Alumni

  • Brock project aims to improve long-term care for veterans and brain injury patients

    Brock University alumni now with Mirror Theatre perform a scene in Understanding person-centred care: Finding dignity within the shadows, a video series as part of a research project between Brock and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

    (From: The Brock News, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2019 | by Dan Dakin)

    Two Brock University faculty members from seemingly unrelated disciplines have collaborated on a project aimed at improving the relations of those involved in long-term care.

    Associate Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies Colleen Whyte, and Professor of Dramatic Arts Joe Norris, were at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto Wednesday, Oct. 2 for the premiere of Understanding person-centred care: Finding dignity within the shadows.

    Two years ago, Sunnybrook Professional Practice and Education Leader Leanne Hughes came to Whyte with a research idea about how to help staff and family deal with the challenges associated with two specific groups in long-term care: veterans living with dementia and patients recovering from traumatic brain injuries.

    “I’ve known Leanne for 15 years and we’ve done research together in the past,” Whyte said. “She came to me and said: This is an issue we have. How do you think we could look at researching it?’”

    “What we’re looking at are person-centred approaches,” said Hughes, referring to a growing emphasis in health care that invites patients and family members to be involved in decision-making and strategizing ways to care for individual patients from a wide-range of services. It’s a more collaborative care model than a traditional top-down medical approach to care.

    In the fall of 2018, Whyte led research that included focus groups of those working in long-term care at the Toronto hospital such as doctors and hospital staff, as well as families of those in care.

    Brock University professors Joe Norris and Colleen Whyte hand a USB drive to Leanne Hughes from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Brock and Sunnybook partnered on a research project that included a 20-part video around patient-centred care. Pictured from left are Brock alumni Nadia Ganesh, Candice De Freitas Braz and Mike Metz, Hughes, Norris, Brock master’s student Kevin Hobbs, Whyte and Brock alumni Bernadette Kahnert.

    “We interviewed people who are doing this every day,” Whyte said. “This research is about taking the principles of person-centred care and trying to see how they are translated on a daily basis, when all partners experience unexpected challenges.”

    With the focus group data in hand, Whyte then turned to Norris, Chair of Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts, who worked with the student-run Mirror Theatre to translate the conversations into dramatic action, known as ethnodrama and applied theatre.

    “We took the focus group transcripts, read them, analyzed them and created dramatic scenes,” said Norris. “The purpose is to evoke conversations.”

    The result is a 20-part video series, each dealing with a different component of the long-term care experience. They range from something as simple the challenge of what to pack when a family member is moved into a new living situation to what to do when a patient whose mind no longer has much of a filter says something that crosses a line.

    “It’s all about answering the question of ‘How do we treat each other with respect in stressful situations?’” Norris said.

    He said the Dramatic Arts students who were acting the parts in the videos — including the patients who are represented as shadowed silhouettes rather than specific people — learned about more than just acting.

    “Many cast members say they don’t only get extra-curricular experience with theatre, they get the experience of dealing with a range of topics. It’s like an extra class for them,” he said.

    With the video series now complete, the next stage of the project is to create workshops for staff and families.

    “It gives staff some insight and helps them think, ‘If I’m in this situation, let me strategize and be thoughtful about what options I have,’” she said. “It will equip new staff with possibilities and allow existing staff to be reflective about their approaches.”

    Brock University alumni Nadia Ganesh, Bernadette Kahnert, Lindsay Detta and Candice De Freitas Braz interpret a scene from Finding dignity within the shadows at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto Wednesday, Oct. 2.

    Hughes said when the final videos were shown to those working with veterans suffering from dementia and patients dealing with brain injuries, the staff were impressed with how accurate they were in reflecting the situations they deal with.

    “It has been an absolute pleasure to see students take this data and enact it,” Hughes said. “We were in awe of their ability. They did a fantastic job.”

    The project, which was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant and a Practice-Based Research and Innovation Seed Grant from Sunnybrook, will continue with the development of facilitator tools and training sessions. Those will be developed and led by Norris and Kevin Hobbs, a master’s student in Social Justice and Equity Studies, who directed the Finding dignity within the shadows series and incorporated the research into his master’s thesis.

    “They’re training videos, but not in the sense of, ‘Here’s how you give a needle,” said Norris. “It’s more of a dialogic conversation where our audiences are invited to comment on the scenes and add their own insights and stories.”

    Watch the full Understanding Person-Centred Care video below and individual scene videos can be found at this link

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, Media Releases, News

  • First students to complete entire four-year degree at downtown MIWSFPA graduate June 14

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


    The first group of students to have completed their entire four-year degree at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts’ downtown St. Catharines facility crossed the stage at Spring Convocation on Friday, June 14.

    Sixty-three students from Brock’s Departments of Music, Visual Arts and Dramatic Arts graduated from the downtown arts school, which opened its doors in 2015. Nine students who minored in programs at the MIWSFPA will also graduate on Friday.

    The milestone is not lost on the 2019 graduating class.

