Joyful Magpies’ Best of Fredericton Theatre in 2017

Let’s look back on Fredericton theatre in 2017

In March, Next Folding Theatre Company premiered Fred Nebula, directed by Artistic Director Ryan Griffith. The science-fiction play was developed collaboratively between eight writers. Fred Nebula was “delightfully weird” and sometimes socially relevant. Some things never change, not even in the furthest reaches of space, surrounded by aliens and robots. People still like to tell and be scared by ghost stories, and there’s still no place like home. Prejudice exists, too. Everyone’s welcome – as long as they come from the right ‘planet’. What made the show interesting was how in one moment, the audience could be laughing at the characters making reference to the mythical New Brunswick cougar, and the next be asked to reflect on our region’s response to the refugee crisis.

In the same month, Theatre New Brunswick premiered a stage adaptation of Alistair MacLeod’s The Boat, directed by Artistic Director Thomas Morgan Jones. The adaptation was written by Griffith, who would appear again at TNB in the fall. The son of a fisherman remembers life in a small fishing community bound by tradition and at the mercy of the sea. Here, The Boat was concerned with irreversible change. Once things change, can they ever return to the way things were? Considering the significant number of young people who have moved west in search of better prospects, this “small, yet mighty drama” likely felt all too familiar for some New Brunswick audience members. Thinking back on The Boat, the characters lived in area (Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia) where families stayed for generations. That’s becoming a strange concept nowadays, isn’t it? People in the workforce are becoming increasingly mobile (and grateful for Ikea as a result). Gone are the days when someone might stay with a company for decades. How has our concept of home changed in the gig economy? Can a sense of community prosper in areas where ‘no one is from here, but everyone works here’?

The NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival returned this summer for another showcase of New Brunswick talent. The festival staged theatre in various locations around the city, including the Fredericton Public Library (Site-Specific Production) and the Picaroons Roundhouse (Play Out Loud Series). This year’s Mainstage Production, presented at St. Thomas University’s Black Box Theatre, was Grace Notes by Patrick Toner. New Brunswick actors Leah Holder and Warren Macaulay, both of whom live and work in Toronto, returned to Fredericton for Grace Notes. Directed by Clarissa Hurley, Grace Notes tried to illuminate the local, namely the role of propaganda in creating cultural narratives that marginalize and exploit ‘others’ for the benefit of institutions, by staging the global, with inspiration taken from real world events. It was an ambitious play that struggled to “bring together its big ideas in a way that [connected] on a deeper, more personal level.”

The winners of NotaBle Acts’ playwriting competition in the Acting Out category were Jean-Michel Cliche with his entry Hinter and Caroline Coon (who also appeared in Grace Notes) with It Happened At A Party. The winners were provided with dramaturgical support by playwright Anna Chatterton. Both plays were presented as a double-bill at Memorial Hall, on the University of New Brunswick campus. Directed by Sharisse LeBrun, Hinter imagined a future where Nature reclaimed the Earth and buried almost all signs of  human civilization. Two sisters return home, at least where it once stood, and try to resume living their old lives. It’s a fantasy, of course, because nothing remains but their memories. Stripped of artifice, the characters of Hinter struggle to make peace with the past, their broken dreams, and each other. In It Happened At A Party, directed by Tilly Jackson, the truth about what happened at a highschool party is taken to court as a teenage girl deals with bullying at school and online.

In October, Griffith’s Fortune of Wolves enjoyed its world premiere at TNB. Jones directed the production. The “fabulously imaginative” play struck a good balance between its human and science-fiction elements. Its tense, melancholic atmosphere fit well with the fall season. Griffith’s characters were many shades of truth and experience.

And most recently, TNB staged a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Nora McLellan performed the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, marking the first time in TNB’s history that a woman has played the character. The production, directed by Anne-Marie Kerr, was “fun, fast, and full of surprises” and featured  “splendid set and lighting design.”

Note: there is an entry missing from the website for Solo Chicken Productions’ The Bridge Project because rain ended the event early. On September 8th, The Bridge Project transformed the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge into a “living time tunnel” where community groups and artists animated Canadian history. Our country’s story was told through a number of perspectives that sought to represent the fabric of our community and elevate the presence of marginalized groups.

