There are a few key things to note about this horribly bad photo I took of U of A student and cellist Adam Caulfield:

  1. He is the winner of the U of A’s 2016-17 annual concerto competition.
  2. He has been playing the cello ever since he was a small child.
  3. Although he plays with the U of A Symphony Orchestra, he is actually not a Music major, but is an honours student in Immunology.

One of the fun parts of my job is getting to meet people who are much smarter and far more talented than me. And by “fun” I mean “a great way to test my self esteem.”

Thankfully, when I finally got a chance to meet Adam and talk to him about his music, he was an incredibly humble and approachable guy. We found ourselves a table in a near-deserted Fine Arts Building (final exams were almost over, so not many students were left), and I got a chance to learn more about this fascinating guy.

First, how did he get to be so good with the cello? When he says things like “I started such a long time ago, that I actually don’t remember a time when I didn’t play,” I suspect that might have something to do with it.

Adam has been playing cello since he was four. (Photo courtesy of Adam Caulfield)

Since FOUR. (Photo by Deep Blue Photography)


He was so young when he started playing, that he doesn’t even remember having a say about it, or even why exactly his parents chose the cello. “We used to live in Parkallen, and a cello teacher lived just down the street, so I think there’s a good chance that’s why my parents picked it,” he laughs.

Flash forward many years later to 2014 when Adam decides to audition for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. He does this by preparing an audition tape where he performs Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129.

At that moment, he doesn’t know that a couple years later, he would dust off that same concerto piece to win the U of A concerto competition, making him the featured soloist with the University Symphony Orchestra at the Free But Happy concert.

Adam Caulfield performs at the Free But Happy concert

Adam at the Free But Happy concert. (horrible photo courtesy of Erik Einsiedel)


But despite his talent with the cello, Adam chose to pursue a science degree instead of music, and is currently a 3rd year student studying Immunology at the U of A.

“I’m very interested in human biology, and I’ve had plans to go into medicine for a while. But what I discovered during my degree is a strong interest in infectious disease research,” he says. “I actually wasn’t even aware of it when I first chose my degree, but I’m glad it’s worked out this way.”

When he’s not earning standing ovations at the Winspear Centre or studying the world’s deadliest viruses, Adam loves watching movies and TV. At the time I spoke with him, he was working his way through the TV series Bones — “It’s kind of trashy, but I’m enjoying it,” he laughs. Adam is also an avid snowboarder who was disappointed he wasn’t able to hit the slopes this last season, but it was to ensure he didn’t “break anything” before his concerto performance.


As for the future, Adam plans to enter the U of A concerto competition again this October, but this time he’s teaming up with a violinist friend of his to tackle a double concerto by Brahms. But first things first: this summer, Adam writes his Medical College Admission Test, and we wish him all the best of luck with that.

Keep your eyes out for Adam Caulfield’s name on any upcoming music concerts. It’ll be a performance you won’t want to miss.

Hello and welcome to Talking Theatre. I am joined today by the Director of The Lady from the Sea by Henrik Ibsen adapted by the director himself, Michael Bradley, and the last show of the Timms Studio Theatre Season for 2016/17.

I’ve had you as a guest before and if anyone is interested in hearing more about your background they can listen to Episode 2 of the podcast. That being said, what was it like getting to this point in the program?

I’ve found since I’ve been here that I’ve been very fascinated by directors who take old things and make them new. Right now, the directors I am really drawn to include Thomas Ostermeier, Ivo van Hove, Declan Donnellan with Cheek by Jowl, and Peter Hinton’s work here in Canada. There’s a bunch of them and I’m attracted to them for various difference reasons. Take Romeo Castellucci for example, although I don’t think I’m trying to emulate his work, but I am fascinated by how he takes the bones of something old and says something new with it.

All that studying has led me to this project of adapting Ibsen’s work. It went in stages, I started looking at the modern classic canon and knew I was interested in that milieu. I looked at Ibsen’s plays that weren’t overly produced and tried to find what spoke to me. The mythos underneath this play really pulled me in, the Norwegian and Scandinavian sense of mythology and how they overlap with archetypes and Jungian embodied aspects of the psyche were very fascinating.

How did your research of the mythology of Norway fuel into this play?

