Fall arts preview: August 2007

What to see in August 2007


Al Fresco film festo

The popular outdoor film festival returns through the month of August, with films projected against a handy wall down at Tall Ships Quay on the Halifax waterfront. Expected are crowd-pleasers such as Grease, The Party, the first outdoor screening in Canada of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Muppets Take Manhattan, The Perfect Storm and Mary Poppins. The Centre for Arts and Technology People’s Choice movie can be voted for online, and will close the season on September 1. The selection this year is from a few choice 007 films from across the canon: Tomorrow Never Dies,The Living Daylights, Octopussy, Diamonds Are Forever, Thunderball and From Russia with Love. When it’s suggested that one of the early Sean Connery movies is probably a shoo-in, the festival’s communications contact Pam Todd says, “I’m not married to any of them.” Probably a good move—James Bond is a bit of a player. (CK) July 28-September 1. $5 donation. Tall Ship’s Quay, Halifax waterfront. www.atlanticfilm.com

Atlantic Fringe Festival

Bruce McKenna is a successful screenwriter and three-year veteran of the Fringe Festival. His advice to all aspiring writers, actors and directors: create a show for this year’s festival. “It’s great,” he says. “You get a stage, tech support and box office.” But what’s in it for the audience? How about cheap, innovative theatre and the chance to see our local artists, both up-and-coming and veterans—last year, Nigel Bennett starred in the hilarious comedy The Dumb Waiter. This year’s line-up is still pending, but you can watch for McKenna’s musical comedy Pussy Star, about a proper young singing teacher who is pursued by a bad-girl rock star. (KW). August 31-September 10. $9. Locations around the city. 435-4387. www.atlanticfringe.ca

Festival Antigonish

Women take note: Festival Antigonish has a season for and about you. It starts with Educating Rita (July 6-August 15), a humorous tale with echoes of Pygmalion. When a working class woman decides to better herself through the study of literature, her tutor (and the audience) get a new perspective on old ideas. Next is Woman in Black (July 13-August 25), a play built on a spine-tingling ghost story where a woman is both victim and avenger. Then comes Good Things (July 20-August 26), a romantic farce about a middle-aged woman searching for love after acrimonious break-up. Finally, Automatic Pilot (August 16-26) deals with a neurotic comic who uses the pain and mayhem from her complicated love life to fuel her stand-up comedy. But gentleman, don’t let all this estrogen put you off. Everyone loves a good play. (KW) July 6-August 26. $10-$25. Bauer Theatre, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish. 1-800-563-PLAY. www.festivalantigonish.com

Lisette Model at Dalhousie Art Gallery

Dalhousie Art Gallery gives good reason for photography enthusiasts to celebrate this summer. Fifty prints from the National Gallery of Canada’s Model collection arrive in Halifax.

The Austrian-born artist captured people in all their glory and folly—some call it the human condition—over several decades, from the ’30s to the ’80s. Imagine the subtle changes over that time.

Model roamed from Paris and Nice to San Francisco and New York and down to Venezuela as well. Look for the signature elements in Model’s images, despite the many and varied locales. Think of how Eugene Atget mined so much from Paris, or how American Diane Arbus—whom many have noted as a carrier of the Model mantle—documents America. For that matter, get in the frame of mind with a visit to compare Orest Semcheisen’s exploration of remote communities in his home province in Through Alberta Eyes at Mount Saint Vincent Gallery until July 30. (SF) August 19-October 8. Free. Dalhousie Art Gallery, 6101 University.

