Posted in Film
Contributed by Christopher Jones
11/24 2011

Toronto’s Kastner Wins Int’l Emmy

lifewithmurderCongratulations to Toronto’s John Kastner on winning the 2011 International Emmy Award for best documentary for his film, Life with Murder. Produced by JS Kastner Productions in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada, in association with CTV, Life with Murder is a gripping portrait of an Ontario couple’s painful struggle to accept their son back into the family after he is convicted of murdering his sister. The doc was the only Canadian program nominated for the 39th International Emmy Awards, which were presented by the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in New York City on November 21. This is the fourth Emmy win for Kastner, more than any other individual in the history of Canadian television.

Posted in Theatre
Contributed by Christopher Jones
11/23 2011

Melanie McNeill’s Life in the Wings

Melanie McNeill backstage at the Cameron House
Climbing the theatre ladder has never been easy or especially rewarding. Devotees, particularly those backstage and in the wings, practice their craft for love not money with a few lucky souls able to scrape their way to long and fruitful careers.

Melanie McNeill, above, has been paying her dues for a decade and is finally on a rung somewhere in the middle of that ladder. She says that when she was in a student in Ryerson’s Theatre Production program (class of 2002) she had two dreams: to win a Dora and to be flown somewhere to work. Both of those dreams came true for her in 2011.

I met McNeill backstage at the Cameron House on Sunday to talk about her work on the stupendous Life and Times of Mackenzie King, an instalment of writer/director Michael Hollingsworth’s The History of the Village of the Small Huts, 1918 – 39. Performed black box-style by the wonderfully innovative VideoCabaret, the shows are unlike anything else on the Toronto theatre scene, a sort of pantomime of Canadian history played broadly and colourfully with a wink and a nudge. READ MORE

Posted in Art
Contributed by Christopher Jones
11/22 2011

Pop Art Poetry

cardimageNo one is more surprised to see Jeff Campagna doing his first gallery show than Jeff Campagna. He’s a writer primarily – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, movies, a blog – but he refuses to restrict his creative output.

By his own admission he can’t draw or paint “worth a damn” but he knows his way around Adobe Photoshop and decided to apply himself to creating visual treatments for a handful of his poems. The resulting work is on show now at gallerywest with an opening reception slated for Thursday (November 24, 7 – 10 pm).

The works are digital prints on canvas, each one dressed up in a different, ornate gilt frame. For the artist, the frames represent a bridge between the digital present and a romantic, poetic past. The poems themselves are naïve, rhyming affairs, like lyrics for a pop song. Pop poetry meets pop art.

“I’ve gone from filmmaking, specifically screen writing, to fiction to poetry and now to visual art,” says Campagna. “It may not sound consistent but I see continuity running through it all. I don’t see this work as a departure, I see it as an extension.”


Posted in Art
Contributed by Christopher Jones
11/21 2011

Powerful Plasticity at MOCCA

jordan2Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art lit a rocket under curator Camilla Singh’s latest exhibition Friday night with a lively opening reception that gave the city’s art set plenty to chew on. Titled Ineffable Plasticity, the show features an all-Toronto slate of artists whose works consider “the experience of being human.”

The title is intentionally poetic and ambiguous, explains Singh, as she leads me through the show: “It invites you to put your own take on it rather than being a really descriptive thing that nails it down.”

Like Rogers and Hart’s “Funny Valentine,” some of Ineffable Plasticity is unphotographable, either because it’s too explicit (Mat Brown, Jordan MacLachlan, above) or too experiential (Sherri Hay).


Posted in Festivals, Music
Contributed by Christopher Jones
11/18 2011

Luanda Jones at Home On Lula Stage

Singer/songwriter Luanda Jones never imagined she’d leave Brazil. She was born in Ipanema, she lived one block from the world-famous beach, the rhythms of Rio bubble in her veins. And yet here she is as the snow threatens to fly for what will be her sixth winter in Toronto.

Much to her surprise, the singer fell in love with her adopted city, and even though the relationship that brought her to Canada has since ended, Jones chooses to remain in the Great White North. She plays the Uma Nota Festival at Lula Lounge this weekend, sharing the stage with musicians from around the globe in a celebration of Latin, Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian funk, soul and jazz.