Fine Arts Welcome (Back) Party

If you’re a Fine Arts student in Art History & Visual Studies, School of Music, Theatre, Visual Arts or Writing, then you’re invited to our annual Welcome (Back) Pizza Party. The Fine Arts teaching faculty & staff will be serving, so swing by and say hi!

Join us from 4-6pm Thursday, Sept 15, in the Fine Arts courtyard for pizza, cake, drinks & a prize draw for 5 Fine Arts hoodies (1 per dept)—and it’s all free!

Indigenous Theatre Festival focuses on language reawakening  

The cast performing Jealous Moon(Credit: One Island Media)

As Indigenous Elders pass, how can younger generations best learn and increase their fluency with traditional languages? Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta believes applied theatre techniques can be an important part of the language-learning equation, and this month’s Indigenous Theatre Festival Reawakening Language on Stage offers a glimpse into how performance can powerfully augment classroom education.

Running at the Phoenix Theatre from September 16-18 in collaboration with the Hul’q’umi’num’ Language and Culture Society (HLCS), Hul’q’umi’num’ Language Academy and other university partners, the festival offers a weekend of performances, workshops and discussions aimed at exchanging research-based knowledge on the best practices for using theatre as a tool for this essential project.

“Language revitalization is the most important thing,” says Hul’q’umi’num’ speaker and Cowichan Tribes member Tara I. Morris, a PhD candidate in theatre and linguistics who is working with Sadeghi-Yekta on the festival. “We’re fighting for our language—we don’t accept it to be extinct—so we’re organizing and preserving and revitalizing with the younger generation. This festival offers a beautiful way to create space and help keep the language going . . . people need to know how hard we’re working.”

Sedeghi-Yekta (right) rehearses with community participants tsatassaya | Tracey White and suy’thlumaat | Kendra-Anne Page (Credit: One Island Media)

 

A different way of learning

Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta has been engaged with this project since 2015 and her work has been supported by a number of SSHRC grants, including a new three-year Partnership Development Grant with UVic linguistics professor Sonya Bird as co-lead. “[This festival] is about inspiring other communities who are struggling to maintain their languages,” she explains. “We’re hoping to offer a spark for people to see that it’s possible to learn traditional languages through alternative ways—it doesn’t only have to be in classrooms.”

Sadeghi-Yekta was originally invited to participate by HLCS language specialist Joan Brown (now executive director of the Snuneymuxw First Nations) and SFU linguist Donna Gerdts, who were looking to find new ways to revitalize the Hul’q’umi’num’ language—which was traditionally spoken across a wide geographical area, ranging from now-Washington State and the Fraser Valley to the Gulf Islands and south-east Vancouver Island.

“Joan thought using theatre was a fantastic idea,” recalls Sadeghi-Yekta, a multi-lingual applied theatre practitioner whose international experience working with different cultures was ideally suited to this project. Given that performance has always been an integral part of Indigenous communities, theatre seemed an ideal fit for this project. “There was a steep learning curve on both sides to understand each other—both cultural protocols and the language of applied theatre—but the beauty of live theatre is you always start with your body, so we began by finding ways for participants to move past the discomfort of performing.”

Combining theatre techniques with community storytelling

Currently working with about 60 participants, Sadeghi-Yekta combines theatre-based techniques with community-inspired storytelling to help participants increase their fluency, focusing on nourishing a sense of excitement in speaking and performing only in Hul’q’umi’num’ . . . so festival audiences shouldn’t expect any subtitles.

“The whole point of the festival is that we want to celebrate Indigenous languages without translation,” she notes. “If we provide subtitles, the concentration towards Hul’q’umi’num’ could easily be gone. It’s a very complex language to learn.”

PhD candidate Morris—now co-director of the featured play Jealous Moon—has been involved with the project since 2019 in a variety of roles. “It’s been interesting being a student, learning the Hul’q’umi’num’ vocabulary for the play, acting it out and now helping teach and direct it,” she says.

