Dept of Writing busy at Victoria Festival of Authors

Looking to familiarize yourself with the fantastic range of talent associated with the Department of Writing? Don’t miss the third annual Victoria Festival of Authors, where the literary talents of Writing faculty and alumni will be showcased alongside top local and visiting authors.

Running Sept 25 to Oct 1 at a variety of downtown locations, the VFA features the talents of Writing professors Bill Gaston and Lee Henderson, as well as current instructors Marita Daschel and Annabel Howard, plus celebrated alumni authors Esi Edugyan, Eden Robinson, Yasuko Thanh, Carla Funk, Garth Martens and Erin Fisher. Better still, VFA co-artistic director Vanessa Herman is an alumnus herself. Explore the entire author lineup here.

Featuring a range of local and national authors, the VFA offers seven days of readings, events, workshops, master classes and discussion panels all aimed at connecting book-makers and book lovers. They embrace poets, fiction and creative nonfiction writers, as well as other storytellers who come from a spectrum of communities and are at all levels of their writing careers.

It all kicks off on Sept 25 with a celebration of the shortlisted authors for the 2018 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize. Among this year’s nominees are professor Bill Gaston (A Mariner’s Guide to Self-Sabotage), professor emerita Lorna Crozier (What the Soul Doesn’t Want), recently retired veteran instructor Patrick Friesen (Songen), and Dr. Maria Tippet (Sculpture in Canada: A History), a longtime friend and supporter of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts. (Winner announced Oct 17.)

La Palabra En El Tiempo

Here are the events we’re involved in at a glance, but be sure to check the VFA schedule for full event info and ticket prices:

• La Palabra en el Tiempo | The Word-in-Time: Poetry and Flamenco – described as “a 75-minute depth-charge of frenzied dance & guitar, troubled song & English-language poetry” by Governor General’s Literary Award nominee & MFA alumnus Garth Martens, alongside guitarist Gareth Owen & flamenco dancer Veronica Maguire (Sept 26)

• Noon-Hour Author’s Farea casual conversation with writers Bill Gaston, Erin Fisher & Jan Zwicky (Sept 27)

• The Literary Twist – a tasty combination of music, literature, cocktails & art emceed, by alumna Yasuko Thanh & featuring Eamon McGrath, Vivek Shraya & Tom Wilson (Sept 27)

From top left: Howard, Gaston, Funk, Robinson, Fisher, Henderson, Dachsel, Thanh, Edugyan

• Pure Poetry current Writing instructor Marita Dachsel moderates a discussion with poets David James Brock, Laisha Rosneau & Katherena Vermette, as hosted by Victoria Poet Laureate Yvonne Blomer (Sept 28)

• We Are the Weirdos, Mister – discover writers who remix & defy genres when professor Lee Henderson hosts this panel featuring Dina Del Bucchia, David James Brock & Daniel Zomparelli (Sept 29)

• Who Was the Real Lolita? – MFA alumna & instructor Annabel Howard explores the real-life origins of Nabokov’s famous novel with The Real Lolita author & “literary detective” Sarah Weinman (Sept 29)

• Poetry is All Around Us – alumna Carla Funk moderates what promises to be a fascinating discussion with poets Jonina Kirton, Dan MacIsaac, Laisha Rosnau & Katherena Vermette (Sept 29)

• Dream | Love | Leap | Transcend –  Double Man Booker Prize & Giller Prize nominated alumna author Esi Edugyan joins international authors Sheena Kamal, Darrel J. McLeod, Sarah Selecky & Sarah Weinman at this panel discussion (Sept 29)

 • This Life, Here explore the human desire to belong with this panel featuring alumni Erin Fisher & Esi Edugyan plus Sheena Kamal & Sarah Selecky, hosted by bestselling local author & national literary critic Robert Wiersema (Sept 30)

The Trickster in Literaturecelebrated alumna author Eden Robinson wraps the whole festival up with this final “In Conversation” event with Daniel Heath Justice (Oct 1).

