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On being Brent Butt

One of Canada’s most prolific comics, Brent Butt, was here recently performing a stand-up show, and he spent some time talking to Banff Centre staff, artists, and work studies about building a career in comedy and onscreen. Here are some highlights:

Brent Butt headshot colour - head & shouldersOn his influences  “When I was 12 or 13 I saw the comedian Kelly Monteith on TV. I look back at that moment as kind of pivotal because it was the first time I’d ever seen a guy do stand-up comedy. I thought, hey, this is what I do with my buddies…..and from that moment of seeing Kelly Monteith on TV,  becoming a comedian became an active pursuit.

“So I said to my mom, ‘I’m going to be a stand-up comedian’. The fact that she didn’t tell me to shut up or say, ‘that’s a crazy pipe dream’, that was the moment when I allowed myself to pursue my dream.”

On performing  “Being myself on stage is always the most rewarding. It’s easy, it’s just like I’m the same guy sitting around the coffee table with my 12-year-old buddies making jokes…..I don’t get nervous. There are some important jobs in the world and being a comic is not one of them. It’s not life and death. And anyway, if you bomb bad enough you start to enjoy how poorly it’s going.”

On ‘clean’ comedy  “When I found out I was born the day Lenny Bruce died I thought, well that makes sense. I’m Lenny Bruce reincarnated only this time I’m going to work clean. The way my brain works – it’s playing with the language, finding fun in the small, mundane things in life. I like finding comedy where it doesn’t look like there’ll be any. Comedy works best when it’s authentic, whether it’s filthy or clean is unimportant to me. If it’s authentic and original is what matters. But there’s a part of me that would like to cut loose a bit more and not feel as censored as I am.”

On being an ‘emotional stripper’  “When you boil everything else away I’m a stand-up comic. Being a comic is like being an emotional stripper. Comics are emotionally naked and you have to be comfortable with people commenting on you all the time.”

On advice to upcoming comedians  “Don’t do it. Well, no that’s not true. I’d say to a 12-year-old: go for it. If that same person was 18 I’d say don’t get into it. A 12-year-old can be influenced beyond who he or she is, but by the time you’re 18 you have a sense of who you are…..I’d say to an 18-year-old: you’re stupid to even consider it, don’t even bother, but there’s going to be one out of a 100 who says, ‘screw you fatty I’m going to get into it no matter what you say’. Beautiful! You belong here. If you can be dissuaded from doing it because  someone told you not to do it, you don’t belong in show business.”

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Measha Brueggergosman: Bend, break, breathe

Measha Brueggergosman

Measha Brueggergosman at the 2013 Banff Midsummer Ball, with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. Photo: Rita Taylor.

You would never forget meeting soprano Measha Brueggergosman. I first met her when I walked by her outdoor table at Maclab Bistro on The Banff Centre campus, when she was here earlier in the summer to perform and record. “Hey,” she said. “Come sit down.” I obeyed.

“Are you the one who’s going to interview me?”

She then took my number, made a call to arrange the time and  introduced me to her friend, while simultaneously sending more texts, presumably to contacts far and wide. Once the plan was made, I was kindly dismissed.

This friendly/bossy mix made me even more curious about a woman who’s an international opera star, emerging gospel favourite, new parent, yoga instructor, and all around, in-your-face, super extrovert. Her energy is contagious, her life has been a mix of extreme highs and crushing lows, and she seems to know everyone and to remember everybody’s name.

When my appointment time came, Measha and I sat down to talk about tattoos, breath, yoga, and what it means to be the keeper of the classical music grail.

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Produced by Jennifer Kingsley.

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Shhhhh, we’re listening to rock music

A crowd listens to The Eerie Green. Photo: Don Lee.

The Banff Centre staff, work studies, and visiting artists listen to The Eerie Green. Photo: Don Lee.

Over my year working here, I’ve seen some interesting things. But the large scale experiment that was attempted last week was a first.

The Banff Centre invited Canmore-band, The Eerie Green to participate in a silent concert in the Shaw Amphitheatre. You may remember The Eerie Green, they opened for Classified two months ago.

