Posts Tagged ‘Ottawa International Writers Festival’

Since VERSeFest this past June, I had thought it would be a fun idea to cover all the poetry events that happen here in Ottawa. Not in ‘review’ format, exactly, but more like a sports ‘play-by-play’, just to let people know who is sharing their work at the poetry shows and what is new and different in the poetry community.

Alastair Larwill, local poet and poetry aficionado, decided to take me up on this idea and wrote a piece on poet Mike Blouin at the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

Eventually, these pieces will be showcased on the VERSe Ottawa website. In the meantime, check back here for coverage of Ottawa poetry events.

On April 27th Mike Blouin not only kicked off the Ottawa International Writers Festival but also launched his new book Wore Down Trust to a packed Barley Mow. Usually there can be some issues with doing readings at bars, unreceptive audiences, bad acoustics, and the scurrying of waitresses, but none were present during the half hour reading.

Sean Wilson took his time introducing Mike to make sure the radio was fully turned down and the patrons fully settled in. It was one of those events where it paid to show up early, if you wanted to get a good seat and a view for that matter.

Mike took to the stage with ownership and settled in with a soft poke at himself as well as read the acknowledgments before he dove into his book. He attempted to read without his glasses, but found it too difficult, so on the glasses went with another joke at his own expense. The pieces he read had a defined style and for the most part were narrative in nature. Mike has constructed this book around himself as well as two artist which I infer had a large impact on him, Johnny Cash and Canadian poet Alden Nowlan. His poems dance on the line of reality and fiction which peaks curiosity about the contact he had with these two iconic figures and just where he feels that he fits in with them.

Most of the poems had heavy feel to them, sentences that hit home with impact: “in poverty the test comes early” “every time I came to the surface; surprise” spoken softly as if the world could be quietly over whelming. There were some moments of light humor, which was nicely placed to lighten the darkened room with laugher.

The set itself felt a little short, but it is always good to leave the audience wanting. There were no valleys in this reading, just a strong consistency to it. Mike used some very brief pauses in between poems as well as only using some slight introductions to select pieces, which kept the flow steady, consistent and relentless. For those of you who have missed it, you can check out the end of it in this video.

bUy LARWILL (alastair)

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The BC Scene (90 events with 600 artists from British Columbia) and the Ottawa International Writers Festival (literary folks from Ottawa and around the world) are taking over my life this week. And I am fully embracing the insanity!

T.O.F.U. Tons of Fun University

T.O.F.U. Tons of Fun University

Here is a list of all the events I plan to attend between Tuesday, April 21 and Sunday, May 3. Hopefully this will give you some idea of what’s out there and encourage you to check out more events at your leisure. This is also a handy tool for any potential stalkers who want to know where I’ll be at any given time. Knock yourselves out.

*** All Writers Festival events take place at the St. Brigid’s Centre for Arts and Humanities, unless otherwise indicated

I’ll also be updating this blog section more frequently, creating something of a “social column” about the events that I attend and the people I meet. Feel free to post comments if you find time to attend these events and want to offer your own opinion.

Welcome to festival season!

Tuesday, April 21

BC SCENE — SWARM: gallery crawl (6-9pm) and opening night party (9-11pm)

Wednesday, April 22

OSSD (not part of either festival, but I’m still going!) — Mischief City @ 11am, Natalie Stern Studio Theatre
BC SCENE — BIOBOXES @ 1:45, Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre
WRITERS FEST — Earth Day Vernissage @ 5:30pm
BC SCENE — La Vue d’en Haut @ 8pm, La Nouvelle Scene

Thursday, April 23

BC SCENE — T.O.F.U. (Tons of Fun University) and Kinnie Starr @ 8pm, NAC 4th Stage

Friday, April 24

WRITERS FEST — Michael Ignatieff @ 7pm
BC SCENE — Literary Cabaret @ 8pm, NAC 4th Stage

Saturday, April 25

WRITERS FEST — Dusty Owl @ 6pm
BC SCENE — Assembly @ 8pm, NAC Panorama Room

Sunday, April 26

BC SCENE — Jack Pine (opera) @ 1:30pm, NAC 4th Stage
WRITERS FEST — The Bible @ 4pm
WRITERS FEST — Writing Life @ 6pm
BC SCENE — Veda Hille and Penny Lang @ 8pm, Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre

Monday, April 27

WRITERS FEST — Extraordinary Canadians @ 6:30pm

Tuesday, April 28

WRITERS FEST — Big Idea & Poetry Cabaret @ 6:30pm

Wednesday, April 29

WRITERS FEST — Poetry Cabaret @ 6:30pm
BC SCENE — Mei Han and the Red Chamber @8pm, Library and Archives

Thursday, April 30

BC SCENE — Rage @ 8pm, La Nouvelle Scene

Friday, May 1

BC SCENE — Simone Osbourne @ 12 noon, Rideau Chapel
BC SCENE — Mom’s the Word @ 8pm, Arts Court Theatre

Saturday, May 2

BC SCENE — Wen Wei Dance @ 8pm, NAC Studio Theatre

Sunday, May 3

BC Scene — James Hill & ukulele events @ 1pm, 2pm, 4pm, Canadian Museum of Civilization

James Hill and Anne Davison

Anne Davison and James Hill

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Greetings arts fans!

