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True West showcases theatrical talent

True West was the first play of the year in the UCC-BSS co-curricular program. From the stellar performances, to the excellent stage design and overall production, it was an impressive night of theatre by any measure.

Sam Shepard is one of the most important American playwrights of the twentieth century, and True West is the playwright’s/actor’s masterwork. The play appeared in 1981, soon after the Reagan years began in the United States, and not long after Richard Nixon resigned as President in the wake of Watergate. The play takes place in southern California, still a mythic location: the Gold Rush, Hollywood, the American Dream; the play includes humour and culminates in confrontation. And there are also more toasters in True West than in any other American play.

True West examines a clash of ideas and values between brothers Austin, a screenwriter (Theo Iordache, IB2), and Lee, a drifter (Devin Lee, IB1). Finding his way into the mix is Saul Kimmer, a Hollywood producer (Charlie Hughes, IB1); and eventually “mom,” (Naomi Chen, grade 11), mother of Austin and Lee, appears on the scene as well. The intimate lecture theatre space placed the audience in the middle of the maelstrom.

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UCC Prep School’s fall plays are big hits

Upper Canada College’s Prep School fall plays were staged on Nov. 3 and 4 in Weston Hall.

The Grades 4 to 6 play is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s BFG. It involves a girl named Sophie who’s whisked away in her bed and learns about the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) and the mysterious land of giants. The boys in the production explore the magic of dream-catching, problem-solving and how to have tea with a queen.

The Grade 7 play, Good Cop, Bad Cop, involves two rookie detectives grilling a motley crew of suspects and witnesses about a catastrophic street sign switch. Everyone from the high school mascot to a guy who may be Super Mario is pumped for information. And while these suspicious characters are combative, ridiculous and downright incompetent, none of them seems guilty. With the clock ticking and their jobs on the line, can this good cop and bad cop collar a suspect before it’s too late?

The plays were directed by Prep teachers Jennifer Harper, Carly Crippin and Peter Labancz. They were staged back to back from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Please view the gallery with images from both plays.

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Fall music night hits the right note

Enthusiastic friends and family gathered in Laidlaw Hall for fall music night to celebrate our extraordinary student talent on Wednesday, Nov. 9. The audience enjoyed wonderful performances by our dedicated musicians in the junior, intermediate and senior ensembles, along with the UCC choir “The Blue Notes.”
The evening featured solo performances by Charlie Gage and Rex McArthur in the junior jazz band, Sahir Farooq and Henry Gage in the intermediate jazz band, and JC Chung in the senior jazz ensemble, to name just a few. The program also included a moving clarinet solo by Kyungphil Ko who played John William’s “Theme from Schindler’s List,” accompanied by Anthony Hua on piano.

Many thanks go out to our outstanding music faculty Tony Gomes, Peter Smith, Ashley Scott and Peter Merrick. What a terrific night!

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UCC debaters place second and ninth at regional qualifier

Upper Canada College debate club members competed at the 2016 Oxford Cup Qualifier, hosted by the Ontario Student Debating Union at Havergal College, on Oct. 29.

Four teams debated a diverse and challenging series of resolutions that covered topics such as: legalization of performance-enhancing drugs; using trophy hunting to fund wildlife conservation in Namibia; and weighing the votes of youth twice as heavily as other citizens in elections.

The UCC students who attended were Malcolm Risk, Brent Leung, Emerson Braithwaite, Adil Natalwalla, Alex Quinn, Matthew Wang, Julian Samek and Shafiq Qaadri.

Risk and Leung were undefeated going into the semi-final round and won that to make it to the final, debating the challenging resolution of “This house applauds the rise of songs by female pop stars that promote assertive female sexuality.”

They pair lost in the final round debating the resolution “This house believes that governments of developing nations should actively encourage slum tourism.” Risk and Leung qualified for the national championships later this month in Winnipeg. That event will decide the top Canadian teams to send to the Oxford Cup in the United Kingdom.

Risk was ranked second speaker out of 104 students in the tournament while Leung ranked ninth.

UCC News


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UCC student to have story professionally staged

Les ZinspiresUpper Canada College student Rob Dean will have his short story “Touchdown” brought to life on stage by Théâtre Français de Toronto from Nov. 17 to 26.

