Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti

Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist who has an opinion on just about everything. (“The best Old Dutch flavour is dill pickle, and everyone else is wrong.” See?)

Jen uses her thoughtful writing and observational wit to comment on the local issues of the day as well as larger trends in technology, media, pop culture, health, human rights, and feminism.

Jen spent the first decade of her career as a music writer, first joining the Free Press in that role in 2013. In addition to telling readers how concerts were, she interviewed nearly every musician who graced this city’s stages, from St. Vincent to John Fogerty.

After writing a bi-weekly column for the op-ed pages, Jen became a regular columnist for the paper in 2015.

A lifelong Winnipegger, Jen graduated from the Creative Communications program at Red River College in 2006. Prior to coming to the Free Press, Jen was the music editor at Uptown Magazine and freelanced for CBC, the Huffington Post, as well as a veritable graveyard of now-defunct Canadian music rags and websites. She is a former Polaris Music Prize juror, and was selected to be on the Grand Jury in Toronto in 2015.  

In 2013, Jen co-founded the popular local blog, SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS: another feminist response to pop culture. Her personal essays have also appeared in various journals, including a local anthology on menstruation.

Jen co-hosts the paper’s local culture podcast, Bury the Lede, podcast with fellow Free Press writer Erin Lebar

Recent articles of Jen Zoratti

Winnipegger struggled to stay mum about Amazing win

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Preview

Winnipegger struggled to stay mum about Amazing win

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2022

They took planes, trains and automobiles across 20,000 kilometres and 24 cities from coast to coast. They solved brain-teasing puzzles and completed challenges that put their strength and endurance to the test. She jumped out of a helicopter. He did an obstacle course — on roller skates.

But one of the biggest challenges facing Catherine Wreford Ledlow and Craig Ramsay actually came after filming for The Amazing Race Canada wrapped: keeping the fact they won it all a secret.

Wreford Ledlow, a Winnipeg-based dancer, actor and singer, and Ramsay, her best friend of 25 years as well as a fellow actor and Broadway performer, were officially crowned the Season 8 champs of the Canadian reality game show, in which 10 teams race across the country and are put through their paces in the process, on Tuesday night’s finale.

Winners receive a bunch of prizes, including $250,000 and two Chevrolet Silverado ZR2s.

Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2022

MARK O’NEILL / BELLMEDIA

Winners Catherine Wreford Ledlow and Craig Ramsay get emotional at the finale.

Queen’s image an iconic symbol with myriad meanings

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Preview

Queen’s image an iconic symbol with myriad meanings

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022

In 1964, a British sculptor by the name of Arnold Machin was chosen to design a new effigy for Queen Elizabeth II, which was to be used on coinage and stamps in the U.K. and in other Commonwealth countries. The iconic Machin effigy — with the Queen cutting a striking profile — is now believed to be the most reproduced artwork in history.

That’s how many of us knew Queen Elizabeth II, who died last week at the age of 96, with 70 of those years on the throne: as a static icon of history, art and pop culture.

Even if you aren’t a royal watcher, the queen’s image is inescapable — for the simple fact her face is almost always in your wallet. For a long time, she cast a watchful eye over Winnipeg Jets games at the old arena; her official portraits and statues can be found in and around all manner of government buildings.

Like that famous 2000s study that showed that kids as young as two recognize brand logos, Commonwealth kids likely have the same sensation with the queen.

Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022

Andy Warhol’s Reigning Queen plays on the already much-repeated image of the late British monarch.

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 5 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 5 minute read Thursday, Sep. 8, 2022

I.T. sector rocks Club Regent at TechapaloozaSaturday, Sept. 10, 6-11 p.m.Club Regent Event Centre, 1425 Regent Ave. W.Tickets: $40 plus fees, techapalooza.ca

Budding rock stars from the city’s information technology (I.T.) sector will dust off their drum kits and tune up their guitars, taking the stage at Club Regent Event Centre on Saturday for Techapalooza.

