The reviews are in for Phoenix Theatre’s mainstage production of The Madwoman of Chaillot, and audiences are enjoying its “visual delights and thought-provoking observations,” as local arts writer Janis La Couvée writes in this review, which also highlighted the work of director and Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz and his design team.
The Madwoman of Chaillot (all photos by David Lowes)
Describing the production as “a meta-theatrical spectacle of tremendous proportions, serving up visual delights and thought-provoking observations that will leave the audience questioning their role in the scheme of things,” La Couvée notes that “once again, Victoria is fortunate to have a theatre department where foundational work of this scale can be staged.”
In the Times Colonist review, Sarah Petrescu felt “the large cast of colourful characters and absurd plot are a rare malleable clay for interesting staging and direction,” and noted how “Alexandrowicz specializes in physical theatre and makes excellent use of movement . . . a table of bad men plots to destroy the city out of greed, rolling on chairs as they choreograph their scheme.”
Petrescu also highlighted the work of cast member Chase Hiebert, a Phoenix graduate and current writing student, as well as the set by Theatre professor and alumnus Patrick Du Wors as “a fantastic version of a café in Paris, built with massive black and white illustrated backdrops.”
This review from the Showbill Victoria online arts mag felt Madwoman still “proves its relevance almost 75 years after being written. “The play is loaded with enticing wit and is brought to ‘justice’ by the studious cast, who don’t stumble through impressive vocal projection and fluid movement across the stage – so well-rehearsed that it’s not all that noticeable that some actors catch chairs being tossed to them by the crew until you realize an extra seat had appeared,” writes Shayli Robinson. “Being performed in 2017, though – especially in Victoria – it is a great allusion to the energy and oil projects proposed to pass through our province that are oft-viewed as evil and disastrous, particularly by our elderly, quirky, and whimsical fellow citizens . . . . The Madwoman of Chaillot is an entertaining, thoughtful show that will leave you seriously pondering the persecution of evil and the fate of British Columbia.”
This Monday Magazine review also singled out the work of Du Wors and graduate student costume designer Michelle Ning Lo, as well as undergraduate cast members Sarah Jean Valiquette and Nicholas Guerreiro, noting the “productions at UVic are . . . extremely professional and well-executed. One always has to admire the skill with which the drama department manages the challenging plays they choose.”
Writing for UVic’s student newspaper The Martlet, Jakelene Plan felt that “the theatrical design to come out of the Phoenix Theatre is often the most innovative and engaging work I’ve seen. It continually pushes the boundaries of what I expect and what I think is achievable, and the work done by Patrick Du Wors on set, Michelle Ning Lo on costumes, and Matthew Wilkerson on lighting design exceeds all my expectations.” Plan noted that “their unified vision of a colourful, cheerful Paris becoming infected by greed (represented by grey scale) is cohesive and complementary. …colour is an easy and striking way to draw attention to themes, but it’s the creative application that raises the technique from commonplace to spectacular.”
Over at Camosun College’s Nexus student newspaper, Leslie Do felt, “The Madwoman of Chaillot [was] a great performance . . . the action was perfect . . . . [and it] registers on a deeply human level.” She was also “especially impressed by the outstanding performance by Nicholas Guerreiro . . . his voice, his attitude, and his acting were absolutely incredible,” and concluded that director Alexandrowicz “brings a great performance to the audience with this play . . . [which is] definitely worth two hours of your attention.”
The Madwoman of Chaillot runs at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, 8pm Monday – Thursday until November 25, with 2pm Saturday matinees. Tickets range from $15 – $26 and can be booked by phone at 250-721-8000, or in person at the Phoenix Box Office. Recommended for ages 13+.
While university may be the logical choice for many high school students, not everyone finds their path right after graduation: many opt to spend some time working or traveling before deciding on a specific field of study.
Recent Visual Arts grad Brandon Poole was principal photographer for “The Tom Thomson Centennial Swim” project in Ontario’s Algonquin Park in 2017 (photo: Paul Walde)
Brandon Poole made just such a choice, spending his 20s as a carpenter and electrician, hitchhiking across Canada, living on a sailboat; and the classes he did take (philosophy, photo journalism) didn’t lead to any specific path. It wasn’t until he decided to shoot a series of photos in downtown Vancouver’s back alleys that he had his academic epiphany.