Ok. Quoi?! & Sappy Records Festival

Thanks to provocative programming from artist-run centre Struts Gallery and the sweet sounds of musicians such as Julie Doiron, the town of Sackville gives Halifax a run for its money in the cool department. If you need more evidence, check out the OK. Quoi?! and Sappy Records festivals, happening the first week of August. Video installations, films, audio art, studio visits and workshops entertain and enlighten throughout the week, mixed with weekend barbecues, readings and concerts, hosted by Sappy Records founder, “Julie F’n Doiron.” To top up the cool quotient and to prove that Haligonians can hold our own, we’re sending a local delegation—look for performances by The Just Barelys, Al Tuck, Yellow Jacket Avenger, BA Johnston and more. (SCF) Ok Quoi?! from July 31-August 5. Sappy Records Festival from August 4-6. $20 or $50 weekend pass. locations around Sackville. 506-536-1211. www.sappyrecords.com


Amy Millan at Stage Nine

The fairer of the two Broken Social Scene members to hit town to promo their solo discs this summer, Amy Millan may be best known for her work in Montreal-based Stars. But for the time being, she’s a solo artist hawking her debut Honey from the Tombs, a departure from her indie past. The recently released album is comprised of songs she’s been working on for years, but never had the opportunity to record because other projects got in the way. Like her work in BSS, Honey from the Tombs is a mish-mash of genres. This time, Millan incorporates bluegrass and country, influenced by her time living with Juno Award-winning bluegrass artist Jenny Whiteley and her mandolin-playing brother, Dan Whiteley, who makes an appearance on the record. However, Stars fans shouldn’t worry. Millan’s disc may be more intimate and subdued, like her soft sigh of a voice, but flourishes of keyboard and experimentation ensure she doesn’t completely turn her back on her day job. (JF) August 12. 10pm. $10-$12. Stage Nine, 1567 Grafton.

Bo Diddley at Alderney Landing

Bo Diddley has a tombstone hand and a graveyard mind, and if you’ve ever doubted that, now’s your chance to see for yourself in person. One of the most influential guitar players in the world is coming to Dartmouth (yes, Dartmouth) and we all get to reap the benefits. These benefits include: Sudden urges to design guitars, increased sense of rhythm, predilection to mercilessly tease companions with such zingers as “you so ugly, your momma had to put a sheet over your head so sleep could slip up on you,” and much more. The first major performer to ever hire a female lead guitarist, Bo Diddley makes everything cooler. He’s playing at Alderney Landing as part of the Dutch Mason Blues Festival, with the Debby Hastings Band. The official festival website is www.dutchmason.com which you should check out, because there are a lot of other totally dope acts in addition to Mr. Diddley. (SJ) August 11. 7pm. $40; weekend pass $90. Alderney Landing. 461-8401

Evolve Festival in Antigonish

Activists and music lovers unite as the festival with a message returns to Antigonish County this August, with Evolve celebrating its seventh anniversary. A stellar musical line-up complements a weekend of workshops that inform spectators about social issues such as over-consumption, personal wellbeing and environmental awareness.

Joe MacEachern and Jim Dorey founded Evolve in 1999 as a peaceful response to the violent Quebec City G7 protests they had attended. Evolve is known for headliners who not only put on a good show, but also bring something to the festival’s mandate. Steve Kimrock, associated with The Grateful Dead, appeared in 2005. Anti-war activist Michael Franti and his band Spearhead played in 2004; Medeski, Martin and Wood—supporters of Woody Harrelson’s project Go Further, which believes that one person is key to mass change—played in 2003. Events Harrelson organized, in which spectators rode bicycles to generate power for the stages, partially influenced Evolve’s shift to bio-diesel as an energy source in 2004. This year, the festival welcomes k-os, the socially conscious hip-hop artist.

“I think the great thing about this festival is that a lot of festivals are like, ‘How can we get as many people as possible out to see us?’” Michael Franti told Evolve documentary filmmakers in 2004. “But this festival has decided to say from its inception, ‘How can we get as many people turned on to living in a way that’s connected with the planet, as much as we possibly can?’ It doesn’t do it by beating people over the head with it, but by doing it by example.”

