Students worried for interdisciplinary programs

With an academic review underway at the Faculty of Arts and Science, student groups are expecting large spending cuts to interdisciplinary programs at U of T. A previous external review in March 2008 had recommended that the university re-evaluate the role of traditional interdisciplinary programs and take steps to control the growth of new programs. The three-member committee, comprised of faculty from other universities, noted that U of T had added 15 new interdisciplinary programs since 2005 and argued that such expansion was unsustainable.

At a town hall meeting organized by the health studies and equity studies student unions on Tuesday, students saw the review as part of a general trend towards undervaluing interdisciplinary programs at U of T, especially following recent cuts in South Asian Studies.

Attendees discussed how to respond to the review. In attendance were members of academic student unions for women and gender studies, Caribbean studies, and South Asian studies, as well as TYP students and UTSU execs. (Disclosure: Two Varsity staff members are also execs of the South Asian Studies Students’ Association.)

“The decisions being made in the review are affecting every single aspect of student life on campus,” said Faraz Vahid Shahidi, a third-year student. “Everything from what sort of programs are available to how many faculty we have and what kind of research is available to us.”

The current review calls on each college to submit a five-year plan to the Dean’s Office by Dec. 15. Colleges are asked to argue compellingly for their programs and “not to assume that the status quo will necessarily apply in the future.”

“If the university were to lose the more critical programs that focus on things like equity, the diversity of programs offered at this school would really suffer,” said Marrison Stranks, president of the Health Studies Student Union.

University officials, however, cautioned against speculating about how the review will affect individual programs.

“It is very important for students to understand that there are no foregone conclusions in this process,” wrote professor Suzanne Stevenson, vice dean of teaching and learning, in an e-mail.

Stevenson, who sits on the committee that will evaluate the colleges’ plans, said that the allocation of funds will depend on a case-by-case evaluation.

“We expect detailed and feasible plans that clearly indicate how the unit will help us to achieve the Faculty’s goals in the areas of undergraduate and graduate education and research,” she wrote.

In response to objections brought forth by the student groups stating that they have not been appropriately consulted in the process, Stevenson said that individual programs were explicitly required to speak with students.

Stranks said many students are still not aware that their programs are on the chopping block.

“I think because [Health Studies is] a small program, and we have a director who’s informed about these issues and wanted to involve students, we were given more background information than other course unions,” she said. “[I]n other course unions, having spoken to them, it was a much more passive process where students were giving feedback and not aware of the repercussions of the review.”

Stranks said she thinks student participation in this process should be mandatory.

“We should have voices in what programs are offered,” she added.

Professor Paul Hamel, director of health studies at University College, also felt that the review would entail significant changes for the faculty.

“I think [the review] does have some very strong bearing on what programs are going to be mounted and the type of university it’s going to be in the near future,” he said. “What it’s doing is providing people with an opportunity to cut things that they’ve wanted to get rid of for a long time.”

The prospect of such cuts drew impassioned reaction from the attendees at Tuesday’s town hall.

“Really, though, why we advocate for [critical and area studies] programs is just the emphasis on what’s intrinsic to the mandate of the university,” said Shahidi. “In the university’s mandate, it talks about critical thinking and engaging with one another in ways that are challenging and novel. These programs cater to this sort of environment.”

The committee that evaluates the planning submissions will meet from January to March next year and implement any changes on an ongoing basis.

Tweet justice

The Second City’s 64th revue, Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets, is not only an exceptionally hilarious show—it also features two U of T alum, Darryl Hinds and Matthew Reid. The Varsity caught up with both of them backstage, where they shared their thoughts on the world of comedy and their current show.

The Varsity: What was your time like at U of T?

Darryl Hinds: It was fantastic—some of the best times of my life. I went to the Erindale Campus…it’s unique in that it’s a little suburban community, a little neighbourhood, a vacuum of people. I was doing a theatre and drama program—it was a joint practical acting program with Sheridan College, but we also learned theatre and drama studies at U of T. It was the best of both worlds. I think it has been invaluable in the job that we do—it really teaches you how to appreciate all the jobs that take place in the theatre. And never to take those jobs for granted, because [everyone] works really hard.

Matthew Reid: It was a long time ago. It was cool to have long hair and goatees at the time. (Pauses for laugh). Imagine very little computer use—Internet is pretty unheard of. Social networks just don’t exist at all. There were some great professors. I took music, theory and composition. The music scene was very conservative in its radicalism. We were still living in that world of the 1960s and 1970s.

