In the Media

  • 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.

    You can also follow DARTcritics here:

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    DARTcritics.com is partially funded by the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, in support of student learning; experiential education; student professionalization; public engagement with the teaching, learning and production activities of the Department of Dramatic Arts; new ways of thinking; and the nurturing of links with our communities.

    The opinions expressed by the writers of the DARTcritics.com website are their own.

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

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

  • Meaningful Movements Reshape: Come to the Edge at Brock University and the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre

    (From: The Sound, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2019 | by Kerry Duncan)

    Being invited into a space not built by you, or for you, offers the inherent need for trust and vulnerability. When audiences entered into the Come to the Edge Cafe on August 24/25 at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, audience members were transported to a land of imagination built by, and for, wheelchair users with Cerebral Palsy (CP). This evolving storyscape replaced the traditional confines of theatre with an unlimited creation of shape and space, prioritizing the communication options for performers and participants with CP. The team working on this production aimed to foster an empathetic and reflective space for participants to sit in a potential level of unknown, discomfort, and to ultimately trust that they could not necessarily know the answers to questions like ‘Where are we? What’s it like to not know exactly what’s happening around you? What’s it like when you have to re-evaluate the things that don’t exactly apply?’.

    Come to the Edge is a collaborative development of immersive theatre, creating a new understanding of performance through dance, play, and improvisation. The central performance elements built by and for the Imagining Possibilities Leadership Team, made up of automatic and manual wheelchair users with CP. The group has been working with St. Catharines based creative collaborators from the March of Dimes Canada and the Brain Injury Community PET (Personal Effectiveness Training) Re-Entry Program to welcome audiences to trust in the idea that ‘not knowing’ is an opportunity for learning and empathy. The performances are supported by facilitators Jenny Jimenez and Stephen Sillett from Toronto-based organization, Aiding Dramatic Change in Development (ADCID), as well as a much broader team of musicians, artists, and support workers.

    With a long-standing history in St. Catharines, the ADCID has been working with the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) since 2016 with the first iteration of Imagining Possibilities, the precursor to Come to the Edge. As a facility that was built under the universal standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) for inclusive physically spaces, this began a longstanding partnership for reshaping how St. Catharines builds and understands performance theatre. Professor David Vivian, Director of the MIWSFPA and an ongoing collaborator with ADCID explained that “Inviting the lead artistic team to join us and local artists in our first spring season at the MIWSFPA theatre was one of the highlights of our inaugural year in 2015-16. Come to the Edge is a long term project that has continued to develop over the years and bring together artists in a number of Ontario communities”.

    The development of the show over the past several years has taken this community and discussions about it global with performances and workshops in Toronto, Belgium, Prague, Hamilton and St. Catharines. Connecting with the Imaging Possibilities Movement through the Engaging Possibilities project at Brock University in 2015, Kris Daunoravicius has been involved with the growth and evolution of this project ever since. A local to St. Catharines and core member of the Leadership Team, Daunoravicus travelled with the ADCID team to Belgium in 2017 for a week of Envisioned Scenography workshops for the disability-focused Huize Eyckerheyde Residence. In speaking with Daunoravicus and Elaine Drover, another member of the Leadership Team, both utilized a range of augmented technology, body movement, facial expressions, and sound to showcase the range of experiences and stories that were being brought into the creative process during the years of work it took to create the latest version of this production.

    In speaking with Come to the Edge performer and ADCID collaborator, Frank Hull and long-time Leadership Team member Laura Leskur, they shared how the creation of this show was rooted in growing one another’s understandings of the other performers, and building a movement vocabulary unique to each performer and each moment of interaction. With a long-term career as a professional wheelchair dancer, Hull spoke to the multiple layers of relationality and equity between those involved in the show, “there has to be those moments where we are becoming equal together, regardless of how my ability may be different from Laura’s. But if we are moving together, we need to find a way to move together and not overpower one another”.

    As a verbal CP performer, he explained that “my world is very instant when I communicate. What I’m learning with this group is I’m facing my own ableism. It got me thinking about how from my role I have not been patient enough, not just with this group”. He elaborated on his reflections of needing to be more cognizant of not finishing other people’s sentences, but instead, learned to give people time to communicate within their abilities in order to share and explain their perspectives on the situation. Utilizing her bespoke communication board system*, Leskur also elaborated on these points, highlighting the necessity for patience as to “not miss the magical moments” and the necessity of utilizing body movements and the range of abilities in each performers arms and legs to construct meaningful exchanges.

    In discussing the necessity of moving towards an inclusive way of facilitating theatre for the performers, Sillett explained that “we created the processes with the community of those who are non-verbal in mind. There’s a lot of routes we could take which would be much easier to get an impact in the short-term, but it wasn’t our aim to go there. Our aim was to try and work honouring the deep engagement. The idea of re-establishing the relationship between the audience, and what their journey is going to be, the community making it”. Hull asserted that his role in adding the movement and dance elements to the show has been “a dream come true to work with manual and power wheelchairs to create movement together,” emphasizing the liberation of spaces focused on the lived experiences of the team rather than a more traditional methodology of prioritizing the audience.

    In reflecting on his work with the Imagining Possibilities Movement, Vivian explained how “my specific interests in working with the company lie in aspects of accessibility, universal design and the development process of improvisational, immersive performance spaces under very specific conditions. It has been a very humbling learning experience that we will adapt for my university course development and professional practice”. Breaking from the expected traditions of theatre development, the broad range of creative in communities in St. Catharines can take the fundamental ideas of change to expand who is in the audience, who is on stage, and how can we expand the experiences and interactions between these world.

    *Laura Leskur’s communication board is a bespoke system created at Bloorview and extended over the years. Laura has now memorized 1000 words with corresponding numbers. Elaine Drover and and Christine Jimenez have experience using Blissymbols to communicate. Blissymbolics is a semantic graphical language that is currently composed of more than 5000 authorized symbols – Bliss-characters and Bliss-words. It is a generative language that allows its users to create new Bliss-words as needed. It is used by individuals with severe speech and physical impairments around the world, but also by others for language learning and support, or just for the fascination and joy of this unique language representation. Elaine and Christine are both on the Board for Bliss Communication Institute Canada. See blissymbolics.org for more information.

    [The creators and producers of Come to the Edge wish to thank the Department of Dramatic Arts of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, Brock University, for the generosity of their support by providing rehearsal space and technical support in the studios and the MIW Theatre through July and August 2019.

    The article was edited and amended for accuracy and reprinted with permission.]

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

  • 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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.”

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  • 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.

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