In the Media

  • Distinguished Graduate a class act in Canadian theatre

    Originally published in The Brock News | THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2022 | by Charles Kim

    Though the spotlight may seem daunting to many people, it’s where Jordin Hall (BA ’10) feels most at home.

    The Brock Dramatic Arts graduate has found much success in his acting career and credits the groundwork he developed at Brock for helping to set his course.

    “Brock set the foundation for me early in my career. I learned how to respect the room, be diligent and work my craft,” says Hall, who was honoured during Brock’s Homecoming weekend as the Faculty of Humanities Distinguished Graduate Award recipient. “Those skills were all transferable and it immediately impacted my career following graduation.”

    Hall received his Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts with a performance concentration from Brock in 2010. Following graduation, he found success as an actor in Toronto, working with many independent theatre companies and performing in leading roles for several Shakespearean productions, including Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Winter’s Tale (Dauntless City Theatre), Titus Andronicus (Seven Siblings Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Humber River Shakespeare Company), and the title role of Othello for Driftwood Theatre.

    A woman on the left presenting a framed certificate to a male on the right pictured in front of a red backdrop.

    Carol Merriam, Dean of Brock’s Faculty of Humanities, presents Jordin Hall with the Faculty’s Distinguished Graduate Award at the Alumni Recognition Reception on Saturday, Sept. 24.

    Although he is now confident and eager to perform the works of Shakespeare, this wasn’t always the case.

    “From what I learned in high school, I thought I hated Shakespeare. In hindsight, this wasn’t the case at all; it was just how it was taught to us,” Hall says. “After breaking down the words and understanding how it was supposed to be read, I felt excited. I understood it and I was hungry for more.”

    Brock Dramatic Arts Professor Danielle Wilson says Hall was “always dedicated and driven.”

    “He was extremely passionate about performing even from a young age,” she says. “It was clear to me after a scene from Othello completed in one of my classes, he had an ability with language. He already knew how to use the words and had the voice to support them.”

    Following his success in Toronto, Hall found a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study classical theatre with the Stratford Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory.

    “It is a prestigious organization to be with and it’s every young theatre person’s dream to be part of the conservatory,” he says. “I remember I had my callback, and I didn’t really know how it went. When I got a call offering me a spot, it was surreal, and I was so excited. I was truly grateful for that opportunity.”

    After achieving his dream of working with the Birmingham Conservatory, Hall joined the Stratford acting ensemble in 2018. Since then, he has been part of seven Stratford productions, including his acclaimed leading role of Bertram in this year’s production of All’s Well That Ends Well.

    Dramatic Arts Professor David Fancy praised Hall’s impact as a professional in Canadian theatre.

    “Jordin was very engaged with critical issues of representation and made strong intelligent contributions as a student,” he says. “There have been barriers to inclusion historically for racialized individuals in Canadian theatre. The fact that he is now working at one of the most recognized cultural institutions in the country is a huge sign of success.”

    As for what’s next, Hall says he wants to continue pursuing his craft.

    “In many ways, I am still finding my way as a performer, and I can’t say for sure what the future holds, but I can see myself with the Stratford Festival for a while,” he says. “I enjoy it and hope that we can continue to produce more great work together.”

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

  • Brock alumni, faculty take spotlight at Hamilton Fringe

    Rebekka Gondosh (right) worked with Spark Intensive participants during their rehearsals for their Hamilton Fringe Performance. (Photo Courtesy of Joginder Singh)


    Originally published in The Brock News | TUESDAY, AUG. 9, 2022 | by

    When the Hamilton Fringe Festival got underway last month, Brock alumni and faculty not only shared their talent on stage, but also used their knowledge to inspire the next generation of performers.

    Among the artists who participated in the theatre festival, which returned July 21 to 30 after a two-year pandemic hiatus, were Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) alumni Rebekka Gondosch (BA ’12), Diego Blanco (BA ’21), Holly Hebert (BA ’21) and Asenia Lyall (BA ’22), as well as DART Associate Professors Gyllian Raby and Danielle Wilson.

    A high school Dramatic Arts and English teacher with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, Gondosch led the festival’s Spark Teen Intensive — a performance program for youth ages 13 to 18 living or studying in Hamilton.

    Through Spark, participants learn practical devising skills, work with local guest artists in a variety of disciplines such as movement, poetry, storytelling, theatre and music, and create an original performance piece that is performed during Hamilton Fringe.

