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Arts and Culture

Cultural communicator

Cuban hip-hop artist Telmary visited Queen’s March 5-11 as part of a continuing exchange with the University of Havana and took part in talks, classes and performances. The visit was supported by the International Visitors Program of the Principal's Development Fund. (University Communications)

Having lived in Canada for a period of seven years, Cuban hip-hop/rap artist Telmary has gained valuable insight into the cultures of both countries.

During her March 5-11 visit as part of a continuing exchange with the University of Havana, Telmary shared her experiences and music with the Queen’s community through a series of talks and performances.

A foundational figure in Cuban rap, Telmary describes herself first as a communicator, a journalist using an alternative medium. All of her work begins as writing and then is shared through her music.

It’s the connection with the audience she is looking for.

“Everything that I write ends up in a song eventually. That’s what I do,” she says. “But I can’t say that just to write makes me completely satisfied, happy. My special moment is when I am on stage. More than being a recording artist I prefer to be on stage. I like to perform, I like to express in front of the audience, and my goal is to find two eyes that are connected to me and get the message.”

During her time in Canada she found that she was able to connect with audiences – the music overcame the barriers of language and geography she says.

While she enjoyed her time in Toronto, lacking a support network here Telmary returned to her homeland to give birth to her daughter. That reconnection with Cuba provided a new spark for her artistic career and she decided to stay.

“I decided to come back to Cuba and I thought it was for a short period at the beginning and then I discovered that I really needed to stay because my muse actually woke up when I came back,” she says. A new album soon followed.

Music holds a significant place in the Cuban culture Telmary explains and the focus is more on the art form itself rather than celebrity.

“You are a full-time musician in Cuba. Everybody respects you and you have an audience that is honest, that is demanding and educated,” she says. “If you do something over there and people don’t like it, they are not afraid to tell you. That is my thermometer.”

Telmary’s visit is part of a continuing exchange in support of the Global Development Studies (DEVS) course “Cuban Culture and Society.” Through the course a group of up to 40 Queen’s students also travels to Cuba as part of the collaboration with the University of Havana.

Karen Dubinsky (Global Development Studies), one of the course’s instructors along with Susan Lord (Film Studies), has been an admirer of Telmary’s for years and has seen her connect with students as a visitor to the course. 

“I see in Telmary the same quality that I see in Carlos Varela (the first artist to participate in the exchange) and that is this ability to communicate daily life and daily truths in a way that is both beautiful, poetic but also educational – educational for me as well as an outsider who is always trying to figure out what is going on in this society that is not my own,” Dr. Dubinsky says. “It is a joy to watch someone who has artistic performance training but who also has the sensibility of a teacher who knows how to communicate that when she’s talking to students. And the students love her.”

Telmary’s visit was supported by the International Visitors Program of the Principal’s Development Fund.

Shining a light on human rights

[Measha Brueggergosman]
Juno Award-winning soprano Measha Brueggergosman will perform Wednesday, March 29 as part of the first Isabel Human Rights Arts Festival. (Supplied Photo) 

The inaugural Isabel Human Rights Arts Festival is offering a wide range of concerts, film screenings and an art exhibit to help promote awareness and action on the issue locally and worldwide.

The first-ever event is highlighted by a concert by Juno Award-winning soprano Measha Brueggergosman as well as three international human rights films screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“The arts are a powerful voice in promoting awareness and action in human rights,” says Tricia Baldwin, Director of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. “We are privileged to partner with diverse artists and human rights activists who have dedicated their lives to create a fairer and inclusive future for humanity. Nothing could be more important in this challenging political world climate, in which we are now immersed, than to inspire people to actively participate and create a political and legal environment that will protect diverse world citizens from prejudice, hatred and violence.”

Tickets are available at theisabel.ca or by calling 613-533-2424.

Tuesday, March 14, 7:30 pm
A film screening and discussion panel with renowned human rights lawyer David Matas and Michael Mostyn, CEO, B’nai Brith Canada.

Tuesday, March 28, 7:30 pm
Concert features Marion Newman, Jeremy Dutcher and Cheryl L’Hirondelle, and is hosted by Queen’s Canada Research Chair of Indigenous Art, Dylan Robinson. Indigenous artists reclaim their musical heritage and showcase the vibrancy of Indigenous music today.

