In the midst of a large research university, some disciplines may get lost in the shuffle. But this year is the time for Mac’s arts to be in the spotlight.

McMaster’s School of the Arts is launching a yearlong festival designed to highlight the arts and their role in the university. The Spotlight on the Arts festival will see eight months of events, including lectures, exhibitions, and theatre productions.

Virginia Aksan, former Acting Director of the School of the Arts and one of the main coordinators of the festival, sees it as an opportunity for the department to be more vocal on campus.

“My vision was to promote the [image] of School of the Arts —which surprisingly, very few people know about,” she said of the reasoning for the event.

School of the Arts was created in 2001 to amalgamate the departments of Art and Art History, Music, and Theatre and Film Studies, a move Aksan considers to be primarily economically driven. But she also believes they hold a further connection.

“They share a vision about human creativity that I think is so much part of downtown Hamilton now,” she explained.

And it’s this vision that she has seen flourish under the leadership of current university president Patrick Deane, whom she describes as a “huge fan of the arts.”

Aksan felt that the leadership of Peter George, president previous to Deane, left something to be desired when it came to arts education. Deane began his role as president in 2010.

“What Peter George did was to create a university that was internationally renowned in heart research or in health studies,” she said.

“[But] the humanities… are the continuity of intellectual life of the human, and we kind of take it for granted. We’re in an age when we can’t have that happen anymore.” She added that she hopes to remind people “Mac does things besides what it’s renowned for.”

While the purpose of the Spotlight festival is chiefly to promote the work of School of the Arts, the project has been “building and growing from the original purpose to stimulate more arts based activity,” said Beth Marquis, another of the lead coordinators of the festival.

Marquis serves as a professor in the Arts and Science program, in the School of the Arts, and works at the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (MIIETL). She sees the festival as an opportunity to create more connections within the McMaster community, between disciplines and departments, especially considering the size of the university.

“It’s such a big and complex place,” she said of McMaster. “Sometimes you miss a lot of great opportunities that are happening…I think it’s just the nature of a place like this.”

The festival, with its variety of events, will be organized into four different clusters: connect (September), activate (November), empower (January), and integrate (March). Through the different themes, Marquis hopes to encourage people to think about the role of art differently.

“[We want people] not only to approach the arts as entertainment…but also [to understand] that the sense of social work while we’re being entertained.”

Photo: Studio art students printing their original T-shirt designs last year in Arts Quad. They will do the same this year at Supercrawl. C/O Anqi Shen.

Rob Hardy / Silhouette Staff

Last December saw the demise of a much beloved institution for many in Burlington and the surrounding area: the closing of the multiplex cinema at Upper Canada Place. The cinema first opened in 1985, run by Cineplex Odeon. As changes in the industry occurred, it was taken over by Encore Cinemas in 1999. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, let me say a bit about what made the movie-going experience there so great.

First of all, the site was located in the heart of beautiful downtown Burlington. Personally, I absolutely loved the layout of this multiplex. It was comfortable and cozy, with a wonderful atmosphere, friendly people and amazingly clean restrooms. The first film I saw there was the Oscar-winner Dead Man Walking. With eight screens, it was big enough to find something to suit your taste and had frequent show times. For those of you from the area, many of whom felt the same, you know what I mean and may be disheartened to hear this news if you weren’t already aware.

The loss has many implications. For one, the ticket prices, as well as concessions, would have knocked some on their backside if they arrived there unprepared for how economical a night at the movies could still be. It was also a wonderful venue for family movie days, especially those who couldn’t afford being fleeced by the consumer mausoleums that now charge nearly fifty bucks for two tickets and “value” combos. Furthermore, it was a great alternative to those who like a quieter atmosphere and didn’t mind seeing films that were a month behind their release date. (I mean, who cares?)

The reason it closed is that the film industry is now moving away from projectors and switching to digital formats, an upgrade that wasn’t financially viable for the theatre. Although that’s understandable, no time was wasted in making plans to gut the place. Even though many people now have home theatres, the appeal of going to the movies has always been so much more than the film itself. It is the actual “going out” part and being in a social setting that makes for a swell night. Knowing that rents have to be paid and foreseeing dwindling prospects, the decision was made to close up shop.

So where does that leave us? Well, despite population increases, we have seen a drastic decline in the number of area movie theatres. Famous Players in Stoney Creek closed down its Fiesta Mall location in 2001, saying it was looking for new opportunities. The replacement that was eventually built years later was not the sort to offer bargain ticket prices, and was snugly set in a shopping consortium that hopes to snag even more of your consumer dollars. It is also many miles away from the previous site – too big of a challenge for those without transportation to get to.

Since then, the location at Upper James has closed as well, along with the cinemas at Centre Mall and Limeridge Mall, Burlington’s Harvester location and the older movie house on Concession Street.

