Current Students

  • Brock community mourns longtime Dramatic Arts instructor

    (Source: The Brock NewsFriday, April 28, 2017 | by Dan Dakin)

    See below for information about the dedication of the theatre in Burlington.

    A woman who dedicated her life to teaching drama to students of all ages is being remembered by her colleagues, family and friends.

    Helen Zdriluk, who had been an instructor at Brock University for two decades, died Wednesday after a brief illness.

    “She was extremely dedicated to the power of drama in both teaching and performance,” said Professor Joe Norris, Chair of the Department of Dramatic Arts. “She lived and breathed drama 24-7 when you consider she taught high school for many years during the day and then came here and taught at least two evenings a week. And she was running an after-school program.”

    Dramatic Arts Associate Professor and Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Director David Vivian said the whole school is saddened by the loss.

    “Longtime colleagues will remember Helen for her joyous and industrious leadership in Drama in Education and Applied Theatre, including her Connections projects in the old Studio theatre.”

    Norris said DART Connections was a group of education students who rehearsed and performed plays that dealt with social justice and education issues.

    Zdriluk taught drama at Burlington Central High School and was the owner and artistic director of Centre Stage Theatre School and Productions. In addition to teaching at Brock, she also completed her master’s at the University in 2010.

    The drama in education community has lost one of the most talented, dynamic and authentic educators and practitioners we have ever seen,” said former student Rox Chwaluk. “Helen was my mentor, my friend and colleague. She was fierce, hardworking, witty and passionate about her craft. She was instrumental in my education, provided me opportunities to ignite my passions, and solidified many of my values.”

    Zdriluk is survived by her husband Gerald and children Jennifer and Beth.

    A visitation will be held at Smith’s Funeral Home on Brant St. in Burlington Monday, May 1 from 3 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral service will be held Tuesday, May 2 at 10:30 a.m. Those wishing to make a donation in Helen’s memory are asked to consider the Canadian Cancer Society.

    We are sharing our memories below. If you have any memories you’d like to contribute, please share with us.


    Remembering Helen Zdriluk

    Reflections from Former Brock Students

    “I’ve heard it said
    That people come into our lives for a reason
    Bringing something we must learn
    And we are led
    To those who help us most to grow
    If we let them
    And we help them in return
    Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
    But I know I’m who I am today
    Because I knew you…
    Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
    But because I knew you
    I have been changed for good.” — For Good, Wicked

     

    Most of us met Helen Zdriluk in a classroom at Brock University, maybe ST103, ST105 (affectionately called blue and black – as per the paint colour of the room). Maybe it was ST107 – that hallway with one random non-DART classroom. Once we met Helen — our former instructor, mentor, colleague and friend — we were forever changed. For good.

    Maybe it was by the smile emerging on her face at the end of a particularly interesting question she had just posed to us, that she knew we would need to think hard about before answering. Or the simple, embedded image of her with her hands in her pockets, looking with calculation at our set because we remember that meant we knew she was going to suggest changes we would find annoying (wouldn’t it just be easier if we kept it the same?). And she wouldn’t exactly spare our feelings while delivering the news.

    “This needs work,” she would say in her blunt tone.

    Of course, we also remember, she always ended up being right about them and her directness was only because she cared so much about making us as good as we could be — and that we were infinitely glad we listened to her.

    Maybe it was how when you first met Helen, you could feel like you wanted to drop her class because it was too tough. But then she taught you to check your ego at the door and get past your insecurities, and then you realized you wanted to take all of Helen’s classes, because you wanted to learn — and learn from the best.

    That was Helen.

    Maybe it was when, for all of Helen’s demands on you to be the best student you could be, you suddenly realized that she had even higher ideals.

    That if your mother was suddenly rushed to the hospital and the rest of your family wasn’t nearby, and you were worried about missing a dress rehearsal for a major project because Helen had taught you not to let the group down — and you hated the idea of letting Helen down, the blunt directions would suddenly disappear.

    Instead you’d feel the comfort of her hug that would help ease your tears, as she told you to go home and take care of your family.