TV: How did you get into comedy?

DH: Most people who get into comedy will tell you that they were a class clown or whatever. I was a class clown, [though] I’m not an extroverted person in nature—I like making my friends laugh. I never spoke out in class and I was a pretty straight-laced kid. I remember it was one recess I started joking around and doing some impressions of characters from SCTV to my friends. Two of my friends were there and about 10 minutes later I noticed that a crowd of other kids gathered around and were watching me do these impressions of these characters. After recess was done, I looked at my friends and said, “Yeah. This is what I want to do.” So, it was like one of those profound moments during childhood.

MR: As a toddler, I had a natural propensity for slipping on banana peels. Falling out of balconies. Maybe if I made it look like I was doing these things on purpose, I would get more attention—good attention, as opposed to bad attention that accompanies accidents.

TV: Who were some of your comedic idols?

DH: The majority of the cast of SCTV. When I was growing up, SCTV was my Saturday Night Live. I didn’t really watch SNL. I watched SCTV and I’m glad for that. In my opinion, SCTV has some of the best sketches and writing that has ever been on television, next to Monty Python. Bill Cosby was a huge influence. His was actually the first comedy album that I got. I got a record which was The Best of Bill Cosby. I memorized it and recited it to my parents. Bill Cosby was huge and Peter Sellers was a huge influence as well. And Charlie Chaplin was also a big influence.

MR: In the comedy world, there [are] the SCTV guys, particularly Jim Flaherty, Eugene Levy, the Marx Brothers, particularly Harpo Marx. Also, Monty Python and John Cleese in particular. The Goon Show’s Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. The comedy side mixed with the profundity on the music side kept me balanced.

TV: Give us the take on your current show *Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets.*

DH: As most Second City shows go, the title has very little to do with the actual show. There is very little stuff about tweeting in it or social networking, per se…I’d say it’s about relationships and connections between people. There is a lot of political satire and I think in that way, we are getting back to The Second City of the ’60s and ’70s, because they were very socially and politically based. We are never offensive for [the sake of offensiveness].

MR: There is certainly a lot more in the show that will shock or piss people off. The play is shocking, but still in the realm of acceptable shocking.

TV: If you didn’t do comedy, what job would you like to have?

DH: Another creative outlet. It would probably be something in the visual arts—comic-book drawing or [being] a cartoonist. Actually, there was a year I took a break from acting in university and I went into visual arts, because that was something that I always wanted to pursue as well. So I pursued it and I found out that I really wanted to be a performer, as opposed to getting into the visual arts.

MR: Some sort of polemicist, probably. Writing on economics—it’s an interesting and fascinating subject. A lot of people have opinions on it without knowing what the hell they are talking about. I felt it was important to “edumacate” myself. So, if comedy, writing, or music weren’t available, then I would become an economist, a social scientist, or a barber.

Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets is now playing at the Second City. For more info, visit

Geeks in action

Computer science students, faculty, and alumni displayed their work Tuesday afternoon at the Bahen Centre. The department’s annual Research in Action showcase featured 52 projects, up from 12 in 2007. “These projects cover the entire spectrum of computer science, from applications-oriented research that brings new insights to practical problems, to groundbreaking theoretical research that influences the entire discipline,” said department chair Craig Boutilier in a press release. Research ranged from medicine to social networking.

An iPhone application that conveys street map patterns to visually impaired users, using audio feedback from touch interaction, caught the attention of attendees.

An emergency response system, aimed to improve safety for the elderly, detects falls in the home and allows the senior to call for help. “The largest burden on health care is injuries. In 2004, they accounted for $6.2 million […] and so with this project we expect to save taxpayers money and increase the chances of full recovery,” said research manager Jen Boger. This project is one of many that is patented and searching for a commercial partner.

Other projects included a system that enhances the privacy of personal information shared on social networking sites, context-aware mobile devices to help those with anomic aphasia recall words and names, and a web application that mimics the flexibility of grading assignments with pen on paper.

Associate professor Ravin Balakrishnan is one of the showcase’s organizers. “[I hope it] will provide a channel for new partnerships and play a role in building the City of Toronto as a leader in high technology,” said Balakrishnan, encouraging students from different disciplines to get involved in projects.

