100 Years of Broadway takes centre stage

For their second mainstage show of the 2023/24 season, UVic’s Phoenix Theatre offers an epic journey through the most iconic and beloved musicals of our time as 100 Years of Broadway dances into the spotlight. Whether you’re a seasoned theatregoer or new to the magic of the stage, 100 Years of Broadway promises an experience that will leave you with a song in your heart.

Created by noted arranger and composer Mac Huff, this revue seamlessly weaves together medleys and full-song performances, capturing the essence of each era and showcasing the evolution of musical theatre — so expect delightful nuggets of history and fun facts to spice up this musical adventure.

Light the lights

It all begins in the early 20th century at the historic hotspot Tin Pan Alley, the epicentre of American musical genius. Imagine a bustling hive where songwriters, composers and publishers wove the very fabric of popular music with unforgettable music and timeless melodies by the likes of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers — timeless creators who etched their names into the musical legacy that gave rise to today’s Broadway productions.

From there, you’ll be transported to the golden era of the ’50s and ’60s with iconic scores from Cabaret, Guys and Dolls, Hello Dolly! and Oliver. Then it’s a quick fast-forward through the groundbreaking ’70s and ’80s and the works of modern titans Andrew Lloyd Webber (Phantom of The Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, CATS) and Stephen Sondheim (A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Company). After that, we shift into the contemporary, with the likes of Wicked, Something Rotten, Waitress, Come From Away, Rent and The Last Five Years, among many others. 100 Years of Broadway celebrates the past, present and lasting joy that only Broadway can deliver.

A night of nights

It’s all directed by guest director and Phoenix alum Pia Wyatt, who received her master’s degree in directing from UVic in 1994. A professional educator, director and choreographer who has worked throughout the country and internationally, she now shares her talents as a professor of theatre and dance, and head of directing and performance at Louisiana’s Northwestern State University.

“I look forward to breathing new life into each theatrical production, helping create a masterpiece that entices the hearts and minds of the audience,” says Wyatt. “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.”

Indeed, Wyatt’s students and graduates are currently performing on Broadway, cruise lines, regional theatres and amusement parks worldwide. Under her direction and featuring an all-student design team, 100 Years of Broadway speaks to the legacy of the Phoenix theatre program — which continues to nurture top talent who contribute to the cultural landscape at home and abroad.

Alumni director Pia Wyatt

Building the student-designed set for 100 Years of Broadway

On with the show

The stage is set and the legacy of more than a century of beautiful music awaits you with 100 Years of Broadway. Inspiring, entertaining and uniquely able to connect people across generations, 100 Years of Broadway offers a night that will leave you singing and dancing long after the curtain falls.

Don’t miss this unforgettable evening as we celebrate Broadway’s extraordinary legacy! Book your tickets now, as they are already going fast!

100 Years of Broadway runs February 14-17 & 20-24, with 2pm matinees on Feb 17 & 24. Tickets are $11-$32, by phone at 250-721-8000 or in-person at the Phoenix Theatre box office.

There will also be a public pre-show lecture with Department of Theatre chair and Broadway historian Tony Vickery at 7pm Friday, February 16.

 

Fine Arts in the news: media roundup

When it comes to announcements, publications and media appearances, there’s never really a slow time for Fine Arts faculty, alumni and students — and the past couple of months have been no exception. Here’s a quick roundup of who’s been speaking with the media lately.

 

Art History & Visual Studies

In this December article for Forbes magazine, professor Catherine Harding comments on the use of AI in identifying another artist involved in a 16th century painting by Raphael. “It is wonderful if we can use AI in this way,” Harding said. “It won’t be irrefutable. It will depend entirely on the expertise of the people doing the programming, but if they can write the right kind of algorithm, it will be very useful.”

As part of the new Jeffrey Rubinoff Nexus for Art as a Source of Knowledge, professor Allan Antliff has been selected as the inaugural Rubinoff Legacy Professor. This named professorship is just one facet of $230,000 in new funding from the Rubinoff Foundation, which also includes 15 annual graduate student scholarships and the expansion of experiential learning initiatives at Hornby Island’s Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park. Read more in this announcement.