    “It’s a cool honour to be part of Brock history and I’m grateful to have trained in such a professional environment,” said Emma McCormick, who completed a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts, Performance Concentration. “I feel that I’ve gained a lot of skills that will serve me in my career, specific to the learning I received at the MIWSFPA.”

    The London, Ont. native is the recipient of the Jean Harding Prize, which is awarded to the student who achieves the highest standing in fourth-year Dramatic Arts. She plans to remain in St. Catharines after graduation, where she will continue her studies in Brock’s Adult Education program and working in the performing arts sector.

    Providing students like McCormick with a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility was the vision of the School’s namesake, the late Marilyn I. Walker.

    When the famed textile artist and philanthropist donated $15 million to Brock University in 2008, she envisioned the creation of an arts facility that would revitalize downtown St. Catharines and encourage students to study and practice the arts here in the Niagara region.

    Her generosity and foresight allowed for the historic Canada Hair Cloth Building to be converted into the new home for the Departments of Music, Dramatic Arts and Visual Arts, and the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture, which had previously been housed at Brock’s main campus.

    The $45.5-million project also received a $26.2-million investment from the Ontario government, numerous private and corporate donors, and relied heavily on the insight and contributions of hundreds of partners such as then-Dean of Humanities, Rosemary Hale, and the City of St. Catharines.

    MIWSFPA Director Elizabeth Vlossak, who joined the School on an interim basis from the Department of History, said she has seen first-hand the impact the facility and its programming has on students.

    “Although the School is a cultural hub that acts as a living, breathing connection between the city’s past and future, it’s also so much more than that,” she said. “In my short time here, I have seen how these incredible facilities and engaged, passionate faculty benefit our students.”

    Graduand Alyssa Shanghavi, of St. Catharines, said she appreciated the availability of unique practice spaces on campus for music students like herself, which allowed her to focus on her studies and hone her skills on the trombone.

    The Bachelor of Music recipient said being around other artists all the time and in such close proximity to the downtown core was an invaluable complement to her education.

    Gianna Luisa Aceto, a graduand from Mississauga, said that as a painter, she “enjoyed and most definitely appreciated the space the MIWSFPA provided.”

    As well as making new friendships and plenty of memories, Aceto attributes the successful completion of her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Studio Art to the artistic identify she forged while studying at the School.

    “One of the biggest takeaways for me is finding my passion, my niche,” she said.
    “I struggled a lot in finding out what I wanted to create and the reasons for creating it. My time spent within the walls of the MIWSFPA allowed me to uncover that knowledge.”

    She also said she has an undeniable gratitude for her professors, and that “the drive they instilled in me has not gone unnoticed.”

    Faculty of Humanities Dean Carol Merriam said this milestone serves as time to reflect on the importance of the arts and its ability to create healthy and flourishing communities.

    “This first class of students to have spent their entire Brock careers in this splendid facility serve this mission in downtown St. Catharines and in the broader community, but they have also been a defining force within the MIWSFPA itself,” she said. “They have been largely responsible for creating the culture of the School as a place to learn, create and serve as a community. Their impact will last a very long time, and we are proud to see their graduation day.”

    Longstanding former MIWSFPA Director Derek Knight echoed Merriam’s sentiments.

    The Associate Professor said the class of 2019 should receive their degrees with pride having been part of an extraordinary university experience and contributing to the legacy of the arts, both at Brock and in the community.

    With the MIWSFPA’s fifth anniversary on the horizon, the School will continue to offer students unique teaching and learning experiences while honouring the spirit of its benefactor, he said.

    “What was interesting about Marilyn is that she was always very curious and engaged with how we, the faculty, envisioned the future,” Knight said. “She thought it was our job to rise to the challenge and define the potential of what she had given to us in the form of this extraordinary gift. I think, in many ways, we’ve done that.

    “Now, we are charged to think about not only what we will offer today, but in the long-term, and how we will define pedagogy and the School’s identity long into the future.”

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, News

  • DART Shaw Festival Internship 2019: WEEK 4 & 5 From First Reads to Tech

    Mae Smith is the Department of Dramatic Arts’ 2019 Shaw Intern.
    Read her weekly blogs about her work in lighting design and props building.
    Learn more about the internship


    (From: The DART Shaw Intern Blog, June 12, 2019 | By: Mae Smith)

    In the work light, between scenes, I read books I’ve borrowed from Kevin’s library in his office. Previously, I read about Jean Rosenthal and how she designed. Now, I’m reading more of a manual called The Assistant Lighting Designer’s Toolkit by Anne E. McMills. In there I find helpful tidbits and points to ask the technicians or designers about.

    As I said before, I love this The Ladykillers. The show itself is hilarious and so is the cast. During one of the on stage rehearsals, I’m laughing so hard that Judith Bowden asks if this was my first time seeing the show. I reply, “No, I just love it.”

