Spotlight South Africa: Chandelier

Article written by Amanda Storey & contributed  by Marina Koslock 

The tiny foyer of the Berkeley Street Theatre bustled as ticket holders waited for the doors to open, sipping on South African wine and munching on biltong (a signature snack of the country). Chandelier was about to begin, a 30-minute, multimedia performance by controversial artist Steven Cohon.

Steven Cohen in Chandelier – Photo by John Hogg

As one of the final installments of Spotlight South Africa, a three-week festival hosted by Canadian Stage, Chandelier promised to be one of the most unorthodox and striking of all six productions and it delivered. Through a strange and deeply moving performance, Cohen created a window through which Canadians could peer into the colour issue that still exists in South Africa, shining light onto the tough subject that many people wouldn’t want to see or discuss.

The show began with Steven Cohen himself entering the brightly lit, stark-white stage adorned in a glimmering chandelier tutu and ornate face paint. The artist wordlessly stumbled across the stage; stopping to strike poses as he went. This silent introduction went on for about 10 minutes as Cohen kept everyone entranced not only by his appearance, but also by the question of what this bizarre, beautiful presentation might be about.

The artist was eventually lifted into the air by a pulley and the lights went out, letting his illuminated costume cast patterns across the walls as music suddenly thundered. After returning to the ground, the artist walked up the stairs through the audience, still stumbling, relying on the star struck onlookers to assist him in climbing all the way to the top platform. Once Cohen reached the back of the theatre, the audience’s attention was directed to the stage again, where a large screen began showing Chandelier, a short documentary film Cohen produced back in 2001.

Steven Cohen in Chandelier. Photo by John Hogg
Steven Cohen in Chandelier – Photo by John Hogg

Chandelier was filmed during the destruction of a squatter camp in Newtown, Johannesburg. Dressed in the same sparkling ensemble, Cohen enters the camp. His wobbly steps and bewitching presence have a similar effect on the people of the camp as it did on his Torontonian audience. Confused and amazed, the homeless citizens belonging to the camp were temporarily distracted from the horror surrounding them as they observed this strange creature walking and posing amongst them.

The film’s last scene is a shot of three of the camp’s residents, one of whom is a young woman. She tells the camera that Cohen’s presence “was like Jesus.” Once the film ended, the Berkeley Street Theatre audience sat stricken. From start to finish, the entire half-hour presentation had been deeply moving in an unexpected and bizarre way, which is Cohen’s common style of inflicting a message.

After the performance, audience members were invited to a brief talk with Cohen, during which the artist further discussed the work and the meaning behind it. Colour privilege is still very much alive in South Africa, even now, over a decade after Chandelier was filmed. Cohen, being born “into whiteness,” says he has always carried the heritage of the chandelier a symbol he uses for the European heritage that exists in South Africa.

Steven Cohen in Chandelier. Photo by John Hogg.2
Steven Cohen in Chandelier – Photo by John Hogg

“By my moving in a chandelier-tutu through a squatter camp being demolished, and filming it, [I’m creating] a digital painting of a social reality, half beautifully imagined, half horribly real,” says Cohen. “Where Hollywood glamour meets concentration camp horror.”

Cohen, who was trained professionally in psychology, says his intent for this project was to give a voice to the people of Newtown. In all his works, Cohen tries to use performance to hand power to people, and then analyze their reaction to his vulnerability versus their newfound power a “power switch.”

Chandelier, in all its weird and meaningful artistry, did exactly what Cohen meant it to. It effectively made an impact on its audience, who were left deeply pondering the issues they were just exposed to through his performance. Cohen, whose bold public statements and controversial artistry have become famous (particularly Cok/Cock, his “uninvited public intervention” in Paris that ended in his arrest on charges of sexual exhibitionism), wanted to painfully and beautifully bring awareness to this horrid part of humanity that so often goes unnoticed, and using unique and memorable artistic methods, which he successfully accomplished.

Must-See Documentaries At This Year’s Hot Docs 2015

A documentary is probably one of the most powerful and effective ways to get the truth out to the public. It creates a voice that is engaging, influential and has us question things we never considered questioning before. The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is North America’s largest documentary festival that takes place in Toronto starting April 23rd to May 3rd. The festival celebrates the art of documentary and gives recognition to these extremely talented filmmakers from Canada and all over the world.

I have highlighted 4 must-see documentaries at Hot Docs this year to help you narrow down your film choices.