The annual fundraiser for CancerCare Manitoba was held online last year due the COVID-19 pandemic; this year’s event is dubbed a “Roarin’ Return to Live Entertainment” and features a half-dozen bands made up of I.T. professionals, typically performing a themed set of cover songs (with costumes to match). This year’s bands include tributes to the music of California, a collection of hard rock anthems and some classic rock gems; those in attendance can cast their vote for the fan favourite award.

Since its inception in 2012, Techapalooza has raised over $740,000 for CancerCare Manitoba, both through ticket sales and donations as a “groupie” to each of the bands prior to the event via the Techapalooza website.

Thursday, Sep. 8, 2022

Marnie Barnes photo

Techapalooza

Rock stars’ bad behaviour puts fans in sad situation

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Preview

Rock stars’ bad behaviour puts fans in sad situation

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2022

I’ve written a variation of this column before. A few times, actually. At this point it’s like, just change the names, you know?

This is how I felt when people asked for my take on the recent sexual misconduct allegations levelled at Win Butler, frontman of the Montreal indie rock band Arcade Fire, first uncovered in a report from the U.S.-based online music publication Pitchfork. Just crushing disappointment.

I wrote a piece when sexual assault allegations surfaced against Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard in 2018 (he’s since been found guilty of sexual assault causing bodily harm). And I wrote again when Ryan Adams was accused of preying on young women, particularly those trying to forge their own careers in music, in 2019. (Adams apologized for “mistreating people throughout his life and career” in 2020.)

The specific details in the Win Butler allegations are different, but the contours of the story are familiar: a male musician exploiting the adoration of his (usually young) fans. The shades of power and predation. The denial.

Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2022

Chris Pizzello / Invision

Win Butler of Arcade Fire has been accused of sexual misconduct.

‘People’s princess’ remains public property 25 years later

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Preview

‘People’s princess’ remains public property 25 years later

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Friday, Sep. 2, 2022

For a wide cross-section of people, Aug. 31, 1997 was a “where were you when” date in history.

That was the day Diana, Princess of Wales, died from injuries sustained in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, France, that also killed her companion, Dodi Fayed, and driver Henri Paul.

This week marked 25 years since the tragic death of the “people’s princess,” as she was called, at just 36. She left behind two young boys, Prince William, who was 15, and Prince Harry, 12. Billions of people watched her funeral in September 1997 just as they had tuned in to watch her wedding to Prince Charles in July 1981. Both moments of her short life turned into spectacles.

As a member of the British Royal Family, Diana Spencer became an object of adoration and obsession among both the public and the press, which constantly hounded and scrutinized her — particularly after her divorce.

Friday, Sep. 2, 2022

John Stillwell/The Associated Press FILEs

In this 1997 photo, Diana, Princess of Wales, is seen months before her death at age 36.

Backstreet Boys still larger than life

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Preview

Backstreet Boys still larger than life

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Monday, Aug. 29, 2022

Omigod, they’re back again.

The Backstreet Boys swung through Winnipeg for the second time on their pandemic-interrupted DNA World Tour Monday night — but the fact that they were here in July 2019 didn’t stop nearly 12,000 screaming (and largely millennial) fans from packing out Canada Life Centre for a night of nostalgia and slickly produced pop.

Arriving onstage just after 8:30 p.m. in an explosion of smoke, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, AJ McLean and Kevin Richardson — perfectly choreographed, of course, right down to their co-ordinating red and black outfits — kicked it back to ‘96 and opened the show with I Wanna Be With You followed by 2000’s The Call and Don’t Want You Back from 1999’s Millennium. They know who their audience is and exactly what they want to hear.

The Backstreet Boys have been titans of pop since they stormed the charts with their 1996 self-titled international debut as part of an explosion of boy bands in that decade. (If it felt like the Backstreet Boys were particularly ubiquitous in 1997, it could be because that was the year their debut dropped in America, dovetailing with the release of 1997’s sophomore album Backstreet’s Back.)

Monday, Aug. 29, 2022

Backstreet's back, all right! (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Backstreet Boys thrill fans on back nine

Jen Zoratti 2 minute read Preview

Backstreet Boys thrill fans on back nine

Jen Zoratti 2 minute read Monday, Aug. 29, 2022

A pair of local golfers hit a celebrity-spotting hole-in-one Sunday, when they ran into the Backstreet Boys at Rossmere Golf and Country Club.