    “In that moment, I remember feeling this overwhelming peace come over me,” said Karen McDonald, who still remembers the impact of that hug years later. “I needed that hug, but I didn’t realize it until I got it.

    “That’s who Helen was. She always knew exactly what her students needed even before we did.”

    Helen taught many of us for 3-5 hour-long classes, once a week, usually on a Thursday. We’d learn as the weeks passed by that Helen was determined, passionate, driven, hardworking, creative, supportive, a force, patient, witty, caring, and saucy (in the best way possible).

    We would hear from fellow classmates about the amazing courses she was teaching: Community Theatre (3P07 or 3F77), Children’s Theatre (3P06 or 3F66/3F92), Musical Theatre (3F98), and Production (DART 2P70). These are course codes that we can still remember because they are not numbers to us, but experiences that have shaped us into who we are.

    Some of us had to beg the administration to be in Helen’s classes because they were so popular, and Helen had to request to have more students in her classes. Helen always advocated for us — for our work, for our marks, and for ourselves. Helen saw the potential in all of her students and helped them to see the potential in themselves.

    Her classroom was a place of magic. A place where we would take off our shoes, literally, but also a place where we could ground ourselves, tell stories, and make meaning of our world. Helen believed that theatre was an integral part of every community, and that it was the best way to tell the hardest stories. Stories that no one wanted to hear because they made you uncomfortable, but Helen believed that the best work came from being uncomfortable.

    Helen legitimized what many of us felt — she showed us that “drama” wasn’t just Shakespeare or watching people perform; it could be a tool to teach; a vehicle to work with and within communities; a transformative power for actors and audiences.

    She always asked us “What’s the point?” Helen instilled a sense of purpose that allowed us to balance the process of a production and the result. While she had high standards for the final product — “I’m not putting (garbage) on stage. I would rather cancel the show than put (garbage) on stage” — she had the same low tolerance for people who thought their talent or hard work gave them license to be difficult during the process.

    She was unbelievably smart, passionate and dedicated not only to Dramatic Arts but to sharing that passion through education in the most meaningful ways possible. She wanted to make the world a better place and she wanted to do that through drama — using it as a tool to help people express themselves in the comfort of a character but that allowed them to share their thoughts, fears and insecurities.

    She was fierce, she was sassy, and above all she was passionate about ensuring that the arts continued to be developed and encouraged in the school system and she would put no limitations on pursuing that goal.

    But there was more to Helen than the classroom. Helen was always so busy, always doing something. She barely had time for herself. In between classes, on her break, you would usually see her having a Diet Coke and an egg salad sandwich (which usually one of us picked up for her, as she was too busy supporting students). As a part-time instructor, Helen was also involved in many co-curricular activities, including Brock Connections, a club on campus that focused on using theatre as a tool for education about various social issues.

    As our faculty advisor, she produced and directed The Laramie Project (2007-2008), Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 (2008-2009), Bhopal (2009-2010), Shatter (2010-2011), and Colours in the Storm (2011-2012). We learned about social, and historical issues and were able to take these shows into the Niagara community.

    Helen was our rock. Many of us owe pretty much everything that we have done, and who we have become to Helen. For aspiring teachers, she was the type of teacher that we wanted to be. She had a way of identifying our most triumphant strengths and limiting weaknesses with grace and compassion. She was able to genuinely inspire growth in us because of her keen awareness of them.

    She always knew exactly what her students needed, often even before we did. She supported us in our low points, and celebrated with us in our highs. If she thought you could do better work, she let you know, she challenged you.

    But even when she was dishing out tough love, she followed it up with a smile, and a healthy dose of encouragement. She took the time to get to know each of us personally, to understand our goals, and then to find or create a way to connect us to the community so that we could achieve them.

    Helen never doubted us for a second. She was quick to give us advice, but we think the most important advice she gave us was that we were fully capable and that she knew we had the skills to put on a great show. We felt her acceptance for all of us as individuals, especially for all of our unique talents and experiences. That was one of the most beautiful things about Helen, her ability to see beyond a student’s cover and see what they could be.