Well the fascinating thing that I found was that it’s very much an embodied and physical spirituality. All of the mythical beings and creatures are things in the world. They can touch you and come and take you away. The spirituality of it is not ethereal, it is in nature and creature. So that’s what I find so interesting about it because I think it’s so impactful on Ibsen’s sense of the world.

This piece moves well into the mythical world because it’s one of his few pieces that isn’t set inside a house. It’s on the landscape of the Norwegian fjords, it takes place on a mountainside by fjords that are connected to the ocean but the ocean is not quite there. While it is a play about the sea, ultimately it is a play about the absence of the sea and the longing for that chaos.

Director Michael Bradley overseeing early rehearsals of The Lady from the Sea

Director Michael Bradley watches early rehearsals of The Lady from The Sea. Featuring Billy Brown as Lyndstrand (left), Nicole St. Martin as Ellida (center), and Kris Loranger as Arnholm (right).

How was the adaptation process of bringing this very specific Norwegian world into the contemporary?

What I found is that even by looking at the play I was passing through a couple filters. Coming from a sensibility of the world that is particularly Norwegian, in the sense of the mythology, and also passing through this other filter of Victorian society and playwriting style and conventions. I made the decision very early on that what I was most drawn to was that subterranean and primordial sensibility and so I wanted to take away the other barriers, or filters, between me and that.

At first I was going to look at a good adaptation of it, but I’ve yet to encounter an English adaptation of it set in contemporary times. Now there are ones written in contemporary language but they are all set in the period of the play. Ultimately what spoke to me were the voices of people I know, people like me. At the end of the day the reason why I am drawn to something is because I see myself in it. So I said to myself, rather than trying to put a round peg into a square hole in terms of putting everyone in t-shirts and jeans while they speak Victorian dialogue, why not re-write it instead so that I have the freedom to experiment.

What’s the rehearsal process been like so far? At this point I understand you’ve just begun your Q2Q process.

I really lucked into a great group of actors. I had high hopes that these people would come in and collaborate with me on this play. That’s the type of artist I like to work with, someone who will come in with ideas, offers, and challenge my concepts of the play. Because ultimately 10 of us working together along with the design team is going to create the best work rather than my ideas on high with everybody else trying to climb to get to them. That’s just not the kind of director I am.

We spent a lot of early days of exploration and play on our feet with exercises to get everybody playing together. We asked ourselves: well, this is our show so what are we going to do with it? What I’ve found is that so much of what we discover comes organically from that and my task is to help shape it and see what is coming out to make it more pronounced and direct.

Set design by Ksenia Broda-Milian

Set design by Ksenia Broda-Milian. Featuring Nicole St. Martin as Ellida (left) and Michael Peng as Wangel (right).

You’ve been working in the Bleviss Laboratory Theatre for the last two years, so what was the transition like coming onto the Timm’s stage?

There’s just a lot more moving parts. Things take a little bit longer and there’s more people on task doing things, there’s more channels to go through to get things happening. Over at the Bleviss most of the people we were working with, including myself, were on their 1st, 2nd or 3rd attempts at that kind of massive collaboration within this institution. Now we’re in the Timm’s where very few people are doing what they’re doing for the very first time which is cool.

Some of them I am working with again. Tegan, our stage manager, I worked with last year. We have an understanding all ready and we’ve been building on that relationship.

Moving into tech has a lot more moving parts, there’s just so much more to see. It’s really exciting! I know that beginning directors don’t often get these opportunities, usually they have to work on smaller indie stages. So working on such a big proscenium stage with flies, moving lights, all the bells and whistles is exciting. It gives us lots of opportunities to tell the story.

Thank you for sitting down and talking with me today! To hear the rest of our interview and to learn more about Michael’s process and what drew him to this piece click the link to hear the whole thing or follow us on iTunes at Talking Theatre.

By Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Michael Bradley
May 18-27, 2017
Timms Centre for the Arts

Director – Michael Bradley
Production Designer – Ksenia Broda-Milian
Sound Designer – Matthew Skopyk

Tickets and Show Information

I’m backstage at the Timms Centre for the Arts, waiting in the Green Room to interview BFA Acting student Emma Houghton, who is in the middle of rehearsals for Henrik Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea. With just a week to opening, The Lady from the Sea is not only the last show of the 2016-17 Studio Theatre season, but is also the last production that Emma will perform in before graduating from the University of Alberta.

