Posted on by shona

Just in time for Hallowe’en, we present part two of the LMPR team’s favourite frightening reads.


This week we delve into different, but equally daunting, types of spooky. We explore a harrowing, mysterious murder, a dystopian future, and a terrifying narrative of mental illness.


Rachel Lowry – The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 




Mystery novels and ghost stories are not my typical literary choice as I am not one for being unduly frightened. That being said, one of the more harrowing tales I have read over the past few years is the critically acclaimed fictional story, The Lovely Bones. 



Alice Sebold’s novel depicts the rape and murder of teenager Susie Salmon in 1973. The story follows from Susie’s vantage point in heaven as she witnesses her family and friends come to terms with their loss while subsequently trying to solve the vicious crime of her death.




Sarah Cruickshank – Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan


BrainOnFireWhile not your traditional Hallowe’en-style spooky story, this is one narrative that will chill you to the bone. Suzannah Cahalan – a journalist with the New York Post – gives a first-hand account of her terrifying experience with mental illness in the riveting memoir, Brain on Fire.


Recreating memories through diary entries, hospital videos, and interviews with friends and family, this must-read chronicles Suzannah’s alarmingly rapid decline in health, to the eleventh-hour intervention that led to her recovery. A riveting read from cover to cover, this story confronts a sadly stigmatized issue in our society with honesty, compassion, and understanding.





Jesse Tanaka - 1984 by George Orwell




I love old books and movies that predict the future, especially when the futuristic date has already past and we can see just how close or far off they ended up.



Written in 1949, it’s pretty amazing to read Orwell predicted, especially with all of the mass surveillance stories in the news recently. Some things are just scarier the closer they are to reality.











Posted on by sarah

If there’s one commonality shared by each and every one of us, it’s our innate, human search for happiness. While the meaning of bliss has countless definitions and is found in many different ways, we all strive for a state of inner balance and peace, particularly after times of hardship.


It’s for this reason that Denise Clark’s wag, which ran recently at the Firehall Arts Centre, is one performance that we all – on some level – can connect with deeply.


Photo credit: Trudie Lee

Photo credit: Trudie Lee

A one-woman performance from compelling and inviting performer, Denise Clark of Calgary’s One Yellow Rabbit, wag seamlessly integrates both dance and storytelling into a powerful narrative. It is a bold and intimate look at this woman’s profound pursuit of joy following two heart-wrenching tragedies – the death of both a brother, and a father in the same year.


wag begins with Denise’s recount of a slow and solitary walk to the theatre, a journey she has no doubt done many times before. With an image of a snow covered landscape providing the backdrop, Denise steps foot on stage in a parka and backpack and delivers a captivating monologue from within her drawn hood. It’s subtle effect, with a large impact – an immediate invitation into her mind to share in her most personal thoughts – that sets the tone for this intimate performance about to unfold.


After transporting us through several other memories – the recollection of dancing alone in an Ottawa park at 4am being a definite highlight – the mood darkens as Denise reminisces on loosing her two much-loved family members. Denise doesn’t leave us down for long though; she’s on a mission to find happiness through this darkness, and has a strict “cheering up program” to which she abides.


Continuing on, Denise entrances us with her “booklist” – a quirky arrangement of interesting gestural choreography, which she executes gracefully with just the right amount of humour. The performance hits a high point with the “waltz party,” a bold and swirling display of colours with an attitude akin with a euphoric impromptu dance party.


Photo credit: Trudie Lee

Photo credit: Trudie Lee

No doubt a skilled performer, Denise’s talent lies in her instinctive ability to transport her audience emotionally, taking them with her by the hand on this refreshing journey of discovery.


Those that saw Denise Clark’s wag left feeling satisfied, not to mention contemplative as to their own personal definition of happiness.



Posted on by shona

With Hallowe’en right around the corner, we here at LMPR wanted to share our favourite frightening reads.


In part one of this two part series we discuss harrowing accounts of real life trauma, mysterious ghost stories, and epic sagas of horror.


