Faculty & Instructors

  • Announcing DART 3P94: Theatre Criticism, an Online Intensive beginning June 2

    DART 3P94: Theatre Criticism
    Online intensive, June 2-12, 2020

    DART 3P94: Theatre Criticism is a new course that introduces students to the practical craft of and the theoretical background to theatre criticism. The activity of the course is divided between seeing productions and writing reviews of them; workshopping these reviews with the instructor and classmates; editing the reviews towards assessed submission, and eventual possible publication on a dedicated course blogsite; reading and discussing relevant academic and journalistic articles about criticism; and learning about alternative, digital, performative, and visual forms of criticism.

    download the poster

    The instruction of this summertime intensive will be online, conducted using a combination of video conferencing, online chatrooms, animated Powerpoint lectures, and related formats. There will be designated course times during which students will be required to be virtually present; other activities during the two-week course will include reading/class preparation; writing and editing reviews and other forms of written response to theatre; creating digital critical responses using social media and other online platforms; participating in digital forums; and developing a summative criticism project. A final research paper about criticism will be due at the end of June.

    Students will be required to see a minimum of four theatre productions as part of the course. If live theatre is being performed in June, students will have the option of going to see live performances, and will undertake these theatre visits themselves – there will be no organized course field trips, though the instructor will offer advice about acquiring affordable tickets, and students may wish to organize carpools together. There is also the option to watch theatre performances that have been captured on video; these will be made available to students online. It may be that a combination of live and recorded viewing is possible, or all the performances may be viewed online.

    This is an intensive course experience and prospective students are advised to be prepared to engage with it full-time during the two weeks of the course.

    Prerequisite(s) are DART 2P96 and 2Q92 (2F94) or permission of the department. Interested students are invited to write to the instructor, Prof. Karen Fricker (kfricker@brocku.ca), as she is willing to consider relevant course experiences from other programs than DART.

    Please register before May 1, 2020.

    Karen Fricker is an associate professor in Dramatic Arts at Brock, a theatre critic at the Toronto Star, and vice-president of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association.

    A PDF version of this page is available for download.

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  • Dramatic Arts presents the ONE ACTS Festival 2020, opening March 20

    EDITOR’S NOTE: This event has been cancelled as part of Brock University’s ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and the community in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    March 20 and March 21 at 7:30 pm

    performed in the The Marilyn I. Walker Theatre,
    15 Artists’ Common, St. Catharines

    Admission: pay-what-you-can at the door
    Limited paid parking available

    Six Emerging Directors Present a Varied Festival of One Act Theatre Plays

    This year’s play festival offers plays of all moods, from somber to joyful.

    Three Canadian plays by Victoria Dawe, John Lazarus, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard explore the meaning of Art, why Playwriting might be illegal in some places, and what happens when Feminazis emerge from their bunker to take over the world!

    From Ireland and the US, Deirdre Kinahan and Laurie Powers bring poignant explorations of ageing, of reflection and regret, while Slavomir Mrozek’s expressionist satire of freedom politics in 1968 Poland resonates in many countries today.

    download the poster

    The emerging directors from Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts are Dillon Bernier, Wyatt Hoskin, Holly Hebert, Juan-Carlos Figueroa, Molly Lacey, and Peter Herbert. These student directors are completing the course DART 3P54 Directing II, a directing practicum focusing on creating action, total theatre composition, team management and communications, lead by Associate Professor Gyllian Raby and instructor/teaching assistant Colin B. Anthes of Twitches and Itches Theatre and Essential Collective Theatre. The directors each selected a play that spoke to them about the world we live in, and worked through all production elements from casting through to design and rehearsal. The Department of Dramatic Arts is proud to launch these young artists with this exciting Spring event.