Each year Foundation Year French students are given the opportunity to participate in a creative writing competition organized by the Théâtre Français de Toronto, where they’re asked to write a story about the life and times of teenagers today.

Dean’s story of the trials and tribulations of a young athlete who suffers a concussion and a strained relationship with his father earned him a $500 award and the chance to work with professional francophone actors and playwrights who rewrote his story into a play and will stage it as part of Les Zinspirés.

The fifth installment of Les Zinspirés will feature “Touchdown” and four other stories written by southern Ontario teenagers. It will be staged upstairs at the Berkeley Street Theatre. Anyone interested in seeing Dean’s play may purchase tickets here.  ‎

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UCC appoints inaugural arts captains

img_3772-1Upper Canada College has its first two arts captains, who will play a similar promotional role to what the Blue Army generals do in raising awareness and enthusiasm for athletics.

Six IB2 students applied and were interviewed for what was originally supposed to be one position, but Jacob Gotlieb and Nicholas Czegledy so impressed the committee charged with making a decision that they were named co-captains.

“The two of them were so outstanding that it was hard to decide and we also thought that two people could create more energy together,” says arts chair and theatre coordinator Judith Macdonell, who was one of the five people representing the school’s arts department, the Arts Booster Club (ABC) and the student body who decided on the two boys.

The concept of creating an arts captain came from students, and the ABC executive collaborated with Macdonell, art department head David Holt and music department head Tony Gomes to make it a reality.

“The arts captains will exemplify school spirit and provide creative, inspirational leadership to the school in the field of arts by working with the board of stewards, faculty and administration, and the ABC to promote and highlight the outstanding artistic activities at the College,” says Macdonell.

“They’ll work to creatively inspire and motivate through existing channels, as well as find new and innovative ways to raise awareness in and encourage participation and attendance at events such as arts assemblies, Nuit Bleue, theatrical and musical performances, film festivals, modern language events, literary publications and a variety of other artistic performances throughout the year.”

Gotlieb and Czegledy have both been involved with sports as well as the arts at UCC and they’ve taken it on as a mandate to encourage fellow students to take part in both and eliminate any potential siloing of interests and aspirations. They also want to make sure that smaller arts-related groups, clubs and events receive the attention they deserve while still spotlighting the marquee shows and performances that take place throughout the year.

“We were really inspired by listening to these boys, who had considered that there was a lot happening and we just had to find ways to let people know what was going on and that they can get involved,” says Macdonell. “You don’t necessarily have to take classes in it, but you can be involved in a co-curricular sense.”

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Film directed by Nick Wernham ’02 was family affair

Last week’s opening of Nick Wernham ’02’s feature film directorial debut, No Stranger Than Love, was the culmination of an interest in movies that included watching and discussing them over pizza in Upper Canada College’s Film Club.

“At that point I wasn’t dead set on being a filmmaker,” Wernham says. “I wanted to be a novelist.”

Wernham studied English literature and cinema studies at the University of Toronto before dropping out to attend the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, which he describes as an 11-month filmmaking boot camp that gave him the opportunity to experiment and do a lot of work in a short period of time.

“It was a great experience and confirmed for me that filmmaking was absolutely what I wanted to do,” says Wernham, who spent another year in L.A. writing scripts and working as an office production assistant as well as a photographer for a couple of films hat didn’t get off the ground before returning home to Toronto.

His father, securities lawyer and entrepreneur Richard Wernham (who along with his wife made a $6.9-million donation to establish UCC’s Richard Wernham & Julia West Centre for Learning in 2001), had just completed writing the script for a short film called Business Ethics and asked his son to direct it. He used the film, which he describes as “a quirky dark comedy about a man who ran a Ponzi scheme that looks at the dangers of greed and deceit,” as a calling card to try and attract cast members after he was offered the chance to direct No Stranger Than Love.

“It’s odd on a thematic level and it’s odd on a structural level,” Wernham says of his new romantic comedy, which stars Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men), Justin Chatwin (Shameless, War of the Worlds) and Tom Hanks’ son Colin Hanks (Orange County, Fargo).

