PLEASE: making an appeal appealing

Concordia alumna and collage artist Amanda Durepos explores concepts behind the word ‘please’

It can be a solicitation, an appeal, a request or satisfaction. The word itself is a dichotomy between pleasure and pain. We’re taught from a young age to say “please,” but the politesse has taken on new connotations and is now utilized and interpreted in a multitude of ways. Amanda Durepos—a collage artist and Concordia alumna who graduated with a BFA—has drawn inspiration from this loaded letter arrangement and her exhibition is on display until April 23.

Ymuno was recently opened by Ben Williamson and Madeline Richards. Photo by William Fox.

It is being exhibited at Ymuno, which is a gallery space that was recently opened by Ben Williamson and his girlfriend Madeline Richards in Studio 530 of the Belgo Building. To set out to observe PLEASE and step in off the bustling street of Ste. Catherine is to enter into a building that is crawling with creativity and artistic potential. Making your way through the Belgo Building’s halls is an experience in itself, where you can peer into studio spaces littered with products of artistic endeavours and projects of passion.

Studio 530 is simple, small and, behind one of the gallery walls, serves as a loft-style studio as well. PLEASE marks their first display as a gallery, and Durepos’ simplistic and enticing collage work proves an excellent channel to ignite their space’s personality.

PLEASE begins with the display of a collection of poems and short essays contributed by friends of the artist, all revolving around and delving into the concepts of the word ‘please.’ This facilitates the intellectual marination of the concepts attached to the word in question before the consumption of Durepos’ work. The diversified literary approach to what the word represents contextualizes her interpretations of it.

PLEASE will ignite a desire within you. Photo by William Fox.

Her choices of imagery explore the very diverse facets of what the word can entail. Her interpretations range from sexual pleasure to desperate pleas or the dynamic of appeals within a relationship. However, Durepos said she prioritizes aesthetics and pleasing visual arrangements first and only projects narratives onto her pieces after.

Durepos gravitates towards a vintage, black-and-white aesthetic in her collected cutouts, and harnesses diverse tactics such as the rough ripping of material and clean cut strokes. Her style often involves the removal of facial elements, making the word “please” jump out of the piece because of the composition rather than a facial expression or entreaty.

Studio 530 is one of many creative and artistic spaces in the Belgo Building. Photo by William Fox.

It’s an exhibition that will ignite a desire in you to tear up old magazines in a passionate frenzy, eagerly collecting the ingredients of a visual composition and searching for the pieces of a potential creation.

Words or phrases from the publications or advertisements she has collected these images from are sometimes still visible, only adding to the concept that random and banal pieces of the world around us can come together to create beautiful art and work together to portray a message. Collage work has a distinct beauty rooted in the fact that its aesthetic is made up of pieces of other works’ simplicities, pieces of a whole marrying the details of another. This exhibition is the result of Durepos utilizing this medium for over 10 years now. “I love the physicality of paper and the colour palettes of old photographs. I think there’s something romantic about ephemera and discarded materials and magazines,” said Durepos.

PLEASE is on display in Studio 530 of the Belgo Building (372 Ste. Catherine W.) until April 23.


Bal des lumières brings in $1.4 million for mental health

On March 23 at the Bell Centre, three organizations banded together to create a magical evening

A whopping $1,430,000 has flooded into three mental health organizations in Montreal after a wildly successful fundraiser event at the Bell Centre on March 23. This is the second Bal des lumières that the Douglas Mental Health University Institute Foundation, the Fondation de l’institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and the Mental Illness Foundation have put on together, the first having grossed $1.1 million.

Dominic Lacasse performed with incredible physical aptitude with his partner Karen. Photo by Jennifer Selinger.

“The spirit of cooperation that brought these three major foundations together tonight has resulted in unmatched mobilization, which in turn will lead to innovative treatments, quality care and increased awareness. Montreal is an inclusive city focused on its people. We value warmth, solidarity, openness and tolerance, all of which our citizens take to heart. Mental illness can affect anyone; we must keep fighting prejudice,” said Montreal mayor, Denis Coderre.

According to Suzanne Bélanger, the general director of the Douglas Foundation, each organization brings different things to the table, such as prevention work in high schools, patient care and research. Uniting their efforts, as well as teaming up with Bell and Evenko, allowed these three to put on an extraordinary, elegant event and raise funds that will be helpful, even essential, for the work ahead.

The evening grossed $1,430,000 through tickets sold, a raffle and an electronic auction. Photo by Jennifer Selinger.

“Funding for mental health is, despite the fact that we talk a lot more about it, [still not] where it is for other important causes such as [the] heart or cancer. It is still a bit underfunded and there’s still stigmatization and therefore it’s a bit more of an effort to do something like [this],” said Bélanger.

Over 850 guests enjoyed the blue-lit ambience and magical atmosphere of the evening. The first part featured cocktails, wine and hors d’oeuvres. A red carpet led into the hallways of the Bell Centre where appetizers swirled as much as hemlines. Guests were able to pose in front of three different photo stations and delight in their fancied glory. A robust and beautiful ice bar supported rows upon rows of glasses of champagne awaiting the hands of guests to pluck them. Behind this, a decorative backdrop, squares of ice strung vertically from which drops of water fell down, glimmering in the lights that soaked the room.

The dinner and entertainment portion of the evening was opened by Geoff Molson, the co-owner, president and CEO of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, Bell Centre and Evenko, and was then led by the MC of the evening, Isabelle Racicot. And although he expressed his regret at not being able to attend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote a personal message that was read out to the crowd.

