Caroline Phillips’ Around Town

Former NAC usher gets red-carpet welcome

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Julian Armour with his son, Francis, 4, and Naomi Ridout at the coffee reception proceeding a concert by violinist Kerson Leong, 14, and pianist Andrew Tunis on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at Southminster United Church. The event was part of The Chamber Players of Canada's coffee concert series. (Photo by: Caroline Phillips)

OTTAWA — A former usher with the National Arts Centre was given red carpet treatment when he returned there last Monday for a special screening of his Oscar-nominated film, Monsieur Lazhar.

Gatineau-born director Philippe Falardeau felt “like an old horse going back to the stables” when he entered the 53 Elgin St. building from his youth. “It seemed like only yesterday that I was working here,” he told reporters.

Falardeau started off his speech to the screening audience by cleverly asking, in both official languages, “Can I help you?” before shining a tiny flashlight, just like ol’ times.

Monsieur Lazhar was the latest Canadian movie night hosted by Heritage Minister James Moore for fellow Parliamentarians. The French-language drama, up for an Academy Award in the best foreign language film category, was produced by Luc Déry and Kim McCraw, the same team behind the Oscar-nominated Incendies.

“It’s important that the politicians see our films and see what we’re doing so they can also promote the industry that they (the governments) are subsidizing,” said Falardeau, who studied political science at the University of Ottawa.

A post-screening reception was held in the main foyer. It resembled the film’s elementary school setting with wonderful displays of children’s books, giant crayons and world globes.

“I really, really wanted to see this movie and I think it was well done,” Ottawa school board trustee Theresa Kavanagh, who also works in the NDP Whip’s office, told Around Town.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae tweeted that everyone should “run, not walk” to see it.

Grabbing the most attention at the party were the film’s child stars, Sophie Nélisse and Émilien Néron. Others from the industry included Telefilm Canada executive director Carolle Brabant and board chairman Michel Roy, CBC president Hubert Lacroix, Rogers TV vice-president Colette Watson, Astral chairman André Bureau and CBC political satirist Rick Mercer.

Extraordinary violinist

Who needs coffee when you can get a buzz from hearing Kerson Leong play? The 14-year-old violin prodigy gave a stellar performance with pianist Andrew Tunis at The Chamber Players of Canada’s well-attended coffee concert, presented Wednesday morning at the Southminster United Church.

Tunis, a professor of piano at the University of Ottawa, used to teach Leong’s pianist mother, Tu Mach, who now runs the music academy Tutti Muzik.

Another former mentor, pianist Evelyn Greenberg, came. So did her sister, Jackie Holzman, seen at the coffee reception with her friends, Patrick and Yvonne Lin. Holzman met Patrick in Beijing when she was Ottawa’s mayor setting the groundwork for a future sister city relationship (she made such an impression that the Lins moved here).

Also at the concert were Leong’s cellist-playing brother, Stanley, 17, and M.I.T.-educated father, Kin-Wai, as well as The Chamber Players’ artistic director, Julian Armour. His son Francis, 4, sat quietly in his lap throughout the recital.

Leong’s violin practise schedule consists of two 50-minute sessions, each with 10-minute breaks. On weekends, he steps it up to four or five sessions daily. Between his practising, studying and other interests, the Grade 9 student of Ashbury College still finds time to play video games. He may be extraordinary but he’s still a boy.

Julius Caesar for 2012

It’s his party and he can cry if he wants to, but Charles McFarland did no such thing as he and Michael Mancini launched the Ottawa Shakespeare Company’s 2012 show at the new Centrepointe Studio Theatre on Wednesday.

McFarland was still numb from having been laid off two days earlier as the City of Ottawa’s theatre artistic producer but “life goes on,” he told Around Town.

Dozens gathered to listen to the artistic leaders share details about their production of Julius Caesar, running April 18 to 28. The play, directed by McFarland, will have a fresh and contemporary feel with Andrew Moodie starring as Caesar, a modern-day political leader.

The public has the option of buying tickets that will allow them to be active participants in the play (attendee Joseph Cull’s eyes lit up when this announcement was made).

The launch resembled a U.S. presidential election campaign with red, white and blue fabrics and balloons. The decor was the work of Pukeko Design’s Sarah Waghorn. Thyme & Again’s Sheila Whyte had her team serve ribs, corn dogs and succotash along with caesar cocktails and cookies iced with little dagger designs.

Seen were long-time arts supporters Diana Kirkwood, Glenn and Barb McInnes and NCC chairman Russ Mills, as well as Clare Brennan from the advertising agency Fifty Strategy and Creative.

Gala supports Hopewell

Whether you were in the mood to be photographed on a Harley Davidson or to release your negative emotions through a healing touch, there was much to experience at F.A.B. Women’s first annual charity cocktail gala in support of the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre.

The sold-out night was held last Monday at The Westin. Hundreds of ladies roamed about, tasting food, sipping drinks, listening to music and checking out the latest in fashions and jewelry, all while embracing the empowering message of positive change.

F.A.B. (Free As a Bird) Women pulled in some high-profile names to support its cause of improving body image and preventing eating disorders. Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, who battled bulimia as a teen, is the honorary chairwoman (her other half is MP Justin Trudeau).

Supply teacher Janelle Foligno, who suffered from an eating disorder when she was 17, is volunteering as the educational manager. Foligno, who’s married to Sens player Nick Foligno, will be conducting awareness workshops in the schools.

F.A.B. Women was founded by Jennifer Graves, Quality Entertainment president Brian Henry and Tia Ward, all of whom have a connection to the cause, whether it’s personal or through a friend or family member.

Angel-winged volunteers from Hummingbird MediSPA sold raffle tickets while Kimberley Dunn belted out soulful songs at a baby grand. Also seen were event planner Samantha Moonsammy from Starfish, MC Josie Geuer from Hot 89.9 and nearly two dozen influential “hosts,” who had the task of recruiting their galpals to come. The hosts included broadcaster Catherine Clark, philanthropist Barbara Crook, and Krista Kealey, head of communications at the Ottawa Airport.

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