Arts + Music » Cultural Festivals

A bushel of quick event picks

Get a seasonal sneak peek of over 30 music, theatre, dance, visual art, film and book events.

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SINS and Susie Burpee
October 7-9, Sir James Dunn Theatre
A killer night for dance fans, thanks to Live Art, starting off with a premiere by SINS (Sometimes in Nova Scotia). Xs is choreographed by Vancouver-based Daelik for SINS' "Seven Deadly Sins Series." Love watching these guys perform: Jacinte Armstrong, Susanne Chui and Sara Coffin, with guests Elise Vanderborght and Cory Bowles. You know it will be fun and energetic. And greed is one of our favourite sins, which is why we're happy there's more. Toronto choreographer Susie Burpee follows with Apple Darkest, performed by Danielle Baskerville: "Medieval ideas of sex, gender, love and faith are expressed in a contemporary body." The duo runs three nights from October 7-9, 8pm, tickets are $17-$25, 494-3820. -SCF

Marie Chouinard
November 17, Rebecca Cohn Theatre
If you want to see a big gun perform, Marie Chouinard is like the Wayne Gretzky of the Canadian contemporary dance scene. The award-winning choreographer's company returns with two pieces: 24 Preludes by Chopin and The Rite of Spring.

Both are older works that use existing pieces of music as starting points (Chouinard generally commissions new music, inspired by movement). If you saw the movie Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, you know how obscene audiences thought Vaslav Nijinsky 's ballet, performed to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, was back in 1913. God only knows what they would have thought about Chouinard's abstract, non-narrative piece, and its sensual, statuesque nudity. Show starts at 8pm, tickets are $17-$35, 494-3820. -SCF

More dance
Fall for Flamenco heats up once again, October 2-20, with an opening night celebration at Dalhousie's McInnes Room; free library concerts and talks; performances by guest artists, food and, of course, a chance to clap and stomp ( Contemporary dance darlings Mocean Dance celebrate their 10-year anniversary with the retrospective Decennium, November 18-20, 7:30pm at Alderney Landing. -SCF


Going Home
October 6-November 14
Pictures of home go way back, all the way to those first tentative, disproportionate drawings with the family standing alongside the house. After many years of knowing home was where you hang your hat, and lay your head, at the end of the day, a return to uncertainty often takes place in our adult years.

In Going Home (opening reception at 5:30pm, October 6), an exhibition featuring photography and writing by members of Leave Out ViolencE, home is drawn out as a real and imagined place, a physical and emotional space. Showing at Pier 21, as part of the museum's Community Presents program, Going Home marks LOVE's 10th anniversary here.

"Most of the photographs are documentary-style," offers LOVE program coordinator Kate McKenna. "The photographers' goal is to give the audience a sense of what home feels like. Some of the more conceptual pictures are a response to an assignment to document their ideal home, their utopia."

Many young people have cameras on their phones and regularly share photos via social media, a point often used to stick it to youth. To help them counteract judgment and dismissal, LOVE keeps an open mind: "Our philosophy is that there is inherent beauty and meaning in whatever they produce, so we try to be as open as possible to however they want to communicate their experience," explains McKenna.

Each member approaches the work with different experiences, personalities and backgrounds. "Most of them have no previous exposure to artistic tradition and we try not be too didactic," McKenna points out.

Text and images are shared at LOVE, discussed, published in the organization's newspaper and shown in exhibitions. This goes a long way to giving youth confidence in thinking and communication, according to McKenna. "So it's a pretty automatic change. You can see the difference that that makes in a kid's attitude and demeanour in one or two weeks." -SF

Text and Context: Films on Fonts, Words, Books, and Literacy Itself
October 6-November 24, Dalhousie Art Gallery
For the Dalhousie Art Gallery's weekly film series, curator Ron Foley Macdonald turned to the written word. The gallery's exhibition Giving Notice: Words on Walls (see page 22) inspired the theme.

Macdonald writes, "I've long been a fan of [exhibiting artist] Garry Neill Kennedy's work and thought this would be an excellent launch point for a film series revolving around some of the same issues he treats in the show."

Films include the documentary on the font Helvetica (October 6), Fahrenheit 451 (November 3), documentary McLuhan's Wake (November 10) and Youth Without Youth (November 24).

