Shaw Intern Blog

  • Dramatic Arts spring mainstage production delivers comedy, whimsy and innovation in Zoom theatre

    Caption: A screenshot from the “Yellow Brick Road” scene in the DART 2021 spring Mainstage production of Fever/Dream, includes cast members (top row, from left) Jonah Pace, Emily Clegg, Jane Smith, (second row, from left) Violet Brown, Bianca Taylor, Joanna Tran, (third row, from left) Yasmine Agocs, Peter Herbert, Luca d’Amico, (bottom row, from left) Taj-Alexander Crozier, Lucas Irving and Matt Martin.

    Originally published in The Brock News THURSDAY, APRIL 01, 2021 | by 

    A collapsing stock market, an eccentric billionaire and a roller-coaster ride of parody and the surreal are just the beginning of what audiences can expect from the upcoming production of Fever/Dream presented by Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts (DART).

    The DART spring mainstage production runs from Wednesday, April 7 to Sunday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. as free livestreamed performances viewable on the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) YouTube channel.

    In mounting the production virtually, the resilient cast and crew have had their fair share of challenges creating theatre during a pandemic and have masterfully emerged with exciting theatre to share with audiences.

    Director Gyllian Raby, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, has much gratitude for the dedication of the production team and the participating students.

    “Collaborating during these times could not be done without a production team fanatically dedicated to beating the odds,” she says.

    To bring the play to life, props, costumes and lighting supplies had to be distributed to students all over Ontario.

    “Actors are working as their own technicians, and the student directors are confronting scenes demanding live acting and intimacy with zest and imagination,” Raby says. “With this group of fevered dreamers, I think Calderón de la Barca and Sheila Callaghan would both be proud.”

    Assistant Directors and Dramatic Arts students Dillon Bernier and Samantha Rideout share Raby’s enthusiasm for the work put into the show and anticipation for opening night.

    “Working on Fever/Dream has taught me so much, not only about myself as a director, but also how theatre can still bring people together, even in a digital form,” Bernier says. “We need theatre in our lives, whether that be in person or digitally.”

    Rideout echoes this sentiment, acknowledging the impact of the experience.

    Fever/Dream is the first opportunity I have had to take my knowledge as a performer and try my hand at assistant directing,” she says. “The past eight months developing this show have opened my eyes to the potential of theatre to transcend our current understanding of the art form.”

    The play itself touches on many themes, such as corporate greed, complicated family dynamics, white supremacy and the healing power of love — all delivered in a comedy meant to defy logic and challenge convention.

    “As theatre makers, we are trying to use our talents to create a piece that is current and contemporary and with a strong social message. We also want audiences to feel the whimsical romance of the story and the magic of theatre,” Bernier says.

    While the new digital stage is a departure from traditional live theatre, the assistant directors and cast members have fully embraced “Zoom theatre.”

    “The Zoom platform has challenged the cast, while also providing us with an important learning opportunity to explore and play outside of our comfort zones — and we have made bold discoveries,” Rideout says.

    The production is free to view, however space is limited. The public can make a reservation to watch the show on the MIWSFPA YouTube channel by booking through brocku.universitytickets.com

    In addition to being directed by Raby alongside Bernier and Rideout, Fever/Dream’s Scenic design is by David Vivian, costumes by Roberta Doylend, lighting design by Chris Malkowski, sound and projections design, videography and postproduction by James McCoy, choreography by Rachel Romanoski, and stage management by Diego Blanco and Alyssa Ruddock.

    The cast and crew have dedicated this production to dawn e crysler, Theatre Technician and beloved MIWSFPA staff member who sadly passed away before the show was completed. crysler, who preferred her name referred to in all lowercase, will be remembered by students, faculty and staff for her commitment to the show, her delight in the process, quiet moments shared with the cast during online rehearsals, her exuberant spirit and her dancing.

    As noted by the Fever/Dream team, it takes a village to put on a theatre show; crysler was not only an integral part of the creative process, but she was also the all-around motivator of the village.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future students, In the Media, Media Releases, News, Performance Season, Plays, Shaw Intern Blog, Uncategorised, Visiting Artists

  • Dramatic Arts students build connections through Buddy System

    Originally published in The Brock News: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2020 | by 

    Pictured above: Student representatives for Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts Luca D’Amico (left) and Diego Blanco (right) connect virtually to discuss their new mentorship program, the DART Buddy System.