    Outside of the Festival Theatre, I get the pleasure to sit in on the first rehearsals of Cyrano de Bergerac directed by Chris Abraham, and Man and Superman directed by Kimberley Rampersad. The first rehearsals are usually read throughs with the full cast and design presentations. Ahead of Cyrano, I meet with the stage manager Allen Teichman who graciously answers all my questions about his role and his duties at the start of the rehearsal process. The next day, I get to help out with some of those duties. I meet with Ashley Ireland, the assistant stage manager, and Allan to tape out the floor and set up tables for the read through.

    The Courthouse Theatre’s main rehearsal hall set for CYRANO DE BERGERAC’s (2019) first rehearsal.

    Cyrano‘s first read was really fun and I was in awe of the actors lifting the words of the page in almost complete stillness. I’m really excited to see it all set up in a couple months and think back to how it was when it started.

    The Man and Superman first read was equally entertaining although I left half-way through (the show is long). Again, though, the actors already bring so much to the table even after director Kimberley Rampersad asks them to not see the read through as a performance but rather as their first time meeting the text all together.

    I’m really grateful for the chance to see so many different shows at so many different stages. I’m able to learn about so many different roles and what would be expected of me if I was working with these shows which is a great thing to have before I am actually expected to do anything.

    At the end of my fifth week, I get to really enjoy myself as I attend the opening of Brigadoon. It’s been a little while since I last saw the show and I’m excited to enjoy it fully without listening to cues. It is so nice to hear such a large audience reacting with me to the show. It’s an energy I hadn’t yet experience with Brigadoon and it’s just nice to hear the show being so well received watching it quietly during tech.

    In my coming weeks, tech for The Ladykillers continues and I attend my first calls for Sex for which Bonnie Beecher is designing the lights. I’ve been watching others in the prop shop upholster the furniture for the show so I’m keen on seeing what the show really looks like.

    Keep checking back for a new post coming soon!

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, News, Shaw Intern Blog, Uncategorised

  • DART Shaw Festival Internship 2019: WEEK 3, Look, Learn, and Listen

    Mae Smith is the Department of Dramatic Arts’ 2019 Shaw Intern.
    Read her weekly blogs about her work in lighting design and props building.
    Learn more about the internship


    (From: The DART Shaw Intern Blog, June 1, 2019 | By: Mae Smith)

    This week kicks off The Ladykillers big move into the theatre and my involvement with the show.

    On Monday, I follow the props gang to the design day, where we outfit the set with its dressings along with the designer (Judith Bowden). Throughout the day, we add and hem curtains; I tack down props on the shelves; we hang hooks for pots and pans; fit down knobs, lights switches, and outlets to the set; and much more. This week’s featured image is me waiting on the second floor of the set that was made in the Shaw’s Scene Shop.

    Pots in the kitchen for THE LADYKILLERS (2019) Directed by Tim Carroll Designed by Judith Bowden

    When we return to the prop shop for the rest of the week, I make more fake money as well as paper bouquets for Getting Married. The bouquets are simple enough to construct once we figure out the material out of which to construct it. The bouquets that I am making, in question, are to be tossed into the audience every night which means there is a lot more to consider with its construction. It can’t be too heavy, nor use any ribbons with sharp edges, or pipe cleaner with eye-poking ends but it needs to be easy and quick to reproduce because one will be made for every preview and show.

    Bouquets for GETTING MARRIED (2019) Directed by Tanja Jacobs Designed by Shannon Lea Doyle Constructed in the Prop Shop

    On Friday and Saturday, I return to the Festival Theatre for The Ladykillersfor the lighting hang. I meet with assistant lighting designer Nick Andison first while the crew is at work hanging. He runs through what lights they’re hanging and what tricky shots they’ve anticipated. There are many lights that are being repurposed to be Ladykillers specific lights from their previous show purpose since they did not end up getting used. I feel now that I’m starting to get a hang of the planning for the repertoire.
    Kevin Lamotte and Nick also help me understand a lot more the paper work and how to get started when designing.
    I’ve found over the years I’ve gotten quite shy so I’m appreciative for Kevin, Nick, and other members of the company I’ve spoken to who have been able to just talk to me about the work they do without me having to prompt them too much. I love listening to what others have to say and I’m still working past being too scared to jump in and ask questions.

    At the end of the week, I get to visit Victory‘s rehearsal room. This show is also directed by Tim Carroll and his rehearsals are very entertaining to be in. Victory is quite different from the other shows I’ve seen so far: it has quite a massive cast for what I would expect for a show that’s not a musical; and it’s quite vulgar. Despite the dark material, the cast is lively and joking which is enjoyable to watch as an outsider. Once again, I feel incredibly lucky to be here. I’m watching actors I’ve seen on stage over the years right in front of me in the middle of their process and they are just mesmerizing.

    The house of the Festival Theatre. (So many lights!)

    The Ladykillers rolls into more tech next week, so I’ll be spending most of my time in the Festival Theatre absorbing everything I can from the designers and crew.

    Stay tuned!

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, News, Shaw Intern Blog

  • Dramatic Arts grad gets rave reviews in Soulpepper’s The Brothers Size

    Brock Dramatic Arts alumnus Marcel Stewart (BA ’07), centre, plays the role of Elegba in the Soulpepper production of The Brothers Size alongside Daren A. Herbert, left, and Mazin Elsadig. Photo by: Cylla von Tiedemann, courtesy of Soulpepper.


