Concrete Garden — as well as six returning Southam Lecturers:

  • Jody Paterson: former Times Colonist columnist, whose course focused on experiential and activist journalism
  • Terry Glavin: current Ottawa Citizen columnist and author of Come From the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan, who focused on foreign affairs
  • JoAnn Roberts: CBC veteran and retired host of CBC Radio’s All Points West, who focused on public broadcasting
  • Tom Hawthorn: freelance writer and author most recently of The Year Canadians Lost Their Minds and Found Their Country, who focused on sports media
  • Mark Leiren-Young: freelance writer, whose most recent book is The Killer Whale Who Changed the World and whose course focused on satire
  • Vivian Smith: former Globe & Mail editor and author of Outsiders Still: Why Women Journalists Love — and Leave — Their Newspaper Careers, who focused on women in journalism

“All were keen to talk about their experiences as guest lecturers and debate the future of journalism,” says Leach. “Taken together, it offers a broad range of ways to look at contemporary journalism.”

Jo-Ann Roberts holds the crowd’s attention at her public lecture in 2013

And it’s that diversity of voices and experiences that sets the Southam Lectureship apart from other courses with embedded journalists. “We try not to think of ‘journalism’ in too narrow or stereotyped of a way,” he continues. “We are always looking for a different voice, a different background, a guest lecturer who has an interesting ‘hook’ that will interest both our professional writing students and also curious undergraduates from across campus.”

Fake news causes outcry

Given the almost daily outcry over “fake news” — both real and perceived — in the media today, is Leach legitimately concerned about the future of journalism?

“Absolutely, we should all be. There are very powerful forces — political and corporate, domestic and international — feeding misinformation to the general public in ways that undermine our democratic institutions, increase inequities and even incite hatred against vulnerable groups of people,” he says.

Terry Glavin at his lecture in 2012

“The role of good journalism has always been as a BS detector that speaks truth to such abuses of power. We need to remember and support that vital function before we all disappear into our private filter bubbles of socially mediated information in which we only hear echoes of our own points of view and declare anything contrary to our own biases as #FakeNews.”

Not that the solutions aren’t without their own challenges, says Leach. “How do we fund the time-consuming and often dangerous investigative work that is the beating heart of great journalism? And how do we inspire and train the next generation of intrepid writers and reporters to do that work?”

The answers to those questions will come from the panelists themselves, along with recent Writing grad Quinn MacDonald —  not only a graduate of the Professional Writing Minor in Journalism & Publishing and a teaching assistant for many of the Southam Lecturers, but is already out in the trenches herself.

Tom Hawthorn’s sports talk was a crowd favourite in 2014

“Quinn is the future of journalism, so we figured we better get her thoughts,” says Leach. “I want to hear how she can connect the hard-earned wisdom from our six other panelists to the kind of journalism needed to inspire her generation . . . and the generations to follow.”

Read more about the Southam Lecture in this November 2 Times Colonist interview with David Leach.

Looking ahead to the next decade (and beyond), does Leach have a “dream list” for future Southam Lecturers? “I’d love to attract more writers and reporters with strong voices who are also shedding light on communities and stories that are under-reported by our traditional media: people like Kamal Al-Solaylee and his investigative book Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone), or culture writer Scaachi Koul and her work for BuzzFeed, as well as her personal memoir and Twitter presence. Or perhaps some of our own graduates, such as Rebecca Collard, who has been doing fearless reporting about the various conflicts in the Middle East.”

Richard Wagamese talks to a packed house at his public lecture in 2011

Finally, the evening will also include a memorial to former Southam Lecturer, Richard Wagamase, who passed away earlier this year. “His course challenged our students to think about First Nations history and forms of storytelling in new ways,” says Leach. “He was an amazing presence when he was here as a guest lecturer.”

And while this event celebrates the first decade of the Southam Lectureship, the 2018 Southam Lecturer is ready to go: Judith Pike is a social-issues documentary filmmaker, whose January class and public lecture will look at investigating and telling stories through film, and reaching different audiences.

Whatever the future holds for our students, there’s no denying the first 10 years of the Southam Lectureship have laid a strong foundation for whatever comes next.

This event is free and open to the public. It will be followed by a book signing and reception.