What we are left with, aside from the trio of bigger area Silver City buildings all cajoling for our business is Jackson Square and the single-screen Westdale option. There are times when it’s nice to sit in newer auditorium-style seating, but we also like having choices. And considering the Hamilton/Burlington area has nearly three-quarters of a million people, there are surprisingly almost none now other than the cookie-cutter chains that have helped create this scarcity.

And since going to the movies is no longer old school or authentic, you’re then bound to have the same routine of eye-popping prices, ear-popping speakers and less of an intimate experience every time you go. Maybe that’s why I not only haven’t been to the movies in over a year, but find myself less interested in them period.

Because after all, many movies are now also produced to cater to the movie-going environments being promoted these days, thereby alienating those of us whose idea of a night out isn’t putting on glasses and feeling like we are in a video game.

Brianna Smrke

Most plays can’t be easily compared to party store items, but McMaster Musical Theatre’s production of Into the Woods on Feb. 25 (its second night) wasn’t like most plays. It was pure glitter.

There was glitter on the stage, there were glitter-tossing moments, and there was even glitter decorating the tables where the near-full house sat. Not surprisingly, glitter was specially thanked in the play’s program. But the comparison runs deeper. The production itself fell over you like a shower of sparkles – kind of disorienting, sometimes chaotic and uneven, but more often than not, there were flashes of brilliance.

For the unaware, Into the Woods is a musical mega-fairytale that pulls familiar characters – Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack of Beanstalk fame and more – into a story about choices, connections and consequences. A Baker and his Wife attempt to lift a Witch’s spell, hoping to conceive a child. Their quest draws numerous narrative threads into a single, very tangled cord.

With almost twenty characters and seamless integration of a live orchestral backing, song and dialogue, Into the Woods is undoubtedly a technically demanding show. It could have been easy for the production to become mechanical, or worse, to come unhinged. Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened.

After an uneven opening number, Julia Theberge’s Witch pulled the audience into the play. Wisecracking and slightly terrifying, but somehow strangely relatable as an overprotective parent, she made the script of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine her own. From then on in, it was a character free-for-all. The characters – their challenges, quirks and passions – were what the audience noticed. They shone – sparkled, even – and caught our attention like, yes, glitter.

Madeleine Mant brought an authenticity and sweetness to the Baker’s Wife, even giving a touchingly accurate portrayal of a pregnant woman wincing her way through an elaborate dance number. Choreographer Chantal Labonte was en pointe here and especially also in the solo of Little Red Riding Hood (a wonderfully expressive Nicole Jerdzejko). Harrison Cruickshank and Jason Wolwowicz were scene-stealers as princes. Their duets were met with roars. Cruickshank especially, with his deadpan delivery and delightful self-assuredness, did the near-impossible – making his lamé tunic look simultaneously regal and ridiculous.

No character was too small to leave an impression. Matthew Bergen was a hilariously lecherous Big Bad Wolf. Thomas Ciolfi captured Jack’s sweetness and vapidity. As Jack’s long-suffering mother, Rebekah Pullen’s comedic timing was impeccable. Julie Lane was a believably frail and knobbled grandmother. Harrison Martin gave a surprisingly stirring silent performance as Milky-White the Cow, though his udder was more reminiscent of a deflated jellyfish than anything else.

Chris Vergara as the Narrator was the Everyman Into the Woods needed to pull things together. Part vocal effects (baby birds and human baby cries), part lighting effects (it was he who tossed the glitter) and the rest charm, Vergara broke tension and drew out some large laughs.

The orchestra, perched high above the stage, was effective without being distracting.

Behind the glitter, there still was substance. In conversation, Vergara and Mant both talked about how they hoped audiences would walk away thinking a bit more carefully about their choices. “I hope they realize that the world is a lot more connected than we think. Your decisions have repercussions that you couldn’t predict,” said Vergara.

“It really makes you ask yourself, ‘Once I get a happy ending, what’s next?’” said Mant. “Nothing is as clean and simple as it might at first seem.”

If you like your fairy tales with a little bite, glitz and glamour, take a trip Into the Woods.

Into the Woods continues Thursday, March 1 through Saturday, March 3 with matinee and evening performances at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Hamilton. Tickets are $25.00 for adults, $15.00 for students and seniors, available at tickets.lyrichamilton.com.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jemma Wolfe
Senior ANDY Editor

Are artists getting framed? Do you feel framed by society? Framed, this year’s Fall Major production by McMaster’s School of the Arts, premieres this week to much anticipation.

Framed was conceptualized by upper-year Theatre & Film Studies students who wanted to address the way in which artists are perceived and often framed by our present society. The director, professor Peter Cockett, explains, “Framed is about artists, the way they are perceived in our society, the difficulties they face and their ability to reframe our world.”

The play subtly interrogates public attitudes towards the importance of art in its many forms. Six different artists (a ballerina, a sculptor, a street artist, a singer and two digital designers) are mysteriously drawn to the Alternate Dimension coffee shop. There, an unusual barista, with otherworldly insight into the plights of the artists he encounters, magically compels his customers to confront their artistic pasts and come to terms with the circumstances that made them give up on what they loved.