    She pushed and she challenged, she called you out when you needed it and she made you a better team member because of it. The belief and trust she had in us when we doubted ourselves is one of the most important lessons we learned from her, and every day we try to put that same belief and trust into those around us.

    Most of us think about Helen often in our daily lives. Many of us have gone on to teaching careers. We thank Helen for the opportunities we were given in our program. Many of the skills and teaching methods we use were learned directly through her.

    The Drama in Education Community has lost one of the most talented, dynamic, and authentic educators and practitioners we have ever seen. There is a sense of sadness to know that so many future educators will not have the opportunity to learn through Helen, but there is some comfort in knowing her methods and teachings will be passed on to the next generation through all of us.

    She built herself an army of her endearing students to go out into the world and provide arts education by any means necessary, and that is the legacy that she leaves behind her.

    But as they say, the show must go on. And Helen is sitting front row, smiling.

    “She was a force, and how could a force like that be stopped? The answer is that it can’t,” Rebecca Durance Hine said. “What she accomplished in her life, the lives she touched, the people she changed, all of that will continue in her place. She will never, ever be forgotten, and the effects of her life will continue to be seen for a very long time.

    “You are wonderful Helen, simply wonderful, and I hope that you rest in peace knowing the difference your life made in the lives of so many.”

    “The greatness of a teacher can be measured not by what someone can achieve, but by what they thought they couldn’t achieve.” — Helen Zdriluk

    Article contributors:

    Brandon Pachan
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Drama in Education, 2011; Bachelor of Education, 2012

    Celine Allen
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Applied Theatre, 2011.

    Connie McDougall
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Drama in Education (2008-2013)

    Dorothy Kane
    Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biological Sciences, With First-Class Standing, Minor in Dramatic Arts, 2012; Bachelor of Education, 2012

    Jayne Laari
    Bachelor of Arts (3 Year) in General Studies, 2010

    Jess Straus
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Child and Youth Studies and Psychology, 2011

    Jordan Tucker
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Integrated Studies, With First-Class Standing, Minor in English Language and Literature, 2012; Bachelor of Education, 2012

    Kaitlyn Welch
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, 2010; Bachelor of Education, 2011

    Kanthan Annalingam
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Performance, 2013

    Karen McDonald
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Drama in Education and Society Stream, 2012

    Katherine Gottli
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, 2010
    Master of Education, Teaching, Learning and Development, 2013

    Kathy Cavaleri
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, 2012; Bachelor of Education, 2013

    Lescia Poppe
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, Concentration in Drama in Education, 2012; Bachelor of Education, 2013

    Matt DaCosta
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Drama in Education, 2012; Bachelor of Education, 2013

    Meaghan Lugsdin
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, 2009; B Bachelor of Education, 2010

    Meaghan McKeag
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Drama in Education, 2013

    Patrick Monaghan
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Drama in Education and Society Stream, 2011; Bachelor of Education, 2012

    Rachael Bason (Verschoor)
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, Concentration in Drama in Education (Co-op Option), Minor in History, 2013;
    Bachelor of Education, 2014

    Rebecca Durance Hine
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, Drama in Education and Society Stream, 2010; Bachelor of Education, 2014

    Rox Chwaluk
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, Drama In Education and Society Stream, 2009; Bachelor of Education, 2010; Master of Education, Social and Cultural Contexts of Education, 2013

    Whitney Shantz (Lee)
    Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, 2011; Bachelor of Education, 2011


    Notice of the dedication of a theatre in honour of our departed Department of Dramatic Arts colleague, Helen Zdriluk:

    Burlington, Thursday October 05, 2017

    Dear Friends, Colleagues, Alumni and Family
    It has now been several months since the passing of Helen Zdriluk, an educational icon whose loss continues to weigh heavily on all of our hearts. However, due in no small part to her unparalleled commitment to Burlington Central and the Arts, I am happy to say that Helen’s memory and influence continues to reverberate in our great building, helping to inspire future
    generations of students at BCHS.

    Now you may already be aware that over the last few months many groups have rallied to pay tribute to Helen’s legacy in a variety of ways , including the creation of the Helen Zdriluk Memorial Fund for the Performing Arts, which will be
    administered by the Burlington Community Foundation.

