Story and photos by Tony Martins
Brace yourselves, Ottawa. Sylvie Hill is back and ready to re-energize the cultural scene in a new bi-weekly column called Charger. The column appears exclusively in Guerilla online beginning this Wednesday, February 24.
Between the summers of 2004 and 2006, Hill established herself among the most daring and distinctive local scribes with her weekly Shotgun column appearing in Ottawa Xpress.
“Shotgun attacked topics that women aren't supposed to experience and people aren't supposed to talk about,” said Hill. “It challenged ideas about sexual wants and needs, love and relationships. It talked about social consciousness and awareness. It was a weekly column that zeroed in on life in Ottawa by targeting the head and heart as it aimed for the jugular.”
While Shotgun eventually ran out of ammo, Hill’s passion for breaking boundaries and shedding light on the finest that Ottawa has to offer was never extinguished.
“I had said all I wanted to say and explored topics that I was passionate about,” said Hill. “It was time to hang it up and live some life free of deadlines to expand my personal interests so I could continue writing with fresh perspectives. Charger brings those fresh, new perspectives.”
Never shy of controversy, Hill will hit the ground running in her debut Charger column that appears Wednesday, skipping across hot topics such as masturbation, post-partum depression, being dumped, and a less-than-inspiring local music reviewer whose work Hill likens to “a dead lay.”
As with Shotgun, reader feedback will play a significant role in the Charger column. Hill intends to get people talking by first making clear that she is willing to listen.
“[With Shotgun] People could see that I cared about what they had to say,” explained Hill, “and were happy to see their comments taken up in succeeding columns like an interactive dialogue they were always part of.”
To read Charger and speak your mind, return to Guerilla bright and early Wednesday morning. Sylvie Hill wants to have a word with you.
Arc Poetry Magazine, edition #63
By Innika La Fontaine
Ottawa poet Diana Brebner won the Gerald Lampert Award in 1991 and the Pat Lowther Award three years later. Because Brebner was an inspiring mentor to young writers until she died of cancer at the age of 44 in 2001, now her own legacy lives on via the Diana Brebner Prize for Poetry bestowed annually by Arc: Canada's National Poetry Magazine.
To honour the 2009 Brebner Prize winner Gillian Wallace and celebrate the launch of edition #63, Arc will host a night of poetry readings on Tuesday, February 16 at Collective Works (1242 Wellington), 7:30 p.m.
“Diana didn’t understand people who where afraid of sharing their creative energy,” says Lesley Buxton, an Arc board member and friend of the late poet. Buxton feels that sharing was Brebner’s way of drawing more creativity out of people.
The drive to create with poetry is evident in Wallace’s winning poem, “Crow, of the family Corvidae,” and in how it was created.
“I was sitting in the living room of our old house, wanting to write a poem, and feeling uninspired,” Wallace recalls. “I raised my head and looked out the window. There, in the big tree in a neighbour’s garden, was a gathering of crows. And I couldn’t hear them because of our blasted refrigerator’s hum. ‘Write about that,’ I told myself. ‘Just do it’.”
Crow, of the family Corvidae
by Gillian Wallace
The blackness of birds, a flotilla flying silently
in the blue of my window, cawing held
by glass, refrigerator hum, the wisp
of a passing cloud. They look so clean
from here, beaks that have never known
the soft meat of a lamb’s eye or how
a squirrel comes, one strand at a time,
off a flattened road. Not for them
the singleness of chair, cup, bed. Instead
an updraft to a chatter of trees, a caw-fest lasting
until age black-downs them in the mud.
At 32 years of age, Arc is Canada's oldest poetry magazine with an uninterrupted publishing history.
“We are dedicated solely to new poetry and prose about poetry—whether reviews, essays or interviews,” says editor Anita Lahey.
Arc gives one of the biggest annual poetry prizes in the country, the $1500 Poem of the Year award, and offers arguably the broadest and most in-depth review coverage of poetry collections in Canada.
“Because [Tuesday’s] event is in honour of the winners of the Diana Brebner Prize for Poetry, it also gives people the opportunity to hear and meet new voices,” added Lahey, “poets who are just beginning to emerge, who show skill and promise, and whose work is in some way exciting.”
“[Diana] put a great deal of effort into nurturing and mentoring the poets and writers coming up behind her, including several people who have been involved in Arc over the years,” said Lahey, who counts herself among those aided by Brebner.