“I was trying to find a way of resolving my myriad of skill sets without leaving anything behind,” says the 31-year-old Poole, graduating this month with a BFA in Visual Arts. “I like working with my hands, and I need an output that’s not just about writing and concept; it needs to be combined into a more overarching mode of work. Art school solved all those problems.”
He also spent a good part of this past summer working with department chair Paul Walde on his latest site-specific intermedia project, The Tom Thomson Centennial Swim. Poole traveled to Ontario’s Algonquin Park where he put his camera skills to work as the primary videographer documenting Walde’s complex project, as well as handling logistics and equipment purchases.
Poole and his Fifty Fifty exhibit (photo: Monday Magazine)
“All of these opportunities provided me with a well-rounded understanding of what’s possible in an academic situation for arts-based work, as well as the outside opportunities that exist,” he says. “It’s simply more skills to bring to the table for whatever I choose to do next.”
As for what is next, Poole says the next logical step is pursuing an MFA back east. “I draw a lot of strategies from journalism, from photography, from the building industry and architecture — and the outputs of those are videos, photographs, sculptures, and drawings, all of which get tied together in a specific space. The works aren’t enough on their own; the space is always highly considered.”
For a guy who never would have described himself as an artist before attending UVic, Poole has indeed found his path. “I really think the undergraduate program here is fantastic,” he says. “It’s especially useful for encouraging the cohesion of skills and interests.”
Art is often quite prescient. Be it science fiction or political satire, a tasty analogy or handy metaphor can be a welcome tool for many artists in an effort to comment on current happenings. But what happens when, 70 years later, a far-fetched idea becomes closer to reality than the original event?
French playwright Jean Giraudoux wrote La Folle de Chaillot during WWII when Paris was under siege by Nazi forces. Unable to address the political situation directly, he used metaphor as a way to protest the violent incursion of his beloved city; unfortunately, Giraudoux was in ill health when he wrote the play and did not live to see either its premiere or success after the war.
It was understood by audiences at the time that the evil and corrupt businessmen who were trying to profit from supposed oil underneath Paris — as portrayed in The Madwoman of Chaillot, which opens November 9 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre — were stand-ins for the Nazis, whose occupation of the City of Light and much of France caused humiliation, hardship, and tragedy for the French Resistance, French-born Jewish people and those who had fled to France prior to the outbreak of war.
Giraudoux offers us a protagonist to work against these representatives of evil: Countess Aurelia, an eccentric holdover from a less cynical time. When she learns that her cherished neighbourhood of Chaillot is in peril because of the businessmen’s plans, she bands together with a rag-tag group of artists, vagabonds and dreamers to fight back. Fast-track to 2017, when oil pipelines are being driven through our communities jeopardizing wildlife and our environment, and suddenly Giraudoux’s artistic metaphors no longer seem like a far-fetched threat.
“We live in the era of climate crisis — something even Giraudoux may not have been able to even imagine,” he says. “With the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion set to begin, we are forced to take the figures of evil in the play — bent on profit-making regardless of the costs — at their face value; for us their status as metaphor has disappeared.”
An essayist and dramatist who wrote 15 plays, Giraudoux also served France as a diplomat, government official, and a soldier in World War I. His writings often tempered tragic themes with rueful comedy, using allusive prose, allegory, fantasy, and political and psychological perceptions. The 1947 English translation of Madwoman by Maurice Valency holds to this day, and the play has seen a resurgence of interest in the last few years.
The set of Madwoman of Chaillot (photo: David Lowes)
The sets in the current Phoenix production — designed by recent Theatre professor and alumnus Patrick Du Wors — allude to the nostalgic café-lined streets of Paris, even though they are only flat, massive representations of 19th century engravings.
Costumes, designed by MFA student Michelle Ning Lo, have WWII-era references for the businessmen, and vibrant and flamboyant Edwardian-era frills for the “madwomen.” Lighting design by fourth-year student Matthew Wilkerson captures the streets of Chaillot and helps heighten the moments of comedic absurdity, as does the sound design by third-year student Logan Swain, featuring classic Parisian music that is slightly off-kilter.
