In the Media

  • Class blog takes centre stage with theatre criticism

    (Source: The Brock NewsFriday, July 3, 2015 | by . Photo: DARTcritics started as a class blog but has grown to fill the void of local arts criticism.)

    They call themselves critics with class.

    But more than being clever, the student writers behind the DARTcritics website are providing theatrephiles with thoughtful arts criticism about performances in Niagara and beyond.

    That wasn’t always its purpose, however. The two-year-old theatre review website, which was recently relaunched with a new look, started as a forum for Dramatic Arts Prof. Karen Fricker to post standout assignments by students in her theatre criticism class. But it soon became apparent the site served a larger purpose.

    DARTcritics picked up where slashed and shrunken newsrooms left off with their arts coverage. Other than a handful of metro and national dailies, few newsrooms boast a dedicated arts and entertainment reporter anymore, leaving a void to be filled.

    “What we discovered was that in some instances, the reviews that we published were among the only, if not the only, review response that productions would receive, because there is so little arts criticism in Niagara,” Fricker said. “This was a startling and empowering realization for the students — that they were in dialogue with art and artists in a privileged way.”

    Of course, seeing their names in print was nothing short of thrilling, too. Hayley Malouin was hooked the moment she got her first byline for her review of London Road, a musical about an English town coping with the murders of five of its women.

    “I thought ‘OK, we’ll see some shows,’” said Malouin, who signed up for Fricker’s class in her third year. “I wrote the first review and got it up on the blog and was ‘This is like crack.’”

    Being published was an incentive, but writing reviews for posting was ultimately a way for Malouin to use what she had learned from Fricker about articulating her opinions of a production beyond saying whether or not she like it.

    “I hated (London Road) and finding out why I hated it was so fun,” she explained. “It really changed my view of what happens in theatre. There’s this critical side to it – this analytical side to it…. I think you can be analytical and creative and that’s a really special thing.”

    Fricker, a former critic with The Guardian in the U.K., capitalized on the opportunity to turn DARTCritics into a bona fide source of arts criticism last April when Malouin and fellow student Nick Leno landed funding from BUSU to cover St. Catharines’ In the Soil Arts Festival.

    She also coached the duo to be editors and social media curators. This summer, they’re running the site like a newsroom with two staff writers, fourth-year DART students Elizabeth Amos and Alex Jackson. Together, they cover theatre in Hamilton, Niagara, Toronto and Stratford, thanks to support from the Match of Minds program run by the Office of Research Services and BUSU.

    The relaunch of the DARTcritics site coincides with this summer’s move of Dramatic Arts to the new home of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines, Fricker noted.

    “It’s such an exciting moment for the arts at Brock and in St. Catharines more broadly, with the new First Ontario Performing Arts Centre opening in the autumn, as well as our own building,” she said. “This seemed the perfect occasion for us to take DARTcritics to a new level with a new look, and more reviews.”

    Fricker will resume the editor’s post when classes resume in the fall, but for summer, the site is “Nick and Hayley’s baby.”

    “It’s a great experience of entrepreneurialism and leadership for them.”

    It has also carved out a potential career path for Malouin. Theatre criticism has become something she would like to pursue further, either as a freelance writer or by developing her own theatre review site.

    Still, there has been one downside to being a DARTcritic: it’s tough to shut off and watch a show for pleasure.

    “I see theatre and can’t not be critical now,” Malouin said. “People see that as a negative but it’s not. I’m always on now when I see a show. I do wish I could go see a Mirvish show and say ‘That’s great!’”

    Visit DARTcritics

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

  • Trio of awards for dramatic arts professor

    (Source: The Brock NewsTuesday, May 19, 2015 | by . Photo: Joe Norris was recently presented with two international awards and one from Brock for his unique approach to research.)

    It has been a busy spring for Joe Norris.

    In the midst of packing up his office to transfer to the new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, the dramatic arts professor added three newly acquired items to take with him: two awards from the American Educational Research Association and one from Brock University.

    Norris and Richard D. Sawyer from Washington State University captured the association’s Significant Contribution to Educational Measurement and Research Methodology Award.

    They were recognized for their book, Understanding Qualitative Research: Duoethnography, which Norris and Sawyer co-wrote. The book details the duo’s new research methodology called “duoethnography.”

    This involves two people conversing with one another on the same subject from very different viewpoints. As they gain insights and knowledge through the course of the conversation, the two people begin to change their perspectives. These changes in viewpoints become the research data.