Kelly Page, 46, and her friend Caralyn Rabichuk, who is a member at the Winnipeg club, noticed the 1990s boy band — composed of Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, AJ McLean and Kevin Richardson — on the 18th hole, enjoying a round of golf the day before they were to perform at Canada Life Centre.

“We didn’t crowd them or anything,” Page says with a laugh. “But they let us take a picture with them.”

Page and Rabichuk were golfing with their teenage daughters and a few friends. However, Page’s eldest, Taylor, had to leave before the photo was snapped.

Monday, Aug. 29, 2022

Members of the Backstreet Boys pose for a photo with fans Sunday at Rossmere Golf and Country Club. (Supplied)

What’s up

Eva Wasney, Jen Zoratti, Ben Waldman and Jill Wilson 4 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney, Jen Zoratti, Ben Waldman and Jill Wilson 4 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022

Fantastic Beasts? Here’s where to find themCre8ery, 125 Adelaide St.Thursday to Sept. 6Free, masks mandatory

With his pencil, Chris Chuckry can do scary things. Terrifying things. Things that make you want to look away in disgust. Things that make you shake your head and bite your tongue. And that’s only describing his cartoons of health ministers, anti-vaxxers and a pair of Manitoba premiers.

But there’s more to the Winnipeg artist, who rocketed to local renown throughout the pandemic thanks to his sharp wit and sharp nib, than political commentary. Deep in the cockles of his heart, Chuckry prefers to draw beasts that nobody elected: grotesque, odd, strange, eerie, mythical creatures. A comic-book colourist, Chuckry has been immersed in alternate universes for decades, and with his new solo exhibition at Cre8ery, he’s inviting the rest of the world in to say hello.

The show is called Myths, Monsters and Fairytales, and one can be sure that Chuckry will find a common ground between the world of fable and the world we call home. Ogres, trolls, monsters, demons — they’re all around us. Scary, huh?

Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022

Heather Dopson photo

The eighth annual Whoop and Hollar Folk Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday outside Portage la Prairie.

Greta Van Fleet delivers great concert

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Preview

Greta Van Fleet delivers great concert

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Monday, Aug. 22, 2022

Let’s address the lead balloon, as it were, in the room right off the top: yes, Greta Van Fleet, a Grammy-winning American rock band, sounds a lot like a certain venerable English rock band.

In fact, for a while, that was all anyone could talk about when it came to these four classic-rock livin’ lovin’ guys from Michigan — brothers Josh (vocals), Jake (guitar) and Sam Kiszka (bass, keys), along with brother from another mother, drummer Danny Wagner — who named their band after an octogenarian grandmother from their hometown.

The band’s debut full-length album, 2018’s Anthem of the Peaceful Army, was a commercial success but the critics were out for blood. Many reviews were varying degrees of ruthless, but they were all united by a theme: this band sounds too much like Led Zeppelin. And, of course, the members of Greta Van Fleet became frustrated by the constant comparisons.

A couple things about that. One, if you don’t want people to compare you to Zeppelin, you should probably try to sound a bit less like Zeppelin. Two, you know whose first album also got absolutely harshed on by critics? Zeppelin.

Monday, Aug. 22, 2022

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Lead singer Josh Kiszka and Guitarist Jake Kiszka of Greta Van Fleet performs at Canada Life centre in Winnipeg Monday.

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022

Splash along to local music at Rainbow TroutAug. 19 to 21St. Malo, Man.Tickets: Day passes are available at the gate

Pack up your favourite water floaties and head south for the annual Rainbow Trout Music Festival. The indie event takes place on the banks of the Rosseau River, with music and entertainment happening at the waterside Carpet Beach stage throughout the festival.

The music lineup includes local acts JayWood, Boy Golden, Juliens Daughter, Trampoline, Living Hour, Dill the Giant, Mahogany Frog, Diaphanie and others. There’s also an open mic on Saturday for all manner of aspiring performers — anything from singing to dancing to juggling to stand-up comedy is fair game.