Tickets are available online for all events, and students can receive a 20% discount by using the promo code Student2018 when booking. While some events are free, most range from $15 to $25, with the day-long workshops being more.

Fine Arts fantastic at Fringe Fest

If it’s late August, it must be time for the Victoria Fringe Festival. Running August 22 to September 2, this annual explosion of live performance returns with 47 shows from around the globe in 12 venues, plus outdoor events for the whole family and late night programming in the Fringe Club. Pick up a program guide, get your Fringe button (you’ll need one in order to buy tickets) and get ready to Fringe!

Of course, Fine Arts is once again well-represented in the festival, with students, alumni and faculty from not only Theatre but also Music and Writing involved in creating, writing, designing, directing, performing and working behind the scenes in a number of shows. How many will you see?

ANGELS & ALIENS  – Co-created and featuring second-generation Phoenix alumnus Jeff Leard (son of local theatrical legend Jim Leard), Angels & Aliens poses questions like, are we alone in the universe? Are we living in a computer simulation? What do two irresponsible roommates eat for breakfast the morning after awkward sex? In short. No. Yes. And eggs.

BEGINNING/MIDDLE/ENDFeaturing current Theatre student Douglas Peerless,  this eponymous production includes three short plays that are broken into a Beginning, a Middle and an End. The cast will then take those nine parts and mix them around, allowing chance and audience participation to decide their order of appearance — with no performance being the same.

CAREY, OK! VOLUME 1: TIMELESS TIMELY TUNES – Featuring Phoenix alumnus Carey Wass—who first came to the city’s attention thanks to his notable role in the original mounting of the musical Ride the Cyclone—this show features a mash-up of monologues and music, that mixes beatboxing, rap-singing . . . and Sir Ian McKellen? It’s described as a must-see musical experience, and with Wass, we’d believe that.

CORNELIUS & TITANIA OR, A TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS (A COMEDY) – Written by Phoenix alumna playwright and director Pamela Bethel (whose After The Beep was a hit at the recent UNO Festival) and featuring current Theatre student Tallas Munro, this Shakespearean spin focuses on Cornelius who, having had barely one line in Hamlet, finds he usually gets cut and ends up here — with all the other inconsequential characters. Today Titania shows up. According to this fax that just came through, she’s been replaced by a hologram. A comedy about power, privilege and the age old question — who’s responsible for the dirty dishes in the shared kitchen?

DISASTER! – Directed by Phoenix alumnus Cam Culham, this recent Broadway hit musical lovingly parodies the 1970’s disaster-film genre is presented by the St. Michaels University Music Theatre Intensive. Join a colourful group of New Yorkers at the grand opening of a floating casino and disco as they fall prey to all sorts of tragic disasters. This hilarious “jukebox musical” revives popular ’70s songs performed by local teens. They’ll have you grooving and in emergency preparation mode all at the same time!

ERNIE AND BETHY – First performed as a Phoenix SATCo show in early 2018, this comedy examines what happens when puppets grow tired of being controlled and decide to overthrow the human regime. Expect puppet revolution, a struggle to create “real art,” and a healthy dose of existentialism as down-and-out Ernie and overachieving Bethy try to create a children’s show while the foul-mouthed puppets attempt to take over. This show is filled with Theatre students and recent alumni: written, created & assistant directed by Sophie Underwood, directed by Molly McDowell Powlowski, set design by Conor Farrell, costume design by Hailee Jake with an assist by Mackenzie Monroe, lighting design by Tori Isaak, sound design by Aaron Smail, stage managed by Siena Shepard, assistant stage manager Danny Handford, production manager by Logan Swain, puppet engineers Sasha Lazin and Christian Tervo. Featuring Sheldon Graham, Emma Grabinsky with puppeteers Rachel Myers.

