[Phoenix-eNews] PHOENIX THEATRE: BackstagePASS - February, 2010

Information about the Phoenix Theatre @ UVic phoenix-enews at lists.uvic.ca
Mon Feb 22 11:03:31 PST 2010

Phoenix Theatre: BackstagePASS
	February 2010 . Act 3 Scene 4 

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Phacts <#alumni>| Perks <#Perks> | Kudos <#sponsor>


      eNews: Phoenix BackstagePASS

How can we find humour in the social repercussions of a brutal and 
devasting recession? Prolific and provocative Canadian playwright, 
George F. Walker finds a balance of poignant humour in his black comedy 
*/Problem Child/*. This February, the Phoenix Theatre presents */Problem 
Child/*, guest directed by Michael Shamata, Artistic Director of the 
Belfry Theatre. Read more about both Canadian men of the theatre in this 
issue of your backstage pass.

      Behind the Scenes:

      George F. Walker plays on the humour of hard times:

George F. Walker has dominated Canadian English-language stage comedy of 
the late 1970s and the 1980s in a manner unprecedented since Robertson 
Davies achieved his comic preeminence in the 1940s and 1950s. Like 
Davies, Walker takes his comedy seriously, using it to present a 
coherent vision of the world, and, like Davies, Walker is an acute 
social satirist. There the resemblance ends.

While Walker's vision is coherent, the world he sees is not; his is a 
dark comedy peopled with larger-than-life, obsessive characters addicted 
to self-analysis and hilariously misguided pseudo philosophical 
observation. Lineal plot and logical, psychological character 
development are seldom found in Walker's work, as the characters leap 
hysterically from thought to thought and action to action in a state of 
perpetual non sequitur and crisis. His dramatic style draws heavily on 
pop-art forms (cartoons, gothic melodrama, detective novels, B-movies), 
giving the plays their lurid coloring and frenzied energy. Walker has 
been compared to Tom Stoppard, for his acrobatic dialogue, and to Sam 
Shepard, for his use of pop-art icons.

/"Like so many of my generation, my mind is sort of a media garbage bag 
sometimes. We're all so heavily influenced by television and movies and 
you don't have to be very perceptive to see it coming out in new plays. 
The dilemma for me was not to rebel against the problem - it is, after 
all, a fairly central reality - but to assimilate it and make something 
of it."/

Critic Gregory Sinclair has described Walker's dramatic technique as 
/'scouring artistic graveyards for dead stereotypes and mouldy 
subgenres, stitching them all together and watching them career madly 
across the stage.'/ The Frankensteinean metaphor is, perhaps, apt for a 
playwright who delights in revivifying traditional theatrical 
conventions by inserting pop-cultural and b-movie references into them.

When Walker wrote /*Problem Child*/ in 1997, he had been living in 
Toronto during a political climate where the Mike Harris Government had 
implemented the "Common Sense Revolution." The results of this were 
losses of many social programs and a greater divide between the haves 
and the have-nots. In /*Problem Child*/, Walker's main characters are 
stuck in the middle of these social programs, at the mercy of the system.


      *First Person with Guest Director Michael Shamata:*

It has been my pleasure to work with students at many institutions 
across Canada and the United States, and each time I have the 
opportunity, I am reminded again of the incredible learning experience 
this provides. Not only for the students, but also for myself.

This winter I have had the honour of working with a fantastic team of 
students at the University of Victoria as we all prepare to present 
*/Problem Child/* in February, written by the prolific Canadian 
playwright, George F. Walker.

*/Problem Child/* seems a pertinent and important exercise for the 
student company at the Department of Theatre. For one thing, the 
characters in */Problem Child/* are fascinating and very flawed young 
people who, despite different life choices, are not dissimilar in age 
from our own students. As well, the play -- in a very short space of 
time (just over ten years) -- has become a new Canadian classic, and is 
regularly performed on stages from one end of the country to the other. 
It is a play that serves as a critical component to a contemporary 
actor's portfolio. Thirdly, like so many of Walker's brilliant plays, 
*/Problem Child/* deftly portrays the urban underclass. His characters 
are on the losing end in their fight against the system.  Walker also 
manages to show us their humanity; they are more than just another some 
of society's messed-up, off-the-rails, throwaways: an important message 
for our next generation, and a bigger challenge for the actors who are 
portraying them.