Happily Everlea after

On a dreary Sunday evening, I meet with the recently-relocated Kingston band Everlea. As I arrive at the Leslieville apartment of guitarist Casey Shea and singer Justin Dubé, Shea opens the door and immediately offers me some jalapeño poppers. I notice tickets to the band’s upcoming Mod Club show lying on the living room floor. The band is visibly excited to see their name on a professionally printed ticket as a headliner for the first time.

“We’re trying to impress you,” says the soft-spoken Shea, humble and sarcastic at once.

The whole band has congregated to be interviewed, save for the newest member, bassist Pat Maclean, who hasn’t yet relocated to Toronto. (He’ll be moving in with drummer Brendan Soares next month.) I take a quick look around the modest, well-kept apartment, hoping to find evidence of rock star debauchery. I’m very disappointed—no beer pyramids or coked-out groupies, just polite girlfriends and appetizers.

We break into the interview without formalities, and the conversation flows seamlessly. Dubé, the consummate androgynous frontman, reveals a few tidbits about his hometown, raving about Kingston’s finest restaurants. When Shea offers me a beer, it triggers a Pavlovian
response—I finally remember to turn on my recorder.

“So which bands do you hate?” I investigate, attempting to stir things up.

The guys politely giggle at the incongruity of such a question—making fun of other bands just doesn’t make sense to them. I mention recent emo-scene punching bags Stereos. Every band hates Stereos, right?

“Some bands adjust their style to what’s cool at the moment—I don’t think that’s a bad thing—but it’s just not us,” Dubé answers, without a hint of resentment. That’s the closest thing to a disparaging remark I can coax out of them. Something’s not computing—a band that won’t take cheap shots at Stereos, and has jalapeño poppers ready for their guests? I’m suspicious. Are they holding a hostage captive? Have any of them killed a man?

Why is Everlea so nice?

Despite Everlea’s upcoming show, things haven’t always gone so smoothly for the four-piece. The band recently parted ways with their label, Glassnote Music (home to Parisian synth-rockers Phoenix, among others). The story behind their departure is all too familiar: A&R person responsible for signing band departs label, leaving band in limbo. But Everlea doesn’t seem to think they got a raw deal.

“Being on Glassnote afforded us many opportunities,” Dubé notes.

Their relationship with Glassnote led to them signing with powerhouse booking agent The Agency Group. It’s hard not to see the bright side when you are touring cross-country with Secondhand Serenade and opening up for Taking Back Sunday at the Kool Haus.

Dubé adds, “They still own that record, and we keep in contact. We just won’t be releasing any more records with them.” Sounds like the mythical mutual break up we’ve all heard about. In Everlea’s emotionally stable world, being “just friends” can work just fine. Don’t expect Everlea to look for a rebound, either—they’re content biding their time and growing independently.

“The best time to sign a deal is when you don’t need one,” Dubé believes. Instead of worrying about their label situation, Everlea has turned their attention to honing their craft. The band doesn’t shy away from writing songs with a mass audience in mind.

Dubé candidly describes his developing song-writing process. “Lately I’ve analyzed songs and tried to figure out the universal elements that make them great,” he explains. “I just want to find a connection—a universal meaning to my lyrics. Take my experience and take it from a personal to a universal level that everyone can understand. It took me a long time to stop being insecure and self-conscious. The goal is just to write good songs.”

But sometimes, writing good songs isn’t enough. In a saturated music market, simply being good at what you do isn’t going to help you find success. But Everlea believe their honesty and commitment is what separates them.

“I think bands more than ever have to be genuine,” Dubé argues before being interrupted. The generally subdued Shea interjects, “Some bands make great albums; they just don’t keep with it. It’s all about persistence.”

I ask Everlea a more difficult question: “Do you ever think about fucking life and quitting this music shit?”

In unison they agree, “Yes.”

When prodded about what they would do if they weren’t in Everlea, they draw a collective blank. It appears their thoughts of quitting aren’t as legitimate as their desire to continue.

“Casey would be a crane operator,” Dubé busts Shea’s balls as he shoves some homemade lentil loaf in my mouth.

“I don’t wanna be a crane operator, man. If I wanted to be anything else I wouldn’t be doing this,” Casey rebuts. Soares chimes in, “I love this kind of lifestyle.” He kept quiet during most of the interview but he knows when to pick his spots: “These last few years have been the best of my life.”

Why is Everlea so nice? The answer is not as sinister as I speculated. They love what they do.

