On stage in 2014

We offer a look ahead at some of the arts and entertainment Victoria audiences can look forward to in the coming year

With the start of a new year comes a whole new set of arts events to mark on the calendar. Here’s a small taste of what audiences can look forward to for the year ahead.

Festival time

At the heart of the city, inside the walls of the former Royal Bank building at 1501 Douglas, one music-loving duo is cleaning up the remains of their holiday party and chatting about those up next – and there are plenty. Nick Blasko and Dimitri Demers co-owners/directors of Atomique Productions are responsible for ongoing shows throughout the year, as well as July’s Rock the Shores and Phillips Backyard Weekender. And then there is Rifflandia – one part summer music festival in Royal Athletic Park, one part SXSW-style night stages across town, and so many more much harder to define elements of art, ideas and interaction that rise into a wave of entertainment each September.

“We started out with a rough five-year plan and now it’s Year 7 and it’s still very much a labour of love,” said Blasko. “We’re trying to stick with the vision and keep growing it, but it’s not an easy task, but the city will dictate the boundaries for us.”

While the line up won’t be released until later on in the spring, audiences can expect no huge change the range of genres Rifflandia has historically represented, with indie-rock, electronic and hip-hop artists accounting for a large portion of their performers, along with headliners with mass-appeal. Though there is no room to grow within Royal Athletic Park – its capacity is set at 7,500 – the festival will likely expand with the addition of several small-to-medium night stages. They continue to develop Thinklandia, as well as Artlandia – an area where Blasko is hopeful may make way for more public art.

Peninsula

At the Mary Winspear Theatre, the last years have brought about a marked switch from tribute artists to bigger headliners, such as Bif Naked and Colin James, both of whom graced the cover of Monday Magazine in 2013.

Tenor Ben Heppner returns to Mary Winspear after a sold out show last year.

“He is by far the biggest name we’ve brought in,” said Phillip Sutton, theatre manager for the Charlie White Theatre at Mary Winspear Centre. “He’s won multiple Grammys, multiple Junos and he sings at the biggest opera houses in the world.”

Comedian Lorne Elliot is on the schedule of upcoming events, as is Jimmy Rankin. Sutton is currently investigating such artists as Fefe Dobson “for the tweens,” he divulged, as well as acts such as the Village People or British rockers The Cult. Vegas’ top male revue, Thunder from Down Under, is also rumoured to have another upcoming stop in Sidney after last year’s visit saw women aged 19 to 90 pack the theatre.

And while the rumour of Chilliwack’s return has yet to be confirmed, UHF, the folk supergroup of Shari Ulrich, Bill Henderson and Roy Forbes is set to hit the centre Feb. 8.

Film

The Victoria Film Festival is in the final stages of gearing up the festival Feb. 7 to 16. Expect talks from stars such as Atom Egoyan, Don McKellar, Guy Maddin and Ken Taylor, the former ambassador to Iran, whose his role in the Iranian hostage crisis was famously fictionalized in Ben Affleck’s Argo.

The organization will continue with the popular sing-along programming at recently renovated The Vic theatre. Terry O’Reilly of CBC’s Under the Influence will host an evening focused on how advertisers and agencies are represented in films this April. The Foodie Film Festival is on the calendar, as are screenings at de Vine Vinyards, as well as screenings at Oak Bay Beach Hotel. The Free-B Film Festival continues this summer, with films set to screen outdoors, free of charge, in Beacon Hill Park.

After a year of big changes – including the closure of the VFF’s previous headquarters at the Capitol 6 Theatre and the sudden need for a new projector, festival director Kathy Kay says the group is perhaps a little tired, but ready to face the year ahead.

“We feel we’re back on track,” Kay said. “It’s been amazing. Around 250 donated to the festival for the projector. That felt pretty good to know that people care.”

Theatre

Monday Magazine theatre expert Janis La Couvée’ weighed in on the year ahead. A more detailed list is available with our extended story online.

La Couvée awaits Home Is A Beautiful Word, The Belfry Theatre’s world premiere of verbatim theatre piece about homelessness, created from interviews with more than 400 people in Victoria.

Also among her top picks, the Intrepid Theatre’s regular programming – 15 shows/artists for 2014, in addition to their festivals – Winterlab (January), UNO Fest (May) and the Victoria Fringe Festival (August). Of note: Intrepid’s re-launch of their Petri Dish Residency program.

The folks at Theatre SKAM plan to premiere the life story of Joan Mans in My Memory’s Not So Good, a project several years in the works, as well as produce Bike Ride again in July. Langham Court Theatre has scheduled a rare summer show, Boeing Boeing and finally, Target Theatre, mature actors who aim to provide a voice for the concerns of seniors, is the Belfry Theatre’s Incubator project this year.

Funding

The Capital Regional District’s arts development service will continue to infuse individual artists and arts organizations with grant funds comparable to those available in years past – $140,000 allocated over the year for specific projects by arts organizations and just over $2 million slated to fund general operations. The CRD arts committee has also renewed its idea grant program for another three years after a review of its first three-year pilot project proved positive. The idea grants allow non-arts-mandated organizations to implement small arts projects and programming. Since its inception, 40 such ideas have been funded, under an annual $35,000 budget.

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