    The reviews are in, and Brock Dramatic Arts alumnus Marcel Stewart (BA ’07) is earning praise for his performance in what the Toronto Star calls a “stunning Canadian premiere.”

    Stewart stars as Elegba in The Brothers Size, the newest offering from Toronto-based production house Soulpepper.

    He describes the experience as a “whirlwind,” especially after Toronto-based rapper Drake made a surprise appearance at the May 10 opening night performance.

    Brock Dramatic Arts alumnus Marcel Stewart (BA ’07), second from right, and his castmates from The Brothers Size got a surprise visit from rapper Drake, third from right, at the opening night performance of the Toronto show.

    “It has been amazing; it’s such a gift to do something like this,” Stewart said. “Through my whole journey as an actor, I have wanted to work on a play that speaks to my experience, one that I can easily dive into, and this text was so comfortable it was like putting on a jacket that was made for me.”

    The Brothers Size is the second play in the Brothers/Sisters series, written by Oscar-winning screenwriter and Tony Award-nominated playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney.

    Set in a fictional town in Louisiana, it tells the story of two brothers, Ogun and Oshoosi, who find themselves living together after Oshoosi’s release from prison.

    Stewart plays Oshoosi’s best friend, who formed a bond with him during their incarceration together.

    “I think on a micro level, Brothers Size is about the experience of black men today in the world,” Stewart said. “But on the macro level, what the characters go through are things that all people experience: grief, trauma and searching for a sense of belonging.”

    Stewart’s performance marks his return to the Soulpepper stage, where he has previously performed three times and was a member of the Soulpepper Academy.

    Some of his other credits include the role of Miles in The Drawer Boy at Prince Edward County’s Festival Players, Coutts in the Mirvish Theatre Production of King Charles III in Toronto, and roles on popular Canadian television series’ Kim’s Convenience and Murdoch Mysteries.

    While he focused primarily on acting for several years after graduation, Stewart also developed a passion for doing outreach work and giving back to young, aspiring actors.

    Brock Dramatic Arts alumnus Marcel Stewart (BA ’07).

    When he’s not on stage, he gives private acting lessons and hosts workshops in communities across Canada. He’s worked with school groups at the Toronto International Film Festival, for example, and was the creator of What Noise is This, a workshop that explores William Shakespeare’s canon through the lens of hip-hop music.

    Stewart is also involved in the local theatre industry, both as the outreach co-ordinator with St. Catharines theatre company Suitcase in Point and the volunteer co-ordinator for the upcoming In The Soil Arts Festival, taking place this June in downtown St. Catharines.

    Brock Assistant Theatre Professor Danielle Wilson offered her congratulations on Stewart’s success.

    “Marcel was bright and hungry to learn and is an example of the breadth of career opportunities that become available after studying in DART,” she said. “We congratulate him on his success as a working artist and are very proud of the contributions he has made in the theatre community over the years.”

    Stewart attributes his ability to “wear many hats” in his career to the skills he gained from studying at Brock.

    “The ‘motor’ that I developed at Brock was probably my biggest takeaway that I still rely on 12 years later,” the 33-year-old said. “To keep going, to keep pursuing, and if a door is closed in my face, then there’s 10 more doors that I can open.”

    After the wrap of Brothers Size in Toronto, Stewart is headed back to work in St. Catharines.

    He wants to continue his outreach work and bring more eclectic and diverse artists to St. Catharines.

    He said instructors at Brock encouraged him to explore his sense of self and find cultural connections through the performing arts — and he wants to do the same for others.

    “My experience at Brock helped open me up to recognizing who I am as a black man and encouraged me use that voice and speak from my perspective whenever I can,” he said. “Now I’m on this representation kick, running workshops, doing outreach and looking at how to bring some more colour — in more ways than one — to the artistic landscape.”

    Brothers Size runs until Saturday, June 1 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts at 50 Tank House Lane in Toronto. More information and tickets are available at Soulpepper.ca

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, Faculty & Instructors, News

  • DART Shaw Festival Internship 2019: WEEK 2, Stumbling but Still Going

    Mae Smith is the Department of Dramatic Arts’ 2019 Shaw Intern.
    Read her weekly blogs about her work in lighting design and props building.
    Learn more about the internship


    (From: The DART Shaw Intern Blog, May 9, 2019 | By: Mae Smith)

    This week, I’m in the prop shop almost every day for at least a couple hours. I’m back to pumping out high volume items which is satisfying once you start filling up boxes and boxes. No one in the shop passes up an opportunity to make a joke about taking all the fake money and running away.