Beyond the stage, there will be a cribbage tournament, recycled art making workshop, medicine plant walk and art installations throughout the festival grounds, located south of St. Malo off Highway 59. A small market as well as food and drink vendors, including Never Better Coffee, will be on site all weekend.

Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022

HITOMI PHOTO
Rainbow Trout Music Festival takes place along the banks of the Rosseau River this weekend.

Unceremonious firing of veteran CTV broadcaster Lisa LaFlamme a wakeup call

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Preview

Unceremonious firing of veteran CTV broadcaster Lisa LaFlamme a wakeup call

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022

If you are a high-profile male news anchor — scratch that, if you are a high-profile white male newscaster — you can work until you are dust. If you don’t die in the chair first, you will be able to enjoy months-long fanfare and warm wishes leading up to your celebrated retirement, which will be well past the age of 65.

And, on a well-promoted final broadcast, you will have the opportunity to sign off, one last time, to the generations of viewers who allowed you into their living rooms every night.

Not so, apparently, if you are a woman, as was laid bare with the unceremonious firing of veteran CTV broadcaster Lisa LaFlamme.

On Monday, LaFlamme, who has been the chief anchor of CTV National News since Lloyd Robertson’s retirement (at age 77) in 2011, posted a video to Twitter. She thought we should hear the news from her: in June, Bell Media made a “business decision” to end her contract, effectively ending her 35-year career with CTV News.

Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022

CTV

LaFlamme embraced her natural hair colour during the pandemic, something that would not have been newsworthy for a male anchor.

Freya the walrus euthanized because we wouldn’t leave her alone

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Preview

Freya the walrus euthanized because we wouldn’t leave her alone

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Monday, Aug. 15, 2022

Like many people, my heart was recently stolen by a charming 600-kilogram (or 1320-pound) walrus nicknamed Freya.

Over the past few weeks, Freya has been frequenting the Oslo Fjord, an inlet on Norway’s southeastern coast, where she could be seen hoisting her impressive body onto docked boats to lounge in the sun, sometimes sinking them in the process.

Naturally, images of this sunbathing goddess, retiring on pleasure watercraft partially submerged by her heft, went viral online, and Freya started drawing physical crowds to the Oslo Fjord.

This quickly became a problem. Freya, like all walruses, needed a lot of rest (up to 20 hours a day) and to be left alone — girl, same — but people didn’t leave her alone. People took pictures of and with her. Some people threw things at her to get her attention. Some people were even seen swimming with her.

Monday, Aug. 15, 2022

TOR ERIK SCHRøDER / NTB SCANPIX / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Over the past few weeks, Freya has been frequenting the Oslo Fjord.

Waning summer a season of mixed emotions

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Preview

Waning summer a season of mixed emotions

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Monday, Aug. 15, 2022

Ten years ago, American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey released an unlikely summer anthem.

Summertime Sadness, off of her 2012 sophomore studio album, Born to Die, isn’t the kind of feel-good, sun-on-your-face jam you’ll hear blasting from an open car window. No, it’s a melancholy, sepia-soaked ballad about the endings of things.

Apparently, quite a few people have currently “got that summertime, summertime sadness,” to borrow the chorus, because this 10-year-old song is doing numbers. Last week, Chart Data, an aggregate that pulls data from a host of industry sources, tweeted that the song earned one million daily streams on Spotify for the first time ever, prompting many people to make variations of the same joke: “everyone OK out there?”

It’s a good song — for what it’s worth, the Los Angeles-based Vitamin String Quartet, which is known for its arrangements of pop songs, also does an absolutely devastating version, which underscores just how good this song is melodically — but perhaps its endurance is owed to the fact that summertime sadness is indeed A Thing, and it is indeed A Thing right now.

Monday, Aug. 15, 2022

Stephanie Keith / Getty Images
Lana Del Rey is releasing a spoken-word album ahead of the launch of her book, Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass.