She’s running late from rehearsal but when Emma finally arrives, I’m greeted by this bright and charismatic girl dressed in black combat boots, black tights and a black top, her blonde pigtails a stark contrast to her outfit. She apologizes for running late as their director was still giving rehearsal feedback to the cast, but from her sheer energy and enthusiasm, I can already tell she’ll be fun to talk to.

A peek backstage at Emma (left) rehearsing with Lady from the Sea cast members Gabby Bernard (right) and Billy Brown (front).

A peek backstage at Emma (left) rehearsing with Lady from the Sea cast members Gabby Bernard (right) and Billy Brown (front).


With the whole Green Room to ourselves, we settle in to a couple of oversized purple chairs and start talking. Having only just met her and not knowing anything about her, I start by asking Emma about her theatre background.

Born and raised in Edmonton, Emma has been performing from a very early age. Edmontonians may have even seen her during the early 2000’s as a child performer at The Citadel Theatre in productions of A Christmas CarolThe Sound of Music and Who Has Seen the Wind.

A young Emma Houghton in The Sound of Music at The Citadel Theatre. (photo courtesy of Emma Houghton)


After graduating from the Victoria School of the Arts and doing local theatre in Edmonton, Emma began her university studies here at the U of A before transferring to McGill where she spent a year as a history major. “That was my period of ‘Do I want to be an actor? I don’t know…’,” she laughs.

The answer ended up being yes, because while still in Toronto, she auditioned for the BFA Acting program and was accepted. Now, at the end of her three-year program, Emma will be seen on stage as 16-year old Hilde in Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, adapted and directed by Michael Bradley.

“The show is about plumbing your past, and coming to terms with what you’ve done and promises you’ve made,” Emma explains. “For Hilde, she’s not ok with people who hide everything under the rug and pretend everything’s fine. Hilde is very obnoxious, because she tries to get people to tell the truth, and she tries to reveal everyone’s secrets.”

Lady from the Sea costume fittings with Production Designer Ksenia Broda-Milian.

Lady from the Sea costume fittings with Production Designer Ksenia Broda-Milian.


Emma has been a fan of Ibsen’s work even before landing this role. When asked what she thinks audiences will love about this show, she talks about the themes from this play originally written in 1888, but now set in present day.

“Some of the original ideas about being stuck in a certain place because of certain things are interesting to explore in the modern age. We have internet now, so are you really stuck? Can you really never get access to things? There’s a great quote by [Jean-Jacques] Rousseau: ‘Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.’ This show is about that — each of the characters is chained up by something, and it’s about discovering what it is, and what’s holding them there.”

As Emma ends her three years with the BFA program, I asked what it’s been like being with the same 12 people for every single class every single day, every rehearsal at night, and some of them even living together as roommates.  That’s a lot of time to spend with the same people for three straight years.

She reflects on how close they’ve become, and how they’re now able to call each other out on each other’s drama, literally. “It’s been great — we’re not the same people we were coming into this program. We’re like a family of ‘Hildes’ now. If something’s wrong, or if someone’s trying to avoid an issue, Hilde will say ‘No, this is the problem we’re all having, and we need to address this.’ And that’s what we do now.”

Emma with her BFA Acting classmates at The Olive Garden. "We went there every September for Jacob's birthday because it is his favourite restaurant."

Emma with her BFA Acting classmates at The Olive Garden. “We went there every September for Jacob’s birthday because it is his favourite restaurant.”


So how much is Emma like her character, Hilde? She says she may have been like Hilde when she was 16, but that was nine years ago. Emma does still find a lot in common with the character.

“Michael, our director, made her a painter, and I paint in my spare time, so I really connect with that whole aspect of putting feelings into paintings. That’s what Hilde does: she has all these feelings, and she tries to find ways to vent them out.”

One of Emma’s original paintings.


On leaving her program, Emma looks back on her time with the U of A and talked about some of the best things she’s taking from the Drama Department.

“It’s given me a safe space for the past three years to take a bunch of risks, which is invaluable. I did some stuff as the character Osip in Government Inspector that I was pretty nervous about — trying out different voices, and dancing was a new thing for me. It’s given me more confidence, and a whole toolkit of exercises to bring my characters to life.”