Evolve promotes international and local talent, with a large Halifax contingent making its way to 225 acres of farmland for a weekend of alternative rock, jazz, hip-hop and folk. Several local acts heading to Evolve 7 include the Jimmy Swift Band, Dr. dFunkt, Classified, DJs Sonny D, Jay Hamilton, Nick Nonsense and more. International headliners include electronic artists Donald Glaude, DJ Sneak and DJ Dan; former Phish member Mike Gordon with his new project Ramble Dove; and k-os.

Recently, festival organizers received criticism for a poster campaign that included a few thousand flyers taped to telephone poles throughout the HRM. Evolve spokesperson Jay Cleary says it’s part of the difficulty of getting the word of Evolve to the masses.

“How else are we going to get the message out?” Clearly asks. “We use biodegradable ink and recycled paper. But what it comes down to is it’s really hard to be an environmental person and I think all you can do is think about the small things you can do everyday because all those small things end up amounting to something much larger.”

Ultimately, Cleary says the hard work and devotion of those who stage Evolve every year makes the challenge of educating the almost 3,000 people who attend the festival worth it.

“We go for broke every year,” Cleary says. “Obviously, there’s the whole side of Evolve that’s the party, but I think there’s the whole other side that there’s an environmental message going on, be it from the performers onstage or from the workshops. I mean, the whole idea is, we’re going to change the world, one person at a time.” (JF) August 2-4. $75-$125. Antigonish County. www.evolvefestival.com

Flip the Switch at Alderney Landing

It’s hard not to give kudos to Gigantic Entertainment. After shows by City and Colour and Wilco, they complete the awesome concert trifecta with the Flip the Switch festival. Make no mistake, these Alderney Landing appearances are big shows that the local alternative scene has desperately been waiting to see for years.

For Flip the Switch, Gigantic mines the Warped Tour—it ends in Montreal the night before the Dartmouth show—along with homegrown acts for punk rock gold. NOFX makes a long overdue return to Halifax alongside fellow Warped acts Protest The Hero and Against Me. What sort of condition these bands will be in remains to be seen; the Warped Tour wrap-up parties are notoriously debaucherous.

“We will not be in the right state of mind,” warns Rody Walker, lead singer of Protest the Hero. “After two months on the road, we will all have our bad facial hair back, we’ll be acting and looking really stupid, I’m sure we’ll be very hung-over. But that’s never affected our performance before.”

The acts set to take advantage of a concert this size are those that make their home on the east coast. Risky Business, The Hold, Hope, The Dean Malenkos and The Letter Unfolds get the opportunity to play in front of up to 5,000 punk and hardcore fans, many of whom will travel from outside the HRM to catch the exciting line-up.

“It’s good because a lot of people around here probably haven’t even heard of us,” says Ian Hart, guitarist for Risky Business. “It’s just good exposure for sure. I saw NOFX the last time they played here in 1994. I still respect what they do, so it was pretty exciting to play with them this time around.” (JF) August 14. 4pm. $28. Alderney Landing. ticketatlantic.com

Lunenberg Folk Harbour Festival

Festivals can’t be everything to everyone, so it’s refreshing to see the Lunenberg Folk Harbour Festival continue to maintain its close ties to its folk-centric purpose. Performer Matt Andersen is honoured to be asked to return, following the festival’s first-ever audience encore last year.

“It was an amazing feeling,” says Andersen of the unprecedented appreciation he received from the crowd. “The whole set just felt really good. A packed house underneath the big tent and you couldn’t hear a sound. Then to have the uproar at the end just put a huge smile on my face.”

Andersen agrees the festival’s emphasis on true folk artists makes the festival something special. “Well, we need festivals like this—a way for artists and listeners to experience each other close up. Music was never meant to be heard over a television or radio,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad we have those mediums to get our music out to people. But the best way to experience music is for the musicians and the listeners to be in the same room together. For people to see the music being created and for us to see a genuine response from the folks listening.”