/Michael Shamata in discussion with actors Anne McGladdery and Cobi Dayan.
Photo by Sarah Koury///

It has been an indescribable delight to work with these four young 
actors. Together we tell the personal and sometimes comedic struggle of 
Denise, a mother with drug issues and her loveable, down-on-his-luck 
partner RJ as they fight to regain custody of their child from social 
services. These students have been open, brave, hard-working, and fun. I 
am conscious that my direction is not only guidance for the production 
of this particular play, but a process of mentoring our theatre artists 
for the future. Their young minds are like sponges and everything that 
happens in the rehearsal hall is -- hopefully --  experiential learning 
for the rest of their careers.

The team of students in this learning experience extends far beyond the 
actors on stage. As with any play, a director works closely with 
talented designers, stage managers, technicians, craftspeople and 
publicists. At UVic, these roles are also performed by students in the 
department. I am continually impressed as they commit hundreds of hours 
to designing, building and even wallpapering a set, or learning to 
master a lighting board -- all while maintaining their studies for other 
courses! Their openness and creativity is invigorating.

I thank UVic for this opportunity. While mentoring these students, I am 
learning from them. In their efforts to absorb knowledge and skills in 
this hands-on classroom, they challenge me and my ideas, and force me to 
be a better director.

/Michael Shamata is an award-winning director who has worked in major 
theatres across Canada, including the Stratford Festival, Canadian Stage 
Company, Soulpepper and the Manitoba Theatre Centre. He is currently the 
Artistic Director at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria./



      Upcoming Events: February & March

*February 18-- 27: **Problem Child* 
George F. Walker
Guest Director Michael Shamata (Artistic Director, Belfry Theatre)
/Presented by/


*February 10:* Box Office Now Open 
<http://finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/box-office/>for /Problem Child /tickets.

*February 19 at 7:00pm:* *Free Pre-Show Lecture*
Everyone is welcome to join us for our FREE Pre-Show Lecture with Dr. 
Sheila Rabillard 
<http://english.uvic.ca/faculty/sheila_m_rabillard.html> from UVic's 
Department of English for her talk "Suburban Blight: George F. Walker's 
Problem Child." . This free lecture is open to everyone, including those 
with play tickets for alternate evenings. This talk will be recorded and 
a streaming audio file will be eventually posted on our website.

*February 27 at 2:00pm:* *Sign Language Interpretation of /Problem Child/*
The Phoenix is pleased to offer a special performance with special sign 
language interpretation of */Problem Child/*. Internationally renowned 
Deaf interpreter Nigel Howard will be signing the dialogue and play 
description 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 
to two plays this season. To order tickets, click here. 

*March 4, 5 & 6, 2010: Festival of Innovative & New Drama (FIND) 2010 
Studio Series 
A collaborative project of new and original drama, the 8th annual FIND 
Studio Series presents six one-act staged readings writen by emerging 
playwrights from the Department of Writing and performed and directed by 
Theatre students. Come celebrate an evening of energetic, local talent 
and see some ofCanada's emerging artists. Audiences can pick and choose 
the plays that most interest them, or stay for the entire action-packed 
evening. Spend intermissions in our funky coffee-house setting in the 
lobby. Performances begin at 7pm. See full schedule 

*March 18 -- 27, 2010: **Wreckage
* <http://finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/season/>By Sally Stubbs
Directed by Fran Gebhard


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

/Brian Culp and Kelly Hudson in Dark of the Moon. Photo by David Lowes.///

The Phoenix Theatre was well represented in the eigth annual Critic's 
Choice Spotlight Awards that recognized the finest shows of the 2008-9 