    Well through some of those discussions another idea began to take root and with the support and blessing of Helen’s
    Family, we at Central could think of no tribute more fitting than the renaming of the auditorium to the Helen Zdriluk Memorial Theatre.

    With that process now complete we would like to cordially invite you to share in the honour of officially dedicating the theatre in Helen’s name (details below).

    Helen Zdriluk Memorial Theatre Dedication Ceremony
    Date: Thursday, October 5th, 2017
    Location: Burlington Central H.S. Auditorium (1433 Baldwin St.,
    Burlington)
    Time: 7:00pm – 8:30pm (dedication at 7:15pm, social to follow)
    Please RSVP to Lynn Jones if you plan to attend.
    (phone:905-634-7768 or email:jonesly@hdsb.ca )

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Faculty & Instructors, News

  • Return to the Nile: a newcomer’s journey

    “Return to the Nile: a newcomer’s journey” was performed this morning by a group of six students who have studied Applied Theatre. They teamed up with Dr. Yasmine Kandil to interview and engage with six immigrant and refugee participants from the Niagara Folk Arts Centre.

    There are two more performances at the MIWSFPA this Friday and Saturday at 6 pm.

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    Categories: Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, News

  • Escape room with a historical twist

    (Source: The St. Catharines Standard, Tuesday, April 25, 2017 | by Bob Tymczyszyn)

    Niagara Falls is about to gain another escape room site, but this one comes with a twist.

    In the basement of the Niagara Military Museum on Victoria Avenue, Brock University students are busy readying for live testing as they prepare for launch at the end of the summer.

    Dramatic Arts Associate Professor Natalie Alvarez said the idea was just by chance. “I phoned the Niagara Military Museum just to investigate to see the possibility of taking my students through a tour, and through a conversation, I found out they were interested in developing escape rooms.”

    “As a professor of dramatic arts it occurred to me that this was a very rare opportunity to have students in the department of dramatic arts collaborate with students in interactive arts and science bringing their two specializations together, skills in directing, scriptwriting, acting, props and set design with students that were refining their skills in interactive narrative, puzzle, and cipher building.”

    Alvarez says the half-term course of 13 weeks is completely devoted to creating escape rooms designed to the site’s history.

    The site was formed in 1911 as an armoury and used during the First World War then later used for social functions before becoming a museum.

    She explained that one of the room designs is tapping into factual events that unfolded on the site.“And the cold war room is tapping into its latent cold war history,” said Alvarez.

    “In a way, this is an escape room that isn’t just an escape room. It’s bridging other traditions of immersive performance and site-specific theatre, we’re straddling all those traditions and hence this collaboration of disciplines.”

    Museum vice-president Berndt Meyer said this form of escape room is bringing history to a generation, through the subterfuge of play.

    “There are a lot of static displays at every museum, but this one brings it into context,” he said.

    “Because we have real stories that took place here. This place is full of history.”

    Students in the control room monitored the progress of teams in the two rooms, and as the clocks ticked closer to the hour, they were hoping someone would find enough clues to set their way to freedom.

    After several run-throughs, no one had yet escaped in the allotted time.

    Tynan Manuel, one of the room designers, said it’s meant to be hard.

    “Most of the time in escape rooms you go in, and you will fail.“

    “Getting out is great, getting close is still a great feeling.”

    (See the original article at the St. Catharines Standard to watch the featured video on the escape room!)

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    Categories: Current Students, Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, News

  • Brock escape rooms at Niagara Military Museum ready for testing

    (Source: The Brock NewsThursday, April 13, 2017 | by )

    Two new escape rooms carefully crafted by Brock University students are undergoing final testing while readying for their public debut.

    Brock’s Dramatic Arts and Interactive Arts and Science students have been working since January to create the physical adventure games through a partnership with the Niagara Military Museum in Niagara Falls.

    The interactive experience sees players locked in a series of rooms and challenged to solve puzzles in exchange for their freedom as they race against the clock.

