Showcasing the best people and events at UBC that we think you should know about:
Designing a Nightmare: Interview With The Design Team Behind UBC Theatre's The Changeling
Welcome back to a new term! Dive returned last week to the Frederic Wood theatre to interview some of the designers behind UBC Theatre’s upcoming production of The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley. We sat down in the lobby with MFA director Luciana Silvestre Fernandes, MFA costume designer Charlotte Di Chang, MFA set designer Luis Bellassai, and BFA sound designer Jacob Wan to discuss all the behind the scenes parts that went into making this show.
First, to get an overall understanding of the show, we asked: what is The Changeling about?
The basics, as Luciana told us, are that this is a Jacobean tragedy, revolving around the life of the main character Beatrice Joanna who is set to be married to someone whom she does not wish to wed and goes to great lengths to ensure that such an outcome does not occur. Luciana’s vision for the show however describes a deep sense of confinement and entrapment, particularly because Beatrice Joanna has no agency in her own time. “It’s a pretty fucked up world with pretty oppressive walls that close in on people to the point that they consume themselves and each other. And really, how do you exist in that kind of world is a big question for this play.”
Continuing the conversation, Luciana told us that previous productions have sidestepped Beatrice Joanna as the main character, instead spinning the story as what is being done to her and that she really wants to give that leading role back to the character.
But we were curious about another question as well: why choose this play?
Luciana had encountered The Changeling first back in high school in Brazil, being an Early Modern enthusiast and she told us that the first three times she read the play it gave her nightmares. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to want to produce something after an experience like that but it only shows how important it is to Luciana that this story be told and that it be told right.
We then got to talk more with the designers, asking them along with Luciana, what sort of process they went through when designing their different aspects of the show. Luciana started the process by giving them the direction of wanting it to feel like a nightmare and from there the creativity bloomed.
Luis began by saying “it is a classic play and I have to be honest, I really don’t like classic at all,” which gave everyone a laugh. As a result, he designed a space that is very abstract, thrilled with the freedom of creating a nightmare using ropes and playing with the vertical space of the theatre.
In designing costumes, Charlotte’s vision included a lot of red with high fashion elements to add another layer to the feeling of confinement, particularly with one of Beatrice Joanna’s dresses with high-necked ruffles and a skirt that ties the actress up to her knees. The red is symbolic of blood and a feeling of being hunted, as Charlotte told us, but also of love and passion and life.
Finally, Jacob described what he has done to add to all of this with sound. Since there is no visual, it can be challenging to get the sound right but he told us that he is very happy to be working in the Telus theatre within the Chan Center as there are so many options for creating his own version of the nightmare that Luciana asked for. The end result is a surround soundscape that emphasizes Beatrice Joanna’s inner emotions and as Jacob said, “the audience is kind of participating with it in the space.”
It is an intimate space, and as Luciana described when we went to the theatre to check out the space for ourselves, the audience will have a very different experience if they are sitting on the stage level as compared to the second or even third level of seats. No matter where you sit though, this production will certainly leave the audience thinking about the deep horror experienced by the main character and how that is reflected even in our own modern day experiences.
The show opens this Thursday, January 16 at 7:30pm and runs until Saturday, February 1st. Tickets and more information can be found on UBC Theatre’s Facebook event page.
Spotlight by Nicole Andrews & Anna Nielsen | Photography by Anna Nielsen
Timothy Findley’s “The Wars” Interview with Cecilia Vadala and Ishan Sandhu
We were welcomed back to the Frederic Wood Theatre last week, this time with set designer Cecilia Vadala and actor Ishan Sandhu, to discuss how the 2020 graduating class of the UBC Theatre program will bring to life the pain and sorrows of World War I in their rendition of Timothy Findley’s The Wars, while we explored the crooks and nooks of the iconic theatre.
We started in the lobby, introducing ourselves, and making easy conversation about the whatnots of UBC life, before getting straight into business. Ishan and Cecilia dove deep into the creative process that brought this play to life for them in the first place. The Wars will be the dedicated show of the graduating class of the UBC Theatre program, a chance for the soon-to-be graduates to showcase what they have learned. On occasion, they have a say on which production they would like to take on but as Ishan told us, The Wars was not even in consideration when the process first started. However, once the first table reads and creative meetings started back in August, the cast and crew were excited to really dig in. Ishan shared how helpful the feedback from director Lois Anderson was in understanding how to approach the story, “We are taking this opportunity to tell the story about WWI, as students”. The goal is to portray the emotion, rather than historical accuracy, of the events at that time.