    In addition to teaching for the past six years, Gondosch has been busy working with Passing Through Theatre and Light Echo Theatre, sharing her poetry as part of Suitcase in Point’s In the Soil Festival and creating works of her own. She recognizes the growing need for arts and performance programs in youth education and is doing what she can to help nurture the arts locally.

    A woman with a clown nose

    Brock University Dramatic Arts Associate Professor Danielle Wilson performed in the production Stage Fright as part of Hamilton Fringe Festival.

    “A hope I have for the Spark program is that it might encourage young emerging artists to continue making art in Hamilton,” she says.

    Meanwhile, fellow Brock alumni Blanco, Hebert and Lyall produced an original one-act play, Thy Name is Woman, at Hamilton Fringe through their new self-producing company, Into The Abyss Theatre.

    “Several of DART’s upper-year classes provide students with devising and production skills, as well as encouragement to go out and voice their ideas,” says Raby. “We are proud to see these fine artists making their mark.”

    Also taking part in the Fringe Festivities was Raby, who partnered with Wilson on a new production of their own, Stage Fright. The dynamic duo looked to trigger and assuage performers’ worst fears while getting in a few laughs along the way.

    Stage Fright was built on playwright Wilson’s experiences through the COVID-19 pandemic, including attachment to technology, social media consumption and her newfound interest in the art of clown.

    Wilson makes it a point to indicate that clown goes beyond the archetype popularized by circus.

    “Clown is a state of creative play and a state of connection with the audience. You don’t know what the clown is going to do next — the clown comes from the person who is performing. It’s a state of openness to failure,” she says.

    Raby assisted Wilson with dramaturgy and direction, dissecting and exploring the multi-faceted elements of stage fright — a condition of psycho-physical paralysis experienced by most people.

    “Death, taxes and speaking in public are top fears,” Raby says.

    Wilson adds the little-known fact that since many performers are introverts, they are even more deeply affected by stage fright.

    “I was eager to get back on stage, since 2018 was my last performance,” Wilson says. “It’s important to stay in touch with all that it takes to perform, along with the fear that it takes.”

    Reflecting on the the existential humour of the show, Raby says: “How can something so terrifying, and so intellectually fascinating, be so light and funny?”

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, News, Performance Season, Plays

  • Canada Games Research Spotlight: Karen Fricker

    Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts Karen Fricker is leading a research team that is exploring connections between water sports, circus and spectators through their project “Circus on the Canal.”


    Originally published in The Brock News| THURSDAY, JULY 07, 2022

    NOTE: This is the latest in a series of Q&A stories featuring Brock University faculty members who are integrating the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games into their research projects. For more information on Brock’s academic activities around the Games, visit brocku.ca/canada-games

    Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, is author of the monograph, The Original Stage Productions of Robert Lepage: Making Theatre Global, which recently won the Canadian Association of Theatre Research’s 2022 Ann Saddlemyer Award for the best book on a Canadian theatre studies topic published in a given year. She is the co-director of the international research project Circus and its Others, a theatre critic at the Toronto Star and is involved in a number of research projects about the future of theatre criticism.

    Fricker is one of 11 Brock researchers and scholars who received funding under the 2020-21 round of the VPR Canada Games Grant program. Here, she discusses her research project titled “Circus on the Canal: Exploring connections between water sports, circus and spectators.” 

    Please give a brief overview of your research project. 

    Circus on the Canal is a collaboration between me and circus artist and producer Holly Treddenick of Femmes du Feu Creations, who is based in downtown Welland at the Bank Arts Centre.

    This summer, we are working on the second phase of this project; this phase, and the first phase, have been funded by the VPR Canada Games Grant program. In this phase, Holly will work with two Brock student athletes — one a diver, the other, swimmer Ashley Falconer — in further developing choreography for a circus performance inspired by the athletes’ physicality and embodiment. Initial work on this choreography happened during the first project phase in the summer of 2020. The project also involves Welland-based Indigenous artist Kitsuné Soleil, who is working with Holly on incorporating knowledge about the local waterways into the performance. Hamilton-based designer Tanis McArthur is the costume designer, and a local musician will also be part of the project.

    What do you expect will be the outcome of your research? 

    The outcome of this phase of the research will be an in-progress performance taking place Aug. 11 or 12 at the Lincoln Docks in Welland, at sunset. The audience for this free performance will include invited guests as well as any members of the community who would like to attend.

