I recently caught wind of a new artsy thing here in the city: Paint Nite. It’s an event — a franchise event, actually, which originated in Boston three years ago, eventually making it’s way here — where people can “Drink Creatively” at different bars across the city.
It’s a pretty neat idea, considering I’ve always been an advocate for painting and being creative, whether you think you’re a “painter” or not.
I spoke with the woman who owns Paint Nite Winnipeg, Manda Brownrigg, and she said she saw a need for the event because people are so busy they forget to be creative. It’s so true. I like to write about making time for what you love, but I’ve struggled with that myself this past year. It’s sad to think people need to pay $45 to go out to get their creative juices flowing, but I suppose it’s better than not being creative at all. I applaud Manda for at least providing a new option for creativity. It’s definitely something more mainstream that I can see a lot of my “non-painter” friends actually doing.
Here’s a story I wrote about Paint Nite Winnipeg, but if you want to see the event for yourself, check out the TV version here. (Skip ahead to 32:00 for the story).
An event that encourages embracing your inner-artist while sipping on some cocktails has made its way to Winnipeg.
In a room full of women, Colin Epp, the only man, is hard at work on his masterpiece. It’s date night for him and longtime girlfriend Victoria Markstrom.
“It was my idea, one hundred per cent,” said Markstrom.
“But I’m on board for anything,” said Epp. “I’ll try absolutely anything once.”
The pair chose to check out Paint Nite Winnipeg, a franchise event new to Winnipeg. By the time they’re done for the evening, they will have two new paintings to hang up at their cottage.
“We’re both in sciences, so it’s nice to be creative once in a while,” said Markstrom.
“In our day-to-day jobs, we just don’t do those kinds of things, so yeah, it’s nice.”
Paint Nite Winnipeg made its debut in October 2014. It’s an event that happens four times a week in different venues across the city. So far Barley Brothers, Saffron’s and The Good Will have held the event.
For the $45 ticket, you get an apron, paints, brushes, a blank canvas and guidance. An instructor will walk you through the evening, telling you which brushes to use, but insisting you make the painting your own.
“Anybody can paint,” said Manda Brownrigg, owner of Paint Nite Winnipeg.
“Everybody comes in here and they start with, ‘I’m not creative, I can’t paint stick men, this is not my thing, don’t expect too much from me,’ but every person leaves here with this thing that they created. They’re impressed with themselves and they’re proud.”
Brownrigg said it’s important to be creative in our busy day-to-day lives, because we often neglect our artistic sides as adults.
“We lose track of that awesome childish artisticness, where we’re just happy to have made something, we don’t even care if it’s good,” said Brownrigg.
At Paint Nite, you’re asked to check your self-doubt at the door, and to create your own artwork no matter your skill level.
“Repeat after me,” said Brownrigg over a wireless headset. “I will not say the words, ‘My painting sucks.’”
Two Bostonians created Paint Nite back in 2012. The slogan, “Drink Creatively,” encourages paint and pints. Even though it’s only been in Winnipeg for a few months, tickets sell out fast — right now you’re looking at about a two-month wait.
Paint Nite Winnipeg is currently a one-woman show with Brownrigg the whole event. But she is so busy she’s looking to hire artists to help her expand.
Considering the Festival du Voyageur is just three days away, I thought it would be the perfect time to share this article I wrote for The Projector. There’s some new additions to the outdoor festival this year, and I honestly can’t wait to go.
Come February, the temperatures will likely be cold and the homework will likely be piled on thick, and according to Manitoba’s beloved winter festival, that’s the best time to head outdoors.
For its 46th year in a row, Festival du Voyageur (FDV) returns to St. Boniface from Feb. 13 to 22.
This year, the festival will feature all the classic winter activities, like horse-drawn sleigh rides, slides and snowshoe workshops, but it will also introduce something new.
Fort Gibraltar — the festival’s main hub — will be open late, from 9 p.m. to midnight, to introduce the brand new Bar Gibraltar. Fort Gibraltar would normally be closed at 9 p.m., so the extra hours in the evening give party-goers a place to dance along to music, enjoy some drinks outdoors and well into the evening.
“I think the Fort Gibraltar bar is exactly what the people need,” said Barney Morin, a first-year Creative Communications student and a historical interpreter for the FDV. “Normally the Fort closes at 9 o’clock, you sort of miss that historical aspect.”
