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

Because we love you

    Posted on: Friday, February 14th, 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here are a few presents for you: two sneak peaks of upcoming events and one killer dance party playlist. Shake it, mes amis.

1. Oh yes.

2. Oh yes, yes.

3. Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yesyesyesyesyes*.

*This is a KILLER one-person dance party mix from Bitch magazine featuring Tina Turner, Janelle Monae, the Talking Heads and Robyn.

Politics suit women, too

    Posted on: Tuesday, February 11th, 2014


Our first female premiere has just stepped down and St. John’s has its first all-male council since 1969. Why should we care about the lack of women in government and what should we do about it? I asked Sheilagh O’Leary, former St. John’s City Councillor at Large, what she thought and talked to her about an upcoming Equal Voice St. John’s forum on women in politics.

I just saw on Twitter that you’re organizing a forum for women in politics. Can you tell me about that?
It’s the local chapter of Equal Voice. Equal Voice is a national non-partisan organization that aims to encourage women to get involved in the political sphere. They’ve been on the go for quite some time and we’ve had a local chapter that’s oscillated back and forth for quite some time and it’s mostly been inactive, but there seems to be a new wave of interest in getting it going again. The beauty of Equal Voice is that it is non-partisan, so you get people from all different parties. And it’s all different levels of government: provincial, federal, municipal, it doesn’t matter.

I would never vote for somebody just because they were a woman or man, but you need to have more people encouraged to actually put themselves forward for that call.

Why should we even care if there aren’t many women in our governments?
Women do have a different perspective. When a woman steps up to the plate, [she] brings different life experiences. Not just about being a mother, but certainly women who are mothers and juggle childcare and balancing work and family life, it’s a big issue. So we know that those kinds of issues are going to be dealt with in a different way when you’ve got women in those roles. Maybe daycare’s not as huge a priority for the male sector as it is for the female sector, I’m not saying yes or no, but I’m saying there are many issues that affect women that don’t get represented if they’re not at the table.

(Interesting tidbit from Equal Voice’s Fundamental Facts: “The United Nations says that a critical mass of at least 30% women is needed before legislatures produce public policy representing women’s concerns and before political institutions begin to change the way they do business.” – Ed.)

For me, personally, we’ve had a lot of interesting comments lately because we had our first female premiere and a number of female premieres across the country which has given a bit of false security about the numbers of women that are actually in politics… Oh, can you hold one second?

[No kidding: she pauses to take a call from her son’s school, as he is home sick and she’s in charge of the child care.]

sausageroundtableBut the stats actually show that we’re still so far behind. Having a couple of women that have risen to premiere is phenomenal, but it’s not really representational of the full scheme. And as we can see on the local level in the city, we have no female presence on our city council. If you look at the provincial government (pictured left, as tweeted by then-priemere Kathy Dunderdale), it’s the same thing. The numbers [of women in government] are extremely low. Look right across the country, you’ll find the same thing.

My personal feeling is that we are in a regressive time right now and it is our responsibility to encourage young, vital women — and they are out there — to get involved in politics.

And that’s what Equal Voice is about, it’s about encouraging young and older women who have something to offer, and to be a supportive organization to let them know that there are learning tools out there, and that everyone has to start from scratch. Often times women are the ones in the communities who are behind the scenes working on boards and committees and they need extra encouragement to actually be the front runners.

Why do you think this is a regressive time?
That’s my personal feeling, I don’t say that as a representation of Equal Voice. Look at the federal scene, under a Harper government. We’re certainly not seeing much in terms of extra supports to women, we’re not seeing a lot of women represented in the federal government. Again, same thing at the provincial level it’s and certainly now on our doorstep in St. John’s. It seems like it’s gone backwards. And that concerns me greatly. I’d like to see more multi-cultural representation, as well.

What will happen at this forum?
It’s in the formative stages right now, but there seems to be a lot of new energy: I’ve had a lot of younger women come up to me and tell me that they’re doing political science, that they’re really involved and really interested, but that they don’t know where to start. I guess the first thing is demystifying the process, so that people aren’t fearful, and letting them know that everybody has to start from zero but that there are supports out there.

Ultimately, one of the things that happens with Equal Voice is mentorship. For me, personally, the former deputy mayor Shannie Duff was an important mentor for me and I was fortunate enough to have some encouragement from her to push myself forward. And I know that I’m not the only one that she encouraged. But to have strong female role models like that, I think, is crucial. So I think that will be the focus. And to have representatives from all political parties come in and talk about their experiences, and share their experience, I think there’s nothing greater than that: mentorship is it.

The Equal Voice St. John’s forum will take place on April 26th in the E.B. Foran Room at City Hall. Times and more details TBA. Main photo by Adrian Wyld / CP files, taken from this National Post article.

Get your film on

    Posted on: Tuesday, February 4th, 2014


St. John’s seems to be exploding with excellent film-related opportunities right now. Here’s Jenn Brown, the mastermind behind the kickass SJIWFF24 Industry Film Forum, and she’s back in the office plotting our Scene & Heard workshops. Stay tuned for big news about those. In the meantime, here’s a quick round-up of what’s on the go right now.