At this point, Joyful Magpies would like to present its Best of Fredericton Theatre in 2017 list. There were many highlights this year, so creating this list was not easy! Congratulations to everyone who shared their talents with Fredericton audiences this year.

Joyful Magpies’ Best of Fredericton Theatre in 2017

Best Actor in a Play

Carlos Gonzalez-Vio – Fortune of Wolves – Theatre New Brunswick

Honorable Mentions:

Jon De Leon – The Boat – Theatre New Brunswick

Warren Macaulay – Graces Notes – NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival

Best Actress in a Play

Kimwun Perehinec – Fortune of Wolves – Theatre New Brunswick

Honorable Mentions:

Nora McLellan – A Christmas Carol – Theatre New Brunswick

Leah Holder – Grace Notes – Notable Acts Theatre Festival

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Graham Percy – The Boat – Theatre New Brunswick

Honorable Mentions:

Corenski Nowlan – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company

Joel Diamond – Grace Notes – NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Caroline Coon – Grace Notes – NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival

Honorable Mentions:

Sophia Black – A Christmas Carol – Theatre New Brunswick

Amelia Hay – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company

Best Set Design

Joanna Yu – A Christmas Carol – Theatre New Brunswick

Honorable Mentions:

Samuel Crowell – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company

Mike Johnston – Grace Notes – Notable Acts Theatre Festival

Best Lighting Design

Leigh Ann Vardy – A Christmas Carol – Theatre New Brunswick

Honorable Mentions:

David DeGrow – Fortune of Wolves – Theatre New Brunswick

Michael Holmes-Lauder – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company

Best Sound Design

Deanna Choi – Fortune of Wolves – Theatre New Brunswick

Honorable Mention:

Michael Holmes-Lauder – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company

Best Costume Design

Katherine Hall – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company

Honorable Mention:

Sherry Kinnear – The Boat – Theatre New Brunswick

Best Direction of a Play

Thomas Morgan Jones – Fortune of Wolves – Theatre New Brunswick

Honorable Mentions:

Sharisse LeBrun – Hinter – NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival

Anne-Marie Kerr – A Christmas Carol – Theatre New Brunswick

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“Theatre Criticism Is Struggling in Canada”: The Curtain Falls on Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards

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The 2016 Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards took place on June 8th at Commonwealth Bar & Stage. The fifth annual event saw winners in 19 award categories. Nominees were chosen from any production performed in Calgary between June 2015 and May 2016.

As our city launches into one of the busiest months in theatre during September, it is with heavy hearts and regret that the Calgary Theatre Critics (Louis B Hobson, Stephen Hunt, Rodrigo Flores and Jenna Shummoogum) must announce the conclusion of the Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards (The Critters.) Since 2011, the Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards have recognized the outstanding talent of local artists and productions in a range of award categories.

Sadly, we must take note that theatre criticism is struggling in Canada, especially here in Calgary.  It has become a role that is no longer sustainable, and a sign of this truth have us down to Louis B Hobson as the only remaining theatre critic appearing in print media. There is no available employment for theatre criticism, and often the work is done as a labour of love, and a dedication to voice the great performances our city has to offer theatre goers. Though we as the Critters are committed to the arts and supporting theatre in the city, it has become unsustainable for us to continue with The Critter Awards. We all share great sorrow in this decision and the ending of these awards was not taken lightly.

The Critters would like to thank its sponsors over these past five years: Postmedia, Clarice Siebens, and Joe and Maureen Morris. We could not have succeeded without their support. We would also like to thank the theatre community for embracing these awards, celebrating with us, and giving us those goose-bump moments time and again.

Although the Awards are no longer a viable alternative for recognition going forward, Calgary Critics are still committed to reviewing and sharing your voices, here in our community. Theatre is in our blood and we will be there for your opening nights and those beautiful moments that come season after season.

Theatre Junction’s 2016/17 Season Marks Two Major Anniversaries

Portraits in Motion - Volker Gerling 2 - Photo credit Franz Ritschel

Volker Gerling (pictured) shares his flip book portraits with the audience in Portraits in Motion, one of seven shows announced for Theatre Junction’s 2016/17 season. Photo Credit: Franz Ritschel.