April is a great month for me: I’m finishing up the school semester and finally riding my bike around on the downtown streets; and it’s also the start of festival season! I was really shocked when the municipal government tried (and failed, thankfully) to take away all funding from festivals. Don’t they know that’s the reason Ottawa residents stick around during the summer? Where would Ottawa be without its incredible spring and summer festivals? I know I look forward to festival season all year long.

So let’s do that first…


BC Scene – April 21 to May 3 http://bcscene.ca

Honestly, there are no words. Just watch this stupendous video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNd2Zh7M-20

I worked for this festival earlier this year, and let me tell you, Ottawa, you’re in for a treat! All the best British Columbia artists (approximately 600 of them) are taking over the nation’s capital with music, dance, theatre, visual arts, spoken word and so much more. We’re talking about 13 days of absolute madness. I got to know some of these artists by researching them and chatting with them directly. Fabulous people – I can’t wait!

Ottawa International Writers Festival – April 22 to May 2 http://writersfestival.org/

This is the festival’s first season at the newly redesigned (and deconsecrated) St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts and Humanities. I can’t wait to see how this new venue will inspire the overall atmosphere of the festival. I expect great things! I recently wrote an article about the festival that you can read on the Guerilla Magazine website: http://getguerilla.ca/component/content/article/45-features/170-guerilla-magazine-jessica-ruano-arts-smarts Enjoy!


Bill Keast Vernissage – April 2 http://www.rothwellgallery.com

Keast’s depictions of rural Ontario are whimsical and full of colour.  Although his work is acrylic, it is painted so finely that it almost resembles batik, and the brushstrokes are nearly invisible.

Oto-wa Taiko – April 4 www.OtoWaTaiko.ca

Oto-Wa Taiko celebrates 20 years of bringing taiko to the Ottawa area with a special ARIGATO Concert.

Rideau Awards – April 5 http://rideauawards.ca/

Ottawa’s professional theatre community battles it out on Sunday evening for the coveted Rideau Theatre Awards. The event is sold out, but I will post the winners (and possibly photos of all the glamourous actors!) on my website as soon as they have been announced.

Book of Spells – April 16 http://spells.theatreadmin.com/

I had the opportunity to interview storytellers Jennifer Cayley and Jan Andrews who will be sharing stories of witches and romance at the National Arts Centre 4th Stage for one night only. They have toured Ontario with this show and will soon be sharing their stories in the United Kingdom. Check out my article about these storytellers in the current issue of Capital Xtra: http://www.xtra.ca/public/Ottawa/Lesbian_love_spell-6491.aspx

Madama Butterfly – April 18 norman_e_brown@rogers.com

Opera fans, don’t miss this staged and costumed production presented by Pelligrini Opera!


Some Girl(s) – March 25 to April 4 http://visiontheatre.ca/

Ken Godmere returns to direct Neil Labute’s “romance,” a one-man odyssey through four hotel rooms, featuring local actors Joe Marques, Robin Guy, Miriam Westland, Jan Murray, and Kate Drummond.

The Gondoliers – March 27 to April 4 http://www.ottawasavoysociety.org/

The Savoy Society of Ottawa glides into the Centrepointe Theatre with its production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s tongue-in-cheek comic opera.

London Suite – March 31 to April 18 http://www.ottawalittletheatre.com/

In this Neil Simon comedy, a London suite overlooking Hyde Park is the setting for a series of four misadventures that take place in an English luxury hotel on the same day.

The Crucible – April 1 to 4 [Email] chsthecrucible@hotmail.com

Don’t miss Arthur Miller’s disturbing tragedy about a witch hunt that is uncomfortably familiar, even to a modern day audience. Produced by Arts Canterbury and directed by Jeff Lawson, this production features… my sister, Jocelyn! So you know it’s going to be good.

The Ballymore Reel – April 9 to 18 http://taraplayers.ncf.ca/

Directed by Pat Marshall, this Greg Finnegan play is the story of every immigrant, told through one woman’s emigration and her search for “home” upon returning to Ireland.