    THE ILLEGAL PLAYWRITING CLASS
    by John Lazarus
    Directed by Wyatt Hoskin

    THE TRUNK
    by L. Elizabeth Powers
    Directed by Molly Lacey

    SALAD DAY
    by Deirdre Kinahan
    Directed by Juan-Carlos Figueroa

    THE WORK OF ART
    by Victoria Dawe
    Directed by Dillon Bernier

    SAY THE WORDS
    by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard
    Directed by Holly Hebert

    OUT AT SEA
    by Sławomir Mrozek
    Directed by Peter Herbert

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  • Studio Taxi Theatre presents TomorrowLove, opening April 3 at the MIW Theatre

    EDITOR’S NOTE: This event has been cancelled as part of Brock University’s ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and the community in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    Have you ever wondered what would happen if someone decided to erase you from their memory completely? Would you use an app that could match you with your soulmate? What if you could communicate with the dead via video chat?

    Rosamund Small’s TomorrowLove is a collection of stories about love, sex, technology, and the future. Studio Taxi Theatre’s (DART 4F56 – Advanced Studies in Theatre) production features 9 of Small’s stories performed as an immersive experience around the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. The stories range from the poignant and comedic, to the dramatic and heartbreaking.

    Every audience member will see 4 stories as they travel through this experience, therefore, audiences are encouraged to see the show at least twice in order to catch as many stories as they can. The number of audience members is limited to 40 per show, split into 2 groups in order to allow for intimate audience/actor relationships, so it is recommended that audience members buy their tickets in advance and arrive early to choose their own adventure!

    Each location in the production is accessible and will have seating for audience members.
    If you anticipate extra assistance being needed, please contact studiotaxitheatre@gmail.com

    Content warning: contains scenes with sexual content, strong language, and references to sexual and physical violence.

    This is a presentation by the DART 4F56 (Advanced Studies in Theatre)/DART 4P97 (Collaborative Stage Production) graduating students’ ensemble for Spring 2020. All productions are created, produced and performed by DART students under the direction of Mike Griffin.

    Presented at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts.
    Purchase your tickets at https://brocku.universitytickets.com/.

    When:
    April 3, 2020 — 5:00 p.m.
    April 3, 2020 — 9 p.m.
    April 4, 2020 —1:00 p.m.
    April 4, 2020 —5:00 p.m.
    April 4, 2020 —9:00 p.m.

    Where: Marilyn I. Walker Theatre, 15 Artists’ Common, St. Catharines

    Director: Mike Griffin
    Assistant Director: Josh Loewen
    Set Designer: Josh Loewen
    Props Designer/Set Decoration: Joanna Trann
    Costume Designer: Rachel Frederick
    Lighting Designer: Lauren Reid
    Sound Design: Taylor Bogaert
    Dramaturge: Alexandra Chubaty Boychuk
    Stage Manager: Shannon Fletcher
    Assistant Stage Manager: Jasmine Case
    Production Manager: Jordine De Guzman
    Head of Publicity: Shannon Fletcher

    Cast:

    Alexandra Chubaty Boychuk
    Emily Clegg
    Paige Hunt-Harman
    Samantha Rideout
    Beth Martin
    Frances Johnson

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  • PERDITA, OR THE WINTER’S TALE: our first mainstage for the new decade!

    PERDITA, OR THE WINTER’S TALE,
    ADAPTED BY GYLLIAN RABY

    Join us for our second Mainstage production of the 2019-20 season: a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic co-directed by Professors Gyllian Raby and Danielle Wilson, with Gerry Trentham.

    Perdita, or The Winter’s Tale, views through the eyes of a child the chaos set in motion by a father’s paranoid jealousy. King Leontes’ psychosis is terrifying as he plots to kill his best friend Polixenes on suspicion of adultery with Queen Hermione. But when he threatens the lives of the Queen and her newborn daughter, Leontes succeeds only in killing his heir, the ailing prince Maximillius. In the storm of recrimination that follows, Max steps out of Time to save his baby sister, manipulating the Winter’s Tale by imagining reality anew.

    The Department of Dramatic Arts presents this sad tale with a happy ending. The Winter’s Tale is Maximillius’ attempt to explore the situation that is destroying him, to understand its consequences and to bind his world together.

    Read the review in the Brock Press.

    See the teaser video taken during rehearsal and featuring interviews with the Assistant Directors Rina Wilkins and Emma McCormick, and performer Jasmine Case (Perdita) from YourTV Niagara.

    perspective drawing view of the set, designed by Nigel Scott

    Artistic Direction for our production of Perdita, or The Winter’s Tale.