Michelle Ning Lo’s costume designs
“The designers and I have taken a meta-theatrical approach to the production, eschewing realism completely for a play that operates in the realm of the fantastic, in the genre of post-modern performance as much as in comedy,” says Alexandrowicz.
Indeed, anyone who has seen past Phoenix productions by Alexandrowicz — including 2015’s Lion in the Streets and 2012’s Good Person of Setzuan — will recall his dynamic blend of imagery, movement and text.
Keep your eyes open for intentional elements of creative anachronism that will help to make comparisons to 2017 even more apparent.
—with files by Adrienne Holierhoek
The Madwoman of Chaillot runs at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, 8pm Monday – Thursday from November 9 – 25, with 2pm Saturday matinees. Tickets range from $15 – $26 and can be booked by phone at 250-721-8000, or in person at the Phoenix Box Office. Recommended for ages 13+.
If you’re new to Fine Arts, we’d just like to offer you a big welcome — as well as a hearty “welcome back” to all our returning students! We/re happy to have you join our vibrant student community here in Fine Arts.
But we appreciate that first year can be a difficult time for any student, so here’s a quick round-up of orientation activities that will help you feel more grounded in your life as a Fine Arts student.
This is a great chance for first year and transferring Theatre students to meet returning Phoenix students before classes begin. We’ll all introduce ourselves, play some games, and get to know each other. Towards the end of the event, you will be paired up with a Phoenix buddy (an upper-year student) who will give you a tour of the Phoenix building and insider information on studying here. You can ask your buddy any questions you have about being a Phoenix student!
The New Student Welcome is the main program for approximately 3,000 first-year and short-term UVic students. After check-in and late registration on the quad lawn west of Petch Fountain, students will be officially welcomed with the opening invocation ceremony by the Elders in Residence, UVic president Jamie Cassels and celebrated grad Craig Kielburger of Me to We and Free the Children. Students will then move through a variety of components in the afternoon including a services tour of campus, academic presentations with the faculty deans, a barbeque lunch with the president, library tours, a welcome by the Campus Cousins to the First Peoples House, and an information fair at the end of the day.
As part of this, Fine Arts will be hosting our annual welcome and orientation from 1-3pm in the Bishop Theatre, with departmental tours and orientation sessions to follow.
Thursday offers a Farmer’s Market (10am-4pm), more Bands on the Roof (noon-4pm), and the 19+ Felicita’s Karaoke (7pm-midnight), and Friday offers the Vikes Thunderfest (noon-4pm), plus even more Bands on the Roof (noon-4pm), Days of Thunder Soccer at Centennial Stadium (6:30-8:30pm) followed by the 19+ Blue & Gold After Party (9pm-12:30am) and the all-ages Back in Black Light Party (8:30pm-midnight).
If you’re a Theatre student and haven’t felt welcomed enough, you’ve still got one more chance. All Theatre students are encouraged to join us for the Department Welcome and learn about what’s new, who’s new and important upcoming events in the building, then you’ll move outside for the annual group mug shot. Show off your smile and jazz hands and officially become part of Phoenix’s historic and ever-growing photo wall!
If you’re a new or returning Indigenous student, connect with the Indigenous community on campus during this week of celebration. Meet our Elders-in-residence, LE,NONET Campus Cousins and Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement staff, learn about Indigenous student groups and be introduced to student supports on campus. All sorts of activities are happening throughout the week, including an Indigenous Student Support Open House, Totem Pole Rededication, Brunch with the Elders, Indigenous Co-op Information Session, Salmon Barbecue, Native Students’ Union Open House, Evening with LE,NONET Campus Cousins and UVic’s Indigenous Plan Launch.
Student life is great, but what comes next? Co-op and Career Info Day is the place to discover our career services and programs, learn about the co-op program and how you can gain paid work experience that’s relevant to your degree, find out about our flexible work experience program and check out entries in our annual photo contest!
