Every play needs a set, whether the audience realizes it or not. From a bare wood floor to a drab apartment that slides open to reveal a musical fantasy land, the set is the canvas upon which the actors come to life. But, rather than creating a set from scratch, what happens when a director asks you to simply adapt a design that’s 30 years old? The short answer, as student designer Conor Farrell discovered, is that there’s nothing simple about it.
Conor Farrell in front of his set for 7 Stories, running March 14-23 at the Phoenix
Running March 14-23, Phoenix Theatre is presenting 7 Stories by Canadian playwright Morris Panych as the final production of their mainstage season. Given that the play is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, director and theatre professor Fran Gebhard wanted to see the original set design brought back to life for her production in Phoenix’s Bishop Theatre.
7 Stories takes place entirely on a seventh-storey window ledge, where a man is in the midst of a life crisis. While reflecting on his life, he is interrupted by the quirky residents and their self-absorbed problems; through their interactions, however, the man finds the courage to take the next step. Panych’s quick-witted, fast-paced comedy philosophizes about life and death, right up to its existential conclusion.
You can read more about the Phoenix production of 7 Stories in some of the advance media coverage it received, including this Times Colonist story, this CTV Vancouver Island segment and this piece from Monday Magazine.
“Ken MacDonald’s original set—inspired by the fabulous art of René Magritte—is iconic and adds an important layer to the meaning of the play, with the surreal elements of Magritte’s work perfectly underscoring Panych’s existential themes,” says Gebhard. “I really couldn’t see the play with any other design.”
For Farrell, that meant adapting the 2009 version of MacDonald’s set—which was originally designed for the 1989 production at Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre, before needing a few modifications for a 20th anniversary mounting at Theatre Calgary—into one cohesive construction that works with the Bishop’s entirely different stage shape.
Rene Magritte’s “La Condition Humaine” (1933)
“Ken’s original design was built for a very different space, so we’re changing it slightly,” explains fourth-year design student Conor Farrell, who is credited with “design adaptation” for this challenging production. “We’re taking the base design and trying to keep all the integral parts. We’ve spoken with him about how we need to change it and gotten his okay for that.”
Given that 7 Stories happens entirely on the ledge of an apartment building, Farrell’s set is a massive 23-foot-tall facade, shooting up from below the stage’s edge and melding into a sky of clouds. As we talk in the audience of the 208-seat Bishop Theatre, we get quick glimpses of the set crew through the faux-windows; swinging hammers and laughing as they work, the students create mini-stories of their own as they assemble the massive design.
“It’s a new kind of challenge,” says Farrell. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I would do something differently, because it needs to keep the spirit of the original design alive.”
In addition to his actual design work—using Vectorworks, a drafting program, and building a traditional maquette or set model (“the maquette helps people visualize how big the set is, whereas Vectorworks is about sizes and sightlines”)—Farrell also did a fair bit of research into 7 Stories itself: writing a research paper about three-decade’s worth of productions of this now Canadian classic, meeting with director Gebhard and design professor Patrick Du Wors, working with the all-student creative team, overseeing the actual set construction, and having a Skype call with MacDonald himself. “He wasn’t 100 percent sold on it at first, so we had a small back-and-forth and adapted our design,” he chuckles.
With no real theatrical background before moving from Saskatoon to attend UVic, Farrell seems incredibly confidant about undertaking this project, thanks to the skills he’s developed while at the Phoenix. “The best thing about the Theatre department is all the practical experience on offer,” he says. “You can go have a conversation with any professor or talk to the production staff about a problem and figure out how to solve it together.“
As for 7 Stories, Farrell is looking forward to seeing it come to life on opening night. “That’s the fun of the show: how to act with very limited space,” he says. “This set is a challenge that the actors have to solve.”
The public is also invited to a free preshow lecture with award-winning playwright and Fine Arts alumnus Mark Leiren-Young at 7 p.m. Friday, March 15. Currently an instructor with the Writing department, Leiren-Young will discuss the significance, history and secret origins of Morris Panych’s modern masterpiece.
7 Stories previews at 8pm Tuesday and Wednesday, March 12-13 (just $8). It opens at 8pm Thursday, March 14, and runs to March 23, with 2pm matinees on March 16 (with sign language interpretation) and March 23. Tickets range from $16-$26 at the Phoenix Box Office, which is open noon to 8:30pm, Monday to Saturday and at (250) 721-8000.