Under the artistic direction of theatre director and actor Denis Bouchard, musicians, dancers, circus performers and magicians lent their talents to the evening. The first performance was from Brigitte M whose operatic voice harnessed a variety of song genres, the second was magician Luc Langevin, the third, the incredibly acrobatic Dominic Lacasse, and finally, Diva5 finished off the evening with an upbeat vocal performance. Along with these performances, three mini documentary portraits were screened for the guests, making their contributions more tangibly worthwhile with the presentation of real people’s experiences.

Diva5 ended the evening with their upbeat happy song covers. Photo by Jennifer Selinger.

These artistic aspects of the evening were enjoyed by guests as they worked their way through a staggered three-course meal. The strength of the artistic direction of the entertainment was in its wide variety. By bracketing the evening with musicality and inserting awe-striking slight of hand and acrobatics between the documentary videos and speeches, the guests were consistently engaged. Yet, the blue-lit ambience, misty setting, gorgeous dining sets and all around intricate decoration was enough creativity and passion to satisfy the hunger for art and entertainment in the evening.

These three organizations reaped the benefit of an exquisite, elegant night. For all the pleasure it gave to those it attended, it will do just as much good within the work and development of these foundations.

For more information, visit, where you can find links to the organizations’ websites and learn how to donate and/or get involved.


McGill’s student-run theatre puts on The Flood Thereafter

Tuesday Night Café Theatre is now showing an adaptation of Sarah Berthiaume’s Quebecois script

The sound of excited theatre warm-ups and the smell of popcorn wafting in the air isn’t what you’d expect to find in the depths of the Islamic Studies building at McGill, but Tuesday Night Café Theatre is inviting you into this campus corner surprise for their latest production.

Penelope (Amalea Ruffett) makes wigs for June (Camille Banville) to wear when she strips at Emotions. Photo by Marina Miller.

TNC is a student-run theatre company based out of McGill that provides shows both directed and performed by McGill students. According to Nathaniel Hanula-James, the publicity director of TNC, “what we’re interested in is theatre that is small, that is less well-known but still extremely valuable and that deserves to be heard.”

Their most recent production, The Flood Thereafter, is a Quebecois play written by Sarah Berthiaume and translated by Nadine Desrochers. Their adaptation is directed by both McGill student Daphné Morin and recent Concordia graduate Cleo da Fonseca.

“Something that TNC is working towards in the McGill community … is putting on theatre that doesn’t reinstate … the ivory tower picture of McGill as this anglophone university in Montreal. So it was a really important choice for us to be able to put on this Quebecois play,” said Shanti Gonzales, the front of house director for TNC.

The Flood Thereafter is set in a small town on the banks of the St. Lawrence river—a town plagued by cursed forces that leave the men of the community without work. These men spend their nights at a town bar called Emotions where a young, beautiful girl named June repeatedly makes them weep with her bewitching naked body. June is the daughter of Grace, the once village floozy, and her mother’s promiscuity leaves June without the knowledge of who her father is and if he lingers in that same bar. Dennis, a truck driver passing through, stops in this town and soon catches June’s eye and becomes entangled in the community, its members and the issues within it. Greek mythology is incorporated throughout Berthiaume’s script, allowing the piece to emanate a sense of magic while being grounded in a gritty reality.

Penelope’s husband Homer (Pierre-Luc Senécal) is smitten by June (Camille Banville), leaving his wife jealous. Photo by Marina Miller.

This theatre crew has only been working on this production for the short span of two months and has managed to utilize the small space of TNC effectively by squeezing in three settings in their limited stage space. Additionally, Morin and da Fonseca were able to consult both Berthiaume and Desrochers throughout their process, and, according to Gonzales, the author and translator plan to attend one of the upcoming shows. As a whole, to da Fonseca, this piece is worth your time because of its evident magic realism, moving, comedic tragedy and its invitation of escape into a new world.

However, it’s a production that can be appreciated within a smaller community but fails to reach past its small-scale limitations. The acting did not escape the prevalent mediocrity in amateur theatre with work that was littered with over-acting and meditated sentences. Yet, the piece was somewhat carried by the performances of Amalea Ruffett (Penelope) and, most notably, Daphné Morin (Grace). Despite its low production value and run-of-the-mill student theatre qualities, its modest features can be overlooked for the sake of its intention.

Dennis (Jérémy Benoit) and June (Camille Banville) succumb to passion. Photo by Marina Miller.

Morin discovered this play in one of her academic courses, and by approaching TNC to put on this production she also fulfilled what Hanula-James described as TNC’s desire to put on “plays which represent a specifically Canadian and/or Quebecois voice.” This allows for a creative output that can inspire thought on what dominates the theatre-scape and allows students to express themselves artistically in the process. “It’s amazing to see McGill theatre start to work more and integrate itself more into the Montreal scene, because I think that will give it strength,” said Gonzales.


The Flood Thereafter is showing from March 16 to 19 and 23 to 25 at Tuesday Night Café Theatre (3485 Rue McTavish) in the basement of the Islamic Studies building. Tickets at $6 for students/seniors and $10 for adults.


Préludes: dawn and jungle, beauty and ballet

A captivating double-bill presented by Les Grands Ballets until March 19

It’s an evening that will lead you from forest fog and dawn-light to the exotic jungles of Cambodia, guided by the evocative flow of elongated forms. Préludes is Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s latest double-bill of modern ballet—two works by two talented choreographers.

Dim Light of Dawn ends in a shower of blue glitter that intensifies as it falls on the dancers onstage.

For the first portion of the evening, Ken Ossola—a successful freelance dancer and choreographer—presented Dim Light of Dawn as Les Grands Ballets’ seasonal creation. Inspired by the music of pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff, the 50-minute piece premiered as part of Préludes on March 10.

