Articles by author: gminaker

  • Weekend of virtual events to explore theatre in the age of climate change

    Originally published TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2020 in The Brock News| by 

    Pictured above: Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines.

    Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) has teamed up with the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre to offer online performances and virtual discussions from Friday, Nov. 13 to Sunday, Nov. 15.

    Convened by DART Professors David Fancy and Karen Fricker, the weekend will include the sharing of five commissioned performances meant to inspire conversation and critical thought, as well as a livestreamed performance of Broadleaf Theatre’s award-winning production, The Chemical Valley Project, co-created by Kevin Matthew Wong and Julia Howman, and a panel discussion with contributing artists including Fancy, Wong and Santee Smith from Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.

    As part of the Walker Cultural Leaders Series, Brock University commissioned 10 regional theatre artists to create short online presentations exploring the climate crisis in relation to any area of their interest. The first five performances will be showcased as part of the November event and will include artists who are performers, designers, educators and writers. These artists have explored a multitude of themes in relation to climate change including consumerism, feminism, colonialism, COVID-19, healing, ecological grief and more. Excerpts of these works in progress will be shown followed by a Q&A session allowing the audience to engage with the performers.

    “We’re committed to manifesting Marilyn Walker’s vision and legacy of cultural leadership by bringing creative and critical attention to the climate crisis,” said David Fancy. “We’re especially grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with the PAC on this series of presentations.”

    Annie Wilson, PAC’s Programming Supervisor, said the “climate crisis is going to require our collective creativity to rise to its challenges.”

    “We appreciate the chance to work alongside Brock’s Dramatic Arts Department to build this opportunity to reflect as a community on this most important issue.”

    For full event details, please visit our Walker Cultural Leaders page.

    Upcoming Walker Cultural Leaders Series events:

    Friday, Nov. 13:

    Walker Cultural Leaders Series commissioned artists — 5 to 6:30 p.m.

    • Dani Shae Barkley — exploring the economy, globalization, ecological grief and the climate
    • Kelly Wolf — exploring feminism and the climate
    • Iain Ellis Lidstone — exploring the relationship between land and healing

    Excerpts will be followed by a discussion chaired by Michelle Mohammed.

    The Chemical Valley Project by Broadleaf Theatre, co-created by Kevin Matthew Wong and Julia Howman — 7 p.m.

    Livestreamed performance from Robertson Theatre at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. Presented by the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in partnership with Brampton’s Rose Theatre, Kingston’s Grand Theatre and Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts. Supported by Ontario Presents and Ontario Arts Council.

    Saturday, Nov. 14:

    The Chemical Valley Project by Broadleaf Theatre, co-created by Kevin Matthew Wong and Julia Howman — 2 p.m.

    A second livestreamed performance of The Chemical Valley Project from Robertson Theatre at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.

    Sunday, Nov. 15:

    Land, Water, Activism, Performance: A talkback and discussion panel — 1 p.m. 

    A panel discussion moderated by Karen Fricker featuring Kevin Matthew Wong of Broadleaf Theatre; Santee Smith, Artistic Director of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre; and DART Professor David Fancy. Topics will include Broadleaf Theatre’s commitment to climate-focused dramaturgy; Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s Indigenous futurist dance production Skén:nen; and the upcoming Theatre Training in the Era of Climate Crisis volume and conference co-edited and organized by Fancy.

    Walker Cultural Leaders Series commissioned artists ­— 2 to 3:30 p.m.

    • James McCoy — exploring fatigue and the climate; the emotional response to climate change
    • Adrienne Smoke — presenting Rona” exploring colonialism, COVID-19 and the climate

    Excerpts will be followed by a discussion chaired by Michelle Mohammed.

    Tickets for The Chemical Valley Project are pay-what-you-can and are available on the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre website. There are no tickets required for The Walker Cultural Leader Series commissioned artists, and Land, Water, Activism, Performance: A talkback and discussion panel. These events will be livestreamed on the PAC and MIWSFPA Facebook pages and the MIWSFPA YouTube channel

    All content will be available for viewing (by ticket holders where applicable) until Sunday, Nov. 29. MIWSFPA YouTube channel

  • Dramatic Arts rewrites script for online learning with Shaw Festival

    Pictured above: Shaw Festival Theatre actors Jonathan Tan, left, and Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane coached Brock students online in DART 1F01: Acting for Non-Majors. (Photos by David Cooper)

    Originally published FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2020 | by 

    Brock Dramatic Arts students got a virtual backstage pass to the revered Shaw Festival Theatre this summer.

    An innovative teaching initiative gave students taking DART 1F01: Acting for Non-Majors the opportunity to connect online with and receive personalized coaching from professional actors Jonathan Tan and Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane from the Shaw Festival Theatre permanent company.

    For third-year student Jordan Henderson, the virtual experience was both valuable and uplifting.

    “Jonathan Tan had many wise words that really helped me build confidence in my acting skills,” he said. “He also helped me to understand that what I might consider a mistake, audiences may interpret as something completely different.”