"While some of the themes might seem far-fetched, taking the series as a whole brings together a wide range of ideas about storytelling, communication and technology, whether it be ancient, historical or current, looking at how and why we tell stories," Macdonald says. -LK

By the Bootstraps
October 22, Argyle Fine Art
Hey indie kid, if you want your band to stand out, forget the old t-shirt stank. Get yourself some professional style help from Kim Munson, who designs Orphanage Clothing and stage wardrobes for musicians like Hawksley Workman. At this Halifax Pop Explosion side event, which connects art and music in a gallery setting, Munson will be showcasing her new collection of recycled and repurposed wear. In addition to a "tableaux style fashion presentation," artist Nick Brunt is creating custom instruments and artwork "built specifically for local musicians," and Tarek Abouamin has produced a short film specifically for the free event, which runs from 7-9pm. -SCF

October 23, Zine Fair
Rememberer (Invisible Publishing), combines the convenience of a planner with a collection of short stories from a variety of contributors, plus illustrations (text, visuals and activities) by Yo Rodeo. "I always had this image in my head of someone reading one story after pencilling their to-do list over morning coffee," reveals Jenner-Brooke Berger, who edited the stories. Even with an organizer, life can't always be "compartmentalized"; the feeling informs the writing.

"Part of our approach was to just try to keep everything very simple, but we wanted it to still read as very handmade, and scrappy," explains Paul Hammond, co-creator, with Seth Smith, in Yo Rodeo. (Coast production designer Megan Fildes designed the book.) "The coolest thing about this book, is when you've used it up, it's half ours, and half yours. It's a collaborative project to the end." Pick one up at the Zine Fair, October 23 at St. David's Church Hall, noon-5pm. Admission is free. -SF

October 29-31
It's an early nerd Christmas: a three-day sci-fi and fantasy convention. The Lord Nelson will hopping with stormtroopers and Klingons, battling their way, with fists of cash, into autograph lines for Walter Koenig (Chekhov on Star Trek: Original Series), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett, Star Wars), Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol, Battlestar Galactica) and Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar, Star Trek: The Next Generation). In addition to schmoozing in and with the stars, there will be gaming tournaments, merchandise, exhibitors, book launches, costume contests and a very special episode of Geeks vs. Nerds: celebrity edition. Full schedule at -SCF

More events
Two series to keep an eye out for this season: the Carbon Arc film series (Thursdays starting mid-October) has now moved into the old Wormwoods space on the third floor of the Khyber (; the Allan Street Reading Series packs literary- and party-minded crowds into a tiny apartment, enjoying words and sugary snacks. Keep an eye open for future installments at

Every Tuesday in October, the Situating Science Atlantic Node is screening a popular science fiction film, followed by an expert panel discussion. Films start at 7pm, in room HA19, Architecture and Planning Building, 5410 Spring Garden. Every Thursday, 7-9pm, learn a new survival skill like "Home Humanure" (it's what you think) at the Transition Halifax workshops at the Roberts Street Social Centre.

And the mother of all things Etsy, the Halifax Crafters Market, returns to the Olympic Centre on December 4 and 5. -SCF


2539 Agricola open house
Mondays, 10pm-2am
On Monday nights, 2539 Agricola Street transforms from an ordinary home into one of the most eclectic music venues in Halifax. From 10pm onward the living room becomes crammed with people listening attentively to everything from banjo-rap to cello pieces to Spanish love songs.

"People are there to share and express art, not try and impress each other," says host and MC Ben Caplan. He points out that the welcoming atmosphere attracts first-time performers as well as veterans. "It doesn't have to be polished, it has to be real."

The event was born in November 2008 when Jacques Mindreau and Corey Hinchey wanted to create a new venue for their band Krasnogorsk. Instead of heading out, they invited their friends into their Agricola street home and started hosting shows in their living room. For a while the open mic moved from place to place, making it hard for it to gain a consistent following. When Caplan moved into 2539 Agricola he saw it as a chance to give the gathering a permanent home.

"One of the number one reasons why I moved into my house was because of its associations with the open mic."

Since then, 2539 has become a hub for musicians and music lovers in the city. Caplan (who also performs in the band Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers) takes his role as host very seriously, but admits that inviting the world into his living room every week can be daunting.