Musically, the show was great. But as you’ll hear, experimenting comes with its own challenges.

Check out the Soundcloud page for more podcasts.

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Donald Sales’ onstage improvisation

DonaldSales

Still from Donald Sales’ ballet The ugly duckling, with costumes by Jorge Sandoval. Photo: Don Lee.

Award-winning choreographer Donald Sales isn’t new to The Banff Centre. He was here last year to work with Aszure Barton on a piece she created for our Dance Masters performance series. But this year, Sales — who received the 2013 Clifford E. Lee Choreography Award — had a completely new experience here. He’s experimenting with giving dancers more creative freedom on the stage — a style of artistic direction that’s also the basis for his new dance company, Project 20.

“Last year I knew when I came back I wanted to do a story,” Sales says. “I’ve been able to elaborate on ideas and dreams I’ve had.” His new work, The ugly duckling, was choreographed for dancers in The Banff Centre’s Professional Dance program, and premiered at Dance Masters last week. “It’s very cinematic, very character-driven, and very personal to the dancers,” he says.

The piece also gives the audience freedom to interpret the story for themselves. “I purposely designed it so we don’t know exactly who the main character is.” As I watched The ugly duckling on opening night last week, I saw a dancer — who opens the piece on a dark and eerie set — haunted by someone she can’t shake, and it’s unclear whether she wants to. “I can’t even say there’s an ending,” Sales says. “The piece should be continued.”

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“Architect” built with patterns by Morlove

Morlove

Morlove is Miss Emily Brown and Corwin Fox. Photo: Friday Design

Corwin Fox and Miss Emily Brown, of the band Morlove, came to The Banff Centre on an independent music residency in 2011. The resulting album, Old Tomorrow, was released in the spring of 2013.

I knew The Banff Centre would be a good place to write, but I had no idea I would spend so much time in the library. Comfy chairs, tall windows exposing glorious mountains…I probably spent as much time there as I did in my music hut. And it’s a good thing too, because the library proved integral in the first successful piece of music composed for the new Morlove album, “Old Tomorrow“.

We wanted to compose an album exploring patterns, and we had pages of ideas about how to go about this. Although we didn’t end up meeting with the mathematicians to try making music based on irrational numbers, we did spend time with some weavers in Visual Arts. Those encounters led to a chain of events which culminated in the library, where we pulled down some books from the 900′s section that contained various weaving patterns. The patterns we found looked like music on a staff! There were five lines and four spaces. Each space represented a colour, and a black rectangle inside each space showed the number of stitches required of that colour. (The number of stitches was also noted numerically above the black rectangles.)

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Legendary Leaders bringing icons to Banff

Banff Centre President Jeff Melanson, Oliver Stone, and Heather Edwards.

Banff Centre President Jeff Melanson, Oliver Stone, and Heather Edwards.

March 16, 2013. A sold-out house is gathered in the Eric Harvie Theatre for an evening with filmmaker Oliver Stone. It’s not every day that a three-time Academy Award winner comes to Banff, and the audience hangs on every word of the interview between Stone and Ian Brown, the Banff Centre Globe Canada Correspondent. The theme is Satire and Controversy, two subjects to which Stone is no stranger, and he delivers frank replies about his work and the filmmaking process.

Following the interview, there’s an intense question-and-answer period — many in the audience are clearly major film enthusiasts. Later, there’s a screening of W., Stone’s 2008 biopic of George W. Bush, while the acclaimed director heads to the home of Banff Centre president Jeff Melanson for a VIP meet-andgreet, which raises funds for a Banff Centre Film and Media artist award in Stone’s honour.

The filmmaker had already toured the Centre’s Film and Media department, chatting with staff in the audio and animation studios, and taking particular interest in a 3-D television project that several work study participants are putting together. “He came in and started directing right away, telling us how he thought we should move the cameras,” says Gina Lende, a Banff Centre videographer/studio tech work study. “He was very candid. As a videographer and aspiring producer, I found it really inspiring to interact with him on a personal level.” Continue Reading →

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