From her side of the story, Cecilia revealed how different it was for her to capture the essence of the emotion in the props pieces. “I am giving a lot to do to the actors”, Cecilia said, which Ishan immediately denied, causing a chuckle among us. At this point, we left the lobby to walk through to the prop shop, where machinery cutting through wood provided background music to Cecilia’s fascinating perspective on the play. She explained how much she enjoys the collaborative nature, exchanging ideas with the director, the rest of the set and costume team. However, she first gets her ideas by consulting the script. “I rely on the script and words a lot before letting the visual come to attention,” she told us, in an attempt to first understand the deeper meaning. After the creative process has started, she allows the actors to grow into their characters, to get to know their needs and quirks. “So they can tell me if they or their characters may need something I haven’t thought about and I can provide. I like to leave the door open until the very last minute.”
We then entered the magical land of the costume shop, where we could spot a very curious mask, as well as Ishan's dashing uniform, which sparked the conversation about the creative choice to change the ethnicity of Ishan's character to match his own Sikh Indian heritage. "When I first read the script, my character's name was Sgt. MacDonald. Within a week, I told the director that something was not feeling right about the character and I requested accent coaching to have an average Canadian accent to better fit Sgt. MacDonald." After this, Ishan and Lois had a long conversation, and the idea of playing this character as an Indian soldier during WWI was born.
This choice brings to light the reality of WWI, Ishan explained. India had the highest amount of soldiers within the commonwealth - higher than Canada and Australia - with over a million soldiers fighting for the British army. Through his research to understand the role of Indians in the war, Ishan also discovered a deeper connection within his own family to this historical event, "I asked my uncle, who is very well-read about WWI, and found out that my grandma’s grandfather actually went to WWI. Personally, it is something I am very proud of - the fact that we are adding more colour to the story. We are not just white people going to war, even though the way that it is shown today, as a war fought between Europe and America, but there is so much more."
As we walked back through the prop shop again, we asked Cecilia to elaborate a little more on how the stage would reflect the depth of the story. "Without revealing too much, I can say that the main piece of set design is a large piece of fabric, and with it we are doing a lot of different things. And everything else helps create the suggestions and helps to show the feeling of actors and soldiers telling their story". Fluidity was a key element for Cecilia while visualizing this project. The story constantly shifts from one location to another, from a memory of a picnic to a ship to the trench. Cecilia animatedly talked about how different of an experience it was, since she had the different scenes visualized in her head, but discussions about transitions consumed a huge portion of the creative process, these moments that we see but are not written in the script, all up to the creative team to bring to life. "Transitions were a huge part of the creative process because I wanted to have that feeling of being in one place and then brought somewhere else seamlessly. I was not just creating a room, I was designing a story. And I needed something that was fluid enough to adapt and shift."
Standing on the stage, minutes before rehearsal started, we asked one final question: what is your advice to the audience when they come to see this play?
"I want the audience to understand that a lot of the times these young people did
not understand what they were signing themselves up for," Ishan said, thoughtful.
"There was such a propaganda around going to war, ‘You have to go to war
because if you go to war then you are doing the right thing.’ Otherwise, you will
be looked down upon." UBC Theatre's rendition of The Wars is meant to be seen
as a story about humanity above and beyond the cruelty that can be thrust upon it,
with young actors telling the story of young soldiers faced with impossible choices.
Timothy Findley's The Wars opens this Thursday, November 7th and runs until
Saturday, November 23rd. Tickets are only $11 for students and can be found at
UBC Theatre's Facebook page as well as more information. Also, Dive into UBC
is hosting a giveaway for tickets to this Friday's show! Check out our Facebook
and Instagram for how you can win a chance to see this amazing production!
Spotlight by Coral Santana & Nicole Andrews | Photography by Coral Santana
A Conversation With Gerald Vanderwoude
We sat down in the iconic Frederic Wood theatre with Gerald Vanderwoude, director of Beckett 19: or some such semblance, to get the behind story on how this annual production came to be and the importance it has in theatre at UBC.