Following this came RE-(II)—a piece by Shen Wei—which had premiered on March 15, 2007 but now graces the stage once again with its mesmerizing and unique nature in Préludes. Wei is quoted by Les Grands Ballets as saying that “RE-(II) is based on my visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia in 2006. It reflects my impressions of the temples and the trees, the sounds of the land, the children and the culture of that country.” Wei designs his own sets, costumes and makeup for his productions and for this performance he also recorded his own sounds and images of the jungle around Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

In RE-(II), images from Ossola’s travels are projected on screen behind the dancers.

The curtain rises, but an audience prepared for a traditional introduction of music is surprised as Dim Light of Dawn commences void of any accompanying sound. It’s a lack of musicality that is immediately captivating. Groups of dancers enter and exit the stage in complete silence—a dancer’s a cappella.

A meditation on the first light of day, Dim Light of Dawn is synopsized in the show’s pamphlet to be a work that “offers the spectator a contemplation of light and darkness, a lyrical and romantic new work, filled with emotion.” It is marked by its seamless transitions, each number blending together as dancers who had just performed slowly and steadily walk away while another takes the stage. This slow, controlled treading accented every scene and unified the work in its style and mood.

The piece as a whole places you in what could be the outer recess of your mind, putting you in an almost surrealistic and dreamlike state with its mixture of piano, strings, abstract soundscapes and incredibly beautiful movements.

RE-(II) begins as the sounds and croaks of the jungle echo throughout the theatre and the line of dancers onstage enact a graceful, soft-hitting style that is juxtaposed by spastic, calculated movements. The sound mixing of the piece is experimental and dazing. With recorded sounds from Cambodia and overlapping voices laden with static, it maintains an abstract musicality.

The audience is then moved, however, from the jungle into a celestial and endlessly captivating chamber. A painted, bare-breasted woman enters the stage to make her way to the centre where she contorts herself into poses in an incredibly slow, disciplined way. Multiple other pairs and individuals then enter the stage from the wings, all moving at the same deliciously glacial, controlled pace. A male dancer at the rear of the stage balances in perfect motionlessness on nothing but his shoulders and head as his arms and legs are both completely outstretched to the ceiling firmly and without any sign of shaking. The stage becomes filled with the slow holds and movements of painted bodies, humans of marble and flawless form—arguably artwork separate from their movements. The athleticism in this piece is not only admirable, it’s astonishing.

Furthermore, RE-(II) as a whole seems to resist being an instance of cultural appropriation or a piece that utilizes exoticism to amplify itself. It truly appears as if Wei has translated his appreciation of the experience he had in Angkor Wat into a beautiful artistic expression.

The two pieces differ in mood, content and style but together they somehow compliment each other as they showcase two ways the medium can reach into the depths of concepts and display them with beauty.


Préludes is showing at Théâtre Maisonneuve until March 19. Tickets start at $54, but you save 20 per cent when you buy tickets for two ballets.


Discover your fondness for Fonzie MTL

This student-run gallery/bar is waiting to be discovered in the Plateau underground

It’s not until you make your way to the basement, past the greys and browns of a seemingly mundane building off of St. Laurent Boulevard, that you discover the magic of Fonzie’s Friday nights. The gallery and bar is filled with tables littered with candles while subtle, warm lighting soaks the space. A pink neon light boasts “Fonzie” confidently above a bar that is sure to charm your taste buds and excite your inner cocktail connoisseur.

The work of Shayna Dwor, who plays with puns on the word “oeuf” in her series. Photo by Melissa Martella.

Fonzie is owned and run by three Montreal students: Léo Audibert, a business student at Concordia, Théo Lafaurie, a business student at HEC, and Jules Delaage, a student at McGill. After an initial interest in starting a bar in Montreal, the team’s project was sparked last September when Audibert and Lafaurie were introduced by a mutual friend. However, the idea eventually evolved into an effort to mix the social activity that a bar represents with artwork in the thriving art district of the Plateau.

Their name is inspired by the character Fonzie from the show Happy Days, a sitcom televised in the ‘70s and ‘80s—a branding choice that was rooted in their admiration of Fonzie’s cool character and seductiveness on the show, his spirit and all he represents to them.

Fonzie is a space that borders on the underground, almost speakeasy in style. Along with their subtly marked location, they rely on word-of-mouth as a marketing strategy and hold a large resistance to the commercialization of their space. “The people who are meant to hear about it will somehow hear about it. We’re doing everything we can to attract the right people, but not to spread the word out there and have anybody come in here either. Anybody’s welcome, but we’re really relying on the artists to spread the word with their networks so this stays in the arts scene,” said Audibert.

The first Friday of every month marks a new turnover of displayed pieces and artists. The space’s spirit is enamoured by fleeting entities, it’s this rotating door that makes the gallery unpredictable, surprising and ever-evolving. Artists can sometimes renew their placement within the space over multiple months as long as they change the work displayed. Any way you look at it, Fonzie is repeatedly and cyclically offering something new.

Although the space is centred around their Friday events, where the artists featured are often present, according to the owners, it’s alive and active the whole week. These artists can attain the visibility that the Friday evenings offer while also utilizing the space as a showroom or an area to share ideas, network, conduct professional meetings and more throughout the rest of the week.

Multidisciplinary artist LOUM has her work on Fonzie’s walls this month. Photo by Melissa Martella.

Fonzie values the development of artists and provides a comfortable, positive starting block for emerging artists to showcase their work. Rather than a scalding hot dive or icy cold plunge into the Montreal art scene, Fonzie puts forward a cool wading pool for new artists. Additionally, the owners don’t take a commission if an artist sells their work. “It’s really important for us … If an artist sells something it will be [their] money because it’s [their] work,” said Lafaurie.