    The text of 1612 has been re-imagined into the Cold War era of 1970’s where Shakespeare’s ‘evil’ Sicilia is an Iron Curtain country kind of power imagined by John LeCarré and ‘festive’ Bohemia is a flower-power realm where kids rebel against their parents’ values.

    It is a tale of lostness and belonging, of trust-betrayed and loyalty. The craving of a child or youth to understand adulthood, and of people stuck in a role or gender to experience its opposite, is our focus. This is a production where the god and mortal “he” is socially constructed and can be played by actors of any biological sex.

    costume designs by Alexandra Lord. (l-r: Leontes, Polixenes, Dorcas, and Perdita)

    Bring your students to a special matinee performance of Perdita, or The Winter’s Tale on March 06, 2020 at 11:30 am. Group tickets start at $13 each, and discounts available. We are pleased to offer a talkback and Q & A with the actors and creative team after the matinée on March 6th. Should you be interested, contact us for more information. Curriculum connections include Shakespeare Studies, English Literature, World Studies, History, Gender Studies and Drama Studies. The performance of Perdita is appropriate for high school audiences.

    To book your school, please contact the Production Manager Brian Cumberland for all group ticket purchases: bcumberland@brocku.ca . If you are interested in booking a tour of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts prior to the show, please e-mail mroca@brocku.ca .

    download the poster

    Presented at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts. Purchase your tickets at https://brocku.universitytickets.com/.

    When: Feb. 28 and 29, 2020 — 7:30 p.m.
    March 1, 2020 — 2 p.m.
    March 6, 2020 —11:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
    March 7, 2020 — 7:30 p.m.

    Where: Marilyn I. Walker Theatre, 15 Artists’ Common, St. Catharines

    The Marilyn I. Walker Theatre is situated at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, located at 15 Artists’ Common in downtown St. Catharines, L2R 0B5. We are adjacent to the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and the Meridian Centre.

    See our website for maps and contact information:
    brocku.ca/miwsfpa/dramatic-arts/contact/

     

    Directed by Danielle Wilson and Gyllian Raby, with Gerry Trentham
    Set Design by Nigel Scott
    Costume Design by Alexandra Lord
    Lighting Design by Chris Malkowski
    Sound Design and Music by Max Holten-Andersen
    Assistant Direction by Rina Wilkins and Emma McCormick.

    download the rack card

    Stage Manager: Jordine De Guzman
    Asst Stage Manager Elizabeth Martin and Diego Blanco
    Production Manager: Brian Cumberland
    Technical Director: Gavin Fearon
    Shop Supervisor: Ed Harris
    Theatre Technician: Dawn Crysler
    Head of Wardrobe: Roberta Doylend

    CAST:

    Avery Delaney Florizel
    Jackson Wagner Leontes 
    Jasmine Case Perdita 
    Jesse Caines Court Judge/Jailer/Servant 
    Joanna Tran Hermione 
    Juan-Carlos Figueroa Polixenes 
    Lauren Reid Paulina/Shepherd 2 
    Leah Rantala Emilia 
    Meryl Ochoa Maximilius/Time
    Mike Hammond Antigonus/Shepherd 3
    Molly Lacey Clio/Dorcas
    Rachel Frederick Dion/Mopsa
    Taylor Bogaert Camillo

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  • Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Indigenous Art Practice: Candidate Research Presentations

    The Brock and wider community is invited to attend the presentations by the three Indigenous artist/researchers who are finalists for the Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Indigenous Art Practice at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    Our candidates are visiting the Marilyn I. Walker School in January. Each will give an hour-long presentation and engage in an additional half hour of discussion about their current research interests and focus, and about what they would hope to achieve as a Canada Research Chair at Brock University in the next five years.

    MATTHEW MACKENZIE

    Research presentation 5 – 6:30 pm,
    Friday January 10, 2020
    MWS 156

    Edmonton playwright, director and producer Matthew MacKenzie (Métis) is Artistic Director of Punctuate! Theatre, as well as the founder and an Artistic Associate with Pyretic Productions. In 2018, his play Bears won Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Production, was named a co-winner of the Toronto Theatre Critics Outstanding New Canadian Play Award, and won the Playwrights Guild of Canada’s Carol Bolt National Playwriting Award. This past fall, Punctuate! premiered MacKenzie’s play The Particulars, which was named one of the top ten productions of 2019 by The Globe and Mail.