Phoenix alumni are making history

Alumni Danette Boucher and James Douglas

Each fall, Phoenix Theatre’s Spotlight on Alumni offers the chance for returning alumni to share their experiences with both audiences and current students alike. This year’s spotlight features a pair of performers who are currently living their dreams, every day, as writers, performers, directors and filmmakers—as well as husband and wife: Danette Boucher and James Douglas.

These two talented UVic alumni are making history — literally — every day, working in BC’s fabled Barkerville Historic Town. And now, on stage at the Phoenix from October 10 to 21, Boucher and Douglas will present the stories of two BC pioneers who traveled west in search of a new future: Lady Overlander and The Fred Wells Show. But whether backstage or in the classroom, Boucher and Douglas will mentor current students, offering guidance on how they too can navigate life’s journey and achieve their dreams.

Donning hoops, petticoats, bonnet and a classic Victorian cotton dress, actor and playwright Danette Boucher’s “office” looks like a 19th-century ghost town, albeit bustling daily with tourists from across Canada. In truth, Barkerville is one of BC’s most frequented and important heritage sites — and has a long history of hiring Phoenix students and alumni to perform in the park. Together with her husband — actor, director and filmmaker James Douglas — Boucher has spent decades telling the stories of Barkerville’s past, and they are now both part of the park’s artistic and management team.

Their passion for history also led Boucher and Douglas to create Histrionics Theatre Company to better tell their favourite dramatic stories from our past — including current productions Lady Overlander and The Fred Wells Show, each featuring actual historical characters on their own quest for gold.

A scene from Lady Overlander

“I first stumbled into museum theatre in 1989 while auditioning to play Emily Carr at her childhood home in James Bay,” says Boucher. “I didn’t know then that it would lead to an exciting career in museum theatre and historical interpretation.” Beyond Barkerville, Boucher has also developed programming for the Royal BC Museum, Helmcken House, Craigflower Farm and Schoolhouse, Point Ellice House and Tod House. Many may also remember her as the “unsinkable” Margaret Brown, a character that she performed for the RBCM’s Titanic: The Artifacts exhibit.

“Over the years of interpreting BC’s history, it has given me great joy to watch stories and ideas morph as we mature and strive to understand who we are, as a result of who we have been,” she reflects. “At the start of my career, we celebrated our pioneer stories and often neglected the darker, less well known, aspects of our founding. 30 years later, we are eager to question and reframe our stories, considering many angles and experiences.”

Her play, Lady Overlander, is a dramatic first-person account of the legendary Catherine O’Hare Schubert, who — while pregnant! — walked from Winnipeg to Kamloops in 1862 in search of a new life in a tantalizing new land. Meanwhile, The Fred Wells Show also tells a fascinating but little-known story from a gold rush during the Great Depression: Wells, an introverted yet charismatic American prospector, persevered against the odds until he finally struck gold just outside of Barkerville. The ensuing 1930s gold rush saw thousands of fortune seekers flock to the town named in his honour, and saved countless BC families from poverty during very desperate times.

A scene from The Fred Wells Show

“These scripts were written with love for my home province, but are also part of a desire to understand what happened when BC was first defining itself,” says Boucher. “BC history is like the best book I have ever read, with chapters that are celebratory and adventurous, and chapters that are gut wrenching and painful. When I write, I am driven by the idea of home, how we find it, and what it means to each of us.”

The couple make their year-round home in Wells, just outside of Barkerville, with their twin daughters. Although both Danette and James attended UVic’s Department of Theatre —  twice each — remarkably, the couple didn’t meet until they worked together in Barkerville. You can read more about Boucher and Douglas in this October 5 Times Colonist interview.

Despite their lives up north, Victoria and UVic are still a big part of both their lives and their work. “Victoria has a really strong heritage and theatre community that work together well,” says Boucher. “The Phoenix is a special place for us both, a place we both called home for an important time in our lives. Even though we attended at different times, we still share many common experiences . . . and so, so many common friends.”

Both Lady Overlander and The Fred Wells Show run at 8pm till October 21 (no show Sundays) at Phoenix Theatre, with a 2pm matinee on October 21 and a bonus 7pm pre-show lecture on October 13. Tickets are $15 to $26 and are available at the box office or by phone at 250-721-8000.

