Pictured above: Fourth-year Dramatic Arts student Manikham Marianne Vongboutdy recently returned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where she put her Brock theatre training to work gaining international experience.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 09, 2023 | by Gillian Minaker
Carrying with her the skills she’s learned as a Brock Dramatic Arts (DART) student, Manikham Marianne Vongboutdy recently headed overseas to work at the world’s largest performance arts festival.
The fourth-year student spent time this summer with the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she was invited by her high school to work as a stage manager on the St. Catharines Collegiate and West Niagara Secondary School production, Piece of Me.
With a concentration in production and design, Vongboutdy said her Brock theatre training was key to her landing the stage management gig in Scotland.
“Working with Brock’s state-of-the-art technology in Dramatic Arts has been invaluable,” she said. “Learning tech in the theatre has been a special experience. I am developing the skills I will need in the professional theatre world.”
Piece of Me navigates the relationship of a mother and daughter in a coming-of-age tale offering an innovative take on adolescence told through a teenager’s eyes. Like the characters in the play, Vongboutdy has found many moments of personal reflection as she has grown in her creative practice at Brock.
Piece of Me was an adaptation based on two different plays exploring similar subject matter, which from a stage management perspective, meant merging two plays into one. This complex staging posed interesting challenges that Vongboutdy was prepared to take on.
As an upper-year DART student, she was able to transfer the skills gained in her first few years at Brock to her international experience, such as learning to sew in wardrobe classes so she could step up and help with costumes or painting props using skills from props classes.
“A unique thing about studying at the Marilyn is that we get to learn about different aspects of staging a show, which served me so well during my Edinburgh experience,” she said. “We are stronger artists because of it.”
After her experience abroad, Vongboutdy said she has a wider perspective of what theatre can look like.
“It was eye-opening for me,” she said. “As a stage manager, we try and put forward the best show possible, but part of our job is to work with what is happening in the moment. I am thrilled to put my experience into practice.”
Vongboutdy is now working as stage manager for Brock’s upcoming winter mainstage production, The Mysterious Mind of Molly McGillicuddy, written and directed by DART Instructor Mike Griffin. The play explores brain injury and related mental health issues through the styles of full-mask, puppetry and physical theatre.
Working with Griffin is a valuable experience for Vongboutdy, who aims to pursue a master’s degree in puppetry. Exploring the medium is especially important to her Laotian heritage, a culture in which many teachings occur using masks and puppets.
“As an immigrant, I always hold my home and culture in Laos very close, and I try to incorporate elements of my culture into the work I do every day creating theatre,” she said.
The Mysterious Mind of Molly McGillicuddy will run at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre Feb. 15 to 19. More information can be found on the DART website.