    This differs from traditional information-gathering methods, such as using questionnaires, surveys, interviews, observations and other methods.

    Norris’s second American Educational Research Association recognition is the 2015 Tom Barone Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts-Based Educational Research, which is given every three years for a lifetime of dedicated research.

    “It is rewarding to know that something you’ve created supports the work of a large number of people,” says Norris of his recognitions and his focus on creating and developing unique research methodologies. “People have come up to me and said I’ve been able to provide a rationale that gives them justification for what they want or need to do.”

    Among his many activities, Norris is credited with transforming playbuilding into a research methodology that uses theatrical devices to create performance/workshops that deepen our understanding of the social world.

    Here, the participatory research “data” includes audience members’ responses to what they see on the stage or video. The audience addresses the problems they see being acted out, teaching themselves about the topic in the process.

    To add to his collection, Norris also won the Faculty of Humanities’ 2015 Humanities Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity.

    “Professor Norris’s accumulated record of work in theatre and social issues has certainly earned him this award,” says Carol Merriam, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Humanities.

    “His use of his skills and talents in the exploration of social issues, including mental health issues, violence in the workplace and the negative impacts of alcohol, and the involvement of his students in this work, is especially impressive.”

    Norris says he is heartened by the “generosity, playfulness and rigour” of students involved in his research projects, particularly Mirror Theatre, which he co-ordinates. Norris is currently exploring the pros and cons of the written word compared to other media, such as visual work, performances, dance, music and video.

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    Categories: Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, News

  • Dramatic Arts student in the news: Students build skills, community during Alternative Reading Week

    (Source: The Brock NewsWednesday, March 18, 2015 | by . Photo: A crew of Brock staff and students travelled to South Carolina during reading week to build a house with Habitat for Humanity.)

    Like many other students come Reading Week, Aaron Drake hopped a plane to an exotic locale. But the first year dramatic arts and education student didn’t kick back and relax when he arrived.

    Drake was one of several Brock students who travelled to El Salvador with Habitat for Humanity to build sidewalks and tamp dirt floors in houses. The experience gave him new perspective, he said.

    “By encouraging myself to continue broadening my understanding of community, I have learned that a world where everyone has a decent home is possible,” Drake said. “It’s about a hand-up, not a hand-out, and when we move beyond the barriers that hold us back, we will find those waiting with open arms.”

    The excursion was part of Student Life and Community Experience’s fifth annual Alternative Reading Week program. This year, 110 Brock staff and students gave up the opportunity to catch up on sleep or studying to volunteer locally or abroad.

    el-salvador-2015-dirt-arrival-300x199

    Brock students helped build sidewalks and tamp floors in houses in El Salvador during Alternative Reading Week.

    Students also joined Habitat for Humanity in South Carolina, where they built a single-story home. Others travelled to Dominican Republic to teach English and lead children’s activities in partnership with Outreach360.

    At home, participants volunteered with Start Me Up Niagara, Lincoln County Humane Society, Heartland Forest, Job Gym/John Howard Society, and the Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara.

    Students were challenged to learn new skills while bettering their community and the lives of others. By the end of the week, staff and students logged 4,100 volunteer hours.

    Jamieson Carr, who joined Drake in El Salvador, would do it all again, if given the opportunity.

    “It’s an incredible experience where you get to witness the impact you can have while serving others,” the first-year accounting student said.

    “Travelling with Brock was an incredible experience,” added kinesiology student Haley Gourley, who went to South Carolina. “I met some amazing people that I never would have gotten the chance to meet otherwise, challenging myself in learning new skills. It was a journey of a lifetime. If you like fried chicken, you’ll love this opportunity even more.”

    Amber Scholtens, a Student Life staff member, led the South Carolina trip. She marvelled at the work Brock students put into the build.

    “Everyone worked hard, with such a positive, genuine attitude and willingness to learn. It was truly an incredible display of what the University is all about and what it means to be a Badger,” Scholtens said. “Witnessing the impact we had on the community and the impact the overall experience had on everyone was amazing.”

    To learn more about students’ experiences during Alternative Reading Week, bring your lunch and join the Service-Learning lunch conversation on Thursday, March 19 from noon to 1 p.m. in TH253.

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    Categories: Current Students, In the Media, News

  • Music and Dramatic Arts collaborate with the Niagara Symphony Orchestra

    The Niagara Symphony Orchestra on the stage of the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre of the Centre for the Arts at Brock University. Pictured below are Elizabeth Pereira, Virginia Reh and Evan Mulrooney.