“So in some ways the mysterious hole that opens up in the heroine’s floor is one of the least odd things about it. While the story kind of presents itself as a film about the nature of love and art and people’s relationships with those things, what I feel the film is actually about is the way in which a person needs to grow and become comfortable with themselves in order to understand what those things mean to them.”

No Stranger Than Love scene

Alison Brie and Justin Chatwin in a scene from No Stranger Than Love.

Most of No Stranger Than Love was shot in six weeks in the Greater Toronto Area. That was followed by editing and post-production and the film was completed by the end of September 2014.

Wernham’s younger brother Simon (on the left with Nick in the photo at the top of this article), who followed him to New York Film Academy, acts in No Stranger Than Love. He was also one of the executive producers along with his parents, who partially financed the movie.

“It had a modest budget even by Canadian film standards,” says Wernham, who wouldn’t disclose the exact figure.

No Stranger Than Love appeared in three film festivals before opening in one theatre in Toronto and London, Ont. as well as in 10 theatres in nine major markets in the United States on June 17. It was released through Momentum Pictures, a division of eOne, and Orion Releasing, a division of MGM. The movie also became available through video-on-demand services on June 17.

Wernham has just started casting for a feature-length version of Business Ethics, which is based on his father’s original script with some tweaks that the elder Wernham is involved with. Simon will also be a part of it and West, who moved from a successful law career into interior design, will work as a production designer on the movie. The plan is to begin principal photography in October, and post-production could be completed by next spring.

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17 reasons 2015-2016 rocked

To our community,

How’d it get to be the last week of school? With our camps gearing up and your summer plans set to kick off, it’s time for our annual year-end wrap-up—once again brought to you “BuzzFeed”-style, our version of the popular website.

This review of the year’s highlights is anchored by videos and links to our news stories from the past year, including incredible student and faculty achievement, plus some milestone events sure to go down in UCC history.

Spoiler alert: Take a wild guess what the biggest news of the year is? Hint: You might want to take a peek at this illustrated keepsake book we assembled as a parting gift for Dr. Jim Power. It’s a decade’s worth of his famed “Power Point” blogs.

Best wishes from UCC. Have a great summer.

17 Reasons This Year Rocked

#17 There’s a new guy in town

September means back to school — but it’s also back to Canada for our 19th principal, Sam McKinney. Originally from St. Catharines, Ont., and the son of school teachers, McKinney was deputy headmaster and head of senior school at St. Peter’s College in Adelaide, South Australia. He moves into Grant House with wife Rose and his three sons Jack ’17, Connor ’19 and Charles ’20 on July 1. We look forward to giving him a warm UCC welcome and he looks forward to getting to know you and all the boys in September.

#16 Board-chair baton is passed

Yep, it was hard to imagine what UCC would be like without Andy Burgess’ ceaselessly energetic presence and high-energy passion for the Think Ahead Campaign. But in a short time Russ Higgins has brought his own panache to the role—with his deft steering of the principal search committee and his impeccable presentation skills.

#15 We keep the medal haul coming.

Our athletes like the sound of the word “victory.” A big Blue Army cheer goes out to every one of you. Our recent spring successes include rowing, golf, tennis and cricket but we celebrated an incredible year across the board at the recent spirit of athletics assembly. (We only have room to list championship titles here, but a huge shout-out to every single one of our athletes.):

Prep: CISAA champions included U10C Soccer, U11B Soccer, U11A Soccer, U12 Volleyball, U14 field hockey (undefeated season) U14 and U16 swimming, U10 A/B/C Basketball, U12A Basketball (perfect 25-0 season), U12B Basketball, U12 (D3 Tournament Champions), U13B Basketball, U14 Lacrosse, U11 Basketball, U13 Rugby

Upper School: CISAA champions include Varsity Soccer (also CAIS champions), Varsity Football, Cross-Country U14 team, Varsity and U14 Swimming: CISAA Champions, Varsity Squash, U14 and U16 Tennis, Varsity Badminton, Varsity Cricket, Varsity Track & Field, U14 Lacrosse, Rowing: CSSRA National Championships (three golds)
*Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario Athletic Association (CISAA)

#14 Our Model UN ups its game (if that’s even possible) on its quest to rule the world.