Ironically, Morris’ grandmother—the late Theresa Thorne—helped create the Hul’q’umi’num’ dictionary and actually worked with SFU’s Gerdts years ago. “It’s such an honour to now be involved at this level,” she says.

kwustunaat rehearsing the role of Owl in Jealous Moon (Credit: One Island Media)

Engaging younger generations

Sadeghi-Yekta estimates there were over 50 fluent Hul’q’umi’num’ speakers when she began this project—a number that has now sadly dwindled to less than 30 over the COVID years.

“Our Elders are passing so quickly that we’re trying to make sure we find ways to expedite the process and engage the younger generations,” she says. “The great thing about this project is that it inspires specifically younger participants to commit to the learning of the language—and to feel confident in speaking it—which is where it all starts.”

Given that the festival has been twice-delayed due to COVID, she is excited to finally bring Reawakening Language on Stage to campus. In addition to the performances and workshops, the festival will also include important life lessons about persisting, building confidence, overcoming adversity and helping others. Expect heartfelt messages of sorrow and reconciliation, loss and hope, and the realization that Indigenous languages are not just an object of study but a means of artistic expression—with the ultimate hope of galvanizing a new generation of Indigenous performers.

A full weekend of performances

As well as a September 16 full-cast performance of the original play Jealous Moon—written by Hul’q’umi’num’ community member Chris Alphonse—festival participants include Dene director and playwright Deneh’Cho Thompson (USask), Education Leadership master’s candidate Yvonne Wallace of the Lil’wat Nation (UBC), indigenous/Xwulmuxw studies professor Laura Cranmer (VIU), indigenous education, Victoria’s Visible Bodies Collective, plus theatre PhD Lindsay Katsitsakatste Delaronde (UVic) and Fine Arts Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator Karla Point.

“Participants always tell me that they’ve learned to play again through applied theatre, that it’s one of the few times they can laugh again without focusing on other worries, ” says Sadeghi-Yekta. “They say that it’s brought the community more together as well—and that’s a huge compliment for the art.”

Awinakola: Tree of Life public discussion

How can art help develop strategies to heal the planet, heal the people and change culture? Find out at this free public talk by the Awinakola: Tree of Life Research Group from 3-4:30pm Sat Sept 10 in room A162 of UVic’s Visual Arts building.

This community presentation & discussion is in conjunction with the exhibition Still Standing: Ancient Forest Futures, running to Sept 17 at UVic’s Legacy Art Gallery downtown.

Join exhibit artists including MFA alum Rande Cook, Visual Arts professors Paul Walde & Kelly Richardson plus forest researcher Suzanne Simard (author of Finding the Mother Tree) & Ernest Alfred, Hereditary Chief of Tlowit’sis First Nation, elected leader of the ‘Namgis First Nation and leader of the Swanson Occupation. This discussion will be moderated by Still Standing exhibit curator Jessie Demers.

Awinakola: Tree of Life is a research group comprised of Indigenous knowledge keepers, scientists and and artists brought together by Makwala – Rande Cook, an artist and Hereditary Chief of the Ma’amtagila First Nation. By sharing cross-disciplinary research practices, the group seeks to develop strategies to heal the planet, heal the people, and change culture—starting with regeneration and preservation of threatened forest ecosystems in Kwakwaka’wakw territory through the confluence of Indigenous knowledge, scientific research, and the arts.

Don’t miss this amazing chance to hear a free public discussion with award-winning Indigenous & two-spirit singer/musicologist Jeremy Dutcher (Tobique First Nation) from noon – 1:20pm Friday, Sept 9 in the Chief Dan George Theatre, Phoenix Building.

Joining the Polaris Prize and Juno Award-winning Dutcher for the discussion “Art, Truth and Memory” will be Ry Moran (UVic Libraries) Lindsay Delaronde (Audain Professor, UVic Visual Arts) and both Chaa’winisaks & Carmen Rodriguez de France (UVic Indigenous Education). Together, they will explore how the arts, archives and language can further the goals of Truth & Reconciliation.

Tickets are also still available for his performance at The Farquhar at UVic 7pm Friday, Sept 9.