As for “life after BFA,” Emma talks about wanting to travel and see the world. Professionally, she’d love to do more musicals, and has aspirations of Stratford and doing big shows in Toronto. “I also want to spend some time here in Edmonton with the companies I grew up with — the people and the community I really respect.”

The Lady from the Sea will run May 18-27, 2017, at the Timms Centre for the Arts (purchase advance tickets here). Also look for Emma’s paintings at Edmonton Whyte Avenue Art Walk in July, and see her in The Last Wife at Alberta Theatre Projects in Calgary this September.

By Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Michael Bradley
May 18-27, 2017
Timms Centre for the Arts

Director – Michael Bradley
Production Designer – Ksenia Broda-Milian
Sound Designer – Matthew Skopyk



With over half of Canadians playing video games on mobile devices, computers or consoles, there’s no denying their popularity. In fact, Canada ranks third in the world for developing video games (just behind the U.S. and Japan) with 472 studios in an industry that’s contributed $3.0 billion to Canada’s GDP each year.

The Certificate in Computer Game Development at the University of Alberta is helping the next generation of game developers prepare for a career in this burgeoning field. A joint venture between the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Science, the program brings together students from a wide variety of disciplines to learn the art of creating video games, and who will eventually form teams to produce a short game as their final project.

The top projects from the 2016-17 term were nominated for the 9th Annual CMPUT 250 Game Awards, with winners announced at their event held on April 28, 2017. Special guests included reps from video game giant BioWare, a longtime supporter of the program with its head studio based here in Edmonton.

Game of the Year winner "Canned" by Cool Band Name Studios.

Game of the Year winner Canned by Cool Band Name Studios, with BioWare Software Developer, Sarah Beck (far right).


Associate professor Vadim Bulitko is the lead instructor in the CMPUT 250 course. “This is one of the few University of Alberta courses where undergraduate students from different disciplines come together to work on an intense team-based semester-long project,” he says. “In doing so, they get to apply their specialized skills while at the same time learning to speak the other disciplines’ language—just like in the real world, where many projects are team-based and team members have different backgrounds.”

After forming their teams, the groups got straight to work on coming up with ideas for a game. English major Shelby Carleton, lead writer for the game Panacea, spoke to Curious Arts about how they came up with the sophisticated and emotional concept for their game:

Once the concept was decided, teams had to carefully map out their entire game in a design document. Art & Design major Alex Patterson was the lead artist on the game The Tempus Hotel, and explains how they went from design doc to an actual, playable game:

More information about the Certificate in Computer Game Development and the CMPUT 250 course is available online. Also check out the full list of nominees and winners of this year’s CMPUT 250 Game Awards, including video trailers of each game.

When she was a kid, Ksenia Broda-Milian loved creating scenes with her dolls, posing them in dramatic ways to tell stories.

Who knew that those days of playing with Barbies and Polly Pockets would lay the groundwork for where she is today: designing costumes and life sized “playhouses” for the cast of The Lady from the Sea, the final production of the 2016-17 Studio Theatre season.

Now about to graduate from the MFA Theatre Design program at the University of Alberta, Broda-Milian is the Production Designer for The Lady from the Sea. As her thesis show, Broda-Milian designed the set, costumes and lights for this classic Norwegian tale by famed playwright Henrik Ibsen, adapted to modern times by director and MFA Directing student Michael Bradley.

In this episode of Origin Stories, Broda-Milian talks about her unusual journey from actress to scientist to theatre designer.

Stay tuned for more video interviews with Broda-Milian as she gives a behind-the-scenes look at the art and inspiration behind her designs for The Lady from the Sea.


The Lady from the Sea

By Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Michael Bradley
May 18-27, 2017
Timms Centre for the Arts

Director – Michael Bradley
Production Designer – Ksenia Broda-Milian
Sound Designer – Matthew Skopyk


Every Edmontonian knows that this is an exciting time for the Oilers, having finally made it back into their first playoff series after 11 long years.

One Edmontonian who’s become the centre of attention is Robert Clark, a graduate of the U of A Department of Music. He is the official Oilers singer of the national anthem who, on April 12 at game 1 against the San Jose Sharks, quickly went viral online after turning the anthem over to 18,000 fans in Rogers Stadium.

Next to breaking their 11-year drought, Robert’s stunt was the most powerful moment in recent Oilers history, because the last time the Oilers had been in the playoffs was also when the late Paul Lorieau — who had sang the anthem for the Oilers for 30 years — also turned the anthem over to the fans, so it was a fitting tribute.