It’s neither a surprise nor an exaggeration when UVic describes Ideafest as being about “ideas that can change everything.” This eighth-annual, week-long festival of research, art and innovation runs March 4-9, both on- and off-campus, and offers more than 40 public events designed to inform and engage with thought-provoking and culturally engaging events. And Fine Arts is participating in eight different events this year.
“Ideafest connects research to community. It allows UVic researchers and artists to share knowledge in different ways to appeal to a wide range of audiences,” says David Castle, UVic’s vice-president research. “We invite the public’s engagement so they can better understand how research impacts their own lives and that of society.”
As always, Fine Arts is once again an active Ideafest participant, hosting four separate events of our own and participating in four others across campus. All are free, unless otherwise noted: you can view the full Ideafest schedule here, which is searchable by day or category, but here’s our list of events.
Eva-meta art exhibit
The Visual Arts department’s Drawing 300 class continues its tradition of staging an outdoor drawing exhibition near the Fine Arts building for the duration of Ideafest. Led by Drawing 300 instructor David Gifford, students this year are interpreting meta-drawing and encounters with “aboutness, the recursive and the beyond.” Drawing 300 makes an outdoor exhibit of pictures about pictures. Prepare to have your assumptions challenged!
The Eva-meta exhibit runs Monday-Friday, March 4-9, outdoors in the Visual Arts building courtyard.
Research Reels Video Showcase
Get a taste of the amazing research and creative activity taking place at UVic, as told by our talented students, faculty and staff. A juried collection of short videos highlighting UVic research and how it’s having an impact on our lives and our world will be showcased for one night only. Prepare to be amazed and inspired! Hosted by Lara Lauzon (School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education) and juried by Jay Cullen (School of Earth and Ocean Sciences), Cody Graham (Filmmaker and multimedia producer) and Katrina Pyne (Hakai Magazine).
Among the entries this year are short films created by current students Peter Ojum, Leah Tidey and Chen Wang, plus recent alumnus and current Artist in Residence at Oceans Network Canada, Colton Hash (also last year’s Research Reels winner). Their films cover topics ranging from applied theatre practice and choral research to the research and creative practice of Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson, and her current IMAX video installation commission from the XL Outer Worlds project, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the IMAX camera — a Canadian invention! Be sure to attend and vote for our faculty’s films in the viewer’s choice category!
Research Reels: Video showcase runs 5-6:30pm Tuesday, March 5, at Cinecenta in UVic’s SUB. And there will be free popcorn!
Write On: A Night Out with New Writers
Meet the next generation of Canadian Literature as MFA students from UVic’s legendary Department of Writing read (and perform) from ground-breaking graduating manuscripts in fiction, poetry, playwriting and creative nonfiction at this lively (and licensed) literary cabaret. Hosted by Writing professor Maureen Bradley, graduate student readers include Vaughn Gaston (fiction), Taylor Houghton (fiction), Janet Munsil (playwriting), Tom Prime (poetry) and Miles Steyn (creative nonfiction). Watch for guest appearances by faculty mentors.
Doors open at 6:30 pm
Write on: A night out with new writers runs 7-8pm Tuesday, March 5 at the Copper Owl Bar & Lounge, 1900 Douglas Street (above Paul’s Motor Inn).
Meet the next generation of leading Canadian researchers at UVic’s Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA). Awards go to exceptional undergrad students to carry out research in their field of study. The JCURA research fair will feature over 100 of these inspiring projects, ranging from the effects of meditation on memory retention, to improving emergency water treatment in refugee camps. Fine Arts participants include Hannah Bell (Theatre), Kai Conradi (Writing), Jamie Crystal (Music), Kim Dias (Writing), Pascale Higham-Leisen (AHVS), Sarah Kapp (AHVS), Trevor Naumann (Music) and Lee Whitehorne (Music). Just click on their individual names to read a brief of their research projects.
The JCURA symposium runs 11:30am – 3pm Wednesday, March 6, in the Michele Pujol Room (A121) of UVic’s SUB.
