Critical Mass not for every cyclist

Hundreds of cyclists in Halifax will be riding as part of Critical Mass, a monthly cycling awareness event with participants around the world. But not everyone is so eager to start pedalling.

By Sean Young

Hundreds of cyclists will fill the streets of Halifax at the end of this month. They’ll be riding as part of Critical Mass, a monthly cycling awareness event with participants around the world. But not everyone is so eager to start pedalling.

Jamie Lamb is a mechanic and salesperson at Cyclesmith and President of Bicycle Nova Scotia.

“We like to call the event ‘Critical Ass,‘” he said.

“The concept of Critical Mass is that an overwhelmingly large number of riders congregate and effectively takes a commuter artery by storm — generally downtown during rush hour on a Friday — riding through traffic lights and putting cycling in the faces of drivers, law-breaking all the while,” said Lamb.

Matthew Harper doesn’t agree. He’s taken part in Critical Mass since 2007.

“Critical Mass is a chance for cyclists to let our presence be known,” he said.

“Most of the time we’re ignored or endangered on the streets, and if we need to assert ourselves to be seen, so be it.”

Lamb believes people shouldn’t be agressive when it comes to sharing the road. “To be honest, you really need to let it slide off your back.”

Lamb also believes that Bill 93, an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act dating from 2010, has proven to be an effective protection of cyclists’ rights. According to the bill, if vehicles have to pass cyclists, they must give at least one metre of space.

According to Lamb, “In early 2013 we saw the first prosecution under that law, where a rider used their handlebar camera footage to prove that a truck towing a trailer passed within 6 inches.”

But Harper says he hasn’t seen the level of enforcement cyclists deserve. “Drivers still get away with so much because they’re agressive. They drive too fast to have to care what’s behind them. We have to be just as agressive.”

According to Lamb, it’s just a matter of getting the word out. “Advertising that law on buses or in the Coast would go far in making drivers understand that it is the law, not simply common courtesy.”

But despite their stances on Critical Mass, both cyclists look forward to spring riding.

“Some casual riding will be great too, whenever the snow finally melts,” says Harper.

“We’re certainly hoping to take off our jackets and get on our nice bikes and enjoy some salt free, warm roads,” says Lamb. 

“Virginia Woolf” makes acting dreams come true

Johnelle Sciocchetti is realizing a lifelong dream of taking the stage in the role of Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

By Sean Young

Some girls dream of playing princesses, cowgirls or doctors. But at age 14, Johnelle Sciocchetti dreamed of playing Martha, a “slightly insane child trapped in a woman’s body,” from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. This week, ten years later, her dream comes true at the Bus Stop Theatre.

Johnelle Sciocchetti plays the dual role of producer and cast member (Sean Young photo)

Sciocchetti says playing the role was “high up on my bucket list.”

The play, written by Edward Albee in 1962, tells a story about two middle-aged couples sharing a night of drinks and frustrations.

Sciocchetti proposed the play to the Dal Theatre Society, effectively becoming the show’s producer. She auditioned for the part in front of the play’s director, amongst other Dalhousie actresses, and won the role of her lifetime.

“I liked the range of emotions her character goes through, I could relate on some level,” says Sciocchetti.

For years, Sciocchetti has been thinking about the play, building ideas and a passion that after a decade, gets to be played out on stage. Sciocchetti has had the role of Martha’s husband George locked down in her mind for years. What’s more, she knew she wanted Jordan Gracie in the role. She met Gracie while taking classes at Neptune Theatre when she was fourteen.

“It was after reading the play and it was one of the first things I ever said to him, was that ‘Me and you are going to play George and Martha someday in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'”

Tom Lute in the role of Nick (Sean Young photo)

Tom Lute, who plays George and Martha’s guest, Nick, didn’t know much about the play when he first auditioned.

“I lied when I auditioned, because I said I had seen the movie. And they were all like, ‘You haven’t seen the play?’ ‘No.’ ‘Have you read it?’ ‘No.’ ‘Have you seen the movie?’ ‘… Yes? Yes I have.’”

But his unfamiliarity with the play didn’t put him off from the project.

“This is probably the most intense thing I’ve ever been involved in theatrically,” says Lute, “It’s entertaining in a sick way.”

According to Sciocchetti, “It’s everything … It has comedy, it has a little bit of violence, it has a little bit of sex going on there, it’s got the drama, it’s got tears. It’s got everything, it’s the play that has everything.”

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? runs March 13-16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen Street, with a 2 p.m. matinee on the 16th.

Some props from the play (Sean Young photo)

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Sciocchetti talks about the role of Martha, and her visions for the play.