Dramatic Arts symposium aims to better support short-term faculty and teaching assistants

Short-term faculty and teaching assistants are a vital part of university communities; however, due to the limited nature of their contracts, it can at times be difficult for the departments they work in to engage with their research.

The Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) Creative Research Exchange is attempting to bridge that gap. In the symposium on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 10 contract faculty members and teaching assistants will offer five-minute presentations about current research projects, followed by discussion and a response from Evalyn Parry, DART’s 2022-23 Walker Cultural Leader.

“DART students and faculty are fortunate to work with an impressive community of artists, established and emerging scholars, and graduate students,” said Jennifer Roberts-Smith, Professor and Chair of DART. “The Creative Research Exchange is an opportunity to learn from and support their independent scholarship and creative research.”

Mentorship and career development for participants are key objectives for the symposium. Every applicant receives feedback from a faculty member in an open peer-review process, and DART is offering early-career participants mentorship on the formatting and presentation of academic CVs.

Two images together, on the left a dancer posing in red Bharata Nayam attire. Artist on the right playing a guitar while dancing.

Left: Priya A. Thomas, now a limited term Assistant Professor in Dramatic Arts at Brock University, is pictured at McGill University in 1997. (Photo courtesy of Kenneth Warmington) Right: Priya A. Thomas at Club Soda, Montreal, in 2009. (Photo courtesy of Roger Humbert)

Award-winning dance/theatre historian and multidisciplinary artist Priya A. Thomas, who holds a PhD from York University, is a limited-term Assistant Professor with Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts. As both a faculty mentor and a presenter at the Exchange, she will describe a current Canada Council-funded fictocritical research project called “Last of the Rhinestone Cowboys: Expo 67’s Sunset Years.”

Based in mixed-media storytelling, the project is “born from my childhood participation in a Bharata Nayam dance performance at the Man and His World Exhibition Summer Fair in 1980,” said Thomas.

While waiting to perform on the grounds of Expo 67 in Montreal, Thomas chanced upon a group of young boys who appeared to share her South Asian background, wearing cowboy outfits and playing country and western music.

“In my own way at that age, I was aware by osmosis of the history of cultural others being exhibited at fairgrounds as tableaus and curios. I remember being stunned by the kind of Freudian unheimlich of it all. Being in this place where you feel completely out of orbit,” said Thomas. “The project is really to try and resurrect that moment, but also personally rework my own feelings about what was going on there.”

Kosar Dakhilalian, who is a master’s student in Studies in Comparative Literatures and Arts and a Teaching Assistant for several DART courses, will offer a presentation called “Performing Hair.” The project responds to viral videos of people cutting their hair in solidarity with protests in Iran around the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, who was detained for breaking the country’s hijab rules for women.

“I would like to discuss the layers of meaning in these protests,” said Dakhilalian, “showing different political aspects of hair in that society, but also not limited to that society.”

A woman in a red coat with trees and buildings in the background.

Studies in Comparative Literatures and Arts master’s student Kosar Dakhilalian.

This is one of several research presentations Dakhilalian has participated in since her arrival at Brock last fall.

“I go to as many symposiums and conferences as I can,” she said. “People come up with a variety of research ideas that you’d never even think about.”

The DART Creative Research Exchange runs from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13 in the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Story by Karen Fricker, Associate Professor, Dramatic Arts

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