Shoulder The Lion

This extremely moving documentary follows three gifted artists who have all experienced tragedies that have affected the way they create art. One is a photographer who is blind and questions the power of images in the image-saturated culture we have today. The next is a musician who was forced to leave his dream of playing music when he developed loss of his hearing. The documentary also looks at the life of a former boxer and painter, who inspired the award-winning film Million Dollar Baby, as she tries to navigate herself and find a place in this world she belongs. The cinematic approach to conveying the artists’ talents and passion is mesmerizingly unique and life changing.

3 Still Standing

The world of stand-up comedy was at its prime in San Francisco during the 1980s. This documentary follows three hilarious veterans Will Durst, Larry “Bubbles” Brown and Johnny Steele who are still trying to find their ‘big break’. This documentary shows old footage of some of the hilarious moments in stand-up comedy including works and an interview from Dana Carvey and the late Robin Williams. The moving documentary will not only make you laugh, but it’ll also open up the notion that comedy is also an art form. The passion these three men have for such a niche industry is so inspiring, it’ll have you re-watch stand-up footages over and over again.

Listen to Me Marlon

Marlon Brando fans will want to watch this intimate documentary revealing over 200 hours of private audiotapes over the course of his lifetime. This documentary gives fans a rare look into his life, including his troubled youth, his advocacy supporting Native American rights and his thoughts and views on some of his most iconic roles that shaped his legacy in the film industry. Listen to Me Marlon finally gives us a chance to get to know the actor through a personal level.

The Circus Dynasty

This is a love story between two circus performers, Patrick and Merrylu. Coming from Europe’s notable circus families, the pair is destined for success, which is apparent whenever they share the stage and perform with great talent and beauty. However this young love relationship turns rocky, which could destroy the duo to becoming the stars they deserve to be. What’s better than the fusion of romance and the circus?

Get your tickets HERE and follow Hot Docs on twitter @hotdocs, instagram @hotdocsfest and hashtag #HotDocs15 #novellamag so we can follow your documentary picks.

10 Shows on Canadian Netflix Worth Watching

Feel like starting a new television series but don’t know which one? Well, you’re in luck because I’ve highlighted 10 shows available on Canadian Netflix that will have you binge watching an entire season in just a matter of days. Check out our list of buzz worthy shows with great story plots and incredible acting.

Broadchurch (Season 1)


Broadchurch is a mystery/thriller that follows a small town after the death of a young boy. The once tightknit Broadchurch now gets torn apart after suspects begin to arise. This show is not your average mystery because the heartbreaking tale examines the human psyche and questions whether or not you truly ever know the person who lives next door to you. From the story plot to the incredible acting, it definitely brings something new to the overdone genre. Season 2 is out but still not available on Netflix.

 Bloodline (Season 1)

The Rayburn family has an established reputation in their Florida Keys community. When the black sheep son returns home, he threatens to reveal the family’s deep dark secrets and a past that lurks around each family member everyday. It’s such a unique story and again, the acting is spectacular.

The Fall (Season 1 & 2)


I have to admit, I did start watching this show because of Scully, I mean the brilliant Gillian Anderson, who’s one badass in this psychological thriller. Stella Gibson (played by Anderson) investigates a series of murders in Belfast, Ireland, which are all linked to the killer Paul Spector (played by Jamie Dornan). They have renewed for a third season so better get on it stat!

Freaks & Geeks (2 Seasons)


If you haven’t watched Freaks and Geeks, then this should be at the top of your list. Before James Franco and Seth Rogen became the high profiled actors/comedians they are today, it all started with this show created by Paul Feig and Jud Apatow. Set in 1980, this cult classic showcases the different social cliques in high school. I still can’t believe this show got cancelled. Dallas Rules!

Damages (5 Seasons)


If you’re into law dramas then Damages is the show for you. The incredible Glenn Close plays one of the best lawyers in New York (Patty Hewes) who teams up with a recent law school graduate, Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), where they take on a different case each season.

Derek (Seasons 1 & 2 plus a special)


Ricky Gervais fans will want to watch this mockumentary. Ricky plays Derek, a nursing home caretaker who is a fan of reality shows. From his awkwardness to childlike mannerisms, Derek will bring you to tears.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 1)


If you’re a fan of 30 Rock then this is a show you should definitely watch. After leaving a cult, Schmidt ventures off to New York where she experiences life and meets hilarious people along the way. Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, you know to expect nothing but high quality humour. Plus the jabs at NBC and the ridiculous stereotypes are just an icing on the cake.