Professor Carolyn Butler Palmer and Visual Arts professor emeritus Lynda Gammon were interviewed on this Jan 6 segment of CBC Radio’s North By Northwest in support of Gammon’s Latent exhibit at Legacy downtown, which is curated by Butler Palmer. There is also an accompanying short visual story with pictures in this issue of the NXNW newsletter.

Adjunct professor Martin Segger recently wrote this fantastic Times Colonist piece about the history of not only Centennial Square but the overall planned design of Victoria’s downtown district.

Adjunct professor Grace Wong Sneddon co-curated the recent exhibit The Magic of Tony Eng (with local historian John Adams) for the Chinese Canadian Museum in Fan Tan Alley. A goal for this museum is to recognize Victoria’s Chinese Canadians and, as such, Eng is an ideal subject: a vibrant and active member of the city, many remember him as a charismatic stage magician, teacher and mentor to generations of local magicians. In other news, Wong Sneddon recently co-authored two chapters in a new book, Diversity Leadership in Education: Embedding Practices of Social Justice (2024, edited by UVic’s Catherine McGregor & Shailoo Bedi): “Unpacking the Equity Myth: Diversity & Leadership Deficit” (with Reeta Chowdhari Tremblay) and “Race and Gender: Chinese Canadian Women and Leadership” (with Lokpriy Shrma & Tremblay).

Alum India Young is cited in this Vancouver Sun article about a career retrospective exhibit by Nuu-chah-nulth artist George Clutes at Vancouver’s Bill Reid Gallery; the exhibit was created by Young plus UVic’s Andrea Walsh and Jennifer Robinson.

School of Music

Marking their official retirement from performing, the “trailblazing” Lafayette String Quartet were recently profiled in this feature article from Strings Magazine. “I hope we’ve instilled a deep love of chamber music in our audiences and students,” said Ann Elliott-Goldschmid. Our students benefited enormously from observing four musicians who respect each other and worked together, unified, in overseeing their studies and musical growth.”

Ahead of his final concert featuring live piano accompaniment to a silent film, professor Bruce Vogt was interviewed by CBC Radio’s All Points West (not archived) and in this Times Colonist story. “I’m certainly not retiring from playing,” said Vogt. “I just won’t be teaching any more. I’ll still be around, until I hear the chimes at midnight.”

January’s masterclass with guest mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy got a shout-out in this Times Colonist roundup.

Professor Benjamin Butterfield plus alumni Isaiah Bell and Timothy Carter all appeared on this segment of CBC Radio’s On The Island talking about their recent concert, Banned from the Concert Hall. Butterfield was also interviewed for this Times Colonist story about the same event. “I’m not sure everyone goes around talking about their arse all day in Baroque circles,” Butterfield said with a laugh. “But this type of thing has been around a long time.”

As the new leader of the annual TubaChristmas fundraiser, instructor Scott MacInnes was featured in this December Times Colonist article. “It’s awesome that such a lowly instrument can provide so much happiness,” said MacInnes, who will be conducting the festive ensemble for the first time.

Arbutus Middle School’s music program was recently announced as the winners—again—of CBC’s annual national Music Class Challenge. While not named in the article, Arbutus’s music program is led by alumni Jennifer Hill & sessional Michael Mazza.

Theatre

As co-author, professor Yasmine Kandil was recently announced as one of the winners of 2023’s Wayman Mullins Award for Best Journal Article, as awarded by the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology Board of Directors. This award is given for the best scientific article as published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology. Kandil, along with co-authors Jennifer A. A. Lavoie & Natalie Alvarez, picked up the award for their article “Developing Community Co-designed Scenario-Based Training for Police Mental Health Crisis Response: A Relational Policing Approach to De-escalation”.

Alum Jena Mailloux (MA Interdisciplinary Studies: Applied Theatre/Curriculum & Instruction) recently published the article “Elevating Critical Pedagogy Through Dramatic Principles: A Comparative Framework Analysis of Anti-Bullying Drama Education and Theatre Research Initiatives” in the Drama Australia Journal.