    How will this contribute to knowledge or understanding of the Canada Summer Games?  

    A central goal of the production is to explore links between high-performance athleticism and circus performance, both of which involve intensive physical training and a deep connection to the relationship between mind and body. The performance is intended to inspire audiences to consider these links and to appreciate the skill, dedication and mastery of Canada Games athletes and circus performers alike. The performance, which will be outdoors and highly visible, will heighten local awareness of the Games. The performance is also likely to enhance the experience of sports spectators and sportspeople by adding a creative and aesthetic element to the Games.

    How did you become interested in this research? 

    Contemporary circus is one of my central areas of research as a theatre and performance scholar. I am the co-director of the Circus and its Others (CaiO) international research network, which has organized three conferences (Montreal, 2016; Prague, 2018; Davis, 2021). We’re in the early stages of planning the next conference in Colombia in 2023 and are working on a co-edited special journal issue following the 2021 conference. It’s through my CaiO work that I got to know Holly, who is a dynamic producer and artist, and is passionate about bringing circus to Welland and the Niagara region, which is underserved for arts and culture.

    How do you plan on sharing your research?

    The outcome of this phase of the project is the public work-in-progress performance in August. There will be a social media campaign in the run-up to the performance that will further share knowledge and information about it.

    Do you have any advice or tips on how colleagues in your Faculty can incorporate the Canada Games into their research? 

    Be creative and think laterally!

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Faculty & Instructors, Future students, In the Media, Media Releases, News, Visiting Artists

  • Brock mourns loss of champion of Dramatic Arts

    Mary-Jane Miller (right) with her late husband Jack Miller shortly before her retirement in June 2004.


    Originally published in The Brock News FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2022 | by 

    The Brock community is deeply saddened by the recent passing of Mary-Jane Miller, who spent 36 years with the Department of Dramatic Arts (DART).

    Miller, who began teaching at Brock in 1968 and served as both Associate Professor and Chair of the department during her tenure, passed away peacefully at home on June 22.

    A crucial member of the DART program, she was part of the early academic cohorts at Brock.

    Miller’s level of dedication and commitment over her 36 years with the University still resonates with many.

    DART Associate Professor Gyllian Raby has many fond memories of Miller, who impacted not only the department, but also its students.

    “MJ set an example, consciously; she was a teacher in her every move. Her profound sense of duty made her step up for several years after her migraines undermined her desire to Chair the Department of Dramatic Arts,” Raby says. “She didn’t want to retire until she felt our fledgling department was stable and had found its identity; she cared so very deeply.”

    DART Professor David Fancy says Miller “left a very strong legacy of commitment to theatre and dramatic arts in the Humanities and at Brock.”

    “She was a key architect to the development of the Department of Dramatic Arts in the 1960s and ’70s,” he says.

    After retiring in 2004, Miller went on to become Professor Emerita, maintaining strong ties to the Brock Dramatic Arts community.

    Miller and her late husband, Jack Miller, who passed away in 2016 and also had a significant impact on the University, are remembered for their lasting contributions.

    “Their combined generosity to the department was legion and they led forward with a most steady and loving personal relationship that taught me about the beauty of being quietly grand in later years,” says David Vivian, Associate Professor of DART and Director of the Studies in Arts and Culture (STAC).

    Miller’s family will receive friends on Friday, July 1 from 11 a.m. to noon at Patrick J. Darte Funeral Chapel, 39 Court St., St. Catharines, with a memorial service to follow in the chapel.

    Memorial donations to either the Stephen Lewis Foundation or the Brock University Scholarship Fund would be appreciated by the family.

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  • Brock Mainstage production to take audiences on magical bike ride

    Image caption: Dramatic Arts Mainstage actor Yasmine Agocs rehearses a scene from the upcoming production of Red Bike by Caridad Svich, opening Friday, March 4 at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre.

    Originally published MONDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2022 in The Brock News | by 

    Through an epic journey on a beloved red bicycle, an 11-year-old girl reflects on the small town she sees before her, taking audiences along for the ride. Venturing to the outer edges of town and encountering challenges unlike any she has ever experienced, she must face her fears to see the world in a new way.

    The Brock University spring 2022 Mainstage production of Red Bike brings the poetic words of celebrated playwright Caridad Svich to life with an exhilarating performance exploring movement, physical theatre and puppetry.