Wednesday, March 29, 7:30 pm
Juno Award-winning singer Measha Brueggergosman reconnects with her African heritage in her moving concert of African-American spirituals.

Monday, April 3, 7:30 pm
SYRIAN LOVE STORY – Directed by Sean McAllister
A love story between a Palestinian freedom fighter and a Syrian revolutionary who met as political prisoners.

Tuesday, April 4, 7:30 pm
TICKLING GIANTS – Directed by Sara Tacksler
Baseem Youssef, the “Egyptian Jon Stewart”, fights for free speech with wit and insight, but it’s no laughing matter.

Friday, April 7, 7:30 pm
NO DRESS CODE REQUIRED – Directed by Cristina Herrera Borquez
Victor and Fernando are stylists in Mexicali, Mexico who are the go-to professionals for the city's socialites. To their customers, they were a lovely couple – until they decided to legally marry. Losing the support of customers and friends and confronting a backlash of criticism, through their fight they woke up members of Mexicali's society to fight homophobia and inequality.

April 5-13
ACCESS ART QUEEN’S – Art & Media Lab exhibit at the Isabel
Disability as social identity. In collaboration with the Queen’s University Equity Office.

Thursday, June 1, 7:30 pm
Premiere of concert version by Alon Nashman and Aleš Březina, and directed and designed by Pamela Howard, features the art and words of artist Charlotte Salomon whose life was cut short in Auschwitz. 

Musical role models

[Faculty Concert Series]
The fourth concert of the Faculty Artists Series brings Russell DeVuyst, Dan Tremblay (Dan School of Drama and Music) and Tom Davidson (Dan School of Drama and Music) to the stage at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Sunday, March 12. 

The fourth concert in the Faculty Artist Series will feature music for trumpet and piano.

Taking to the stage at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Sunday, March 12 will be Russell DeVuyst, former assistant principal trumpet of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and a faculty member of McGill University, who will perform alongside his former student Dan Tremblay, the trumpet teacher at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam and the Dan School of Drama and music and conductor of the Queen’s Wind Ensemble. Tom Davidson, professor at McGill and Queen’s, will play the piano.

Tremblay is excited to perform with DeVuyst, who instructed him during his Master’s studies at McGill. He’s also excited to take the Isabel stage.

“This is the first time for me at the Isabel as a soloist and I’m really looking forward to it,” he says. “This is, in my opinion, is the best acoustics in Canada.”

The Faculty Artist Series also provides a different kind of learning opportunity for the students at the Dan School of Drama and Music, Tremblay explains. Outside of being an instructor, the faculty members become role models by showing how a professional musician prepares for a recital.

“To be honest, we do like to be on stage but it’s also for the students. We like to give an example to follow for the students,” he says. “When I’m preparing for a recital like this, the students will hear me practicing late at night and they will know what it is to prepare for a professional recital. This motivates the students and also gives me ideas on how to prepare them for their own recitals as I’m struggling with my own.”

The concert starts at 2:30 pm.

Tickets start at $20 for adults and $10 for students. Purchase tickets online or in person at the Isabel Box Office, Monday to Friday, 12:30-4:30pm. 

Piano performance in the spotlight

[PianoFest 12]
Douglas Finch, Roy Howat, and Martin Karliček headline the 12th edition of PianoFest, being hosted March 1-17 at Queen's University. (Supplied photos)

Celebrating the art of piano performance, the 12th edition of PianoFest offers a pair of visitors from the UK as well as a number of leading Canadian performers.