Alum Alynne Sinnema (MA Applied Theatre) was recently awarded the Canadian Association for Theatre Research Robert G. Lawrence Scholarship for her for the project “Coming to her Senses: Women’s Sexual Empowerment Through Applied Theatre”, which the adjudicating committee found “inventive and insightful in the ways it aims to combine applied theatre, specifically physical theatre, and feminist theory as a way to support women’s voices, embodied and scholarly considerations of women’s pleasure and sexual agency, and mental health.”

Alum Narges Montakhabi was awarded the Canadian Association for Theatre Research (CATR) Heather McCallum Scholarship for her project “Politics and Poethics of Precarity in Contemporary Middle Eastern Canadian Theatre.” Describing her project as “ambitious”, the committee found her work “amplified the voices of less-heard and younger generations of underrepresented Middle Eastern Canadian playwrights, focusing on contemporary (mostly 21st century) plays and playwrights from Iran, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq.”

Visual Arts

Recent MFA alum Maryam (whose last name is not being used in the media due to safety concerns) was quoted in this Times Colonist story about her work in the latest Victoria Arts Council exhibit, You Are Welcome. “I’m still very impressed,” she said of the protests in Iran, where most of her friends and family reside. “The metal [in my piece] represents the strength and power of the women in my country when they were killed and shot in the streets.”

While the late-’90s children’s TV show Nanalan is currently going viral on TikTok, none of the coverage mentions the fact that professor Kelly Richardson worked on the show in between her BFA and MFA degrees. She worked on 71 episodes, making the set & greenery but also puppeteering; this allowed her to buy her first computer which entirely changed her art practice. “I’ve never really stopped making plants and animating bugs in my work,” she says. You can see some behind-the-scene photos Kelly has posted on her Instagram feed.

UVic Impact Chair Carey Newman was involved in the first fully bilingual colloquium of the New Uses of Collections in Art Museums Partnership  at the National Gallery of Canada in December. The conference outlined some of the innovative practices changing the standards and practices of art acquisition. This colloquium was jointly produced by the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) and the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) as part of the CIÉCO Research and Inquiry Group’s Partnership New Uses of Collections in Art Museums.

In other news Carey Newman news, this Vancouver Sun article notes that the traveling exhibition of his Witness Blanket will be on display in the West Vancouver public library from Jan 26-March 8. This touring version is a detailed photographic replica of the original 13-panel sculptural installation, which is now permanently housed in Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Following this stop, the current 17-city tour next comes to the Saanich School Division (March 25–May 10) before moving on to Nelson and Nova Scotia, with more dates booking into 2025.  

Work by current MFA candidate Eeman Masood was featured in Frozen Forest, the recent curated exhibition at Abu Dhabi Art, and will also be displayed at the India Art Fair exhibition in New Dehli via her gallery representative Galerie ISA, from Feb 1- 4. 

 

Writing

Recent Writing grad and Climate Disaster Project managing editor Aldyn Chwelos was recently featured on this story for CBC Radio’s All Points West, speaking about their work documenting testimonials from survivors of severe wildfires and floods—some of which are getting a reprint in the December/January issue of Readers Digest. Chwelos was also featured in a separate interview with CBC Kelowna’s Radio West (not archived).

Teaching professor Marita Dachsel’s new essay collection Sharp Notions: Essays from the Stitching Life was mentioned in the Globe and Mail’s book gift guide for “The Mindful Maven” this year. “As the editors [Marita Dachsel and Nancy Lee] point out, in the 21st century we don’t need to knit, embroider, weave, bead, make lace or spin yarn. But what these essays by crafters get at, instead, is the nourishment found in the meditative (rather than productive) solace of fibre-arts handiwork.” Dachsel was also interviewed for this Vancouver Sun article exploring two new books with Vancouver Island fibre connections. Sharp Notions was also recently positively reviewed for The British Columbia Review, and it was included inAll Lit Up’s “Refresh Your Shelf: New Non-Fiction” list, which included five notable nonfiction reads for 2024.