Happy Valley (Season 1)

Happy Valley

After Catherine Wood’s (played by Sarah Lancashire) family is left in shambles after the death of her daughter, the person responsible for her death gets released from prison. I don’t know what it is about British shows, but they always do it right!

Wentworth (Season 1 & 2)

Wenworth S2 Generics

Move over Orange is The New Black, there’s a new prison show on Netflix. This Australian crime/drama centers on Bea Smith trying to cope with the dynamics of prison life after being charged with attempted murder on her husband.

Undeclared (Season 1)


After Freaks & Geeks came Undeclared. Before Charlie Hunnam was in a motorcycle “club” he was Jay Baruchel’s college roommate. This half-hour comedy centers around 6-college freshman trying to survive their first year. Don’t be surprised if you see many cameo appearances by actors who look a “little” familiar.

Have any other shows to recommend? Tweet us @novellamagazine giving us your suggestions. Use #novellamag on social media so we know which one of our shows you’ve started watching!

Smiley Faces and e-Signatures

Professionalism isn’t dead, it’s just received a Millennial makeover

The world belongs to the Millennials now, and while it hasn’t been in their young hands very long, they’ve already fulfilled their first order of business: firing professionalism.

I guess “firing” is the wrong word, since the youngsters of business haven’t completely tossed the concept out the window. Rather, they’ve sat it down (probably in a bean bag chair) and, with a pat on the back, told it that it needs to change a few things if it wants to keep its job.

The age-old model for professionalism — the one that tells working people to put stony respect before a sincere smile and to draw a very distinct line between their work lives and personal lives — is being discarded by the next generation of workers and being replaced by a model that reflects their looser, less rigid attitudes. It’s a new kind of professionalism for a generation that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still cares passionately about their craft and the people they serve.

It’s funny, being a young professional myself, I wasn’t even aware of this radical change until very recently. I had entered the workforce just as it was taking on this new persona, so to me it seemed like a long-established norm. Like most people my age, I had learned from the get-go that being real with my co-workers and clients was a better way of respecting them than by being a safe, stiff corporate robot.

But then there was Louie*. I worked with Louie at my first office job, where a team of only 15 employees enjoyed a rather lax working environment, greeting each other with a chipper “hey” and slipping the odd smiley face into email conversations. Everyone was cool with each other. But eventually Louie approached me with a surprising request, which was to greet him with “hi” or “hello” instead and preferred me to stick to formal English while conversing via email for the sake of, as he put it, “showing each other some respect.” Apparently he wasn’t too smiley-faced about my smiley-faced messages.

It took a few days to make me realize that despite how passionate Louie had been about the subject, I hadn’t been in the wrong. Maybe 20 years ago all of it would have been considered a tad inappropriate, but I’d enjoyed too many friendly conversations with fellow professionals — chats in which laughter was left uncensored and emojis ran free — to accept that I’d been unprofessional or disrespectful. I’d just been plain friendly.

Of course there have been, and will be, negative responses to this shift in professionalism. Like many older customs that our society has given the boot, the traditional rules of acting professional have been engrained in the mind of the workforce for centuries, making it a difficult feat for many to accept the more lax route that our new businesspeople are taking. And like other positive movements of the past, this one will also take some time to be fully embraced.

But is this really a positive movement? It’s a new direction for the professional world, but is it a good direction? My answer, and the answer of most working Millennials, is yes. For centuries the Western World has wrestled with the concept of being more chill. Whether we’re looking at our social behaviour, our appearance, or anything, we’ve been trained to perfect it all, and where we can’t perfect it, we must fake it. According to the old model of professionalism, when you’re in a meeting, when you’re being introduced to a new client, when you’re making small-talk with a co-worker at the company Christmas party, you’re hiding that imperfect part of you — that behind-the-scenes, off-duty version of yourself you only pull out when you’re at home or amongst friends. You don’t talk to these people the way you would a friend. They recognize this, and they accept it, because they’re wearing the mask, too.

The revised model for professionalism validates that more relaxed side of ourselves, which is our real selves. The new workforce tells us not to do what past generations have done and leave ourselves at home. Bring your realness to work and interact with people like that. We’re melding our “at-home” lives with our “at-work” lives, because let’s face it, more and more people are pursuing their true passions and doing work they actually love instead of picking the path that’s most convenient. Work feels like home for a lot more professionals nowadays. The barrier between those two worlds is being blurred, which is especially being promoted by the emergence of new, creative industries and job descriptions, like the maker community. More and more we’re seeing unheard of careers pop up that allow professionals to have less rigid work schedules, to work from home, to sell their craft as their job.