    Many Canadian orchestras have brought Classical Kids’ Beethoven Lives Upstairs program to their stages over the years, but the Niagara Symphony has brought a fresh new approach to this classic event. Brock Dramatic Arts student Elizabeth Pereira and alumnus Evan Mulrooney will play the roles of Christoph and the Uncle respectively, in performance with the Niagara Symphony (led by music director Bradley Thachuk) in April 2015.  They earned the roles through competitive auditions at the school, and will be directed by Brock Professor of Drama Virginia Reh.

    It’s part of a many-faceted partnership between the NSA and the university.  The Niagara Symphony is Orchestra in Residence at Brock University, NSO concert notes are prepared by Brock Music Department faculty member Dr. Brian E. Power, the NSO participates in the Community Arts Partnership with the Brock Department of Music, Brock Music Ed Plus ensembles are featured in as part of Spotlight On!, Music Ed Plus students mentor and volunteer at Summer Music Camp, Brock faculty members coach, and adjudicate practice auditions, for students in The Academy @ SMC, NSO musicians Laura Thomas, Brent Adams, Gordon Cleland, Steve Fralick, Zoltan Kalman, Vera Alexeeva and Patricia Dydnansky are on faculty with the Brock Department of Music, and the NSO offers special PSSTnso (post secondary student ticket) pricing for university students.

    from the article posted September 17 in the Orchestra NewsWeekly Newsletter
    at http://orchestrascanada.org/2014/09/17/new-partnership-for-the-niagara-symphony/

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    Categories: Alumni, Current Students, Events, In the Media, News

  • Brock community event looks at theatre criticism in the digital age

    (Source: The Brock News, Monday, February 10, 2014)

    An upcoming series of community discussions at Brock University later this month will debate the question: is everyone a critic?

    Media professionals, theatre experts, scholars and students will assemble in Sankey Chamber at Brock Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 to take part in the colloquium, The Changing Face of Theatre Criticism in the Digital Age, hosted by the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    “The rise of blogging and Twitter, combined with the decline of print journalism, is raising important questions about what counts as legitimate, professional criticism,” says Karen Fricker, event co-ordinator and a professor of dramatic arts. “Our discussions will focus on the current critical scene in Niagara, as well as imagining possible futures for the arts in our community.”

    Panel members include two of Toronto’s most influential theatre critics: J. Kelly Nestruck of The Globe and Mail and Richard Ouzounian of the Toronto Star. Others include local figures like Jackie Maxwell, artistic director of the Shaw Festival, and Steve Solski, director of the St. Catharines Centre for the Performing Arts.

    The colloquium will also feature international critics: Jill Dolan, Princeton University professor and noted theatre blogger (thefeministspectator.com); Maddy Costa, a London, England blogger and journalist; and Andy Horwitz, founder of New York arts blog culturebot.net

    Dolan is visiting Brock as part of the Walker Cultural Leaders series. While here, she will deliver a public lecture, “Moving the Body Politic: How Feminism and Theatre Inspire Social Re-imaginings.” Her lecture, co-sponsored by the Department of Dramatic Arts and Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies at Brock, takes place Friday, Feb. 21, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, also in Sankey Chamber.

    All of these events are free and open to the public.

    Funding for these events is provided by the Walker Cultural Leaders Series, the Brock Humanities Research Institute and the SSHRC Institutional Grant scheme, and the St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre.

    All events will be live-streamed.  [Click on “live video”]

    SCHEDULE: The Changing Face of Theatre Criticism in the Digital Age

    All events take place in Sankey Chamber at Brock University

    FRIDAY, FEB. 21:

    * 2 – 2:30 p.m.: Welcome
    Presentation by Brock dramatic arts students from the third-year class, Studies in Praxis – Theatre Criticism

    * 2:30 – 4 p.m.: Panel discussion “Critics and the arts in Niagara”

    • Jill Dolan (respondent)
    • Monica Dufault, artistic director, Essential Collective Theatre
    • David Fancy, associate professor of Dramatic Arts, Brock University, co-artistic director, neXt Company Theatre (chair)
    • John Law, arts and entertainment writer, Sun Media
    • Sara Palmieri, co-founder, In the Soil Festival
    • Stephen Remus, minister of energy, minds, and resources, Niagara Arts Centre
    • Steve Solski, director, St. Catharines Centre for the Performing Arts
    • Candice Turner-Smith, managing director, Niagara Symphony Orchestra

    * 4:15 – 5:45 p.m.: Panel discussion “Embedded criticism: a new way forward, or criticism-as-PR?”