    MARK IGLOLIORTE

    Research presentation 11:30 am – 1 pm,
    Friday January 17, 2020
    MWS 156

    Mark Igloliorte is an Inuk artist born in Corner Brook, Newfoundland with Inuit ancestry from Nunatsiavit, Labrador. His artistic work is primarily painting and drawing. Igloliorte’s work has been featured in several notable national exhibitions including the 2015 Marion McCain Exhibition of Contemporary Atlantic Canadian Art, curated by Corinna Ghaznavi; Inuit Ullumi: Inuit Today: Contemporary Art from TD Bank Group’s Inuit Collection; Beat Nation, curated by Kathleen Ritter and Tania Willard; and The Phoenix Art-The Renewed Life of Contemporary Painting, curated by Robert Enright. In addition, Igloliorte has been profiled in features in Canadian Art magazine and Inuit Art Quarterly. Igloliorte is an Assistant Professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

    SUZANNE MORRISSETTE

    Research presentation 5 – 6:30 pm,
    Wednesday January 22, 2020
    MWS 207

    Suzanne Morrissette is a Métis artist, curator, and writer. Using various research-creation methods Morrissette addresses the philosophical roots of historical and contemporary forms of injustice facing Indigenous peoples. Her current and future research looks at the role of locally-based Indigenous knowledges within Indigenous community-based curatorial practice as a way of entering into conversations about robust and unexpected strategies for representing Indigenous art both within Canadian and international contexts. Currently she holds the position of Assistant Professor at OCAD University.r University of Art and Design.


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  • MIWSFPA production explores relationships in today’s connected world

    Brock students from the fourth-year Advanced Studies in Theatre course rehearse for their upcoming performance of Love and Information, opening Nov. 29 at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre.


    published in the Brock News THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2019 | by 

    A fourth-year Dramatic Arts class from Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts is putting its spin on the Caryl Churchill production Love and Information. 

    Opening on Friday, Nov. 29 at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre in downtown St. Catharines, Love and Information examines relationships in a world of excess and access, where fragmented individuals struggle to connect despite having everything at their fingertips.

    The show is produced by Studio Taxi Theatre, run by students in the Advanced Studies in Theatre course, and is part of the MIWSFPA’s mandate to contribute to regional cultural development and build community connections.

    Through more than 100 characters in 60 scenes, the production looks at how love and information impacts their lives and relationships. The play moves from one scene to the next with rapid dexterity, as if the audience was flipping through the channels on a television. Viewers catch snippets of real human beings in the heart of conflicts, connection and catastrophe.

    Dramatic Arts Professor Mike Griffin, who directs the performance, says Love and Information is an exciting show because of how it structurally and thematically reflects today’s society.

    “Churchill comments on what it is like to be in the ‘swipe’ generation, constantly switching from app to app, staying connected as long as the entertainment lasts,” he says. “The play examines how information affects our relationships.”

    Griffin calls Churchill one of the most dynamic playwrights alive, paving the way to experiment with form and content. Her plays often challenge societal ideals and abuses of power, and her writing explores unconventional structures. Love and Information was first produced in 2012 at the Royal Court Theatre in London, U.K., directed by James MacDonald, and has since then met incredible success with productions across the world.

    Churchill’s script gives theatre companies the flexibility to shuffle the order of the scenes, allowing the artists to makes strong choices about how to shape the production. It means no two versions of the play will ever be the same. The stage is set up in alley-style seating, with audiences on either side of the stage and actors in the middle, providing for an intimate engagement.

    Love and Information showcases the talents of the Brock University student performers Jasmine Case, Joanna Tran, Joshua Loewen, Lauren Reid, Rachel Frederick, Shannon Fletcher and Taylor Bogaert.

    Students in production and design roles include: Frances Johnson, set designer; Rachel Frederick and Paige Hunt-Harman, costume designers; Elizabeth Martin, sound designer; Samantha Rideout, production manager/choreographer; Alexandra Chubaty Boychuk, prop designer/choreographer; Jordine De Guzman, stage manager; and Emily Clegg, dramaturg. Lighting design is by Brock Dramatic Arts alumni James McCoy.