"There's some weeks where at 8:30 or 9:00 it feels a little bit overwhelming, like 'OK, another week of open mic,'" says Caplan. "But invariably, by 10:30, once the house is full of people and there's people expressing themselves in a very unguarded and genuine way, it fills the home with burning, incredible energy.

"It's something that I really, really love, and I wouldn't trade for anything." For more info on how to take part as a performer, email Caplan at

CKDU Funding Drive
Ongoing until October 7
The community radio station's annual fundraising drive is working overtime this year, according to coordinator Catherine Chapman. It kicked off with a rock 'n' roll pizza party on September 9, with shows, dance parties and even a bowling alley performance since then. But the official funding drive week launches Friday with the annual Hoserfest—local musicians covering Canrock classics and a maple syrup-chugging contest—at Gus' Pub. Other events include a Joan Jett and Bikini Kill cover band show, a spaghetti dinner with music from Krasnogorsk and tons more. CKDU staff will camp out in the office Monday night to entice "people to call in the wee hours of the morning." Chapman says. "If we don't reach our $26,000 goal we're going to keep going, but I'm confident we're going to." Donate money by calling in (494-6479) or online at -LK

Halifax Pop Explosion
October 19-23
Halifax's biggest music festival is anticipating its greatest year ever this fall. Director Jonny Stevens, who took over the position this year, says, "My goal is making the festival as inclusive as possible. I really think this will be the best Pop Explosion in the last bunch of years." The festival is taking up Toronto's North By Northeast festival's model of selling wristbands that for $50 get you into all but a couple of the biggest shows all week. "We really worked hard to make the festival more accessible for everyone by lowering the price point—as boring as that sounds, it seems to be what people are excited about," Stevens says. Acts lined up include The New Pornographers, GWAR, Jason Collett, Ty Segall, Basia Bulat with Symphony NS, Sloan (performing Twice Removed), The Hold Steady, Tokyo Police Club, plus all your local favourites and about a zillion others. -LK

More music...
We're Yarmouth bound for Nova Scotia Music Week, which basically means that all your favourite Halifax bands are transplanted to Yarmouth for the November 4-7 weekend, including Black Moor, Sleepless Nights and Jenn Grant, plus the return of Wintersleep and Radio Radio (no, they're not a Montreal band). The Rebecca Cohn will pack them in for the Cancon holy trio of Gord Downie & The Country of Miracles (October 15), Bruce Cockburn (October 20) and Sarah Harmer (October 29), then again for the rescheduled Ani DiFranco shows, November 7-8. Halloween is no longer about finding the best slutty angel costume: It's all about Buddy Holly and other dead singers at For The Dead, In the Dead of Winter's fundraiser at The Company House, October 30. Tanya Davis won't be alone for her release show, November 19 at St. Mathias Church. Check the listings for Dance in a Box, a monthly party at the Bus Stop, with DJs, dancing, live art and video projections. Under 30s can also score cheap tickets to Symphony Nova Scotia's Celebrity and Baroque Series concerts. -SCF


Five Easy Steps (To the End of the World)
October 26-November 13, location TBA
Back in 2009, Zuppa Theatre Co. brought a play about the night before the apocalypse called Very Secret Ceremony to the Queer Acts Theatre Festival. At the time, I had the pleasure of seeing it and described it as "a glittering gem...a mystery of moments and music." This musical one-act play was the precursor to a full-length production called Five Easy Steps (To the End of the World), which is presently being staged in Cardiff, Wales, and which will run in Halifax from October 26 to November 13.

The Welsh production came about when the theatre company invited James Tyson, theatre programme manager for Chapter Arts Centre, a theatre, dance and performance venue in Cardiff, to see their smash hit Poor Boy last year at the Neptune Studio. "Shortly after he returned to Wales, he invited us to showcase a new work and Five Easy Steps (To the End of the World) is it," says actor Susan Leblanc-Crawford, who shares the title of Zuppa's co-artistic director with Alex McLean and Ben Stone. "He was particularly interested in the way music is used in our shows and really loved the music."