FADO – A tale of love and ghosts told through the saddest music in the world—Portuguese fado — this show features the talents of Phoenix alumni Cyllene Richmond, with designs by Patricia Reilly. Brought to you by the creators of the 2015 Fringe Favourite Lieutenant Nun – featuring live music by local fado singer Sara Marreiros.

THE FITTING ROOMWritten by Writing grad Ellery Lamm and original mounted by local Vino Buono theatre in 2017, this is a play about growing up, coming out, facing loss and finding faith. Four teens, a mom, a rabbi and one fitting room: six people all linked to the sudden death of thirteen-year-old Noah. This Phoenix-heavy production is directed by Anna Marie Anderson, with stage manager/sound designer Aaron Smail, set/costume designer Delaney Tesch, lighting designer Elizabeth Martin, and featuring actors Ciaran Volke, Emma Newton, Emma Grabinsky and Eva Hocking.

FOOL’S PARADISE – France, 1686. Mathilde is a young nun whose life radically changes when she meets Julie d’Aubigny, a notorious Parisian opera singer and swordsmaster. Together they plan a daring escape from the convent and elope across France, but it isn’t long before Julie’s colourful past catches up with them. Featuring Phoenixers Julie McGuire and Sophie Chappell, with designs by Annie Konstantinova.

KITT & JANE: AN INTERACTIVE SURVIVAL GUIDE TO THE NEAR-POST-APOCALYPTIC FUTURE – Co-created by Phoenix alumni Kathleen Greenfield and Ingrid Hansen, this encore presentation features Fringe favourite Hansen in the cast, with LX design by Michael Franzmann. Two 14-year-olds hijack their school assembly and train their classmates to survive the coming apocalypse. A poignant exploration of the world today’s youth are inheriting, and how they’re willing to fight for it. Last seen locally at Phoenix’s 2013 Spotlight on Alumni.

LA PALABRA EN EL TIEMPOWith bold rhythm and improvisation, local company Palabra Flamenco presents this mix of fierce dance, live guitar, troubled song and English-language poetry – a grief and praise that soak their way to dark corners. How to confront what’s buried? Hold death near, affirming life? This myth-inflected encounter honours what we’ve lost, what we’re going to lose. Written by Writing MFA alumnus Garth Martens, winner of the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry and author of Prologue for the Age of Consequence (Anansi). With acclaimed guitarist Gareth Owen, singer Veronica Maguire (co-founder of Alma de España), and principal dancer Denise Yeo.

THE MEASURE OF LOVE – Phoenix alumnus director Wendy Merk presents this remount of an earlier Fringe hit. Love, betrayal, redemption . . . The Measure of Love is a dramatic exploration of the friendship between two women. “This story of Catholic obsession with guilt and sin is a charmer and devilish fun and in the hands of these veteran performers it’s sensational. Powerful, moody and rewarding. Who said there are no good roles for women anymore?” – Times Colonist.

RATFISH COMEDY SHOW – Join musical director and School of Music professor Patrick Boyle and experience everything that’s made Ratfish Victoria’s favourite local comedy show for 7+ years, all jammed into less than an hour: amazing hosts, a great band, surprise guest performers, hilarious headliners, roast battles — even open mic spots where you can sign up at the show for a chance to grab a 3-minute spot to perform your own original comedy at the Fringe!

SHERLOCK HOLMES & THE CURSE OF MORIARTY Sherlock Holmes is back in his deadliest adventure yet in this new show from Victoria’s Triple Fringe Award-winners Outpost 31. This brand new re-imagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless classic by David Elendune (Leer, Winnie The Pooh, Casino Royale) features Phoenix alumni Trevor Hinton, Ian Simms, Ellen Law and Connie McConnell.

WAR OF 1812 – Phoenix alumnus Ian Case directs this hilarious historical romp, featuring a who’s-who of the local comedy scene—including Wes Borg, Morgan Cranny, Rod Peter Jr and Mike Delamont. A young boy hates Canada until the ghost of Pierre Burton  takes him on a tour of Canadian History, from the tennis ball battle fields of York to a Laura Secord mega musical, all in a Birchbark time canoe. Get ready for the funniest history lesson of a lifetime!

