Creative City Kids

531933_10101073678312431_1528834793_n Ok. So here’s the deal: You have 5 days to stage a 30-minute, 6-song musical in a reputably haunted theatre that’s falling down around you. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention: your cast is a group of eighteen 8-10 year-olds hopped up on Easter chocolate. Aaaannnnd GO!

It sounds like the plot for a reality TV show. You know, one of those programs where Cameron Mackintosh comes in at the end of day 5 and presents the winner with a cheque for a million dollars. In my case, this was a teaching contract I had over the Easter holidays that tested just how far I would go to live the CCC’s motto and be a ‘catalyst for a creative community‘.

It’s called Glee camp. Five days over the Easter break where parents drop their budding thespians off at the Conservatory of Performing Arts for 8 daily hours of singing, dancing and acting. I had signed on to teach at the camp, alongside director/choreographer Chip McDaniel, at the end of February and while I was looking forward to the week I really didn’t expect what was coming.

I felt like everything was under control. Chip and I both knew what we were doing and we worked well together. We’d literally just closed a production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe where Chip had directed/choreographed and I had played DeLee. We had this cased. Or so I thought.

Within the first five minutes of camp we had already been forced to recast the role of Cinderella, three kids were crying because they didn’t like their parts, one kid was crying because she slipped on water that was leaking from the roof, I had nearly been knocked unconscious by a falling piece of Darke Hall’s ceiling decor and I couldn’t deal with any of it because I was too busy filling out an incident report for an asthma attack that one of our campers was wheezing her way through. As I filled out the forms, I scolded myself for forgetting the most important variable in this whole project: the KIDS.

I don’t have any. In case you were wondering. And while I’ve taught children before, I’m more accustomed to hour-long private lessons than an 8-hour school day. As for that motherly instinct that seems to innately tell some women how to best nurture children? Yeah. I got none of that. But my time-steps are lovely, I assure you.

So there I was, putting out fires, slapping on band-aids and feeling like all I was really doing was babysitting when something incredible happened. The kids started to get settled. They started to feel comfortable in the space, with each other and with us and they started to open up. It turns out, they actually like this stuff! We haven’t lost the battle to video games! There are still kids out there that would rather spend their holidays singing and dancing than anything else and throughout the week they continued to impress.

Over the course of the camp, the kids learned 6 songs, a 30-minute script and choreography to each song. We played games, learned about theatre etiquette and shared various ghost stories about Darke Hall’s legendary hauntings. When we assigned homework, it came back completed and the kids continued to make progress. Of course, that’s not to say things were easy. There were still plenty of band-aids to apply, plenty of conflicts to resolve and a few nights where both Chip and I were up until 2:00 am sewing costumes and finding props.

The thing is, all that stuff was secondary to the growth I could see in all eighteen of our students. Every bit of effort we put in was returned in the form of new skills picked up, tighter choreography or even just a smile on a formerly frustrated face. I suppose it’s what they refer to as ‘paying it forward.’

When Friday afternoon rolled around it was time to present our little musical to the campers’ families and friends. The funny thing is, I’ve never been nervous for any of my own performances but I had a major case of butterflies this time around. I knew how hard these kids had worked and I wanted them to have the great show they deserved. I wanted them to feel the joy I feel in the arts. I shouldn’t have been worried. The kids performed ‘Ever After — a Musical’ better than I could have ever planned or anticipated. It was fantastic.

It’s been almost a week since the camp ended and I’m just now getting the feeling back in my legs. The ringing in my ears is probably permanent. I just can’t stop reminiscing about the teachers who stood in the wings with a bad case of butterflies at MY childhood performances. I had loved the arts then just like my campers do now and I’m thankful for the opportunity to pass it on. At the CCC we often refer to the organization as a catalyst for a creative community. I can’t think of a better catalyst than a big group of creative kids.

Kalle Mattson, August 13, Doors at 7:30, $12

highres2In the four short years since Kalle Mattson began writing songs, he and his band have grown exponentially over that short period of time. With two full-lengths and an EP already under his young belt, and now with two viral videos for “Water Falls’ (250,000 views) and “Thick As Thieves” (over 1,000,000 views), Kalle Mattson returns this Fall with a highly anticipated new LP. Produced by The Wooden Sky’s Gavin Gardiner and recorded in 2012 at Toronto’s Lincoln County Social Club, Kalle Mattson’s newest full-length features appearances by members of Juno- nominated artists The Wooden Sky, Cuff The Duke and a song co-written by Kalle and Jeremy Fisher.