A Guy Named Joe – April 15 to May 2 http://odysseytheatre.ca/

A captivating and charming tale of love and hope, A Guy Named Joe pits a naïve hero against a world that threatens to demolish all his dreams. Written and directed by Odyssey founder Laurie Steven, this indoor production at The Gladstone (as opposed to their usual “under the stars”) features Scott Florence as Joe and Nick Di Gaetano, Cory Doran, Alex Guard, Mark Huisman, Scott McCulloch, and Thea Nikolic.

The Death of the Good – April 17 to 19 http://www.blackhandtheatre.com/

Writer-director Stephanie Demas brings us a brand new work that premiers in Ottawa before attending an invitation to perform at the National Arts Center in Hong Kong. This show features Brandon Groves and Gavin O’Hearn at the Avant-Garde Bar. Make a note of the unusual showtime at 4pm.

Mischief City – April 20 to 22 http://ottawatheatreschool.com/news_room.html#mischief

Written by Ottawa’s award winning children’s book author Tim Wynne-Jones, this musical will delight audiences of all ages. Eight-year old Winchell has been yanked into Mischief City to solve a problem. Winchell’s imaginary friend Maxine has an older brother who is planning something big, “really big”, to destroy Maxine’s birthday. And when Winchell’s baby sister Cleantha is gobbled up by the horrible vacuum cleaner Hoove, Winchelll knows that he must try and save her, and Maxine, from destruction.

And that’s your dose of arts & culture for the month! Check out my website at www.jessicaruano.wordpress.com for frequent updates and heated discussions about arts funding. Please continue to send me press releases to post on my website: they strongly inform what I choose to include in this newsletter. You can also find me on Facebook and on Twitter – yes, yes, I gave into the madness!

Artistically yours,


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Arts Smarts // with your field guide Jessica Ruano

Guerilla Magazine #19

This won’t come as a surprise to those who read Arts Smarts or my monthly arts newsletter, but I admit it—I’m an artsy socialite. I get a real kick out of attending cultural events and schmoozing with all the local celebrities, often getting my picture taken with them and having my name mentioned in the Ottawa Citizen society column. After years of carefully climbing the social ladder, I have realized that one of the best places to engage in this sort of elbow-rubbing is the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

I know, I know—I should be attending this festival for the purpose of expanding my literary horizons, becoming acquainted with great contemporary poetry and prose, and purchasing a number of new works to fill any minor holes in my bookcase. But who am I kidding? I love attending the opening night celebrations and handing out business cards to famous writers, hoping that perhaps they are looking to hire a new literary agent. I also love meeting with the hosts of various reading series and the publishers of local literary magazines—especially the erotic ones.

Of course I’m not the only festival attendee who relishes the many networking opportunities, so with spring edition of the Writers Festival on the horizon (April 22 to May 2), I asked a number of local people involved with the festival to share their anecdotes about making connections. Whether it’s the chance to breathlessly meet a favourite author or grab hold of a job offer, social networking at the Writers Festival keeps us coming back year after year.


Steve Zytveld runs the Dusty Owl Readings Series, a forum for Canadian poets, novelists, and musicians and an open mic stage for local writers. At this year’s Writers Festival, Steve will host an evening of urban First Nations poetry.

“Last year, I sat beside Mark Kingwell at a Writers Festival event for something like an hour before I realized it was him. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t recognize him that I completely geeked out and apologized and did the whole I’m-a-big-fan-of-yours thing. He seemed amused and even gave me his card so I could get back in touch with him. I haven’t had the courage yet to email him yet, but I should before the next festival in case we run into each other again and the same thing happens.”

Capital Xtra Managing Editor Marcus McCann has been a regular at the festival for the past few years and is launching his first book at the Poetry Cabaret on the opening weekend.

“I’ve joked in the past about setting a ‘poets capacity’ for Writers Festival readings. Kind of a ‘the president and the vice president do not travel together’ philosophy. I mean, the kind of brain trust that shows up at these things is sometimes just astounding. I remember a reading in the fall 2007 Writers Fest—with John Pass, Stephen Brockwell and Rob Winger—where I looked around the room and just shook my head. What would have happened to the city if the site had been firebombed?”

rob mclennan is the author of various books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, as well as the editor and publisher of above/ground press and Chaudiere Books. He is launching a book or two at this year’s festival.

“I was actually telling someone earlier about how I met Dany Laferriere in fall 1999 at the festival. He’s always been one of my favourite novelists, and I’ve been rereading him more lately, since my foray into (finally) publishing fiction. Most of what the festival, for me, has been great about is introducing me to fiction and non-fiction that I otherwise wouldn’t have known, much work that has been off my radar previously. I mean, festival introduced me to John Lavery, who might even be the finest fiction writer within a 100-mile radius of Ottawa.”

