Art Attack is the source for a variety of arts news in Halifax: Nova Scotian visual arts, theatre, dance, comedy, literature and more. Contact email@example.com to send a tip.
Beware the ear worms! Can you think of another show that has as many insidious tunes as Man of La Mancha? (I ended up humming “Dream the Impossible Dulcinea in a Cinnamon Tree.”) However, the inventive staging of this play-within-a-play makes it worth enduring the tunefully torturous car ride home. The creative team on this show has pulled out all the stops, putting together a world of fantastical illusions including a windmill/monster, a castle/inn and a really cool chess game, all from cardboard. The cast brings a lot of energy and talent (vocal, dance and acting) and while this show is a little rough around the edges musically, I understand that the pit band had just under two weeks to learn the very challenging score. Again, I’m impressed with how big the King’s Theatrical Society dares to dream.
When: Through January 23
Where: The Pit, Arts and Administration Building, University of King's College, 6350 Coburg
Richard Florida, who's like the Bono of urban philosophies, has become synonymous with his Creative Class theory: that cities of the future will only be successful if they attract and retain knowledge-based workers. When he moved to Toronto a couple of years ago, the creative-city-in-training was thrilled by his arrival—our national newspaper even gave him a column—but according to this article in The Star, the curtain has been pulled, and Florida is now being accused as being elitist by the very creative class he wants to cultivate.
I saw him speak about five years ago, and while it's definitely compelling stuff, every cultural and bureaucratic meeting I attended for about a year afterwards was layered with annoying Floridese. Sadly, few cities have the kind of visionary leadership (other than perhaps former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray) to actually turn this philosophy into reality.
That said, I am optimistic about the fact that Florida's Creative Class Group, his Washington-based consulting firm, will be helping to select the architectural firm for the new central library at Spring Garden and Queen. Look for a decision soon, followed by public consultations.
Prorogue is two syllables, helmet head, three: http://www.hahcanada.ca/HAH/Instructions.html
Faith Healer by Irish playwright Brian Friel is not what you might expect from the title. While the “Fantastic Francis Hardy” (Lewis Wynne-Jones) supposedly has an on-again-off-again healing touch, the audience never actually sees him in action. Instead, the story of life in Frank’s (AKA Francis) itinerant show is told in monologues by three terrific actors, from three very different points of view. Chloe Hung is Grace, Frank’s wife of many years who has been destroyed by her husband’s indifference and cruelty. (As an example, in Frank’s version of reality, he insists that Grace is merely his mistress.) Griffin McInnes is Teddy, Frank’s Cockney manager. Teddy, a funny little man who sees both humour and pathos in everything, is a stalwart friend who has put up with years of neglect, perhaps because he is a little in love with both Grace and Frank. Frank, as played by Wynne-Jones, oozes a seductive charm as well as a deep-seated self-doubt. This play requires more than the ability to listen. Come prepared to hear, and you will be amply rewarded.
When: Through January 23
Where: KTS Redroom on the second floor of the New Academic Building on King's College Campus 6350 Coburg
Sarah Chase, the choreographer of Montréal Danse's On the Ice of Labrador, considers herself as much a storyteller as she is a dancer. For this lovely piece, on now at James Dunn Theatre, she mixes up stories from the seven dancers' own family histories, with that of a woman undergoing treatment for a brain tumour.
While the stories may be concrete—cousins marrying, horrific train accidents, diabetes shots, watching Shogun with your family—there's an ambiguity in how they are told to the audience. Each of the dancers tells, or sings, a different story, but naturally you really want to make connections. It plays out like a little mystery. Are these all from the same person, or are they connected somehow? Are these fragments of memory from a woman whose brain is compromised from treatment, who we can't trust with facts? Why are these memories remembered and yet others are discarded?
Anyone who is looking for an entry point into contemporary dance, this is a perfect show—in fact, in many ways it's more like theatre. There's some really great acting too, in particular, dancer Rachel Harris, as a woman suffering from some form of aphasia, trying to articulate her feelings and recite her phone number. And moments of beauty, like Frédéric Marier spinning slowly around on a small circular platform (these platforms are used by all the dancers through the piece), playing the trombone, compass points created in light on the floor around him. A large lit translucent board used on the floor becomes a small pool, then, when stood up, almost as if the dancers are gesturing behind a cloud of a waterfall.
On the Ice of Labrador continues until Saturday.