Folklorama in the family

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Preview

Folklorama in the family

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Friday, Aug. 12, 2022

IVAN Tkach and his sister Isabel are in warm-up clothes, rehearsing to an empty hall with their ensemble, Zoloto Ukrainian Dance. In a little over two hours, they will be resplendent in their dance costumes — Ivan in sharovary, those voluminous pants; Isabel with a vinok, the ribboned flower crown, perched on her head — performing to a full house at the Spirit of Ukraine Pavilion at Folklorama. They will dance in three shows tonight, and are half-way through a weeklong, 23-show run.

Folklorama families can be found in each of the annual cultural festival’s pavilions, and the Tkach family is one of them. Ivan and Isabel’s parents, Doug and Deanna Tkach, are longtime volunteers with the Spirit of Ukraine Pavilion (Doug is one of this year’s adult ambassadors) and are veteran Ukrainian dance parents. Ivan, now 18, has been dancing since he was three years old.

“I do remember all the times where we get them in the car, and it’s, ‘Do I have to go to dance? Do I have to go to dance?’” Doug says. “And then we’d pick them up at the end of rehearsal, and it would be, ‘That was amazing.’ They were so full of enthusiasm and energy afterwards.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Isabel says with a wry smile.

Friday, Aug. 12, 2022

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Both Ivan and Isabel (in front of their parents) Tkach started dance at age three and love it still. Her parents say it’s helped Isabel, who has a form of cerebral palsy, with strength and balance.

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

Winnipeg Beer FestivalSaturday, Aug. 13, 5 p.m.-midnightFort Gibraltar, 866 Rue St. JosephTickets from $17.35, wpgbeerfestival.com

With weekend temperatures set to soar, there’s no better spot to grab a cold one in Winnipeg this Saturday than within the wooden walls of Fort Gibraltar.

The fifth annual Winnipeg Beer Festival returns to St. Boniface on Aug. 13, with 23 producers of beer (of course), wine, cider, mead, spirits and more set to pour their wares to help thirsty locals beat the heat.

Local craft breweries pouring at Winnipeg Beer Fest include Trans Canada Brewing Co., Torque Brewing, Little Brown Jug, Low Life Barrel House, Fort Garry Brewing Co. and Brazen Brewing Co., among others. There are also a number of contract brewers sampling their beers (including Brasserie La Shoppe, Grain to Glass and Bookstore Brewing Co.) as well as a couple of brewers who should have bricks-and-mortar taprooms opening soon (Gimli’s Interlake Brewing Co. and Devil May Care, who are setting up shop on Fort St.).

Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

FREE PRESS FILES
The fifth annual Winnipeg Beer Festival returns to St. Boniface on Aug. 13.

African-Canadian artist Esmaa Mohamoud uses sport to look at how Black bodies are made visible and invisible

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Preview

African-Canadian artist Esmaa Mohamoud uses sport to look at how Black bodies are made visible and invisible

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

Of all the striking, large-scale works that compose Esmaa Mohamoud’s landmark solo touring exhibition To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat, on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery until Oct. 16, Glorious Bones is perhaps the most compelling.

Forty-six repurposed football helmets, covered in vivid African wax prints, are suspended by steel stands — making them look, unsettlingly, like heads on spikes. No matter where you stand in relation to the installation, the helmets are facing you. No one is wearing the helmets. There are only voids behind the face masks. But still: a presence is felt.

This tension between the hyper visible and the invisible is the throughline that links the 13 works that make up To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat. The London, Ont.-born, Toronto-based African-Canadian multidisciplinary artist explores, per the artist statement, “the ways in which Black bodies at once appear — and yet are rendered metaphorically invisible — within the spaces they navigate” through the lens of professional sport, a site where Black bodies are routinely elevated and then exploited for profit and entertainment. Her works are about all the ways in which Black bodies are erased from the industries built upon them. (It's true in music, too.)

To that end, the exhibition fittingly opens with an excerpt from Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man: “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me… When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed everything and anything except me.”

Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

Submitted

Esmaa Mohamoud’s To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat, including the work From the Ground We Fall, is at the WAG through Oct. 16

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

Movie night at the Lyric TheatreFriday, Aug. 5, 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.Lyric Theatre, Assiniboine ParkFree admission

Assiniboine Park’s weekly summer movie night returns to the Lyric Theatre this Friday with a lineup heavy on big-budget, mainly family-friendly flicks.