    • Maddy Costa, critic and blogger
    • Karen Fricker
    • Andy Horwitz, founder, culturebot.org
    • Jackie Maxwell, artistic director, Shaw Festival
    • Jacob Gallagher-Ross, assistant professor of theatre, University of Buffalo (respondent)
    • Lawrence Switzky, assistant professor of Drama, University of Toronto at Mississauga (chair)

    SATURDAY, FEB. 22:

    * 10 – 10:30 a.m.: Welcome
    Presentation by Brock dramatic arts students from the third-year class, Studies in Praxis – Theatre Criticism

    * 10:30 a.m. – 12 noon: Panel discussion “Bloggers, critics, and cultural legitimation”

    • Jill Dolan
    • Karen Fricker (chair)
    • Andy Horwitz (respondent)
    • J. Kelly Nestruck, lead theatre critic, The Globe and Mail
    • Richard Ouzounian, lead theatre critic, Toronto Star
    • Holger Syme, chair, Department of English and Drama, University of Toronto at Mississauga, and blogger (disposito.net)
    • Odette Yazbeck, director of public relations, Shaw Festival

    * 12:15 – 1 p.m.: Colloquium wrap-up

    • Maddy Costa; Jill Dolan; Karen Fricker (chair); Rosemary Drage Hale, director of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Brock University; and Andy Horwitz

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    Categories: Announcements, Events, In the Media, News

  • Powwow held on Campus Sept.7

    Adrienne Smoke. Photo By: DK Martin

    Adrienne Smoke. Photo By: DK Martin

    (Source: The Brock NewsMonday, August 27, 2012 | by )

    Students, staff and Niagara residents were invited to start their school year off to the beat of a different drum.

    The Student Justice Centre hosted a powwow on Friday, Sept. 7 in Jubilee Court to celebrate the fall harvest in partnership with the Tecumseh Centre for Aboriginal Research and EducationAboriginal Student Services and Brock University Students’ Union.

    The event featured inter-tribal drumming and dance demonstrations, and opportunities for audience members to participate in traditional dancing.

    “It’s a gathering to celebrate life and be thankful as well as to hang out with old friends and make new ones,” said Adrienne Smoke, a third-year drama student, who came up with the idea for the event. “Powwows are about sharing our culture to help educate people about the current native people not the ancient ones we read about in old outdated textbooks.”

    This free event also featured a barbecue, vegetarian options and samples of traditional food, such as three sisters soup, corn bread and strawberry juice. The Brock farmers market was also held during the powwow.

    Doors opened at 10 a.m. with the grand entry happening at noon. Closing ceremonies were at 3:30 p.m.

    For more information or to participate as a dancer, drummer or vendor, email the Student Justice Centre, visit them online or call 905-688-5550, ext. 6325.

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    Categories: Current Students, In the Media, News

  • Incoming DART professor reports about the Eurovision Contest from Baku, Azerbaijan

    karenfrickerA spotlight is shining on Azerbaijan this May as it hosts Eurovision, the annual European song contest known for its outlandish performances, and viewed on TV by more than 100 million people. But it’s not all glitz this year. While Azerbaijan attempts to show off its strength to the world, it’s also come under scrutiny by activist groups for its unsavoury human rights record, and its crackdown on anti-government protestors and journalists leading up to the contest.

    Karen Fricker is co-founder of the Eurovision and ‘New’ Europe academic research network who is covering the contest for the Irish Times. She recently reported on what these negative reports mean for the Eurovision Contest and Azerbaijan for the program Q hosted by Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio. She is a lecturer in contemporary theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London and deputy London theatre critic for Variety.  You can read more about her research activities in her profile at Royal Holloway. We are delighted that she will be joining her new colleagues at the Department of Dramatic Arts at Brock University in January 2013.

    You can listen to the report here or here. (22:44)

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    Categories: Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, News

  • Dramatic Arts performance of Phèdre examines passion, politics and jealousy

    (Source: The Brock News, Monday, February 14, 2011)

    Suppressed desire and ancient power struggles collide in this week’s production of Phèdre at Brock.

    Phèdre, written by Jean Racine, will be presented by the Department of Dramatic Arts at the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre. Phèdre – translated into English by British poet Ted Hughes – mixes poetry, political intrigue and sexual jealousy.

    The play contains a principal love triangle of Phèdre, her husband Theseus and his son Hippolytus. Phèdre has a forbidden passion for her stepson that unleashes a wave of tragic consequences.