Laura Murray – The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson


The Haunting of Hill HouseI love a good ghost story, scary movie or gory, edge-of-your-seat episode of The Walking Dead. So when I was asked to select a spooky, goose bump-worthy book – I immediately glanced at the copy of Shirley Jackson’s chilling tale amongst the pile of unread paperbacks that tower on my nightstand.


Rightly considered “one of the greatest ghost stories published during the 20th century”, The Haunting of Hill House, complete with inexplicable noises, self-closing doors, and enough supernatural horror to keep you up at night, is frighteningly perfect reading material in which to celebrate the spirits on Hallows Eve.






Shona Wercholuk – A House in the Sky: A Memoir by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett



I’m not one for zombies, witches, or ghouls – I can’t even handle a slightly mysterious campfire story. So instead I went for a novel I found to be truly harrowing.


A House in the Sky is the true story of Canadian journalist, Amanda Lindhout’s, 15-month captivity in Somalia. Held Hostage for 460 days, she suffers mental and physical abuse, receives “wife lessons,” and daringly risks an escape.

This incredibly vivid recollection takes you on a journey through Amanda’s pain, fear and complete devastation as she constantly wonders if she will make it out dead or alive.






Brian Paterson – The Dark Tower series by Stephen King


The_Gunslinger2Horror novels have been a guilty pleasure since I was far too young to be reading them. R.L. Stine paved the way for Lovecraft, Koontz, and – my personal favourite – Stephen King.


I first read The Gunslinger when I was twelve – and would have to wait another decade for the Dark Tower magnum opus to reach its conclusion. It stands out as one of literature’s most ambitious and epic undertakings.


The seven-volume series not only interweaves horror, sci fi, western, magic realism, and autobiography – but unifies every book King has written into a single world. The powers of Carrie and The Shining’s Danny are explained. We discover exactly what that clown in It was. And long-forgotten secondary characters re-emerge.


It’s a series that has shaped my understanding and appreciation of storytelling throughout my entire life.


 Check back in next week for Part Two of LMPR’s Frightening Favourites! 


Posted on by sarah

Tweed & Taffeta is a series from Laura Murray Public Relations that explores costuming in celebrated performances – the varying interpretations from one production to the next and the subtle yet sweeping influence of wardrobe on a show’s overall texture.


This time, we spoke with distinguished Vancouver-based costume designer Linda Chow. A graduate from the Theatre Program at Ryerson University, Linda has worked as a seamstress at various regional theatres for many years, eventually settling in Vancouver. These days, Linda is an in-demand costume designer when it comes to dance projects, working extensively with esteemed groups like Ballet BC, among others.


Linda Chow

Makaila Wallace in Ballet BC’s Giselle by José Navas. Photo by Chris Randle.

Can you explain your design process?


First, I meet with the choreographer to talk about their thoughts for the project: who the dancers are, how many are in the work, the music, the colours used, the setting – anything to get a direction. Sometimes they already have an idea, other times they’re blank and open to suggestions.


Sitting in on rehearsals, I listen to the directions the choreographer is giving the dancers to get an idea of the type of movement, and generally keep my eyes and ears open to determine what the costume should or shouldn’t be.


I have no training as an illustrator so I research photos and images to show the choreographer. We then discuss likes and dislikes, and depending on the project I might do a pencil drawing. My strength is in my cutting and sewing; depending on time and budget I may make a sample to try out in rehearsal, otherwise I’ll go straight into building the costumes.


Where do you look for inspiration when designing costumes for dance performances? 


Magazines and books. I’m now discovering electronic ways, but I think paper is better; when it’s on paper I spread out all my clippings and sift through them for the best bits. I look for images that might suit a project – it could be a detail, impression, colour, fabric, etc.


Any favourite Vancouver hot spots when it comes to scouting the perfect item? 


I make the rounds to see what is available. Having a favorite might mean you’ll miss out on something! Just because you didn’t find anything at a given location the last time, it could have the perfect fabric for the next project.


Why is it so important to get the costuming for a performance ‘just right’?


Getting a costume ‘just right’ benefits everyone. It’s part of the choreographer’s creation, enhances the dancers movement, and adds to the overall audience experience.


