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eNews: Phoenix BackstagePASS

This Fall, as you gather your family around the thanksgiving table, consider how often food is a significant part of the ties that bind your family together. For Samantha and her father David – the two main characters in our 2009/10 season-opener The Josephine Knot – their idea of family is held together by Baba, Samantha's grandma, and her obsession for preserves and pickling. In this BackstagePASS, learn more about the play and Set & Costume Designer Meg Newton's family pickling recipes.

Behind the Scenes: Pickles and preserving the past - Josephine Knot designer gets into her work

A grandfather clock, piles of newspapers, a lamp made out of Popsicle sticks, an old wedding veil and lots and lots of pickles: Welcome to Samantha’s grandmother’s house.

This is the packrat world of Baba, created by UVic Theatre alumna Meg Braem in her play The Josephine Knot, which opens the UVic's Phoenix Theatre 2009/10 season for our annual “Spotlight on Alumni” and runs October 15 through 24, 2009. Meg Braem (BFA ’04) is joined by her twin sister Jen Braem (BFA ’04), also an UVic alumna and general manager of Theatre BOMBUS which has brought together other alumni to work on this production: director Amiel Gladstone (BFA ‘94), costume and set designer and production manager Megan Newton (BFA ’05), lighting designer Michael Franzman (BFA candidate for 2010) and actor Laura Harris (BFA ’06).

Laura Harris (of much acclaimed one-woman show about Judy Holliday Pitch Blond) plays twenty-five-year-old Samantha who travels with her father, played by veteran Victoria actor Brian Linds, to their family home for the wake of her grandmother, Baba.

In and about Baba’s hoards of knickknacks and preserves – jars of pickled everything, from potatoes and onions to watermelon and cantaloupe – Samantha wades through long-forgotten relatives and personal family memories as everyone stakes their claim to grandma’s treasures. The play is named after a sailor’s knot that is used to make two pieces of rope function as one. “Metaphorically, Baba’s house does the same for Samantha and her father David," says Set & Costume Designer Megan Newton. “It’s only by wading through the mounds of newspaper, dirt and canning that they can come to terms with who she was, what they’ve lost, and appreciate what they have found in each other.”

Megan is responsible for visually creating Baba's world on stage at the Phoenix Theatre. She takes her role as Set Designer very seriously – right down to the pickled cantaloupe – and spends the weekend before the play opens canning the props herself!

"The play asks for pickled watermelon, so that's what I make," says Megan. "I want the preserves to look authentic for the audience." She also feels its important not to waste the food, so most of the canning actually gets eaten afterwards!

Megan learned to can from her mother who learned to pickle from her grandfather. "My great-grandfather was the real expert in preserving. For him, it was a matter of survival to get through the winter and the pantry in his old house – like who even has a pantry anymore! – was full of pickles, jams, beans, and canned salmon."

The recipe Megan uses was handed down from her mom (see recipe below). "It is mine and my brother's favourite, but mom says she'll only make pickles if we're around to help make them." With her and her brother living away from home, this doesn't happen as often as it used to. "But when we are there, we eat up the jar in the fridge and take one for home."

Megan's family does their preserving in late August, but the canning has to cure for about six weeks, so they usually can't be eaten until Thanksgiving. "That's the thing about pickling, it has a deferred enjoyment factor," says Megan.

"I realize not a lot of people learn to make preserves anymore. If you want one, you can just buy it at the store," says Megan. "Maybe its a generational thing, but I'm glad its been passed on to me."

Check out Megan's family recipe for Pickled Beans and Carrots below, or see the thousands of recipes from peaches to pork online at www.picklethis.com.

Pickled Beans & Carrots

1.5 lb tender green and/or wax beans
.5 lb sweet carrots (or baby carrots)
2 cups water
1 pt (2 cups) vinegar
¼ cup pickling salt
4 large cloves garlic
4 large heads dill
1 tsp cayenne

  • Wash the vegetables, then trim stem ends from beans, and cut carrots into sticks to fit jars (baby carrots can be left whole). Pack beans and carrots uniformly into hot, sterile jars.
  • To each pint add ¼ tsp cayenne, 1 clove garlic (cut into two or three pieces), and one head dill.
  • Heat together water, vinegar and salt. Bring to a boil, then pour over the vegetables in each jar, leaving about ½ inch headroom. Put lids on jars.
  • Process in a boiling water bath at 212 F for 5 minutes by immersing them in a large pot of water (so they are covered at least 1 inch deep) and bring to the boil. Start timing when the pot is at a full rolling boil. Processing is important to ensure any bacteria in the jars are killed: do not shorten the time.
  • Remove jars from canner and allow to cool. Do not over tighten the lids.
  • Makes 4 pints... can be successfully doubled.

Upcoming Events: October

October 15– 24: The Josephine Knot
By Meg Braem | Produced by Theatre BOMBUS
Presented by

October 7: Box Office Open for The Josephine Knot tickets.

October 16 at 7:00pm: Free Pre-Show Lecture
Please join Janet Munsil, Artistic Director and Festival Producer of Intrepid Theatre, who’s “Petri Dish” program nurtured the development of The Josephine Knot for stage. She’ll discuss the implications of recent funding cuts to the development of new theatre. This free lecture is open to everyone, including those with play tickets for alternate evenings.

