Hamlet remix to rock new Centrepointe stage

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ottawa Shakespeare Company's Team Hamlet2011: From left to right, director Charles McFarland, Michael Mancini (Hamlet), Peter James Haworth (Player King), Scott Angus (Horatio), Katie Bunting (Ophelia), and Robert Welch (Polonius). Photo by Kathleen Black

Story by Kathleen Black


Later this month, bring all your preconceptions of Shakespeare to the expanded Centrepointe Theatre and let the newly born Ottawa Shakespeare Company (OSC) toss them out the window.

In a purposely different take on Shakespeare, the OSC’s Hamlet2011 opens April 27 (preview performance on April 26) and just might help you “stop worrying about whether you’re getting each and every word and instead relax into the momentum of the verse,” according to the OSC web site.

Co-founder of the OSC and director of Hamlet2011, Charles McFarland explained how this show was designed for a modern audience: “The whole thing is in modern dress. And that’s because Shakespeare’s plays were always first performed in contemporary dress.”

When Shakespeare’s audience first experienced Hamlet, the play had a very current and relevant feel. “So how can we take that forward,” mused McFarland, “and give that to an audience in 2011?"

The answer is “a Hamlet who has been clubbing in L.A., wakes up the next morning and gets the news that the king is dead,” explained McFarland. “So it’s this celebrity idea. And he’s gotta get back to Denmark, because his father’s just been killed.”

Musically, the production will have a live-concert feel, with rock opera mash-ups of songs by Arcade Fire and Florence + The Machine.

“There will be mash-ups of what might be contemporary classical music, with what Hamlet and Ophelia might have on their iPod,” explains McFarland. “We’re exploring for instance the soliloquy to be or not to be with a Kanye West underscore. So the rhythm of the verse is being mashed with the hip-hop beat.”

To add another element of newness, Hamlet2011 will give audiences a sneak preview of the new Centrepointe Studio Theatre, which is set to officially open in the fall.

The Studio Theatre has an ideal design for a live concert experience and will in fact host concerts in the future. Equipped with state-of-the-art lighting, sound, and scenery, the venue will give the Hamlet2011 production crew everything required to create an exciting atmosphere.

The expansion at Centrepointe also includes a new kitchen and a fully-equipped scenery assembly and repair room. The project not only dramatically improves the venue but will be kind to the environment as well: it is on track to receive a silver LEED environment certification.

Although a great amount of construction remains to be done before the show’s opening date, facility manager Allan Sansom assures that “the show must go on. We must have Hamlet on that stage by April 26.”

This modern, edgy version spins Shakespeare in a way that resonates in our current pop culture. McFarland notes that high school students in particular would enjoy the increased accessibility, adding that two school field trips have already been scheduled.

“It’s a Hamlet that really speaks their language” said McFarland, “and speaks to their version of the world.”

‘Confessions’ shows a more conversant OAG

Monday, March 28, 2011

Photographer Louis Helbig dicusses his work at the first OAG Confessions artist talk.

Story and photos by Kathleen Black


There’s a strong case to be made that Alexandra Badzak is exactly what the Ottawa arts scene need. She’s forward-thinking, collaborative, and believes in connecting art more directly to the life of the community. Since July, Badzak has been applying her beliefs as director of the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG), spearheading projects to revitalize the OAG and enhance its community presence.

The latest example is the talk series called Confessions, where the public can engage with an artist in a relaxed, comfortable setting.

“This isn’t something where the artist is behind a lectern, with dim lights,” explains Badzak. “This is a conversation.”

The first of the series was held Wednesday, March 23, where aerial photographer Louis Helbig began his discussion, appropriately, by confessing to being a bit of a daredevil. He revealed that he flies his plane and takes his photos at the same time, using the interior of the plane as a tripod.

Helbig also spoke very charmingly of his previous career, one spent in cubicles and eventually abandoned in favor of his passions for flying and photography. The audience remained engaged throughout the session and asked many questions in at atmosphere that was very much like what Badzak had envisioned.

“Essentially, the Confessions series is a way of making a deeper connection with our community,” said Badzak. “We felt this was a really interesting way of establishing more intimate connections between artists and patrons.”

Badzak points out that idea for the series itself came about through discussion between the OAG and its artists during a re-visioning session in November.

“We had about 90 people from the arts community come out and we got lots of great feedback from that session,” Badzak says. “One [theme] that came out very strongly was the idea that the artists want a more direct connection with their audience.”

“There is that sense that people are drawn to art through the personality of the artist,” Badzak continued. “What they’re driven by, and why they’re driven to make the art that they make, is a great story.”

Helbig’s talk was held in the OAG Art Rental and Sales space located just inside ArtsCourt front doors, another subtle sign of Badzak’s more collaborative approach.

“Art Rental and Sales seemed separate and apart from the rest of the OAG, and I don’t believe in that,” said Badzak. “I believe that we need to break down the silos between the different departments because it’s really about the art experience.”

