By Laurent Robillard-Cardinal  /  John Lauener photo




Created by Canadian soprano Neema Bickersteth, artistic directorKate Alton, and director Ross Manson, Century Song promises to deliver a genre-bending theatrical experience during Ontario Scene. Produced by Toronto’s Volcano Theatre, this unique production makes its world premiere April 29 and 30 at The Gladstone, starting at 20:00.


“Separately, the elements of the show are usual, such as dance and movement, electro-acoustic music, vocal music, projections, and a main character on a journey,” explained Bickersteth, “but because of how they are all put together the show is not usual at all.”


An acclaimed opera performer, Bickersteth is also widely known for her role as “Jumbee” from the Showcase TV series Lost Girl.


Described as a radical revisioning of the musical theatre form, Century Song takes a singular look back at the past century, blending dance, projection and song as it imagines a different way to negotiate history.


“We are accustomed to history being told and remembered through big news events, like wars, for example. With Century Song I travel through the past 100 years as myself—a black Canadian woman—collecting experiences and expressions from the past that inform my present,” explained Bickersteth.


“We use fine art history in the projections to echo my state,” adds the soprano. “The art we use was often a reaction to the tone or events of its time. Canadian artists like cubist Kathleen Munn and Automatiste Marcel Barbeau. So art, vocal music, and costume design help mark the time progression. The events are really moments in the main character's different lives as she travels forward through time to herself in the present.”


After its Ontario Scene debut, Century Song is heading on a western Canadian tour. A European tour is planned for 2016.



By Tony Martins  /  Image above courtesy Amanda Burk

While developing programming for previous NAC Scene festivals (in particular, Northern Scene in 2013)—Gallery 101 director Laura Margita noticed how Canadian artists located north of the 45th parallel tended to identify more closely with fellow northerners from nearby provinces than with artists in the southern parts of their own provinces or territories.


This led Margita to seek new ways to understand contemporary artists at work in Northern Ontario. The result is North of the 45th, a multi-disciplinary group show created for Ontario Scene that is right in keeping with Gallery 101’s emphasis on exhibiting the diversity in Aboriginal and Inuit artistic voices.


As Gallery 101 is an artist-run centre, Margita reached out for curatorial assistance from similar centres north of the 45th Parallel: Danielle Tremblay of La Galérie du Nouvel-Ontario, David Karasiewicz of Definitely Superior, and Clayton Windatt of White Water Gallery. The quartet of curators has fashioned a six-artist exhibition that aims to question stereotypical ideas of northern identity.


Amanda Burk of North Bay contributes a compelling series of large charcoal drawings titled Dual. Each work depicts a symmetrical doubling of wildlife from the northern region, motivated in part by ideas around cellular division, conception and the animal nature of our biology.


Riaz Mehmood of Thunder Bay will share Urban Mountains, a digital photo series that explores the monumental shapes and forms created by snowploughs. The works have politically charged titles that refer to the controversial mining of natural resources. Sarah Link, also of Thunder Bay, will install an arrangement of ceramic pieces forming the skeletal ribs of a kayak to explore the relationship between surface and form. Another installation artist, Laurent Vaillancourt of Hearst, offers a series titled Minute, consisting of 60 everyday objects found in his parents’ house and displayed in Petri dishes. The artist has given each object a name that can be understood differently in French and English.


At the exhibition opening on May 3 (13:00 – 16:00), artist Tanya Lukin Linklater of North Bay will present the the, a multidisciplinary work that includes performance, video, and still images. Also on opening night, Jess and Josh Peltier (aka Debajehmujig) of Manitoulin Island will stage a theatrical live painting performance to share some of the spiritual history of the Anishinaabeg people.


This far-reaching and free exhibition is on view from May 3 to 30 at Gallery 101, 51b Young Street, and is part of the Ontario Scene Gallery Crawl, May 3, 13:00-16:00.



This content originally appeared in Scene, a free newsprint prologue to the National Arts Centre’s Ontario Scene. Available at all Bridgehead Coffee locations, Scene was created collaboratively by Guerilla, Apt613, and Herd Magazine.