    Brock University Dramatic Arts and Interactive Arts and Science students have been working since January to create two escape rooms in the Niagara Military Museum in Niagara Falls.

    A group of about 30 students worked at the Victoria Avenue museum throughout the winter term to develop each aspect of the rooms, from the costumes to the puzzles to the props and sets.

    The building, which dates back to 1911 and was once used as an armoury, inspired the historical First World War and Cold War escape room themes.

    The rooms are unique in that they include live actors who guide players through the narrative.

    “That’s how students hope to differentiate their rooms within Niagara’s escape room market,” said Dramatic Arts Associate Professor Natalie Alvarez, who was the driving force behind the experiential education project.

    “I’m really hoping this will be a niche for students.”

    Students are now working to test the rooms and will be evaluated on their work during an upcoming live testing event on Tuesday, April 18.

    In attendance to evaluate the rooms will be representatives from Casa Loma’s escape room team, Canadian author and historian Christian Cameron, curator Kathleen Powell and archivist Alicia Floyd of the St. Catharines Museum, and Brock University faculty.

    The escape rooms are set to open to the public at the end of May at a cost of roughly $25 per person.

    Brock University Dramatic Arts and Interactive Arts and Science students have been working since January to create two escape rooms in the Niagara Military Museum in Niagara Falls.

    Proceeds will assist in the maintenance and continued operation of the museum.

    “It’s meant to leave a lasting mark on Niagara tourism, helping to make the museum more sustainable,” Alvarez said, while expressing gratitude to museum operators Jim and Kathy Doherty for their ongoing support.

    “It’s been really rewarding to see the students form what I hope will be a lasting relationship with the museum,” she said.

    Students will have the opportunity to remain at the helm of the escape rooms going forward, first on a voluntary basis and then potentially in paid positions if the rooms become financially viable.

    The museum’s partnership with Brock was made possible through a cultural development grant provided by the City of Niagara Falls, as well as a service-learning grant provided by the University.

    Students who created the escape rooms will be doing a takeover of Brock’s Snapchat account on the afternoon of April 18 when the escape room testing takes place. To follow along and view behind-the-scenes footage, add brockuni to Snapchat.

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    Categories: Announcements, Current Students, Faculty & Instructors, Future students, In the Media, News

  • Humanities students partner with Falls museum on escape rooms

    (Source: The Brock NewsTuesday, January 17, 2017 | by . Photo: Brock University Dramatic Arts and Interactive Arts and Science students are developing two escape rooms in partnership with the Niagara Military Museum. Students are in the initial stages of the project and have been brainstorming the path the two rooms will take.)

     

    They’re planning a great escape from a 100-year-old building.

    Brock University Dramatic Arts and Interactive Arts and Science students have come together for an innovative project that in a few months will open for the public to experience.

    Throughout the winter term a group of nearly 30 students will work to create two escape rooms at the Niagara Military Museum in Niagara Falls.

    The physical adventure games, which have become increasingly popular in recent years, lock players in a room — or in this case a series of rooms — and challenge them to solve puzzles in exchange for their freedom.

    The museum’s partnership with Brock was made possible through a cultural development grant provided by the City of Niagara Falls, as well as a service-learning grant provided by the University.

    Work on the project began Jan. 10 with students touring the Victoria Avenue museum, learning its background and brainstorming the direction the escape rooms will take.

    The building, which dates back to 1917 and was used as an armoury in the First World War, has an “incredible history,” said Dramatic Arts Associate Professor Natalie Alvarez, who was the driving force behind Brock’s involvement.

    That history, which includes an “infamous escape” by Austrian spy George Heinovitch, will act as inspiration for the stories students are planning to tell through the project, she said.

    “They’re going to build an escape room that tries to uncover that history.”

    Students will be responsible for each aspect of the project, including the narrative, puzzles, costumes, props and sets.

    “We’re building it from the ground up, tapping into my students’ expertise in costume design, directing, acting and scriptwriting,” Alvarez said.

    It was also a natural fit to include Interactive Arts and Science students and their skills with interactive narrative, game structure and puzzle building.