Amidst hundreds of interview requests from all over North America including CBC and USA Today about his newfound viral fame, Robert kindly made time to chat with me about it.

“When [the Oilers and I] were discussing what I was going to do for the anthem, they brought me in and they said ‘we’re going to do something that’s never been done before: we’re going to put you in with the fans, you’re going to be wearing an Oilers jersey (normally I’d be wearing a suit and tie), you’re going to start the anthem, you’re going to hold up the mic and let the fans take over.'”

“I honestly had no idea how big it was going to be in the sports world.”

Born in southern Alberta, Robert credits his father for introducing him to classical music as he was growing up. Playing the clarinet and other instruments from grade 6 to 12, Robert didn’t actually start singing until high school.

“Grade 10 was when I joined choir, only because they had no men. I kind of got lured slash bribed into it, but I discovered really quickly that I enjoyed singing.”

Flash forward to the U of A, when Robert enrolled in Education to teach music at the high school level. In his first year, he started taking voice lessons, and that’s when he found a connection with singing, and discovered opera.

Robert performing opera at the U of A.

Robert performing opera at the U of A.


“My love for opera wasn’t… immediate,” he laughs. “It took a while.”

Under Leonard Ratzlaff, Robert sang with the Madrigal Singers, and credits Ratzlaff for teaching him so much about musicality.


Under Leonard Ratzlaff, Robert sang with the Madrigal Singers, and credits Ratzlaff for teaching him so much about musicality.

Robert has fond memories of performing with the U of A Madrigal Singers under Leonard Ratzlaff.


His love for choral music and opera grew to the point where Robert switched from Education to Music Performance after his first year, and eventually graduated with his Music degree.

After pursuing his Masters at the University of Western Ontario, Robert moved back to Alberta to do an apprenticeship with Calgary Opera, and has been performing professionally ever since.


Robert eventually returned to Edmonton with his family and performed in several shows with Edmonton Opera.

Robert has performed in many Canadian debuts of major productions like Moby Dick and Silent Night.


Robert eventually returned to Edmonton with his family and performed in several shows with Edmonton Opera.

Then, in 2013, he got the call.

The Oilers were looking for a successor to the great Paul Lorieau, and Edmonton Opera had suggested Robert. The audition process began with Robert sending the Oilers recordings of him singing both the Canadian and American national anthems.

“Then they called me in to test me inside Rexall Place, and basically the rest is history.”

Since singing with the Oilers isn’t a full time gig, Robert is able to continue performing with other groups like Edmonton Opera, Vocal Alchemy, and Chronos Vocal Ensemble, with whom he has his season finale performance on May 7.

When he’s not entertaining people with his powerful Tenor voice, Robert spends time with his four young children, two dogs, and his wife with whom he also runs a family business.


Robert looks back warmly on his time at the U of A.

“Everything that happened there was a new experience for me. I look back very fondly on my years at the U of A and everything I learned there,” he says. “Had I chosen something else, I would not be where I am today, so I owe a lot of that to the instruction and the passion I felt from the teachers there.”


Technical theatre professionals are absolute wizards when it comes to bringing believable worlds to life on stage.

They construct complex sets, operate computers to create dazzling lighting, sound and video effects, and even know how to make actors fly using specialized rigging.

The University of Alberta Department of Drama has some of the best technical theatre training in Canada, having been recognized by MacLean’s magazine as a “Standout” program in their November, 2016, issue.

Recently, students of the Drama 391 Production Lab class showcased their technical theatre training by turning the Second Playing Space theatre inside the Timms Centre for the Arts into an interactive installation. Their assignment was to take four concepts of their choosing — a piece of text, or an image, for example — and interpret them by creating four installations, using what they’d learned in set construction, lighting and sound.

Their installation project was only open to the public for a few short hours, but I was lucky enough to get a chance to see it.

After a short wait outside Second Playing Space, audience members were let inside (one small group at a time) and were treated to four very distinct theatrical experiences.

A lone figure at his computer, simply browsing his Facebook feed, clicks on a video of a war-torn country as the sounds of guns and chaos fill the room, and a curtain draws back....

A lone figure at his computer, simply browsing his Facebook feed, clicks on a video of a war-torn country as the sounds of guns and chaos fill the room, and a curtain draws back….