A classically trained operatic tenor and composer who takes every opportunity to blend their Wolastoq First Nation roots into the music he creates, Dutcher blends their distinct musical aesthetics that shape-shift between classical, traditional, and pop to form something entirely new. Their debut release, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, involved the rearrangement of early 1900s wax cylinder field recordings from his community.

“Many of the songs were lost because our musical tradition was suppressed by the Canadian government,” says Dutcher. “I’m doing this work as there’s only about a hundred Wolastoqey speakers left. It’s crucial that we’re using our language because, if you lose the language, you’re losing an entire distinct way of experiencing the world.”

Phoenix Theatre announces 22/23 season

While UVic’s Phoenix Theatre is well known for offering top-quality mainstage productions each year, these shows also serve as an integral part of the academic requirements of students enrolled the Department of Theatre’s BFA and MFA degrees.

When you attend the Phoenix, you get to experience some of this city’s most exciting and eclectic theatre—while also participating in the education of our students. Our students learn by doing: they’re involved in every aspect of these productions, from acting on stage to the design, creation and management of sets, costumes, props, sound and lighting.

We’re proud to announce our upcoming season, which has been carefully selected to showcase the difference that the youth, talent and energy of our students can make as they become Canada’s next generation of theatre artists.

Spring Awakening

Running November 10-26, Spring Awakening rocked the theatre world when it opened on Broadway in 2006 to critical acclaim, winning eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

Based on an 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind, Spring Awakening forever changed the definition of what a musical could be, breaking boundaries by exploring the journey from adolescence to adulthood with poignancy and passion. With musical numbers that are full of literary allusions, poetic depth, anger and emotion, Spring Awakening is an electrifying fusion of morality, sexuality and rock ‘n’ roll!

Guest Director: Michelle Rios
Music Director: Mary Jane Coomber
Set Designer: Ken Matthews
Costume Designer: Jane Wishart
Choreographer: Alison Roberts

Vinegar Tom

Set in a time when it’s dangerous to be a woman without a husband—or just a woman who’s different—Vinegar Tom is a wild mash-up that blends a 17th-century witch hunt with modern musical numbers that cleverly connect this tale to how women’s bodies remain a battleground today.

The play, written in the 1970s by the much-acclaimed British playwright Caryl Churchill, leads us to question not only the historical persecution of “witches” over the ages, but why anyone persecutes anyone. In this work Churchill is at her best: raw, satirical, political, and mad as hell!

Running February  16-25, 2023, Vinegar Tom is directed by MFA candidate Francis Matheu.

“What is a witch? A woman who is just a bit too attractive? A bit too ugly? A bit too handy with spells
and magic?”
– LA Times review

Mojada

Medea and Jason have escaped the worst. After a harrowing journey across the Mexican–American border, the couple has finally made it safely to the United States, where they can work toward a better life for their family. While Jason is convinced the future looks bright, Medea fears a darker fate as they face the challenges of living without documentation.

Written by playwright Luis Alfaro, Mojada blends Euripides’ classic play Medea with Mexican folklore as it examines the tragedy behind America’s immigration system and the destiny of one family caught in its grip.

Running March 16-25, 2023, Mojada is being led by guest director and acclaimed playwright and author Carmen Aguirre.

“Mojada is unpretentious and entertaining… Not only is the play about crossing borders, but Alfaro knows how to walk that line between thunderous naturalism and absurdist pulp, being as our lives often seem composed of both.”  – Chicago Tribune

Information about single tickets or season subscriptions can be found at the Phoenix box office.

Art gallery a fertile ground for magic of forests

A screenshot from “The Ground That Mends,” the stop motion video by UVic fine arts PhD alumna Connie Michele Morey

Groundbreaking research in the 1990s by forest ecologist Suzanne Simard revealed that trees “talk” to each other through an underground network of fungi. Until September 17, anyone who visits UVic’s downtown public art gallery will be able to easily imagine this network underfoot and a thick green canopy overhead while standing among the paintings and other artworks of a new exhibition. But imagining the tang of cedar and pine or experiencing art and virtual reality cannot fully recreate the tangible splendour and ecological diversity of old growth forests.