    Dramatic Arts student and Red Bike cast member Arnelle Douglas in
    rehearsal at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    The show runs March 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and March 6 and 12 at 2 p.m. at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA).

    The production’s unique style of fractured storytelling explores diverse themes as seen through the eyes of a child, including capitalism, consumerism, gentrification, globalization, immigration and isolation. Director and Dramatic Arts Instructor Mike Griffin was drawn to the play because of its whimsical nature.

    “While reading the play, I became a kid again; running out of the house to go on adventures down the street. Red Bike is the perfect balance of getting lost in imagination while reflecting on society,” he said.

    One of six actors in the all-female cast, fourth-year Dramatic Arts student Asenia Lyall said the unique script and dialogue provided her with a valuable opportunity to explore her creativity.

    “Being a part of Red Bike meant working with a small cast to tell a complicated and wonderful story in an unconventional way,” she said. “Learning how to perform this kind of script is a great opportunity for me as an actor. Embracing the abstraction and surrealism of the piece is something I’ve learned from.” While the cast and crew faced various challenges mounting the show during a pandemic, both the director and actors feel there was a silver lining.

    “We have bonded together as a community to create something fantastic,” Griffin said. “For me, the community that emerges out of the creative process is the reason that I keep doing theatre.”
    Lyall agreed, adding that creating theatre during the pandemic has taught her how to be flexible as an artist.

    “There is a real sense of humanity in this play, with a lot of exciting moments and big reveals that I think audiences will enjoy,” she said.

    The MIWSFPA will welcome a live audience for the production to the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre at the downtown arts campus in St. Catharines. In the interest of student and audience member safety, the theatre is operating at a reduced capacity with 120 seats available for each performance.

    Tickets are $20 for the public, $16 for youth and seniors and $15 for Brock students. Tickets may be purchased through Brock University Tickets. All provincial and Brock University COVID-19 protocols are in effect for the performances, including mandatory vaccination and masks for all audience members visiting the MIWSFPA.

    All visitors to Brock University and MIWSFPA must complete the Brock University Self-Screening Tool.

    The all-female cast of the upcoming Brock University production of Red Bike by Caridad Svich includes (from left) Asenia Lyall, Arnelle Douglas, Yasmine Agocs, Joanna Tran, Abby Malcolm and Sarah Row.

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  • BIPOC theatre leaders to discuss new industry approaches at Brock event

    Theatre leaders participating in the upcoming Brock discussion panel include (top row, from left) Haui, Carmen Alatorre, (centre, from left) Shanna Miller, Samantha McCue, Wladimiro A. Woyno R., (bottom row, from left) Giselle Clarke-Trenaman and Kat Chin.

    Originally published in The Brock News Wednesday, | NOVEMBER 10, 2021 | by 

    Prominent Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) Canadian theatre production and design professionals will come together to discuss recent experiences in their fields and new strategies in production at an upcoming Brock University digital panel.

    This is the second event presented by the Department of Dramatic Arts (DART)  in a new series as part of the 2021-22 Walker Cultural Leader Series (WCL Series), “Transformation and Adaptation in Theatre Pedagogy and Training.” The series is organized by DART Professors Karen Fricker and David Vivian with longtime instructor Carolyn Mackenzie.

    “Industry Panel with BIPOC Canadian Theatre Artists” will take place Monday, Nov. 15 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Zoom. The Brock and wider community are invited to attend and asked to register ahead of time on the Zoom registration page.

    Moderating the panel is Giselle Clarke-Trenaman, Production Co-ordinator at Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver and creator of Black History Matters, an educational program addressing gaps in Black history in elementary schools.

    Panelists include Haui, a mixed media director and designer working in theatre, opera and film; Samantha McCue, an Anishinaabekwe and Ned’u’ten theatre professional based in Ottawa; Carmen Alatorre, a Latinx artist and theatre designer based in Vancouver; Kat Chin, a Toronto-based stage manager who has worked across Canada, off-Broadway and at the Palace of Versailles; Shanna Miller, the Technical Director at Young Peoples Theatre; and Wladimiro A. Woyno R., a live performance designer and Assistant Professor of Theatre Production and Design at School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University.

    The panel will cover a range of topics, from how to bring more BIPOC artists to the theatre industry and cultivate new audiences, to the use of technology and how the pandemic has affected the performing arts industry.

    “We’ve invited these important artists from diverse fields of Canadian theatre design and production to share their journeys of the past 20 months and to encourage our students with the vision and passion that informs their professional practice,” said Vivian.