... to reveal that same war-torn scene in a hauntingly immersive experience of set, sound, lighting, and live performance.

… to reveal that same war-torn scene on screen come to life in a hauntingly immersive experience of set, sound, lighting, and live performance.


Walking to the next scene, a queue of timed spotlights and an eerie dismembered voice would guide the audience through a series of “human upgrades…”

One by one, sets of familiar beauty and fitness products would be revealed, each set becoming slightly more extreme...

One by one, sets of familiar beauty and fitness products would be revealed from the dark, each set becoming slightly more extreme…


… until finally revealing their culmination into the “perfect” human body.


The third setting felt like it was set in a dystopian future, with the audience finding themselves in a museum of “relics” that “ancient civilizations” used to worship.

Yes, that is a burnt out KFC bucket and a tattered McDonald’s burger container on that pedestal.


One of the many "exhibits": a kleenex box not with kleenex but with crumpled $20 bills, and placard that read "Kleenex: These colourful pieces of paper were used for hygienic purposes and disposed of frequently."

One of the many “exhibits”: a kleenex box not with kleenex but with crumpled $20 bills, and placard that read “Kleenex: These colourful pieces of paper were used for hygienic purposes and disposed of frequently.”



Finally, the most unsettling installation was saved for last: an old parlour room with handwritten letters and envelopes scattered throughout.

Audience members were understandably creeped out when they looked closer to find envelopes with their names written on them...

Audience members were understandably creeped out when they looked closer to find envelopes with their own names written on them…


Opening your envelope would reveal a cryptic and somewhat troubling message. This one says "I love you. I do not know why. Please tell me. I await your reply."

Opening your envelope would reveal a cryptic and somewhat troubling message. This one says “I love you. I do not know why. Please tell me. I await your reply.”


Another series of lighting cues prompted audience members to make an unusual exit through the parlour room fireplace, where everyone gathered around a single spotlight shining on one last lone envelope with one audience member’s name on it, inviting them to pick it up and read its mysterious contents.

I won't spoil the ending by revealing what was written on the very last note, but needless to say it did trigger an emotional response from whoever read it.

I won’t spoil the ending by revealing what was written on the very last note, but needless to say it did trigger an emotional response from whomever read it.


Truthfully, I never did find out what exactly were the four original concepts that inspired these creations, but it was almost better that way, so the audience was free to interpret them on their own.

I got a chance to talk to two of the Drama 391 students to find out more about this theatrical production where the real stars weren’t actors, but instead were the creatively constructed sets, lights and sounds.


For more information about the Drama 391 Production Lab class and the BFA Technical Theatre Production program, visit the Department of Drama website.

Students in the Visual Communication Design program at the University of Alberta often get the opportunity to tackle real world challenges in class.

Recently, one such opportunity came from the Canadian VIGOUR Centre (CVC), a U of A Academic Research Organization focused on cardiovascular health. When the CVC found itself in need of an update to its visual identity, Associate Professor Susan Colberg saw it as a perfect fit for her design students.

“Working with units, groups, or organizations on Campus provides rich and challenging ‘real world’ learning opportunities for the students that involve designing for complex communication needs,” said Colberg. “The working relationships that are established during design and consultation processes often grow into longer term working relationships or collaborations after students graduate from the BDes program in Visual Communication Design.”

Once the class had submitted their design proposals, the CVC eventually settled on one from student Trevor Lau. The CVC soon adopted his logo for their organization, which is now fully incorporated into their brand identity.


Curious Arts spoke to Trevor about his experience working on the CVC logo:

CURIOUS ARTS: Can you tell us about the process of creating the CVC logo and how your design came to be chosen?

TREVOR LAU: When creating the logo itself, I went about researching into what the CVC wanted. I did this by analyzing other cardiovascular companies’ visual identities.

After getting a gist of what exactly I was creating, and considering the information of what the client wanted, I went about sketching. After sketching many logos, I went about narrowing down which logos would best suit the needs of the CVC. I went about submitting two logos to the client, and fortunately one of my designs was selected.

CA: What will you take away from your experience working with the CVC?

TL: After working with the CVC, I have gained experience with a client whose visual identity relates to medicine. It has allowed me to change my train of thought and design a more corporate aesthetic.