UVic Author Celebration
Each year, UVic faculty, staff, students and alumni publish an incredible amount of intellectual content, reflecting a wide range of research, teaching, personal and professional interests. Join UVic Libraries for this annual celebration of books written by UVic — including Writing professor Bill Gaston, who will be reading from his recent memoir, Just Let Me Look at You: On Fatherhood, and recently retired Writing instructor Patrick Friesen, reading from his latest poetry collection, Songen. Hosted by Jim Forbes, Director of Campus Services, other readers include History professors Jason M. Colby, reading from his Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator, and Lynne Marks, reading from her Infidels and the Damn Churches: Irreligion and Religion in Settler British Columbia.
The UVic author celebration runs 2-4pm Thursday, March 7 at the UVic Bookstore.
Hear, Hear: Best Seats in the House
Experience the beauty of an orchestra from the inside out at this unique rehearsal of the UVic Orchestra, where seats for visitors will be interspersed among musicians to provide an unforgettable opportunity. Immerse yourself as never before in the works of Tchaikovsky and Debussy. Feel the magic of being in the midst of it all. Hosted by School of Music conductor and professor Ajtony Csaba and featuring the student musicians of the UVic Orchestra.
Hear, hear runs 3:15-4:15pm Thursday, March 7 at The Farquhar in UVic’s University Centre building.
Voice in Motion
Can the impact of dementia be reduced through singing and socializing? An interdisciplinary research team at UVic — including School of Music professor emeritus Mary Kennedy— is studying the impact an intergenerational choir may have on health outcomes for people living with dementia and their caregivers, as well as the impact on perceptions of dementia for participating high school students. Hear about the researchers’ findings and observations, then listen to this joy-filled choir share their music. Hosted by UVic School of Nursing professor Deb Sheets, presenters include not only Mary Kennedy but also Erica Phare-Bergh (Choir Director), Stuart MacDonald (Department of Psychology) and Andre Smith (Department of Sociology). With thanks to project partners Island Health, St. Andrew’s Regional High School, St Aidan’s United Church, the University of Victoria’s School of Nursing, School of Psychology and School of Sociology.
Voices in Motion runs 4-6pm Thursday, March 7 at St. Aidan’s Church Sanctuary, 3703 St. Aidan’s St. Note: registration is required for this free event: register here.
Other Faces of Nihonga
An expansion of the current Legacy Gallery exhibit,Translations: The Art and Life Of Elizabeth Yeend Duer-Gyokushō玉蕉, Ideafest welcomes Vancouver-based contemporary artist Cindy Mochizuki for a collective embroidery and listening experience focusing on the racialized effects on women of Japanese descent in British Columbia. Visitors will work together with Mochizuki to embroider an image informed by historical references to Japanese Canadian women during and after World War II, while listening to audio recordings of interviews of Japanese Canadian women exploring issues of race, class, citizenship, nationhood and diaspora.
Other Faces of Nijhonga runs 4-8pm Friday, March 8, and 11am-3pm Saturday, March 9, at the Legacy Art Gallery, 630 Yates St.
Translations continues to April 6, also at the Legacy Gallery, and showcases the movement of ideas, aesthetics, politics and people between England, Japan and Victoria by looking at the life and work of Anglo-Japanese artist Elizabeth Yeend Duer (1889–1951). Born a British citizen in Nagasaki to an Englishman and a Japanese woman, Duer studied Nihonga, a traditional Japanese-style painting, with the renowned painter and teacher Atomi Gyokushi. 跡見 玉枝. Duer took on the artistic identity of Gyokushō 玉蕉. She immigrated to Victoria in 1940 and is among the remarkably few people of Japanese heritage who were not interned during World War II. Instead, she Japanized her new environment by producing Nihonga-style paintings of local indigenous wildflowers while her own identity was being anglicized.
This exhibit is co-curated by Art History & Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler Palmer, Mikiko Hirayama (University of Cincinnati) and Janice Okada (BA, MM St). This is a project of the Williams Legacy Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art of the Pacific Northwest.
Other Ideafest events that will have appeal for Fine Arts followers include the Re-imagining Justice: Art, Law & Social Change exhibit (March 4-8), Latin American Muralism and Identity (March 5), the Express Your Thesis performance (March 6), and the Three-Minute Thesis competition (March 7). But again, be sure to view the full Ideafest schedule.