“We named this award for emerging poets in her honour because of that work that she did, and also to keep her finely wrought poetry in the public eye.”
Natasha Doyon, Helen of Troy (detail)
Heroes are empty shells without their underlying mythology. Natasha Doyon has resurrected several of our most poignant heroic figures with loose, gestural watercolours that force us to reexamine both the personae and the mythologies beneath.
Doyon’s solo show Héros & Héroïnes runs Friday, February 12 to March 28 at Karsh-Masson Gallery, with an opening reception on Thursday, February 11 (5:30 to 7:30 pm) and an artist walk-through on Sunday, February 28 at 2 pm.
The show includes 32 pieces done in ink and watercolour on Arches paper, several of which are as large as 45" x 65". Sometimes big themes call for big scale.
“These paintings are interpretations of historical figures that have definite identities,” explains Doyon. “The purpose was to enhance, exaggerate and transform their mythological personae to have access to another perspective of the individual. The loose brushwork approach was to unsettle the definite aspect as the identity.”
This exhibition represents a departure for Doyon, who had previously focused on narrative representational work.
“I wanted to work with the ideas of memories and history, so taking the work into a place that exists in between two realities was the structure I was working within; and the linear narrative no longer applied.”
“My intention was to inject a different form into these historical and contemporary figures,” Doyon continued, “to engage in a dialogue with existing personae and push them further, to once again keep them relevant.”
The works might appear loose and spontaneous, but the research and though processes that went into them were anything but. Doyon spent considerable time “going to the library and taking out tons of books on different periods in history sifting though them, and letting the figures that stood out develop into subjects I wanted to resurrect. I worked from many different source materials and in most of the paintings there is a mix of sources adding to the layers that exist in perceptions of memory and history.”
Gone, of course, are the thick oil paints, traditional canvas, and heavy, ornate frames we associate with heroic portraits.
“The ink and watercolor are transparent, fluid and lend to unpredictable strokes,” explained Doyon. “The medium was in contrast with the weighty figures I was painting.”
Judith and Holefernes
Brown Head 1
Promotional artwork by Anthony Tremmaglia
Director Charles McFarland and friends at Third Wall Theatre were wrestling with a challenge: how to pin down Shakespeare’s As You Like It as a contemporary love story with an attention-grabbing twist.
The answer: professional wrestling, of course, used as a metaphor for the violent and political society from which the characters flee in the second part of the play.
But the casting of former pro wrestler Glen Kulka is only one of the head-turning modern elements in store when As You Like It opens at the GCTC’s Irving Greenberg Theatre on Thursday, February 4. There are also original contemporary melodies by David Dacosta (imbued with Shakespearian lyrics), slick, contemporary set design by Sarah Waghorn and Rebecca Miller, and other surprises.
The seedlings of the innovative production were planted last year, when Third Wall’s commitment to updated takes on the classics gave rise to the company’s Shakespeare Ensemble, a group of 25 local actors immersed in the ways of The Bard with a different approach to interpreting the material.
“Very quickly we found that these actors coalesced around the challenge of verse-speaking,” explained McFarland. “When we took the work out to audiences we found that this way produces edge-of-your-seat experiences for them as they hear the play clearly and immediately—getting rid of all the cobwebs we usually associate with heavy, classical theatre.”
The Ensemble's debut production in 2009 was what McFarland called a “rock 'n' roll Henry V,” complete with spinning scaffolding and video-montages of Afghan and Iraq conflicts. “All to drive home the contemporary application of the play's questions about who sends countries in to war,” said McFarland.
To lighten things up this year, Third Wall chose As You Like It, arguably the greatest of Shakespeare's plays about love, and timed the production to coincide with Valentine's Day.
Is McFarland at all worried about what Shakespearian purists might think? Not at all.
“Choosing to do any Shakespeare in what you might call historical costume is a retrospective choice that goes against how Shakespeare wrote and produced the plays,” said McFarland, “which were always done in contemporary dress with maybe a few historical 'bits' thrown on top if needed.”
McFarland feels Shakespeare is so frequently interpreted from a modern viewpoint because of the “universality” of his stories.
“And we're catching up, or getting back, to the immediacy of the plays when they were first performed,” McFarland explains. “In fact, there are centuries of period costume or historical interpretations between Shakespeare's time and our own that get in the way of the audience experiencing the plays in the way his first audiences did.”
“This is really all about championing Shakespeare as a modern writer—universal themes of love or war—or maybe the wars of love—given a modern feel, just as he did in 1599.”