This May, Theatre Junction announced its 2016/17 season. The company’s upcoming season marks two major anniversaries: Theatre Junction’s 25th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of Theatre Junction at the Grand Theatre.

Theatre Junction has undergone several changes in the years since Artistic Director Mark Lawes founded the company in 1991. After a successful campaign to save the historic building from demolition, Theatre Junction relocated to the Grand in 2006 from the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, where the company was based for 14 years. While the company could have continued with “a program that was really more along the lines of interpreting text,” Lawes felt that it was important for Theatre Junction to change its mandate when they took over the Grand.

“There was a lot of risk involved in that change,” said Lawes. “I saw the regional theatre model as coming of age and potentially declining. The audience was getting older. It wasn’t engaging for young people to go and see work. And that was really important for me to engage millennials in arts and culture.” 

Today, Theatre Junction presents local, national, and international creation-based artists from multiple disciplines. Theatre Junction GRAND has transformed into a “different kind of cultural space” that continues the Grand’s legacy of culturalizing Calgary, while also being contemporary.

“It’s a real junction,” said Lawes about the space, which is also home to the restaurant Workshop Kitchen + Culture. “A meeting place where people come together and not only see amazing works of art, but can meet new people and talk about arts and ideas.”

One of seven shows to be presented in Theatre Junction’s upcoming season is Volker Gerling’s Portraits in Motion. Gerling’s Portraits in Motion will be presented by Theatre Junction and One Yellow Rabbit as part of the 31st Annual High Performance Rodeo. After walking 3500 km throughout Germany, Gerling created flip book portraits of the people he met on his journey. Audiences will get to see these portraits and hear the stories behind them when Gerling comes to Theatre Junction in January 2017.

“He just decided to walk and meet people,” said Lawes. “For me, it’s a beautiful, simple act of humanity. It’s going back to something very basic about meeting someone. That’s something that we all crave and need.”

Lawes says that Gerling will walk around Calgary, meeting people when he arrives in the new year. This material will not be included in the production at Theatre Junction, he adds, since “the show is set” already.

In March, Theatre Junction will present Porte Parole and Crow’s Theatre’s The Watershed. Written by Montreal playwright Annabel Soutar, who travelled cross-country across Canada with her family, The Watershed is an investigation into the future of our natural resources that raises questions concerning the politics of water.

“[Soutar] has been making documentary theatre on subjects that are important to her and her family,” said Lawes about the theatre artist. “We presented Seeds two years ago, that was [about] the Monsanto versus Schmeiser trial…It really questioned who owns a seed, who owns life.”

Lawes says that Soutar was particularly concerned about the state of water in Canada under the Harper government. “She was really concerned with policy surrounding research: what was being researched, what wasn’t being published from scientists. Funds that were being cut for research.”

When asked what goes into programming a season, especially one that includes international work, Lawes confesses that “there’s really no secrets, but it is a very long, complicated process.”

“I go out to festivals every year and see a lot of work,” Lawes said. “I have a bunch of different partners across the country and in the United States that we also talk to see what’s touring and share ideas of work. So, some works come very quickly, you know I see something I really like and it happens to be touring.

He adds that it is also about “keeping [a] dialogue open with artists who have presented before,” like Japanese dancer and choreographer Hiroaki Umeda whose new work was seen by Lawes in Montreal.

“He happened to be touring in Mexico just before he’ll be presenting here, so he was on the continent, more or less, and on the same side of the continent. So, it made some sense for him to come up here. That’s one example of how that works.”

Umeda will return to Theatre Junction in October 2016 with two new solo performances, Intensional Particle/split flow.


For more information about Theatre Junction’s 2016/17 season, including how to purchase tickets, visit their website: www.theatrejunction.com

2016 Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards: A Celebration of Community

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The 2016 Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards were hosted by Dave Kelly at Commonwealth Bar & Stage on June 6th. Nominees were chosen from any production performed in Calgary from June 2015 to May 2016, with the exception of Broadway Across Canada performances.

The 2016 Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards was an evening full of anticipation and gratitude. The fifth annual event, hosted by Dave Kelly, was held at Commonwealth Bar & Stage where local theatre critics Stephen Hunt, Louis B. Hobson, Rodrigo Flores, and Jenna Shummoogum presented awards in 19 categories. Accepting the awards were both new and familiar faces from Calgary’s theatre community who took time to thank family, friends, and colleagues for their support.