    “Whether through the lens of anti-racism, decolonization, accessibility or the drive for professional and economic sustainability, this evening promises a vivid invitation to join progressive voices for change in live performance and theatre production in Canada.”

    The third and final event in the DART WCL series is a daylong Casting and Audition workshop on Sunday, Nov. 28 for DART students, staff and faculty. This closing event will be led by Kimberley Rampersad, actor, choreographer, director and Associate Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival; and Marcel Stewart, actor, writer, director and arts educator.

    To learn more, please visit the WCL Series website.

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  • Brock’s fall mainstage returns in person to explore fate of Judas Iscariot

    Image caption: Brock Dramatic Arts students and mainstage actors Celine Zamidar (left) and Simon Bell (right) rehearse a scene from The Last Days of Judas Iscariot with Guest Director Leighton Alexander Williams (centre).

    Originally published in The Brock News MONDAY, | OCTOBER 18, 2021 | by 

    Brock University’s fall mainstage production will make its much-anticipated return next week for the first live, in-person performance on the stage of the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre in more than a year and a half.

    Although the Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) did not let the COVID-19 pandemic stifle its creativity, hosting virtual mainstage productions when public health restrictions prevented in-person performances, the cast and crew of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is eager to welcome their first live audience Friday, Oct. 29.   

    Written by award-winning American playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, the play is an exploration of sin and unconditional love and speaks to all about guilt, regret and redemption.

    Set in a satirical version of a contemporary American courtroom, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot sees a host of saints and villains (including Mother Theresa and Satan) convene to determine the fate of Judas Iscariot after he has been stuck in purgatory for a few thousand years.

    Emerging Ontario director Leighton Alexander Williams is the Brock production’s Guest Director, with assistant direction by DART student Michael Cicchini.

    Based in Toronto, Williams is a stage and screen actor, writer, director and producer and is co-founder of Big Dreamers Brotherhood Productions Inc., a company of seven black male artists committed to telling provocative stories. With an academic background in drama and English and an interest in education, Williams is thrilled to be guest directing the production.

    “It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has made a lot of us experience feelings of isolation and being ‘stuck’ — two things Judas experiences throughout this story,” Williams said. “I felt it was important to set this play in the here and now.”

    Williams added that because of a recent boost in the popularity of the science fiction genre, the production’s version of purgatory is set in a cosmic void.

    “The intersectionality of religion and science makes for a fresh take on a classic tale,” he said.

    The show runs Oct. 29, 30 and Nov. 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 31 at 2 p.m. There will be a matinee performance on Nov. 5 at 11:30 a.m. for DART students and faculty.

    The MIW Theatre, in the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) in downtown St. Catharines, is operating at a reduced capacity, with 100 seats available for each performance in the interest of student and audience member safety.

    Tickets are $20 for the general public and $16 for youth and seniors. Tickets may be purchased through Brock University Tickets. All provincial and Brock University COVID-19 protocols are in effect for the performances, including mandatory vaccination and masks for all audience members visiting the MIWSFPA.

    See the feature article by DART alumna Holly Hebert and featuring the voices of some of the students involved in the show, photos by VISA student Julie Luth and DART’s own Edgar Harris at dartcritics.com/2021/10/29/from-purgatory-to-purgatory-welcome-the-last-days-of-judas-iscariot/

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  • Brock community members nominated for St. Catharines Arts Awards

    Image caption: Artists and Instructors from Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Curtis Tye (left) and Barbara Worthy (right) are among the nominees for the 2021 St. Catharines Arts Awards.

    Originally published in The Brock News WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2021 | by 

    The City of St. Catharines is gearing up to celebrate the local arts scene and those who champion it — including members of the Brock community.

    Among the City’s recently released nominees for the 2021 St. Catharines Arts Awards are several individuals and one group who are connected to the University.

    Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) instructors Curtis Tye and Barbara Worthy were nominated for the Arts in Education Award and Making a Difference Award, respectively.

    Other Brock nominees include alumna and musician Kathryn Sinopoli (BA ’13, BEd ’13), who received the nod for the Emerging Artist Award, and social, economic and environmental justice organization OPIRG Brock and retired Visual Arts faculty member Jean Bridge, who were both nominated for the Making a Difference Award.

    Tye, who has been an Instructor with the Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) since 2013, is honoured to be nominated for the second year in a row in for the Arts in Education Award, which celebrates individuals and groups committed to engaging residents through arts education.

