In the Media

  • Dramatic Arts intern shares her experience at Shaw Festival

    Every year the Department of Dramatic Arts awards a two month internship at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-lake to one of our graduating students. Michelle Mohammed is the Department of Dramatic Arts’ 2018 Shaw Intern. In addition to sitting in on rehearsals of the Magician’s Nephew, Stage Kiss and their Secret Theatre, among others, Michelle will be apprentice assistant director to Peter Hinton in his direction of Oh What a Lovely War.

    Michelle has posted her vlog about her experience at the Shaw Festival on our YouTube channel:

    Hi Everyone! My name is Michelle Mohammed, and I am the 2018 Brock Intern at the Shaw Festival. I am assisting Peter Hinton on Oh What a Lovely War, and also getting to peek into several other rehearsal rooms, shows, and classes while I am here! Stay tuned for more “a week in my life” style vlogs.

    Visit our channel during the month of June for more stories about Michelle’s adventures at the Shaw Festival.

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Categories: Current Students, Future students, In the Media, News

  • Dramatic Arts students explore the theme of Expectation and Reality

    The popular One Act Festival is coming back to the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts this weekend. Pictured is the performance of All by Myself from the 2017 One Act Festival directed by Naomi Richardson, designed by Chelsea Wilson and featuring Rebecca Downing, Jessica Johnson, Alex Boychuk, Lauren Reed and David Poirier.

    The popular One Act Festival is returning to the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts this weekend.

    Students from the Dramatic Arts Directing II course (DART 3P54) have been hard at work developing their plays under the supervision and guidance of instructor Neil Silcox and teaching assistant Kevin Hobbs. The experiential course offers students practical and real-world experience as directors, dramaturges, performers, designers and theatre technicians, often for the first time.

    Silcox says “Brock does a great job of balancing out the theoretical and experiential aspects of dramatic arts” compared to the other programs he’s worked for.

    “Developing a strong understanding of theories and then being able to get on your feet and actually do it is the only way to learn to do performing arts,” Silcox says.

    Directing II students are responsible for selecting a script, auditioning a cast, rehearsing, designing the show and co-ordinating with the dramatic arts production team on all technical needs.

    This year, the festival is presenting six shows under the theme “Expectation and Reality.”

    Silcox says he discovered the theme “after reading through each of the students’ chosen acts side by side.”

    “We didn’t offer this theme to the students and make them try to select something,” he says.

    This process allows the students to have full control and individuality with their acts, but also challenges them to tweak their shows in a way that highlights the theme more.

    “Although it may seem cliché, audience members should expect the unexpected,” says Silcox.

    The shows range from century old to extremely contemporary, absurdism to strongly political, all exploring this year’s theme from a unique angle.

    Shows being presented this year include Articulation by Alicia Richardson, Your Mother’s Butt by Alan Ball, Echo by Joseph T. Shipley, The Little Stone House by George Calderon, The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco, and The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre by Allan Knee.

    All shows take place in the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre of the MIWSFPA on Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25 starting at 7 p.m. each night. Admission is pay-what-you-can and limited paid parking is available nearby. For more information on the 2018 One Act Festival, visit the Dramatic Arts website.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Current Students, Events, In the Media, News, Performance Season, Plays

  • Dramatic Arts offers three-day lineup of events

    Ruth Howard of Jumblies Theatre, Kerr Mesner of Arcadia University, and Lina de Guevara of Puente Theatre, will be part of three days of programming presented by Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts from March 15 to 17.

    It will be a busy week for Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts, with a theatrical performance, panel discussion and series of public workshops all lined up in a matter of three days.

    The programming, sponsored by the Walker Cultural Leader Series, takes place Thursday, March 15 to Saturday, March 17 at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) in downtown St. Catharines.

    Kerr Mesner, of Pennsylvania’s Arcadia University, will kick-off the three-day lineup Thursday with the debut of In Transit: Artistic Interventions in Precarious Times. The one-person performance piece combines multimedia, live theatrical performance and audience engagement to create an evocative and thought-provoking dramatic experience. His autoethnographic theatrical piece explores the intersections of queer identities, Christianity’s contributions to anti-queer violence and the challenges of embodying transgender identities within current political contexts.

