Aw, Shucks

    Posted on: Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Signal Blog won runner up in The Overcast’s Best Local Blog category!  Thank you to everyone who voted, and congratulations on exercising your democratic right to express your good taste.  And, of course,  double congrats to The Overcast for making it all happen and for bringing home the gold.  Keep up the good work, everyone, and swing by this end of the internet again soon!

(In the meantime, I’ll be celebrating our popularity with a little dance party.)


Shakespeare by the Sea’s Taming of the Shrew: An Uncomfortably Modern Rom Com

    Posted on: Friday, July 25th, 2014
Taming of the Shrew--inspiration for Fifty Shades of Grey?

Taming of the Shrew–
inspiration for Fifty Shades of Grey?


It’s hard to tell if Shakespeare by the Sea’s latest production in Bannerman Park is a comedy or a tragedy.  The Taming of the Shrew has bright dialogue delivered by a cast that generally looks like they’re having a good time.  It’s easy to laugh along, until you realize at whose expense you’re laughing.

The Taming of the Shrew has an infamously misogynistic script: an outspoken, independent, and admittedly kind of violent woman named Kate gets pwned by her new husband, who explicitly marries her for her (daddy’s) money.  Naturally, things get out of hand.

The show is a play within a play performed as a prank on some drunk with an unpaid bar tab.  But why perform it for us, the actual audience?  We have picnics and seemingly progressive opinions about gender equality.  Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, why present one that leans dangerously close to Men’s Rights Activist propaganda?  Why a play that even the director, Jenn Deon, says has “no redeeming backstory?”

Deon says she wanted to stay true to Shakespeare’s story, but she makes a point of defying the script in several little ways.  Save for the drunk’s small role, the show features a strong all-women cast, who were “a real joy” to work with, according to Deon.

This production also really emphasizes that it’s a play within a play, which gives some extra space for irony.  Eyebrow wiggles abound while the actors switch costumes, which get more modern as the play progresses.  The show is framed as “a kind of history”, but it seems more and more like a reflection of today.

Sabrina Roberts, who plays the infamous shrew, Kate, says you can translate her character’s experience to going to a bar on George Street and running in some guy who gets aggressive dancing.  Such a dude might not call an uncooperative woman a “shrew”, but I can think of a few other choice words that might come up.

The Taming of the Shrew is sharp in more ways than one.  It’s played witty, but then it hits home–so much so that by the end of the show, it’s hard to tell if they’re still joking.  Is Kate being sarcastic, or has she cracked?  The players leave it for the audience to decide.

The Taming of the Shrew runs on Sunday and Monday nights in Bannerman Park until August 11.  For ticket information, visit

RIAC’s Summer Cultural Festival found its home–and wants you to find one, too.

    Posted on: Thursday, July 17th, 2014

The Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council (RIAC) announced the lineup for their fourth annual Summer Cultural Festival yesterday afternoon.  Ouroboros, Waterfront Fire, Emily Locke, and Brianna Gosse will be headlining the festival’s afternoon concerts on August 23 and 24 in Victoria Park.  This is the second year the festival is taking place at Victoria Park and Festival Director Esteban Rivera says he is happy the festival has found a home.  After all, home is what the festival is all about.

RIAC helps newcomers make their homes in St. John’s and the Summer Cultural Festival is a big part of that. While the legal aspects of settlement are necessary (and can be nightmarish) a sense of community is just as important and it is a ton of fun.  You just got to do a little dance, eat a little lunch, and get to know each other. The Summer Cultural Festival brings newcomers and Newfoundlanders together to celebrate their diversity and their shared love for food and music.

To give us a taste of the music at this year’s fest, Brianna Gosse played a few tunes at the announcement.  She’s got a great big voice, and an album, Aera, coming out tonight!  The CD release is at the Fat Cat starting at 10 pm.

Brianna says she’s excited to be involved with the festival for a second year and to be contributing with her music. Music, she says, is a great way to communicate different cultures. “There’s a lot of culture and heritage that can come through in a song.”

The Summer Cultural Festival is a great big housewarming for everyone from here and away–not to be missed!

Photo by Brian Carey

Photo by Brian Carey

For ticket information, visit

We Shoot, We Score!

    Posted on: Saturday, March 8th, 2014

This afternoon, you can see and hear how four of St. John’s best musicians would score one of Canada’s best documentaries.

Oh, and Rae Spoon will be there, too.

My Prairie Home, directed by Chelsea McMullan, follows singer-songwriter Rae Spoon as they travel back to the Canadian prairies where they grew up. The musical-documentary tells the story of Rae’s struggles coming of age in a strictly kept house flanked by grain silos and churches.

The film premiered at Sundance this year. It screens tonight at the Hall, as part of our Scene & Heard festivities, and will be followed by a Q&A with Rae Spoon hosted by Ailsa Craig.

We gave three short clips of My Prairie Home to Mark Bragg, Joanna Barker, Alison Corbett and Matthew J Thomson (seriously, have you heard his album?). They wrote music for each of the three scenes.

