When Veda Hille and Amiel Gladstone’s new musical, Onegin (pronounced O-Nyay-Gun) opens at the Yukon Arts Centre on February 1st, it will be the culmination of a long-simmering journey involving Veda, Whitehorse, the Yukon Arts Centre, and musical theatre.

I became aware of Veda’s remarkable musical gifts twenty-five years ago, when she first appeared, stunningly, on the mainstage of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. The reason this was so stunning was because Veda was from Vancouver. Nobody from Vancouver ever got to play on the mainstage at the freaking Vancouver Folk Music Festival! No Vancouver musician since Stephen Fearing had booked that gig (and he had to go live in Ireland for a while to develop enough cred). Veda had merely gone to art school: a graduate of University Hill Secondary and the renowned Emily Carr College (now University) of Art and Design. Veda wrote quirky and enrapturing songs about where she lived and the people she knew. And love. She always wrote songs about love.

"Veda wrote quirky and enrapturing songs about where she lived and the people she knew. And love. She always wrote songs about love."

Our paths crossed again when Veda came to the Frostbite Music Festival with her band in 1994 and played the Yukon Arts Centre mainstage (as well as leading a legendary post-festival jam in the back room). Veda continued to return to the Yukon to play Dawson City Music Festival and other gigs.

In 2000, Veda was invited to be a part of the Yukon Journey Project- an amazing Yukon-wide camping trip undertaken by a number of Canadian and Yukon performing artists including John Mann, Christopher House, Brian Fidler and Kim Barlow. Out of that adventure, Veda produced her gorgeous album, Field Study, and was approached by then Yukon Art Centre CEO, Chris Dray, to undertake a residency at YAC on any subject. Veda said that she wished to pursue and develop her musical theatre creation skills.

So, Veda took up residence in the studio at YAC and, working from an existing play by Sean Dixon called The Death of the Finance Minister’s Mother (about Paul Martin,) she penned a new one-act musical (her first!) which was then workshopped and shown by a small band of Yukon theatre artists.

In 2003, Whitehorse’s local community theatre, the Guild Hall, decided to mount the then very timely anti-war musical Hair at the Arts Centre; Veda came on board as Musical Director working with a crack band and spending a good deal of the winter up in Whitehorse. In the process of producing this incredibly successful piece of musical theatre, I think that Veda, who had begun the journey somewhat ambivalently, came to love the art form and the music by the great, but often unsung, Canadian composer Galt McDermott. She even recorded one of the songs from Hair on her next album.

Well, it took some time, but by 2009, Veda had, along with CBC broadcasting icon Bill Richardson, created the songs for a new piece called Do You Want What I Have Got: A Craigslist Cantata. These songs, with support from the Push International Performance festival, the Arts Club Theatre, and the Musical Theatre Company were turned into a hit Canadian musical theatre piece that played across the country, arriving in Whitehorse in 2013. Out of that production, came the collaboration that would create Onegin: Veda and Craigslist director, Amiel Gladstone.

Photo: David Cooper. Onegin creators, Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille

Looking for a subject for a collaboration, Amiel suggested they look for a work to adapt and he then came up with the idea of the Russian tale, Onegin (he had previously worked on theopera version). Veda was less sure, but when she arrived in Berlin and was about to get started on the collaboration, she encountered a restaurant named Onegin, and felt this was a sign from the universe. And so, she embarked on the project.

The tales of the initial production of Onegin at the Arts Club Theatre Company are now legendary. People from all walks of life were blown away. Social media was deluged with posts about how deeply moved people were, how much they were transported and engaged by the show, and how much they wanted -needed- to see it again. The combination of cast, story, design, music, and emotion swept audiences away and continues to do so to this day. 

When Onegin finally arrives in Whitehorse from it's travels to Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton, audiences can expect a bona fide theatrical hit; one that was, at least partially, grown in the Yukon.

By Eric Epstein
Director of Performing Arts, Yukon Arts Centre



Nakai Theatre and the Yukon Arts Centre Present  An Arts Club Theatre Company Production


February 1-3 at the Yukon Arts Centre | Tickets Available Now

Book, music, and lyrics by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille. Based on the poem by Pushkin and the opera by Tchaikovsky