    Mesner weaves a story arc between live theatrical performances from his 2017 piece, In Transit, and multimedia excerpts from the film version of his 2014 play, Intervention, that was part of his doctoral dissertation.

    He performs in the Marilyn I. Walker (MIW) Theatre Thursday, March 15 from 7 to 9 p.m.

    On Friday, March 16, a panel discussion, “Tensions of Engagement in the Canadian Immigrant Theatre Context,” will take place in the MIW Theatre at 7 p.m.

    Ruth Howard of Jumblies Theatre, Lina de Guevara of Puente Theatre and Professor Yasmine Kandil of Brock University will discuss how applied theatre with immigrants and refugees in Canada has evolved over the past few decades. Moderated by Brock Professor Natalie Alvarez, the panel will examine whether the medium has had a positive and tangible impact on this community, and on settler Canadians.

    Kandil began her immigrant journey in Victoria, B.C., where she worked on multiple projects exploring celebration as a means for immigrant youth to claim a space in their new home. She is currently engaged in the second phase of devising a theatre piece that examines narratives of immigration and settlement for Brock students and local immigrants and refugees in relation to expectations, obstacles and assimilation.

    Beginning Saturday, March 17, Brock’s visiting scholars and theatre makers, including two panelists from the previous evening’s event, will present workshops about their work in the Dramatic Arts field.

    Howard, founder of Toronto-based Jumblies Theatre, explores her recent Four Lands touring project in a workshop held in Studio B of the MIWSFPA from 10 a.m. to noon. Her work on issues of diversity has won many awards. Jumblies Theatre is known for its work with minority groups, engaging non-artists and a larger spectrum of participants through community-based theatre.

    Following from 1 to 3 p.m. in Studio C will be de Guevara’s workshop, which examines the different tools used to research immigrant and refugee narratives. She was the first immigrant artist to establish a theatre company in Victoria that focused solely on promoting the narratives of immigration and settlement, with the purpose of bridging the gap between the minority group and predominantly white culture of Victoria. Her work has spread to other provinces in Canada since she began her Canadian journey almost 40 years ago.

    Admission to all three days of programming is free thanks to sponsorship from the Walker Cultural Leader Series, founded by Marilyn I. Walker. However, participants are asked to register for the March workshops in advance through Eventbrite.

    The Walker Cultural Leader Series brings leading artists, performers, practitioners and academics to the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts at Brock University.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Announcements, Events, In the Media, News, Visiting Artists

  • MIWSFPA offers ticket promotion in honour of International Women’s Day

    Brock Dramatic Arts students Manchari Paranthahan and Meryl Ochoa in the production of Top Girls playing at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts March 2 to 10.

    (Source: The Brock News | Wednesday, March 13, 2018)

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts is offering a special Top Girls promotion in honour of International Women’s Day.

    Tickets for the Brock production’s March 9 and 10 performances will be two for the price of one when buyers mention International Women’s Day.

    The promotion will be available in person at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre box office or by phone at 905-688-0722. Box office hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    Top Girls, Brock’s second mainstage production of the year, is a contemporary play that takes a critical look at women and their relationship to power and success.

    More information on the show is available on the Brock News.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Announcements, Events, In the Media, News, Plays

  • Community collaboration leads to a new play by Brock prof

    (Source: The Brock News | Monday, February 12, 2018 by Alison Innes)

    It was a simple, yet powerful statement.

    “We need to pay attention to the lives of Niagara’s migrant agricultural workers,” René Lopez, a worker advocate, said to Brock University Associate Professor David Fancy in 2010.

    That conversation began a journey of community collaboration that lead to the production of Our Lady of Delicias by the Essential Collective Theatre, which runs from Friday, Feb. 23 until Sunday, March 4 at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.

    Fancy, a professor with the Dramatic Arts program, collaborated with dozens of migrant workers and Dramatic Arts students for two years to develop the play. The story features the character of Rangel, a Mexican migrant worker who has been travelling to Canada for years to work in the vineyards and greenhouses of Niagara.