“So Right, So Smart” is an award-winning doc profiling eco-smart companies like Patagonia and Seventh Generation. The film looks at how environmentally sustainable business practices can yield social and financial rewards. David Suzuki makes an appearance. The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival is co-presenting this film on February 5th (tomorrow) at the Hall with the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industries Association, and Cox & Palmer is sponsoring the event. All proceeds will be donated to the St. John’s Farmers’ Market. Show starts at 8pm and tickets are $10 for regular admission and $8 for students and seniors.

On Valentine’s Day, swoon with “Gabrielle,” a film about a young singer who has fallen in love with her choir director. Gabrielle has Williams Syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by intellectual disability, and director Louise Archambault masterfully uses a non-professional cast, many of them with Williams Syndrome, to explore Gabrielle’s relationship with her teacher, as well as her own sense of independence, self and sexuality. The film was Canada’s nod for the Best Foreign Feature Oscar, for which it was shortlisted. The screening starts at 8pm, and tickets are $12 for regular admission or $10 for students and seniors.

This Thursday, February 6th, MUN Cinema is showing Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year. The Cannes Jury gave the award to the director and the two lead actresses, making them the second and third women to ever receive a Palme D’Or (Jane Campion was the first). We’re also looking forward to Wadjda (March 6th), the first film ever made by a Saudi woman. Go, MUN Cinema!


If you’re a member of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, you can vote for the Canadian Screen Awards. To name a few favourites, The Grand Seduction is up for Best Film, and Sherry White is up for Best Writing for her work on Saving Hope. The Telegram lists all of the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians up for CSAs here.

The NLAC has also just announced that they’re extending their nomination deadline for the NLAC Arts Awards. You’ve got until Valentine’s Day to show your favourite NL artist some love.


Colette Johnson-Vosberg, veteran of Global TV, Telefilm Canada, the Canada Media Fund, ZoomerMedia Television, and Vision TV, is heading to NIFCO for a two-day workshop in Business Affairs on March 8th and 9th. She’ll be talking about pitching to broadcasters and distributors; creating budgets and finance plans; rights management; and the fine details of government funds and private funds from sources like Telefilm, Bell Fund, Rogers Fund Group and Shaw. This killer workshop will be co-presented by the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation and St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival for Scene & Heard, our annual celebration of International Women’s Day. For more information or to register, give Laura Churchill (laura@nlfdc.ca) a shout.

Ladies Learning Code have set up a St. John’s chapter. They’re a women-led non-profit based out of Toronto that offers free or cheap workshops to women, men and children who want to learn stuff like HTML and C++. You can keep up with their workshop news by following them on Facebook.

Other cool stuff

It’s February and the RPM Challenge is on. Normally people record an album of music for the RPM, but you could record an audio doc, too. If it’s 35 minutes long, or if you record 10 short docs, it totally counts. If you’ve got a doc idea that you want to test out, make an RPM radio doc!

And, psst, here’s a little Scene & Heard hint:

Budget boil-down: here’s where the City’s spending its arts dollars in 2014

    Posted on: Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Way back in early December, the City of St. John’s released their 2014 budget and the arts community got some potentially good news: the City seemed to be increasing its arts funding to $8 per capita.

That’d be awesome.

There was a fair bit of confusion in the arts community about the announcement. So Patrick Foran, Artistic Fraud’s General Manager, investigated. He’s the person who put together this petition asking the City to increase its grants to artists and arts organizations from $2 per capita to $4 by 2017.

First, here’s the full quote from the City’s Budget 2014 Steady The Course:

“Council will also honour its prior commitment to increase direct funding to individual artists and arts organizations by a further $25,000 to a total of $203,000. This, combined with investments in the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, Anna Templeton Centre, LSPU Hall, financial assistance to cultural festivals and events and the acquisition of art for the civic art collection, among other programming, increases our total annual support to approximately $800,000 or $8 per capita.”

That first part — the direct funding to individual artists and arts organizations — is their annual grants to artists and arts organizations program. When Sheilagh O’Leary was a councillor at large, she got the City to increase those grants from $1 per capita to $2 over a two-year period. Engine Productions logged that announcement on their website here.

Thanks for that, Sheilagh O’Leary! Again, Patrick’s petition asked for that $2 per capita to go up to $4 in the next four years. There are good arguments for why that should happen (it’d put us on par with other Canadian cities our size, for example) on the petition site.

That leaves $597,000. This is the breakdown the City sent, quoted directly from their email:

$203,000 Grants to Artists and Art Organizations
$20,000 Annual Art Procurement
$50,000 City programmed arts initiatives (i.e. concerts, public art, etc)
$53,500 Community grants (of which historically ~$50, 000 were arts and cultural focused)
$50,000 Support events for 100th anniversary of WWI
$233,000 Support to arts and cultural facilities and institutions (i.e. Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, LSPU Hall, etc.)
$150,000 Events and festivals

That makes $759,500 in total budgeted in 2014 for the arts and cultural sector.

The 2011 census puts the population of St. John’s at 106,172. So, with a $759,500 total, that works out to be $7.15 per capita.

You can compare that number with Canada’s 5 largest cities via this report. Toronto, for example, invests $19 per capita, and they’re way behind Montreal’s $55 per capita.

What do you think? Should the City spend more on the arts? Less? Let your councillor know. You can find his email address right here.