John W. MacDonald became interested in writing and event photography when he first attended the Writers Festival in 1999. Since then he has become a well-known member of Ottawa’s literary community and can be found taking photographs of just about anything. Maybe even you.

“I really got a kick from meeting S.E. Hinton in 2004. She had just recently published her most recent novel at the time, Hawkes Harbor. It was a thrill meeting an author who wrote some of my favourite books I’d read early on in high school. Having never seen photos of her at all, seeing her in person that night she did not look like I had expected. I felt like I was twelve years old again, meeting an aunt that I haven’t seen in a really, really long time. Nice lady.”

Kathryn Hunt is the community liaison for the Writers Festival. That means maintaining the website, promoting events, making contacts, and coordinating the Step Into Stories Children’s Festival. She loves her job.

“One story that I’ve found myself remembering fairly often was when we had William Gibson at the Writers Festival about a year and a half ago. I’m a huge fan of his, and I’d been reading his work since Neuromancer. I’d read whole genres inspired by his work; I’d even written a little of my own. So I was pretty excited to be meeting the Father of Cyberpunk. The surprise, though, was that when he got up on stage and started reading from Spook Country, I suddenly realized how funny the book was, and it fundamentally altered my perspective on his books.”

The Ottawa International Writers Festival runs from April 22 to May 2, 2009 at the St. Brigid’s Centre for Arts and Humanities. For more information, visit writersfestival.org.

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Let’s take a quick break from play critiquing and get back to good ol’fashioned plugging. Last Saturday I went out for a night on the town with my sister, and I made a fantastic discovery: dinner theatre.

Without a Clue Cast

Without a Clue Cast

Eddie May Murder Mysteries invited me out to catch their show Without a Clue, (a re-vamped version of this past summer’s Fringe Festival comedy). Upon entering the Velvet Room in the Byward Market, I noticed something very peculiar: I didn’t recognize any of the audience members! Usually I see at least one or two familiar faces. But then I realized that this particular theatrical tradition has a knack for attracting an entirely new crowd. Many people seemed to be there on dates, or celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. They were not the regular theatre-going crowd, and yet they were willing to be immersed in the story and be attentive despite potentially distracting surroundings.

In case the concept is not entirely clear, dinner theatre (as the name suggests) basically involves eating at a fancy restaurant while a handful of actors entertain the heck out of you. Eddie May creates murder mystery productions based on pop culture icons, television shows, and Broadway musicals. Some of Ottawa’s funniest theatre artists (including Jody Haucke, Jordan Hancey, Stewart Matthews, Shawna McSheffrey, and Natalie Joy Quesnel) spend almost three hours telling some crazy story with a million plot twists. They interact with the audience during the breaks, snuggling up close in the restaurant seats, and involving you in the story as much as possible.

It’s a really great time. In fact, it’s a really great date. The acting is ridiculous, but lovable. This is theatre that makes you really, really happy. Good enough for me.

Check out http://www.eddiemay.com to check for show times, or to organize your own private party.


I also want to put out a shameless plug for a musician I discovered recently. Multi-talented Estan Beedell was sweet enough to send me his first self-produced CD, Estan Happy Growing, in the mail. The songs are incredibly diverse, ranging from something that sounds like tribal chanting, to cheerful pop tunes, to sensitive instrumental goodness. Listening to it was actually very meditational. I’d call it good-cooking-music-with-an-edge.

His lyrics range from adorable adolescence

Ben, Benjamin, you aren’t as tall as me but you’re still way cooler

to something oddly poetic

The water flows underneath, some people went and
Kayaked in the dark with thousands of pounds above
Ice compressed as strong as steel, headlamps piercing through the black
They’ve  made it to the sea
And when they see the sun, they’ve braved the river Styx and they’ve come
Back to us

To hear some samples, check out http://www.myspace.com/songsbyestan


As a final note, I’d like to once again remind everyone that the Ottawa International Writers Festival started this weekend. This afternoon was the Small Press Book Fair, and numerous events (readings, discussions, debates, song circles, awards ceremonies, schmoozing) continue until after next weekend.

Check out http://www.writersfestival.org for details.

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Arts Smarts // With your field guide Jessica Ruano

View original article at http://www.getguerilla.ca

A learned approach to autumn

For me, the autumn months bring visions of two things: gorgeous, vibrant sunset-coloured foliage—bursting at the seams with passion, with matured tree branches, with ripe apples—and, of course, school. However, this latter autumn association never seemed to cause me the grief that it does for most young children because I have always loved learning. As long as the subject matter was made interesting, I thrived on the accumulation of knowledge and imagined my mind expanding progressively with every delectable info-morsel.