Theatre professor and Trojan Women director Jan Wood
It’s an ironic contradiction of the human condition that the only thing as timeless as war is our simultaneous desire for peace. Sadly, this makes Phoenix Theatre’s mainstage production of Trojan Women as current as when it was first performed in 415 BCE.
“The play is as relevant as this morning’s Twitter feed,” says director and Department of Theatre professor Jan Wood. “Turn on the news and you’ll find another instance of Trojan Women being played out in the world.”
Running from February 14 to 23 (with previews Feb 12 & 13), Euripides’ tragedy follows the perspective of the wives, mothers and daughters of the defeated Trojan warriors as they struggle with grief, uncertainty and, ultimately, courage while their fates are decided by the conquering Greeks.
Theatre student Una Rekic as Athena in Trojan Women (Photo: Dean Kalyan)
“I like to think art has the power to change things, but this play proves that it hasn’t,” admits Wood. “If we’re not learning the lesson that war is bad, then it must be teaching us how remarkable our ability to survive is.”
Apart from Wood and movement director Treena Stubel, who is both a Phoenix alumna and current instructor with Theatre, this production of Trojan Women is firmly in the hands of the next generation of theatre artists, thanks to the 27-person all-student team of cast, crew and designers. “They know what’s happening in the world. They’ve seen the images and they’ve incorporated the power of that loss into the piece,” says the director. “Young people today are at the forefront of enacting real change in the world. Our survival depends upon it.”
Wood feels the intentionally timeless war-torn set and costume design helps the nearly 2,500-year-old play feel current for today’s audiences. “When I see those boatloads of Syrians coming onto the shore, I think about refugees wandering with no destination, being forced out by war,” she says. “One of the things I’ve tried to do with this production is talk about the resilience of the human spirit, and its ability to move forward: how do we go on when our families have been devastated? How do we walk forward into the future? How do we survive?”
The women of Troy lament their fate (photo: Dean Kalyan)
A performance professor with Theatre since 1996, and an accomplished actor and director in her own right — many will recognize Wood from her on-stage work at the Belfry, Blue Bridge Theatre, Bard on the Beach or the Stratford Festival — this show actually marks Wood’s directorial debut at the Phoenix.
“I am definitely an actor’s director,” she says. “I try to create an atmosphere where people have the freedom to create and follow their instincts. Theatre is a collaborative art form: during rehearsals, the more my actors feel comfortable giving, the more I have to work with, and the easier my job becomes. After all, that’s why we got into this business—because we have instincts, a creative desire and a passion, and we need to trust that.”
Ultimately, however, Wood feels the real impact of Trojan Women shouldn’t be felt on the stage. “As the audience, we bear witness, not only to lives lost but to the capacity of humanity to move forward in times of great darkness.”
The public is also invited to a free pre-show lecture by Dr. Laurel Bowman of UVic’s Greek & Roman Studies department at 7pm Friday, February 15, where she will discuss how the play would have been originally received by an Athenian audience of largely military personnel who were in the middle of a 30-year war between Athens and Sparta.
It’s another busy weekend for the School of Music, with two headlining concerts filling their stages with talent.
First, the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy joins the UVic Wind Symphony on Friday, February 8 for their sixth annual collaboration — a partnership unique in Canada!
The concert, Something Old, Something New, offers a modern twist on the traditional approach to concert programming of an overture, a symphony, a march and a concerto. Featuring new and classic works for wind ensemble, the program includes music by Copland, Persichetti, Jager and Bryant. In addition, UVic student Jason Gordon will be the lead soloist in Gillingham’s Concerto for Euphonium, Winds & Percussion.
The UVic Wind Symphony, conducted by Music professor Steven Capaldo, is recognized as one of the premier wind ensembles in the Pacific Northwest. This March they will go on tour as the featured ensemble at the Okanagan Music Festival, performing concerts to over 800 students, parents and teachers.
The Naden Band, in operation since 1940, is comprised of 35 professional full-time musicians whose primary role within the Royal Canadian Navy is to support Naval Operations, ceremonial events, and public outreach initiatives. Many UVic alumni are members of Canadian Military ensembles, including the Naden Band.
To find out more about the concert program, join for a pre-concert talk in Senate Chambers (University Centre) at 7pm with conductors Steven Capaldo and the Naden Band’s Brayden Wise and Ben Van Slyke.