The free double bill kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with a screening of Sing 2, the 2021 animated musical comedy featuring the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson and many more. This time around, the gang must convince Clay Calloway, an aging rock star lion (voiced by Bono), to leave his reclusive life and come out of retirement. Clay and the gang must face their fears in a production that could make or break their careers.

At 8:45 p.m., moviegoers will be thrust into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a screening of Eternals, the 2021 film starring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie and more and directed by Chloé Zhao. The film features an ensemble cast of the titular Eternals, immortals who return after centuries in hiding, determined to protect Earth from the Deviants.

Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

Marvel Studios Kumail Nanjiani (from left), Lia McHugh, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie and Don Lee in a scene from Eternals.

Pleasure and pain all part of older-home ownership

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Preview

Pleasure and pain all part of older-home ownership

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022

When you buy a piece of Winnipeg history — or, at least, when you buy one of the most conspicuous houses on one of the city’s showiest streets — your personal renovation decisions become very public.

So is the case for Gilchrist House, which, until last week, has stood at 1015 Wellington Cres. for 90 years. Now, it’s coming down.

I walk by this house — former home of grain merchant James M. Gilchrist, T. Eaton & Co. director Gilbert and Marjorie Eaton, disgraced fashion mogul Peter Nygard and lawyer and businessman David Asper — every day. On Tuesday morning, I stood and watched for a bit as an excavator bit huge chunks out of its Tudor-style frame, revealing patches of blue sky. I thought about how much labour — how much history — was being reduced to a dusty pile of rubble.

I caught the eye of an approaching woman, who slowed and yanked out an earbud. “I think they should have given us all a tour before they tore it down, considering I’ve been walking by since I was a year old,” she said. “That’s 46 years.”

Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022

JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

The sprawling home at 1015 Wellington Cres., which has stood for 90 years and been home to the likes of David Asper and grain merchant James M. Gilchrist, is being torn down.

It turns out we actually do need these stinkin’ badges

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Preview

It turns out we actually do need these stinkin’ badges

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022

Like many Canadian girls, I was, for many years, a Girl Guide.

Every Monday night in the early 1990s, I would don my little brown dress and my jaunty little orange kerchief — I always felt we looked more like miniature flight attendants representing some hideously branded airline than scouts — and go to Brownies, where we sat around a foam toadstool and listened to women (including my mom) called Brown Owl and Tawny Owl in a church basement.

Having a low-key coven composed of girls organized into groups of elves, sprites and pixies gabbing around a toadstool strikes me as kind of subversive, now, considering the venue.

As the over-achieving, pleasure-to-have-in-class type, I lived for collecting badges (well, and the cookies), trying to crowd my sash with so many little round patches that not one centimetre of brown fabric remained. Achievements you can earn and then wear on your body? Come on.

Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022

Jen's badges. (Garmin)

Free Press Folklorama Bingo card invites Winnipeggers to take in two-week cultural festival one square at a time

Eva Wasney and Jen Zoratti 13 minute read Preview

Free Press Folklorama Bingo card invites Winnipeggers to take in two-week cultural festival one square at a time

Eva Wasney and Jen Zoratti 13 minute read Friday, Jul. 29, 2022

There are exactly 24 pavilions taking part in this year’s Folklorama, which kicks off Sunday and runs until Aug. 13.

There are also exactly 24 squares on a bingo card, minus the free space.

So, we thought we’d take advantage of this serendipity to present our first-ever Folklorama Bingo, a fun challenge that encourages you to get out there and experience some culture.

Can you hit enough pavilions to get a line? How about the full card? (A tip to maximize your experience: the 9:45 p.m. shows on Monday and Tuesday nights are $1 admission, thanks to funding from the Manitoba Government.)

Friday, Jul. 29, 2022

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

Portuguese dancers perform during the kick-off for Folklorama at Assiniboine Park Saturday evening. Folklorama is back after a two year pandemic hiatus.