    Director of the MIWSFPA David Vivian said student productions like this one set the Dramatic Art students up for a successful career in the arts.

    “The DART 4F56 course is a capstone experiential education-oriented course that often serves as a launching pad for the post-graduation founding of new companies and projects of creative research and theatre production in Niagara and the GTA,” he said. “Students build, produce, perform, direct, dramaturge and market these original events.  It sets them up to be highly qualified to work for a theatre or production company, and gives them the confidence to launch their own projects.”

    Love and Information runs:

    Friday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m.

    Saturday, Nov. 30 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

    Sunday, Dec. 1 at 2 p.m.

    The show is suitable for ages 10 and over. Tickets are $5 and are available through Brock University’s ticket hub online at brocku.universitytickets.com

    see the BrockTV video moment

    see the official trailer produced by Studio Taxi Theatre

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  • Identities Relocated: A LGBTQ Newcomer’s Story, at the Folk Arts Multicultural Centre

    In collaboration with the Folk Arts Multicultural Centre and Pride Niagara, Brock students in the Dramatic Arts Social Issues Theatre for Community Engagement course created a play based on interviews with LGBTQ+ newcomer and second-generation Canadians.

    The play blends direct quotations and true stories into Aminah’s journey trying to find her place as a lesbian newcomer from Pakistan in St. Catharines.

    The performance also includes a Forum Theatre segment, which invites audience members to join the characters onstage in dealing with conflicts faced by Aminah.

    As Alejandro, a gay Colombian Canadian character, says, “LGBTQ, newcomers, and everyone else is invited!”

    Please join us Monday, November 25th @ 5pm at the Folk Arts Multicultural Centre for the play entitled, Identities Relocated: A LGBTQ Newcomer’s Story.

    for more information please contact:

    Rachel Rhoades, PhD
    Assistant Professor, Applied Theatre
    Department of Dramatic Arts, Brock University
    rrhoades @ brocku.ca

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  • Grand finale weekend for Orlando at the MIW Theatre

    Orlando, on stage at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre, closes Nov. 2, 2019. Dramatic Arts student Taj Crozier, in the role of Queen Elizabeth, with Jane Smith as Clorinda, on the set of Orlando.

    Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts is set to present the final performances of an original presentation of Orlando, at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation takes viewers from the witty pages of Virginia’s Woolf’s timeless novel into the sensual world of the stage, where identity is learned and unlearned. Join the ensemble as they salsa dance with gender, dash through carefully cut English gardens and land centuries farther than they began, but with the same question: Can we learn who we truly are in a world constructed to tell us who we should be?

    The students performing Orlando write about the premise of the production, the urgency of its themes and their deep work as artists. In the program notes they ask:

    “Orlando showcases the highs, lows, and complications of love. But not just love in the sense of relationships, but love in all its forms, love in all its beauty. How do we, in the 21st century, re-ground ourselves in our roots in nature?”

    Dramatic Arts student Alexandra Chubaty Boychuk has published an insightful and revealing look at the story of Orlando and this production in her article for DARTcritics.com: “Fluid identities onstage at DART: “The question generation” takes on Woolf and Ruhl’s Orlando”. Boychuk reviews some recent initiatives in contemporary theatre to represent voices that society “has tried to silence, especially those who identify as transgender or don’t identify with gender at all”:

    “Enter Orlando, a play that directly tackles questions of gender identity and how we perceive it. Orlando: A Biography was written by Virginia Woolf in 1928 and adapted into a play by Sarah Ruhl in 1998. The play follows the titular character through six centuries, starting with the reign of Elizabeth I and ending in the present day. When Orlando turns 30, they stop aging and go to sleep as a man and wake up as a woman.”

    Paige Hunt-Harman, the third-year student and actor who plays Orlando, tells us how important this work is to the students of the Department, and of Brock University:

    “We are now the question generation,” Hunt-Harman says. “We want to ask more questions; we want to challenge the norms that society has brought upon us and I really think that this play brings that to the forefront.”