This year’s edition, slated for August 10-13, will feature, in addition to Andersen, Halifax acts including Ruth and Gabe Minnikin, Rose Cousins, Andrew White and Joel Plaskett.

“I can honestly say there isn’t an act on the bill that I would miss,” says Andersen.f> “I’m on the road quite a bit and don’t get much of a chance to take in as much music as I would like. I’ll be listening to everybody. There is a really cool vibe when you play the Lunenburg Festival. A very attentive and very appreciative audience.” (CM) August 10-13. $5-$95. Lunenburg. 634-3180. www.folkharbour.com


Animal watching

If you go out in the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise. Natural History museum zoologist Andrew Hebda is leading a nocturnal prowl on August 5 at 9:45pm, at Smiley’s Provincial Park in Hants County. He’s looking for bats. Bats. If that doesn’t send chills down your spine, pre-register at 424-3563. If bugs are your thing, return with your inner-Suzuki-spirit on August 12, when Hebda will uncover the “invertebrate fauna of stream communities” (translation: more creepy stuff). For those who like their animals without sonic hearing or multiple legs, it’s worth a trip to Tancook Islands, accessible by a frequent-running ferry from Chester, at a reasonable rate of $5 round-trip. Bring binoculars for bird watching—bald eagles, hawks, finches and Canada Geese are just some of the feathered ones who make the island their home. Clap for the seal colonies and save some “oohs” and “aaahs” for the humpback and fin whales, and all of Mother Earth’s glory. (SCF)

Celebrity watching

Haliwood. It’s an affectionate term for what Halifax becomes every summer, when the film and TV business kicks into high gear to shoot in and around town. Productions are easy to spot: look for a convoy of cube trucks and trailers of varying sizes. Those big lights and high director’s chairs are a dead giveaway too. Movie stars could be anywhere: witness the most recent TV movie starring Tom Selleck shot in Halifax, called Death In Paradise, filmed in and around the Atlantic School of Theology in the south end. The original Stone Cold, also starring Selleck, featured scenes shot outside the Hydrostone Market. Selleck himself enjoyed regular dinners and drinks at the Press Gang. At a height of 6’4”, he’s hard to miss. Previous years have found Halifax bathed in the star wattage of performers such as Rob Lowe (The Christmas Shoes), Cybill Sheppard (Martha, Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart) and Harrison Ford (K19: The Widowmaker).

Unfortunately, what and who is coming to town this summer is a hard call. Rumours remain unconfirmed until the contract is signed and the film spools. All Jennifer MacIntyre, locations officer at the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation, will say is it looks good for local crews to stay busy.

“There’s a movie of the week called Relative Chaos that shoots until June 15 for ABC Family,” she says, starring Nicholas Brendan and Charisma Carpenter, better known as Xander and Cordelia from Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. “The Wedding March is a movie of the week for A&E starring John Stamos.” She mentions one other movie coming to Halifax soon called Poor Boys’ Game, directed by Toronto filmmaker Clement Virgo, a project described in Playback Magazine as “about boxing and racial tensions in modern day Halifax,” starring Rossif Sutherland (Kiefer’s half-bro), Wes Williams (AKA Maestro Fresh Wes) and Danny Glover. (CK)

Ghost tours

Ever wonder where the first murder in Halifax took place? Or why some believe the Macdonald Bridge is doomed? Or how a flaming ship can appear and disappear on a clear summer’s night off the coast of Chester? For the stories behind these and other questions of local intrigue, Andy Smith of Tattle Tours is happy to be your guide.

Smith began giving tours over a decade ago, and for the past three summers he’s added an evening ghost walk to the mix. “There are plenty of great stories in the historic downtown streets,” he says, “and I just realized that people are also intrigued by the afterlife, what happens when we go. I think it’s a combination of the wealth and vividness of the stories that really intrigues me. It’s a great activity.”