Wednesday, March 1 – Improvisation Master Class with Douglas Finch, 7 pm, Harrison-LeCaine Hall, Rm. 124. Free admission.
Friday, March 3 – Colloquium Presentation by Douglas Finch: “Developing a Frame of Mind for Musical Improvisation,” 12:30 pm, Harrison-LeCaine Hall, Rm. 124. Free admission.
Sunday, March 5 – Douglas Finch in Recital, 7:30 pm, Rehearsal Room, The Isabel. Admission: $10 adults, $5 students/seniors. Tickets available at the door or by calling 613-533-2424.
Friday, March 10 – Colloquium Presentation by Martin Karliček: “Leoš Janáček and the Decade of Anguish: Works for Solo Piano,” exceptionally at 12:00 noon, Harrison-LeCaine Hall, Rm. 124. Free admission.
Wednesday, March 15 – Roy Howat in Recital, 7:30 pm, Rehearsal Room, The Isabel. Admission: $10 adults, $5 students/seniors. Tickets available at the door or by calling 613-533-2424.
Friday, March 17 – Colloquium Presentation by Roy Howat: “Chopin and unexpected: new angles on his Etudes.” 12:30 pm, Harrison-LeCaine Hall, Rm. 124. Free Admission.
Friday, March 17 – Master class with Roy Howat, 4:30 pm, Harrison-LeCaine Hall, Rm. 124. Free Admission.

Hosted by the Dan School of Drama and Music, the festival features Douglas Finch, professor of piano and composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Greenwich, England, who is known for his innovative and imaginative approach to performance. Dr. Finch's visit is partially supported by the Principal's Development Fund as an International Visiting Scholar.

Also taking part in the series is Roy Howat, an internationally-renowned pianist and scholar who is regarded as the foremost authority on French keyboard music. He is a research fellow at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

A rare treat as well comes from Martin Karliček, piano professor at McGill University and concert pianist, who will be speaking about and performing the music of Czech composer Leoš Janáček.

The festival lineup continues the tradition of providing opportunities for students to meet and interact with artists of international stature, listen to their performances, and ask questions about technique and interpretation from masters, explains PianoFest organizer Ireneus Zuk, Professor and Associate Director of the Dan School of Drama and Music.

The improvisation workshop by Douglas Finch, he adds, promises to be a departure from the typical master class format where students prepare a work, perform it for the visiting artist and await comments.

“Sometimes it is interesting to see how students are able to incorporate the suggestions into their own performance right on the spot – sometimes it takes a bit longer,” says Dr. Zuk. “Dr. Finch has been teaching the ‘lost’ art of classical improvisation for a number of years.  In his own recital programs, he includes works improvised on the spot. And his class is open to instrumentalists and vocalists, not just pianists.”

The festival receives support from the G.T. Richardson Fund, the International Visitors Program and the Belvedere Hotel.

For further information, visit the website of the Dan School of Drama and Music or contact the Music Office of the Dan School at 613-533-2066 or Dr. Ireneus Zuk at 533-6000, x. 74209.

Playwright explores new ground in return to Queen's

[Kat Sandler]
Kat Sandler

Kat Sandler, Artsci’08, unbundles her coat and grabs the same seat in Theological Hall she sat in when she took a playwrighting course a decade ago. Ms. Sandler is back at Queen’s as an artist in residence in the Dan School of Drama and Music. It’s a busy time as she prepares to direct Queen’s students in the debut performance of her play, The End of the World Club.

The venue for the play – The Isabel – might be new to Ms. Sandler, but many aspects of her Queen’s experience remain familiar.  

“It’s so crazy being back because it feels like no time has passed at all,” says Ms. Sandler, recalling her student days. “I mostly remember the feeling of community. I am still friends with people I met at Queen’s, and they’re all coming to see the show on Friday. It’s a true honour and gift to come back.”

While it’s a homecoming for Ms. Sandler, she has avoided simply reliving her Queen’s glory days. In talking with Craig Walker, Director, Dan School of Drama and Music, she proposed collaborating with current students to write and mount an entirely new play. 

“I wanted to make something with the students, because it was a much more exciting endeavour than just doing a play I had done before as a student. It’s very similar to what I would do in Toronto,” she says.

[Scene from End of the World Club]
The End of the World Club tells the story of 15 students who must create a new society in the wake of a hypothetical global apocalypse. The play is written and directed by Kat Sandler, Artsci'08, a visiting artist in residence in the Dan School of Drama and Music. (Photo by Tim Fort)

Despite the challenges that come with developing a new play in just three months, Ms. Sandler is proud of the result. The End of the World Club, which premieres tonight, tells the story of 15 university students who sign up to participate in the New World Challenge, a study commissioned by a billionaire alumnus. The characters have three days to create a new society in the wake of a hypothetical global apocalypse.