The accomplishments just kept coming for our Model United Nations club. Our team took the “best club” award what’s considered the “Super Bowl” of Model UNs, the University of California, Berkeley Model United Nations in March.

This means our team has won a best delegation award at every major conference attended over the past three years including Harvard University early this spring.

#13 We make beautiful music together.

Prep bands were three for three at music festivals this year, winning multiple gold awards at each event among other prizes. The concert band, wind ensemble and jazz band all won gold awards in the Montreal Heritage Festival in April and at the London Festival of Music in May, and the wind ensemble won gold and the concert band took silver at the Ontario Band Association Festival in February.

#12 Upper School unveils “classy” renovations and more.

It’s a big change from last summer—when our Upper School was a construction zone. Flexibly designed classrooms set a new stage for inspiration each day. A wide-open foyer unites the sightlines of our Upper School and boarding houses. Plus we’ve got revamped science labs, locker rooms, a new Prep playground and sportscourt.

#11 Our debaters are never at a loss for words.

If you’ve ever watched them in action, you’ll know they’re not to be messed with. They’ve got an answer for everything—and the results prove it.

#10 Our blogosphere bleeds Blue.

Our tight-knit community translates online in a big way, including over 443,000 visits to our web sites, and approximately 21,000 likes on our Facebook posts. Thanks to you all for keeping up with us on social media, on our news page and on our new sports site Go Blues.

#9 Refugee crisis? We heed the call.

Thanks to you we raised $50,000 to sponsor a Syrian family (arriving this fall). We kicked things off with a panel discussion on the crisis helmed by UCC parent and journalist Susan Ormiston. We also invited Syrian kids, waiting for proper homes in nearby hotels, to join us for two play days—complete with Timbits and ice skating. The World Affairs Conference also tackled the issue. We can’t solve it. But we can do our part.

#8 Guys, we hope you appreciate your parents as much as we do.

The Arts Booster Club goes all out for Nuit Bleue. You support our teams through the Blues Booster Club. You throw great dinner-theatre parties, teach our Prep kids about Chinese New Year, volunteer for all our annual events and work tirelessly for our parents’ organizations. You make us all look good and we thank you.

#7 The (Old) Boys are Back in Town.

NHL hockey player Colin Greening ’05 is back in Toronto as a Maple Leaf winger. The boys were thrilled to welcome him as a speaker at the recent year-end “Spirit of Athletics” assembly.  You can read all about him on the “All-Star Alumni” section of our new Go Blues website.

Among other alumni speakers, Greg Eckler ’87 wins UCC’s “funniest assembly speaker in a long time” award. One of The Rick Mercer Report’s head writers, Eckler spoke in April.

#6 Gentleman and a scholar

We’ll brag on his behalf. Kaleem Hawa ’12 was one of 89 Rhodes Scholars selected worldwide in 2015. (Eleven were Canadians.) It’s perhaps the most prestigious academic award in the world and UCC has 25 alumni on the list. (Our archivist is working to confirm if that’s a Canadian school record.) Hawa heads to Oxford University this fall.

#5 We’re great neighbours—and we serve 1,000 of them lemonade.

More than 1,000 curious Torontonians, would-be UCC families and even former faculty stopped by for a self-guided tour as part of the perennially popular province-wide Doors Open event on May 29. It’s the third time we’ve taken part—and everyone, even veteran employees, learned a thing or two about the College. (Did you know the bell in our chapel is one of the few surviving artifacts from our first school at King and Simcoe Streets?)

#4 We hit the mark — the $104.2 million mark that is.

It was official on Nov. 21. A community-wide “Luminous” party celebrated the wrap-up of our unprecedented Think Ahead Campaign—the biggest in Canadian independent school history. More than 7,000 contributed to the total, with 2,500 parents taking part. What a ride—and what incredible results. We thank you.

#3 Did YOU save a species today?

Our teachers moonlight as many things—savior of Australia’s most endangered freshwater fish, working artist/exhibitor and innovator in pedagogical research, to name a few.

#2 Goodbye to veteran faculty

…and leading up to the big goodbye—some other big farewells.
Leaving UCC this year are longtime faculty members Marshall Webb, Mary Gauthier and Lorne Young. We sent them off with an outpouring of well-wishes and wished them all the best.