Posted on by shona

Hill Strategies Research conducted an eye-opening study to examine the number and situation of artists in Canada. This research acts as a statistical profile of artists and cultural workers in Canada. Note: this acts as a summary of very in depth research. Click here for the full report


As of May 2011, 0.78% of the overall Canadian labour force consists of artists, that is one in every 129 Canadian workers. The number of artists, 136,600, is higher than the labour force in the automotive manufacturing industry.


As for cultural workers, there are 671,000 people comprising 3.82% of the overall labour force. That is one in every 26 Canadians and is over two-and-a-half times larger than the labour force in real estate.


The study found a huge number of interesting facts surrounding arts and culture workers. They found that the growth rate for arts and culture workers is much higher than the over all labour force. From 1989 to 2013 there has been a 56% increase in the number of artists in Canada, cultural workers have increased by 47%, while the overall labour force has seen a 38% increase.


Figure ES1_edited-1


Regarding the income of artists and cultural workers, the report finds that the total individual income of Canada’s 136,600 artists averages $32,800, a figure that is 32% less than the overall labour force in Canada ($48,100). Cultural workers have average individual incomes of $42,100 (12% less than the overall labour force).


Figure ES2


Interestingly, female artists earn much less than their male counterparts, but this difference in earnings is equal to the difference in the overall labour force. On average, female artists earn 31% less than their male counterparts. In the overall labour force, women also earn 31% less than men which is $36,800 vs. $53,300.


Hill Strategies Research is a Canadian company that specializes in applying social science research methods to the arts sector. You can read the full and fascinating findings of this study on their website. 


Posted on by sarah

Ask The Expert is a new series from Laura Murray Public Relations that calls upon the expertise of arts and marketing specialists to provide insight and wisdom – to all industry professionals that read our blog – on how we can do what we do better. No matter what stage of our career, we are always keen to grow and hone our craft from those in the know.  


For this edition of ‘Ask The Expert’, we were fortunate to connect with three movers and shakers in the arts community: artists who are at the top of their game in the realms of music, dance, and theatre.


We posed the question: “As a producer, what are the top three things you should know before bringing your work to the stage?”


What we got back were wise and insightful tips that every artist – whether a seasoned veteran or a newbie staging their work for the first time – should keep in mind before raising the curtain.


AmberBartonAmber Funk Barton

Artistic Director, the response.


Dream big!

Yes, you will have to deal with financial, logistical, and physical realities soon enough. So, especially in the beginning phases of creating work, I highly recommend allowing your imagination to run wild. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish even when you are presented with limitations down the road. Don’t limit your creative vision before you even start!


Play detective

Sometimes I feel as if my job as a choreographer is to find clues to make a production come to life. You start with an idea and as you work towards realizing it, you must pay attention and recognize the images, sounds, and/or movement to intuitively identify whether it belongs in the production you’re making. You have to trust that if you are patient with yourself and your process that your vision will eventually manifest itself.


Love the people you work with

In her book The Creative Habit Twyla Tharp recommends that as a choreographer, one should be in love with their dancers. I quite agree. And I think it should extend even beyond that. The more I surround myself with people that truly inspire me by their talent, from composers to lighting designers to costume stylists, the more it pushes me to bring my A-game into the studio every day. Quite simply I just don’t want to let those amazing people down.


JosephElworthyJoseph Elworthy

Executive Director, Vancouver Academy of Music

Co-Founding Member, Koerner Quartet


One – To identify whether I’m staging this out of necessity or routine


Two – The ratio between attendees who will provide me with unconditional support and those who pine for my career-ending ruin!


Three – The beauty is in the preparation.


AndyThompsonAndy Thompson

Artistic & Managing Director, The Virtual Stage


Project Feasibility
Can your artistic dream match the financial realities? How can you do what you want on the budget you have? How can you assemble the best possible team (on stage and off) with the finances that are available to you?


Potential Audience Engagement
Why would anyone want to watch what you’re about to produce? Better yet, why would they want to pay money to see it? Are you serving the audience’s needs or your own?


Artistic Interest
Are you doing work that excites you? Are you furthering the art form? Are you taking artistic risks? Have you taken your role as a custodian of the art form itself seriously?