Everlea plays the Mod Club with Crush Luther on Saturday, Nov. 21. For more information, visit

Publish and perish?

Are news blackouts necessary during kidnapping cases? Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, who was kidnapped last year, thought so. Fowler led a panel discussion with heads of news outlets at Innis College on Tuesday. The Canadian Journalism Foundation hosted the event.

Fowler is special envoy of the UN Secretary-General to Niger. On Dec. 14, 2008, an al-Qaeda group in Niger kidnapped him and his colleague, holding him for over 4 months. Fowler criticized news agencies for covering his kidnapping, which he felt gave his captors useful information and brought his family “gratuitous pain.”

“I think the easiest solution is the blackout [for kidnapping cases],” said Fowler. He said a blackout worked for Melissa Fung, the Canadian journalist who was kidnapped by armed men in a refugee camp near Kabul. She was held captive for 28 days before tribal leaders negotiated her release. “[A news blackout] probably did have something to do with the difference between [her] 28 and [my] 130 days,” Fowler noted.

Fowler said that if policies about blackouts are not possible from a media solidarity point of view, then news agencies should consult the government, other media outlets, and kidnapping experts before making a decision to run the story.

The other panellists were Stephen Northfield, the foreign news editor at the Globe and Mail, Robert Hurst, president of CTV News and Current Affairs, and John Cruickshank, publisher of the Toronto Star and former head of CBC News.

“Our default as a media organization is to publish,” said Northfield. “It is a position of the Globe that we will not knowingly publish information that will lead to the harm of an individual. It is impossible to be able to gauge the unintended consequences of the publication of anything.”

Northfield concluded that there were no easy answers for holding back on publishing, and that there is a sliding scale when it comes to blackouts.

“I wish there was a rulebook, […] but there isn’t. In each case it’s completely individual. There are all sorts of relative issues,” Northfield said.

Hurst, the most commanding voice of the discussion, defended news organizations and underlined how much discussion takes place before running a story.

“I would like to offer to this room today, and to Mr. Fowler, how seriously we do take these issues in the newsrooms. We talk about them a lot. We discuss it. We debate it. We talk about the pros and cons.”

Cruickshank addressed the problem of containing news stories, but defended the merits of blackouts in certain situations.

As the head of CBC News when Fung was kidnapped in October 2008, Cruickshank was responsible for taking control of the situation and getting other Canadian news organizations to refrain from reporting on Fung’s abduction.

“This is not about suppressing information,” said Cruickshank. “The term ‘blackout’ is an insidious term.” He then offered what he thought was a better definition: “This is delaying.”

“We do in fact suppress information routinely: confessions, stories about suicides, any number of the kinds of stories that we have made by the decisions in public interest to suppress.” Cruickshank added that he expects a consensus soon on how to respond to kidnappings of political figures and journalists.

The last word came when Paul Hunter, who reports from the CBC’s Washington bureau, spoke from the audience. “We have an opportunity now to make up a plan,” said Hunter, who was involved in keeping the Melissa Fung kidnapping under wraps.

“Start the blanket: no active kidnaps get covered and then finesse it. I’m a bit worried that we’ll find ourselves here in another year and somebody else will be kidnapped and we won’t have a protocol or code in place.”

Lieutenant Werner

Werner Herzog would like to make something very clear about his new film, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. You know that 1992 film called Bad Lieutenant? The one directed by Abel Ferrara, starring Harvey Keitel, and the “inspiration” for Herzog’s film (at least according to the studio press notes)? Forget about it. There’s no relation.

“I know you changed the location from New York to New Orleans,” says a journalist at a roundtable interview with Herzog during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, “but how else did you make this remake your own film?”

“Explain ‘remake,’” intones Herzog gravely in his deep German accent.


“What is a remake? Explain it.”


He leans forward, and continues talking in a foreboding monotone. “Explain it. You are the one who is challenged now.”

“Uh… well, it’s based on the film by Abel Ferrara…”

“No, it is not. How is it based on the film by Abel Ferrara?”

The journalist is practically quivering. “Uh…well, it has sort of a similar…I mean…”

“It is not. What is similar? Not one scene.”

“You’re right. It’s not similar,” she interjects.

“Okay, so why do you use that term?” A pause, before his voice lightens. “Because it is floating around?” Herzog’s famously frowning mouth breaks into a smile, and everyone laughs. “It was just a title that was owned by one of the producers, and they hoped to own some sort of a franchise. It’s nothing to do with the other film.”