The cast of As You Like It includes Kristina Watt as Rosalind, Jordan Hancey as Orlando, Michael Mancini as Touchstone, Scott Wilson as Jacques, Mishka Lavigne as Phoebe, and Tania Levy as Audrey.
See the play on Guerilla night
Monday, January 25, 2010
Still image from Wish You Were Here, by Andrew Alexander
Story by Innika La Fontaine
The Ottawa filmmaking community is a small, closely knit scene with a core group that has been dominant for 30 to 40 years. Recognizing the need to inject fresh blood, film enthusiasts Nina Bains and Shawn Kazda created an innovative filmmaking competition where time is of the essence.
The second annual BoxcART Film Festival 72 Hour Challenge got underway Thursday, January 21 and concluded Sunday. The central idea: take the second-guessing out of the filmmaking process for spontaneous creations that are new, raw, edgy, and no more than eight minutes long.
Teams received a sealed envelop containing a set of criteria and were set loose to begin filming. They had 72 hours to create something sexy, stylish and savvy. A panel of judges will assess the films on creativity and innovation using a point-based system and award $250 to the winning team.
“Ottawa has enough bohemian art films,” Bains explained in the run-up to the competition. “We want Ottawa to be known for it’s sexy style.”
And people are catching on. Five filmmaking teams entered the first contest last year; this year that tally ballooned to 19 teams. Some 150 budding filmmakers trawled Ottawa’s streets over the 72-hour challenge.
After struggling last year to attract interest, Bains was pleasantly suprised by the surge of participants.
“I did not expect this many people,” Bains said. “But how do you say no?”
A factor in Bains' favour: anyone interested in filmmaking could participate, free of charge.
BoxcART is now part of the Ottawa International Film Festival (another project spearheaded by Bains and Kazda), offering budding filmmakers a bridge to bigger film festivals.
“People underestimate the level of talent that is here,” Bains says, and many participants would agree.
“Most of the interesting people who come to this city don’t stay here very long because there isn’t stuff like this,” says Tim McEowan, a part-time filmmaker and first-time participant in the challenge this year.
“This is a step, a motion,” added McEowan. “It will be interesting to see what comes out of this because some of the people who are in this are sharp.”
This year, submitted films had to include specific landmarks, props, and actions including a shawarma shop, a dumpster, and several jumping jacks. McEowan's film included a party girl ten years past her prime and a 24-hour shawarma shop frequented by transvestites and hookers.
“The most interesting part of this process is when you are actually doing the work,” McEowan says. “It’s not the prep-work, it’s not the after, it’s that part in the middle when you’re actually shooting—I’ve never been so engaged in anything. You’re completely focal.”
“Because there is no time for them to second guess themselves, their creativity gets tested,” Bains explained “These kinds of challenges, I find, bring out the crème de la crème.”
All BoxcART submissions were due at 6:45 p.m. on Sunday January 23. The winning film will be announced Wednesday, February 10.
Launched on Friday, January 15, the 10 Best 10 competition involves innovative cultural magazines on every continent except Antarctica.
“All these magazines have common ground: They’re all forward-thinking, highly sophisticated visual magazines, completely in line with the culture that WIN strives to promote,” said WIN founder and award-winning photographer Hans Neleman.
In addtion to Guerilla, the publications involved are Time Out (New York), Oyster (Australia), Eyemazing (The Netherlands), Zoom (Russia), S Magazine (Sweden), Reflex (Argentina), FUXYZ (Spain), The Outlook (China), One Small Seed (South Africa), and Let Them Eat Cake (England).
The competition has two stages. First, editors from each magazine pick a regional winner based on entries submitted (Guerilla's region is Canada). Editors then assign the winner a photo shoot to be executed for their magazines. Each regional winner documents the entire production with a prize camcorder. In the second stage, the ten resulting magazine layouts are judged by an expert panel and one photographer receives a grand prize of US $3000.
Entry fee for the competition is US $10 (ten images can be submitted per entry). The competition is open to any creative photo artist and the subject matter may range, but editors are mostly interested in cutting-edge personal and commercial work.
For entry and deadline details visit www.guerilla.tenbestten.com.
WIN-Initiative (www.win-initiative.com) has 750 photographers throughout the world, including China, South Africa, Russia, Argentina, Brazil and New York City. Its stock library has more than 20,000 unique stock images.