Ready? Set? GLOW! The free, annual Vikes glow in the dark dodgeball event returns. Get in on a night of mayhem! Make sure you wear your brightest clothes, as there will be black lights everywhere to make you pop. Then, we’ll start throwing down with some intense dodgeball.
There are over 200 clubs on campus dedicated to environmental, cultural, political, religious, and recreational causes. Clubs are funded through student fees and receive a stipend from the UVSS every semester. They are free to join and are open to students and community members. From swing dance to game development to the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, there is something for everyone. Come see what strikes your fancy!
• Fine Arts Welcome Party: 4:30-6pm Thursday, Sept 14 in the Fine Arts Courtyard
We’ve saved the best (well, maybe the best tasting) for last. All new and returning Fine Arts students are invited for free pizza, salads, drinks and prize draws at our annual welcome back celebration. Meet the faculty and staff in this fun and relaxed social environment.
No question, the annual Fringe Fest is one of Victoria’s best-loved festivals of any kind. Now in its 31st year, the Victoria Fringe Festival offers 330 performances of 58 shows by 350 artists in nearly a dozen venues around town — as well as a number of free community events — over 12 dynamic days, from August 23 to Sept 3. From spoken word, drama and musicals to dance, comedy, magic, theatre for young audiences and more, you just can’t beat the Fringe when it comes to a tasty smorgasbord of theatrical delights!
Once again, Fine Arts alumni and current students are all over the fest; while most are (logically) associated with our Theatre department, you’ll also find participation by alumni and majors in our Writing department as well. But whether they’re acting, writing, directing, designing or working backstage, our alumni and students have been an integral part of the Victoria Fringe as long as it has existed. And we send a special shout-out this year to our alum and students working behind-the-scenes with organizers Intrepid Theatre to get this event up and running, including Technical Assistants Simon Farrow and Carolyn Moon, and Ticket Rocket box office support with Kristen Iversen and Kate Loomer.
Below you’ll find a listing of this year’s Fringe shows involving Fine Arts alumni and students; but whether you only see one show or pick up a multi-show pass, you’re guaranteed to see something you’ve never seen before. Happy Fringing!
Ever wondered how to perform the “Assisted Pee Over Water”? Ever struggled with a sense of self? Still grieving the death of Jack Dawson? Written and performed by storyteller Holly Brinkman, who promises that you’ll laugh, you’ll cry . . . you’ll try not to pee your pants.
AFTER THE BEEP Created by Pamela Bethel (BFA ’99), design consultation by Erin Macklem (BFA ’98).
Pamela found cassettes from her very own answering machine she had as a teenager during the early 1990’s. Despite the obvious risk of death by embarrassment, she’s sharing this archive of adolescence with live audiences. Part confessional, part show-and-tell, it’s an exploration of awkward times revealed by the recorded voices of BFs, BFFs, a frenemy and wrong numbers. After The Beep had a sold-out run at UNO Fest 2017, and is once again presented here under the auspices of Theatre SKAM, which features the work of alumni Matthew Payne (BFA ’93), Andrew Barrett (BFA’12), Kathleen Greenfield (BFA’05) and current students Bridget Roberts, Brendan Agnew and Emma Leck.
ALL THESE PEOPLE WATCHING
Featuring Matt Lees (BFA ’90), Krista Wallace (BFA ’89), and current student Maggie Lees (their daughter), (also joined by their son David Lees), with stage manager Molly McDowell-Powlowski (current student), and script advisor Nicole “Coco” Roberge (BFA ’98).
A family of actors on stage together for the first time: Mom, Dad, Son and Daughter explore themes of family, friendship, life and death. How does a tight-knit family stay that way amidst life’s challenges? (Pie and beer may be mentioned!)
Here’s a schtick you can to sink your teeth into! Winner of two (and nominated for five) Montreal Fringe Awards, this show focuses on one family, generation after generation . . . and beavers. Sharing the same land, the same lake, and the same nightmare depicting commercial development threatening their corner of paradise in the Laurentians, Quebec. The best dam show! (“Nothing less than brilliant”– Savage Clown Montréal)
Directed and created by Colette Habel (BFA ’16), with Grace Le (BFA ’17), and current students SJ Valiquette and Arielle Parsons. Performed by Colette Habel, Grace Le, SJ Valiquette and Arielle Parsons. Design by Delaney Tesch (BFA ’17), with stage management by current students Molly McDowell-Powlowski and Siena Shephard, and marketing by Victoria Simpson (BFA ’17).