    Dramaturge and fourth-year student Emily Clegg shares her thoughts about the play and their production:

    “What can be said about a play that goes through multiple centuries, including characters that all have very similar questions of identity? Perhaps what we can take from Orlando is the utmost joy in the difficulties of navigating our identities, and the resistance against the social world which tries to tell us who we should be, rather the who we actually are. It’s a beautiful tragedy that continues to mark our current moment in history.“

    Directed by Dramatic Arts faculty, Dr. David Fancy, the set, lighting and media is designed by Dramatic Arts alumnus James McCoy, with costumes designed by Hamilton-based designer and Dramatic Arts instructor Kelly Wolf and Sound Design by Dramatic Arts student James Dengate.

    Orlando showcases the talents of students in the Department of Dramatic Arts undergraduate program. Josh Loewen is the Assistant Director, Emily Clegg is the dramaturge and Frances Johnson is the Stage Manager, assisted by Peter Herbert. Performers include: Diego Blanco, Taj Crozier, Holly Hebert, Paige Hunt-Harman, Asenia Lyall, Sid Malcolm, Beth Martin, Nathan Rossi, and Jane Smith.

    The public presentation program of the Department of Dramatic Arts (brocku.ca/miwsfpa/dramatic-arts) is an integral part of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts’ mandate to contribute to regional cultural development and build community connections by engaging our audiences with the breadth of talent and creativity of the students, staff, guest artists and faculty of Brock University.

    This production premiered the weekend of October 25th through 27th. The final presentations are Friday Nov. 1 and Saturday Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m., at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre, Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, 15 Artists’ Common, St. Catharines.

    Tickets are $20 for Adults or $16 for Students/Seniors and are available through the BrockU university tickets website. brocku.universitytickets.com
    Group Sales and special orders are available by contacting Brian Cumberland, Production Manager, at bcumberland@brocku.ca .

    Parking is not available on-site, however, there are more than 1,000 spots available in nearby parking garages, surface lots, and on city streets within a five-minute walk to our address at 15 Artists’ Common. Visit stcatharines.ca/en/livein/ParkingLotsGarages for a list of parking locations.

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  • Fluid identities onstage at DART: “The question generation” takes on Woolf and Ruhl’s Orlando

    (From: DARTCritics, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2019 | by )

    Contemporary theatre companies are making strides in representing individuals whose voices society has tried to silence, especially those who identify as transgender, or don’t identify with a gender at all. Transgender performance artist Travis Alabanza’s one-person show, Burgerz, has been getting rave reviews around Europe. Two-spirited actor Ty Defoe and non-binary actor Kate Bornstein made headlines when both made their Broadway debuts in Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men. Canadian transgender artist Vivek Shraya is creating and performing in her first theatre piece, How to Fail as a Pop Star, at Canadian Stage next February. There’s clearly an increasing amount of work created by and/or featuring individuals who don’t identify as cisgender, but nevertheless mainstream theatre and the theatrical canon seems to me to still be dominated by heteronormative stories.

    I asked David Fancy, director of Orlando, Brock University’s first Mainstage production of the 2019-20 season, why he thinks much mainstream theatre hasn’t treated gender non-conformity or gender fluidity. “I think humans are continuously in survival mode and think in terms of binary logic because it’s a way of cutting to the chase, and it’s simple habituation,” says Fancy. “I think it actually takes work to think outside of that, and I think there’s a lot of energy and anger that goes into reinforcing those perimeters simply because historically, properties have been perpetuated along these patrilineal lines.” He explains that there’s “a history of privileging the cisgender hetero matrix that [Judith] Butler talks about, what she describes as the false stabilisation of certain sets of binaries, and so many cultural institutions are organized around that.”

    Taj Crozier and Paige Hunt-Harman in Orlando. Photos by Neil Silcox.