It has also has provided me with satisfaction as it benefits both myself and the U of A department of design. I hope the design department receives more recognition and clients from our work so that future students can benefit like I have.

CA: Are you graduating in 2017? If so, where do you aspire to take your design career?

TL: I am graduating in the year 2018. What I aspire to do encompasses working with digital interfaces. I would also like to find work related to visual effects.

Designer Trevor Lau with client CVC and Professor Susan Colberg


Professor Colberg offers this advice to students as they embark on their post-university design careers:

“Use your design ‘powers’ for good,” she says. “Seek out meaningful projects that you enjoy and do work that really helps people. Establish relationships of trust with your clients and coworkers. Collaborate. Ask lots of questions. Enjoy the process. Make the world a better place through sensitive, well-considered, well-researched and useful design actions.”

The U of A is thrilled to congratulate three Art & Design graduate students who recently received scholarships for their diverse and varied pursuits.


Bahaa Harmouche

Bahaa Harmouche (MDes, Visual Communication Design)

Bahaa Harmouche, a Masters of Design student in Visual Communication Design, is the recipient of the Mahkzoumi Graduate Scholarship in Lebanese Studies. “To be honest, I never thought I would get it, and it was an amazing surprise,” says Harmouche about the annual scholarship that is only awarded to two recipients a year.

Harmouche explains the reason he was surprised is because of the controversial nature of his work. Born in Lebanon, his research is about how to work towards social cohesion between gay youth living with HIV and the gay community who marginalizes them, a sensitive subject that is still a taboo in Lebanese culture. So to receive a grant from a Lebanese organization for this work meant a great deal to Harmouche who sees it as an early break through of discrimination (at least in academia) in Lebanon.

Harmouche’s work has included digital storytelling projects with messages for the LGBTQ+ community encouraging social cohesion.

With the help of this grant, Harmouche plans to work towards a PhD in the future, working closer with minorities on this subject and social issues. A self-described “social designer,” Harmouche aims to redefine what design is nowadays: “not to design for the fun of it, but to design for purpose, and to address needs for the well-being of our communities.”


Myken McDowell (MFA, Printmaking)

Myken McDowell, a Masters of Fine Arts student focusing on Printmaking, is a recipient of the 2017 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant.

With an interest in Super-8 films from the late sixties/early seventies, McDowell has been studying Super-8 footage of family life — birthday parties, dads coming home from work, road trips, kids playing dress-up — and uses this footage to create photographic prints and videos of her own.

She explains, “I am very interested in personal archives, and how these records of childhood and domestic life can shape our sense of who we are and how we understand the world.”

For McDowell, watching Super-8 films is the start of a multi-step artistic process that involves carefully selecting stills from the original film, manipulating them digitally, producing a series of photo-based prints, and then scanning the prints to make a video.

An example of McDowell’s photopolymer prints.

“It’s expensive to work this way—a minute-long video equals about 700 hand-printed frames,” says McDowell. “This scholarship means I get to continue making the type of work I want to make—maybe even a video that’s more than a minute long!”


Michiko Maruyama (MDes, Industrial Design)

Michiko Maruyama is another recipient of the 2017 SSHRC grant. A Masters of Design student in Industrial Design, Maruyama also has a degree in Medicine from the University of British Columbia, and is currently doing her residency in Cardiac Surgery in Edmonton while simultaneously pursuing her MDes degree.

While pursuing her undergrad degree here at the U of A in industrial design (where she focused on toy design and children’s furniture), Maruyama was diagnosed with a rare disease requiring surgery and radiation, but still managed to not only complete a medical degree from UBC, but also continue her art and design studies, develop an “art meets medicine meets education” website (Art of Learning), and produce a number of creative projects that have received recognition across multiple disciplines.

Maruyama work has included a series of children’s books using a style of traditional Haida artwork, the first of which (“Dirty Paws”) teaches kids important lessons about the spread of bacteria and viruses, and the importance of washing hands. In the field of toy design, Maruyama’s “Ostomy Doll” — a cute and cuddly teddy bear designed to teach children with gastronomies how to take care of their ostomy — was presented at the Canadian Conference on Medical Education in Quebec.