    The roles are played by Dramatic Arts undergraduate students, including Kasey Dunn, Michael Pearson, Eric Frank, Emma Bulpin, Lauren Beaton, Josh Davidson, Kedie McIntyre, and Madison Roca. The play is directed by Virginia Reh and designed by David Vivian, both Dramatic Arts faculty members.

    The myths around Theseus, Phaedra and Hippolytus have fascinated playwrights for ages, Reh said.

    “Racine’s masterpiece distils the best of his major sources, particularly Euripides’ Hippolytus,” she said. “From Euripides he borrows the fundamentally principled Phaedra, an essentially moral woman who is tormented by a forbidden passion and chooses to die rather than surrender to it. The tragedy is at once epic and domestic.“

    Performances:

    • Thursday, Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m.
    • Friday, Feb. 18, 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m.

    Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. To order, call 905-688-5550 x3257 or email boxoffice@brocku.ca

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    Categories: In the Media, News

  • Professor studies dark tourism

    (Source: The Brock News. Thursday, September 9, 2010)

    Imagine a tourism experience where you pay to spend hours pretending to illegally cross the American border from Mexico.

    You trudge through muddy fields under the blare of gunfire. You run exhausted through sewer tunnels. You are placed, scared and blindfolded, in the back of a truck, only to end up where you started — at a restaurant, gift shop and main office, and people telling you to enjoy your stay.

    This is the new trend in post-9/11 dark tourism, a term that describes the act of visiting the sites of tragedies as a tourist. This experience is called immersive simulation, and Natalie Alvarez, assistant professor of Dramatic Arts, is writing a book about it.

    Alvarez has received $23,449 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for her research project, “Enactments of difference: immersive simulations and performance from training to dark tourism.” Alvarez will study two types of immersive simulation: that experienced by tourists, and that experienced by soldiers who train in increasingly popular model villages to prepare them for overseas interaction with foreign cultures. Included in that is investigating how performance techniques are used in counterterrorism and intelligence training.

    One dark tourism experience Alvarez will study is that of El Alberto, Mexico, where the community has been depleted by immigration to the U.S. Mexicans pay $20 (U.S.) each to be taken on an overnight fake U.S. border crossing. Ironically, the popularity of the adventure tourism has rejuvenated the town’s economy. Alvarez has twice experienced the tour, which she describes as frightening and surprisingly political, given that it’s billed as adventure tourism.

    “It started with a rousing speech by members of the community about how the work is an homage to those who lost their lives crossing the border,” she said. “We sang the Mexican anthem, followed by the sounds of sirens in the distance of the U.S. border patrol and shouts telling us to start running.”

    Other examples include a recreated Stalin-era Gulag prison camp in Lithuania, where people pay to spend a day as prisoners. In Liepaja, Latvia, tourists stay overnight in a naval jail.

    Alvarez will also visit simulated villages used to train soldiers for duties in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a recreated Afghani village in Norfolk, England, and simulated Iraqi villages in California and Arizona, where actors are recruited to play insurgents and civilians.

    Demand for these simulations has skyrocketed since 9/11, she said.

    “A lot of performance scholars and performance artists talk about the border hysteria and the kind of war on difference that evolved from 9/11,” she said. “There seems to be a desire to rehearse encounters with the cultural ‘other’. I want to know what kind of anxieties are being played out in these scenarios.”

    While on the surface, immersive dark tourism and immersive military simulation seem unrelated, “there are intersecting themes that make them worth putting together in conversation,” she said.

    Alvarez will spend the next two years traveling and observing these simulations, followed by a year of writing.

    Alvarez, who is cross-appointed to Liberal Arts, joined Brock in 2006. She currently serves as a co-editor of the Canadian Theatre Review’s Views and Reviews and has two forthcoming edited books: Fronteras Vivientas, an anthology of Latina/o-Canadian plays, and New Essays on Latina/o-Canadian Theatre and Performance. Both are published by Playwrights Canada Press.

    Links:
    • Natalie Alvarez faculty page
    • Full list of Brock’s SSHRC recipients
    • Past “researcher of the month” profiles

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    Categories: Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, News

  • DART student produces “Curtains” at the Westside Theatre in Hamilton

    “Elisa Sorbara, the artistic director of Shooting Star Theatre, is a very bright and articulate young woman. She is very excited about the imminent local premiere of the musical Curtains, which opens next week at the Westside Theatre.” . . . see the article about this DART student and her exciting project in VIEW.

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    Categories: Alumni, Current Students, In the Media, News