The artistry and distinction of Fonzie’s bar menu is also an aspect of the space that sets it apart. The mixologists at Fonzie pride themselves on high-quality ingredients and press or create every juice or syrup they use in-house. The Italian-inspired cocktail list was made by Diego Campanile, a Concordia student and Lafaurie’s roommate.

Fonzie offers delectable concoctions, diverse artwork and a warm environment. With a space small enough to facilitate a personal experience and an enticing community of people waiting behind their doors, Fonzie proves itself worthy of your next Friday night.
For more information visit



Copious love for Les Grands Ballet’s Coppélia

This marks the Shanghai Ballet’s first performance in Montreal, witness the beauty of Coppélia before Feb. 21.

The conductor’s baton dances above the heads of audience members and a musical overture rises and resonates before the red curtain ascends. The audience is soon to be seduced into an experience that abounds with floating, graceful tulle and the soft tapping of pointe shoes on a wide, open stage.

ZHONG Min plays Doctor Coppélius, who attempts to bring the doll Coppélia to life. Courtesy of Ballet de Shanghai.

Coppélia—a ballet written by Charles Nuitter and Arthur Saint-Léon, based off of two stories by E.T A. Hoffmann—was first presented in Paris, France and has been hugely successful in the near-century since. Now, until Feb. 21, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal offers you the comedic, moving and exquisite piece on the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier stage. The ballet was originally choreographed by Saint-Léon and French choreographer Pierre Lacotte’s adaptation of the classic can now be seen performed by the Shanghai Ballet, this marking their first performance in Montreal.

Guest conductor Oleksiy Baklan led the Les Grands Ballets Orchestra through their flawless execution of Léo Delibes’ breathtaking music. The atmosphere set by each measure was further complemented by the set design that places you in nothing short of a fairytale. With three locations, divided by two intermissions, the audience is swept into the magical world of a village in the kingdom of Galicia, Doctor Coppélius’ workshop and the Lord’s castle.

FAN Xiaofeng dances as Swanhilda in the village in the kingdom of Galicia. Courtesy of Ballet de Shanghai.

Coppélia follows the story of Franz—the fiancée of Swanhilda—falling in love with Coppélia, a girl he has seen in the window of Dr. Coppélius’ workshop. Swanhilda grows jealous of Franz’s infatuation and breaks into the workshop to investigate, where she discovers that Coppélia is not a woman but a doll. When Dr. Coppélius returns to his workshop, Swanhilda quickly hides from sight near the object of Franz’s affection. Franz, soon after, climbs through the window with the intention to confess his love to Coppélia. Dr. Coppélius tricks Franz into drinking himself to sleep, allowing him to attempt to transfer Franz’s human life into his darling Coppélia using a magic spell. Swanhilda dresses herself as the doll and pretends to come to life, but after Coppélius rejoices over his success, the mistake is realized by both him and Franz. The final act is the marriage of the forgiven Franz and Swanhilda and a celebration from the entire village.

The dainty, graceful athleticism of each dancer showcases the Shanghai Ballet’s flawless technical precision as a company and XIN Lili’s skill in directing them. They execute each move in enchanting unison, enough to sweep you away with their mesmerizing synchronicity. There’s incredible beauty to be appreciated in the exquisite lines produced and held with seamless strength by the skilled dancers’ bodies.

Pictured is the set design for the Lord’s castle, the final act of Coppélia. Courtesy of Ballet de Shanghai.

It’s a wordless narrative, the dialogue replaced by poetry in motion and paired with a bewitching symphonic experience. Coppélia will enrapture you with its light-hearted, regal temperament. Become captivated by a pirouette or marvel at a grand jeté as arched feet sail around the stage and dancers leap with an ease that deems gravity an afterthought.


Coppélia will be showing at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier until Feb. 21. For more information and to buy tickets visit


Crisp, white walls now host the quintessence of Montreal

J’aime MTL opened at Station 16 on Feb. 11, check it out before March 1

It could be because of the diverse boroughs and architecture, the plethora of festivals and cultural events, the bilingualism or the population of people from all over the world, but whichever way you look at it, the city of Montreal has a distinct and unique personality. It radiates a specific urban taste and is multifaceted in nature, it has something different for every type of person. Montreal is a city to be proud of and Station 16 agrees as they launched their exhibit J’aime MTL on Feb. 11.

The word search done by Ryan Labrosse that will catch your attention as you enter the gallery space. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

Station 16 began as a silkscreen printshop that sold their products exclusively online, but after a growing demand from their clients to see prints in person, the founders opened their gallery location on Saint-Laurent Boulevard in 2013. “We thought ‘okay, this is crazy, we should really just open the gallery, quit our jobs and just do our dream job,’” said Emily Robertson, one of the founders of Station 16.

She believes their gallery space to be one that differs from the norm and one that can elevate your expectations of what a gallery is or could be. Robertson herself completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree in art history at Concordia. Yet, still to this day, she expressed that galleries have a tendency to make her feel uncomfortable. “There’s no music, it’s totally silent, you can’t talk in front of the artwork, you feel like you have to be some sort of elite to have some sort of thought [about] the artwork. And I’m thinking ‘wait, if I’m thinking like this, what about all of the people who have never studied this or who are just walking into a gallery for the first time?’” said Robertson. “It’s so unfortunate that there’s this hierarchy [so] when you walk into a gallery you’re not welcome. So, we just wanted a space where people can just come in, talk, [where] there’s good music [and] there’s good art. That was sort of the goal as to why we opened in the first place.”

J’aime MTL features nine artists with distinct styles and takes on Montreal. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

Robertson said she has been wanting to put on an exhibit exclusively centred around Montreal for some time now, to showcase how artists visualize the 514. Featuring artists such as Jonathan Bergeron, Laurence Vallières, Jason Wasserman and more, the Station 16 team chose artists that depict their view of Montreal through wonderfully individualized and diverse artistic expression.