Devised from true stories and memories, Daddy Issues is a collage of vintage denim and classic rock that explores the relationships between daughters and their fathers. This is for the dads that were always there and never there; the dads we chose and those we didn’t; the dads we wanted gone, and the dads who left us too soon.
In the spirit of Canada 150, St. Michael’s University School presents the Canadian-grown, Broadway smash hit musical The Drowsy Chaperone — winner of five Tony Awards. New York Magazine has called it “the perfect Broadway musical,” as it gently pokes fun at the myriad tropes that characterize the musical theatre genre. Meet Man in Chair, an eccentric and engaging music theatre enthusiastic, as he introduces us to a fictitious 1928 musical. It is an affectionate send up of the Jazz Age musical, full of toe-tapping songs and colourful characters, from pastry chef gangsters to starlets.
Local actors Melissa Blank and David MacPherson present this loving tribute to George Burns and Gracie Allen. “George: Do you like to kiss? Gracie: No. George: What do you like? Gracie: Lambchops. George: (to himself) Lambchops. Could you eat two big lamb chops alone? Gracie: Alone? Oh no, not alone . . . with potatoes I could. George: You could. Gracie: Yep.”
GRUFF Featuring Trevor Hinton (BFA ’07), created by Mercedes Bátiz-Benét (BFA ’07)
A rollicking puppet musical about what happens when the grass really is greener on the other side, performed outdoors in a beautiful little park by the sea — created by 2015 Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni recipient Mercedes Bátiz-Benét (Puente Theatre), Judd Palmer (the Old Trout Puppet Workshop) and Brooke Maxwell (composer of Ride the Cyclone). Singing goats! What more do you want?
INTERSTELLAR ELDER A SNAFU Dance Theatre production by co-creators by Kathleen Greenfield (BFA’05), Ingrid Hansen (BFA ’09) and Britt Small (MFA ’04). Featuring Ingrid Hansen, with puppetry coach Mike Petersen (previous student 1980-82). SNAFU began at the Phoenix back in 2006!
From the creators of sold-out shows Little Orange Man and Kitt & Jane. Meet Kitt, fierce lone geriatric astronaut adrift in a spaceship carrying cryogenically frozen human cargo. Her mission: protect the last of humankind. “Amazingly versatile physical comedian with the best ending in the history of fringe.” – Montreal Gazette.
JUKEBOX DRIVE Featuring current student Natasha Guerra and Amy Culliford (BFA ’14), with current student Emily Bamletter as co-director and technical lead.
With Bon Jovi, they speed away from the scene of a crime; with Sinatra, they share their first kiss; with Adele, they spread the ashes of their dead friend. With music providing the backdrop, the actors of Jukebox Drive take a different improvised road trip each night, with a soundtrack influenced by the audience.
With this world premiere, Wendy Magahay (Old Lady’s Guide) stars as Satan in this originally sinful, all-female, horrifyingly humorous, re-imagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear — now a twisted tale of the mother-and-daughter fight from Hell. Adapted by award-winning local playwright David Elendune (Casino Royale / Winnie The Pooh).
LOLCOW Created by Robbie Huebner (Writing BFA ’14, MFA’16), directed by current student Karin Saari, featuring Pascal Lamothe-Kipnes (BFA ’17) and current students Annie Konstantinova, Taryn Roo Yoneda and Caitlin Holm. With film director Max Johnson (BFA ’14), and music/sound design by Graham Roebuck (BFA ’11).
“lolcow: (lol-kaʊ), n. person whose foolish behavior can be ‘milked’ for amusement.” Sheena’s boyfriend, Stan, is a lolcow. As an e-celebrity Stan is successful, but Sheena finds herself targeted by online trolls, the topic of an invasive podcast. A dark comedy that explores isolation, longing, identity, and the thinning line between public and private life in an increasingly digitized world.