Professor David Leach spoke with residents at two Isralei kibbutzim for this story for Jewish Renaissance Magazine. “In 2010, I completed a circuit around Israel to research a book about the founding ideals, hundred-year history and slow decline of the kibbutz movement,” writes Leach. “These 270 or so rural communes, dreamed into reality by young Jewish pioneers as a fusion of socialism and Zionism, had marked the borders of the future state and shaped many of its leaders and artists.”

Crookes Professor Sean Holman announced in December that Rappler — the Philippines’ leading digital media company — has published five students stories as part of the Climate Disaster Project Philippines, appearing just in time for COP28. As part of the CDP’s international outreach, UVic’s Division of Continuing Studies provides certificates to the Philippines students for their work in trauma-informed environmental journalism. All five harrowing stories can be read here, here, here, here and here.

MFA Sam Shelstad’s novel The Cobra and The Key was recently included on CBC Book’s list of “30 books to read this winter”. Things are getting meta with this new satirical novel, which is centred on the life of a writer (also named Sam Shelstad) who is busy working on a book about his failed relationship, while he awaits word from a publisher about the manuscript he’s sure will make him a star—a how-to book for aspiring fiction writers detailing the finer points of the craft.

MFA alum Kyeren Regehr has been named the new director of Victoria’s venerable Planet Earth Poetry Reading Series—which, at 28 years, is surely the city’s longest-running continuous literary series. PEP runs weekly, 7-9pm Fridays at Russell Books on Fort Street.

Fine Arts

UVic’s Fine Arts + Grants & Awards Librarian Christine Walde recently presented her book-themed art exhibit Salvage at the Bruce Hutchinson public library branch, in conjunction withthe Victoria Arts Council. Salvage is a collection of driftwood books salvaged from the beaches of Vancouver Island and the Cascadia bioregion of the Pacific Northwest over a ten-year period.

Did you know Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren hosts the pre-show talks for the DanceVictoria series? A dance historian herself, Lindgren speaks ahead of each show in the performance series.

Finally, the winners of our 2023 Student Community Impact Awards were mentioned in Monday Magazine’s coverage of the Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards.

Dracula bites into 2024

Take a bite out of 2024 with a staged public reading of Dracula: A Trilogy of Terror. Split into three separate performances (January 3, 5 & 7), this original seven-part adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel is being adapted and directed by Theatre professor Brian Richmond and is produced in association with the Department of Theatre and Bounce Performance Works. All three readings take place at UVic’s Chief Dan George Theatre in the Phoenix building. Tickets are $10 each night or $25 for all three.

Among the cast are a number of Theatre and UVic alumni, including Victor Dolhai, Paul Fauteaux, Kholby Wardell, Amanda Lisman, sessional Christopher Mackie and former student Jacob Richmond, as well as current students Grace Fouracre and Brigit Stewart, with recent Writing sessional Rachel Ditor as dramaturge.

“We are thrilled to be a part of the development of this exciting new project,” says Bounce Performance Work artistic director, alumni & sessional instructor Treena Stubel. “We see this as a continuation of Bounce’s commitment to the evolution of new work in our community.”

Both an homage to and an updating of a novel considered one of the pillars of gothic horror, Richmond’s story-theatre approach utilizes nine of Canada’s most accomplished actors to portray the hundreds of characters and speak the thrilling prose contained in the original. In this “reader’s theatre” approach, audiences will have the opportunity to hear an epic play that is conceived to ultimately receive a highly physical and wildly imaginative staging.

“Wolves howl, shadows lurk, whips crack, bats fly, men and women scale walls upside down, and blood—lots of it—will flow” says Richmond. “My ambition is to unleash what I believe was Stoker’s ultimate goal, which was foretelling the birth of a new age in which women would realize their fate by stepping into societies central roles.”

Brian Richmond

Movement One: Invasion (7pm Wednesday, Jan 3)

In the first two parts, we are introduced to the apparently carefree life of Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker as they embark on their exploration of the Victorian age’s concept of the “New Woman”. Little do they know that Mina’s fiancé and solicitor Jonathan Harker has unearthed an ancient and a ruthless enemy whose blood-thirsty animus threatens to destroy all that they hold dear.