    “I have always believed learning through the arts is a collective endeavour — there is no single individual that makes that successful,” he said. “I am someone who helps facilitate group and collective success, and I believe in a common goal for learning.”

    Tye currently teaches DART 2P21 Drama in Education II and DART IP95 Creative Play for Education. Along with teaching and a successful career as a corporate public speaking and leadership coach, Tye also serves as a committee member for Brock’s Social Justice Research Institute.

    Worthy, a MIWSFPA Instructor famous for her energetic class warm-ups and always having her little white dog at her side, has taught in DART since 2006 and teaches at the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture. Currently, Worthy is teaching DART 3P92 Scriptwriting, to students in the Dramatic Arts, English and Creative Writing, Film and GAME programs. An experienced creative producer and writer, Worthy is also thrilled to be a part of the awards celebration.

    A former longtime producer for CBC Toronto and former actor with Shaw Festival, Worthy’s teaching philosophy is informed by her professional career in the arts and a strong belief in the importance of experiential learning.

    “What truly makes a difference to communities everywhere is the power of art, the power of drama and the power of the written word,” Worthy said. “Making a difference to me means providing students with access to the real world, specifically their local communities, where they can truly experience the arts for themselves.”

    The St. Catharines Arts Awards will be presented online Sunday, Nov. 21, livestreamed from the stage of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (PAC).

    “The city’s cultural and artistic community has exploded in recent years — there are so many diverse voices and visions out there,” said Kathleen Powell, the City’s Acting Supervisor of Cultural Services. “These nominees represent some of the best our community has to offer, world-class talents who call St. Catharines home and step up to build a community we can all be proud of.”

    For more information about the arts awards and how to view the celebration, visit the City of St. Catharines website.

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  • Brock series to address transformation, adaptation in Canadian theatre

    Image caption: Mike Payette (left), Artistic Director of Tarragon Theatre, and Philip Akin (right), former Artistic Director of Obsidian Theatre Company, will take the virtual stage on Monday, Sept. 20, reflecting on changes in the Canadian theatre industry as part of the 2021-22 Walker Cultural Leader Series.

    Originally published in The Brock News | TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2021 | by 

    A panel of prominent Black Canadian theatre leaders will explore the industry’s evolving landscape during an upcoming community discussion hosted by Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts (DART).

    The webinar, “Black Canadian Theatre Leadership: Embracing Transformation and Adaptation,” takes place Monday, Sept. 20 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and is the first presentation of the 2021-22 Walker Cultural Leader Series (WCL Series).

    The online event will feature panelists Philip Akin, former Artistic Director of Obsidian Theatre Company, and Mike Payette, Artistic Director of Tarragon Theatre, with moderator Luke Reece, Associate Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre. Registration is required through the Zoom webinar page.

    The speakers and moderator will reflect on changes in Canadian theatre in recent years, with a focus on the artistic missions of theatre organizations. Discussion points will include how the panelists have approached season planning within existing and evolving organizational missions and how programming can bring in the audiences they intend to cultivate.

    This is the first of three presentations in a new series launched by DART called Transformation and Adaptation in Theatre Pedagogy and Training. The series will run throughout the academic year and is supported by the WCL fund.

    “This fall’s Walker Cultural Leader program follows on from DART’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) Speaker Series last year and intends to build on its momentum,” said DART Associate Professor Karen Fricker, who co-organizes the series with DART sessional instructor Carolyn Mackenzie and DART Associate Professor David Vivian. “We are excited to welcome this intergenerational group of Black theatre leaders for our first event. This is an all-star panel.”

    The WCL Series celebrates the legacy and vision of Marilyn I. Walker and her contributions to Brock University’s Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA). Through her generous gift, the four academic programs at the MIWSFPA invite recognized cultural leaders, top researchers, artists, scholars, musicians and theatre professionals to contribute to the intellectual and creative life of the School and the Niagara region.

    To learn more about upcoming WCL Series events, please visit the website.

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  • Much work to be done on live theatre’s road to recovery, says Brock prof

    Brock Dramatic Arts graduate Amanda McDonnell (BA ’15), who is part of the front of house team at the Shaw Festival, welcomed audiences back this summer. Photo credit: Michelle Mohammed. 