Ms. Sandler says the students inspired her throughout the writing process. She cast the play without a script back in November. The playwright, actors, and crew got together and discussed the themes and ideas they wanted to address in the play. Ms. Sandler went away from that discussion and created a framework to house those ideas. She returned and the cast has helped workshop the play through rehearsals.

“I am amazed about how open the students are and how much they were willing to share about themselves,” Ms. Sandler says. “Maybe it’s because of social media and technology, but they are so much more generous with their emotions and memories than I feel my generation was.”

The End of the World Club presented by the Dan School of Drama and Music
Written and Directed by Kat Sandler, created by the ensemble
Evening performances: Feb. 9-11 & 14-16 at 8 pm Matinee Performances: Feb. 11-12 at 2 pm
Tickets available on The Isabel website

Zach Fedora, Artsci'17, the play's production manager, says the experience pushed students out of their comfort zone and gave them a better sense of what theatre is like in the professional world.

"It has been the most challenging production I have every worked on, because of all the unknowns and constant changes throughout the process," he says. "Yet here we are on opening night, a month later, with a truly spectacular show to share with the world for the first time, and I could not be more honoured to have had this opportunity to help bring Kat's stories to reality."

Since graduating from Queen’s, Ms. Sandler has built a career as a successful theatre creator, serving as artistic director of Theatre Brouhaha, which she co-founded with her Queen’s classmate Tom McGee, Artsci’08. She received one of Canada’s top theatre honours in 2016 when her play Mustard won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play. She also recently wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Late Night, in collaboration with media mogul Moses Znaimer.

The Dan School of Drama and Music brought Ms. Sandler to Queen’s with support from the arts fund portion of the Queen’s Research Opportunities Funds. The Arts Fund aims to support artists and their contributions to the scholarly community at Queen’s and beyond.

Ms. Sandler took the artist-in-residence opportunity to push her creative boundaries and explore new approaches to storytelling.

“If you can’t try things out at the place where you learned to do things in the first place, where can you try them?”

Connecting Queen's and the community

[Isabel Concert Hall]
With support from the Ballytobin Foundation local groups recieve support to perform at the concert hall of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. (University Communications) 

On a balmy spring evening, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts came alive to the timeless strains of 18th-century European composers, and a much more recent suite by local composer John Palmer. The players, members of Orchestra Kingston and the Kingston Community Strings, allowed their surroundings to inspire them, and the audience felt it. The spontaneous standing ovation that erupted at the end of the performance was, as one audience member put it, “well deserved and heartfelt.”

This magical moment was not just a connection between performer and audience, it was also a connection between university and community. And it would not have been possible without the Ballytobin Foundation.

A private foundation created by Joan and the late Brian Tobin in 1992 to support arts and culture in Ontario, the Ballytobin Foundation found a new purpose when The Isabel opened in 2014. The newly-reimagined foundation now makes it possible for local groups to play at the lakeside concert hall by subsidizing a portion of their rental costs. 

“Anyone who knows anything about the Kingston music and theatre scene knows that the best venues are now at The Isabel,” says John Burge, Director of Music at the Dan School of Drama and Music and a composer whose own works have been featured on The Isabel’s stage. “The grants from the Ballytobin Foundation mean local groups can perform in a hall that has wonderful acoustics, great equipment, and where audiences love to come. It is a superb opportunity.”

“A performing arts centre has its own soul, and this soul thrives when there is broad participation by artists and the community,” says Tricia Baldwin, The Isabel’s Artistic Director. 

That broad participation has included performances by the Kingston Chamber Choir, Kingston Brassworks, and the Kingston Community Orchestra, among others. In early November, 17 local choirs and more than 800 performers converged on The Isabel for Choralpalooza. All of these concerts were made possible by the Ballytobin Foundation, but Dr. Burge believes they are just a beginning. 

“Joan’s vision was very specific, but also flexible enough that as long as there is artistic value in what is being presented, and as long as it is being driven by someone in the community, it will get funding,” he says. “New initiatives and innovation and things that are being tried for the first time will be looked at favourably, because that is what this kind of fund should do.”