Guests stayed afterwards to mingle and congratulate each other on another strong year of theatre in Calgary. 
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Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Louise Pitre – The Little Prince: The Musical – Theatre Calgary

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Tenaj Williams – The Paper Bag Princess: A Musical – StoryBook Theatre and Forte
Musical Theatre Guild

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Amy Burks – Romeo and Juliet – The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth Productions

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Karl Sine – The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook – Ground Zero Theatre and Hit & Myth Productions

Best Touring Show

Flora & Fawna’s Field Trip! – Lunchbox Theatre, Darrin Hagen and Trevor Schmidt

Best Set Design

Cameron Porteous – The Crucible – Theatre Calgary

Best Technical Design

Jamie Nesbitt – Calamity Town – Vertigo Theatre

Best Creative Concept

The Fight or Flight Response – Verb Theatre

Best Actress in a Musical

Susan Gilmour – The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary

Best Actor in a Musical

Ahad Mir – Naughty but Nice! – Forte Musical Theatre Guild

Best Solo Performance

Jamie Konchak – The Floating Mouse – Green Fools Theatre

Best New Script

Calamity Town – Joseph Goodrich – Vertigo Theatre

Best Actor in a Play

Tyrell Crews – Benefit – Downstage

Best Actress in a Play

Heather Pattengale – Outside Mullingar – Rosebud Theatre

Best Director of a Musical

Michael Shamata – The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary

Best Production of a Musical

The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary

Best Director of a Play

Craig Hall – Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Jersey Lily – Vertigo Theatre

Best Ensemble

Book Club – Lunchbox Theatre

Best Production of a Play

The Crucible – Theatre Calgary

The Evans Award

StoryBook Theatre

  • The Evans Award recognizes outstanding contribution to the vibrancy of the theatre community in Calgary.

Nominees were chosen from any production performed in Calgary from June 2015 to May 2016, with the exception of Broadway Across Canada performances.

2016 Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards: Nominees Announced

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The 2016 Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards will be held on June 6th at Commonwealth Bar & Stage (731 10th Ave SW). The public awards ceremony starts at 8:00PM.

Calgary Theatre Critics, Stephen Hunt formerly of the Calgary Herald, Louis B. Hobson of Postmedia, Rodrigo Flores of Joyful Magpies and Jenna Shummoogum of Downtown Calgary Association are pleased to announce the nominees for the fifth annual Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards.

Nominees were chosen from any production performed in Calgary between June 2015 and May 2016, with the exception of Broadway Across Canada performances. The winners will be announced at a free public awards ceremony. The ceremony starts at 8pm on June 6th at Commonwealth Bar & Stage, 731 10th Avenue SW.

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Jayne Lewis – Young Frankenstein – Stage West
Laura Gillespie – The Wizard of Oz – Rosebud Theatre
Louise Pitre – The Little Prince: The Musical – Theatre Calgary
Tracy Michailidis – The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary
Dana Jean Phoenix – The Wedding Singer – Stage West

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Tenaj Williams – The Paper Bag Princess: A Musical – StoryBook Theatre and Forte Musical Theatre Guild
Andrew McGillivray – The Wedding Singer – Stage West
Andrew Legg – The Wizard of Oz – Rosebud Theatre
David Keeley – The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary
Michael Torontow – The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Amy Burks – Romeo and Juliet – The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth Productions
Sasha Barry – Of Mice and Men – Spirit Fire Theatre
Julie Orton – Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) – The Shakespeare Company, Handsome Alice and Hit & Myth Productions
Conni Mah – Ching Chong Chinaman – Iglesia Productions
Brianna Johnston – The Money Shot – Ground Zero Theatre and Hit & Myth Productions

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Ryan Luhning – Romeo and Juliet – The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth Productions
David LeReaney – Of Mice and Men – Spirit Fire Theatre
Karl Sine – The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook – Ground Zero Theatre and Hit & Myth Productions
Stafford Perry – In On it – Lunchbox Theatre
Joe Perry – The Circle – Alberta Theatre Projects