WATER PEOPLE – Phoenix alumnus and instructor Clayton Jevne directs this drama about Beth, a middle-aged novelist, who begins caring for her disabled mother. It seemed the right thing to do at the time, but a sociopathic social worker, a diabolical sibling, a high maintenance cat, and the woman in the mirror confirming time is not standing still are now “writing” the story that is defining Beth’s life.

THE WILDS – Co-created and featuring Kate Braidwood, this production by 12-time Best of Fest winners The Wonderheads (Loon, Grim & Fischer) features their iconic larger-than-life masks. Wendell’s wife and their beloved tree have vanished, so he must venture into the Wilds to bring them home. Pixar meets Miyazaki in this extraordinary adventure. And watch for a special one-night-only presentation of Grim & Fischer on November 8 at the Metro Studio!

And we’d like to offer a special shout-out to our alumni and students working with Fringe organizers Intrepid Theatre to get this event up, including Jaxun Maron, Sienna Shepard, Emma Leck, Melissa Taylor, and Carolyn Moon with Ticket Rocket box office support by Kate Loomer.

—with files from Adrienne Holierhoek

New donations benefit students

Never underestimate the impact a donation can have for students. For many, both undergraduate and graduate, it can make all the difference in their academic career.

“As a student from a rural town and a lower income family, this scholarship will go a long way in making it possible for me to focus on my studies in the coming academic year,” says Lauren, a third-year Theatre student.

For some, it provides opportunities previously undreamt of — “I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to go to university, and the generosity of your gift has already made such a lasting impact on my studies,” says Laura, a third-year Visual Arts student — while for others, it offers the chance to realize their dreams: “My dream to teach music would be much more difficult without the generosity of you and your family,” writes John, a fourth-year student in the School of Music, in a donor thank-you letter.

The Faculty of Fine Arts distributes over $1.5 million annually from more than 200 separate student awards, benefiting students in all five of our departments. Each year, we’re proud to not only distribute funds from previously created or endowed awards, but also to facilitate the creation of new awards — in fact, 2016/17 saw six new awards created.

Here are just a few of them:

Writing professor Maureen Bradley in the active-learning classroom

Technology expands the horizons of literature

A lifelong love of literature, theatre and education has been fused with digital technology, thanks to a $25,000 donation by Dr. Robert Aitken in memory of his mother. Mary Aitken was a well-loved teacher at both Mt. Douglas and Esquimalt Secondary schools who strongly believed in fostering creativity and keeping up with the latest technology. Now, the Mary Aitken Legacy Scholarship will support students in our new Digital & Interactive Media in the Arts minor, enabling future generations of writers to get their start.

New art therapy scholarship established

There’s no doubt art can make you feel better, and now the Centre for Human Science Research and Its Relation to Human Science Association (formerly the British Columbia School of Art Therapy) has donated $32,000 to establish a new award. The Kathleen G. Collis Art Therapy Scholarship will support Fine Arts students with an interest in phenomenological approaches or other forms of community engaged creative activity that contributes to the field of art therapy and the therapeutic use of the arts.

Dean Susan Lewis (left) with Anna & Eunice Lowe

Fundraiser grows Legacy Scholarship

The Faculty of Fine Arts co-hosted an elegant fundraising dinner at the Union Club in June, in support of the Stephen and Eunice Lowe Legacy Scholarship. A silent auction of over 80 items of art and sculpture from Eunice Lowe’s private collection raised over $18,000 for the scholarship, which is awarded to undergraduate in either Art History & Visual Studies or Visual Arts. Widow of the late celebrated artist, Stephen Lowe, Eunice has tirelessly and graciously sought ways to support our students with her generosity of time and financial support and as an arts ambassador for our community.