Right from the beginning, there was a sense of comfort and relaxation in the theatre. Sitting on the edge of the stage, Gerald told us of how this space feels like home to him, particularly because – for a short while – the Frederic Wood theatre was home to him. As an MFA student in directing, Gerald would go to class in the afternoon, rehearse with students in the evening, and then build the sets at night. On top of that, he worked in the mornings at Bluechip (yes, that Bluechip! He was part of the original six!) and had to be at work around six in the morning. What started out as sleeping on the green room couch turned into putting a foam mattress under his desk in the design room and hot gluing an alarm clock to the wall. He laughed when he told us this story, explaining that it was relevant to why we were having this interview as eventually the alarm clock didn’t help anymore and he would leave notes to Peter Loeffler, asking to wake him up at five in the morning.
“Peter was a very funny guy, ‘cause he was in the building at five am, he was Swiss,” Gerald told us, as well as “very monastic…a true academic” and eventually the pair became friends over tea in the mornings during the eight months Gerald lived in the building.
Peter Loeffler passed away from cancer in 2002 and Gerald was there with him at the end. Part of what makes this production so special to Gerald is that connection that he had with Peter Loeffler, in whose name the scholarship funded largely by the annual production of Beckett plays is given.
But why Beckett?
The first production happened in 1996 when Peter went to Gerald and said “I think we should do a little Beckett. We should have a party, cake, and champagne
afterwards.” The idea was to have only one showing and the party and then it was over. They called it the Beckett Birthday Bash. Then, the next year they thought, as Gerald told us, it had been fun, why not do it again? And so the tradition was born and continued until Peter’s passing.
The year after Peter passed, the alumni, got together to revive the production. They wouldn’t take any money and instead all the revenue would go into the Peter Loeffler Scholarship which is a tradition that continues to this day. Since creation, the scholarship has raised 33,000 dollars and everyone involved is thrilled to be a part of it.
Alumni included in the production this year are Beverly Bardal, Deb Pickman, Joe Procyk, Cam Cronin, Chris Humphreys, and Norman Young. It’s a different show every year, as the team explores the many short plays and works of prose written by Samuel Beckett.
But really, why Beckett?
“The reason we do Beckett is because of the sheer excellence of writing. Beckett is a poet, he speaks to the existential angst of ‘who are we on this planet?’”
We did ask, for those who might not be familiar with Beckett or maybe even theatre in general, what advice Gerald has for the audience coming to see this production. His response was “nothing destroys theatre like a cell phone going off. What I want people to understand is that it’s only going to be an hour, it’ll be okay. Nothing bad will happen but I can tell you, we’re all committed to taking you somewhere. Just be receptive. If you’re thinking you’re going to see a narrative, parts of the evening do, but a lot of it is about asking questions and so we want people to be open in that regard and just enjoy it.”
Beckett 19: or some such semblance opens this Wednesday at 7:30pm and runs until Saturday. It promises to be an unpredictable evening of the celebration of theatre. (And there’s cake and champagne after!)
Interview by Nicole Andrews & Coral Santana | Photography by Montse Calva
You may have been lucky enough to catch Victoria Staff, armed with her guitar and her powerful vocals, performing around campus over the past couple months, but what you may not know about this Toronto native is that she’s balancing her performing career with not only a degree in neuroscience but campus involvement as a member of Alpha Delta Pi. On top of that, she recently released a full-length album —The Blue Book Project is available now on Spotify. We caught up with Victoria to ask — what is The Blue Book Project? And how do you do it!?
You've just released your first album, The Blue Book Project. Where does the title come from?
I'm a very forgetful person. If I don’t write something down, I won’t remember it. So I got this blue
notebook that I write everything down in: most of my songs, in some form or another; directions,
questions, sometimes notes from school... hypothetically, if someone were to steal it, they would know
everything about me. And that was the idea of my album. I would want someone to listen to it and
knowwho I am.
What is your favourite song on the album?
I like the way Violets In My Hair turned out best. There are some songs on the album that are just me
and my guitar, and those just sound how they’ve always sounded… but there are others that changed a
lot. I love the way it sounds.
Do you remember your first time performing?