    On Tuesday, my lack of skill in sewing becomes painfully obvious as I’m tasked with hemming napkins for Getting Married. I can’t keep the hem even or straight – it’s just a mess. I’m quite embarrassed to say the least as I’ve thrown a bit of a wrench in the productivity. Later, I confide in Kimberley Rampersad, Intern Artistic Director at the Shaw, about how I feel and she’s able to help me see it as not a wholly negative thing. See, my experience working with props previously has been mostly painting, hot gluing, and carving styrofoam. I hadn’t considered sewing at all part of that because I hadn’t been exposed to it in this context. Now, at least I know it’s something that I need to work on for props building and not something I can just forever put to the side. In the mean time, I’ll return to making stacks of fake money.

    When I’m not in the prop shop, I’m all around the main building.

    I pop into the design studio a couple times to go through the lighting design bibles from previous seasons. Scanning through the paper work is a little overwhelming at first. I have a very basic familiarity with Vectorworks and Lightwright so there’s a lot of documents that I’ve never seen or heard of. It takes me a good 15 minutes of staring at the paper to figure out what’s going on in the focus charts because there are so many lines overlapping. Luckily, Mikael Kangas is around to answer my questions and explain how the paperwork useful in the grand scheme and in specific situations.

    String lights under the risers in the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre. This is partly used for storage for the shows.

    I have my first visit to the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre of my internship to observe the SPASM for The Glass Menagerie. SPASM stands for “Set & Props with Assistant Stage Manager.” This is where the crew of the theatre meet with the assistant stage manager to see where all set pieces, props, and dressing need to go on the set. Stage manager Kate Hennigar shares a copy of the paperwork detailing where everything is set with me so that I can follow along with Joe and Jeff (the change-over crew for the studio theatre). I help them move furniture from the rehearsal hall, upstairs to the theatre and unload it on stage.

    As we work, everyone shares a bit of their insight with me and happily explains the process. I’m glad to be engaged and helpful in the process but I’m careful to step back to make sure I’m not doing the work Joe and Jeff need to do so that they know their tracks for setting the show.

    The ghost light in the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre.

    I also attend the tech rehearsal and invited dress rehearsals for Brigadoon. I find that every time I see the show, I love it more and more. The show is so much about love, as director Glynis Leyshon makes clear in her introduction before the dress rehearsal begins, and I’m head over heels for every romance in the show. I smile ear to ear watching the characters fall in love each time.

    To my eye, the show’s lighting looks perfect; however, Kevin Lamotte and Mikael Kangas are continuously working and making changes to cues. I listen in over the com to hear what they’re changing. This helps me learn what to pay attention to when I’m designing. It’s also encouraging to know that not everything is figured out with the plot and focus. There’s always things changing and you’ll always be adapting.

    Later, I move further into the Historical Old Town of N.O.T.L.

    I get to visit the Courthouse theatre for a The Ladykillers rehearsal again, which is just such a joy. The show is so funny and both the cast and creative team present in rehearsal bring such a great energy that you can’t help but enjoy.

    On my last day of the week, I spend my time in the Royal George Theatre, attending the tech dress for Getting Married and then a preview of Rope.
    I personally love the George as it is a much smaller space than the Festival Theatre but maintains such a grand elegance about it. The house of the theatre is a luxurious red which is rich but comforting at the same time.

    Seats in the Royal George Theatre.

    When I arrive at the theatre in the morning, the lighting operator, Mel, takes me on a full backstage tour of the theatre while completing pre-show duties at the same time. Mel is quite in depth with their explanations and I’m grateful for all the details. The assistant lighting designer, Nick Andison, tells me about how the lighting grid is planned and divided between shows in theatre. It helps answer that part of me that’s constantly looking at the shows and asking “But how do you start?!”

    Nick explains some of the design to me. The intent and focus of the lighting design is quite different for Getting Married than it is for the huge musical that is Brigadoon. It’s interesting to note the difference and speak to Nick about what to look for and what they’re trying to do.

    When I get to Rope in the evening I’m a little taken aback at the change-over of the set. It’s incredible how much the space transforms. I was really captivated by the set design, which featured scrim walls and a window with an incredible rain effect. I’m not here to review the show, but if I was, I don’t think I’d have a bad thing to say. I’m going to end on that note. This week made me very excited about how I get to work in theatre and reminded me that there’s so much about it to love.

    The view from my seat for ROPE (2019). Directed by Jani Lauzon. Designed by Joanna Yu. Lighting Designed by Louise Guinard.

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, News, Shaw Intern Blog

  • DART Shaw Festival Internship 2019: WEEK 1, Getting Started

    Mae Smith is the Department of Dramatic Arts’ 2019 Shaw Intern.
    Read her weekly blogs about her work in lighting design and props building.
    Learn more about the internship.


    (From: The DART Shaw Intern Blog, May 2, 2019 | By: Mae Smith)

    Despite my many visits to the Shaw Festival in recent years, and having already met Kevin Lamotte (Shaw’s Lighting Design Director) in a meeting last month, I am incredibly nervous before I even step foot out of my car onto the property.

    The friendliness I am greeted with from everyone, however, quickly washes those nerves away. Kimberley Rampersad meets with me to take me on a tour of the main building. Kimberley is a director at the Shaw, who will be directing the upcoming production of Man and Superman. In addition to showing me the rehearsal halls, theatre, and efficient pathways around the building, I’m introduced to almost everyone we pass, who greet me with smiles and hearty handshakes. I’m hoping some subconscious part of my brain is storing everyone’s names somewhere and will pull them out when I need them.