Badzak’s desire to forge new ground extends beyond the physical space of the OAG. She and colleagues are currently working on “something new, young, and risky, that hopes to breathe new life into the gallery,” she said.

“In the next little while, we’ll be seeing some growth in the OAG. So pay attention to us,” Badzak continued. “It’s gonna be exciting!”

Director Alexandra Badzak is leading a revitalized and more collaborative OAG.


The beautiful people of GuerillaEroticaLIVE

Monday, March 21, 2011

Photos by Tony Martins and Kathleen Black

The venue was cozy and sensually lit. The atmosphere was lively yet groovy. The fine art was entrancing. But the people! The people were by far the most beautiful aspect of an all-around gorgeous evening on Friday, March 18 at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts as GuerillaEroticaLIVE unfolded like a flower awaiting pollination.

The launch of Guerilla #27—the all-erotica issue now online and in print—served as main thrust on the occasion, but, as with most GuerillaLIVE events, the festivities took on an essence of their own as readers, contributors, magazine staff, and the lovely crew from St. Brigid’s collaborated for a memorable evening.

DJ Michael Caffrey dug into his vinyl collection to spin some erotic audio gold. Thyme&Again catering was on hand to offer tantalizing hors d'oeuvres. A range of fine artists featured in the magazine exhibited their eye-pleasing works. And the newly sprung Ottawa Shakespeare Company screened and staged a sneak peek of their Hamlet2011 production opening April 27: two scenes were performed live following the premiere showing of an elegant video created to hype the play (put together by the talented local collective, The Greater Good).

Young lovelies proffering chocolates modelled fetish outfits from Wicked Wanda’s, adding some risqué edge, but surely the most talked-about attraction was Perfect, Pristine, Magnificent, the immense porn-inspired painting by Andrew Morrow that was discreetly on display on the upper level of St. Brigid’s. Featured on the cover of the #27 print edition, the remarkable work had many guests transfixed for long stretches and returning for two or three viewings.

Guerilla warmly thanks St. Brigid’s staff, magazine contributors, volunteers, and guests for helping to stage an event that lived up to its name

Moving Narratives blends painting and performance

Monday, March 14, 2011

Story and photo above by Mercedes Déziel-Hupé


What would happen if visual art were to meet contemporary dance? Would paintings come alive through a dancer's movement? Would dance affect our reading of a canvas? Such questions brought Ottawa choreographer Anik Bouvrette (founder of Tara Luz Danse) together with painter Reid McLachlan on a unique project marrying a fluid form of art with one typically frozen in time.

Moving Narratives debuted at the Ottawa School of Art gallery (Orleans campus) on Thursday, March 10, combining two choreographies based on an earlier Bouvrette work called Ludivine and more than twenty of McLachlan’s paintings.

“I was rehearsing in a space that exhibited Reid’s work and I fell in love,” explained Bouvrette. “I called him and explained ‘we have got to talk. It’s eerie how there are connections between our creations!’”

McLachlan’s paintings are introspective, exploring the human condition with recurring themes such as love, grief, destiny and faith. This appears clearly in the artist’s use of colour and in the facial expressions of the figures that he paints.

To echo Ludivine, Bouvrette and Tara Luz Danse created Sariana, a sister piece forged entirely within the gallery, involving the space as part of the creation. In both pieces, the dancers/sisters interact with McLachlan’s work through use of speech, the objects depicted on the canvases, and thematic use of paper.

Both sisters leave behind a trail—one a row of light bulbs, the other with writing on the floor and a paper airplane—showing kinship as well as difference. The audience appreciated humorous touches in Sariana as a marked change from the innocence of Ludivine.

Performed at opposite ends of the gallery, the choreographies created the impression that the sisters were facing each other, conversing. Music added context to the images and movement and framed the pieces. Both dancers, Jacqueline Ethier (Ludivine) and Julie Anne Ryan (Sariana) delivered poignant performances.

One quibble about Sariana: Though there was plenty of interesting movement in the piece, as a dancer and audience member, I wanted to see a bit more actual dancing.

“It is always exciting for me to engage in a choreographic process where I have the opportunity to work with artists from other disciplines,” said Bouvrette after the debut performance. “It challenges me to approach my work in a different way: in this case, I had to reflect on finding moments of connection between the characters in Reid's works with the movement and the women in Ludivine and Sariana.”

Upcoming performances of Moving Narratives are scheduled for March 19 at 3 p.m., March 26 and 7 p.m., and March 27 at 3 p.m. For more info on the show or on Ottawa School of Art visit www.artottawa.ca.


Enter the Bodé man cave—and be pampered

Monday, March 7, 2011

Story by Ashley McConnell  /  Photos by Rémi Thériault


What do men really want? That is the age-old question for which Bodé Spa may have answers. The sleek and discreet spa on Marlborough Avenue in Sandy Hill refreshingly refrains from marketing to women and offers a range of services entirely dedicated to the needs of men. Uniquely for the fellahs, Bodé’s adage is “You don’t have to be tough … just be a man.”