    THURSDAY, AUGUST 26, 2021 | by 

    After 17 months, the live theatrical experience is slowly making its return — but not without challenges ahead, says Brock theatre expert Karen Fricker.

    “Amidst the adversity that live performing arts have been faced with through the pandemic, a wonderful thing has happened this summer: the return of live theatrical performance, because it has been able to be outside,” says the Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Officer in Dramatic Arts (DART), who is an expert in theatre criticism, theatre theory and contemporary theatre.

    The Shaw and Stratford Festivals, two of Ontario’s most celebrated repertory companies, have been staging performances outdoors under canopies (tents with no walls) with mandatory masks for audiences in addition to capacity limits in accordance with provincial guidance. Both festivals are taking audience, artist and staff safety seriously, with COVID-19 protocols in place, says Fricker, who is also a theatre critic for the Toronto Star, writing about performances in the city as well as the Shaw and Stratford Festivals each summer.

    Although these outdoor performances do not come close to hosting the usual number of spectators, Fricker says this is a “big step in the right direction.”

    “Artists are being paid and creativity is happening,” she says, adding that while “innovative digital work has been heroic during the pandemic, experiencing live performances in a shared space is a joyous return.”

    Brock’s Dramatic Arts Department engages with the Shaw Festival in numerous ways, including the annual DART/Shaw internship and course-based experiences with Shaw artists and arts workers. A number of DART students and graduates work at the festival in front of house, producing and administration, and creative capacities.

    Seeing some of those familiar faces at Shaw this summer has been a particular highlight, Fricker says.

    While outdoor performances are a step in the right direction, Fricker says there is still more work to do. There will be limited live, in-person programming in the performing arts sector this fall, mainly due to unclear guidance from the provincial government around reopening, she says.

    In the early summer, the performing arts industry lobbied the government to address live performances in the official stages of reopening. Now that the performing arts have been included, companies have been able to plan. However, “you can’t just lift a theatre production off in a few weeks; you need a runway,” Fricker says.

    Colleen Smith, Executive Director of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (PAC) adjacent to Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, says the team at the PAC has experienced these challenges first-hand.

    “Never did any of us whose lives revolve around bringing together artists and audiences believe that we would witness the end of the age-old adage, ‘the show must go on,’” she says. “In fact, the show stopped for months at a time. It’s been an unbelievable period of disruption, heartache and loss of purpose for so many artists and arts workers.”

    Smith says that “buoyed by our partners at the City of St. Catharines and Brock University, as well as the support from our Board of Directors, we have used the first half of 2021 to develop a three-year recovery strategy that will place the PAC firmly within our community as a centre for creative and artistic experiences and learning.”

    The PAC is planning a gradual return, starting with the annual Celebration of Nations gathering, which will be in a hybrid format in September.

    Among the local theatre organizations taking important steps to make innovative work and engage the public in Niagara safely is the young people’s theatre company Carousel Players, which is focusing on new play development in August and September.

    “We are experimenting with a range of forms, including clown, puppetry and mask,” says Artistic Director and Brock graduate Monica Dufault (MA ’11). “We want to offer new pieces that are dynamic and theatrically alive when we meet our audiences again.”

    The company will present an outdoor performance, The Giant Puppet Party, for Culture Days in October, a new digital play for ages 12 to 17 called Meet Chloe starting in November, and a school touring production of The Velveteen Rabbit for ages four to seven in March 2022.

    Suitcase in Point, another St. Catharines-based theatre company, recently announced the launch of a reimagined In the Soil Arts Festival running Friday, Aug. 27 to Saturday, Sept. 25. The festival includes opportunities to see live, original theatre, new music, comedy acts, installations and participatory workshops. All-inclusive festival passes are available for purchase online.

    DART graduate Deanna Jones (BA ’02), the Artistic Director of Suitcase in Point and In the Soil, says the limits of the last 17 months have been a “unique test on our arts organization and the arts community at large.”

    “We knew this 13th edition of our annual In the Soil Arts Festival would be different, and we were determined to find inspired ways to get off of our screens and offer artists and audiences safe ways to connect — in person.”

    During In the Soil, artists from Essential Collective Theatre will be set up on James and St. Paul Street interviewing community members about their pandemic experiences. Working on this initiative are DART graduates Jordine de Guzman (BA ’20), Kristina Ojaperv (BA ’19) and Ren Reid (BA ’20). The project will culminate in the Pandemic Stories Project, a new play to be read at St. Catharines’ Culture Days in early October.

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