    Although they’re not physically on campus this term, Diego Blanco and Luca D’Amico want to ensure Brock’s familiar sense of community is not lost amongst Dramatic Arts (DART) students.

    To that end, the two student representatives created the DART Buddy System, a new mentorship program that was launched at the start of the Fall Term.

    The initiative pairs first- and second-year students with mentors who are in their upper years of study. Mentors provide guidance and answer questions throughout the school year, while also offering moral support and words of wisdom gained through their own experiences in the Department of Dramatic Arts.

    Currently, there are 14 mentors and 42 mentees participating in the program.

    This system provides a helpful structure for new students, quickly connecting them to the strong sense of community that is foundational to DART at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    Despite the challenging circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining that community feel and sense of belonging was a driving force behind the project, says Blanco. “We want to make this year easier and enjoyable for every student in DART,” he says.

    “During these crazy times, connection with each other is so crucial — and that’s why the Buddy System is important,” adds D’Amico. “It provides students with as much support as possible, building the family that Dramatic Arts is known for.”

    Blanco and D’Amico also lead the planning of weekly and monthly activities that allow all Buddy System participants to get to know each other better.

    Due to public health restrictions, the landscape has drastically changed for new students, meaning those initial connections are harder to make, Blanco says.

    “The reason I love the DART program is because of the relationships that happen outside the classroom, in the common rooms, in the computer commons or even just waiting for the bus,” he says. The Buddy System helps to encourage those connections in a virtual format until in-person activities can resume on campus. Blanco and D’Amico, under advisement from DART faculty and staff, are committed to providing safe opportunities for students to enjoy.

    In addition to the DART Buddy System, Blanco and D’Amico assist the department with orientation sessions and facilitate communication between students and faculty. This year, they have also created the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) Student Council, which promotes open conversation among students and faculty specific to the concerns of the BIPOC student population.

    Please click here to fill out the DART Buddy System form.

    More information on Dramatic Arts at Brock is available on the department’s website.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future students, In the Media, Media Releases, News, Shaw Intern Blog, Uncategorised, Visiting Artists

  • DART Shaw Festival Internship 2019: WEEK 4 & 5 From First Reads to Tech

    Mae Smith is the Department of Dramatic Arts’ 2019 Shaw Intern.
    Read her weekly blogs about her work in lighting design and props building.
    Learn more about the internship


    (From: The DART Shaw Intern Blog, June 12, 2019 | By: Mae Smith)

    In the work light, between scenes, I read books I’ve borrowed from Kevin’s library in his office. Previously, I read about Jean Rosenthal and how she designed. Now, I’m reading more of a manual called The Assistant Lighting Designer’s Toolkit by Anne E. McMills. In there I find helpful tidbits and points to ask the technicians or designers about.

    As I said before, I love this The Ladykillers. The show itself is hilarious and so is the cast. During one of the on stage rehearsals, I’m laughing so hard that Judith Bowden asks if this was my first time seeing the show. I reply, “No, I just love it.”

    Outside of the Festival Theatre, I get the pleasure to sit in on the first rehearsals of Cyrano de Bergerac directed by Chris Abraham, and Man and Superman directed by Kimberley Rampersad. The first rehearsals are usually read throughs with the full cast and design presentations. Ahead of Cyrano, I meet with the stage manager Allen Teichman who graciously answers all my questions about his role and his duties at the start of the rehearsal process. The next day, I get to help out with some of those duties. I meet with Ashley Ireland, the assistant stage manager, and Allan to tape out the floor and set up tables for the read through.

    The Courthouse Theatre’s main rehearsal hall set for CYRANO DE BERGERAC’s (2019) first rehearsal.

    Cyrano‘s first read was really fun and I was in awe of the actors lifting the words of the page in almost complete stillness. I’m really excited to see it all set up in a couple months and think back to how it was when it started.

    The Man and Superman first read was equally entertaining although I left half-way through (the show is long). Again, though, the actors already bring so much to the table even after director Kimberley Rampersad asks them to not see the read through as a performance but rather as their first time meeting the text all together.

    I’m really grateful for the chance to see so many different shows at so many different stages. I’m able to learn about so many different roles and what would be expected of me if I was working with these shows which is a great thing to have before I am actually expected to do anything.

    At the end of my fifth week, I get to really enjoy myself as I attend the opening of Brigadoon. It’s been a little while since I last saw the show and I’m excited to enjoy it fully without listening to cues. It is so nice to hear such a large audience reacting with me to the show. It’s an energy I hadn’t yet experience with Brigadoon and it’s just nice to hear the show being so well received watching it quietly during tech.