    David Fancy, Professor and Chair in the Department of Dramatic Arts at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, developed the course’s online teaching material with the future in mind and produced 700 minutes of lessons over 70 separate videos.

    This foundational acting course, which Fancy describes as “extreme monologuing,” is designed to help students discover the underlying principles of acting. Students explore the actor’s process, including awareness, stimulus, impulse, intention and action.

    “We’re making some exciting changes to DART 1F01,” Fancy said. “We’re using this opportunity to build a course that we can also share with students who have to work remotely in the future.”

    In the virtual coaching sessions, students rehearsed monologues they’d written themselves with the Shaw actors, soaking in their expertise and knowledge.

    Second-year student Benoit St-Aubin gained unique perspective on the acting world, and it left him craving more.

    “I absolutely loved the session that I had with Olivia. We had the opportunity to run through our monologues with her and she gave us great tips to improve them,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much I missed being in class, but this meeting really made me want to go back in September.”

    Fourth-year student Alexandra Hunter was able to immerse herself in the story of her monologue, giving her a deeper connection and understanding of her character and the creative process.

    “I learned so much from Olivia,” Hunter said. “She helped me illustrate the emotions in a strong way so that I knew how to perform them and react accordingly.”

    This opportunity to leverage technology and connect students to professional actors was co-ordinated by Fancy and Dramatic Arts instructor Carolyn Mackenzie in partnership with the Shaw Festival. They worked alongside Shaw’s Senior Manager for Education Suzanne Merriam, Education Assistant Melissa Domingos and Education Co-ordinator Megan Gilchrist.

    This course is just one of the ways Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts is using innovative thinking and a creative approach to lead the charge on the future of performing arts. This fall, audiences can expect riveting new work, pushing the boundaries of live theatre with the Dramatic Arts mainstage production Scenes from an Execution by Howard Barker.

    More details on the Department of Dramatic Arts and the fall mainstage virtual production are available online.

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future students, In the Media, Media Releases, News, Performance Season, Plays, Uncategorised

  • Dramatic Arts students build connections through Buddy System

    Originally published in The Brock News: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2020 | by 

    Pictured above: Student representatives for Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts Luca D’Amico (left) and Diego Blanco (right) connect virtually to discuss their new mentorship program, the DART Buddy System.

    Although they’re not physically on campus this term, Diego Blanco and Luca D’Amico want to ensure Brock’s familiar sense of community is not lost amongst Dramatic Arts (DART) students.

    To that end, the two student representatives created the DART Buddy System, a new mentorship program that was launched at the start of the Fall Term.

    The initiative pairs first- and second-year students with mentors who are in their upper years of study. Mentors provide guidance and answer questions throughout the school year, while also offering moral support and words of wisdom gained through their own experiences in the Department of Dramatic Arts.

    Currently, there are 14 mentors and 42 mentees participating in the program.

    This system provides a helpful structure for new students, quickly connecting them to the strong sense of community that is foundational to DART at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    Despite the challenging circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining that community feel and sense of belonging was a driving force behind the project, says Blanco. “We want to make this year easier and enjoyable for every student in DART,” he says.

    “During these crazy times, connection with each other is so crucial — and that’s why the Buddy System is important,” adds D’Amico. “It provides students with as much support as possible, building the family that Dramatic Arts is known for.”

    Blanco and D’Amico also lead the planning of weekly and monthly activities that allow all Buddy System participants to get to know each other better.

    Due to public health restrictions, the landscape has drastically changed for new students, meaning those initial connections are harder to make, Blanco says.

    “The reason I love the DART program is because of the relationships that happen outside the classroom, in the common rooms, in the computer commons or even just waiting for the bus,” he says. The Buddy System helps to encourage those connections in a virtual format until in-person activities can resume on campus. Blanco and D’Amico, under advisement from DART faculty and staff, are committed to providing safe opportunities for students to enjoy.

    In addition to the DART Buddy System, Blanco and D’Amico assist the department with orientation sessions and facilitate communication between students and faculty. This year, they have also created the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) Student Council, which promotes open conversation among students and faculty specific to the concerns of the BIPOC student population.

    Please click here to fill out the DART Buddy System form.

    More information on Dramatic Arts at Brock is available on the department’s website.

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future students, In the Media, Media Releases, News, Shaw Intern Blog, Uncategorised, Visiting Artists

  • Health Sciences students learn to confront personal biases

    Though she may have appeared to be relaxing on a bench, Larissa DellaVentura was hard at work trying to see the world through the eyes of those around her.

    The third-year Medical Sciences student recently completed an observation exercise where she evaluated the behaviours of people while sitting in a public space and maintaining physical distancing. However, her preparation to complete the exercise started a few days earlier from the comfort of her home office.

    To become accustomed to observing the actions of others while also factoring in circumstances that are not initially obvious, DellaVentura and her Health in Canadian Society class completed an online experiential learning activity designed to heighten their perception of people’s body language as well as their own unintentional biases.