    Me, near my usual seat in the theatre.

    When my tour finishes, I am whisked back to the festival theatre where I find my – now usual – seat next to Kevin Lamotte and Mikael Kangas, the assistant lighting designer for Brigadoon. I’m joining them towards the end of the design process of this show, during tech rehearsals. I listen over headset to the many voices co-ordinating their parts and then relaying all that back to the stage manager, Dora Tomassi. It’s quite chaotic, but not altogether unfamiliar from my experience at Brock. I mostly listen to pick out Kevin and Mikael’s voices, giving the operator instructions to update cues while I follow along on my copy of the show’s magic sheet (a sheet that shows you where every light lands on stage), which is no easy feat. I’ve never seen so many lights in on one sheet ever. I’m even more awestruck when I move to the stage and peer up at the LX pipes to see so many different instruments placed as close as possible next to each other. As I gather from overhearing conversations and asking a couple questions, the plot is shared over the season so practically every lighting fixture for all the shows in the festival theatre is up there right now. When I ask Kevin, on a later day, how that’s even managed, he laughs and says, “That would take your whole internship to answer.”

    I spend half of my week at Kevin’s side, observing how he does things and taking notes whenever I come across something new. Occasionally, Kevin will lean over and explain a choice he’s made, or what exactly is going around us, helping me understand his process more. In general, everyone is very kind about answering my questions, including technicians, stagehands, and other designers. Many of the process is familiar but there is so much I haven’t even scratched the surface of yet.

    The ceiling of the Court House Theatre’s beautiful main hall where The Ladykillers rehearses.

    On top of Brigadoon, I attend rehearsals for The Ladykillers with Kevin, which are held in the Court House Theatre. This time, I’ve caught Kevin in the early stages of designing. He walks me through what he’s thinking and what challenges he foresees with the set design (Judith Bowden) which leaves few hiding spaces for lighting fixtures. I take note of his format for planning in the script for future reference. I’m very interested in seeing this part of the process. A lot of the questions I had in my head during Brigadoon‘s tech could be boiled down to: “How do you even start?” Now I get to see.

     

     

     

     

    The instructions for water confetti

     

    The other half of the week, I work in the prop shop. As a newer, less experienced worker I’m not surprised to be given some simpler more repetitive tasks. I chop up iridescent cellophane to be used for as water in a bucket for Brigadoon; I cut fake money for The Ladykillers; and paint styrofoam to tone down the brightness. Although less complex, they are still necessary and important. But I also get to try my hand at upholstering a foot stool for The Ladykillers and replacing the ribbon on powder puffs for The Glass Menagerie.Sewing is one of my weaker skills so I’m grateful for the trust and elated when I finish both tasks with approval.

    The footstool for THE LADYKILLERS (2019). Directed by Tim Carroll. Designed by Judith Bowden. Constructed in the Prop Shop.

    On my second day in the shop, I’m sent out with one of the drivers to deliver and retrieve props. After picking up some tables and a faux fireplace from a rehearsal, we head out to the warehouse which I am very excited to see because it’s massive. There are rows and rows of benches, tables, chairs, dummies, lamps (see featured image), etc. There are so many pieces in the warehouse; the aisles are long and multiple levels high, stacked with various furniture. I was in awe the whole time. If the whole week itself hadn’t already been one big highlight, I could say that seeing the warehouse was the highlight of my week.

    For next week, I have a lot of prop time and a lot of tech rehearsals to attend so stay tuned!

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, News, Shaw Intern Blog

  • Brock grad lands leading role in off-Broadway Big Bang Theory parody

    Brock Dramatic Arts alumnus John McGowan (BA ’14) is playing the role of Dr. Sheldon Cooper in the off-Broadway production of The Big Bang Theory: A Pop-Rock Musical Parody. He is pictured with castmate Meagan Michelson (left), who plays the role of Q/Leslie Winkle. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Daniel)


    (From The Brock News, April 9, 2019 | By: Sarah Ackles)

    “Stick with it, don’t be afraid and take chances.”

    That’s the advice Brock Dramatic Arts alumnus John McGowan (BA ’14) has for those looking to make it big in New York City.

    McGowan was recently cast for the starring role of Dr. Sheldon Cooper in the off-Broadway production The Big Bang Theory: A Pop-Rock Musical Parody.

    While this isn’t his first off-Broadway gig — he recently played Gabe Goodman in the Pulitzer Prize winner, Next to Normal — the buzz from this production is what McGowan describes as a “breakout role.”

    Brock dramatic arts alumni John McGowan (BA ’14) is playing the role of Dr. Sheldon Cooper in the off-Broadway production of The Big Bang Theory: A Pop-Rock Musical Parody. He is pictured with castmate Teresa Hui (right), who plays the role of Amy Farrah-Fowler. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Daniel)

    “I have fan groups following me on Instagram and other social media — yes, there are fan groups for this show — and I’ve been getting a lot of international attention, doing a lot of interviews and people are sending me a lot more job offers because word is starting to travel,” he said.