Best Touring Show

Life, Death and The Blues – One Yellow Rabbit & Alberta Theatre Projects
A Theatre Passe Muraille Production, in association with Hope And Hell Theatre Co.
evalyn parry’s SPIN – One Yellow Rabbit & Theatre Calgary
Flora & Fawna’s Field Trip! – Lunchbox Theatre, Darrin Hagen and Trevor Schmidt
Jack Charles V. The Crown – ILBIJERRI Theatre, Toured by Performing Lines and the High Performance Rodeo
Who Killed Spalding Gray? – One Yellow Rabbit and reWork Productions

Best Set Design

Scott Reid – The Turn of the Screw – Vertigo Theatre
Jennifer Behie-Ratzlaff – Shadowlands – Fire Exit Theatre and Hit & Myth Productions
Cameron Porteous – The Crucible – Theatre Calgary
Jennifer Arsenault – Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) – The Shakespeare Company, Handsome Alice Theatre and Hit & Myth Productions
Julia Wasilewski – Matt & Ben – Theatre Transit

Best Technical Design

Jamie Nesbitt – Calamity Town – Vertigo Theatre
Sean Nieuwenhuis – The Little Prince: The Musical – Theatre Calgary
Benjamin Toner, Lisa Floyd and Aidan Lytton – The Only Good Boy – Theatre BSMT
JP Thibodeau – The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook – Ground Zero Theatre and Hit & Myth Productions
Matthew Waddell – Window – Ghost River Theatre & the University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts

Best Creative Concept

What Happened to the Seeker – Theatre Junction
Berlin Waltz – Devon More – The Calgary Fringe Festival
The Fight or Flight Response – Verb Theatre
Concord Floral – Theatre Junction
Taste – Ghost River Theatre, Vertical City Performance and the River Cafe

Best Actress in a Musical

Anwyn Musico – The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary
Susan Gilmour – The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary
Jamie Matchullis – What Gives? – Lunchbox Theatre
Cassia Schramm – The Wizard of Oz – Rosebud Theatre
Elicia MacKenzie – The Wedding Singer – Stage West

Best Actor in a Musical

Louie Rossetti – The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary
Aidan Desalaiz – The Wedding Singer – Stage West
Adam Brazier – The Little Prince: The Musical – Theatre Calgary
Ahad Mir – Naughty but Nice! – Forte Musical Theatre Guild
Scott Olynek – Naughty But Nice – Forte Musical Theatre Guild

Best Solo Performance

Elinor Holt – Shakespeare’s Will – Sage Theatre
Trevor Campbell – Baggage – The Calgary Fringe Festival
Jamie Konchak – The Floating Mouse – Green Fools Theatre
Cheri Maracle – Paddle Song – Lunchbox Theatre
Cliff Cardinal – Huff – High Performance Rodeo

Best New Script

Book Club – Meredith Taylor-Parry – Lunchbox Theatre
Calamity Town – Joseph Goodrich – Vertigo Theatre
Mercutio & Tybalt – Val Duncan and Celene Harder – The Calgary Fringe Festival
Benefit – Matthew MacKenzie – Downstage
The Circle – Geoffrey Simon Brown – Alberta Theatre Projects

Best Actor in a Play

Joel Cochrane – Shadowlands – Fire Exit Theatre and Hit & Myth Productions
Tyrell Crews – Benefit – Downstage
Chris Austman – Of Mice and Men – Spirit Fire Theatre
Nathan Pronyshyn – The Fight or Flight Response – Verb Theatre
Paul F. Muir – Outside Mullingar – Rosebud Theatre

Best Actress in a Play

Allison Lynch – Romeo and Juliet – The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth Productions
Anna Cummer – Macbeth – Vertigo Theatre, The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth Productions
Chantelle Han – Medea – Chromatic Theatre
Heather Pattengale – Outside Mullingar – Rosebud Theatre
Lois Anderson – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike – Alberta Theatre Projects

Best Director of a Musical

Michael Shamata – The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary
Valerie Ann Pearson – The Paper Bag Princess: A Musical – StoryBook Theatre and Forte Musical Theatre Guild
Morris Ertman – The Wizard of Oz – Rosebud Theatre
Dennis Garnhum – The Little Prince: The Musical – Theatre Calgary
Tim French – The Wedding Singer – Stage West