    In my coming weeks, tech for The Ladykillers continues and I attend my first calls for Sex for which Bonnie Beecher is designing the lights. I’ve been watching others in the prop shop upholster the furniture for the show so I’m keen on seeing what the show really looks like.

    Keep checking back for a new post coming soon!

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    Categories: Alumni, News, Shaw Intern Blog, Uncategorised

  • DART Shaw Festival Internship 2019: WEEK 3, Look, Learn, and Listen

    Mae Smith is the Department of Dramatic Arts’ 2019 Shaw Intern.
    Read her weekly blogs about her work in lighting design and props building.
    Learn more about the internship


    (From: The DART Shaw Intern Blog, June 1, 2019 | By: Mae Smith)

    This week kicks off The Ladykillers big move into the theatre and my involvement with the show.

    On Monday, I follow the props gang to the design day, where we outfit the set with its dressings along with the designer (Judith Bowden). Throughout the day, we add and hem curtains; I tack down props on the shelves; we hang hooks for pots and pans; fit down knobs, lights switches, and outlets to the set; and much more. This week’s featured image is me waiting on the second floor of the set that was made in the Shaw’s Scene Shop.

    Pots in the kitchen for THE LADYKILLERS (2019) Directed by Tim Carroll Designed by Judith Bowden

    When we return to the prop shop for the rest of the week, I make more fake money as well as paper bouquets for Getting Married. The bouquets are simple enough to construct once we figure out the material out of which to construct it. The bouquets that I am making, in question, are to be tossed into the audience every night which means there is a lot more to consider with its construction. It can’t be too heavy, nor use any ribbons with sharp edges, or pipe cleaner with eye-poking ends but it needs to be easy and quick to reproduce because one will be made for every preview and show.

    Bouquets for GETTING MARRIED (2019) Directed by Tanja Jacobs Designed by Shannon Lea Doyle Constructed in the Prop Shop

    On Friday and Saturday, I return to the Festival Theatre for The Ladykillersfor the lighting hang. I meet with assistant lighting designer Nick Andison first while the crew is at work hanging. He runs through what lights they’re hanging and what tricky shots they’ve anticipated. There are many lights that are being repurposed to be Ladykillers specific lights from their previous show purpose since they did not end up getting used. I feel now that I’m starting to get a hang of the planning for the repertoire.
    Kevin Lamotte and Nick also help me understand a lot more the paper work and how to get started when designing.
    I’ve found over the years I’ve gotten quite shy so I’m appreciative for Kevin, Nick, and other members of the company I’ve spoken to who have been able to just talk to me about the work they do without me having to prompt them too much. I love listening to what others have to say and I’m still working past being too scared to jump in and ask questions.

    At the end of the week, I get to visit Victory‘s rehearsal room. This show is also directed by Tim Carroll and his rehearsals are very entertaining to be in. Victory is quite different from the other shows I’ve seen so far: it has quite a massive cast for what I would expect for a show that’s not a musical; and it’s quite vulgar. Despite the dark material, the cast is lively and joking which is enjoyable to watch as an outsider. Once again, I feel incredibly lucky to be here. I’m watching actors I’ve seen on stage over the years right in front of me in the middle of their process and they are just mesmerizing.

    The house of the Festival Theatre. (So many lights!)

    The Ladykillers rolls into more tech next week, so I’ll be spending most of my time in the Festival Theatre absorbing everything I can from the designers and crew.

    Stay tuned!

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    Categories: Alumni, News, Shaw Intern Blog

  • DART Shaw Festival Internship 2019: WEEK 2, Stumbling but Still Going

    Mae Smith is the Department of Dramatic Arts’ 2019 Shaw Intern.
    Read her weekly blogs about her work in lighting design and props building.
    Learn more about the internship


    (From: The DART Shaw Intern Blog, May 9, 2019 | By: Mae Smith)

    This week, I’m in the prop shop almost every day for at least a couple hours. I’m back to pumping out high volume items which is satisfying once you start filling up boxes and boxes. No one in the shop passes up an opportunity to make a joke about taking all the fake money and running away.