“She has nourished the virtuous circle of the artistic experience that gives so much to both performers and audiences,” Ms. Baldwin says. 

That circle has been good for both Queen’s and the city it calls home. 

“Joan saw the concert hall as an opportunity to be larger than just a university-focused venue,” says Dr. Burge. “She understood that the arts is a great medium for breaking down barriers. Bringing community groups into what is, in a sense, a university building really helps to connect the university with the Kingston community. Borders never matter when you’re talking about the arts.” 

To learn more about the Ballytobin Foundation, including upcoming application deadlines, please visit ballytobin.com.

Launching into winter

[North Baffin Island]
Cornelius (Kooneeloosee) Nutarak (Pond Inlet), Using Blubber to Make Fuel, 1964, graphite, pencil crayon on paper, 50 x 65 cm, Canadian Museum of History, IV-C-6952

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre will be celebrating the Winter Season launch on Thursday, Jan. 19 with five new exhibitions.

“It’s always exciting to share the fruit of the curatorial team’s creative labour at the season launch,” says Jan Allen, Director of the Agnes. “This winter’s suite of beautiful new exhibitions is especially rich, building as it does on our work with many collaborators and contributors. The program showcases fascinating cultural and technical research, and, at the same time offers unexpected forms of display that invite the visitor to become part of the show.”   

Picturing Arctic Modernity: North Baffin Drawings from 1964 is Curator of Indigenous Art Norman Vorano’s first major research project since joining the Agnes. The deeply original, revelatory show is based on a selection of works on paper from the collection of the Canadian Museum of History, and enriched by interviews Dr. Vorano conducted last summer in Nunavut. The exhibition show will travel to the Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, and to North Baffin communities following its run in Kingston.

In Curator of Contemporary Art Sunny Kerr’s inventive The hold, artistic themes of hospitality and collective awareness are extended, stretching the definition of what a gallery space can be.

Amid a selection of works from the collection, the contemporary galleries will be outfitted with study spaces for public use. In turn, the art has been chosen to sympathize with such places for thinking, which are ripe for informal encounters and escape plans. The resulting show is a set of diverse works held together by their spirit of research, searching inscriptions, playful assemblage and imagined collectivities, including pieces by Napoleon Brousseau, Lyne Lapointe and Martha Fleming, Gustav Klimt, Nobuo Kubota, Pablo Picasso, Anne Ramsden, Ted Rettig, Gabrielle Sims, Lisa Visser and Tim Whiten.

Pursuing answers in another direction, The Unvarnished Truth and Key Works Unlocked exhibitions delve under the surface of historical paintings to discover new evidence and inform fresh accounts of their histories.

Two of a Kind showcases the fascinating 18th-century European tradition of pairing prints. This exhibition was initiated by, and honours, a great scholar and long-standing friend of the Agnes, the late W. McAllister (Mac) Johnson.

Big Data on the silver screen

Queen’s University surveillance expert David Lyon hosts screening of Citizenfour.

Next up...
Big Data, Cyber Security and Healthcare
Denise Anthony, Dartmouth College
Tuesday, Feb. 7
School of Medicine, 6:30 pm

After a successful start, Big Data 175 continues with a showing of Citizenfour at the Screening Room in Kingston. The film – which records a reporter and documentarian travelling to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with Edward Snowden – won an Academy Award in 2015.

The Big Data events are part of the Queen’s University 175th anniversary celebrations – a year-long exploration into the pros and cons of Big Data in fields such as health care, marketing and national security.

Big Data is large amounts of data that can be used to spot business trends, prevent diseases and combat crime, among other uses. These data sets are so large that traditional data processing applications are inadequate to deal with them.

 “This is an excellent movie with absolutely unique footage,” says David Lyon (Surveillance Studies Centre). “The audience will be captivated from the very first scene. It’s compelling.”

In January 2013, American documentary film director Laura Poitras received an encrypted email from a stranger calling himself Citizenfour. In it he offered inside information about the illegal wiretapping practices of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies. In June of the same year, she travelled to Hong Kong for the first meeting with the stranger, Edward Snowden. She was accompanied by journalist Glenn Greenwald and Guardian reporter Ewen MacAskill.