Something Old, Something New featuring the UVic Wind Symphony & the Naden Band starts at 8pm Friday, February 8 in The Farquhar at UVic’s University Centre. Tickets are $10-$20 — but free for all UVic students!
Second, the latest in the continuing Faculty Chamber Music Series takes to the stage this weekend, with a remarkable lineup of current Music faculty.
Experience the magic when UVic performance faculty join on stage Saturday night to make music together. This remarkable lineup of performers includes the Lafayette String Quartet, pianists Arthur Rowe and Bruce Vogt, tenor Benjamin Butterfield and Merrie Klazek (trumpet), Alex Olsen (bass), Jenny Gunter (bassoon), Alana Despins (horn), Shawn Earle (clarinet) and Russell Bajer (oboe).
This concert will feature works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Camille Saint–Saëns, W. A. Mozart and Johannes Brahms. Learn more about the program with a special pre-concert talk at 7pm Saturday in the School of Music’s room B037, in UVic’s MacLaurin B-Wing.
The Faculty Chamber Music series runs from 8 – 10pm Saturday, February 9, in the School of Music’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, in UVic’s MacLaurin Building, B-Wing. Tickets are $10 – $25.
From the nation’s capital to one of the world’s leading creative spaces, the career of Department of Theatre alumnus Nathan Medd has gone far and fast since his graduation with a BFA in 2001. Now named the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient for the Faculty of Fine Arts, Medd has made a name for himself as one of Canada’s brightest young arts leaders.
Back on campus during Alumni Week to attend the Distinguished Alumni Awards night, visit Theatre classes to speak with current students and to hold a public talk about the importance of creative placemaking, Medd took time out of his busy schedule to reflect on his career to date and the state of the arts in Canada today.
Living his dream
A cultural non-profit leader whose work is devoted to developing the performing arts in Canada, Medd is currently Managing Director of Performing Arts for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, the nation’s largest arts training institution and incubator of new works, a position he took up in August 2018. Prior to that, he was the Managing Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre, where his team successfully championed Canadian creators and initiated a new national stage for Indigenous performance (launching September 2019).
Nathan Medd (photo: Andrew Alexander)
But prior to those key positions, he was Managing Producer of Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre, where he produced original works for Vancouver’s 2010 Cultural Olympiad and co-founded Progress Lab 1422, the performing arts creation studio in East Vancouver, in 2009. And before that, he was the Operations and Development Manager for Victoria’s Intrepid Theatre, where he co-founded Metro Studio — still a flagship venue for Vancouver Island — and also held positions with both the BC Arts Council (programs officer and policy analyst) and the Belfry Theatre (front of house manager), where he started right out of university.
“When I left the Phoenix I had an usually clear sense of direction,” says Medd. “Before I turned 30, I knew I wanted to be leading a mid-sized theatre organization, and before I was 35 I wanted to be leading an A-category theatre organization.”
Any way you look at it, moving from graduation to managing the nation’s leading arts centre in just 18 years is quite the career arc. And that doesn’t even mention the Master’s degree in management from Harvard University he recently completed, or the global pilot run of Harvard Business School’s first digital learning program in which he was invited to participate.
“[Theatre alumnus] Ian Case once told me he felt called to the theatre, the way a priest might say they were called to the church, and I’ve caught myself saying that now too,” he says. “Performing arts is definitely a calling. By the time I was about 13, I knew I only wanted to be in a theatre — it didn’t matter if I was in the booth, behind the curtain or centre-stage. It was quite a surprise to my parents.”
It was no surprise to the Qualicum Beach-raised Medd, however, at least once he got involved with the ECHO Players at the local Village Theatre as a young teen. “It was a place where adults treated children like adults and children treated adults like children — everyone was equal, everyone respected each other,” he recalls. “It was a bit bohemian and I’d never been in a club like that before. It didn’t matter how old you were, we were all just grooving on the idea of making a performance.”
Rising to the Phoenix
Medd (centre) returns for the Phoenix 50th anniversary in 2016 with classmates Jeff Glenn (left) & David Schumann
Given his up-island upbringing, and perhaps the fact that he was his high school valedictorian, applying to UVic’s Theatre program was a no-brainer for Medd; what was surprising, however, was his realization that, after four years in the acting program, acting wasn’t really what he wanted to be doing.