Kalle’s second album, “Anchors”, broke new ground for him in 2011. The album was mixed by Howie Beck (Feist, Jason Collett, Hayden), mastered at the legendary Bernie Grundman Studios (Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, The Band) and received rave reviews that culminated in numerous year end “Best Of” lists, a Top 100 placement in the Billboard World Song Contest, and a song placement on Degrassi. All the while Kalle hit the road in support of the album with stops along the way at CMW, NXNE, Pop Montreal, COCA, and Ottawa Bluesfest, tours with Sunparlour Players, Cuff The Duke & Jeremy Fisher and opening slots for Jim Bryson, The Rural Alberta Advantage and Blue Rodeo. The album also received a pair of Northern Ontario Music Award wins for Album of the Year (Group) & SOCAN Songwriter of the Year.

Word Up Wednesday August Slam, August 21st, Doors at 7:00pm, $5

995977_10153096330395246_2062126183_nCome on out to take part in (as poet or audience member) this high-spirited battle of words and wit! Slammers should come prepared with 3 original pieces of less than 3 minutes each. No props, no nudity. Audience members, come prepared with snapping fingers and a good pair of lungs. We’ll start with a community stage – feel free to bring a song/monologue/poem/rant to share. Doors 7pm All ages $5

RESCHEDULED Jenny Berkel with Belle Plaine and Robyn Koester, September 4, Doors at 7:30, $10

5bBorn in the midst of Ontario’s disappearing forests and spreading cities, Jenny Berkel has always had a deep awareness of changing landscapes and the tenuous thread by which we live and love. Her pursuit of formal education against this backdrop was interrupted to appease her appetite for the bracing instruction of travel, pen and paperback. Then, seeking the uncluttered desktop of the Prairies, Berkel packed her suitcases and guitar into a Greyhound two cold winters ago and landed in Winnipeg.

Fold in part wanderlust, love adrift and a grievous family loss. A year later, Berkel had two handfuls of new material, which came together to form her debut full length collection, Here on a Wire. Produced by Matt Peters (Royal Canoe and The Waking Eyes), this debut is a collection of eleven stark and haunting songs that draw their substance from a blend of personal experience and collective history. Alternately sad and hopeful, the songs are awash with quiet images of ghosts, dreams, lost love, and cityscape.

Centering around the lilt of Berkel’s emotive lyrics, Here on a Wire features a brooding and delicate arrangement of cello, upright bass, French horn, slide guitar, organ, and percussion. With Jenny’s deep and smoky voice winding its way through these rich layers, the album stands as an arresting collection of “haunt folk.”

Word Up Wednesday featuring Saskatoon Slam Team, September 18, Doors @ 7:00, $5

Come on out to take part (as poet or audience member) in this high-spirited battle of words and wit!

Saskatoon Slam Team members (bottom left to right) Brendan Flaherty, Francie Millar, Ahmad Majid, Danielle Altrogge and Brent Chappell

Saskatoon Slam Team on the steps to the now vacated Lydia’s Pub.

Saskatoon has one of the most revered slam poetry scenes in the country, consistently turning out highly polished and innovative work by some of the most loveable poets on the planet. This year’s team is no exception. It consists of Brent Chappell, Brendan Flaherty, Francie Millar, Ahmad Majid and Danielle Altrogge. They will deliver a feature set including team and individual poems.

The evening will also feature our regular monthly slam. Slammers should come prepared with 3 original pieces of less than 3 minutes each. No props, no nudity. Audience members, come prepared with snapping fingers and a good pair of lungs.

Time permitting, we may also have a community stage – feel free to bring a song/monologue/poem/rant to share.

We thank the Department of Canadian Heritage for their support of this series.

Spoken Word Workshop with C.R. Avery, September 27, 4:30-6:30, FREE

photo credit: Chris Wagner

photo credit: Chris Wagner

Whether performing to thousands at the Royal Albert Hall or the lucky few who made it inside the packed past capacity speakeasy, C.R. Avery is a unique, raw and dynamic performer. At once a beat-box poet, punk piano player and outlaw harmonica player, he has the rare ability to sing poetic verse while beatboxing simultaneously while pounding the piano and adding harmonica like a plot twist.