“Edward Snowden was not a conventional whistleblower but, better, a truth teller,” says Dr. Lyon. “He exposed Big Data being used in unique and, he argued, illegal ways.”

Dr. Lyon will introduce the movie and host a question and answer period following the film.

The Big Data series continues on Tuesday, February 7 with Big Data, Cyber Security and Healthcare public lecture presented by Denise Anthony from Dartmouth College. The event will be held in the School of Medicine Building, Room 132A starting at 6:30 pm and preceded by a reception at 5:30 pm.

“It’s energizing to meet with people from all over Queen’s and realize we have a common goal of presenting Big Data to the public,” says Dr. Lyon. “We are exploring what’s being done with Big Data on campus, and arguing about the pros and cons of Big Data in fields from healthcare to marketing to national security and beyond.”

The film is being presented at the Screening Room Monday, January 16 at 6:45 pm. For more information, including up-to-date information on presentations and topics, visit the BD175 website.

Ladder to arts leadership

Queen’s University has launched a new ‘laddered’ Graduate Diploma and Master’s program that will provide students interested in pursuing or accelerating their career in the arts with a 360-degree view of the arts and culture industry.

Through the programs, offered by the Dan School of Drama and Music in collaboration with the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, students can earn a Graduate Diploma in Arts Management with the successful completion of the six-week term, or continue with the Master’s in Arts Leadership.

[Arts Leadership graduate programs]
A new laddered Graduate Diploma and Master’s program at Queen's provides students interested in pursuing or accelerating their career in the arts with a full view of the arts and culture industry. (University Communications)

With a focus on experiential learning through live site research assignments and a final term practicum placement in an arts organization, students are exposed to, and taught by, top practitioners in the arts industry. Students in the program will also be provided with assistance in securing their final term practicum by leading North American arts search consultants, Genovese, Vanderhoof and Associates. 

“Queen’s offers its students a perfect balance of engagement with rigorous academic programs and access to first class practitioners and arts facilities,” says Gordon E. Smith, Interim Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science. “Both programs are cross-disciplinary – and will be delivered by instructors from the Dan School of Drama and Music, the Masters of Industrial Relations program, the Smith School of Business, as well as top practitioners in the field. In addition, the campus boasts world-class facilities including a major performing arts centre, art gallery, and library, all with senior staff whose management experience adds to the practical teaching environment.”

The five core courses needed to complete the Graduate Diploma in Arts Management are offered during a single six-week session in May and June beginning in 2017. A student may then continue on to pursue the Master’s in Arts Leadership program through the completion of one additional term of coursework, partly or wholly online, followed by a third capstone term involving a practicum placement.

“This is an ideal and complementary graduate program for those who have received an undergraduate degree in drama, music, fine art, film and related cultural fields,” says Craig Walker, Director of the Dan School of Drama and Music.  “It is designed to help students capitalize on the extensive transferable skills they have gained during their earlier studies.”

“Students will gain a tremendous knowledge in resource development which is required in all arts leadership positions in an industry requiring substantial revenue growth to achieve its artistic and audience goals,” adds Tricia Baldwin, Director, Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. “The relationship-based and revenue development focus of the program will set graduates up for tremendous success in the field.”

For more information and upcoming events for the Graduate Diploma in Arts Management and the Master’s in Arts Leadership visit the programs website.