January 16 has come and gone. For Andrew Power, it was another workday, and a celebration of sorts. For four years the animator has been producing Aptitude Test (aptitude.surfacingpoint.com), a teen superhero action webcomic. Power draws and writes the adventures of his characters, Julie, Rina and Momentum, as they battle zombies, robots and mutants—-thanks to Rina’s high school aptitude test, which suggested she’s best suited for a superhero career. Like Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series and its Toronto setting, the Halifax comic isn’t about the city itself, but is grounded in cultural landmarks. “It’s my own universe to play in,” Power laughs.
After four years of updating the full-page comic every Monday, Power has built up a fanbase, whom he often consults (he says his readers are mostly the “normal comic” demographic). This year he wants to increase the frequency of the strips and open an online store. For now you can check in every Monday or grab Aptitude Test: Cheat Sheets, available at Strange Adventures.
At the heart of Montréal Danse’s piece On the Ice of Labrador is a real story. Actually, not just one story, but many old family tales, collected from the company’s seven dancers by choreographer Sarah Chase. According to MD artistic director Kathy Casey, “Chase loves to unearth stories and find the links and common themes.” It’s an eclectic collection: “Aviators, trombone players, mortality on railroad tracks, bodies washed in Hotel Dieu, blood sugar cycles of a young diabetic,” and the list goes on, but at the core of all this truth is one story that’s a fabrication, which Casey calls “the glue to the piece.” All these stories circle and ride around a character who has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, the treatment for which “could affect what defines your personhood…including your memory.”
Those who find the abstract nature of contemporary dance a challenge should watch out: you may get hooked before you know it, through narration and singing. Casey says, “It’s abstract on a movement level, but it’s gestural as body language. And the stories are concrete.”
Of course, singing and stories challenge the dancers to take on different skills too. Casey says that it becomes a very personal experience—-they’ve worked on telling their tales rather than reciting a script—-and even the lighting is turned up slightly to accommodate the intimacy of that performer-audience bond.
Montréal Danse’s On the Ice of Labrador, presented by Live Art Productions, runs Thursday to Saturday, 8pm at the Sir James Dunn Theatre. Tickets are $16.50-$24 (494-3820).
2b Theatre is in New York, remounting their acclaimed play Invisible Atom, directed by Ann-Marie Kerr and performed by Anthony Black, at the Public Theatre until January 17. Atom is one man's journey through the imagination, touching on brainiac topics like economics and classical physics. Dark and humourous, this one.
Black writes to say they're having a great time (it's New York!!) taking in shows and seeking out great restaurants (sigh). "A number of our performances have been sold out and we've had great response, including interest from presenters in places like Galway, Nashville, and Chicago. We've also been seeing some really remarkable work, including the Philadelphia-based company PigIron with their extraordinary show "Chekhov Lizardbrain", a verbatim text song cycle from Ireland called "Silver Stars", and a wonderful piece from France called "L'Effet de Serge." I wish Halifax had a presenter with enough money to bring in shows like this."
What Black doesn't mention is this incredibly ecstatic review: "I feel privileged to have been among Invisible Atom's audience members. Go see this show and be inspired, entertained and intellectually impressed."
After artist Aaron Weldon MacLean’s father died, he left behind a wonderful gift: a collection of photographs that would become the foundation of the young artist’s current practice. The focus of his new show, *Nature of Descriptions*, at Eyelevel Gallery, is a large-scale painting, which had its origins as one of his dad’s photos from the early 1990s. Taken in a Tantallon Junior High School classroom during a family-planning class, a large group of students flank either side of a baby, sitting in a tiny tub.
Without the author of the photo alive, MacLean was left with questions about its details. “I didn’t get enough information,” he says. Were those compositional lines, which MacLean dramatically paints into the piece like lasers, intentional or intuitive, or perhaps there was a desk in the way of the perfect shot?
But this is not a sentimental work about his father, though the very idea of a family planning, MacLean admits, references the idea of legacy. The artist intentionally “pulled it into the present” by restaging the event before he even put a paintbrush to canvas, blurring the lines of image ownership. Recognizable Halifax musicians (Cailean Lewis from The Gideons), dancers (Véronique MacKenzie, Sara Harrigan) and other artists (Susan Wolf, Jody Zinner) played roles, dressed in spot-on Value Village finds. And talk about detail: they even went back to the same classroom where the photo was originally taken. An 8mm film was also shot (playing as part of the show), the green-hued, dreamy quality lending itself to a reenactment of a young, nervous class learned how to bathe and diaper an infant.
However, the real star here is the painting: MacLean beautifully captures the awkwardness of junior high, and all its gawky bodies and fidgety hands. “The awkwardness was so satisfying to me,” says the artist. While the faces are perfectly rendered—-at first glance they appear collaged on—-their bodies are a wash of chunkier shapes and bright colours; a reminder that this is a painting, and, in some ways, another piece of theatre presented for our pleasure.