    “Escape rooms are this interesting hybrid of different theatre traditions,” Alvarez said.

    “It’s immersive performance. It’s kind of like a living museum. It’s also tapping into site-specific theatre, where you build a theatre piece that’s intimately attached to the site itself and its own history.”

    The escape rooms will be ready for testing by an invited audience April 4.

    “The assessment is going to be entirely in the hands of those experiencing it,” Alvarez said. It will include museum personnel as well as members of Brock’s Service-Learning Resource Centre.

    Museum operators have created a rubric based on what they hoped to see accomplished through the project and students will be evaluated accordingly.

    The escape rooms will go live to the public in May at a cost of $20 per person.

    Proceeds will assist in the maintenance and continued operation of the museum.

    Students will have the opportunity to remain at the helm of the escape rooms going forward, first on a voluntary basis and then potentially in paid positions if the rooms become financially viable.

    “That’s the incentive for them to build the social media machine to advertise it and get people out to experience it,” Alvarez said, adding she’s seen “100 per cent investment” from the students involved.

    She credited Brock for investing in such an innovative approach and nurturing the University’s connection with the community.

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    Categories: Current Students, In the Media, News

  • Brock students on the Royal Botanical Garden stage

    (Source: The Brock NewsMONDAY, AUGUST 15, 2016 | by . Photo: “Performers in Midsummer Night’s Dream playing at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton. Back left: John Wamsley, Zach Parsons, Jesse Horvath, Sean McLelland, Caitlin Popek, Nicole James and Dana Morin. Front left: Trevor Copp, Sean Rintoul, Claudia Spadafora, Michael Hannigan and Alma Sarai.”)

    A troupe of Brock University students is putting their dramatic arts talents to work this summer.

    Tottering Biped Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – on now at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton – features a number of familiar Brock faces.

    The production, held at the newly opened David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden, has been three years in the making. Director and Brock drama instructor Todd Copp says his goal is to offer local opportunities to recent theatre grads.

    “We’ve noticed the difficulty emerging artists have here in getting off the ground and we lose artistic talent to Toronto and further cities every year as a result,” he says on the production’s Facebook page. “In casting this piece, we searched this area’s post secondary theatre programs for the most talented senior students/recent graduates – and offered them paid theatre work. It’s unprecedented in our area.”

    The production links young actors with more experienced ones, teaching the next generation of actors that they don’t need to move away to pursue their passion.

    A number of recent and current Brock drama students are involved on the stage and behind the scenes including Sean McClelland, Sean Rintoul, Caitlin Popek, Nicole James and Dana Morin.

    Nicole James, who is pursuing her BA in dramatic arts with a concentration in production and design, is the production’s stage manager and embraces the challenge of managing a nine-person cast. She works with assistant stage manager and fellow Brock student, Dana Morin.

    James credits Carolyn Mackenzie’s stage management course for giving her the skills she needs for the job.

    “I have the privilege to work professionally in the theatre,” she says. “It’s so obvious that the instructors at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Dramatic Arts department actually care and are invested in the education of every single student.”

    Copp was an instructor with Brock’s Dramatic Arts program in 2016 and is the artistic director of Burlington’s Tottering Biped Theatre. Founded in 2009, the company is inspired by social justice. They have toured regionally and internationally.

    “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” runs August 10-14 and 17-21 at RBG Rock Garden 1185 York Blvd, Hamilton. Performances start at 7 p.m.; tickets are available at http://tickets.rbg.ca/PEO/default.asp.

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  • Brock research team studies the evolution of circus performers

    bromance-220(Source: The Brock NewsTuesday, July 12, 2016 | by )

    Flying trapeze artists, elephants standing on one foot while balancing a ball, jugglers, sword swallowers, bearded ladies: these are among the images of the traditional travelling circus.

    The circus is still going strong today and has gone mainstream. Think Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based entertainment company that has become a worldwide phenomenon.

    “This positive news for circus companies, artists and audiences with a taste for thrilling entertainment also raises questions about circuses’ historic status as site for the celebration and exploitation of differences, from stagings of exceptional performing bodies to the display of ‘freakery,’” says Assistant Professor of Dramatic Arts Karen Fricker.

