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School of Creative and Performing Arts present ALCHEMY Festival

By Troy Hasselman, March 27 2019 —

The University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) ALCHEMY: Festival of Student Work is returning for another year with performances from various departments and across different artistic mediums.

The festival will include performances that showcase the school’s drama, music and dance departments among other creatives from around the university. There’s only one constant in the festival programming — it’s all student work. 

“The ALCHEMY Festival started about two years ago. It used to be the Taking Flight Festival, which was only focused on drama performances,” says Aurelie Maerten, communications and marketing advisor for the SCPA. “When the School of Creative and Performing Arts was started, there was more opportunities for other performances so the festival expanded into not only drama performances, but also dance, music and interdisciplinary performances. All of the productions are student-based so they are either directed by students, performed by students, the entire design is done by students or completely created by students. It’s really a festival of student work.”

On top of the performance from the music, drama and dance departments, interdisciplinary performances that incorporate technology and aspects from different artistic mediums into their performances are also featured. One such performance is Pierrot’s Gender Reveal Party, which incorporates music, explosions and shadow puppetry.

“It is created by music grad students but it’s more interdisciplinary,” Maerten says. “There’s a whole design to it and dramaturgy. The show is about finding the characters their true gender by throwing a gender reveal party for themselves. There are lots of colours and props involved.”

The other two interdisciplinary shows are free. Bury the Wren is a collaboration between the computer science departments Evolutionary Swarm Lab and the SCPA. Sound Wardrobe is a piece by music students that creates sound through the sonic qualities of garments.

“[Bury the Wren is] a one-on-one show so we ask people to register in advance for a specific time slot, so you’ll be the only audience member with a cast member,” Maerten says. “There’s a process in that show in terms of what you would do as an audience member so instead of just sitting, there’s a little bit of participation in that. It uses augmented and virtual reality, mixed with carbon reality technology. Sound Wardrobe is created by music students and transforms a little studio into a sound wardrobe where people can come in when they want to and create sound fabrics.”

The U of C dance department is represented through the twin performances of Dance @ Noon on April 5 and 6 and Dance @ Night on April 8 and 9. The performances will showcase work from the students involved, presenting their original dance compositions.

“Dance @ Noon presents work by students in their third-year sharing their work for the first time,” says Maerten. “Dance @ Night is fourth-year students presenting their final choreography and performances before they graduate.”

The music department will be represented through performances by the brass and percussion ensemble on April 4 and the world music ensemble on March 29, lead by the music department’s Rod T. Squance. Th Use ensembles will include students from the U of C’s music department as well as students from different faculties.

“Our music ensemble performances are open to all U of C students,” Maerten says. “Most of the students in the ensemble are from the music department and there are students from other degrees as well.”

The U of C drama department will also be represented through plays, including Mauser by Heiner Muller, which runs from March 28–30. Mauser tells the story of Russian punk group Pussy Riot and explores the role of individuals in a revolution. The Care and Feeding of Baby Birds will run from April 1–3 and focus on a male perspective towards mental health. Fritters in Kandahar tells the story of a person taking a job with a Canadian coffee chain in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Maerten also noted differences between the programming from this year and years past with this year having more free and daytime events.

“There are more noon-hour performances this year and more opportunities to catch something for free,” says Maerten. “Last year we barely had anything during lunch hour and this year there is quite a bit. There is opportunity to check something during most days in the lunch hour.”

Maerten says there is more diversity in the types of work presented, with the interdisciplinary work embodying much of this diversity and with all of the departments in the SCPA being heavily represented.

The ALCHEMY Festival runs from March 28–April 10 at venues across the university. Further information about festival performances can be found on the U of C SCPA website. Tickets are $13 for adults and $10 for students and seniors for paid events. Festival passes are $60 for adults and $45 for students and seniors. U of C students can gain free entry to any event in the festival with their student ID.

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