#1 You guessed it… Headlining our newsfeed this year—farewell to Dr. Jim Power.

If we’d done it our way there’d have been fireworks and much more. As it was, we sent our principal off with a low-key pop-up Starbucks kiosk in our newly renovated Bernick Family Foyer. He delivered his final assembly speech to the boys on June 6. Best wishes to Mary, Bridget, Patrick, Seamus, Liam, Aidan, Peyton and Jimmer. We’ll miss you.

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Art is all encompassing for UCC teacher David Holt

Upper Canada College art department head David Holt practices what he preaches to his students, as he continues a busy art career outside of his teaching schedule.

“It’s what energizes and feeds my whole teaching practice,” says Holt, who taught at Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y. before moving to Toronto and UCC in 2005.

“I think it’s helpful because I can speak from my direct experience. Whatever challenge someone may be having with something they’re working on, I’m able to say that I’ve been dealing with the same issue or dealt with the same case before.”

Teaching also allows Holt to continue to learn, he says.

Baboon Heads

Baboon Heads

“Because I work with students whose interests are widely varied, especially in IB visual arts, I am always exploring a range of art forms, techniques, styles and histories. I am constantly on the lookout for artists and sources to share with individual students in order to assist them with their work. This helps enlarge my awareness to a wide range of ideas and influences that is also useful for my own work.”

Holt’s art consumes whatever spare time he has and he says he wouldn’t know what to do with himself if that wasn’t the case.

“It’s something I’m always thinking about and always doing.”

Holt has been a recipient of a painting grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation and an artist’s residency at the Ragdale Foundation. His works can be found in private collections in the United States and Canada.

Ancient Mammals

Ancient Mammals

Holt exhibits his work at private galleries approximately every 18 months, and his latest show is at Toronto’s loop Gallery. It’s titled “Zoology” and features paintings of living, extinct and imaginary animals playfully depicted in grid-like arrangements.

The paintings are part of an ongoing series of works inspired by natural history museum displays and illustrated atlases, subjects that Holt first became interested in during the 1990s when he was broadening his artistic horizons.

“My experience in painting was in the traditional academic model where you work with models most of the time, and maybe do some still lifes and landscapes in terms of subject matter.”

Holt’s exhibitions generally include 20 to 30 paintings, depending on their size, and he always has several more on the go in his studio in advance of his next show.

“Since I am always working on my own studio pieces, along with sketchbook and research material, I share the same kinds of excitements and frustrations that the students have with their works in progress,” he says.

“Zoology” opened on May 21 and the early response has been positive. Those interested have until June 12 to see it.

Arts News


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PYP Exhibition shows what Grade 5 boys can do

PYP Exhibition 2Upper Canada College Grade 5 students put two months of research and preparation into their Primary Years Programme (PYP) projects, and the payoff came when they were exhibited on May 6.

The International Baccalaureate leaving projects were issue-based and represented student-driven inquiry and action. Eighteen small groups of boys from the three Grade 5 classes took part in the exhibition, which began in the Prep School’s Weston Hall with an explanation and introduction of what the event was about and a cleverly written song describing project topics performed to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”

PYP Exhibition 3With the opening ceremonies over, the boys spread out around Weston Hall and the Bitove Lounge to talk about what they’d learned about issues covering the environment, obesity, cancer, toxic waste, body health, genetic modification, child labour, human rights, animal rights and more. They did an excellent job of presenting their points to around 100 parents and other parties.

“We’ve got students here from The York School and Branksome Hall and lots of parents,” PYP coordinator Dianne Jojic said while taking a quick breather from walking around and seeing that things were running smoothly. “The joint is jumping.

PYP Exhibition 3“The boys seem pleased with their exhibits and the response to them.”

The boys received assistance from faculty and staff mentors leading up to this day, and there was a lot of written information on display at the exhibition stands. Many groups went further by including quizzes that observers could take on laptop computers, interactive games and other methods to draw attention to their knowledge and ideas.

There were also art displays where each piece was accompanied by an artist statement. Among the subjects covered were pollution, religious equality, climate change, bullying, animal testing, racial discrimination and coral bleaching.

One classroom had an animated French display while another screened short student films about deforestation, water pollution and recycling.

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