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2022

Winnipeg Comedy ShowcaseJuly 31, 8 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.)Park TheatreTickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door

When the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase made its debut in January 2014, comedian and showcase host/producer Jared Story figured it might be a one-off.

He was (happily) proven (very) wrong: Sunday night’s show at the Park Theatre will be the 30th edition of the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase — a nice, round number that illustrates just how important the showcase has been for emerging and established local comics alike. When comedians are cutting their teeth, it’s often while being ignored at an open-mic night at a bar; the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase, meanwhile, offers comics the chance to audience-test bits and hone their tight fives in a theatre.

Featured funny people on Sunday night’s bill include Andy Noble, Emmanuel Lomuro, Karlee Liljegren, Abby Falvo, Matt Kay and Carson Košik. Advance tickets are available via Ticketweb, Eventbrite or from the comics on the bill.

Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2022

For 50 years, the RWB’s Ballet in the Park has been a summer tradition

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Preview

For 50 years, the RWB’s Ballet in the Park has been a summer tradition

Jen Zoratti 4 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2022

Every summer since 1972, Manitobans have gathered in Assiniboine Park for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s en plein air exhibition, Ballet in the Park.

Well, OK, not every summer — the pandemic shaved a few off the official tally. But the 50th anniversary of a much-loved summertime tradition is something well worth celebrating, especially if that tradition is rooted in making art accessible.

One of the hallmarks of Ballet in the Park is that it is free, and this year’s edition, which runs at 7:30 p.m. nightly at the Lyric Theatre Wednesday through Friday — is no exception.

RWB artistic director and CEO André Lewis has been involved with nearly every iteration of Ballet in the Park. When Lewis came to Winnipeg in 1975 to train in the RWB School’s Professional Division, Ballet in the Park — or Dancing in the Park, as it was then known — was still in its early days.

Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2022

Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press Files

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s annual free outdoor performances were initially called Dancing in the Park.

Shawn Mendes and cracking open the lie about quitting

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Preview

Shawn Mendes and cracking open the lie about quitting

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2022

It’s an old showbiz aphorism, “the show must go on,” the idea that anything less is to let down the very people who put you on that stage.

Which is what made Canadian pop singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes’ decision to postpone the next three weeks of shows on his current world tour — which has him on the road well into the fall before beginning a European leg in 2023 — to take care of himself and his mental health strikingly brave, especially since the idea of letting people down is a major source of anxiety for him.

How do I know? He told me and thousands of other people at his Winnipeg show at Canada Life Centre last Thursday night, just 24 hours before an Instagram story announced he’d be taking some time. During a confessional moment at the piano, he mentioned that his fear of letting people down was “paralyzing” when he began writing his new album, 2020’s Wonder.

I reviewed the concert for the Free Press, and I commented that those fears seemed unfounded; Wonder is a high-water mark for a young artist who is starting to come into his own, and I’ve never seen an artist be so enthusiastically received at the arena formerly known as Bell MTS Place.

Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2022

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Shawn Mendez, like tennis star Naomi Osaka, sets a strong example of making tough decisions for longer-term benefits to his own mental health and career.

Shawn Mendes spreads his wings in latest world tour

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Preview

Shawn Mendes spreads his wings in latest world tour

Jen Zoratti 5 minute read Thursday, Jul. 7, 2022

Much has changed in the three pandemic-addled years since Canadian pop sensation Shawn Mendes was last through Winnipeg. Even the arena has a new name.

Mendes, too, continues to go through a metamorphosis. At 23, Mendes has already had a career on steroids, making the leap from Internet-famous teen to serious artist four albums deep in under a decade. While he’s no doubt a master bop architect, he’s also pushing himself in interesting new directions.

His latest album, 2020’s Wonder — which brought him to Canada Life Centre on Thursday night — finds Mendes experimenting with a wider pop palette. It’s a lush, warm, densely textured album.

But Wonder isn’t just a retreating headphone album for pandemic-isolated times. It’s also a big album, with booming drums and stirring choruses — elements that readily translate to an arena setting. Finally.

Thursday, Jul. 7, 2022

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press
Shawn Mendes performs at Canada Life Centre in support of his latest album, Wonder, Thursday evening.