The types of artists’ lives explored in this production were thoughtfully chosen. Cockett explains, “We chose kinds of artists that allowed us to explore different aspects of our central idea. The street artist, for example, allowed us to explore the issue of legitimacy in the art world. Who defines what is art and what is not?”

This production plays on the many meanings of the word “framed.” “The frame has a double meaning in our show. Our artists have been framed by social expectation, and thus the frame is a restrictive presence that limits possibilities. But frames can be moved, and one of the principle values of art for me is its ability to re-frame experience and allow us to see the world in fresh perspective,” explained Cockett. One of the most striking aspects of Framed’s set design is the clever ways that it plays with frames and layers of perception.

Framed is the result of the combined effort of three different classes: the summer term’s Performance Research and Planning, Performance and Community Outreach and Major Production Workshop. These classes gave students a realistic experience of what the realities of creating and staging a play really are.

Cockett was eager to sing the praises of his student cast and crew. “I asked this cast to engage with a complex topic and I have been impressed with the maturity of their response and their commitment to the creative process.”

The first image I saw when I walked into the dress rehearsal was the whole cast and crew standing in a circle together, holding each other’s hands. This pre-show ritual is representative of the relationship between the creative team members that devised the show. Devising, as a theatre process, is all about unity, cooperation and the fusion of collective ideas. There is little hierarchy, and everyone involved, from actors to designers, share the responsibility of inventing the premise, formulating dialogue, building sets, etc.

The benefits of devising processes, as Cockett explains, are that it “brings a multiplicity of perspectives to bear on the issue you are dealing with. It also encourages active engagement from all participants and a sense of collective responsibility within the creative process.”

Framed is a thought-provoking production that both entertains and challenges audiences. Viewers cannot help but consider the power and potential of art to reframe our world, and what is lost when passionate artists lose hope.

Framed is playing on Nov. 11, 12, and 16-19 in Robinson Memorial Theatre (CNH 103) at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at COMPASS and at the door.

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jemma Wolfe
Senior ANDY Editor

Are artists getting framed? Do you feel framed by society? Framed, this year’s Fall Major production by McMaster’s School of the Arts, premieres this week to much anticipation.

Framed was conceptualized by upper-year Theatre & Film Studies students who wanted to address the way in which artists are perceived and often framed by our present society. The director, professor Peter Cockett, explains, “Framed is about artists, the way they are perceived in our society, the difficulties they face and their ability to reframe our world.”

The play subtly interrogates public attitudes towards the importance of art in its many forms. Six different artists (a ballerina, a sculptor, a street artist, a singer and two digital designers) are mysteriously drawn to the Alternate Dimension coffee shop. There, an unusual barista, with otherworldly insight into the plights of the artists he encounters, magically compels his customers to confront their artistic pasts and come to terms with the circumstances that made them give up on what they loved.

The types of artists’ lives explored in this production were thoughtfully chosen. Cockett explains, “We chose kinds of artists that allowed us to explore different aspects of our central idea. The street artist, for example, allowed us to explore the issue of legitimacy in the art world. Who defines what is art and what is not?”

This production plays on the many meanings of the word “framed.” “The frame has a double meaning in our show. Our artists have been framed by social expectation, and thus the frame is a restrictive presence that limits possibilities. But frames can be moved, and one of the principle values of art for me is its ability to re-frame experience and allow us to see the world in fresh perspective,” explained Cockett. One of the most striking aspects of Framed’s set design is the clever ways that it plays with frames and layers of perception.

Framed is the result of the combined effort of three different classes: the summer term’s Performance Research and Planning, Performance and Community Outreach and Major Production Workshop. These classes gave students a realistic experience of what the realities of creating and staging a play really are.

Cockett was eager to sing the praises of his student cast and crew. “I asked this cast to engage with a complex topic and I have been impressed with the maturity of their response and their commitment to the creative process.”

The first image I saw when I walked into the dress rehearsal was the whole cast and crew standing in a circle together, holding each other’s hands. This pre-show ritual is representative of the relationship between the creative team members that devised the show. Devising, as a theatre process, is all about unity, cooperation and the fusion of collective ideas. There is little hierarchy, and everyone involved, from actors to designers, share the responsibility of inventing the premise, formulating dialogue, building sets, etc.

The benefits of devising processes, as Cockett explains, are that it “brings a multiplicity of perspectives to bear on the issue you are dealing with. It also encourages active engagement from all participants and a sense of collective responsibility within the creative process.”

Framed is a thought-provoking production that both entertains and challenges audiences. Viewers cannot help but consider the power and potential of art to reframe our world, and what is lost when passionate artists lose hope.

Framed is playing on Nov. 11, 12, and 16-19 in Robinson Memorial Theatre (CNH 103) at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at COMPASS and at the door.

 

 



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