    “I’m excited by this new script,” says Essential Collective Theatres’ Monica Dufault, a long-term Brock instructor who is directing the production. “It explores migrant worker issues in considerable depth with a real artistry that I’m keen to share with audiences.”

    “Having lived in Niagara for more than a dozen years now, I still feel that this is a reality that is consciously ignored: the lives of people who are our neighbours,” says Fancy.

    The cast of four, including Carla Melo, Juan Carlos Velis, Camila Diaz-Varela and Josée Young, features an exceptional range of Canadian acting talent with extensive stage and screen credits. Brock Dramatic Arts graduates James McCoy and Jo Pacinda are creating the design and costume design for the production.

    What: Our Lady of Delicias, performed by the Essential Collective Theatre

    When: Friday, Feb. 23 to Sunday, March 4

    Where: Robertson Theatre, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre

    SPECIAL OFFER: Present your ECT show program or ticket stub to receive a 20% discount on tickets for Top Girls presented by the Department of Dramatic Arts!

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Events, Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, News, Plays

  • Acting exercise helps prepare co-op students for workplace

    From small talk at the water cooler to encounters with testy photocopiers, students embarking on co-op work-terms never quite know the situations they may experience in their new workplace.

    To help lessen stress and increase comfort heading into a new environment, Brock Dramatic Arts students recently visited their co-op peers to share some scenarios they may be faced with.

    Comprised primarily of Dramatic Arts students under the direction of Joe Norris, Dramatic Arts Chair and Professor of Drama in Education and Applied Theatre, Mirror Theatre spent time in three Co-op Education classes over the past few weeks to provide guidance and reassurance by acting out scenes in Sean O’Sullivan Theatre.

    Dramatic Arts exercise in co-op class

    Co-op students Daniel O’Leary, left, and Marsel Avdic, right, play tug of war with fourth-year Dramatic Arts student and Mirror Theatre member Sumer Seth during an ‘Awkward Elevator’ scene.

    The group write and present interactive scenes on a variety of social issues, with the latest art-based research project exploring the interpersonal dynamics of work placements from entry to exit.

    Using applied theatre, experiential and problem-based learning theories and techniques, the students present scenes that address worker safety, on-site learning, asking for help, dealing with unreasonable demands and degree of personal sharing and assessment. Audience members redirect the scenes from their seat and, at times, come on stage to try to act out their thoughts through role-play.

    The initiative was intended to generate discussion amongst the co-op students on a variety of work-related topics in the 0N90 class.

    Students were asked to put themselves in the actors’ shoes in order to understand how they would handle each of the given situations in real life.

    “I would recommend this type of interactive learning in future classes,” said second-year Public Health co-op student Micaela Snow following the exercise. “I feel like the presentation gave us a deeper understanding of expectations and work etiquette rather than if we just listened to the professor talking about it.”

    Julia Zhu, Brock’s Associate Director of Co-op Education, hoped the experience helped to “facilitate ‘a rehearsal for life’ by offering an opportunity for students to safely test out their approach to impromptu social, ethical and culture situations.”

    Course facilitator Ashley Haroutunian said she was impressed by the level of engagement students displayed as they watched the vignettes and participated in the discussions and re-enactments.

    “They demonstrated a keen ability to reflect and contribute thoughtful observations and suggestions to help the players navigate the challenging workplace scenarios and conflicts,” she said. “Professor Norris and his students did an excellent job of supporting their learning by inviting, encouraging and involving students in the process.”

    Mirror Theatre has previously worked with Brock’s English as a Second Language Services in addressing academic integrity issues; Student Health, examining mental health and drinking issues; Health and Safety, discussing violence in the workplace; a Health Sciences class, articulating challenges of patient care; and the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation’s TA training sessions. The group’s members are heading to New York in April to present their arts-based research at the American Educational Research Association.

    Mirror Theatre members who participated in the recent co-op exercises include fourth-year Con-Ed Dramatic Arts students Mike Metz and Lindsey Abrams, third-year Psychology and Dramatic Arts student Nadia Ganesh, fourth-year Dramatic Arts and Education student Aaron Drake, fourth-year Con-Ed student Abby Rollo, second-year Con-Ed Dramatic Arts student Dani Shae Barkley, fourth-year Dramatic Arts student Sumer Seth and first-year Dramatic Arts student Dawson Strangway.