    On Tuesday, my lack of skill in sewing becomes painfully obvious as I’m tasked with hemming napkins for Getting Married. I can’t keep the hem even or straight – it’s just a mess. I’m quite embarrassed to say the least as I’ve thrown a bit of a wrench in the productivity. Later, I confide in Kimberley Rampersad, Intern Artistic Director at the Shaw, about how I feel and she’s able to help me see it as not a wholly negative thing. See, my experience working with props previously has been mostly painting, hot gluing, and carving styrofoam. I hadn’t considered sewing at all part of that because I hadn’t been exposed to it in this context. Now, at least I know it’s something that I need to work on for props building and not something I can just forever put to the side. In the mean time, I’ll return to making stacks of fake money.

    When I’m not in the prop shop, I’m all around the main building.

    I pop into the design studio a couple times to go through the lighting design bibles from previous seasons. Scanning through the paper work is a little overwhelming at first. I have a very basic familiarity with Vectorworks and Lightwright so there’s a lot of documents that I’ve never seen or heard of. It takes me a good 15 minutes of staring at the paper to figure out what’s going on in the focus charts because there are so many lines overlapping. Luckily, Mikael Kangas is around to answer my questions and explain how the paperwork useful in the grand scheme and in specific situations.

    String lights under the risers in the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre. This is partly used for storage for the shows.

    I have my first visit to the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre of my internship to observe the SPASM for The Glass Menagerie. SPASM stands for “Set & Props with Assistant Stage Manager.” This is where the crew of the theatre meet with the assistant stage manager to see where all set pieces, props, and dressing need to go on the set. Stage manager Kate Hennigar shares a copy of the paperwork detailing where everything is set with me so that I can follow along with Joe and Jeff (the change-over crew for the studio theatre). I help them move furniture from the rehearsal hall, upstairs to the theatre and unload it on stage.

    As we work, everyone shares a bit of their insight with me and happily explains the process. I’m glad to be engaged and helpful in the process but I’m careful to step back to make sure I’m not doing the work Joe and Jeff need to do so that they know their tracks for setting the show.

    The ghost light in the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre.

    I also attend the tech rehearsal and invited dress rehearsals for Brigadoon. I find that every time I see the show, I love it more and more. The show is so much about love, as director Glynis Leyshon makes clear in her introduction before the dress rehearsal begins, and I’m head over heels for every romance in the show. I smile ear to ear watching the characters fall in love each time.

    To my eye, the show’s lighting looks perfect; however, Kevin Lamotte and Mikael Kangas are continuously working and making changes to cues. I listen in over the com to hear what they’re changing. This helps me learn what to pay attention to when I’m designing. It’s also encouraging to know that not everything is figured out with the plot and focus. There’s always things changing and you’ll always be adapting.

    Later, I move further into the Historical Old Town of N.O.T.L.

    I get to visit the Courthouse theatre for a The Ladykillers rehearsal again, which is just such a joy. The show is so funny and both the cast and creative team present in rehearsal bring such a great energy that you can’t help but enjoy.

    On my last day of the week, I spend my time in the Royal George Theatre, attending the tech dress for Getting Married and then a preview of Rope.
    I personally love the George as it is a much smaller space than the Festival Theatre but maintains such a grand elegance about it. The house of the theatre is a luxurious red which is rich but comforting at the same time.

    Seats in the Royal George Theatre.

    When I arrive at the theatre in the morning, the lighting operator, Mel, takes me on a full backstage tour of the theatre while completing pre-show duties at the same time. Mel is quite in depth with their explanations and I’m grateful for all the details. The assistant lighting designer, Nick Andison, tells me about how the lighting grid is planned and divided between shows in theatre. It helps answer that part of me that’s constantly looking at the shows and asking “But how do you start?!”

    Nick explains some of the design to me. The intent and focus of the lighting design is quite different for Getting Married than it is for the huge musical that is Brigadoon. It’s interesting to note the difference and speak to Nick about what to look for and what they’re trying to do.

    When I get to Rope in the evening I’m a little taken aback at the change-over of the set. It’s incredible how much the space transforms. I was really captivated by the set design, which featured scrim walls and a window with an incredible rain effect. I’m not here to review the show, but if I was, I don’t think I’d have a bad thing to say. I’m going to end on that note. This week made me very excited about how I get to work in theatre and reminded me that there’s so much about it to love.

    The view from my seat for ROPE (2019). Directed by Jani Lauzon. Designed by Joanna Yu. Lighting Designed by Louise Guinard.

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    Categories: Alumni, News, Shaw Intern Blog

  • DART Shaw Festival Internship 2019: WEEK 1, Getting Started

    Mae Smith is the Department of Dramatic Arts’ 2019 Shaw Intern.
    Read her weekly blogs about her work in lighting design and props building.
    Learn more about the internship.


