Karen Fricker

Associate Professor, Dramatic Arts
Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts

Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, is author of the monograph, The Original Stage Productions of Robert Lepage: Making Theatre Global, which was published this year by Manchester University Press. 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 2019-2020 round of the VPR Canada Games Grant program. Here, she discusses her creative research project titled “Circus on the Canal.” 

Please give a brief overview of your research project.

Circus on the Canal is a creative research project exploring the connections between water sports and circus performance, which will result in a live performance in and around the Welland Canal during the Niagara 2022

The first stage of this research project, funded by a Brock Canada Games grant, took place in summer 2020. It involved Holly working with Brock varsity swimmer Ashley Falconer, technician Peter Benedetti of Upstage Dynamics, circus artist Emily Hughes, choreographer Monica Dottor and musician Eugene Draw to develop a physical vocabulary for the performance, and to explore locations on and around the Welland Canal where the performance will take place.Canada Games. It’s a collaboration between me and the circus artist and producer Holly Treddenick of Femmes du Feu Creations.

What do you expect will be the outcome of your research?

The goal is for Femmes du Feu Creations to create a live performance for the 2022 Games, in collaboration with Upstage Dynamics and the City Of Welland, that will involve performers on paddleboards, canoes or kayaks, in addition to elements expanding on the previously mentioned creative work,. I will write a scholarly article about the creative process and performance documenting the work and discoveries made about the ways in which the physical experience and knowledge of sportspeople and circus artists mutually informed each other in the work.

How will this contribute to knowledge or understanding of the Canada Summer Games?

Our hope is that this performance will engage audiences in the Games who may not necessarily have direct interest in sports themselves. Circus has a broad public appeal and the sights and sounds of a performance may draw people down to the canal and spark interest in the sports taking place there. Conversely, the performance is 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?

I have been doing research about contemporary circus for seven years and am the co-director of Circus and its Others, a research project that organizes international conferences and publishes scholarly work about the ways in which difference is manifested and performed in contemporary circus. The dominance of Québec in the global circus scene has meant the work of circus artists and companies elsewhere in Canada is lesser known and under-resourced (Canadian circus is Québec circus’ “other”). It’s through research into circus in Ontario that I met Holly and became interested in her work as a creator, producer and promoter of innovative physical practice at the intersections of circus, dance and theatre.

How do you plan on sharing your research?

We are preparing a video presentation about the first stage of this project for the Brock Research Showcase in January. The plan now is to apply for more funding so that we can bring the project to fruition during the 2022 Games, which will in turn lead to my academic writing about the project.

Do you have any advice or tips on how colleagues in your Faculty can incorporate the Canada Games into their research?

My advice around this, as with most things, is to network and build on relationships and proximity. Our project came about thanks to Holly’s and my desire to create a project together, to the fact that the Games have come to Niagara and to the location of her workplace and home right on the banks of the Welland Canal near the Flatwater Centre. We will need to do further networking as the project develops. The hardest part has been finding Brock partners on the sports and sports research side; the pandemic has made this particularly challenging.

We hope to discover Brock students, faculty and staff who are paddleboarders, canoers or kayakers who might want to collaborate on the fully-realized performance. A related goal for us is to connect with Indigenous students or colleagues who have a particular connection to Niagara waterways.