No kidding. Both films centre around a corrupt police lieutenant plunging into sex, drug, and gambling addictions, but where the original was gritty, intense, and charged with Catholic guilt, Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is more of a weird, over-the-top ride. If the lieutenant were asked to make a film about himself while at his most intoxicated, it would look something like this.

The film is set in a pungently atmospheric post-Katrina New Orleans, a nightmare version of the city where prostitutes are on every street corner and the sun shines on the demolished Lower Ninth Ward so brightly that it’s almost cruel.

“The screenplay was written either for New York or Detroit,” says Herzog, “and there was a purely financial reason. The producer, Avi Lerner, said, ‘Could you consider to do it in New Orleans? Because we have these fantastic tax incentives in Louisiana.’ And I said, ‘Sure! Wonderful! Can’t get any better! Let’s move it along!’”

“You can see that the city in a way is a leading character,” he continues, “but I always avoided [having] the kinds of New Orleans clichés: Bourbon Street, and jazz musicians, and you just name it. There’s dozens of clichés that I circumnavigated…I think New Orleans apart from the postcard clichés becomes very palpable.”

This is one of the best movies of the year, but here’s the real surprise: it’s the funniest movie Herzog has ever made. Framed by a brilliant, maniacal lead performance by Nicolas Cage, Bad Lieutenant starts as a standard police procedural drama and quickly, unashamedly descends into crazy-town. Who but Herzog would fill a cop drama with lines like, “Don’t you have a lucky crack pipe?” Who else would have the lieutenant say, “Shoot him again! His soul is still dancing!” and then actually show a corpse’s soul dancing? Who else would be mad enough to have our hero hallucinate iguanas, and then linger on the iguanas in extreme close-up for a full minute?

Herzog describes Bad Lieutenant as a new kind of film noir. “In the classic ’40s, ’50s film noir, the darkness is an all-pervading, oppressive force that stifles everything. In this film noir, it’s all joyful: a bliss”—he practically licks his lips on this word—“a bliss of evil…[Cage] asked me why is [the lieutenant] so bad? And I said, ‘Oh come on, don’t bore me with conceptual questions! Let’s focus on one single thing: there is such a thing as the bliss of evil.’”

“It seems to me,” I say, “that you took the archetypes of film noir and sorta kicked them into high gear.” He smiles broadly. “It’s probably in overdrive! It’s somewhere beyond it. It spins not out of control, but it spins into a different stratum.”

An octogenarian journalist chimes in. “I don’t understand this ‘bliss of evil.’ I’ve never felt it. I’ve felt bliss of goodness, but I don’t get ‘bliss of evil’ at all.”

For a moment it appears that Werner Herzog, that fearsome warrior of cinema, willing to risk life and limb to pull a steamship over a mountain in Fitzcarraldo or climb an active volcano in La Soufrière, is actually at a loss for words. He smiles again. “Uh…you are speaking of personal life, and I am speaking of movies—figments of fantasies. So, sure, we have to make a distinction.” A pause. “And you have probably lived a blessed life so far.”

She shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head. Herzog sighs. “Well, whatever…”

*Bad Lieutenant is in theatres Nov. 20.*

Got an idea?

If you have an idea that would improve student life on campus, there’s a fund with your name on it. The Good Ideas Fund gives students and student groups awards of up to $1,000. The application requires background information, a project description, a budget summary, promotions plans, and intended outcomes. Those who receive funding also have to submit a final report upon completing the project.

“It’s really about us fulfilling our mandate to the university to provide student engagement and student programming,” said Jennifer Newcombe, coordinator of programme and assessment at Hart House.

Fund applications are evaluated by a five-student committee, selected every August based on past involvement and diversity in demographics and faculty affiliations.

Priority is given to activities or projects that are open to all students and promote cultural diversity and collaboration among student groups. Applications for the fund have been steadily rising. So far, 26 have been submitted this academic year.

“The most challenging piece for students is the timeframe. Either they haven’t heard about the fund, or they haven’t submitted an application far enough in advance […] to use the resources to the maximum,” said Newcombe. “Budgets can [also] be a bit of a challenge for people.”

The fund currently has an annual budget of $20,000 and finances everything from small undertakings to large conferences. It also provides guidance on organization. “The fund is really committed to making sure that students who apply are aware of other opportunities on campus,” Newcombe said.