*/Dark of the Moon 
<http://finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/season/2008-2009/Darkmoon/>/* won 
awards for Best Overall Community Production, Best Director by theatre 
Professor and director *Brian Richmond*, and Best Sound Design by *John 
Mills-Cockell*. Then student, *Brian Culp* (BFA'09) was nominated for 
Best Performance in a Community Production for his role in /Dark of the 
Moon/. Alumnus *Patrick Du Wors* (BFA '02) was nominated for his costume 
design on our production of Dark of the Moon and Blue Bridge Theatre's 
<http://www.bluebridgetheatre.ca/> /As You Like It/.

*Nathan Brown*'s (BFA '09) set for* /Medea/ 
<http://finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/season/2008-2009/Medea/>//* was 
nominated for Best Set Design and current MFA candidate *Paphavee (Poe) 
Limkul* lighting for /*La Ronde 
<http://finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/season/2008-2009/LaRonde/>* /was 
nominated for Best Lighting Design. Other theatre alumni that won awards 
were: *Clayton Jevne* (BFA '85, MFA '88 and PhD '03) (and others) in 
Theatre Inconnu's <http://www.theatreinconnu.com/whosafraid.html> /Who's 
Afraid of Virginia Woolf?/ for Best Performance in a Community 
Performance; *David Ferry* (MFA '04) in Blue Bridge Theatre's 
<http://www.bluebridgetheatre.ca/>/ Death of a Salesman/ for Best 
Performance; *Britt Small* (MFA '04) and various alumni in Atomic 
Vaudeville's <http://www.atomicvaudeville.com/>/ Ride the Cyclone/ for 
Best New Play; *Ingrid Hansen* (BFA '09) and SNAFU Dance Theatre's 
<http://snafu.liquidbeat.com/> /Pretty Little Instincts/ for Best Fringe 
Production; and Giggling Iguana's 
The Picture of Dorian Gray /(adapted by *Ian Case *(BFA'91) for Best 
Site Specific Production. Congratulations to all!

Check out past Phoenix Phacts <http://finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/alumni/> 
on our website.


      Email Perks & Interesting Links:

*Local Theatre: The Belfry Theatre*
The next three months at the Belfry are going to be busy. Here's a round 
up of what's going on down in Fernwood:

*To February 21: * Where the Blood Mixes, 
<http://www.belfry.bc.ca/shows-outreach/where-the-blood-mixes/%3E> Kevin 
Loring's Governor General's Award winning play.

*March: * The SPARK Festival <http://www.belfry.bc.ca/spark> lights up 
the building with 18 shows, parties and workshops in just 14 days.

*April*: The Belfry's next Mainstage production is the musical, /The 
25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee 
directed by Michael Shamata.


      Sponsor Kudos:

The Phoenix Theatre would like to thank our individual donors 
<http://finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/donations/> and community sponsors for 
their support of our programs and talented students! Thank you!

* Season Community Partner: Cadboro Bay Village 
<http://www.cadborobayvillage.com/> *
Cadboro Bay Village Merchants <http://www.cadborobayvillage.com>
Cadboro Bay Book Company, Cadboro Bay Village Service & Auto Repair, 
For Good Measure <http://www.forgoodmeasure.ca>, People's Compounding 
Pharmacy, Pepper's Foods, <http://www.peppers-foods.com>Smugglers Cove 
<http://www.smugglerscovepub.com> and Vision 2000 Blaney's Travel 

*Season Ticket Sponsor:*
Grand & Toy: Performance Enhancing Offices 

Contact Adrienne Holierhoek <mailto:aholierh at finearts.uvic.ca> for 
information about how your company can support emerging theatre artists 
at UVic.


Phoenix eNews is a regular email magazine for those interested in the 
Phoenix Theatre, the not-for-profit productions at the University of 
Victoria's Department of Theatre. Do you know someone who would love to 
know more about us? Please feel free to forward this message to a friend!

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  	© University of Victoria 2008 	 

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