NOTE: This is the latest in a series of Q&A stories featuring Brock University faculty members who are integrating the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games into their research projects. For more information on Brock’s academic activities around the Games, visit brocku.ca/canada-games
Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, is author of the monograph, The Original Stage Productions of Robert Lepage: Making Theatre Global, which recently won the Canadian Association of Theatre Research’s 2022 Ann Saddlemyer Award for the best book on a Canadian theatre studies topic published in a given year. She is the co-director of the international research project Circus and its Others, a theatre critic at the Toronto Star and is involved in a number of research projects about the future of theatre criticism.
Fricker is one of 11 Brock researchers and scholars who received funding under the 2020-21 round of the VPR Canada Games Grant program. Here, she discusses her research project titled “Circus on the Canal: Exploring connections between water sports, circus and spectators.”
Please give a brief overview of your research project.
Circus on the Canal is a collaboration between me and circus artist and producer Holly Treddenick of Femmes du Feu Creations, who is based in downtown Welland at the Bank Arts Centre.
This summer, we are working on the second phase of this project; this phase, and the first phase, have been funded by the VPR Canada Games Grant program. In this phase, Holly will work with two Brock student athletes — one a diver, the other, swimmer Ashley Falconer — in further developing choreography for a circus performance inspired by the athletes’ physicality and embodiment. Initial work on this choreography happened during the first project phase in the summer of 2020. The project also involves Welland-based Indigenous artist Kitsuné Soleil, who is working with Holly on incorporating knowledge about the local waterways into the performance. Hamilton-based designer Tanis McArthur is the costume designer, and a local musician will also be part of the project.
What do you expect will be the outcome of your research?
The outcome of this phase of the research will be an in-progress performance taking place Aug. 11 or 12 at the Lincoln Docks in Welland, at sunset. The audience for this free performance will include invited guests as well as any members of the community who would like to attend.
How will this contribute to knowledge or understanding of the Canada Summer Games?
A central goal of the production is to explore links between high-performance athleticism and circus performance, both of which involve intensive physical training and a deep connection to the relationship between mind and body. The performance is intended to inspire audiences to consider these links and to appreciate the skill, dedication and mastery of Canada Games athletes and circus performers alike. The performance, which will be outdoors and highly visible, will heighten local awareness of the Games. The performance is also likely to enhance the experience of sports spectators and sportspeople by adding a creative and aesthetic element to the Games.
How did you become interested in this research?
Contemporary circus is one of my central areas of research as a theatre and performance scholar. I am the co-director of the Circus and its Others (CaiO) international research network, which has organized three conferences (Montreal, 2016; Prague, 2018; Davis, 2021). We’re in the early stages of planning the next conference in Colombia in 2023 and are working on a co-edited special journal issue following the 2021 conference. It’s through my CaiO work that I got to know Holly, who is a dynamic producer and artist, and is passionate about bringing circus to Welland and the Niagara region, which is underserved for arts and culture.
How do you plan on sharing your research?
The outcome of this phase of the project is the public work-in-progress performance in August. There will be a social media campaign in the run-up to the performance that will further share knowledge and information about it.
Do you have any advice or tips on how colleagues in your Faculty can incorporate the Canada Games into their research?
Be creative and think laterally!