Jason MacIsaac and David Christensen (Heavy Blinkers) composed the score and will also perform in the Cardiff show. Five Easy Steps is a story about failed dreams and nostalgia, world-weariness and the apocalyptic appetite. The gist of the plot is that three old school friends (along with the audience) have come together to reminisce, reflect and make their peace with the past on the eve before the supposed end of the world. Filled with haunting music and original images, this is theatre you won't want to miss. -KW

Vindice's Folly
October 16, Alderney Landing Theatre
Local theatre company Vile Passéist Theatre is presenting two plays by Thomas Middleton this winter: one a tragedy, the other commedia dell'arte. They wanted to present something for the Nocturne festival, so decided to blend the two: Executive director Colleen MacIsaac "and I thought it would be interesting to see if we could combine the two plays," says artistic director and company founder Dan Bray. In Vindice's Folly, circus grounds provide cover for a group of commedia dell'arte actors enacting their "ridiculous and deadly games." The play will perform on a "loop," repeating several times over the evening, featuring cast members of both larger productions and showing in between performances of the larger plays on at the theatre the same night, using their sets. -LK

Fall in Paris
November 14-28, the Bus Stop Theatre
Ah, Paris. The city of light and love. For those of us who can't afford to travel there, Eastern Front Theatre's season-opener Fall in Paris offers a whirlwind tour of its top tourist attractions, as seen through the eyes of a troubled young couple—played by Kate Lavender and Matt Gorman—and a soon-to-be-divorced woman played by Jennifer Overton. The play, which was written by EFT's artistic producer Scott Burke, is billed as "an intimate and innovative theatrical journey straight to the heart...via the funny-bone." Both Fall in Paris and the spring production, the Governor-General Award-nominated Palace of the End, will be staged at The Bus Stop Theatre, and May 2011's SuperNova Theatre Festival will again find a home at Neptune's Studio Theatre. -KW

Prismatic Festival
October 10-17, various locations
Every other year, Halifax's Onelight Theatre puts together a week-long extravaganza of culturally diverse music, theatre, dance, film and photography, plus workshops and talks designed to promote artistic excellence through collaboration, innovation and dialogue. Prismatic offers a wide spectrum of experiences for both the makers and consumers of art in Canada.

This year, Onelight has partnered with one of the country's most established Aboriginal theatre companies, De Ba Jeh Mu Jig, to host the festival and to explore the artistic foundations and personal experiences of Aboriginal artists, as well as artists from other cultures in Canada. The week kicks off on October 10 with the Prismatic Qawwali Party at the Music Room. Qawwali is a traditional form of Islamic song, and the concert will feature performances by the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra Chamber Ensemble: Kinan Azmeh on clarinet, Dinuk Wijeratne on piano, with Mark Adam and Ken Shorley playing percussion.

There are a variety of other ticketed performances offered each night of the festival, as well as several free public events, including music by North Preston's Hallelujah Praise Chorus at the airport and a performance piece by M'ikmaq visual artist Ursula A. Johnson at Grand Parade, as part of Nocturne (see page 21). People can also register for the conference portion of Prismatic, which runs for three days and covers topics such as "Accountability and change in key arts institutions" and "Self-determination: Taking ownership of labels and definitions." Another component of the festival is workshops such as composition with Wijeratne or classical Indian Kathak dance. Head to for a complete schedule as well as registration info. -KW

More theatre
Rumour has it that 2b theatre will be restaging Invisible Atom (location TBA) this fall. Neptune Theatre goes surreal for 7 Stories, October 26-November 14. Taboo Theatre is presenting three one-act plays in the spirit of An Evening of Grand Guignol, October 21-23 and October 28-31 (location TBA). Messing with your theatre-going mind, Paris' Theatre du Grand-Guignol was notorious for staging extremely violent plays, alternated with comedies.

Just for Laughs celebrates 10 years, October 23 at the Rebecca Cohn, with Robert Kelly (ask him about Louis CK), Gina Yashere, Ryan Hamilton, Jeremy Hotz and host, Frank Spadone.