New Music award commemorates CFUV host

For over 30 years, Eric LeBlanc’s blues show Let the Good Times Roll appeared weekly on UVic’s CFUV radio. While he spent 25 years as the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory’s librarian, Eric was also a self-taught blues scholar: his collection of thousands of recordings was donated to CFUV after his death in 2015, and over 300 music-related books were donated to the McPherson Library. Now, friends and family have created the Eric LeBlanc Memorial Scholarship for School of Music students with a passion for jazz and blues.

Making the most of a century

Samantha Krzywonos (far right) marks the
98th birthday of longtime donor Tommy Mayne in 2016, with three Theatre student recipients of his scholarship

When noted teacher, philanthropist and lifelong theatre devotee Tommy Mayne passed away in April at the remarkable age of 99, he had already begun to see the impact of his legacy: the Thomas and Elizabeth Mayne Bursary in Theatre, established in 2010, has benefited a number of students, many of which Tommy was able to meet. “I was filled with admiration at his generosity,” said Theatre professor Brian Richmond on his passing. “The city—and the arts community—has lost a wonderful man.”

New awards this year

Indeed, the impact of these kind of gifts lingers long after students graduate. “This award comes at a crucial moment in my studies,” noted one Masters candidate in Theatre. ”Simply put, I don’t know how I would be able to graduate [without it].”

We are grateful to these and our other donors who expanded the range and breadth of awards available to our students by establishing new awards this past academic year:

Sarah Blackstone Endowed Scholarship in Theatre
Dave Ian Dunnet Music Education Scholarship
Eugene Dowling Scholarship Fund in Music
Roger J. Bishop Writing Prize

As Miriam, a second-year Writing student, puts it, “This award has lit me with the confidence I need to take risks and trust my voice and my visions.” It’s hard to not feel good about making this kind of a difference in a student’s life.

To learn more about our giving initiatives, please contact Fine Arts Development Officer Samantha Krzywonos at 250-721-6305 or finedev@uvic.ca.

Summer is the time to register for electives

Ever taken a course where you study — and play — video games? Or watch Pixar movies? What about the acting experience, public speaking, humour writing, art forgery, or the cultural impact of film music or the history of fashion & body modification?

From the cultural impact of Star Wars to the inside track on making it as a young adult writer, it’s tough to beat Fine Arts when it comes to cool electives. With over 100 electives open to all students on campus, we’ve got something that will boost your creative and critical thinking skills regardless of your faculty or major.

Each of our five departments offers an exciting range of electives designed to broaden your creative experience. From Music and Writing to Theatre, Visual Arts and Art History & Visual Studies, most of our courses are designed as hands-on experiential learning opportunities — like Vikes Band, where you play live game-day music, Magazine Production, where you conceive of and create your own magazine, or Photography & Video Art, where you put your skills to use behind the camera.

Other courses take a broad approach to cultural studies — like the Asian Identity in Popular Culture or Indigenous Peoples & Music — and look at shifts in society and artistic practice and production over hundreds of years.

Whatever your interest or program, Fine Arts has an elective that will enhance your degree — and your life.

 

Professor challenges WHO “video game addiction”

When the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on June 18 that they were declaring “video game addiction” a mental health condition in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases, Department of Writing chair David Leach felt compelled to respond.

Writing professor David Leach

“The announcement didn’t necessarily surprise me because there is a feeling in the public consciousness that video games are addictive and that kids spend too much time on them,” Leach told the Vancouver Sun in this June 21 interview. “My problem is when you label it addiction it conjures up visions of heroin and your 12-year-old kid living on the street and not talking to you anymore. It’s like talking about being addicted to movies when what you’re really talking about is being addicted to pornography.”

A journalist who is also an expert in gaming culture, Leach had just returned from Toronto where he’d organized two symposia on the social power of video games the week before the WHO news broke. He recently launched UVic’s fledgling Digital Storytelling & Social Simulation Lab to further these interests, he has also done a double-blind study about the use of gamification for education when he was director of UVic’s Technology & Society program.