    Speaking with Mirror Theatre members on how this group has impacted their lives, Mike Metz, fourth year Con-Ed Dramatic Arts student says, “When I started Mirror Theatre in my first year, I was a Con-Ed math student. Mirror Theatre was one of the major reasons I decided to switch my major to Drama.”

    Lindsey Abrams, fourth year Con-Ed Dramatic Arts student adds, “Mirror Theatre has given me the opportunity to explore my love for theatre through different lenses as an actor, prospective educator, and learner.  I get the opportunity to explore all different areas of theatre that can be presented, and feel as though I am always a part of a team.”

    When Nadia Ganesh, third year Psychology and Dramatic Arts student was asked what she enjoys about participating in Mirror Theatre, she said, “I love the fact that Mirror Theatre gives me the ability to impact the lives of others even if it is only in a minor way. If it’s just making one person laugh, I’m happy that I’ve had the opportunity to affect that individual in a positive way.”

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

  • Brock co-led research to study police training in mental illness

    Dr. Natalie Alvarez, an associate professor in the Department of Dramatic Arts

    (Source: The Brock NewsWednesday, September 13, 2017 | by Cathy Majtenyi)

    It’s the heat of the moment. A person in mental health distress is waving a knife in the air, yelling or screaming or perhaps even silent. A police officer is on the scene.

    What happens next?

    It’s a question that undoubtedly will come up in Toronto police Constable James Forcillo’s appeal trial, which started Monday. Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder for the 2013 shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on a Toronto streetcar.

    It’s also a question that Brock University researchers Natalie Alvarez and Yasmine Kandil are exploring in their research on how to use theatre to train police officers.

    Dr. Yasmine Kandil

    Dr. Yasmine Kandil

    Alvarez, an associate professor in the Department of Dramatic Arts, along with Yasmine Kandil, an assistant professor in Dramatic Arts, are co-leading a study that will create and evaluate the effectiveness of a type of scenario-based police training grounded in problem-based training methods the team refers to as ‘forum scenarios.’

    In forum scenarios, a scene is played out for an audience. The scene is then performed again, but an audience member can step in to intervene by making different choices, creating a different outcome and changing the way a particular issue is viewed or dealt with. It’s a form of teaching and learning that promotes the principles of procedural justice.

    Theatre educators Alvarez and Kandil of Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts, and Wilfred Laurier forensic psychologist Jennifer Lavoie, alongside their cross-Canada team with specializations in mental illness and de-escalation training, are partnering with the Durham Regional Police and collaborators from the Ontario Police College.

    The federal government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has awarded the team a $310,960 grant to carry out the four-year study.

    “Experiential learning through forum methods is much more effective in integrating knowledge, being able to apply that knowledge and retain it long term,” says Alvarez. The study builds on Alvarez’s upcoming book that examines the use of immersive simulations in a variety of training and educational contexts.

    Experts involved in the scenarios aim to teach police officers how to recognize behavioural characteristics of various mental illnesses that may present barriers to communication in high-stakes encounters, the impacts and consequences that certain actions will have on the person in crisis, and how to de-escalate volatile situations.

    “We want to recreate situations where the officer perceives a situation where there’s an imminent threat, they’re under extreme stress, and they have to make refined, ethical judgments in that moment of stress,” says Alvarez.

    The team will also address mental health stigmas and misconceptions.

    For Alvarez, the research is not just academic.

    “My oldest sister suffers from schizophrenia and she’s become an advocate for the rights of people living with mental illness,” says Alvarez, adding that her sister frequently gives talks to RCMP officers on the subject.

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Categories: Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, Media Releases, 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!)

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

  • Brock Dramatic Arts alumni nominated for St. Catharines Arts Awards

    The Department of Dramatic Arts is proud to announce that several DART graduates and one of our DART professors have been nominated for the Emerging Artist award at this year’s St. Catharines Arts Awards!

    More information can be found at this news entry on the main MIWSFPA website. Congratulations, and good luck!

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, 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.

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