Tours run Wednesday to Sunday, May through October, and groups meet at the Old Town Clock on Citadel Hill (weather permitting) at 7:30pm. From there, Smith takes his customers on a winding walk through the downtown core, ending up outside the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic two hours later. Along the way Smith stops to share all sorts of ghostly and otherwise spooky tales: stories of haunted buildings (Little Fish Restaurant), bizarre occurrences (St. Paul’s Church) and illicit love (the “Old 51” on Hollis Street). f>

Does Smith believe in ghosts? “As I began to hear stories, I began to, you know, wonder,” says Smith. “If you believe in a soul and if you believe that soul departs at death, then the questions remains, what happens? How do we personally deal with that? Are we able to leave things behind, or is it a confusing experience? Is something we welcome; is it something we’re afraid of? They’re interesting questions to me….” (MW) Call Tattle Tours at 494-0525 or visit www.tattletours.ca


Atlantic Canada Harmonica Festival

The third annual Harmonica Festival celebrates the instrument as a fixture on the Eastern Shore for generations, one that is more portable than the fiddle and easier to play. Held at the Memory Lane Heritage Village, the festival will feature many a musician, of course, as well as instruction on how to play the mouth organ and plenty of food and activities for families to enjoy. The village looks back through time at life in seaside communities in the 1940s. The Harmonica Festival is but one of a number of events in the village’s season (June 15- September 15), including a monthly Heritage Dinner. “They’re proving to be very popular,” says Cheryl Merkel, a volunteer on site. “The dinners are always on a theme, and we have a German dinner, a Welsh dinner. People come out from Halifax to enjoy them. They’re usually sold out—there’s room for 50 or 60 people in our cookhouse.” (CK)August 19. $2-$15. Memory Lane Heritage Village, Lake Charlotte

Halifax International Busker Festival

Check the word “busker” on dictionary.com and you’ll get this definition: A person who entertains people for money in public places (as by singing or dancing). This barely scratches the surface of what the Halifax International Busker Festival has to offer. Each year, hundreds of artists from all over the world apply, and this pool of talent is winnowed down to 20-25 terrific acts. Look for jugglers and contortionists, sidewalk chalkmasters and death-defying stuntmen. The atmosphere is carnivalesque—the waterfront is alive with happy, sun-kissed revellers, beer-tents, clowns and businesses hawking their over-priced wares. Stroll the waterfront and follow the cheers to the most popular performers.

All the acts are a lesson in anticipation. Two things are stressed from the moment a busker steps on the stage: the danger and originality of the grand finale and the generous monetary donations it’s hoped the audience will make. The fun is in listening for the many different ways this patter is delivered. Shows are divided among five stages and run from 12-11pm daily. Mark your calendar and pray for sun. (KW) August 10-20. Pay by donation. Halifax waterfront. www.buskers.ca

Natal Day

If you thought Canada Day was exciting, you’re in for a wild ride on Natal Day. While the rest of the country is suffering through the dog days of summer with the only respite a staid Civic Holiday, citizens of the mighty HRM are celebrating the birthday of the communities of Halifax and Dartmouth. With the help of our secular patron saint, Alexander Keith, Haligonians and Dartmouthites alike can enjoy a bevy of Natal Day celebrations ranging from the classic pancake breakfast to a tea party with the mayor, to a parade right across the Macdonald Bridge, to endless concerts down on the Halifax waterfront, to a fireworks display that’s being touted as “the biggest, most elaborate fireworks display of the year.”

In typical go-big-or-go-home Maritime style, Natal Day celebrations begin on Thursday afternoon and continue full-bore through the long weekend until Monday night. If you like flag-raisings and free birthday cake, you’re going to want to be on the Halifax waterfront on Thursday at 12pm and the Dartmouth waterfront Saturday at 11am; look for the flag pole and the dignitaries —the cake plates can’t be far behind. If you’re into music—jazz, rock or old-timey Celtic—you’ll want to stay close to the festival tent on the Halifax waterfront (it’s behind the slightly sci-fi Bio Science Centre). If you’d rather show off than be shown off to, it’s back across the harbour to Alderney Landing for the longest-running talent show in Nova Scotia, also Saturday.