This afternoon, we’ll play the scored scenes and they’ll discuss the process with Rae Spoon. If you’re a filmmaker, a musician, or just a lover of film and music, you’re going to want to head to the Hall for 1pm to check it out. You can buy tickets here.

Here are the musicians on their film scoring experiences.

mark braggMARK BRAGG

You’re composing three scenes ranging from 0.48s to 2.5 minutes — which one is the most challenging?
Every scene has it’s own challenges. In this case for the first two
tracks I opted to go with “Songs” as opposed to just music, so the
challenge for these is in the lyrics, writing lyrics that capture the
mood of the scene but aren’t so narrative as to mess with the flow of
the story.

So, in order to keep the lyrics “out of the picture”, I’m focusing on locations (Calgary, Alberta, etc) and imagery supporting that, as opposed to the real subject of the film (Rae). It would be completely presumptuous to
write about anything else I think! My goal here is to complement and
not distract.

Here’s a little peice of Mark Bragg’s score.

joanna barkerJOANNA BARKER

What’s the biggest challenge so far?
Apart from working with limited video segments and time constraints which is all very new for me, I’d say the biggest challenge has been creating for something I felt very outside of. This documentary is a very personal story. I don’t know Rae Spoon. I haven’t even seen the full doc. I kind of felt like, ‘Who am I to participate in this story?’. I was really aware of being sensitive to the fact that this isn’t my story to tell. I just needed to write music. So getting into a head space where I could create appropriate work to accompany their work – it was challenging.


What gear/method/process are you going with?
Gear: Pro Tools, mics and preamps to track the songs.
Instruments used are acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, bass, organ, Rhodes, drums and glockenspiel.

My method is to first watch each scene to get a feel/mood for it. Next is to figure out the pace or bpm of the scene. I also pay attention to what may he the most “important” clips of the scene to figure out how the song should move and be accented throughout the shoots.


How’s it going with your film score composing?
The process has been stressful, fun, and inspired! A quick deadline gets my creative ideas flowing, including doing some musical numerology with the name Rae Spoon and working it into a composition.

What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
Biggest challenge so far was matching my composition for the dance scene to their movements. I wanted to be pretty precise about how the music matches the movement but also wanted the composition to have its own inherently cohesive structure.

The most challenging scene so far has been the shortest scene. The compositions for the opening scene and the dance scene realized themselves very quickly, but I have yet to settle on something for the short scene. Film music should obviously accompany the visuals, but I am interested in having a composition that matches the tone of the images while having its own structure, as well. I think this is hard to achieve (but totally possible!) in 0.48s!

Poverty Cove challenges theatre and theatre accepts the challenge

    Posted on: Friday, February 21st, 2014

Poverty Cove Theatre Company is a deceptively small company with an exceptionally large mandate: to challenge the perception of what theatre is. And next week you’ll have a chance to get in on the action.

Founded by writer/producer Megan Coles and director/producer Shannon Lynn Hawes, Poverty Cove now has two massively successful productions under its belt and has grown to include a board with six members, whom are themselves a mix of artists and non-artist professionals living in and around St. John’s.

Poverty Cove’s first production, The Battery, was performed in the vacant second floor of a popular downtown pub. Through ingenuity and might the space was transformed into a 55-seat theatre and staged a set that doubled as a bar and the craggy cliffs of the harbour narrows. One minute the cast were dancing on the bar, drinks splashing about in their hands while belting out all the words to AC/DC’s Thunder Struck, the next they were hopping from rock to precarious rock, the sea churning and surging a hundred feet below, to perch and purge their innermost secrets.

Their second production, Our Eliza, toured the province last year on just about every stage and non-stage you can imagine, from the Barbara Barrett theatre in St. John’s, across the island in Arts & Culture Centres, and up the Northern Peninsula in gymnasiums and community centres.

Both productions, written by Coles and produced by Hawes, played to sold out crowds and found audiences both in and outside of the traditional theatre sphere.

By all accounts, Poverty Cove is not only hitting their mandate’s mark but operating as a shining example of a successful theatre company. And like most theatre companies, the funds to mount their next production, Rabbit Rabbit, an awarding-winning Canadian play to be directed by Hawes and produced by Coles, remain elusive.

To solve this problem, Poverty Cove recently issued a challenge to their surrounding arts community: give us something you’re currently working on and we’ll give you a venue to showcase it. The community responded and next week’s event, Friends of Poverty Cove, was born.

pctc fundraiser


Friends of Poverty Cove will feature performances, readings, screenings, music and standup comedy from the likes of Greg Malone, Robert Chafe, Ed Riche, Amy House, Matt Wright and many more. There will also be a silent auction featuring packages and services from Quidi Vidi Brewery, David’s Tea, and Chef Mark McCrow to name just a few.

And in keeping with Poverty Cove’s love of non-traditional spaces (among other things), Friends of Poverty Cove will be hosted at the Quidi Vidi Brewery – where the bar will indeed be open.

Friends of Poverty Cove kicks off at 8pm on Wednesday, February 26th. Tickets are $20 at the door, which opens at 7pm.

Something for everyone