One artist, Marie-Claude Marquis, was scouted by Robertson through social media. For J’aime MTL, Marquis used oil paint and varnish on vintage plates to create decorative dishes that display humorous Quebecois turns of phrase. Marquis’ utilization of vintage plates began in 2014 when she created a wall installation centred around the theme of heartbreak. She originally attempted to use phrases from her personal journal on shattered, broken plates but ended up using plates that were intact. After attempting the same process a second time for a handmade market and succeeding well in sales, Marquis continued to use the medium.

Familiar words such as “tabarnac” are painted in beautiful calligraphy. The plates, as a collection, depict the image and vision Marquis has of our city. “It’s really mostly about Quebec identity … it’s like inside jokes with people I know … Everyone at the end is relating to it because we’re all a bit similar,” said Marquis. “We are like a community … Quebec: there’s nobody like us in the rest of the world, so I think it’s really nice to focus on that and celebrate that.”

Another artist, Ryan Labrosse, expressed his fondness for interactive art and because of this he created a massive, bilingual word-search on a chalkboard wall within the gallery. The collection of letters contains phrases and words as well as the names of artists and titles of pieces in the exhibit. Guests are invited to circle their findings in the flurry of shapes before browsing through the other artistic celebrations of the city.

From the all-too-familiar image of a spiralling fire escape to cardboard squirrel sculptures or a large can of maple syrup in the middle of the floor, this exhibit offers a variety of takes and artistic endeavours that explore the essence of the city and the province. The collection allows you to look at Montreal through the eyes of creative artists, contrasting or echoing the large culmination of details you have collected which produce your own personal image of Quebec’s metropolis.


J’aime MTL is on display at Station 16 (3523 St. Laurent Blvd.) until March 1. For more information or to purchase artwork visit


I love COCK, and I’m sure you will too

PlayShed, a new Montreal theatre company, presents COCK as their premiere show

It’s the kind of truthful, essential theatre that will give you an affection erection. COCK, a play by British author Mike Bartlett, is PlayShed’s inaugural production, now showing at MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) until Feb. 14.

PlayShed, a Montreal theatre company founded in 2014, is made up of three graduates from Concordia’s theatre program—Kristen Gregor, Jimmy Blais and Olivier Lamarche. The director of this piece is a member of the theatre faculty at Concordia, Liz Valdez. She has worked with all three PlayShed team members in the past, either as a mentor or within workshops.

Valdez’s colleague, Bryan Doubt, introduced her to the script and she has been using COCK as a text in her acting classes for years ever since. This led to her suggesting it for PlayShed’s premiere show, a choice that helped the company come out swinging by exemplifying their ability to offer quality theatre.

The story follows John (Mike Payette), a man who strays from his long-term boyfriend (Eloi ArchamBaudoin) and, to the surprise of them both, falls in love with a woman (Melanie Sirois). After only being with men his whole life, it sends John reeling into an existential crisis. Paralyzed with indecisiveness, John’s inner turmoil reeks havoc on all parties involved and highlights behavioural qualities that are present in all of us.

The show succeeds because of the rawness of its simple recipe. It is made up of a cast of four strong actors, a simplistic stage set, an enticing plot and universal human propensities. Its strength is in the dialogue, a script both comedic and frustrating that relies completely on the connection between characters.

“[COCK is] not meant to have any set, any props or any miming. This is what excited me the most about doing this play, and it is also the scariest thing about doing this play. Because you have no crutches, the actors have nothing to hold onto or use or hide behind … They have to really be in the moment, they have to know every moment what is going on,” said Valdez.

It’s a play that explores the societal boxes and the emotional labyrinths that cloud the clarity of connection. John deviates from the idea that he and others have of him, which makes him question who he is and whether or not he’s manifesting a craving for heteronormativity. His identity it seems, throughout the whole piece, is irremediably tied to his sexuality.

However, the truths of relationship, commitment, categorization and the basic human search for happiness transcend the realm of gender and sexual preference. “It’s about identity but not sexual identity necessarily, just about identity. Who am I and how can I be happy? I really appreciated that Mike Bartlett basically turned everything on its ass … I loved that because I thought the story is simply about identity and we don’t need to use a heterosexual couple to say all the same things,” said Valdez.

It’s a script riddled with importance and habitual, intrinsic aspects of the human experience. Whether it prompts conversation or realization, PlayShed’s production of COCK is artfully executed and worth every moment of your time.


COCK will run until Feb. 14 at MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels). Tickets range from $17 to $28.50.


Contemplate the spawning of social action

Ana Jovmir’s photography series What’s the Problem explores the sparks before the fire

Rooted at the birth of every social change is a realization or recognition, of oneself or the world, that pushes one to act. Ana Jovmir—a Romanian photographer based out of Montreal—explores these itches that spark social action with her series of portraits titled What’s the Problem. Jovmir has worked as a commercial photographer since 2010 and this series marks her first solo art show. The portraits will be displayed on the walls of Théâtre Sainte-Catherine until March 13 as part of the sixth edition of Studio Beluga’s Art-Up! exhibition series.

What’s The Problem. Photo by Ana Jovmir.

“I explained [my project] to people and simply asked them to tell me about some of the things that infuriated them, things they’d want to change whether in themselves or their environment as they stepped in front of the lens and just went with it from there,” said Jovmir.

Each portrait is displayed alongside a quote from the subject. These quotes address issues that are important to each particular individual and cover themes such as inequality, oppression and religion.