    Fricker is part of an international team of academics, artists and producers researching the relationship of contemporary circus to the widespread practice in traditional circus of featuring people with unusual physical features, such as Siamese twins, women who grow beards, and in extreme cases, people living with a disease or condition that exaggerates certain body parts.

    The team is interested in the ways in which today’s circus artists relate to this “freak show” tradition. Fricker is one of three leaders of the project, called “Circus and its Others,” along with Charles Batson of Union College, in New York and L. Patrick Leroux of Concordia University.

    This month, they are co-organizing a conference about this subject as part of the Montreal Complètement Cirque Festival, with the assistance of two Brock graduate students, Hayley Rose Malouin and Taylor Zajdlik.

    “There’s a large history of profound racism, sexism and ableism that I don’t think is present in contemporary circus in the same way, mostly because contemporary ideologies are very transformed,” says Malouin. “However, it’s interesting to see how some of those elements of sideshow ‘freakishness’ and how we view those born bodies finds its way into contemporary circus.”

    Fricker explains that circuses are, in essence, “variety shows” that feature highly-trained people with extraordinary skills performing daring, risky and spectacular feats.

    These acts are very physical; as a result, a lot of attention is focused on performers’ bodies. In traditional circuses, this focus extended to viewing bodies that were born unusual or made different from diseases or other factors beyond someone’s control.

    But societies eventually became more aware of the struggles and rights of people living with physical challenges, and also increasingly became more sensitive to animal exploitation. For example, after 145 years of featuring elephants in its circus acts, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced that it has plans to retire its elephant herd by 2018.

    The creation of Cirque du Soleil was a turning point in circus history. In the early 1980s, a troupe “juggled, danced, breathed fire and played music” for audiences in Baie-Saint-Paul near Quebec City, says the group’s website.

    One of the performers, Guy Laliberté, took the show on the road in 1984 to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s discovery of Canada.

    “The show was a striking, dramatic mix of circus arts (without animals) and street performance that featured wild, outrageous costumes, magical lighting, and original music,” according to the website. Notably, one of the key features that distinguishes Cirque du Soleil from traditional circus is that it does not include animal acts, and rarely puts born difference on display in its shows.

    Zajdlik says contemporary circuses such as Soleil largely feature “achieved bodies,” bodies “transformed into these powerful vessels that become circus performers” through intensive physical training.

    “Are we gazing upon these spectacular bodies because they represent something that we nostalgically long for in what the freak once gave us?” says Zajdlik. “From aerial feats to contortions, these bodies are doing extraordinary things that you would not normally get to see. In a way, that kind-of represents what the ‘freak’ once represented for circus.”

    The researchers note that there are circuses that feature unusual bodies, but in a very different way than in the past.

    The keynote speaker at this month’s conference is Jennifer Miller, who founded Circus Amok in New York City and is also a professor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

    Miller has had a beard since her early 20s. She is known as the “Bearded Lady,” who uses her performances to “ask people who look at her to think critically about what they understand as normatively female or male, masculine or feminine,” says Fricker.

    “She challenges those boundaries,” says Fricker. “We’re in the age of gender fluidity. I think she speaks from, and to that, culture in an interesting way.”

    The Circus and its Others conference was held in Montreal July 15 to 17, 2016.

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    Categories: Alumni, Current Students, Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, News

  • Dramatic Arts graduating student writes about her experiences at Brock University

    goodnight-desdemona60ed07-1600x900crHello future DART students (and those still deciding):

    My name is Elizabeth and I am a graduating student from the Dramatic Arts program at Brock University.  I know you are all facing the important decision of where to go for school next year and wanted to write you all and let you know a bit about why I chose Brock, and the amazing opportunities I’ve had as a result.

    After my invitational experience at Brock I knew it was the place for me.  I left the invitational convinced that this would be a program in which I would be valued and appreciated for what I had to offer as an individual.  I also got the feeling that this would be a program focused on building community rather than competition.  I was right; DART is filled with some of the most supportive people I have ever worked with — professors and peers alike.