“I had a moment in my fourth year where I started to recognize that acting wasn’t my highest and best use in the theatre,” he says with a chuckle. “I was looking forward to a steady paycheque, making the rules and being in a position to work with and hire my friends — to say nothing of the talent I didn’t have to be acting. But I did have a love for organizing other people and produce work.”
For that, he credits the long-running Student Alternative Theatre Company, or SATCo, which was started by the afore-mentioned Ian Case and the late Tim Sutherland and continues to this day. “[SATCo] gave us a lot of space to try out theories and concepts from class with no one supervising us . . . we learned so much through that, and I learned so much about managing theatre through trial and error.”
While Medd may be well known behind the scenes, his Phoenix classmates included a number of people better known for their roles in the spotlight — including Erin Karpluk of CBC TV’s Being Erica fame, Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley, The Office), Meg Roe (Onegin, and a frequent face on stage and directing with Bard on the Beach), Annette Reilly (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), plus the likes of David Schumann, who is now one of the top trailer editors in Hollywood — many of whom he still sees, whether in person or on screen.
He also points out the value of having a purpose-built facility like the Phoenix building itself. “As I visit more and more schools now, I realize just what a dream the facility is — the three stages are the real asset of the program. A lot of theatre schools across North America have the opposite infrastructure: well-equipped studios but, if they have any performance venue at all, it’s just a ramshackle stage. There’s no facility quite like UVic.”
Medd is a familiar face at conferences and arts gatherings across Canada
As part of the overall Alumni Week activities, Medd will be participating in a free public talk about creative placemaking from 12:45-1:45pm Wednesday, Feb 6, in the Phoenix’s Bishop Theatre. Joining him will be fellow Phoenix alumni and Metro Studio co-founders Ian Case (former Intrepid Theatre general manager, now Director of UVic’s Ceremonies & Events) and Janet Munsil (former Intrepid Theatre artistic director, current MFA candidate in Writing), plus Kevin Kerr, co-founder of Vancouver’s Electric Company and a professor in the Department of Writing.
“My work these past 10 years has been about building infrastructure and altering practices that were built in the 1960s but no longer serve everyone who wants to work in or attend the arts,” Medd explains. “It’s not just a question of physical space, but programmatic space too . . . we’re making space for communities I wasn’t thinking of 10 years ago. With NAC, it was the idea of becoming the living room of the capital: you start with the idea that we’re all artists and we all need a space to be creative.”
He points to next-generational shifts that reflect a new state of mind, as much a sense of place. “Young people get the idea that colonial institutions like the NAC or Banff need to be reversed engineered or disrupted to be relevant and inviting to a wider range of communities than they were originally set up for,” he continues. “And it’s the people who are coming out of school now who’ve never had any other sensibility who will make that change. We’re in a moment where we’re correcting for history — at times, that correction may exclude people who have been in the spotlight for a long time, so maybe someone like Shakespeare needs to be set aside for a generation.”
To best understand the idea of creative placemaking — and the changes in the Canadian arts scene in general — Medd thinks of gardening. “I had a lot of time at NAC to till the soil, and that’s the best analogy for arts management: you spend your days quietly working the soil, then once a year something blooms and it’s glorious.”
The power of place
His new role as Managing Director of Performing Arts at the Banff Centre finds Medd overseeing a wide range of educational programs and residencies, ranging from theatre, dance and opera to classical music, jazz and contemporary music.
The Banff Centre’s iconic location
“It’s really the perfect job for me,” he says. “I’m having a wonderful time learning the ins and outs of other performing arts disciplines and industries and trends. The world of dance is very different from the world of theatre or classical music or jazz — and how they’re different is how they’re each responding to the great questions of our time: intersectionality, climate change, cultural appropriation and sexism.”
Known and recognized worldwide as a leader in creative development, the Banff Centre is an ideal place to have those conversations, says Medd. “Because we care so much about the artistic health of these industries, these are some of the most urgent and compelling work that’s being done today. It’s a great privilege to represent 85 years of tradition in the fine arts, and to represent Canadian culture at events around the world. The big mantra of the Banff Centre is ‘the power of place’—the value of Banff Centre is being here, feeling the power of the territory.”