So, in this issue of Arts Smarts, I invite you to grasp opportunities to learn from the Ottawa arts scene. The cultural events highlighted below are suggested ways to acquire knowledge in your very own community —knowledge from writers, storytellers, visual artists, and performers. While I have always had faith in academics, I believe the greatest opportunities for learning come through listening to the tales of those around us. And, when we take advantage of these community resources, we can amuse ourselves as we learn.

The Ottawa International Writers Festival (fall edition, October 18 to 27) is a celebration of the written word, the spoken word, and almost everything else remotely connected with words. This all-encompassing 10-day extravaganza showcases some of the best contemporary writing talent in this nation’s capital and around the world. Authors of great works are flown in from hither and thither to share with us a cornucopia of narratives and to be readily available to answer questions and sign autographs. Literary enthusiasts can also witness the extent of Ottawa’s vivacious writing community at events including the opening-day Small Press Book Fair and the Tree Reading Series. Additional festival highlights include The Big Idea live debates, the Songwriters Circle, the Master Class Series, and the Poetry Cabarets. Become acquainted with up-and-coming novelists as they read selections from their new works at the Writing Life Series. For more information, check out www.writersfestival.org

Hot on the heels of the Writers Festival comes the 20th Annual Ottawa Storytelling Festival (November 5 to 9), featuring dozens of live storytelling performances to engage listeners of all ages. Contrary to popular belief, storytelling is not just for children! With tales of real-world happenings and flights of frivolous fancy, the festival attracts a wide variety of audiences, from spunky young people (like me) to cheerful women in lovely quilted vests and long skirts.

At this year’s festival (themed “A World of Difference”), enjoy tea and biscuits as you leap like a Frog Prince from story to story, losing yourself in other people’s worlds, whether real or imaginary. If you are inspired by the tellers (I always am), you may be interested in telling your own tale at the Monthly Story Swaps. Beginners are always welcome! For more information, visit www.ottawastorytellers.ca.

Cartoons, too, have a reputation for being just-for-kids. Here to prove that presumption false is the Ottawa International Animation Festival (September 17 to 21). Whether your interests lie in animated film, web comics, or graphic novels, this festival has something to get your artistic juices flowing and your pencil crayons back in action. Hands-on workshops are offered to young kids, teenagers, and would-be animators already grown up. Check out http://ottawa.awn.com for details.

Only in its second year, Festival X: Ottawa’s Photography Festival (September 18 to 28) has already established a solid reputation in Ottawa’s visual arts community. Invading the space of numerous galleries in the capital for 10 days of cutting-edge exhibitions, the festival also offers workshops and lectures on photography. As an aspiring image-smith, I’m looking forward to learning from those with sharp focus and a keen eye. For more information, check out www.festivalx.ca.

Yearning for deeper satisfaction after a couple of Women’s Studies courses? Catch up on your feminist schooling at Ladyfest Ottawa (September 19 to 21), a weekend of arts and music from talented local ladies who believe that political action can be fun and creative. Discover some unique crafts at Not Your Grandma’s Craft Sale and participate in Take Back the Night, a downtown march led by women. Getting the vote in the 1920s was just the beginning; what’s next for womyn-kind in the world of art? For more, visit www.ladyfestottawa.com.

Also in the autumn, Ottawa theatre companies begin new seasons of unique and enlightening productions. Learn dramatic artistry as a bevy of talented directors, performers, and other theatrical creators take the stage. Hey, if you’re an aspiring actor, actually seeing shows is the most important part of your education!

Fall theatre fare:

Evolution Theatre presents Playing Bare (September 3 to 13), www.evolutiontheatre.ca.

The Great Canadian Theatre Company presents I, Claudia (September 9 to 28) and Zadie’s Shoes (October 21 to November 9), www.gctc.ca.

Vision Theatre presents My Name is Rachel Corrie (September 10 to 20) and a benefit concert with Allison Crowe (November 30), www.visiontheatre.ca.

The Gladstone presents Gladstone Productions’ How the Other Half Loves (September 11 to October 4) and Rabbit Hole (October 9 to 25), as well as SevenThirty Productions’ Catalpa (October 30 to November 15), www.thegladstone.ca.

National Arts Centre English Theatre presents Happy Days (September 17 to October 4), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (October 29 to November 15), and Billy Twinkle (November 25 to December 6), www.nac-cna.ca.

Third Wall Theatre Co. presents Look Back in Anger (October 21 to November 1), www.thirdwall.com.

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