I remember my first significant time was in Grade 9. It was basically my school’s version of American
Idol, and I went up and sang this 30 second acapella version of Hallelujah. I just remember going on
thinking “I’m going to pee myself, I can’t do this,” and then as soon as it was over it was like “oh my
god, I want to go again!" I think the first time I realized I wanted to stick with music was in Grade 11.
I performed Home in front of a relatively large audience and I was jittery at first, but then I just felt
How do you balance your schoolwork with your music?
I'm not as passionate about school as I am about music... studying is something I really have to push myself to do. I could spend all my time writing, but then I would fail out of UBC and my parents would be pissed! I just make lists, calendars, boring stuff to get you through your day-to-day.
Where do you find inspiration to write?
I try to keep the number of songs about boys not too high, ‘cause other things are more important… for example, my sorority is on my album. Sometimes I’ll realize someone’s important to me, and I’m like, this person deserves a song. All I Am is about my mom, but for the longest time I felt like I couldn’t get it right.
Who are your biggest influences?
I really love Passenger, and Hozier… they write in very different days. Passenger is very detailed, very forward about the way he writes. You always know what he’s talking about, but he writes in a way that you wouldn’t speak. With Hozier, you don’t always know what he’s talking about, but it’s very powerful. Some of his work, like the song Cherry Wine, which is about a man in an abusive relationship… the lyrics are messed up, but you appreciate it. You shouldn’t, but you do.
What's next for you?
I have a few performances lined up in Vancouver, but I’m not going to release any new music for a while. I don't want to release music just for the sake of releasing something, I want to release because it’s like, “this is awesome!” I want to get really comfortable with what I’m doing right now before moving forward.
We’ve linked The Blue Book Project above, so treat yourself to a cup of tea, curl up somewhere cozy and give it a listen! And keep an eye on our page and Victoria's Facebook page for updates on where to catch upcoming performances on UBC campus and around Vancouver.
Interview by Emma Jane MacLeod | Photography by Kota Sato
WIVES AND DAUGHTERS
Amid the chaos of opening week, 4th-year BFA Acting students Daria Banu, Aidan Wright and Louis Lin took a few minutes out of their hectic day to give us the lowdown on Wives and Daughters, UBC Theatre's exciting contemporary take on Elizabeth Gaskell’s Victorian masterpiece.
Though Banu, Wright and Lin spared us any major spoilers, they painted vivid pictures of the dynamic cast of characters featured in Wives and Daughters. Centred on the story of seventeen-year-old Molly Gibson, the show is a commentary on life and love in Victorian England.
Wright’s character, the misunderstood Robert Preston, calls patriarchal views of marriage and consent into question with his longstanding engagement to Banu’s Cynthia Kirkpatrick. For her part, Cynthia (stepsister to Molly) is very much a modern woman trapped in 1830 England. Her affections may be fleeting, but her love is genuine. Banu attributes her fickle nature to a “vast boredom” with her lot in life. Lin’s portrayal of the intelligent-but-naive Roger Hamley, the love interest of the play, rounds out the dynamic cast.
Though we’re all familiar with that special magic of period pieces -- those frilly dresses! The elaborate language! The fancy hair! -- some non-theatre students among us may be wondering how a work originally written in 1864 can still be fresh and relatable in 2017. Luckily, UBC Theatre and Film professor Jaqueline Firkins’ brand-new adaptation is anything but dated.
“There are so many things about this production that you wouldn’t have seen even ten years ago,” Banu told me. “We have more modern casting, lines, hair… it’s a really flexible period show.”
More exciting still is the fact that this is a world premiere of a brand new Canadian work, right here at UBC!
All three actors sung the praises of their crew and designers. From the set design to the costumes to the projections, Wives and Daughters couldn’t come to life without the combined efforts of UBC’s BFA Acting and Design students.
“Crew view is one of the most exciting days,” Lin told me. “That’s when we have our first full run at [Frederic Wood Theatre], with an audience that hasn’t already seen the show. You get to see the crew’s reactions and realize that people actually care so much about the characters and the story.”
“Theatre is such a people-oriented art,” Banu agreed. “My favourite part is when the tech people come in and this whole play gets that much bigger. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s so nice having your team of people who just get it to joke around with backstage. It’s just a big ol’ block of cheese!”
“That go time leading up to opening night, when the costumes, lights, and stage all come together... seeing an actual product come out of all the discussion is so stressful but exciting!”