—With files from Adrienne Holierhoek

French Connections concert unites community

Music and food have a way of bringing people together — colleagues, friends, communities — and the Faculty Chamber Music concert and dinner on October 14 is no exception. Faculty and alumni will join on stage with some special guests for a 50th anniversary celebratory concert of stories and songs. The program features Igor Stravinsky’s theatrical masterpiece L’Histoire du soldat, Camille Saint-Saëns’ humorous and fun-loving Carnival of the Animals, and Rapsodie nègre by Francis Poulenc.

CBC’s Gregor Craigie

Gregor Craigie, local celebrity and host of CBC’s On the Island, will narrate the Stravinsky. Donovan Waters, Professor Emeritus at UVic’s Faculty of Law, will recite the Ogden Nash verses during Carnival of the Animals (the poems were written more than 60 years later to accompany the music). Waters, a leading international expert in trust law and the author of several texts including Law of Trusts in Canada, has a passion for the spoken English language. The Saint-Saëns will be conducted by School of Music  alumnus Owen Underhill, who recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Music Centre.

A special French-themed dinner at the University Club — think beef bourguignon, ratatouille and crème caramel — will give concert-goers the opportunity to mix and mingle with hosts Craigie and Waters as well as gain insight into the program in a pre-concert talk with UVic Distinguished Professor, Dr. Harald Krebs.

Phillip T Young breaks ground for the new Music building in the 1970s

The concert will give special opportunity to honour former School of Music Chair and Professor Emeritus, the late Phillip T. Young. Young was the real force in establishing the then Department of Music and in getting a music building back in the 70s. “Phil is seen as the main inspiration for the school and the direction it went,” recalls Professor Emeritus Lanny Pollet. “He was an excellent administrator and good at getting things done. The school, including its recital hall, wouldn’t have happened without his leadership.”

In appreciation of this, the School of Music faculty named the hall the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. As Pollet recalls, “there was no question…it was important to honour his contribution to the school.” Young’s wife, Cathy, will be present and a new plaque will be installed in the lobby of the Recital Hall to commemorate him and the hall as part of this 50th anniversary year.

“This special evening affords the opportunity to think about and celebrate all the faculty whose contributions echo in the halls of the building and especially this wonderful concert hall,” explains Lafayette Quartet cellist and co-head of performance, Pamela Highbaugh Aloni. The Faculty Chamber Music Series brings a large number of the School’s performance faculty together on stage. “We really are stronger when working together,” remarks Highbaugh Aloni, who has been teaching at UVic for 25 years. “This concert really speaks to my experience at UVic over years: the synergy that is palpable when you enter the building and the relationships I’ve built with this very collegial, immensely talented and fun group of colleagues.”

The all-star line-up of School of Music performers includes Bruce Vogt, Arthur Rowe and Harald Krebs (piano), Patricia Kostek (clarinet), Suzanne Snizek (flute), Merrie Klazek (trumpet), Scott MacInnes (trombone), Benjamin Butterfield (tenor), the Lafayette String Quartet and Alex Olsen (bass). Several School of Music alumni will also join the stage.

Join us for French Connections Faculty Chamber Music dinner (6pm at the University Club) and concert (8pm in UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall) on Saturday, October 14. Tickets for the concert are just $10-$25, or $80 for the concert and dinner package, from the UVic Ticket Centre (250-721-8480 or online) and at the door.

—Kristy Farkas

Annual LSQ health forum gets brainy

Staying informed is an important part of staying healthy — a fact the Lafayette String Quartet well knows. For the past 12 years, these artists-in-residence and School of Music professors have hosted their annual free Health Awareness Forum, with topics ranging from mental health and aging well to cervical cancer, personalized medicine and, naturally, the healing power of music.

This year’s forum, coming up on Thursday October 5, is focusing on healthy minds with Our Vital Brain: Being Mindful About Optimal Health. Learn what’s new in brain health and how the practice of mindfulness and music-making are helping to positively impact overall health.