    Although he has been cast as “extreme” characters in the past, McGowan said playing a beloved pop culture character in a long-running comedy has been a new and exciting challenge.

    “The thing about comedies is that some audiences are absolutely with you, and it’s easy to feed off of their energies, and then some are dead silent and you have to overcome that,” he said. “That’s been a bit of a learning curve, but it’s been going quite well.”

    Shelley Huxley, Brock’s Director of Alumni Relations, offered her congratulations to the actor.

    “It’s wonderful to see Brock grads finding their way in such a competitive industry after leaving Brock,” she said. “The University’s fine and performing arts programs were designed to enrich the lives of students pursuing careers in arts and culture, and it’s exciting to see this vision come to life through success stories like John’s.”

    McGowan was bitten by the theatre bug at the age of nine, when he began auditioning for a wide range of productions on stage and screen.

    He then enrolled to study at Brock, where he majored in Dramatic Arts with a Concentration in Production and Design.

    Although he had talent both on the stage and behind the scenes, acting eventually became his sole focus.

    He was also an active member of Brock Musical Theatre, playing the part of Nicky in Avenue Q and Angel Dumott Schunard in Rent, and would later land other roles in the Niagara region and Greater Toronto area, including Link in Hairspray.

    After graduation, McGowan set his sights on New York City and was accepted into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) with three scholarships.

    “It was everything you’d think a performing arts school in New York would be, it was like a boot camp,” he recalled. “I was glad that I went to Brock before going to AMDA because it instilled a maturity in me. Because AMDA is very challenging, the skills I developed at Brock really powered me through and helped me out a lot.”

    It doesn’t get any less challenging after graduating, either, he added.

    “When you want to be a performer, everyone tells you it’s hard, and that kind of goes without saying because it is hard, and you always want to retreat to that more stable job because you get rejected, and rejected, and rejected,” he said.

    Even the process of becoming eligible to work in another country can be what McGowan describes as “somewhat traumatizing,” because “your career, your life’s work and your validity to stay in their economy and industry” is being judged.

    How did he overcome those hurdles?

    “Endurance is key if this is what you really want to do,” McGowan said. “You just have to keep going and things will eventually start to fall into place. If you keep showing up, they are going to see you have the drive and eventually pick you up.”

    In addition to his most recent role, McGowan has also appeared in several theatrical productions and in venues such as Feinstein’s/54 Below, The West End and The Green Room 42 while working in New York.

    With a mounting body of work under his belt, McGowan is now looking toward the future and taking on his next challenge.

    “I’d like to branch into film and television more, that’s the next thing I have my eye on,” he said.

    And while he wants to give it a few more years in New York, he plans to return to Canada someday.

    “Just not quite yet; I’m not quite done with New York,” he said.

    The Big Bang Theory: A Pop-Rock Musical Parody is scheduled for an open-ended run and is currently playing at the Anne Bernstein Theatre (The Theater Center) in New York City. Tickets are available online.

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, News

  • Dramatic Arts grad’s road to success was paved at Brock

    Jacelyn Holmes (BA ’08) is set to release her debut album this winter and credits her success in the arts to her start in Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts.


    (From The Brock News, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2018 | by Sarah Moore)

    Among many things, Brock University taught Jacelyn Holmes (BA ’08) to defy her anxiety and be fearless.

    The Dramatic Arts alumna learned to harness the confidence she embraced in University and now uses it each time she takes the stage to sing.

    With the 10th anniversary of her graduating class set to be celebrated at Brock Homecoming this weekend, Holmes couldn’t help but reminisce about her artistic journey and how her Brock degree helped her achieve her career goals.

    “It’s been an interesting ride so far and it’s funny to recount where I am and what I’ve done,” said Holmes, who studied at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts before its move to the new downtown St. Catharines facility.

    After graduating, Holmes was involved in theatre productions and was cast in various television spots before realizing that her true passion was in the music industry.

    She has since landed gigs playing for the Toronto Jazz Festival, Canadian Music Week, the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival as well as booking international tours and showcases in Europe, Central America, the Caribbean, Asia and the U.S. She will be releasing her debut album in February, with a Christmas album to follow later next year.

    “Now that it’s all coming together, I’m excited to continue honouring my commitment to learning through art and creativity and discovering myself as an artist,” she said.

    An actress since childhood, her lifelong dream had always been to work in theatre and film — making the Dramatic Arts Department at Brock a perfect fit.

    “It was an amazing education,” she recounted. “At Brock, you spend four years constantly putting it all out there, learning to be vulnerable and available to failure in an environment where you can thrive with help from acclaimed professionals. It’s quite a beautiful thing.”

    Although her passion for the craft was evident, struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and anxiety made focusing on schoolwork extremely difficult.