A day-long conference on “Decolonizing our Minds,” held by the Equity Studies and Caribbean Studies student associations on Feb. 21, received funding from the Good Ideas Fund as well as the Arts and Science Students’ Union and the New College Student Council. The conference featured academics, community activists, and artists in a series of panel discussions and presentations.

“The conference was looking at education and the space that we have for critical thought […] and re-analyzing it from an equity studies standpoint and looking at it as a site of oppression for many people,” said Isabel Lay, the current president of the Equity Studies Student Association.

“It was very important to have access to this fund. Especially the location that our union and [where] the students that we work with are coming from—our students are the most marginalized body of students at this university—it tends to be tricky to get funding,” said Lay.

Oxfam U of T also received funding, for a Women’s Day documentary screening of Sisters on the Planet and a candle-making workshop for 30 attendees. The event received $80. Participants had the option of donating candles to a local women’s shelter.

“One of the big issues of us getting money for this is that we wanted to get materials that are ethically sourced, which obviously can cost a little more sometimes,” said Leanne Rasmussen, co-president of Oxfam U of T. “It was nice having the Good Ideas Fund. We could get the best materials from a good source and not have to worry about how we were going to come up with the cost to cover that.”

Grecian dream

“The way I see it, I’m directing Shakespeare for my 70-year-old dad,” laughs Jeremy Hutton, director of Hart House Theatre’s upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “My dad always falls asleep during movies, he always has, ever since I was a kid. So basically when I’m directing, I stage it as if I’m trying to keep my father awake for the whole show. And if I can do that, I feel like it’s a success.”

Hutton sits in the bowels of the theatre, stroking a newly-sprung scruffy beard and smiling nervously. In the brick-laden underbelly of Hart House, the sounds of a matinee performance of Romeo and Juliet echo from above, prompting Hutton to pause every so often and scan the room thoughtfully. Hutton has worked for Hart House Theatre for five years, directing their annual Shakespeare show. This year, he takes on the energetic and beloved comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream with what he describes as the best cast he’s ever had at Hart House.

“The cast is big, and I feel pretty lucky to have this kind of talent. They’re strong actors who make strong choices. I mean, we’re not just standing around and resetting Shakespeare.”

His rendition of the well-known tale of crossed lovers and fairy tricks takes place in Athens in the late 19th and early 20th century—a period which Hutton believes exemplifies the paternal and repressed society that Shakespeare portrayed.

“It’s barren, stuffy, dark, mean, patriarchal, and then this gypsy caravan pulls up onto the stage, and this chaos of colour enters the world. The lovers leave this world into the forest, where they have license and possibility,” Hutton explains. “With possibility comes licentiousness. And the fairies give them freedom. It’s free, transient, moving and flowing. They go to a place where anything is possible and everything is permissible.”

Hutton explains that they’ve hired specific dancer/actors to play the roles of the gypsy fairies. He also promises that by the end of the play, all four of the lovers will have lost most of their clothing. But, he continues with a wry grin, there won’t be any breasts or genitalia in the show.

“I mean, my original idea was just to get them all naked and covered in body paint, but the theater wouldn’t go for it,” he deadpans. “I mean, boobies!” He stops.

“No, there’s no boobies, and I didn’t actually want them naked,” he back-peddles, as a member of the publicity team looks up from his desk with a concerned glance.

“But seriously, the show is energetic, dead sexy, and not your grandmother’s Midsummer… there’s obviously a lot of sexual humour, and I have great actors who are ready to exploit that aspect. And I’m ready to go down that road as long as it’s hilarious—and not awkward. It’s a hard line to toe, especially because we have a few high school matinees lined up, with grade nine-ers. If things get too risqué, we get some teacher complaints.” He pauses for a moment. “I think we might actually get a few this time around.”

“As a director, I like a sense of play,” he explains. “I find that if actors aren’t enjoying what they’re doing, the audience can definitely tell. Even if I’m doing a horribly depressing tragedy, I want the actors to have fun, and I want the energy to spark.”

All in all, Hutton has come a long way from his first experience with A Midsummer’s Night Dream, where he led a chorus of Pucks and donned bright green trousers, a silver cape, and nothing else.

“I got quite a few bruises during that show,” he muses.

*A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at Hart House Theatre from Nov. 20 to Dec. 5. Student tickets are $10-15. For more information, visit*