Best Production of a Musical

The Wedding Singer – Stage West
The Paper Bag Princess: A Musical – StoryBook Theatre and Forte Musical Theatre Guild
The Wizard of Oz – Rosebud Theatre
The Little Prince: The Musical – Theatre Calgary
The Light in the Piazza – Theatre Calgary

Best Director of a Play

R.H. Thomson – The Crucible – Theatre Calgary
Paul Welch – Of Mice and Men – Spirit Fire Theatre
Craig Hall – Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily – Vertigo Theatre
Morris Ertman – Outside Mullingar – Rosebud Theatre
Kelly Reay – The Fight or Flight Response – Verb Theatre

Best Ensemble

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) – The Shakespeare Company, Handsome Alice Theatre and Hit & Myth Productions
Calamity Town – Vertigo Theatre
King Kirby – Sage Theatre
Book Club – Lunchbox Theatre
The Mousetrap – Vertigo Theatre

Best Production of a Play

The Crucible – Theatre Calgary
Of Mice and Men – Spirit Fire Theatre
Outside Mullingar – Rosebud Theatre
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily – Vertigo Theatre
Romeo and Juliet – The Shakespeare Company, Hit & Myth Productions

In addition, the critics will be handing out the Evans Award, a special award recognizing outstanding contribution to the vibrancy of the theatre community in Calgary. The award recipient will be revealed on the night of the event. 


To attend the Calgary Critics’ Awards please RSVP to critterawards2016@gmail.com as soon as possible as there are a limited number of spots available. Doors open at 7pm, the awards will begin at 8pm and the celebration will continue until they kick us all out.

Ready to Make Her Mark, Serenella Sol Launches SeSol Dance Projects

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Dancer & choreographer Serenella Sol, founder of SeSol Dance Projects. Photo Credit: Wojtek Mochniej.

Until recently, SeSol Dance Project’s debut production, which premieres this February, was simply titled Project 001. Now, the show’s full title has been revealed, and it is a title that resonates strongly with 26-year-old Serenella Sol.

Project 001: Coming of Age.

“There was something about turning 26 that you feel like, okay I’ve danced for a couple years and have done my own works. What’s the next thing I need to do?” said Sol who created SeSol Dance Projects as a vehicle for her choreographic work. “I just felt like it was time…I’ve been wanting to do it for a couple years, but it never felt right. This time felt like yes, I’m going to do it!”

With the support of W & M Physical Theatre, SeSol Dance Projects aims to create performance opportunities for contemporary dance artists in Calgary, and reach out to audiences who may not regularly engage with contemporary dance.

“Most of the good dancers [in Calgary] are gone, and the rest are working at Lululemon,” said Sol. “It’s a duty for me to create opportunities for talented dancers. The good people want to leave because there is nothing going on here. It’s really hard here in Calgary, but I firmly believe that if we fight and keep going the city will be different in ten years. And it’s going to be different because of artists like me and so many others who are trying to make something from nothing. We just have to keep going.”

Sol says that SeSol Dance Projects is a first step towards realizing her big dream, running a small company of her own. Her company would not only create job opportunities for dancers, but also contribute to the city’s cultural image.

“This is just, I feel like people should be excited about this. We are creating culture, people like me and so many other artists. We are creating Canadian culture. We are creating Calgarian culture.

“We’re more than the [Calgary Stampede], cowboys, and horses. I’m sick of it. That’s not us, we are more than that. I feel like it’s so important for me to be a part of that process. [I want to] be forty and be like, we have a better city because we struggled so much.”

“I’m not there yet, but that’s where I want to be,” said Sol.

Born in the United States, Sol grew up in Venezuela where she started dancing ballet at the age of three. Sol says she quit her ballet classes after Venezuela’s political landscape began shifting. “When I was thirteen, the political situation in my country switched, and that really influenced my upbringing in my teenage years. I was really politically involved in my country. I wanted to make a change. I wanted to become a lawyer.”

Sol’s parents applied for permanent residency, a process that can take between two to three years, when she was fourteen. At the age of seventeen, Sol and her family moved to Canada.

In Canada, Sol, still intent on becoming a lawyer, continued studying political science, but felt that something was missing in her life.