Morin, 23, has been attending the FDV since elementary school, but has been an avid festival-goer for the past five years. He dresses up like a voyageur and teaches visitors the rich history of Manitoba.
“Out of all the things that are good this year — 130 bands playing, 100 are local — the bar is going to be the highlight,” said Morin.
Ginette Lavack Walters, executive director of the festival, said the outdoor space at Fort Gibraltar is going to now be programmed with fire jugglers, fire pits, voyageurs singing songs, DJs, and of course, Bar Gibraltar.
She said although many people would rather hide from the cold and their homework, it’s important that they come out and experience the festival.
“I’ve been through university, and I’ve done that reading week, and sometimes you just need a break,” said Lavack Walters.
“You need to change your environment and you need to change your frame of mind. A great way to do that is to grab a couple of friends and come out.”
More than 130 musicians or musical acts of all different genres will play during the 10-day festival.
“If you want something that helps to kind of get you loosened up and not thinking about everything else that’s stressful in your life, Festival is a great way to do it,” said Lavack Walters.
Other FDV events include the 33rd beard growing contest, a mascot competition and jigging and fiddling competitions.
One of my favourite assignments last year was the Remembrance Day assignment.
I talked to my mom’s cousin, who was sent to Rwanda after the genocide on a peacekeeping mission. It changed him, sure, but he assured me he wouldn’t change anything about his experiences if he could.
He expressed how important Remembrance Day is to him, and his words reminded me how important Remembrance Day should be for all Canadians.
Most importantly, the assignment reminded me that everyone has a story worth sharing.
Today I spent the morning in Transcona for the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 7’s Remembrance Day Parade and Service. I met some pretty great people, and I tried my best not to complain about the cold.
Here are some of the many photos I took as part of this year’s photo essay assignment.
***Here are a few others not included in the assignment, but ones I’d still like to share.
All photos were taken with my iPhone 5C
Okay, so if you read my previous post, behind the scenes of Wicked, you know that I had the opportunity to see the show. It was a dream come true. I wrote a little piece on my thoughts, and here it is!
My first time was Wicked
It all started with Glee; I must admit I’m a huge fan. Ever since I found out Idina Menzel — Rachel Berry’s mom on the show, and whose name John Travolta majorly screwed up at the 2014 Academy Awards — was the original Wicked Witch of the West in the Broadway show, I became a little obsessed.
I must also admit I have never been to a musical or Broadway show before, unless you count high school musicals, but for the sake of this review, let’s not (as much as I loved my school’s rendition of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat).
I fantasized about the day I would see my first show, and naturally, I wanted it to be Wicked. There will always be a place in my heart for the Land of Oz, and Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz has been Broadway’s highest grossing show for nine years in a row right here in North America.
The musical was written by Winnie Holzman, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, all of which was based on the 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire. If you’ve ever wondered why the Wicked Witch was so darn wicked, well, this musical explains it.
Thursday Aug. 21 was the night. The Centennial Concert Hall was packed with people, many eagerly waiting in line to purchase their new Wicked merchandise. Upon arriving, I was told that on this particular evening, the standby actress, Alyssa Fox, would be playing the lead role of Elphaba (a.k.a. the Wicked Witch of the West).
I took my seat and anxiously waited for the show to begin. A giant metal dragon sat perched overhead, and a curtain with a glowing green map of Oz hung in front of the stage. When the lights dimmed and the curtain went up, I was completely giddy.
The show started off where the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, left off. Glinda hovers above Munchkinland as a Munchkin below cries, “The wicked witch is dead!” This is also when another asks the good witch about Elphaba, and when Glinda recounts their tumultuous past, the show begins.
The two-and-a-half hour show definitely had its star performers and stand-out moments, but one thing I was not expecting was to be constantly laughing out loud. For such a sombre story, characters like Mme. Morrible and Glinda had the audience guffawing — and loudly, might I add — throughout the entirety of the show. Kathy Fitzgerald seemed born to play the role of Mme. Morrible, and Kara Lindsay shone as Glinda.
I was very pleased with Alyssa Fox as Elphaba, and at the end of the first half, when she ascended above the stage belting out “Defying Gravity,” I most definitely shed a tear. Her voice was incredibly powerful, and after watching Menzel perform the same song time and time again on YouTube, I can say that I was certainly not let down.
What did let me down, however, were the male leads. Matt Shingledecker, who plays Fiyero, delivered a not-so-memorable performance, falling to the wayside and being overshadowed by his fellow leading actresses. And although Oz is a traditionally weak character, Gene Weygandt’s performance left me wanting more.