The levels of performance that each subject enacts for the lens has an intentionality that presents them and their views at an amplified level, rather than mystifying them as subjects. “It’s almost like they document a moment of perfect stage direction, where Ana asked them to just be themselves, and they do this exaggerated, human, utterly sincere performance of themselves, and she captures it,” said Lucie Lederhendler, the curator for Studio Beluga who recruited Jovmir for the space.

These portraits are catalysts disguised as succinct, beautiful images. They celebrate the positive, potential force of frustration and briefly highlight important issues and injustices. Yet, the bulk of the series’ potential lies with the audience and whether or not they concretely engage with the introspection inspired by the discontent of the subjects. This series scratches the surface by merely being the first step—exploring aspects of yourself or your environment that itch at your conscience or ethics. After this, inaction is the passive enabling of problems that you are no longer ignorant to.

Taken at the vernissage for What’s the Problem on Jan. 19 at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine. Photo by Manikmati Photography.

We now live in a world of social media activism where pressing the ‘like’ button substitutes rallying and pressing the ‘share’ button substitutes protesting. It feels good, digitally or otherwise, to stand with others in the recognition that things need to change. With that being said, Jovmir’s work requires conscious consumption in order to be wary of the pacifying effect of the environment of safe, shared disgruntlement. Lukewarm resistance and collective denouncements can stir the feeling of illusionary participation. Resonant agreements on social issues—especially in environments that don’t demand action—can have a pacifying effect that often leads to a lack of concrete change.

Brian by Ana Jovmir.

Jovmir’s work does not attempt to achieve social action as an entity, but rather highlights areas that it may stem from in her friends and acquaintances. The value of What’s the Problem is in its attempt to start a conversation around these important issues and its celebration of the potential force behind being angry about them. “It is important to take time to think about … the things that push us to make changes around us. I believe that anger or resentment towards situations, other people or ourselves is a very influencing force in shaping our world,” said Jovmir. “I’m hoping [this series] inspires people to act on the things that they care about in a positive way.”

Taken at the vernissage for What’s the Problem on Jan. 19 at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine. Photo by Manikmati Photography.

The images were shot with an attempt to present subjects as they are and incite a personal rapport between subject and viewer. They were shot with natural lighting and were not digitally manipulated, which showcases Jovmir’s technical skills as an artist to produce an aesthetically enticing, honest image. Thanks to Jovmir the walls of Théâtre Sainte-Catherine now offer you expertly executed photography and lie ready to inspire thought on what makes you angry enough to actively try to improve your world.


What’s the Problem will be displayed at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine (264 Ste. Catherine St. E.) until March 13.


A Q&A: one man, one week, 100 artworks

After previously creating 24 artworks in 24 hours, Aquil Virani has now completed a 100-work marathon of art production.


The Concordian: What are you doing and why are you doing it?

Aquil Virani: I have decided to challenge myself to create 100 artworks in one week and unveil all of them on my 25th birthday at Galerie Mile-End.

The [first] reason I did that … [is that] I’d like to push myself, I’d like to be on the edge of success or failure because I think that if I’m honest about what I’m doing then people will respond to my authenticity … and my vulnerability. If I’m saying I’m going to do this really hard thing, watch me if I succeed or fail, I think people are into that.

The other thing is that I wanted to show how simple art-making can be … I didn’t go to fine arts school, I obviously have practiced a lot, but art making can be anything … I want to demystify art or show how accessible it can be.

The third thing [I want to do] is to inspire others to not only make art but to find time to do their own creative things.

What I’m reminding people of is, number one, it’s good to set aside a time to do what you love to do … and then the second thing is to tell people about it so that you’re accountable. Once I tell people that I’m going to make 100 artworks in a week I’m going to try now.

C: What types of artwork will you be producing?

AV: There’s spraypaint, stencils … three or four different styles of acrylic painting. I’m using pen on paper, which is one of my more favourite mediums because it’s so everyday. Like everyone has a pen and a piece of paper—in [relation to] my quest to convince people or to invite people to make art on their own … you don’t even have to go to the art store to buy paint, you have a pen and paper all the time, so, no excuses, people!

I’m doing coloured pencil [on] paper, like crayon type stuff. And then, [for] some of the last few pieces, I bought some styrofoam heads … and I’m going to paint some styrofoam.

C: 100 artworks in one week is highly concentrated work, tell us about the process itself.

AV: It’s both liberating and frustrating to have a time limit. It’s frustrating because you’re like ‘I want to spend more time on this,’ but it’s liberating because, not only does it alleviate some of the pressure, but you can say, ‘well I did this in an hour, so what do you expect?’

It’s also liberating in the sense that after you get six or seven pieces done you get into a momentum that carries you through those moments of doubt … all those things that usually delay you when you’re normally being creative or creating artwork.

I fully accept the process. In other words, I am pretty good at not judging my work so often. You know that voice inside your head? I’m pretty good at telling that person to go away for a while. So, that makes it much easier to prioritize getting it done—that done is better than perfect.

It definitely has been hard, but worth it. [It’s a] very satisfying feeling, to push through.

C: Do you believe that creativity can be exhausted? Do you have any tactics for re-inspiring yourself?

AV: Creativity is not a noun, it’s not a something that’s a bucket in your brain and it depletes. Creativity is what happens when you’re forced to solve a problem. There’s a lot of this myth [that] artists have to wait to be inspired—that is true, some people work like that—but this project forces me to just go for it and to push through.

At a certain point, I wouldn’t say the creativity runs out but, let’s say the inspiration runs out, usually that’s linked to me not having enough energy—decision-making power. [Let’s say I’ve] ran out of ideas… then it becomes an exercise in trusting that it will work out and being okay if it doesn’t … This forces me to be like let’s try it and if it doesn’t work out at least I can say hey I tried it and I failed and that’s how art-making works.’

