Fine arts grad joins cast of The Railway Children

Mississauga actor Aris Athanasopoulos [BA Spec. Hons. ’07] says it’s a surreal experience being part of The Railway Children cast, wrote The Mississauga News May 10.

"To be honest, it’s all been like a dream," said the 25-year-old, who stars as the district superintendent in the London stage hit that’s been brought to Toronto. "I go into work each day and I absorb as much as I can and grasp at all the memories and moments so that I can’t ever forget.”

The Railway Children opened a 26-week run last Tuesday at a 1,000-seat temporary theatre built adjacent to Toronto’s historic Roundhouse Park. An 85-tonne vintage steam locomotive was brought over from the United Kingdom to be used as part of the set for the play, which is adapted from the classic British children’s book by Edith Nesbit.

Athanasopoulos…says people of all ages can connect with the play. "Young children will be mesmerized to see a train come into a theatre space," said Athanasopoulos, who toured many parts of the world with ATLAS Stage Productions Canada after graduating from York University [Faculty of Fine Arts].

Will Harper move to the centre?

The image of Canadians as centrist, moderate, unlikely to choose extremes, quiet and full of compromise took a blow on May 2, wrote Arthur Haberman, University Professor Emeritus of history and humanities in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in the Toronto Star May 10. We chose a new federal Parliament in which only 34 seats, those now held by Liberal party members, can be considered in the middle of the political spectrum.

What has not been noticed is that this trend has been part of the Canadian political scene since 2003, when the Reform party merged with the Progressive Conservatives to form the present Conservative party.

Stephen Harper has managed several things that give him an important place in the history of the political life of our country…and is on the verge of making the Conservatives the new “natural governing party.” He has, at least for a few decades, probably more, ended the progressive side of Conservatism as an important influence on the right. And he has opened the middle, now up for grabs.

Where will it head? Will Harper continue the polarization? His temperament and character are important, as a very controlling person who has made his party obey his own will. Will he now see himself as capable of anything, now that the majority is his to manage? Or will he move to the vacated middle?

The sensible thing would be for the Conservatives to become slightly more progressive and appeal to those voters who left the Liberals in this election. After all, Harper is an ideologue, but he is also a person who likes power. If he wants to stay in power for the better part of the next decade, he will have to appear to lean to the centre.

Home is where the art is

A city’s identity comes from the shared values reflected in its music, art, culture and history, says a Canadian music icon and cultural guru, wrote The London Free Press May 11. That common identity, as much as jobs, draws people to live in a city, Paul Hoffert added.

"The thing about arts and culture, they have to do with a person’s heart and soul and person’s sense of belonging to a community," Hoffert said Tuesday in London, Ont. "The identity of a city, the heart, the soul, the culture, the shared values are right up there with the amount of money you have."

Hoffert, a media professor at York University [Faculty of Fine Arts], is the chairperson or former chairperson of dozens of national arts groups, has written books on the digital age and, while composing and performing in the 1990s, also founded a research centre that developed video phones. That same decade he was inducted into the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sense of purpose helps kids learn, says York prof

Being more aware of the world around them helps children and youth develop overall literacy skills, says Jacqueline Lynch, a professor in York University’s Faculty of Education, wrote May 10, in a story about, a news website dedicated to providing accessible and understandable news articles to kids from grades 2 to 8.

“Children often show more motivation for learning when there is a purpose or function,” Lynch said. “Bridging literacy between the home and school gives them a purpose.”

York prof did study for law society in 2006

A study conducted for the [Law Society of Upper Canada] by York University sociologist Michael Ornstein [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] in 2006 found that just one per cent of Ontario lawyers – about 315 at that time – identified themselves as Aboriginal, wrote the Toronto Star May 11, in a story about the society’s approval of a new law school in Thunder Bay that would cater to Aboriginal students.

Toronto-based band will perform at Membertou as part of cross-country tour

Two up-and-coming Canadian bands will share the stage at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre, Saturday night, wrote The Cape Breton Post May 10 in a story that included mention of pop-rock newcomers Neverest.

“So far, so good. There’s been some great response. It’s been doing really well which is great. There’s a couple of locations here in Toronto and North York where it’s actually sold out from certain malls and that’s amazing to hear,” said Neverest frontman Spyros (Spee) Chalkiotis [BFA Spec. Hons. ’10].

Chalkiotis said he and bandmates Mike Klose, Brendan Colameco and Paul Loduca have joined forces to create a really unique hip hop-pop rock sound with R&B harmonies.

“We’re fortunate enough to be playing a genre of music that enables us to really fuse all of our influences because we all come from different backgrounds. Mike, the guitarist, is a classically trained pianist, I studied jazz at York University, Brendan is a studio drummer from Timmins, and Paul is the workaholic rock star from Queen Street,” he said.

In addition to this tour, and preparing for the release of their first full-length recording in November, Chalkiotis said they’re also pretty thrilled about another gig they have coming up. “We’ve got some big news; we’re actually going to be opening for [New Kids On The Block/Backstreet Boys] for 11 Canadian dates…so we’re super, super excited about that. That’s a big deal for us,” he said.

Hillel awards honour passionate students

Most of the nearly 70 award winners at the 15th annual Hillel Awards Night, held last week at Ryerson University, were current students who have shown leadership and commitment to Jewish life on campus, wrote The Canadian Jewish News in its May 12 issue.

But York grad Adam Hummel [BA Hons. ’07], who won the Outstanding Alumnus Award, instituted last year, was honoured for his achievements as a student [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], even though his undergraduate days are over. “He exemplifies everything in our leadership that we aspire to,” Hillel’s executive director, Zac Kaye, said.

Hummel’s work included founding Youth Ambassadors for Peace, which involved bringing peace-building programs to Kenya, including a soccer tournament. He was also the two-time president of Hillel at York.

The York winners included current students Rony Kamenetsky, who was heavily involved with the Jewish fraternity AEPi; Elysa Keshen, who demonstrated a huge amount of passion for Israel this year, and Yonatan Oliver, who made sure there was a strong Jewish speaker at York every week.

BlackCreek Summer Music Festival gets a Doobie Brother

The BlackCreek Summer Music Festival is adding some to soul to its lineup, wrote the National Post May 10. The festival announced Tuesday that both gospel and one half of the Doobie Brothers would be coming to York University’s Rexall Centre this summer.

Added to the festival’s June roster – which already includes a diverse group of musicians, such as Plácido Domingo, James Taylor and Dame Helen Mirren – is former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, who will join Lionel Richie on stage June 28.

McDonald has won five Grammys and is one of the few blue-eyed soul singers on the scene today. The festival has also added “Truth and Soul: A Gospel Event” to its schedule for July 23. The evening will feature Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, and The Might Clouds of Joy in an uplifting evening of song.

Making a ‘winner’s circle’ out of an Elephant’s Graveyard

Talk about big smiles. Westdale Secondary School drama teacher Carm Iachelli and 18-year-old former Westdale student Logan Cracknell have grins from ear to ear, wrote The Hamilton Spectator May 11, in a story about the pair’s award-winning production of Elephant’s Graveyard in the Sears Drama Festival.

Cracknell, who wants to be a professional actor, will study drama at York University this fall.

On air

  • Perry Sadorsky, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the spike in gas prices, on Global Television and CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” May 10.