    “When I got to university, it became very apparent that I was not working at the same level as other people,” she recalled. “That brought out insecurities, shame and questions of why I was even there. I felt like I was drowning.”

    Holmes credited the support she received from Brock’s A-Z Learning Services for helping her overcome those barriers.

    “Feeling empowered to go and ask for the help that I needed or extra time on tests really allowed me to excel,” she said. “The staff at the Learning Centre were patient and taught me how to apply all that I had learned to my schoolwork and in the real world.”

    Her grades went up, she was awarded scholarships and would even receive the Spirit of Brock Award — given to the student who embodies the spirit of Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock, by inspiring other students — in 2008.

    Department of Dramatic Arts Chair Joe Norris congratulated Holmes on all of her success and her ability to channel the skills she developed with her degree to find success in the arts and life overall.

    “Professors in the Department of Dramatic Arts aspire to inspire students in the entire range of their creative endeavours,” he said.

    Holmes agreed that her theatre background has been key to her success as a performing vocalist.

    “It was because of my theatre background that I am able to perform; it taught me to be fearless,” she said. “Some people would think that someone with anxiety would have a hard time getting up on stage, but it is my escape — and that feels awesome.”

    Shelley Huxley, Brock’s Director of Alumni Relations, said she is always pleased to hear of student successes.

    The Brock University Alumni Association works diligently, she adds, “to keep alumni informed about what’s happening at the University, and we work to connect alumni with each other for personal and professional gain.”

    “As the largest constituency of the University, alumni are our most loyal supporters and our best ambassadors,” she said. “We want our alumni to care about the University long after they’ve graduated. Engaged alumni benefit both the University and each other, but more importantly, engaged alumni help raise the reputation of Brock, and by virtue, the reputation of their degree in the marketplace.”

    This year’s Homecoming celebration takes place from Friday, Sept. 21 to Sunday, Sept. 23 with a variety of activities happening on campus and in the community.

     

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, News

  • Sabina’s Splendid Brain opens at MIWSFPA Sept. 14

    Cellist Grace Snippe (BMus ’16), left, and Danielle Wilson bring the story of 20th century psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein to life in Sabina’s Splendid Brain. The performance opens on Sept. 14 at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. (Photo by George Enns.)


    (From The Brock News, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 | by Sarah Moore)

    While Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung have become synonymous with psychoanalysis, the name Sabina Spielrein might leave you drawing a blank.

    The Stolen Theatre Collective hopes to change that by bringing the rarely told story of the Russian-Jewish psychoanalyst to life in a new production at Brock beginning next week.

    Sabina’s Splendid Brain, which opens Sept. 14 at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), chronicles the life of the tenacious and passionate Spielrein as she struggles through the circumstances of her family, her education and her therapy, the professional barriers facing women and wartime anti-Semitism.

    Spielrein was often known in relation to her famous colleagues: first as a patient, then as a lover of Jung, and later as a student and friend of Freud. As a psychoanalyst in her own right, however, she moved beyond them both to become one of the great thinkers in 20th century psychology.

    Her work was all but wiped from the history books due to Joseph Stalin’s repression of intellectuals and the Nazi invasion of her hometown of Rostov-on-Don, where she and her daughters were killed. Her diaries were recently discovered, however, and her publications were re-examined to reveal the profound impact that her work had on her teachers and peers.

    “Sabina had to fight for her voice,” said Brock Associate Theatre Professor Gyllian Raby, the production’s Director. “She walks the boundary between genius and delusion, and this production invites the audience to experience her journey from a screaming teenager with spittle in her hair to the woman who wowed Freud’s intellectual Vienna Circle.”

    Scripted by Carol Sinclair, Sabina’s Splendid Brain is rendered on stage in sets by Nigel Scott, projections by Karyn McCallum and lighting by James McCoy (BA ’14), and features performances by Brock Assistant Theatre Professor Danielle Wilson and cellist Grace Snippe (BMus ’16).

    “This is a project that fully explores the interdisciplinarity between the arts that was the founding dream of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts,” said Wilson, who is also the co-founder and co-artistic director of Stolen Theatre Collective. “Music, theatre and philosophy are a natural trio in this story of how psychoanalysis helped shape modern consciousness.”

    Fides Krucker, a Canadian interpreter, vocalist, opera singer and teacher, collaborated on the interdisciplinary production with Stolen Theatre. Her innovative vocal techniques and interdisciplinary work will be further highlighted later this month as part of the Walker Cultural Leaders Series on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at the MIWSFPA.

    Sabina’s Splendid Brain opens with back-to-back weekend performances Sept. 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22, all beginning at 7:30 p.m. Additional matinee performances will take place on Sept. 16 and 23 at 2 p.m.

    All performances are held at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre in the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, located at 15 Artists’ Common in St. Catharines.

    Tickets are pay-what-you-can-afford ($10, $25, $40 and $55) and can only be purchased in advance through the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre box office.

    Limited paid parking is available on-site, but city parking is available within close proximity to the venue.

    For more information on the production, please contact info@stolentheatrecollective.ca

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, Events, Faculty & Instructors, News, Plays