Monica vs. The Internet is an honest account of a Filipina feminist on YouTube. Blending storytelling, videos and comments from her own channel, Monica explores the implications of words through humor. Created by Monica Ogden (Fistful of Feminism) from award-winning Paper Street Theatre, and Ann-Bernice Thomas, the 2016 Youth Poet Laureate of Victoria.
O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL Written by current student Nicholas Guerreiro, directed by current student Elizabeth Martin, featuring students Brett Hay and Anna Watts, with design by Delaney Tesch (BFA ’17), Victoria Simpson (BFA’17) and current student Matthew Wilkerson, stage managed by current student Siena Shepard.
We promise it’s not about Christmas. Well, it’s a little bit about Christmas. It’s also about a mysterious circular painting, a security guard with an angry streak, a foul-mouthed art aficionado with a fake name, and a Slovenian nihilist on a secret crusade. It’s about family, faith, and non-representational art, and the weird bonds that hold people together. Originally produced as a SATCo show here on campus!
Part game show, part memoir, part house party, this is a living collage that combines fun and prizes with a story about losing the people closest to you. A rolling, heaving memoir, Six Fine Lines is pop rocks for your head and heart.
As always, we’ve only listed the shows involving Fine Arts students and alumni — be sure to check out the many, many other shows on view during the Fringe!
How can theatre activate the experiences of migrant youth, while at the same time providing a window into the experiences they face while assimilating into a new culture, new society and new city? Questions like this are at the heart of a new Applied Theatre performance directed and devised by Theatre PhD candidate Taiwo Okunola Afolabi.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps welcomes the cast on June 20
Commissioned for World Refugee Day 2017 and created in partnership with the Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) and the Applied Theatre program in UVic’s acclaimed Theatre department, the live interactive play Journeys of Arriving, Belonging and Becoming was first performed to a packed house of 65 people at Victoria’s City Hall on June 20 — including Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, City Councillor Jeremy Loveday, Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) director David Lau, and Michael Shamata, Artistic Director of the Belfry Theatre. It was also remounted as a free outdoor theatre performance on June 29 in the #UVic quad.
“The performance explores complexities that surround refugees and migrant movements, which can be overwhelming — especially when we don’t have a clear way to actively engage with the issues and individual experiences,” explains Afolabi.
Director Taiwo Afolabi during the audience talkback session
The powerful 50-minute show features a mix of drama, dance, music and spoken word, all aimed at exploring the very real process of relocation, resilience, settlement and integration. It showcases common experiences like choosing an English name, learning a new language, and the difficulties that come with navigating everyday situations like ordering coffee, finding a job or dealing with the donation of unwanted goods from well-intentioned but thoughtless people.
The cast of “Journeys of Arriving, Belonging and Becoming”
But more than just presenting these difficulties, Journeys of Arriving also provides a creative platform for a cast with a truly global background: Syria, Israel, Russia, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Nigeria and Canada.
Most of the eight-person cast are Department of Theatre students — including Annie Konstantinova, Jasmine Li, Megan Chandler, Olivia Wheeler, Thiptawan Uchai and Victoria Stark — with the addition of UVic student Tianxu Zhao, and community member Samer Alkhateb.
“Actors’ experiences and stories from refugees, immigrants and newcomers in Victoria inspired the performance,” says the Nigerian-born Afolabi. “We asked ourselves challenging questions around identity, language, assimilation, psychological needs and the other experiences that refugees and immigrants face.”
The cast performing on campus on June 29
VIRCS youth program coordinator Jasmindra Jawanda says the seed of the idea began about a year ago when she first met Afolabi.
“We both discussed the possibility of working together on a youth theatre play . . . as we both felt youth were often left in the shadows. They are the forgotten ones, standing on the margins of society wanting to fit into Canadian culture but because of the many barriers and challenges that they face, they struggle to integrate into their new communities. We wanted to shine a light onto their stories and truths.”
For his part, Afolabi says he wanted “a storytelling approach” to the material — thus the inclusion of monologues, dialogue and action with music — and occasional moments of humor and comedy allow the cast to address highly emotional and socially sensitive issues. “I worked with an amazing, passionate and dedicated team. Each person volunteered almost 50 hours to devise this performance.”