However, all the good the show had to offer definitely outweighed the bad. The massive backdrops and sets rolled in and out seamlessly, the dancing was consistently synchronized and the costumes were impressive. Costume changes seemed almost effortless — although I’m sure they didn’t seem that way for the actors — switching from Munchkins to college kids in no time. The Emerald City citizens were my favourite: extravagant gowns and suits in various shades of green, which were all very Lady Gaga-esque.
Some other highlights included Glinda and Elphaba’s dormitory scene, in which the audience got a good glimpse at Glinda’s quirky personality; the flying monkeys (of course); and near the end, when the two witches sing “For Good.” The duo had such good chemistry; it appeared as though they were actually two best friends up on stage together, which of course made me cry like my aunt does when she’s watching Dancing with the Stars.
The curtain dropped, and just like that the show was over. I was no longer a musical virgin. A few moments passed and the curtain rose for the finale, where every audience member clapped and got out of their seats. The standing ovation was sweet, but not as sweet as seeing the huge smiles strewn across the faces of the cast members.
My first time was everything I had ever imagined it to be: I smiled, I cried and I laughed a whole heck of a lot. If you ever get the chance to see Wicked for real — instead of on YouTube like the old me — I highly recommend you do. Oz speed, my dear.
While at work one day last week, I received an email from my friend Jess, the arts and culture editor at OutWords magazine. She asked me if I would be interested in reporting on the set up of the popular musical Wicked. I was so excited; I jumped at the opportunity. I was able to chat with some industry professionals, talk to some people that work on the show, and work on my photography skills.
At the time I wasn’t able to go to the show (I got tickets afterward), so I thought, ‘Well, behind the scenes is better than nothing.’ It was pretty eye-opening to see the amount of work that goes into a show of that scale. This is the article I wrote for the magazine, and you can check it out on their website here. (NOTE: I did get the chance to go to the show and I cried. I also wrote a review, which I will post shortly).
How to be Wicked
A behind-the-scenes look at setting up the Tony award winning show
Flying monkeys, Glenda the Good Witch’s travelling bubble and the giant Time Dragon that hangs overhead make the Land of Oz quite a magical place. Then there is the process of transforming venue after venue into the Land of Oz, which seems quite magical in itself.
Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, Broadway’s highest grossing show for nine consecutive years, will be back in Winnipeg playing at the Centennial Concert Hall from August 20 to 30. The last time the show was in town was in 2011, when it broke box-office records and sold out in record time.
“We’re happy to be back in Winnipeg,” said Bridget Stegall, associate company manager. “We look forward to amazing the Winnipeg audiences.”
But before musical lovers can be amazed, an experienced team must assemble and set up backdrops and stage props, convertingan ordinary stage into the mystical setting of Wicked.
The travelling company comes equipped with 35 crew members who are in charge of electrical, sound, carpentry, wardrobe, hair and make-up—and that is not including the musicians or actors. Along with the travelling team, the company hires approximately 100 local men to help unload and set up the 11 semi trucks full of equipment. There is a lot to roll out—just to give you an idea, the company uses about four to five miles of cable per show.
“It takes about two days to set everything up. It only takes five hours to load everything out because our guys have worked on this tour for such a long time they have it down to a science,” said Stegall.
The Centennial Concert Hall is a loud place during set up, until elegant crowds takes over in the evening. Hammers are clanking, men are climbing up and down ladders attaching cords, and workers are using measuring tapes to ensure everything is just right. And everything must be just right because assembling the stage is like putting together a puzzle. Certain things must be set up first before the next pieces can go in and so forth. Backdrops are the first to be set up. Once in place, the heavy pieces get sent above the stage with a loud rumble, staying there until they’re needed in the show. Once everything is up in the air, the crew can start laying down the deck.
Between the crew’s communication skills and their efficiency, it’s evident they have done this many times before. Even their coffee breaks are timed out perfectly; like clockwork, all crew members exit simultaneously, leaving the stage deserted and quiet for fifteen minutes until it’s time to get back to work.
After two days of set up and a sound check, the show is ready for its Winnipeg audience. According to Stegall, the breathtaking costumes and the multi-million dollar sets are the same as those we would see on Broadway.
“You’re not getting a lesser or smaller version of the show because we’re here in Winnipeg. We bring the show with us,” Stegall said.