A night to remember

  • Patricia O’Callaghan plays the lead role in the musical theatre production 'One Last Night with Mata Hari,' which is being staged at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Tim Fort)
    Patricia O’Callaghan plays the lead role in the musical theatre production 'One Last Night with Mata Hari,' which is being staged at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Tim Fort)
  • Patricia O’Callaghan sings during the final rehearsal for 'One Last Night with Mata Hari,' which is being staged at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Tim Fort)
    Patricia O’Callaghan sings during the final rehearsal for 'One Last Night with Mata Hari,' which is being staged at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Tim Fort)
  • Gregory Oh performs the role of Dr. Bazinet, the last of Mata Hari's supporters, performed by Patricia O'Callagan in 'One Last Night With Mata Hari.' (Photo by Tim Fort)
    Gregory Oh performs the role of Dr. Bazinet, the last of Mata Hari's supporters, performed by Patricia O'Callagan in 'One Last Night With Mata Hari.' (Photo by Tim Fort)
  • The Dan School of Drama and Music's John Burge, left, and Craig Walker, right, collaborated to create 'One Last Night With Mata Hari,' with Gregory Oh and Patricia O'Callaghan in the roles of Mata Hari and Dr. Bazinet. (Photo by Tim Fort)
    The Dan School of Drama and Music's John Burge, left, and Craig Walker, right, collaborated to create 'One Last Night With Mata Hari,' with Gregory Oh and Patricia O'Callaghan in the roles of Mata Hari and Dr. Bazinet. (Photo by Tim Fort)

A century after her execution, Mata Hari remains an intriguing character and is the focus of an upcoming production created by Queen’s University’s John Burge and Craig Walker.

One Last Night With Mata Hari presents the final night of the exotic dancer before she is to be executed by French authorities on charges of spying for Germany during the First World War.

The production offers a rare collaboration between two Royal Society of Canada fellows who are leaders in their fields: Dr. Burge in music and Dr. Walker in drama.

As Dr. Burge explains, the idea got its start after he had completed the chamber opera The Auction and was looking for a similar theatrical project that was a little less time consuming.

“I was incredibly excited about the whole experience of writing music with a more theatrical bent but it can take years – if not decades – to see an opera through from inception to the stage and I was a bit more impatient than that,” he says. “It seemed much more doable in the short term to work on a one-person show with piano and I had mentioned this idea to Craig Walker as a collaboration.”

He says that with Dr. Walker’s skill set as a dramatist, lyricist, actor and director, he knew that whatever his collaborator came up with would be inspiring.

The result is a musical piece with Mata Hari and her final supporter, Dr. Bizard, telling her story from a cell in Paris’ Saint Lazare Prison.

“One of the sources of inspiration was that John and I both admire Billy Bishop Goes to War,” Dr. Walker says, referring to the award-winning musical about the Canadian war hero that follows a similar format. “But we wanted to write a show for a female performer, and I first thought of Mata Hari simply because she was a historical female performer. I also knew that when the records of her secret trial had been released there were serious questions raised about her guilt. So suddenly her life became more intriguing; it seemed that a little research might be repaid with an interesting story.”

Finding the right actor for the role proved a bit easier as Patricia O’Callaghan jumped on board early in the process and participated in all of the creative workshops.

It was an exciting bit of recruitment for the team. The award-winning singer also suggested Gregory Oh, a collaborator on a number of projects, for the role of Dr. Bizard.

“We both owned many of Patricia’s CDs prior to this project and she was the first singer we thought could pull off what we had in mind. All the songs have been crafted to her extraordinarily expressive voice,” Dr. Burge says. “She has performed her own cabaret-style shows for years and in many ways, having Mata Hari telling her life through song on the night before she is to be executed, is a cabaret of intimate proportions that is often quite funny, despite the impending doom.”

One Last Night With Mata Hari is being staged at the Power Corp Studio Theatre of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, with shows set for Thursday, Jan. 12 to Saturday, Jan. 14, and Tuesday, Jan. 17 to Saturday, Jan. 21, at 8 pm. Matinees are scheduled Sunday, Jan. 15 and 22 at 2 pm. Tickets can be purchased online at theisabel.ca. A special ‘pay what you can’ preview performance will be held Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 8 pm.

The show marks the first time that Drs. Walker and Burge have worked together creatively and both are eager to work on another project. The collaboration, Dr. Burge explains, mirrors the synergy created through the creation of the Dan School of Drama and Music last year.

“I had gotten to know Craig quite well when we were both heads of our respective programs at Queen’s and worked together with the architectural team that designed the Isabel,” he says. “Now all these years later, it seems to me that this show is really quite indicative of the many ways that music and drama intersect at Queen’s and a tangible example of why the merger and renaming of the Dan School of Drama and Music has been so exciting for students, faculty and staff.”


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