Along with luxurious services and educated staff, Bodé offers a physical space that is impressive and historic. Unmarked by signage, the spa is located in a converted house last occupied by the Italian Embassy. The building has the semblance of a speakeasy that any guy would appreciate. Built in the 1920s, the house is framed by large, rough grey stones. Inside, the structure, lighting, and proportions should heighten any male’s comfort level while he’s waiting to momentarily unwind.

With exposed cement blocks, heated floors and a dark and brooding color palette, Bodé’s space is definitely for the strong and silent type. Owner Daniel Francoeur is well aware that while women tend to view spas as a social experience, men use the time to reflect and get away from the daily grind. The highlight of the space, and a hit with most of the clientele, is the immense vault door that leads to the massage rooms. What was once an old safe has been remade into an area for solitude and relaxation.

Over the last decade, more males have been patronizing salons and spas and have opened themselves up to the idea that grooming is more than just the use of some deodorant. Lads from all walks of life are looking for ways to obtain the immaculately effortless aesthetic that treatments such as waxing and pore-squeezing can achieve.

Francoeur has been in the business of esthetics and massage for more that six years and was previously the owner of Little House Spa, a picturesque space in the countryside of Cumberland. At Little House, Francoeur found that when men were exposed to the spa when tagging along with their wives, girlfriends or mothers, many of them became hooked. “In six years the male clientele grew to 40%,” says Francoeur.

When the opportunity arose for Francoeur to set up shop in the beautifully aged home in Sandy Hill, he jumped at the chance. With the movement of man-scaping on the rise Francoeur put together a finely tuned, male-specific menu of grooming services.

In addition to old favorites such as pedicures, manicures, waxing and massage, Bodé also offers educational services. Realizing, for instance, that a good many men learned to shave using a bar of soap and an eighty-cent disposable razor, Bodé offers skin analysis and simple care and shaving solutions.

For details, visit http://www.bodespa.com.

Violinist shares visions of fellow musicians

Monday, February 28, 2011

Oliver Jones, Montreal pianist, was a child prodigy who at age 3 could play songs he heard on the radio from memory.


By Kathleen Black


We see most classical musicians formally and only from afar, but violinist Lev Berenshteyn’s current photo exhibition in the National Arts Centre foyer gives us a rare, up-close view of many renowned names who have graced the NAC stage.

The 13-piece exhibition, From the Stage of Southam Hall, is on display until March 8 and includes portraits of classical luminaries such as acclaimed pianist, conductor, and Senator of Canada, Tommy Banks, as well as four-time Juno award-winning pianist Oliver Jones.

A violinist with the NAC Orchestra for the past 27 years, Berenshteyn created the exhibition to give the public a glimpse of the artists’ “private faces,” which we seldom see during performances.

“When people come to listen to the orchestra,” Berenshteyn explains, “they see the back of the conductor, or the soloist performing.” As an audience, our focus is placed on the songs, the sound, and the emotions evoked during the performance. Through Berenshteyn’s photos, we get the chance to meet the musicians in a more personal setting.

Berenshteyn’s fascination with people led him to photograph casually at family gatherings and during his travels. Later, when he got his first digital camera, his passion for photography blossomed. Over the last few years, he’s been photographing events, people, and landscapes.

“There are many similarities between music and photography,” notes Berenshteyn. “Both are interpretive forms of art. One tells the story with sound, the other with light.” He explains that in music, the “colour of sound” is often mentioned to help musicians visualize the sounds produced.

This leads to the notion that art forms can be interchangeable and that many artists practice more than one.

“I know a lot of musicians who practice another art form,” says Berenshteyn. “My advice? Do it. Tell it. Paint it.”

Born in Russia, Berenshteyn has been playing the violin since he was seven. After briefly living in Vienna and Rome, he moved to Canada in 1979 with his wife, and has been a member of the NAC Orchestra for the past three decades.

Berenshteyn reasons that a musical group or soloist can play various interpretations of a song, similar to a photographer, who can snap a shot from a variety of perspectives and angles. In his portraits of musicians, Berenshteyn often uses negative space to capture only what he wants to show: facial expression.

“I would like to show a privileged view of the private faces of these people,” he explains.

The photo of Berenshteyn himself in the exhibition poster shows him looking cool, in sunglasses, concealing his own identity in a sense. The focus remains on the faces of Southam Hall that he wants us to meet.

Tommy Banks, Canadian conductor and pianist, host of the CBC television’s “The Tommy Banks Show” for 15 years.


Hans Graf, Austrian conductor, is a wine connoisseur in his private life.


Leonard Slatkin, American conductor, is a proud parent who writes monthly about his experiences on tour with various orchestras.

Trevor Pinnock, English harpsichordist and conductor, was told as a student that it would be impossible to make a living as a harpsichordist.