C: In your past as an artist, you’ve had multiple instances of working in large production cycles. Do you prefer that process over working on small projects for longer periods of time? If so, why?

AV: Yes I prefer … the large production cycle. In my words, it would be like I prefer to do significant projects as opposed to disparate dabblings. The reason for that is, number one, I take an invitation seriously. So, if I tell my friends, ‘Hey, come see my art show,’ I take that gesture of invitation seriously enough that I want to make sure they have enough to see, that they won’t come and there’s like eight things … I want there to be something at the show that you’ll enjoy, and one very easy to go about that is to create a diverse body of artwork, to make sure there’s something for everyone.

After a year … in terms of my career, I’m [also] not going to remember a quick thing I did unless it’s built into a larger goal, so that’s why I do big stuff.

C: Because you’re producing large quantities in a small amount of time, do you think each piece will have a message in and of itself or will it be more driven by aesthetics?

AV: It depends on the piece. Some pieces definitely have a meaning that I’ve intended to portray, or a story behind it, and then others are just like I wanted to try to draw a portrait so I drew a portrait. Now with that being said, it’s definitely much easier when you’re … pressed for time, to gravitate towards something that’s aesthetic because that’s a bit easier.

I try very hard not to put a meaning on something after it’s done, because I think art loses a lot of people when they can sense bullshit … pretentiousness [is] loading things with meaning that probably wasn’t intended in the creation process, and leaving people in the dark … In all my other projects I put an artist statement on every piece, not just the body of work as a whole, so that I can say ‘this is what meant,’ or ‘I didn’t mean anything, I was just playing with colour,’ so I’m really honest.

C: You’ve talked about “battling the pretentiousness of art” just now and in the past, so how do you judge art? How do you ensure your art isn’t pretentious?

AV: I definitely think that the goal of art can be to tell a story and communicate an idea or an emotion. I think the way you go about it is in a very authentic, honest and open way. So, to make sure that someone could walk up off the street that doesn’t know you or your work or anything about art history, come in, see the artwork, like something about it, read the artist statement that explains and then really get it and really feel included—almost like they’re in on the story or they’re in on the joke.

I think you do what you want and art can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you’re not being an asshole about it. So, in a sense, I’m not inclusive of art that I think is pretentious.

C: Any plans for after the show?

AV: For the works that don’t sell at this show … I’m going to do an art give-away type campaign, like go up to random people on the streets, give them art. I’m going to hang some up on trees. I’ll have a good amount of little artworks and projects and sketches that I can put in envelopes and mail to people. [I] just [want to] make sure to put the art to good use after it’s taken down from the gallery.

C: What are some responses you’ve received? What are the takeaways and responses you wish to attain?

AV: I think people have been receptive so far, obviously the bigger I can make it I think the better my point gets across. If I made 100 artworks in a week, and you see this wide range of work with all these little drawings and stuff, obviously it must’ve been do-able to do that.

I am proud of my own skills that I’ve developed in making artwork and I think that people will be surprised when they make artwork and they set aside time to do it. [If] they get that momentum, generally they will experience the same feeling. At the core I’m a happy person and a very satisfied person and the way I often do that is through being creative … I want other people to be happy too, so I tell them to be creative. That is what’s at the core.

Aquil Virani’s official vernissage was on Jan. 15 at Galerie Mile End (5345 Park Avenue) and the exhibit will run until Jan. 22.


A chance to witness an artist’s evolution

The Singularity of Human Nature by Dominic Besner will be at Gallery MX until Dec. 1

A tension lies between taking comfort in the static and seeking the promise in growth. Once others have come to a conclusion about who you are, what you represent and what your process is, evolving or growing outwards requires introspection and the result can often be met with resistance. Dominic Besner—an internationally recognized Ontario-born artist who works out of Montreal—is a man that has recently evolved while still maintaining his artistic signature.

Photo by Lydia Anderson.

He just finished a two-year period of reflection that was used to grow as an artist and study new techniques. Gallery MX on Viger Avenue is currently exhibiting his series The Singularity of Human Nature, 18 works that are the artist’s first productions following this time of reflection. This exhibit can be considered to be the reveal of an artistic evolution, the product of a reset and refresh chapter for the creator.

The exhibit invites you into the artist’s past through slightly abstract and aesthetically enticing paintings. In his explanation of the series in the exhibit’s pamphlet, Besner claims to “cast [his] gaze towards forgotten words and stories that [he] remembers from his childhood.”

Besner interacts with the canvas in a multitude of ways, including but not limited to the use of brushes, rags and his hands. This is what lends to the beautiful seamlessness of many of his strokes. Yet, in his two-year exploratory period, Besner studied the techniques of etching and lithography which also informed aspects of his new stylistic choices. The artist’s signature is still pronouncedly evident, yet he has taken steps in new directions with his composition, subject matter and colour palette.

Photo by Lydia Anderson.

“His older pieces [often featured] extremely dominant women. [They’d] lost their beauty, they’re aged women … but they have tremendous power,” said Michael Mensi, the owner and founder of Gallery MX. “Now he wants to work his colours differently [and] there’s this person that has a totally different story … You don’t feel any domination from these people.”

Mensi has been working with Besner since 1996 and he spoke with a passion for the artist’s work that was magnetic in and of itself. “I think he paints for himself. Dominic rarely paints for others—it’s his life, it’s his story, he doesn’t think of other people. If he did, then the first 10 years of his life as an artist he would not have painted the old, grouchy woman, she scared everybody,” said Mensi.