Maruyama’s “Ostomy Doll” project also involved conducting research to evaluate each toy for their effectiveness as a communication tool, educational resource and entertainment value. *Image from

The SSHRC grant enables Maruyama to continue combining her love of medicine and design in innovative ways where plans to create and improve of surgical tools and equipment. More of Maruyama’s work can be found on her website, “Art of Learning.

Congratulations to all three of these recipients!

Behind every intricate costume, dramatic lighting, epic soundscape and intricate set on any theatrical production is a designer. Their job is to create a convincing world with a unique style and personality.

To do this, they not only have to be well trained artistically — drawing, painting, drafting, 3D CAD, to name a few — but they have to understand the social, political, economic and visual world of the entire play.

“It’s our job to help bring the director’s artistic vision to life, and manifest it in the onstage world of the play,” says Bailey Ferchoff, a 2nd-year BFA Theatre Design student. “By taking the inspiration of the director and combining it with our knowledge of the technical and creative sides of theatre, we are able to mould and create immersive and engaging worlds for the audience to explore.”

Set model by Bailey Ferchoff

To get a taste of just how broad a skill set a theatre designer must have, one only has to come visit the annual Theatre Design Portfolio Show, featuring the work of the University of Alberta BFA and MFA Theatre Design students.

Recently, the 2017 Theatre Design Portfolio Show took over Second Playing Space at the Timms Centre for the Arts with an amazing exhibition of costumes, miniature set models, sketches, props, artwork and more, giving visitors a glimpse of what goes into creating what audiences see on stage.

Costumes by Ksenia Broda-Milian, Zoe Rod


“Theatre art is quite different from other fine art forms,” explains Caro Vanrensberg, a 3rd-year student in the BFA Theatre Design program. “It’s a combination of architecture, drawing and painting, clothing and garment construction, lighting and technical theatre, scenic art and construction. There’s nothing quite like it.”

Ferchoff adds: “It’s a very interesting and varied show. You’ll see everything from costumes to sets, to life drawings, to our personal work. It’s incredibly interesting to see the different styles and techniques that each of the students possesses.”

Models and sketches by Beyata Hackborn

Models and sketches by Beyata Hackborn


Models and sketches by Brianna Kolybaba

Models and sketches by Brianna Kolybaba


Vanrensberg sees the Portfolio Show as an opportunity for people to see how theatre artists take a story or a concept and transform it into something bright and living, and so personal to them. “I think people might be surprised by what they see.”

In addition to her design studies, Vanrensberg is also the President of the Student Scenographers Association, the official group of designers within the Faculty of Arts. A passionate spokesperson for the program, she talks about how the students do more than just refine their art and design skills, but also learn the professional and communication skills necessary for the business.

“You have to learn what it takes for a production to succeed, and over time you figure out your own style and what works for you,” she says. “We take technical and directorial classes, history and theory of drama classes, and then our core of design courses to round out our understanding of how to produce a show.”


Bailey Ferchoff

Originally from Morinville, Alberta, Bailey Ferchoff plans to pursue a Masters degree after her BFA to continue her studies in theatre design, and eventually branch into film with her interest in prop construction and special effects makeup.


Caro Vanrensberg

A native Edmontonian, Caro Vanrensberg also plans to pursue a Masters with her interest in interactive theatre experiences, and ways of creating more eco-friendly theatre practices with reusable materials and waste reduction.


The 2017 Theatre Designers Portfolio Show ran April 3-7, 2017, in Second Playing Space, Timms Centre for the Arts. More photos of the 2017 Portfolio Show can be seen online.

The 2017 Theatre Designers Portfolio Show featured work from the following students:

1st Year BFA Design:
Madi Blondal
Anita Diaz
Karlie Christie

2nd Year BFA Design:
Bailey Ferchoff
Beyata Hackborn
Brianna Kolybaba

3rd Year BFA Design:
Elise Jason
Sarah Karpyshin
Caro Vanrensburg

4th Year BFA Design:
Rebecca Antonakis
Zoe Rod
Kai Villneff
Liza Xenzova

Qualifying year pre-MFA Design:
Sofia Lukey

1st Year MFA Design:
Reza Basirzadeh

2nd Year MFA Design:
Ksenia Broda-Milian

3rd Year BFA Technical Theatre:
Tiffany Martineau
Noriko Marumo

4th Year BFA Technical Theatre:
Nic Juba
Aidan Ware

For more information about the BFA and MFA Theatre Design programs, visit the Department of Drama website.