For a travelling show of this magnitude, it’s not an easy task recreating the Land of Oz (fun fact: the electrical, sound and automation departments use enough power to supply approximately 18 houses). But many hands make light work when recreating the show that was declared “the best musical of the decade” by Entertainment Weekly. The show must go on, but first, the stage is set.
Last Tuesday, my classmates and I went to see the play Sargent & Victor & Me for a journalism assignment. It’s a one-woman show written and performed by Debbie Patterson, directed by Arne MacPherson, and presented by Theatre Projects Manitoba.
Walking into the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film at the University of Winnipeg, I was taken aback at how large the set was for only one person. I counted six tables, five chairs and four groups of four food hampers. The set was made to resemble a local food bank.
At first, I was a little skeptical to learn it was a one-woman act. I haven’t been to many plays before, and I had never been to a show with only one cast member.
Despite my skepticism, I was intrigued it was about Winnipeg.
Winnipeg’s West End gets a bad rap, so I was looking forward to see what Debbie would bring to the conversation. I was also excited to see how she would incorporate her struggles with multiple sclerosis.
Throughout the play, Debbie played eight different characters: Gillian, Bob, Pastor Giles Mitchell, Tom, Theresa, Gracie, Sharon and Fred. The characters ranged from seven to 90-years old.
I just remember thinking “Holy crap. She’s good.”
As I said, I haven’t been to many plays before, but I have such admiration for actors. Remembering all those lines is impressive, and being so vulnerable like that is something I could never do.
What I loved most was her seamless ability to go in and out of characters. Not only with their words, but their accents, mannerisms, body movements, etc. The writing for the play and the acting were both amazing.
I found the use of radio clips very effective. Sean Kavanagh’s voice is quite recognizable, so it felt like I could have been listening to real Winnipeg news stories. I also thought the music was used very effectively.
From a journalistic perspective, I loved that these were the real words of real people Debbie interviewed. It reminded me that storytelling comes in many different forms, and getting creative with the way we share someone’s story can be very refreshing.
I liked how Debbie was able to give a voice to her disease.
“I don’t have MS, it has me.”
“The things I can’t do are outweighing the things I can do.”
I got teary-eyed at a few points throughout the play. When she describes being with her family in Thunder Bay and realizing it was the last time she would be there, or when she talks about coming to terms and learning to cope with her broken body.
I didn’t really love how I was waiting for something to happen that didn’t. It didn’t do much in the way of changing misconceptions or offering solutions. And, I wanted it to bring deeper insight into the West End. I suppose it did a good job of illustrating the varied voices and opinions of the West End, but I feel most people are already aware of those opinions.
For someone who hasn’t seen many plays, I very much enjoyed this one. Overall, I thought it was well written, acted and executed by the whole team. If you have the chance to check it out, I highly recommend it. It plays at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film until March 9.
Stuart McLean will be at the Centennial Concert Hall on November 25 for The Vinyl Cafe Christmas Tour 2013. McLean is an author and an award-winning journalist who has sold over one million books in Canada. He is well-known for hosting the Vinyl Cafe series on CBC Radio, which include his popular Dave & Morley stories. This Christmas Concert will feature new Dave & Morley stories as well as live music from the Juno Award winning trio, the Good Lovelies. Last year, Apple named McLean’s Vinyl Cafe Stories the best audio podcast in their “Best of the Year” awards. For tickets visit www.ticketmaster.ca.
The Winnipeg International Writers Festival is holding a used book sale Nov. 22-24 at The Forks Market in Centre Court. A wide variety of books will be available for purchase ranging in fiction, non-fiction, young adult, children’s and books in various languages. All of the books for sale have been donated by individuals or organizations, and all proceeds go toward funding the annual THIN AIR Winnipeg International Writers Festival. Prices are affordable with hardcovers at $5 and softcovers at $2. If you would like to donate any books you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nov. 20-24 the annual Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival will be showcasing films, documentaries, discussions, and hands-on documentary-making workshops at the Globe Cinema in Portage Place Mall. The festival celebrates indigenous storytelling, and presents the best new indigenous films and videos from Canada, the US, and around the world. Nov. 21 is the Manitoba Filmmaker Night, which will feature a series of short films from local and up-and-coming filmmakers. Afterward, Paul Rabliauskas— comedian and radio host on Streetz 104.7 FM—will be hosting an Open Mic Night. For more information on movies and show times, visit their website at www.waff.ca.