Wright wasn’t exaggerating -- ‘stressful’ hardly begins to cover it. In the week leading up to opening night, these 4th-year students are rehearsing nearly 5 straight hours a night, on top of a full course load. Midterms may be a hectic time for us all, but imagine having to set aside an extra hour a day for hair, makeup and costumes!
From tonight until November 25th, don’t miss your chance to see Frederic Wood Theatre transformed by the amazing design crew and the stage graced with fantastic performances by Danu, Wright, Lin and the rest of the Acting program. Take a step into the Victorian world with Jacqueline Firkins’ exciting new adaptation of Wives and Daughters!
Interview by Emma Jane MacLeod | Images used with permission from UBC Theatre & Film
What was the very first film you made?
I made a ton of really bad movies in high school but my first official short film I made in my 2nd year at UBC and it was called Somewhere, about a little girl whose father was perceived dead but was really just trapped in another dimension in which he could hear her but she couldn't here him. It was a short five minute film which sparked my interested in themes of family and relationships in life which have carried over in most of my films now.
What was your favorite film at POV last year and why?
My favourite film last year was Bon Bon Fire, a morbid animated film from Sharon Lin, which was great because it was so entertaining. I began making movies because I love watching them and entertaining my family, friends and others is why I love making movies and that film made me remember what is it like to love watching movies, something that is sometimes forgotten when you are so busy making them.
What are you most excited about for POV 27?
I'm most excited to see films from some of my friends who haven't directed in a while or who haven't directed before. This is also my last year with the program and POV, both of which I have been affiliated with for four years so I am looking forward to passing the torch just as my mentor did to me two years ago.
Can you tell me about your film this year, Here There Be Tygers? Why did you choose this story?
It is an adaptation of a Stephen King short story. I received permission to make the film for the price of $1 as part of his dollar baby program. I chose to do an adaptation because I wasn't writing anything I could get excited about, or present a new challenge. I need to be excited and challenge myself to love my work. This was a fun story and presented the new challenge of working with kids. I fell in love with the story because it was such a ridiculous situation within a real-life problem. The idea of a tiger haunting this young child while he needed to go to the bathroom. The child also has such an extraordinary imagination, it reminded me of me as a kid and the early films that inspired me to become a filmmaker.
Don't miss Mike's film, along with eighteen others, premiering at POV April 29th-20th at Frederic Wood Theatre (tickets here). Check out the Events page for a full line up and synopses of all the films!
The Persistence of Vision Film Festival (POV) is an annual event showcasing short films written, directed, shot, edited, and produced by students of the Film Production Program at the University of British Columbia Vancouver. We interviewed Mike Johnston, a 4th year student in the UBC Film Production program and the co-chair of POV 27, where he oversees the entire operation and the technical execution of the event.
What is your favorite part about making films?
My favourite part is the collaboration. Filmmaking is not a one person job if it was everyone would do it. I love collaborating with DPs and editors and technicians to make my vision or someone else’s come to life. Nothing is more exciting when you can pull that off.
What is the hardest part about directing a movie?
The hardest part is that you are counted on to be the captain of the ship at all times you have to be the voice of reason and logic 24/7. If you are stressed, the whole production team will be stressed. If you are in a bad mood everyone else will be too. It's your job to keep a level head and manage the entire team as well as think creatively and execute the writer’s script and your vision. It's both art and science.
Earlier in the term, we sat down with UBC Improv's all female executive team. Made up of Afrothiti Yannitsos, Jesse Rea and Sophia Larney, third year Kinesiology, Arts and Geography students. These dynamic and incredibly funny ladies are paving the way to comedy success on UBC campus. Check out their interview below:
How did you get into the comedy // improv world?
Afrothiti: I think I was just born with it. In Grade 11, my best friend, Trang Nguyen, who was the president of improv last year, told me to join our high school improv team for Grade 12. We ended up going to nationals and all that Jazz and ended up just auditioning for Improv together once we got to UBC
Sophia: I did a lot of theatre in junior high and high school. When I came to UBC I wanted to find something that would let me still do some form of theatre, so I auditioned and was lucky enough to get into the team. So my first time joining improv was also my first time ever doing improv.