“I was really depressed for a while. I didn’t know why,” said Sol about living in Vancouver. “One day, I saw a sign for ballet classes [at Harbour Dance Centre], and I’m like maybe I should join. I hadn’t taken ballet classes for two years. I took a class and I couldn’t stop. I haven’t stopped. I realized that was the thing I was missing.”

“In Venezuela, you don’t see yourself – you cannot be a professional dancer,” said Sol. “There are no companies. There are no choreographers. It’s not even a possibility. For me, growing up, it was not even a possibility to become a choreographer. When I came [to Canada], it was actually a possibility to become a choreographer.”

In 2013, Sol graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Minor in Dance. Although she had changed her mind about becoming a lawyer, graduating from U of C’s Dance program would have taken longer than she preferred. “It was going to take me a longer time to finish dance than political science, because they took some courses I had in Venezuela.”

“[I thought] I don’t need to stay one more year. I don’t need a degree in dance to be a dancer. I just wanted to move onto the next stage of my life,” explained Sol.

After graduation, Sol traveled to Europe where she planned to begin her dance career. “I just wanted to go to Europe, that’s all I wanted to do. I wasn’t even focused on doing a career in Canada.”

She returned to Calgary after auditioning abroad did not go as planned.

“I came back and was super depressed. I had to get an office job. I was like, I’m going to quit dance! I hate this! The first couple months were really rough,” said Sol about the situation.

And then one day, Sol received an e-mail from Melissa Monteros about an opportunity with W & M Physical Theatre.

“I’m not a religious person, but that was one of the biggest moments in if my life that I was like if there is a God, that this was sent by him. Because I never saw it coming,” said Sol.

Sol met W & M Physical Theatre co-founders Monteros and Wojtek Mochniej while at university, as a student. Monteros’ e-mail came as a total surprise, Sol said, because she never considered herself as someone who stood out in their classes.

“To be honest, I never even thought they saw me as someone they could mentor, because they never cast me in any of their pieces,” said Sol. “I never saw it coming, because you see in class, you know, preference for students. You always kind of smell it. They like this person. I never felt anything like that with Wojtek and Melissa.

“I [am] very privileged, because Melissa and Wojtek have so much experience. They’ve been doing this for 40 years already. It’s amazing to have access to their brains. I’m really grateful for that, for sure.”

Sol has danced with W & M Physical Theatre since Spring 2013, appearing most recently in the company’s latest work “Waiting Rooms in Heaven.”

About her own choreographic pursuits, Sol says she feels her craft is something that can only improve through consistent practice. “Creativity is not a talent, it’s something you have to practice.”

“I see it as a more structure and repetitive thing. You need to do it several times to get better,” said Sol, explaining her own process. “For me, speaking and words are kind of hard, especially in English. So, I do better with movement…Even though there are no words, I can see the feelings. That’s also something I’m really interested in, finding new ways to move different things and see what reaction it has in you from the inside.”

“For me right now, I’m just trying different things and just exploring my own, you know, process and creativity,” continued Sol. “I feel like right now I should try different things and approaches, and then time will say what’s my style. I’m a young person, so I have a long way to go.”

If she has learned anything on her dance journey, Sol said, it is that young artists such as herself need to take their work in steps. “You don’t have the experience yet to know how to bring out [big, conceptual ideas] very well. My philosophy as an artist right now is to try and focus, [asking] what do I want to try and learn this time with this piece?”

SeSolEnsemble

The Ensemble, SeSol Dance Project’s Project 001: Coming of Age. Photo Credit: Stephanie Leann.

Looking back and now ahead to Project 001: Coming of Age, Sol says the title is fitting given her experiences as an emerging artist and the novel on which the project is based on – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, first published in 1847.

While the book forms the foundation of the piece, Sol says that the novel and its themes will be interpreted, not staged “scene by scene,” for the production. Project 001: Coming of Age will explore the novel’s rebellious tone, asking the audience to consider a variety of contemporary social and political issues.

“You see how she grows, as a woman,” said Sol about Jane Eyre. “Always struggling with feeling complete and loved, but also independent. At that age, she was such a rebel. She spoke her mind, both the character and author.”

