When the Hamilton Fringe Festival got underway last month, Brock alumni and faculty not only shared their talent on stage, but also used their knowledge to inspire the next generation of performers.
Among the artists who participated in the theatre festival, which returned July 21 to 30 after a two-year pandemic hiatus, were Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) alumni Rebekka Gondosch (BA ’12), Diego Blanco (BA ’21), Holly Hebert (BA ’21) and Asenia Lyall (BA ’22), as well as DART Associate Professors Gyllian Raby and Danielle Wilson.
A high school Dramatic Arts and English teacher with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, Gondosch led the festival’s Spark Teen Intensive — a performance program for youth ages 13 to 18 living or studying in Hamilton.
Through Spark, participants learn practical devising skills, work with local guest artists in a variety of disciplines such as movement, poetry, storytelling, theatre and music, and create an original performance piece that is performed during Hamilton Fringe.
In addition to teaching for the past six years, Gondosch has been busy working with Passing Through Theatre and Light Echo Theatre, sharing her poetry as part of Suitcase in Point’s In the Soil Festival and creating works of her own. She recognizes the growing need for arts and performance programs in youth education and is doing what she can to help nurture the arts locally.
“A hope I have for the Spark program is that it might encourage young emerging artists to continue making art in Hamilton,” she says.
Meanwhile, fellow Brock alumni Blanco, Hebert and Lyall produced an original one-act play, Thy Name is Woman, at Hamilton Fringe through their new self-producing company, Into The Abyss Theatre.
“Several of DART’s upper-year classes provide students with devising and production skills, as well as encouragement to go out and voice their ideas,” says Raby. “We are proud to see these fine artists making their mark.”
Also taking part in the Fringe Festivities was Raby, who partnered with Wilson on a new production of their own, Stage Fright. The dynamic duo looked to trigger and assuage performers’ worst fears while getting in a few laughs along the way.
Stage Fright was built on playwright Wilson’s experiences through the COVID-19 pandemic, including attachment to technology, social media consumption and her newfound interest in the art of clown.
Wilson makes it a point to indicate that clown goes beyond the archetype popularized by circus.
“Clown is a state of creative play and a state of connection with the audience. You don’t know what the clown is going to do next — the clown comes from the person who is performing. It’s a state of openness to failure,” she says.
Raby assisted Wilson with dramaturgy and direction, dissecting and exploring the multi-faceted elements of stage fright — a condition of psycho-physical paralysis experienced by most people.
“Death, taxes and speaking in public are top fears,” Raby says.
Wilson adds the little-known fact that since many performers are introverts, they are even more deeply affected by stage fright.
“I was eager to get back on stage, since 2018 was my last performance,” Wilson says. “It’s important to stay in touch with all that it takes to perform, along with the fear that it takes.”
Reflecting on the the existential humour of the show, Raby says: “How can something so terrifying, and so intellectually fascinating, be so light and funny?”