Jesse: Similarly, I did the whole theatre thing as a kid, my parents were really into community theatre, so my brother and I were always around in. So in high school I joined the competitive improv team and immediately loved it. It’s kind’ve one of the reasons I came to UBC, the community here and in Vancouver in general is so awesome.
Alright let's get right into it, favourite stand up comedians of all time?
Jesse: Okay, maybe I had an hour to write an essay I’d think of a different answer, but right off the top of my
head, Colin Mocherie. And of recent, Amy Poehler, she’s hilarious.
Afrothiti: I just grew up watching Jim Carrey, I love his mannerisms and his face, just the way he improvises,
does stand up and acting. Yeah, definitely Jim Carrey.
Sophia: Honestly, I don’t really like stand up comedy (Don’t put that in there). But in terms of growing up watching comedians, probably John Cleese is the one that comes to mind, Monty Python and Fawlty Towers had large influence on why I liked comedy as kid
Which one of you is the funniest?
Jesse and Sophia: I’d say in your every day 24/7, Afro for sure. You are so funny, and it’s kind’ve in a way where you can never really tell if she’s kidding or not
Afrothiti: I dunno, Sophia and Jesse are very different. Like Sophia is the humour that’s really whacky, she does these totally crazy characters. But I have to say, i’ve never laughed harder on stage than at some of Jesse’s characters. I think we’re just really different types of humour, I always make fun of myself for cocky. Sophia is really whacky, and Jesse is like our humble little elf who’s just hilarious.
Jesse and Sophia: Yeah, I think that's accurate, just three different types of humour
Most embarrassing UBC improv moment?
Sophia: I think it’s rare to have a show where you don’t embarrass yourself.
Jesse: Okay, I did this to myself, but we were doing this show where we told true life story monologues in between skits. I came on stage and told a packed audience a story of peeing my pants… and how it had been three days ago. I honestly don’t get embarrassed much, it’s just a really funny story. I left out the fact that it was 3 days ago till the very end. I was walking off stage and was like ‘thanks folks, that was three days ago’.
Sophia: We do a not-improv show every year, where you can do really anything but improv. And I don’t know why, but I got this idea for this weird tour guide teacher kind’ve character. I made a powerpoint, and got on stage and just made these pretty weird jokes. I feel like i’ve got this humour that sometimes doesn’t quite translate. I mean people were laughing, but I could also see their faces.
Afrothiti: I feel like a lot of what I do is embarrassing, but I really don’t care. But I remember getting this comment back after one of my shows when he said ‘you’re such a smart person, but you look like such an idiot on stage’, I was like, really? He said ‘yeah, but you’re hilarious’. So from then on I just decided I was gonna be really whacky. Oh also if I perform drunk, definitely embarrassed the next day.
Tell us a bit about this next semester, what shows do you have planned? Any more meets with other Universities?
Jesse: This semester is just kicking off, everything all at once. But all good things. A couple weeks ago we went to this tournament in the states. A bunch of colleges compete, each school sends just one team. We sent 6 people to the regional tournament and were stoked to come back winning first in Seattle. So now we get to travel to Chicago and compete in the birthplace of improv in North America. It was great to see all these different teams coming up with different kinds of improv you never would have thought of.
Afrothiti: So that's coming up in the end of February, between now and then we’re probably just gonna do some fundraisers and stuff as a group. A bit later on we have our improv festival that we host 'internationally’ (between the states and us). Teams all over the northwest will be coming though, and for
4 days (March 22-25) a whole bunch of teams will perform each night. It’s gonna be super awesome. A lot of promotion for that will be coming up.
Jesse: And as we mentioned, we have our annual not improv show coming up. We have so many really talented people on the team that don’t necessarily get to show off their talents so this is really that chance for them. Whether it be learning a song, a poem, playing some music, or honestly whatever else. That’s coming up in March.
Afrothiti: We’ve also got Nest Fest coming up with BVP, we’re working some things out with CiTR, and got a coffeehouse show coming up. Loads of cool opportunities.
How does improv fit into the next stage of your lives?
Afrothiti: TL;DR: Improv has been such a vital part of my university career. It’s one of the only places where you’ll get people from every faculty, and just all different kinds of people too. Me being in kinesiology, I probably wouldn’t have met a lot of the people I call my best friends today if it wasn’t for improv. There’s just something about it.
Interview and photography by Alex Pflaum