In addition to the painting and the video, the talented NSCAD grad also includes several smaller, more intimate works inspired by the Tantallon performance, and an aquarium installation lit with the three primary colours; a reminder that all works of art, whether they be paintings or photos, simply boil down to basic red, blue and yellow.
MacLean’s Nature of Descriptions opens Thursday, January 14 at 7pm, and runs until January 30.
When the curtain rises on the King’s production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, it’s immediately apparent that actress Sabrina Uswak looks the part of Maggie, the “cat” of the title. She’s a quivering ball of energy resplendent with glossy tresses and a lithe body. The same could be said of John Adams as Brick. He has the cool, handsome exterior of a young Paul Newman, right down the forelock of floppy hair. But do they have the acting chops to bring to life this damaged pair, and to dance the tricky tango of attraction (Maggie) and repulsion (Brick)? Yes and yes! Uswak ably skips across the high wire of Maggie’s deviousness and longing, and Adams is fully engaged and engaging as Brick, even during his many silences. The supporting cast is also remarkable. Genevieve Whelan as Big Mama is both larger-than-life funny and tragically human. Matt Baker as Big Daddy, while occasionally veering into over-the-top dramatics, had some very fine moments as Brick’s surprisingly loving father. Well-cast and well-acted, this is theatre to heat up these cold January nights.
When: Through Jan. 16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Pit, Arts and Administration Building, University of King's College, 6350 Coburg
So kids, here's a story of never giving up your dreams. When Coast writer Mark Black read in Mondo that "When Toronto comedian Bob Kerr tweeted Tompkins in late July and asked him to perform here, Tompkins responded with a challenge: Kerr’s aptly named “I Wanna See Paul F. Tompkins in Toronto!” group reached 300 people by the first week of August."
Could it? Would it work in Halifax? So Black started a FB group and In no time at all, more than 300 Haligonians showed their funny bones, and now Tompkins has agreed to perfom here. The former Mr. Show cast member will be at The Company House, for two shows on March 27. Ticket details, TBD.
David Harper, who left Halifax to go to grad school in Chicago's esteemed SAIC, has continued to produce amazing works, with shows in Cambridge, On, and Dawson City, Yukon. This is detail of an installation that Harper was working on when I interviewed him almost two years ago. Keep in mind he did the taxidermy himself, and those portraits cut into the deer corpses are embroideries.
Although it’s been over 45 years since Roe v Wade was passed, and almost 22 years since abortion was decriminalized in Canada, women still face challenges to their reproductive rights—-in particular, abortion accessibility—-according to Jane Gavin-Hebert, producer of SMU Women’s Centre’s production of Jane Abortion and the Underground. This is the play’s first international performance and its 10th anniversary.
Directed by Pascale Roger-McKeever and originally written by American playwright Paula Kamen, the story follows Chicago’s Jane Collective, an early 1970s underground group that provided thousands of safe, accessible abortions at a time when the procedure was illegal. It was a “secret” service that received referrals from churches, hospitals, police and more. Nonetheless, seven members were arrested, but the charges were eventually dropped when Roe v Wade passed.
Kamen’s original script slightly fictionalized parts of this true story, but Gavin-Hebert says that Ruth Vollick, who adapted the screenplay for the Halifax production, stripped it down to the monologues, which are first-hand, verbatim accounts of the events. “This is solely the true story,” says Gavin-Hebert.
Jane Abortion and the Underground runs January 9-10, 7pm at Saint Mary’s McNally Theatre. Tickets are $7 in advance (496-8722) and $12 at the door. Also a fundraiser for Trust Women: A Conference on Reproductive Justice, scheduled for January 28 at the university, look for a silent auction and an art exhibition by Rebecca Roher.
It doesn’t get much more trad than portrait paintings of women, unless you are NSCAD student Jennie Philpott and your series of oil paintings is a tribute to female underground singers. It’s a kickass twist on two male-dominated art forms.
Danyell DeVille (of Hamilton punk band Pantychrist) growls right off a candy-coloured canvas, mic clutched in hand. Theo Kogan from the Lunchicks looks positively maniacal against a background of teenage pinks and purples. The portraits, which show theses ladies doing what they do best—-performing—-also includes Kat Bjelland (Babes in Toyland) and Mel Mongeon (Fuck the Facts), with a taut vein straining against her neck.
Philpott’s first solo show, The Modern Day F-Word, opens Monday, 5:30pm at Anna Leonowens Gallery, running until January 16