    The ability to get a truly well-rounded theatrical education was one of the most important factors in my decision.  Although I was in the performance concentration and therefore had plenty of studio classes and performance opportunities, I benefitted the most from being exposed to all aspects of theatrical production and study.  Crew courses gave me an appreciation for those who work backstage, as well as valuable skills that performers may need when starting their own small companies; critical theory and theatre history courses gave me a strong foundation of theatrical knowledge that I continuously draw on; directing and devising courses allowed my to develop who I want to be as an artist; and a theatre criticism course with Prof. Karen Fricker — who is also the Toronto Star’s new theatre critic — allowed me to discover a passion I was able to further as a writer and editor for dartcritcs.com.  That passion for theatre criticism began my interests in writing and dramaturgy, interests that I am now pursuing in graduate studies at Harvard University and the American Repertory Theater Institute — indicative, I believe, of the quality of education and scope of opportunities DART offers its students.

    If you have a theatre-related interest you want to explore, Brock is the place to do it.  In my time here I have acted in numerous MainStage and student-run productions, directed a one act play and assistant directed last year’s Fall MainStage, coordinated five seasons of the GimmeTwo short scene festival, attended classes at the Stratford and Shaw festivals, learned technical skills ranging from designing lighting plots to building sets, been employed by the university as a stage hand and as a theatre critic, and am currently working as a summer intern at the Shaw Festival. (I write a blog for DART students about this experience which you can find at shawandtell.wordpress.com).  I believe that this program offers students the support and resources to achieve and experience anything they desire.

    DART is a program that allows you to pursue your interests with instructors who not only are some of the best in the business, but who respect and build lasting friendships with their students.  This is a program to explore and gain confidence in new interests in a safe and encouraging environment.  Even better, that environment is now gorgeous and better equipped than ever thanks to the recent move to the brand new arts building.

    I hope that you seriously consider the Dramatic Arts program at Brock.  This program made all the difference in allowing me to become a confident and competent artist, and I know that my future is brighter because of the decision I made when I was in your place.  Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have about the program, I will be so happy to hear from you and will help in any way I can.  Hope to see you on (or behind) the DART stage in the coming years!

    Best of luck,

    Elizabeth Amos
    DART Class of 2016

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    Categories: Alumni, Current Students, Future students, News

  • Become a STAGE NINJA – register for this Spring’s 2F04 Physical theatre intensive!

    2f04_ninjaBecome a STAGE NINJA – register for this Spring’s 2F04 Physical theatre intensive!

    Robin Patterson (Theatre Beyond Words) and Trevor Copp (Tottering Biped Theatre) are teaming up to offer an intensive on Physical Theatre. It’s 3 weeks in May 2-20th, Mon – Fri all day – for a full credit. The course will immerse you Physical Theatre techniques to prepare you for the next level in your stagecraft.

    for more information see:
    https://brocku.ca/springs…/courses/intro-to-physical-theatre/

    To receive permission to register please contact dramatic.arts@brocku.ca

    Registration begins Monday, March 07, 2016!

    for more information contact:  dramatic.arts@brocku.ca

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    Categories: Current Students, Future students, News

  • Register for this Spring’s DART 1F01 Acting for Non-Majors: It doesn’t get more intensive than this!

    exterior-brock-downtown-campus-4-220xBeginning May 02, DART will be offering an intensive introduction to the basics of performance for Stage And Screen.

    The content of DART 1F01 is designed specifically to be challenging but achievable for non-majors or for people working in a variety of professions. Class time is spent doing rigorous but enjoyable studio exercises that help participants develop their acting, creative, presentational, and interpersonal skills. Evaluation for the course involves daily short written assignments, in-studio evaluations of progress,  and collaborative presentations. There is no final exam for this course.

    The course takes place at the beautiful downtown campus of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

     

    for more information see:
    https://brocku.ca/springsummer/courses/acting-for-non-majors/

    Registration begins Monday, March 07! For more information contact:  dramatic.arts@brocku.ca

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    Categories: Current Students, Future students, News