    In order to ensure the activity was completed in a physically distanced manner, local theatre company Mirror Theatre, which is mostly comprised of Dramatic Arts students and alumni, led the class through a virtual exercise that involved analyzing prepared photos and the body language of participants, while also attempting to make assumptions based only on what they had seen.

    “It really demonstrated how we have our own biases and our own unique perspectives,” said DellaVentura of the exercise. “Even as we were looking at the same pose on our screen, some interpreted it as embarrassed, while others believed the person was praying.”

    The course’s instructor, Assistant Professor Valerie Michaelson, said the lessons of empathy and self-reflection the exercise promoted are critical for aspiring health professionals.

    “When we are in professions in the health and medical sciences and don’t take the time to examine our biases, it can very literally be deadly,” she said. “This observation assignment also helps us to see how easy it is to make assumptions about why people have the health experiences they do. When we start to really pay attention, we see that some neighbourhoods have access to safe parks and fresh, affordable produce, but others just don’t. We start to consider how health is about a lot more than self-discipline, and that some of the most important health choices we make are often shaped by matters that are outside our control.”

    In addition to the broadened perspectives experienced by students taking part, those leading the exercise were also able to participate and grow.

    “We successfully accomplished our goal to assist us all in playfully and critically exploring our implicit perspectives on how we read the world,” said Mirror Theatre Artistic Director and Brock Professor of Drama in Education and Applied Theatre Joe Norris. “Feedback from a number of participants indicated that they became more aware of the assumptions that they make.”

    Mirror Theatre member and Brock graduate Bernadette Kahnert (BA, BEd ’19) said her team learned valuable lessons about their own assumptions when it came to online instruction.

    “The workshop was very informative of what can be done online,” she said. “It showed me that remote learning can open up doors I would not have in a traditional face-to-face atmosphere and has given me hope that I can still deliver an in-depth, reflective and educational experience.”

    Once the online portion wrapped up, DellaVentura put the reflective skills she learned to the test in a north-end St. Catharines plaza.

    As an aspiring physician, she said the exercise has encouraged her to look within herself while also being more aware of the circumstances of those around her.

    “We all have our own implicit biases that we may not even be aware of,” she said. “As a health-care professional, it’s important that we confront those biases and not let them influence our decisions.”

    Along with DellaVentura, some members of the class have chosen to safely visit outdoor public spaces, while others have decided to observe from their windows or through other means.

    Regardless of where they chose to conduct their observation, Michaelson is confident that the exercise will have a lasting effect.

    “These exercises light a flame in people, and it grows into something that is long-lasting and transformative,” she said. “We want our students to be leaders in the health-care system who have the skills to identify inequities so that they can then participate in the urgent work of dismantling them.”

    To learn more about Brock’s experiential education programs and in-class workshops, visit the Experiential Education website.

    Mirror Theatre is recruiting new participants from the Brock community with an online orientation meeting on Wednesday, October 7 from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. Anyone interested in participating is asked to contact Norris at jnorris@brocku.ca for login instructions.

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, News, Plays, Uncategorised

  • Dramatic Arts graduate’s web series selected for digital innovation grant

    Image:Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) graduate Marley Kajan (BA ’14) and Connor Ferris, co-creators of new web series Like Comment Subscribe.

    (Originally FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2020 | by 

    Marley Kajan (BA ’14), who majored in Dramatic Arts during her time at Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, has good reason to celebrate.

    Last week, it was announced that the web series she co-created, Like Comment Subscribe, has been selected for the Canada Council for the Arts and CBC Digital Originals initiative. Kajan noted she and her co-creator, Connor Ferris, are honoured to be recipients of the grant and are excited to kick-off production of their pilot.

    Like Comment Subscribe follows millennial influencers and BFF’s Meaghan and Avery, who seem to have it all: fortune, fame and followers,” said Kajan. “But when COVID-19 sends their lives into lockdown, the impact begins to reveal the people behind the profiles.”

    In addition to co-creating and co-writing the web series, Kajan, alongside Ferris, will play the two leading roles. In partnership with the CBC, the series will be produced by Hamilton and Toronto-based production company Dei Gratia Pictures.

    Kajan, a bright talent in the Canadian dramatic arts scene, originally hails from Welland. Graduating with a concentration in Performance, she achieved First Class Standing. She was recently invited by the Department of Dramatic Arts to virtually perform for this year’s orientation, inspiring the next generation of students for what promises to be a historic year ahead for the arts.

    “The CBC’s Digital Originals initiative funded by the Canada Council aims to assist artists as they pivot their work, or create new original work, for online distribution as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” writes the Canada Council for the Arts. “While many artists are discovering new performance platforms, the creative team behind Like Comment Subscribe will certainly help forge the path to bring compelling stories to audiences across Canada, and beyond.”

    This story was written by Gillian Minaker.

    Tags: , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Events, Future students, In the Media, News, Plays, Uncategorised