The exhibit’s pamphlet explains the pieces to be a series of portraits of characters that seem to be preoccupied with objects within their environment. The way that Besner paints the eyes of each of these characters is piercing in nearly every piece on display. No matter how busy, bright or faint the other aspects of the image, the eyes look out to the spectator with subtle but prominent strength. Faces are often blurred with an almost dreamlike quality, but have features that jut out discernibly enough to haunt you and capture your attention. Some faces almost seem to peak out of a misty curtain of composition, with the lips and eyes anchoring the object in clarity while the rest fades and blends with the remainder of the canvas.

“I think the overall feel that you get is the crazy world in which he navigates. He has his own world. He’s a very intelligent fellow,” said Mensi.

Not only is Besner’s work captivating and haunting but this exhibit as a whole represents the growth of an artist. His artistic talent is skillfully translated to each canvas in both his previous and more recent work, but there’s a dynamic development to be observed and appreciated. Besner’s strength in composition, style and execution as an artist make him a key contender in today’s art world.

This series can both be appreciated for its aesthetic value but also its testimony to progression as a creative artist.
The Singularity of Human Nature will run until Dec. 1 at Gallery MX. For more information on the artist visit



Strauss revived at the Opéra de Montréal

After three years of development, a new adaptation of Elektra is showing at Place des Arts

There’s something spectacular about anticipating the draw of a heavy red curtain and hearing the rising sound of an orchestra tuning their instruments. It is more thrilling, still, when two lights shine upon a conductor while the rest of the light in an expansive theatre space slowly fades. The audience’s claps grow louder in anticipation and eventually evolve into excited cheers before what’s sure to be an extravagant production commences. The Opéra de Montréal had been developing an adaptation of Elektra for three years and the premiere finally arrived on Nov. 21. The result did not disappoint.

A glimpse at the vastness of the sculpture designed by Vincent Ochoa. Photo by Yves Renaud.

Elektra—an opera by Richard Strauss that premiered in 1909—marks the second production from the Opéra de Montréal this season. The Opéra de Montréal is collaborating once again with Quebecois conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and has brought in an exceptional international cast for this production. Additionally, marking their first collaboration with Spain, they have collaborated with Victor Ochoa—a Spanish architect-turned-sculptor who designed his first opera set for Elektra—and what a set it was.

The curtains opened to reveal an enormous, beautiful sculpture—a man, Agamemnon, contorted, crouched and huddled. This sculpture—which is almost eight metres high and five metres in diameter—is rotated onstage in between major plot events so that by the end of the production the audience has seen the entirety of the statue. Approximately 100 individuals were involved in the statue’s realization and it weighs around 2,400 kilograms. This massive spectacle was created with 3D printers—seven to be exact—which had to work 24/7 for approximately seven months. With such massive, mesmerizing artwork onstage, in addition to the dramatic smoke, spectacular lighting and unfaltering vocals, the production was magnetically vivid and captivating.

Lise Lindstrom plays Elektra, a woman seeking to avenge her father. Photo by Yves Renaud.

Elektra is a tale of revenge, hatred, loathing and angst told in the form of one glorious act. The focus of the narrative is on Elektra, whose father and king, Agamemnon, has recently been murdered. The king’s adulterous wife, Klytemnästra, along with her lover, Aegisth, killed Elektra’s father, leaving Elektra to be consumed with an overwhelming desire to avenge her father’s death with her exiled brother Orest. However, at one point Elektra and her sister Chrysothemis receive news that their brother has been killed. Chrysothemis refuses to aid Elektra in her vengeful, murderous plan shortly thereafter and Elektra then decides to act alone by avenging her father with the very axe that was used to murder him. Yet, before she can do this, her brother Orest arrives and carries out the murders himself. In the end, Elektra’s adulterous mother and Aegisth are vanquished and Chrysothemis, Orest and Elektra are reunited once again.

For Pierre Vachon—the director of communications, outreach and education at the Opéra de Montréal—this production is the best in the history of the Opéra de Montréal’s 36 years. “In this opera everything is monumental, everything is big and excessive, and for me opera is excess,” said Vachon.

Elektra (Lise Lindstrom) stands beside her mother Klytemnästra (Agnes Zwierko), the woman who killed her father in cold blood. Photo by Yves Renaud.

However, Elektra didn’t come without its challenges. Vachon said that rather than first programming the work and finding singers afterwards as they usually do, Elektra had to have well-cast singers before they could program the show. This was only one step in the three-to-four-year progression of everything coming together for this production. “Once we are ready to work it’s actually three weeks before the premiere that [the cast gathers] in Montreal and then we rehearse from morning to night for three weeks and that’s it, and the only thing we do is the stage direction. They all know their part and everything, contrary to theatre where they actually learn their parts together and they read together for about six to eight weeks,” said Vachon. “So it’s kind of a weird process but a very intense process.”

Vachon described Elektra to be mad in its excess, a monumental experience that’s in touch with our own sensibilities and modern-day world, paired with music that’s like a roller coaster. “It looks modern. It’s not like the old traditional opera kind of thing, it’s up to date … that’s why it’s easier to connect with [this] kind of production,” said Vachon. Vachon also emphasized the excitement that comes with collaborating with a renowned international sculptor like Victor Ochoa, as well as the “world-class singers” in their international cast, highlighting Lise Lindstrom (Elektra) who also stars as Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

Although the singers, stage sets and music are enough to tempt one to promptly purchase Elektra tickets, the act of going to the opera in general is in itself also an enticing experience. It’s about engaging with a historical tradition, donning your finer apparel and clinking your glasses with others who have come to appreciate the complex, beautiful fruit of fine artistic labour. Yet, fine apparel or otherwise, there’s magic to be appreciated in simply hearing the sweetness of a soft vibrato escalate into an even more glorious, resonant vocality.
Elektra is showing on Nov. 24, 26 and 28 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Place des Arts. Tickets start at $55.75.

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