Howard Jang, the Banff Centre’s vice president of arts and leadership, says he’s “thrilled” by their latest hire. “Nathan is one of the country’s brightest stars in cultural management and his leadership in working with our Performing Arts directors and Arts programs will strengthen Banff Centre’s place as Canada’s leading resource for the advancement of arts and culture.”
Between Banff and his time at the NAC, Medd is intimately aware of the emerging — and authentic — Canadian theatre aesthetics: multicultural, Indigenous, interdisciplinary and site-specific. “We’ve got great spaces all across Canada, but they don’t work for everyone I work with or want to work with. A lot of the work to come is about the underlying assumptions and structures that manage those spaces.”
Advice for the next generation
Medd on the cover of Arts Manager magazine
As the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Nathan Medd now joins the ranks of previous Fine Arts DAA winners, including country music stars Twin Kennedy (BMus ’08), visual artist Althea Thauberger (MFA ’02) director Glynis Leyshon (BFA ’73), author Esi Edugyan (BA ’99), lighting designer Michael J. Whitfield (BA ’67), filmmaker Mercedes Bátiz-Benét (BFA ’02), poet Carla Funk (BFA ’97), musician Paul Beauchesne (BMus ’88), author Deborah Willis (BA ’06), environmental designer Valerie Murray (BA ’78), author Eden Robinson (BFA ’92) and visual anthropologist Andrea Walsh (BA ’91).
As such, does he have any advice for either recent alumni or soon-to-be graduates?
“I’m in no position to give anyone advice, but one thing that worked for me was reckoning with the need to prioritize my career, and the work within, above everything: romance, nutrition . . . everything,” he admits. “I did that out of a fear of not getting a foothold in my chosen industry if I didn’t give it everything I had. But I think if we’re going to spend four years doing something, we owe it to ourselves to give it everything you have. Nothing’s guaranteed.”
That said, he does credit his UVic education with giving him the skills to achieve his chosen goals. “The great value of a fine arts education is gaining the tools of self-expression, self-examination and group process,” he says. “Those skills serve every possible direction you could take in your career, whether you end up in the performing arts or not.”
Looking ahead, Medd accepts that there be more change to come in his life, but feels ready to accomplish whatever task he sets his mind to.
“I’ve been forced way out of my comfort zone every time I’ve made a change, but it’s driven by a conviction that our important artistic institutions need custodians from my generation,” he concludes. “I want to help these institutions work in an evolving, contemporary world.”
The UVic Orchestra concert on February 1 takes its inspiration from Dvorák’s From the New World Symphony “by turning towards the future in presenting new and recently discovered musical ‘worlds’ and landscapes,” says conductor and School of Music professor Ajtony Csaba.
Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D Major (Haffner) is the musical point of reference for the first half of the concert. This symphony began as a serenade, commissioned as background music by the — a prominent Salzburg family — for the ennoblement of Sigmund Haffner in 1782. Mozart converted the serenade into the symphony as we know it today, and it was premiered with great acclaim in 1783 in Vienna.
Georg Friedrich Haas composed …è finisci già?, paraphrasing another Mozart composition in D-major: the unfinished Horn Concerto K. 412. The title — translated as “Is that all [you’ve got]?” — quotes one of Mozart’s many provocative annotations in the score that reveals a humorous communication protocol between the composer and soloist.
Also on the program is Music alumnus Max Murray’s new composition, Cântece. Written specifically for the UVic Orchestra, Cântece reflects on the “essential wisdoms imparted by [Mozart]: the evocation and sustain of dramatic precariousness amidst textural transparency.”
Alumnus composer Max Murray
Dvorák wrote his famous Ninth Symphony in 1893 while he was the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. While living in America, Dvorák became interested in African-American spirituals, plantation songs of the American South as well as Native American traditions. From the New World — a synthesis of many musical traditions — became a fusion of both the Old World and the New.
Hear more about this program at a special pre-concert talk with Professor Gregor Kokorz (Wirth Institute, University of Alberta), composer Max Murray and conductor Ajtony Csaba. This free pre-concert talk begins at at 6:45pm in room C110 of UVic’s Clearihue building.
From the New World with the UVic Orchestra begins at 8pm Friday, February 1 at The Farquhar in UVic’s University Centre. Tickets are $10-$20 — but are free for any UVic student. You can buy tickets here.