Learn how he does it in this spoken word writing and performance workshop, offered for free as part of Culture Days. The workshop is sponsored by Word Up Wednesday (Creative City Centre), The Vertigo Series, and Cathedral Village Arts Festival.

Email info@vertigoseries.com to register.

Also: See C.R. perform as the featured artist of the 2013 CVAF Culture Days Poetry Slam, Friday Sept. 27, 7:30pm at The Mercury Café

Street F.A.I.R (Festival of the Arts in Regina), September 27 – 29, FW Hill Mall/City Square Plaza/Victoria Park, FREE!!!!!

Street F.A.I.R - BE THERE!

Street F.A.I.R – BE THERE!

The Creative City Centre in partnership with Regina Downtown, The Saskatchewan Filmpool, Articulate Ink Press Inc., The Dunlop Art Gallery, The University of Regina Conservatory of Performing Arts and The Sunday Art Market is excited to present Street F.A.I.R (Festival of the Arts in Regina)! Street F.A.I.R will take place from September 27 – 29 as part of Saskatchewan Culture Days. The festival will offer an array of activities for all ages and interests and is FREE to all! Check out some of our great events below. We can’t wait to see you there!

BuskFest
Friday, Sept. 27
11:30 AM – 1:30 PM
FW Hill Mall
Street performance walking tour! Come experience some of Regina’s weirdest and most hidden talent!

Exquisite Corpse Scroll Drawing
Saturday, Sept. 28
1-4 PM
Dunlop Art Gallery (at the Regina Public Library, Central)
Explore the current exhibition The Substitute and the Absence by artist collective Zot’z*, then contribute your creativity to the community mash-up scroll drawing!

Print-Your-Own Culture Days T-shirt
Saturday, Sept. 28
1-4 PM
Articulate Ink Studios, 2nd floor Creative City Centre (1843 Hamilton St.)
Learn how to use a screenprinting press to print your very own t-shirt, dazzlingly designed by Articulate Ink!

Get Down Downtown
Saturday, Sept. 28
8:00 PM – 12:00 AM
1900 block Scarth St. (outside O’Hanlon’s)

Liven up Regina’s downtown this Saturday night by getting down with DJ Natural Sympathies and friends! Accompanied by exciting footage from Saskatchewan filmmakers, projected onto a giant screen.


Family Arts Fest
Sunday, Sept. 29
1-5 PM
Victoria Park
Child-friendly fun including music performances, circus performances and workshops, an instrument zoo, visual art activities, music workshops, an artisan market, button-making and more!

UpStage at The Centre featuring Willow Road by Wendy Lockman, October 5th, Doors at 7:30, Free Will Donation

It's been a long road to Willow Road but we're thrilled to kick off our new series!

It’s been a long road to Willow Road but we’re thrilled to kick off our new series!

The Creative City Centre in partnership with the Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre is pleased to present our newest series ‘UpStage at the Centre’. This Staged Reading series premiers on October 5th and will feature and further develop the work of four promising Saskatchewan playwrights. Our first presentation will feature ‘Willow Road’ by Swift Current’s own Wendy Lockman. Eager nurse Kimberly provides care for her literary idol, caustic alcoholic Lee, who is waiting for a liver transplant. As Lee deteriorates physically and mentally, and as feisty housekeeper Martha struggles to keep the whole situation on track, Lee and Kimberly discover unexpected truths about each other and themselves.

After a half day workshop and a full day of rehearsal, Regina actors Kaitlyn Semple, Marianne Woods and Cavan Cunningham, along with Director Kathryn Bracht, will bring the work to life on the Hague Gallery stage. Be there as what was once an idea in a writer’s head becomes a fully developed work of art!

We thank the Department of Canadian Heritage for their support of this series.

The Cost of Art

UnknownMost months it takes me a while to figure out what I should write about for the CCC blog. This month’s topic has been following me around like a shadow.