We don't have much in the way of details yet, but we're lusting for November's The Sex Festival, a series of plays, workshops and related events at Plutonium Playhouse. Check for details -SCF

Visual Arts

Susy Oliveira
Khyber ICA, October 16-November 11
Susy Oliveira's paper sculptures balance dual forces. Materially, the Toronto-based and multidisciplinary artist (she's also known for painting and photo-based work) transforms flatness into dimensionality, paper into objects. Using photographs already in print in the pages of a variety of media, Oliveira combines photography and sculpture into a new, third art. Human and natural forms are depicted and installed on plinths, walls and floors. Occasionally humanity and nature come into contact. Each piece has its own strong presence (even when regarded as a digital image online), though every one is clearly the result of fine and delicate hands. Oliveira obviously has patience and focus most of us don't have. This work is wondrous and wondrously creepy, too. -SF

Kyle Monchuk, TEXTUS
October 12-23, Seeds Gallery
The act of reading builds a kind of architecture joining the reader, his or her mind and world, and the author's domain, as it appears on and beyond the page. This is clearly communicated in Kyle Monchuk: TEXTUS, another visual page-turner from the artist (in that he loves to turn books inside out). The collages (mostly two- but some three-dimensional work as well) are "a visualization of how I see the experience of humans and books." Using "diagram-based imagery" from existing texts, Monchuk creates elaborately imagined structures, often placing them within human figures. We contain and carry them around inside us. Through books and reading, the artist believes, "we sample history and one another's thoughts to construct our own identities." -SF

Kent Monkman, The Triumph of Mischief
October 16-November 28, Saint Mary's University Art Gallery
Cree artist Kent Monkman has been impressing audiences across the country with his feather- and glitter-bedecked teepees, native chiefs in drag and reworkings of 19th-century landscape paintings where North American tribes meet European explorers meet homoeroticism and queer native points of view. Monkman's alter-ego, drag queen Miss Chief Share Eagle Testickle, struts through his paintings and videos and inhabits his installations. The Triumph of Mischief brings together a selection of Monkman's installations, videos and paintings. It's toured to Hamilton, Toronto, Calgary and Victoria, and SMU marks its final stop. Gallery director Robin Metcalfe says that varying forms of the show have been exhibited at each gallery, but the Halifax show will be one of the most complete, with two teepee installations and the two largest paintings. -LK

October 16, various locations
The all-night arts festival promises to be bigger than ever in its third year. Along with galleries and alternative spaces keeping their doors open until midnight, the evening features independent projects from dozens of local artists, and new exhibitions opening at many of the galleries. Among the independent projects: Artist Melanie Colosimo presents Alone Now, With All of My Friends, a four-channel video projection on Barrington Street, the story of an elderly man who has given up hope for his future and moves into a bedroom closet. Halifax Circus performers will put on a collective demonstration at St. Matthew's Church. "Waterfall," on display at the Halifax ferry terminal, is public art camouflaged as a vending machine—actually vending video clips about water usage. Or try your hand at FILM-E-OKE in the CBC Radio Room, where visitors can act out scenes from a selection of Hollywood films using a stock of costumes and props.

At the Khyber, Ella Tetrault and Carey Jernigan present "Mobile Home," an oversized baby mobile displaying models of affordable homes in the north end. Students from Charles P. Allen High School will perform "Halifax Explosion Interpretive Fusion," a multidisciplinary work using a wind ensemble, recordings and free verse against a backdrop of the Morse code message relayed on December 6, 1917. Lisa Lipton's "Window Ballet" creates a theatrical narrative within a house in the north end.

One of the most ambitious projects, aptly titled "A Year in the Making," brings together a group of local artists creating site-specific installations at the Public Gardens—the first time the city has given permission to use the space at night; participants include Adam Kelly, Stephen Kelly, Eleanor King, Craig Leonard, Scott Saunders, Mitchell Wiebe and others. Also new this year are walking tours and bicycle tours run by the Halifax Cycling Coalition. -LK

More visual art...
Shelly Low's installation Buffet Toi & Moi at Eyelevel Gallery draws inspiration from the Polynesian/Chinese restaurant, La Pagode Royale, that her parents owned in downtown Montreal, until October 3. Anne Launcelott explores the dichotomies of modern-day Havana in Habano, at ViewPoint Gallery, through November. Kim Morgan's new sculpture at MSVU Art Gallery (October 16-November 21) is composed of parts from an abandoned lighthouse. Lose yourself in Stephen Kelly's Open Tuning (WaveUp) at the AGNS. Kelly mounted speakers through the fourth floor of the gallery that transform ocean weather into sounds. -SCF

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