Three specialists will share their expertise and lead the audience through mindfulness exercises, with time for a Q&A. As a new initiative this year, a student research poster contest will be associated with this annual forum. The event starts at 6:15pm with refreshments and a chance to view the posters in the lobby, prior to the evening presentation at 7pm in UVic’s David Lam Auditorium (MacLaurin Building A-Wing).

The Lafayette String Quartet

This year’s presenters include Alexandre Henri-Bhargava, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at UBC and neurologist with Island Health in Victoria; Mark Sherman, executive director of the BC Association for Living Mindfully; and Erin Guinup, voice teacher, conductor of the Tacoma Refugee Choir and host of the podcast Why We Sing.

The Lafayette Health Awareness Series began in 2006 with a dialogue on the topic of breast cancer, a disease that profoundly impacted the Lafayette String Quartet, UVic’s quartet-in-residence, when one of its members was diagnosed and treated in 2001. This free forum was created to provide expert and updated information to the public on various health topics.

Admission is free and everyone is welcome, but RSVPs are strongly encouraged, as this event often sells out.

Doc screening features Canadian theatre & TV legends

The Department of Theatre is dipping into the world of film for a special screening of Robin & Mark & Richard III. Better still, the filmmakers — Canadian theatrical legends themselves — will be on hand for an exclusive session only for Fine Arts students and faculty.

McKinney and Phillips in “Robin and Mark and Richard III”

The free screening begins at 12:30pm on Tuesday, September 19, in UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, with a post-screening Q&A featuring the film’s producers and co-directors Martha Burns and Susan Coyne. Then, at 12:30pm on Wednesday, September 20, Burns and Coyne will return for the special, Fine Arts-only intimate conversation.

Robin & Mark & Richard III tells the story of an unusual collaboration between one of Canada’s most influential directors—Robin Phillips (Stratford Festival)—and  gifted comedian and actor Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall, Saturday Night Live and Slings and Arrows). Together, they delve into the one of Shakespeare’s most challenging plays: Richard III.

Click here to watch the film’s trailer and discover the power of “Shakespearituality”.

Centuries after its debut, there have been countless stage versions and numerous screen adaptations over the past 100 years — including notable interpretations by Sir Laurence Olivier, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Ian McKellen, Richard Dreyfuss and Julian Glover — as well as documentary explorations like Al Pacino’s 1996  Looking for Richard. With Robin & Mark & Richard III, Phillips and McKinney had not met before, and they had no idea what might happen when they begain this project: it was to be an adventure of two brilliant minds exploring Shakespeare’s world.

Burns (left) and Coyne

Captured over the course of three years by Burns and Coyne — award-winning Canadian stage veterans, co-founders of Toronto’s famed Soulpepper Theatre and Slings and Arrows co-creators and co-stars —  they filmed Phillips and McKinney rehearsing in the intimacy of Phillips’ home outside of Stratford. Although the filmmakers didn’t know it at the time, Phillips was actually quite ill and would die shortly after the film was finished.

For the Fine Arts-only conversation, hosted by Theatre professor Fran Gebhard, Burns and Coyne will discuss their diverse careers on stage, writing for theatre, film and TV, and directing and producing several short films together, including How Are You? (an official selection for the 2008 Toronto Film Festival).

Screened at the Hot Docs Cinema festival in 2016, Robin & Mark & Richard III is described as a love letter to a passionate, complicated, irreplaceable genius. The film has been called “a wonderful look into how actors build performances over time” (Toronto Film Scene) and “equal parts interview, scene study class and in-memoriam tribute to Phillips” (Now Magazine).

Shakespeare wrote: “It is required you do awake your faith”, and Robin Phillips lived this every day. An Officer of the Order of Canada and winner of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, his profound insights, exacting standards, and belief in the transformational power of theatre made him one of this country’s great mentors—one who touched the lives of three generations of artists, including Dame Maggie Smith, Brent Carver and Martha Henry, who all appear in this film.

(And for those who don’t know it, the acclaimed Canadian satirical TV series Slings and Arrows is required watching for theatre buffs! It’s a hilarious three short seasons of life back- and on-stage at a Shakespeare-specific theatre festival very much like Stratford, and no aspect of theatre — from acting and directing to marketing, production, reviewing, and post-show schmoozing — is spared.)