October 16 at 7:30pm: ORION Lecture:
Galileo as Artist and Scientist with Dava Sobel

The International Year of Astronomy celebrates the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first telescopic observations. While he used his scientific skills to build and refine his telescopes, he needed his talent in perspective drawing to interpret what he saw through them. His musical ability, acquired from his composer father, also figured in some of his experimental designs. Join acclaimed science journalist Dava Sobel, former New York Times science reporter and author of Longitude, Galileo's Daughter and The Planets.
Presented by the Departments of Theatre, Physics and Astronomy, and the School of Music in conjunction with the development of a new play about Galileo by Dr. Jennifer Wise, The Moons of Jupiter.

October 24 at 2:00pm: Sign Language Interpretation
Experience The Josephine Knot with special sign language interpretation. Internationally renowned Deaf interpreter Nigel Howard will be signing the dialogue and play description of The Josephine Knot with hearing interpreter Mary Warner. We're proud to be able to bring the magic of theatre to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community for two plays this season.

October 24 at 3:15pm: Performance Creation Canada Panel Discussion
Who owns this story? Propriety and Appropriation in Theatre Creation The Phoenix will be a location for the Performance Creation Canada conference that is meeting in Victoria, October 22-25, 2009. Join them for this panel discussion with guest speakers Matthew Payne (Theatre SKAM) and Will Weigler (author/researcher/Theatre PhD Candidate). Follows the 2:00 pm matinee of The Josephine Knot.

November 27: 2009/10 "Spotlight on Alumni" Call for Submissions
The Department of Theatre invites our alumni to submit a proposal for the department's October 2010 "Spotlight on Alumni" position in the Phoenix Theatre's 2010/11 season. Click here for details. Deadline for submissions is November 27, 2009.

2009/10 Season

November 5– 21: Romeo & Juliet
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Brian Richmond
Presented by

February 18 – 27: Problem Child
By George F. Walker
Guest Director Michael Shamata (Artistic Director, Belfry Theatre)

March 18 – 27: Wreckage
By Sally Stubbs
Directed by Fran Gebhard

Phoenix Phacts:
News on Alumni, Faculty, Staff and Students

Victoria is home to a multitude of theatre companies – including Theatre SKAM, Intrepid Theatre, Theatre BOMBUS, Suddenly Dance Theatre – and dozens of our theatre alumni are the heart of many of these organizations. This October they will host a national event for theatre creators Performance Creation Canada (PCC) Conference in Victoria on October 22-25, 2009. This is a creative, practical event for the folk who are making exciting innovative indie theatre across the country. It is open to anyone interested in performance art and fosters the development of ideas and dialogue between creators across varied performance disciplines with interactive practical events including art walks, panel discussions and workshops.  It is a great chance to get inspired and connect with theatre peers. See above for the discussion panel that will be held after the matinee of The Josephine Knot. All are welcome to attend.

During the conference, attendees are encouraged to take in Victoria theatre (which also feature lots of our alumni), including a remounting of Atomic Vaudeville's Ride The Cyclone, and SNAFU Dance Theatre's award-winning Fringe production, Pretty Little Instincts, Giggling Iguana's Jekyll & Hyde at Craigdarroch Castle, Suddenly Dance Theatre's Romp Festival and Theatre SKAM's Homegrown Collective – Haunted.

Alumnus Victor Dolhai (BFA '07) was named and interviewed by the Times Colonist as one of their Rising Stars, a six-part series on Victoria artists under the age of 25. Writer Adrian Chamberlain interviews Dolhai and discusses his emerging career in this Times Colonist article. Dolhai performed in all three of the plays this summer produced by Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, including a starring role in The Fantasticks.

Phoenix alumnae Ingrid Hansen (BFA '09) and Sarah Pelzer (BFA'09) are performing in Pacific Opera Victoria's current production of La Traviata in small standout dramatic roles. La Traviata continues at the Royal Theatre until October 10, 2009. POV's next production The Rake's Progress (November 12-21) features a set design by Theatre professor Allan Stitchbury.

Check out past Phoenix Phacts on our website.

Email Perks & Interesting Links:

Cultural Getaways
Combine your love of the arts with a cultural destination. From dance in London, England to gospel choirs in Cuba, check out Vision 2000 Blaney’s Travel specialty tours for amazing arts travel experiences.

Phoenix Subscription Deal
Season subscriptions for the 2009/10 season are still available for as little as $33 for 3 mainstage shows. Subscription sales are higher than ever this year and our numbers are limited, so don't wait and be disappointed. Some performance nights are already sold out. Click here for details about the season and subscription information or order through the Phoenix Box Office or by calling 250-721-8000.

Win Tickets
The Performance Creation Canada organizers would like to send you to see Atomic Vaudeville's Ride the Cyclone. Just email them with answer the skill testing question "What is the theme of the Victoria conference?" (Hint, you can find the answer at pccvictoria.wordpress.com.)

Sponsor Kudos:

The Phoenix Theatre would like to thank our individual donors and community sponsors for their support of our programs and talented students! Thank you!

Season Community Partner: Cadboro Bay Village
Cadboro Bay Village Merchants

Cadboro Bay Book Company, Cadboro Bay Village Service & Auto Repair, For Good Measure, People's Compounding Pharmacy, Pepper's Foods, Smugglers Cove and Vision 2000 Blaney's Travel

Season Ticket Sponsor:
Grand & Toy: Performance Enhancing Offices

Contact Adrienne Holierhoek for information about how your company can support emerging theatre artists at UVic.

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