The WHO felt labeling “gaming disorder” as its own unique addiction would allow governments, health care workers and families to be more aware of the risks and better prepared to identify and deal with them. But even though they admitted gaming disorder is rare — estimating three percent of all gamers (at most) are affected — Leach challenges this idea.

“Three per cent is a wild exaggeration,” he told the Sun, noting all the people in the world — including grown men and women — and all the platforms on which they play games. “That would be millions of people. It speaks to the lack of understanding of how predominant interactive games and media is. If you think of how many people play video games, that number must be much lower, something like 0.001 percent.”

According to the WHO, gaming disorder shares many symptoms with substance and gambling problems — which, says Leach, “feeds into media and parental concerns that already exist . . . it shouldn’t be disparaged as a gateway drug to addiction.”

Leach also spoke to CBC Radio’s On The Island on June 20, and was featured in this CHEK TV weekend news spotlight on June 25.

Leach recently taught the elective WRIT 324: Writing Interactive Narrative, which looked at the history of interactive media from which-way-books, to ZORK and VR Rollercoasters. It was also under his time as Technology & Society director that the popular History of Video Games & Interactive Media course was introduced. He was also the organizer of the Games Without Frontiers research forums, held during UVic’s Ideafest in 2013 and 2016, which examined the social power of video games.

“Video games have become both the mythology and a form of literacy for, I’d say, the last two generations,” Leach told the Times Colonist in this 2013 interview. “They experience the world through games; games are kind of their narrative expression.”

Leach still believes the variety and potential of video games and their technology need to be taken seriously, examined critically and understood in depth.

Student reflection: Dungeons & Dragons in the classroom

When my family first moved to Canada, we visited my grandparents’ house and loaded all of my dad’s childhood things into a moving van.

A large amount of these boxes were filled with old first edition Dungeons and Dragons modules and rule books, a collection which has continued to grow since my siblings and I began playing with our dad.

We’ve played together for over 10 years now and, even though I live on the opposite side of the country (I am originally from Nova Scotia), we still play over Skype every weekend . . . which makes me one of the few university students up at eight a.m. on a Saturday.

At most universities, this part of my life would have no relation to my academic career but in the WRIT 324: Writing Interactive Narrative course I was able to use this decade-long passion for 50 percent of my final grade!

WRIT 324 is a course on writing for interactive media taught by David Leach. 2018 was the second year the course had been offered and it drew over 40  students. Leach took us through the history of interactive media from which-way-books, to ZORK, to VR Rollercoasters all while teaching us the techniques writers use to encourage engagement and player investment.

We had smaller assignments throughout the term, but our final project was the true test of our learning. The project was left completely open-ended to encompass the wide variety of interactive media we had been introduced to over the year. This gave me the perfect opportunity to use my years of Dungeons and Dragons experience, as well as my love of horror stories.

I had previously written small adventures for campaigns in the Ravenloft Domain (a world overrun with undead and evil), but I underestimated the time it took to write a full murder mystery with its own specialized mechanics.

I included a prophecy card game that would determine the order of the murders, a map of the manor, statistics for where characters would be found in the house, room descriptions and personality outlines for each character. Just this information and the story outline took over 35 pages — which is a bit much even for a third-year project. Ultimately, I worked with Leach to determine which parts of the module were essential to the project requirements, which allowed me to polish these sections and give him a bit less to read in the end.

WRIT 324 gave me an experience I didn’t expect to have in university: to work on skills surrounding both a long time passion and my degree. It also gave me an experiential lesson in the amount of work a complete piece of writing can take.

If I could take the class again, I certainly would, though I don’t know if I could come up with a project I’d be as proud of as my module, Sylvia’s Misery. If anyone loves video games and has taken writing classes (or can argue their way as an exception to the rule) I completely recommend this course and the freedom it offers for you to explore your interests!

—Written by Writing undergraduate student Ali Barr

This story was originally published on the My UVic Life student blog