Things are a little quieter on Sunday, but that’s just to give you a chance to rest up for the excitement on Monday; it’s mayor’s tea parties galore on both sides of the harbour and a big-ass party right in between, as the Macdonald Bridge hosts first a parade and then a big family fun celebration. It might be worth looking into those kiddie-leashes, just for the day…that’s a long, long way down. If you’re looking to escape it all—the bi-hi might be your best bet, as we’re predicting bridge traffic might be a bit snarled. (AG) August 3-7. Locations across the city. www.natalday.org

Nova East

This year is the 20th anniversary of Nova East, an annual star-gazing event and camping weekend that takes place in Smiley’s Provincial Park near Windsor, from August 25 to 27. Halifax Centre treasurer and National Council representative for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Pat Kelly, says it’s a popular gathering for a lot of amateur astronomers in the Maritimes. “We put on a series of talks and public observing sessions on the Saturday night, so anybody who is in the area or camping can come out to where we have the telescopes out and look though them. We generally have a talk on finding your way around the nighttime skies, where the constellations are and what planets are up.” Kelly says the event is put on to further one of the goals of RASC, which is public education. He mentions to keep an eye open for a daytime session on observing the sun “through a properly filtered telescope.” Those interested should check the website for a program of upcoming events. (CK) August 25-27. $15. Smiley’s Provincial Park, 6.5km east of Brooklyn, Hants County, off Route 14. www.halifax.rasc.ca


2006 Canadian Ultimate Championships

The Halifax Ultimate Recreational League hammers, flicks and forehands its way onto Halifax centre stage as it hosts the 2006 Canadian Ultimate Championships from August 17 to 20. Up to 60 teams will compete in five different divisions for Frisbee—called “discs” by diehards—glory.

Regulation and playoff games will be free to the public, held at the Halifax Common, Mainland Common and at new fields in Burnside. A small admission fee will be charged for championship games, to be held at Husky Stadium at Saint Mary’s University on the final day of action. HURL also has plans to set up a beer tent.

“This is the 20th year of nationals and it’s the first time it’s east of Montreal,” HURL spokesperson and ultimate player Mark Beasey says. “We think of this as huge for us. We see this as an amazing opportunity to increase our relationship with the city when it comes to maintaining fields and as a means of recruiting more players.” (JF) August 17-20. canadianultimate.com, www.halifaxultimate.ca

Under the sea

Treasure hunters unite! The dream of exploring old shipwrecks and seeing the marvels of the deep can become reality with a little training. Several companies near Halifax offer scuba diving lessons and gear. DiveQuest in Lewis Lake and Divers World in Lakeside offer open water instruction for beginners. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can charter diving trips through Divers World or Lunenburg Ocean Adventures. To up the thrill factor, try chartering a shark diving trip, which Lunenburg Ocean Adventures offers from late June to the end of September. For $600, six people can see many kinds of our finny friends, including sharks, dolphins, seals, giant tuna and even whales. The Ovens Park area near Lunenburg is perfect for combining underwater and on-the-water adventure. Scuba dive in the waters around the park, then take a Zodiac tour of the sea caves. Tours run hourly and cost $23 for adults, $20 for kids. The park also has camping areas if you decide you’d like to to spend the night near your watery friends. (VF) www.diversworld.ns.ca www.leatherbacks.ca www.divequest.ca www.lunenburgoceanadventures.com www.ovenspark.com

Written by Erica Butler, Sue Carter Flinn, Meredith Dault, Johnston Farrow, Victoria Foley, Sean Flinn, Austen Gilliland, Stephanie Johns, Carsten Knox, Chris Mccluskey, Brent Sedo, Kate Watson, Megan Wennberg and Tara Lee Wittchen.

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