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Arts and culture are commonplace in the Festival City, but this past weekend offered up opportunities for hands-on involvement.

As part of the Spotlight Festival, participants could find themselves learning to play the cello, cut and print woodblocks, pose as a model for artists or create a theatrical prop.

An assortment of people, some with experience, some without, took the leap and tried an activity or two at Factory 163.

The main hub of the Spotlight Festival welcomed plenty of visitors Saturday and Sunday, said Susan Starkweather, GM of Off the Wall, Stratford's Artist Alliance.

The main floor of Factory 163 offered public engagement with artists working together with guests to help create part of the upcoming production of "Mobius Rings."

Participants wrote their thoughts on aspects of communication on paper. Their thoughts were inputted into a computer media program. Specific words were then used a backdrop for a movement phase of the exercise, where dance was used to express thoughts on particular words.

Instructors included actor/ singer Eileen Smith, media artist Myfanwy Ashmore and choreographer Neesa Kenemy.

Upstairs, Eric Ball of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival explained how special effects props are used to enhance productions.

There is more work involved than one might think, he explained. Specializing in armour for actors, Mr. Ball said the same amount of time goes into armour designs as those of other costumes.

"Actors need to be comfortable," he said of conflict and fight scenes. "So it's a lot of work."

One particular noteworthy project for a festival performance involved a hydraulic blood system with 64 tubes that drizzled blood over the body, to be caught in a trough below it.


Mr. Ball brought in props Sunday to show his students and started the class offering the many sounds of air pistons.

Also scheduled for the Spotlight Festival were opportunities to watch Tony Urquhart sculpt a new work of art at Gallery Stratford and Gerard Brender a Brandis's presentation on the history of the printing press.

The Spotlight Festival was held concurrently in Stratford, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph, featuring 200 artists and 135 activities.
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