    (From: The DART Shaw Intern Blog, May 2, 2019 | By: Mae Smith)

    Despite my many visits to the Shaw Festival in recent years, and having already met Kevin Lamotte (Shaw’s Lighting Design Director) in a meeting last month, I am incredibly nervous before I even step foot out of my car onto the property.

    The friendliness I am greeted with from everyone, however, quickly washes those nerves away. Kimberley Rampersad meets with me to take me on a tour of the main building. Kimberley is a director at the Shaw, who will be directing the upcoming production of Man and Superman. In addition to showing me the rehearsal halls, theatre, and efficient pathways around the building, I’m introduced to almost everyone we pass, who greet me with smiles and hearty handshakes. I’m hoping some subconscious part of my brain is storing everyone’s names somewhere and will pull them out when I need them.

    Me, near my usual seat in the theatre.

    When my tour finishes, I am whisked back to the festival theatre where I find my – now usual – seat next to Kevin Lamotte and Mikael Kangas, the assistant lighting designer for Brigadoon. I’m joining them towards the end of the design process of this show, during tech rehearsals. I listen over headset to the many voices co-ordinating their parts and then relaying all that back to the stage manager, Dora Tomassi. It’s quite chaotic, but not altogether unfamiliar from my experience at Brock. I mostly listen to pick out Kevin and Mikael’s voices, giving the operator instructions to update cues while I follow along on my copy of the show’s magic sheet (a sheet that shows you where every light lands on stage), which is no easy feat. I’ve never seen so many lights in on one sheet ever. I’m even more awestruck when I move to the stage and peer up at the LX pipes to see so many different instruments placed as close as possible next to each other. As I gather from overhearing conversations and asking a couple questions, the plot is shared over the season so practically every lighting fixture for all the shows in the festival theatre is up there right now. When I ask Kevin, on a later day, how that’s even managed, he laughs and says, “That would take your whole internship to answer.”

    I spend half of my week at Kevin’s side, observing how he does things and taking notes whenever I come across something new. Occasionally, Kevin will lean over and explain a choice he’s made, or what exactly is going around us, helping me understand his process more. In general, everyone is very kind about answering my questions, including technicians, stagehands, and other designers. Many of the process is familiar but there is so much I haven’t even scratched the surface of yet.

    The ceiling of the Court House Theatre’s beautiful main hall where The Ladykillers rehearses.

    On top of Brigadoon, I attend rehearsals for The Ladykillers with Kevin, which are held in the Court House Theatre. This time, I’ve caught Kevin in the early stages of designing. He walks me through what he’s thinking and what challenges he foresees with the set design (Judith Bowden) which leaves few hiding spaces for lighting fixtures. I take note of his format for planning in the script for future reference. I’m very interested in seeing this part of the process. A lot of the questions I had in my head during Brigadoon‘s tech could be boiled down to: “How do you even start?” Now I get to see.

     

     

     

     

    The instructions for water confetti

     

    The other half of the week, I work in the prop shop. As a newer, less experienced worker I’m not surprised to be given some simpler more repetitive tasks. I chop up iridescent cellophane to be used for as water in a bucket for Brigadoon; I cut fake money for The Ladykillers; and paint styrofoam to tone down the brightness. Although less complex, they are still necessary and important. But I also get to try my hand at upholstering a foot stool for The Ladykillers and replacing the ribbon on powder puffs for The Glass Menagerie.Sewing is one of my weaker skills so I’m grateful for the trust and elated when I finish both tasks with approval.

    The footstool for THE LADYKILLERS (2019). Directed by Tim Carroll. Designed by Judith Bowden. Constructed in the Prop Shop.

    On my second day in the shop, I’m sent out with one of the drivers to deliver and retrieve props. After picking up some tables and a faux fireplace from a rehearsal, we head out to the warehouse which I am very excited to see because it’s massive. There are rows and rows of benches, tables, chairs, dummies, lamps (see featured image), etc. There are so many pieces in the warehouse; the aisles are long and multiple levels high, stacked with various furniture. I was in awe the whole time. If the whole week itself hadn’t already been one big highlight, I could say that seeing the warehouse was the highlight of my week.

    For next week, I have a lot of prop time and a lot of tech rehearsals to attend so stay tuned!

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    Categories: Alumni, News, Shaw Intern Blog