Sol says the novel, considered a feminist classic, is appropriate given that all eight dancers are women. The dancers were each invited to apply for the show. Some are dancers whom Sol has worked with in the past, like Valentia Dimitriou; others are U of C dance students who stood out to her while assisting Monteros last year.

“I just want to say that, I just want to be a choreographer and dance and be able to create,” concluded Sol, grateful for the generous support she has received so far. “I really believe the arts make a better society. And I really want to be part of Calgary making more art.”

Project 001: Coming of Age runs February 19-20, 7:30pm, at the Big Secret Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online here.


For more information about Serenella Sol & SeSol Dance Projects, visit: http://www.serenellasol.com/

For more information about W & M Physical Theatre, visit: http://wmdance.com/

The Far, Far Edge of Theatre: Nadia Ross Talks What Happened to The Seeker

 

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STO Union’s What Happened to The Seeker opens next Wednesday (Nov 25) at Theatre Junction GRAND.

Founded in 1992 by Artistic Director Nadia Ross, STO Union is a multidisciplinary art and performance company that explores new methods of theatre creation and production by bringing together artists from a variety of mediums. For their latest show What Happened to The Seeker, the company has brought together exhibition, video, and live performance to stage an experience unlike any other.

“We are the far, far edge of theatre,” Ross says, “even to the point where we’re not even sure theatre critics can review it…[but] that’s what STO Union does is explore, what else can you do in a venue? What are other ways to communicate? It’s bringing up questions we want it to bring up.”

What Happened to The Seeker tells the story of a middle-class, North American woman who embarks on a personal journey to reclaim the ideals of her youth. The journey is based on vivid experiences from childhood, intertwined with the history of the Seekers – youth of the 1960s who travelled the world to find spiritual enlightenment. The performance triptych, encapsulating the era from 1965 to 2010, takes the audience on a journey of their own as they piece together the story of the character’s fragmented life.

“There’s an underlying franticness in her because of her search, her desire to find some sort of place where she feels okay in the world,” says Ross about the character. “There’s also this huge underlying – it’s subtle, but it’s there – level of disappointment because there was so much anticipation, so much hope, so much belief. I mean, they were talking about climate change in the sixties. They were talking about plastics. They were talking about all of this stuff.

“[The character] realizes that change is very, very slow. She did not expect that by the time she was in her fifties that women would be still be paid so much less than men. She thought they would be equals, that’s what she assumed was going to happen.”

Ross adds that part of the danger when talking about the sixties is the nostalgia surrounding the period. “A lot of people say, that was the highlight, and we’ve gone downhill since then.”

The internationally acclaimed artist explains that the show’s structure is inspired by changes currently developing in the communication revolution. “I think with the internet, Facebook, and all that, it’s changed how we look at things. We’ve become far more visual. It’s all about the image. Language is sort of deteriorating.”

“What I did with this show is I’m trying to imitate what happens when you go online,” says Ross about bringing together three mediums to tell a story. “One minute you have this; the next you have that. You have totally different formats that you are exposed to very quickly. We don’t do it as fast as online, but that’s why we give you very different experiences. So, one moment you feel like you are in an art gallery, then the next moment you are watching a puppet movie, eating popcorn.

“So, it’s sort of an experiment into, can you do that? Can you pile things on top of each other that are different forms and still, in some way, have communication with the audience? [Can you] still keep that red thread going through the whole thing?”

Even with all our progress, Ross believes that what will always remain true about human beings is our desire not to change what is there in order to feel better. “Our search [for spiritual enlightenment] is like, buy your lotto ticket and get your million dollars.”

“[The character] goes through hundreds of boyfriends,” she says. “She goes through different things at work. She’s just kind of tearing through life in hopes that she’s going to find it, find that sweet spot… that’s what we want to look at, that eternal desire for something else, for something more, for something that’s going to hit the spot, and how we never find it.”

Although the show may be far from traditional, the experiments that are being staged may one day affect the mainstream. Ross hopes that people who are curious about what is on the horizon will come see the show when it opens next Wednesday at Theatre Junction GRAND.


STO Union’s What Happened to The Seeker runs Nov 25 -28 at Theatre Junction GRAND.

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.theatrejunction.com/portfolio/what-happened-to-the-seeker/

STO Union’s website: http://stounion.com/