    Enter Orlando, a play that directly tackles questions of gender identity and how we perceive it. Orlando: A Biography was written by Virginia Woolf in 1928 and adapted into a play by Sarah Ruhl in 1998. The play follows the titular character through six centuries, starting with the reign of Elizabeth I and ending in the present day. When Orlando turns 30, they stop aging and go to sleep as a man and wake up as a woman. They stay in the biological body of a woman for the rest of the play, but nothing else about them has changed. Paige Hunt-Harman, the actor who plays Orlando, feels the character doesn’t necessarily identify as either gender: “he/she/they don’t necessarily know who they are when it comes to gender,” says Hunt-Harman. “They kind of see themselves as just this ever-flowing entity that is kind of always going to be there, always there to ask those questions, to say, ‘who am I?’ and ‘what’s to come?’ and ‘what will people think, or do I even care what people think?’”

    Orlando premiered Off-Broadway in 2010; in July of 2018, Soulpepper Theatre produced its Canadian premiere with Sarah Afful in the title role. With Brock University staging the play this year, are we moving towards a theatrical landscape (and perhaps consequently, a society) where gender fluidity is moving further into mainstream representation? Both Fancy and Hunt-Harman agree that we are. And good thing, too – especially in a university setting in which many students identify as gender non-binary or gender non-conforming, representation on the stage is important. We still live in a heteronormative society and works like Orlando are needed to disrupt and question that thinking, to advocate that people of all genders and sexualities have avoice.

    The play certainly challenges questions of gender and how we perceive it. Hunt-Harman shared the story of an early rehearsal in which Fancy asked the ensemble what masculinity meant to them, after which there was an awkward pause before someone suggested, “big muscles?” And maybe that is how many see masculinity today – the big, strong, protective man versus the frail, delicate, damsel-in-distress. But do these traits have to be separate and rigid between the sexes? This play works to blur these lines: “Orlando really starts at the beginning of the play as a very stereotypical, heroic male, the hegemonic hero of the story,” Hunt-Harman says, “and I believe by playing that up we really show the audience just how we as a society perceive masculinity — and the same goes for femininity. But throughout the play we see… that stylized gender kind of transform into something that we now are able to connect with, where it’s not necessarily one thing or the other. It’s very grey… I see masculine in the feminine and feminine in the masculine.”

    It’s not just gender that this production of Orlando addresses – it also touches on issues of racialization. While Ruhl’s adaptation has eliminated Woolf’s uses of words like “moor,” there are still remnants of racializing language that the ensemble has worked to challenge by, for example, cutting out all mentions of the word “gypsy.” When Orlando transitions from man to woman, they do so in Constantinople (now Istanbul), which is highly exoticized and orientalised in Woolf’s novel, and consequently Ruhl’s script. “There’s a whole tradition in colonial literature of white people from Europe going to a foreign place that’s exotic and they have all kinds of discoveries. This is a repeated trope in colonial texts,” Fancy explains, “and it’s left unexamined by Woolf because she takes on the question of gender, but it’s almost like it’s first-wave feminism where you have a white woman, upper class, going through these discoveries.” Without giving too much away, the ensemble has taken this scene in Constantinople and over-emphasized the racialization by being hyper-theatrical about it, before then deconstructing it.“We establish it and then just… almost campily, certainly almost cheesy, with theatrical means, take it apart,” says Fancy. “You have to make sure that if you’re foregrounding something, you’re foregrounding that it’s a construction. And you’re showing how it’s made, and how you take it apart.”

    Sid Malcolm in Orlando.

    Orlando and the questions intertwined with it come at the right time, especially with an audience likely primarily composed of university students. Young people are recognizing their power now more than ever and are questioning what has always been presented as “natural and inevitable,” as Fancy would say. “We are now the question generation,” Hunt-Harman says. “We want to ask more questions; we want to challenge the norms that society has brought upon us and I really think that this play brings that to the forefront.”

    Orlando plays at the Marilyn I Walker Theatre, 15 Artists’ Common, from October 25 – November 2. Purchase your tickets online.


    DARTCritics is a project of the Department of Dramatic Arts, founded by Dr. Karen Fricker.  Launched in 2013, the site originated as a practical way for students to train in the art of reviewing, and also sought to bring the artistic community of Brock University and St. Catharines closer together. The website features writing about theatre produced and seen in Niagara, Hamilton, Stratford and Toronto. Please follow DARTCritics as they continue to search for awesome theatre, meeting fascinating artists along the way.

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  • 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

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