None of this is to say that employees are allowed to be sloppy or rude. While the word “casual” has been scorned for a long time in the business realm (except, of course, on Fridays), it has never been synonymous with “lazy” and we need to keep it that way. There are still boundaries at work, and we must make sure we don’t take this new social freedom too far. Thankfully this shouldn’t be too hard — I’ve seen firsthand that sensitivity to each other’s opinions, backgrounds and emotions can still be maintained when talking to a peer with a genuine smile on your face. Both parties offer an unspoken respect for the other by talking to them the way they would to a friend.

Some elders may be looking in horror as their ancient book of rules is tossed in the Millennials’ fire, but they’ll learn to accept it. Maybe they’ll even find to love it. Because really, who prefers a cold handshake over a welcoming embrace? “Best Regards” over “Cheers”?

People may doubt the new generation’s ability to run the world (and Tess Koman fought this point of view pretty smoothly right HERE, but what they may not recognize is that just because we think differently doesn’t mean we think irresponsibly. Yes, we have our issues, just like every generation before us did. And we’ll sort through them as we go. We’ll learn from our mistakes, and carve our own paths using our innovative way of thinking.

After all, it’s the professional thing to do.

Get Fit at Fly Studio: Ariel & Suspension Yoga

Article by Stephanie Smalls

I’m not one of those people who are all about fitness. I do not like exercise, by any means. I believe taking the stairs instead of the escalator in the subway falls under “exercise”. I believe the walk to and from brunch can and should count as “exercise”. I believe if I run to catch the bus that also counts as “exercise”.

I’m in shape as far as appearances go. People often ask me what I do to stay in shape and I tell them, I do nothing. I was very active as a child and into my teen years. Even as a young adult, I had a gym membership that I utilized daily, I ate well, went to bed at a respectable hour and limited my alcohol intake. Then came my 30s…

It wasn’t that I got older and cared less about exercise, ok well yes that actually was it, but also because I became more confident in my own skin. I became less concerned with what other people thought and made sure I was happy with myself. However, I do understand the importance of physical exercise for more than appearances and that is why I decided to find something that I actually wanted to do to get fit and be healthy.

I’ve always enjoyed Yoga, Pilates and Spin but I tried classes at my local gym and found that it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted something more relaxed; come in at any level and have some fun while getting fit together. That’s when I found Fly Studio, a boutique Yoga and Pilates Studio on Queen West. When I saw they have an Aerial Yoga class and the prices were affordable, I was sold.

I called to reserve my spot and spoke to Chris who was extremely friendly, answered all of my questions and explained Juan would be the instructor for my class. I arrived to a brightly lit, small studio with energizing music playing and a Reformer Pilates class in full swing. Chris actually remembered me from my phone call (uncanny) and showed me where to change. That’s when the nervousness kicked in. I hadn’t been in a class in so long, I couldn’t even remember the last time. What if I didn’t know the poses? What if I fell out of the fabric? What if everyone in the yoga class is a Yogi Master and I’m the uncoordinated one holding the class back? I took a deep breath and stepped out of the change room. My mouth was feeling dry from my brief anxiety attack and I noticed glass bottles of water hanging on the wall. Luckily for me, if you forgot/didn’t bring a water bottle; the studio has one for you. Bonus!

Juan was friendly and advised he wouldn’t pick on me, thankfully. The class size was small, eight of us to be exact, which I appreciated. Juan had time throughout the class to go around to each person, including myself, and assist with the poses or offer alternative ways to achieve the current pose. I befriended a couple of girls in the class, who are sisters, and we apologized to each other several times because you it’s common to accidentally nudge the person in front of you with your foot. We shared many laughs throughout the class and congratulated one another when someone achieved a pose. I was the first person in class to achieve the upside down “vampire” pose thing. I’m not sure what it’s called but that’s what we called it. Sorry Juan…

After class, you truly feel like you could be part of Cirque De Soleil, Ok maybe not but I did. Remember, I haven’t done anything active in years. Be as proud of me as I am of myself. I highly recommend Fly Studio for many reasons but personally, it’s affordable – they have pricing options to fit your lifestyle and budget, staff are friendly and welcoming – thank you Chris and Juan, they have a variety of classes to fit your schedule all at a convenient location in one of the hippest neighbourhoods in the city. So, have you signed up yet?