Movement Two: Exhumation (7pm Friday, Jan 5)

The next two episodes are centered on Count Dracula’s conquest of first the body and then the soul of his first victim since his invasion of Britain: Lucy Westenra. Galvanizing the efforts of the three men who love her, plus the arcane knowledge of the Dutch metaphysician and scientist Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, the movement ends in a bloody rite that raises the question of who is more barbarous: the invaded or the invader?

Movement Three: Annihilation (2pm Sunday, Jan 7)

The final three episodes witness first the persecution and then the emergence of Mina Harker as the new century’s woman warrior. Pulling us through a multi-country pursuit and attempt to permanently eradicate the heart of evil, the adaptation reaches its climax with a battle won but a war that never ends.

Feeling Earnest at the Phoenix

Eric Barnes in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Phoenix Theatre (photo: Dean Kalyan)

The Importance of Being Earnest — Oscar Wilde’s timeless comic masterpiece — has long been celebrated for its sharp humour and daring social commentary. But despite being over a century old and a justifiable mainstay of Western theatre, Earnest has surprisingly never before been mounted at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre.

Running November 9-25, this production debut promises an uproarious evening where identity, transition and transformation collide. Yet despite Victorian Britain’s reservations, modern audiences continue to adore and embrace Wilde’s brilliant play for its enduring humour and relevance.

A transgressive satire

In this fresh take on Wilde’s play, guest alumni director Alistair Newton explores the hidden layers and remarkable queerness that underscore the relationships among the characters. Instead of sticking to traditional Victorian aesthetics, Netwon dives into a dramatic world filled with melodrama, secret codes and playful contradictions, breaking free from the usual clichés associated with this era.

 A perennially popular production that has never gone out of style since its 1895 debut. What’s the appeal for a very contemporary director like Newton?

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

Earnest director Alistair Newton (photo: Carly Lemmon)

Syrah Khan (left) & Carter Lapham in The Importance of Being Earnest (photo: Dean Kalyan)

Reevaluating the 19th century

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

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

Something quarrellous, something queer

In an era when RuPaul’s Drag Race has become a global TV sensation and drag artists regularly appear everywhere from restaurant brunches to library readings, Newton feels Earnest will definitely resonate with Phoenix audiences.

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

From left: Samantha Frew, Syrah Khan &  Claudia Fraser (photo: Dean Kalyan) 

Alumni in the house

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

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

The Importance of Being Earnest runs November 9-25 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre

Orion Series presents Kunji Ikeda

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

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

Kunji Ikeda

Visiting artist

 

7:30pm Monday, Nov 6

Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, School of Music 

Free & open to all 

 

 

Presented by UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts

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

 

 

Don’t miss this dramatic reading of a new solo work created and performed by current Past Wrong, Future Choices artist-in-residence.

From the creator of the most successful comedy about the Japanese Canadian Internment, Ikeda shares their first draft of this brand new solo performance. Ikeda’s creative signature has been built from a deep trust in joyful rigour, and rigorous joy that has generated their own unique brand of dance / theatre / clown. Inspired by modern day rituals, the psychology of creativity, and classic Japanese Oni (demons), this work invites the audience to consider their own definition of joy.

About Kunji Ikeda

Kunji Ikeda 池田 勲二 (he/they) has spent his life researching the super powers of stories and how they can bring us together. Ikeda is the Artistic Director of Cloudsway Dance Theatre (based in Mohkinstsis / Calgary) and is honoured to be pursuing a life of connection and empathy.
 
He performs, directs, and dramaturges while following the natural ecology of the performance. They’ve won awards and stuff, but they are more proud of the connections that art has given them – particularly in physical theatre, where they have the greatest capacity to grow physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing within his community. He enjoys climbing trees, classical music, and drinking tea.
 
For more information and upcoming performances visit www.cloudsway.ca

About the Orion Fund

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

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

Visit our online events calendar at www.events.uvic.ca

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

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

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

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

Staging Equality: Theatre for Young Audiences

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

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

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

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

SETYA director Yasmine Kandil (photo: Megan Farrell)

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

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

Earnest director Alistair Newton (photo: Catherine Lemmon)

Feeling Earnest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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