That tension, between living forest and framed likeness, defines the Still Standing: Ancient Forest Futures exhibition at Legacy Art Galleries Downtown. It is guest curated by Jessie Demers, who was at the War in the Woods protest at Vancouver Island’s Clayoquot Sound in 1993.

“Please, John, Don’t Screw This Up For The Rest of Us / Staircase,” by Mike Andrew McLean, plexi-transmounted digichromatograph, metallic paper/plywood backing

Art, ecology and activism

Still Standing brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists in a dynamic dialogue involving diverse perspectives on art, ecology and activism. It will feature oil paintings, colour-pencil and pastel drawings, and wood and metal sculptures, as well as photography, video, animation and installations—including by seven artists affiliated with the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Demers believes that art “can create common ground while challenging the paradigms that keep us separate from one another and the earth.” As curator of the spring 2021 Eden Grove Artist-in-Residence Program (edengroveair.com)—created to bear witness to both the forest and the Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek) Blockades on Pacheedhat territory—Demers then worked with most of the 12 invited resident artists to develop this new exhibition in Victoria.

Her hope is that it will allow viewers to come away with a greater understanding of the urgency to protect these last stands of ancient forests.

On a snowy day in March 2020, I set up a donated canvas tent, which became the home and studio for the Eden Grove Artist-in-Residence Program. It had last been used by blockaders at Clayoquot Sound 30 years earlier, where I was arrested as a teenager. From March to May, 12 artists were invited to witness the magic of the forest, the strength of the community of forest protectors and the complexities inherent in colonial resource extraction on unceded lands.

—Jessie Demers, guest curator of Still Standing: Ancient Forest Futures at Legacy Downtown

The exhibition features eight of the artists from the Eden Grove program: Fine Arts alumna Connie Michele Morey; Heather Kai Smith; Jeremy Herndl; Kyle Scheurmann; Fine Arts alumnus and sessional instructor Mike Andrew McLean; Visual Arts professor Paul Walde; Chief Rande Cook (Kwakwaka’wakw), a Fine Arts alumnus and former Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest at UVic; and Valerie Salez.

They are joined by five other artists: Carey Newman (Kwakwaka’wakw, Coast Salish and settler), inaugural Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices with the Faculty of Fine Arts; Gord Hill (Kwakwaka’wakw); Fine Arts alumnus Jordan Hill (T’Souke); and Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson.

We are grateful for the opportunity to hold space for this exhibition and the many ways that visitors can experience these works. Still Standing brings together artists’ responses to the magic and power of Eden Grove. It allows for reflection and invites action on how we individually and collectively value the old growth forests that are special to this place.

—Caroline Riedel, Acting Director, Legacy Art Galleries

“The Black Cedar” by Jeremy Herndl, oil on canvas

Scene from “Talisman (III)” by Kelly Richardson, 4K video on silent seamless loop

Evoking a sense of awe

The exhibition is meant to evoke the feeling of BC’s temperate rainforests and a sense of awe in looking up at ancient arboreal wonder. The essence of these big trees, centuries old, is reflected in the work of the dozen artists. The exhibition also captures their interpretations of how people can work toward uprooting the damaging effects of colonialism and consumer culture in the context of old growth.

The pieces will range from Walde’s large-scale photograph of the circumference of one of Eden Grove’s immense and ancient cedars, to a sculptural floor piece by Cook and a silent video by Richardson.

Newman, working together with Camosun Innovates and a team of its mechanical engineering students, has also designed an innovative tool to apply sustainable practices—rather than using old-growth wood—for the same cultural purposes of carving his artworks. At the exhibition, he’ll be presenting a cedar maquette of the second-growth totem he’s currently working on.

Art as instigator of change

Demers adds, “In this time of climate crisis, we need collective action and I see art as a powerful instigator of change. By sharing new perspectives and embodied experiences, art can move us past paralysis and into action.” With that in mind, the exhibition will also include an area where viewers can explore further research online and write postcards to government.

Still Standing runs at Legacy Downtown through to Sept. 17.

—Tara Sharpe

This story original ran on the UVic News site