It started innocently enough when I stumbled upon a long and detailed facebook discussion thread involving several participants, most of whom were artists. The thread was examining the age-old question: What is art worth and how should artists be paid? The overwhelming majority seemed to side with the opinion that there is no free art; an artist’s work and time are valuable and the assumption that they should be given away for free leads to the death of many burgeoning careers. I read through the thread and thought about all the times I have been asked to sing at weddings and other events only to be met with a shocked expression upon bringing up the subject of payment and I thought: here, here.

The next morning over coffee and my daily facebook addiction, the topic arose again. A friend of mine, currently studying musical theatre composition at NYU, had posted a TED talk by alt-rocker Amanda Palmer entitled ‘The Art of Asking’. Over the course of a 15-minute talk (a must-see for any art lover, regardless of their position on the topic), Palmer compared her experience busking to the way music is available online. She talked about the exchanges she had made on the street – a human, artistic connection in exchange for a free will donation – and how that had inspired her to price her digital music as ‘pay what you can’. If that meant giving it away for free, so be it. She summed it up by saying the solution to the ‘cost of art’ problem was not about making people pay for art but asking people to pay for art. There may be people who scoff and yell ‘get a job!’ as they pass but there will be more who see the real value and will pay what the art is worth. After watching the presentation, I thought back to the nearly 4 months I had spent in 2012 as a busker in Melbourne, Australia. I had managed to feed myself on the money passersby were willing to exchange for the songs I was singing and I thought: She has a point.

A few days later I really got smacked with it. I had been contracted to work as a performer for a set amount of time and money. With less then 24 hours’ notice, the employer asked for additional services which I was unable to provide and so declined. The next thing I knew, I was dealing with an employer who wanted to halve my agreed-upon wage for not consenting to work outside our agreement. After a long, hard meeting over what was fair and what was deserved, I left fully paid but my head was spinning, wondering what in the world I had signed up for when I decided that I wanted to work in the arts. Was this going to be a constant theme in my life? I have always found myself struggling with the idea of what exactly I’m worth as a musician, actor and arts instructor. Am I less of an artist if my passion for what I do gives way to a need to put food on the table? I have always hated the term “starving artist” and tend to respond to it by saying ‘I ate three meals today, all of which I paid for. Thanks.’ but I also do certain gigs for free if the cause is right or the experience is worth it. It’s always been a matter of personal judgement and a personal balancing of the books. So am I less of an artist? Less a contributing member of society? I have to admit, for a moment in the midst of my head-spins I was contemplating law school.

Then, on Thursday night I got my closure. I was traveling through Eastend, SK. and staying the night with a couple of married artists in their eighties. She works in watercolor and he works in stained glass. As we sat in their kitchen chatting over a cup of tea, the topic came up again and I thought that, surely, this couple with decades of experience would have the answer. They didn’t. They’d come up against the question of ‘the cost of art’ their entire lives. They had built careers, they had had their art purchased for good prices, their art was hanging in collections all over the world and yet every now and then they still came across someone who didn’t view what they did as a ‘real job’. Grandparents in their eighties.

I said that that evening gave me some closure on the issue and it really did. I walked away from that night grateful for all of the people around me who know that art enriches their lives every day. It’s a community of people who instinctively know that art is ‘a real job’ and that it encompasses entertainment, sentimental and monetary value. If that community can continue to work and  bring value to our larger community as a whole then those people yelling ‘get a job’ as they pass will be vastly outnumbered by those who are willing and excited to support the arts – financially, physically and spiritually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Steel Wheels, October 7, Doors at 7:30pm, Tickets $25

RedWingRootsThe Steel Wheels have captured audiences across the country with their heady brew of original soulful mountain music and their deep commitment to roots and community. Based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, this dynamic four-piece string band marries old-time musical traditions with their own innovative sound and lifestyle, generating a truly magnetic revival.

The Steel Wheels is an amalgamation of hard work and easy rapport. The band is renowned for their raw energy and chemistry on stage, where they often cluster tightly around a single microphone to adorn Trent Wagler’s unmistakable tenor with bell-clear four-part harmonies inspired by their shared Mennonite heritage. Add to this Eric Brubaker’s lively and evocative fiddle, Brian Dickel’s grounded yet buoyant upright bass, and Jay Lapp’s signature mandolin style, and it’s no surprise that The Steel Wheels have enthralled the contemporary Americana scene.

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