Articles tagged with: DART

  • Brock community mourns the loss of theatre artist and MIWSFPA staff member, dawn e crysler

    dawn e crysler, celebrated MIWSFPA staff member and Theatre Technician, will be remembered for her creativity and dedication to her work.


    originally posted in The Brock News on WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 2021 | by 

    The Brock and local arts community is mourning the death of dawn e crysler, a theatre maker and artist who will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Faculty, staff and students at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) were deeply saddened to learn of crysler’s passing earlier this week.

    crysler (BA ’00), who preferred her name referred to in all lowercase, had been a Theatre Technician at Brock’s MIWSFPA since 2018. Working in the Department of Dramatic Arts (DART), the multi-talented artist played a pivotal role working with students and faculty to bring performances to life through her work as technician and scenic painter.

    “The entire DART community is shocked and saddened at the departure of this sensitive, observant and generous soul. As a former student of the program, dawn brought her many talents and insights to a wide range of theatrical activity at Brock and beyond,” says David Fancy, Professor and Chair of DART.

    crysler also worked as a theatre technician at the Shaw Festival and Carousel Players, and in Toronto on various film, TV and theatre projects. Most recently, she had been painting the Klingon ship on the set of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (a spinoff series currently being filmed in Toronto).

    A Brock graduate, crysler conferred on June 9, 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Literature and Theatre.

    Peter Feldman, retired Associate Professor and former Chair of DART taught crysler during her studies.

    “dawn was one of the most highly motivated students I had in my 20 years at Brock, working with distinction in almost every aspect of our program,” he says.

    Feldman also fondly recalls joining crysler and other former students in starting a St. Catharines-based fringe theatre group known as Stray Theatre in 2003. In addition to building and painting sets, crysler was a gifted actor, he says.

    “dawn played an astonishingly wide range of roles in drama and comedy, all beautifully, movingly and totally believably.”

    White Crow, drawn by Jana Bergsma, in honour of dawn e crysler. photo: Gavin Fearon.

    “All of us with whom she worked will remember dawn’s sunny personality, her always positive view of life, her gift for friendship, the enthusiasm she brought to everything she worked on, and her sense of wonder. ‘Awesome!’ must have been her favourite word,” Feldman says. “Altogether, dawn was one of the most remarkable young women I’ve known in the theatre.”

    David Vivian, Associate Professor, Scenographer and Director of the MIWSFPA, says hiring crysler felt like a puzzle piece falling into place.

    “When we hired dawn in 2018, it was as if she was coming home to the MIWSFPA. She was a celebrated member of the arts community and Brock graduate contributing to local arts and culture — it was so very right to have dawn join us here at the School,” he says.

    In addition to being a valued staff member and friend of Brock, crysler was a dedicated theatre artist with a strong presence in the Niagara arts scene. Born and raised on a farm in Pelham, crysler explored her roots though her artistry. She was a published playwright. Her play White Crow, which ran in November of 2012 mounted by Essential Collective Theatre, chronicled a family facing adversity on a Pelham farm.

    In 2013, crysler was nominated for the Emerging Artist Award for the eighth annual St. Catharines Arts Awards. She brought creativity and energy to cultural initiatives, such as In the Soil Arts Festival, where she held an interactive workshop entitled “Play!” that involved massive checker pieces, a giant Jenga set and oversized “pick-up sticks.”

    The flags in front of Brock’s Schmon Tower were lowered to half-mast on Friday, March 26 to commemorate crysler’s passing.

    MIWSFPA colleagues remember crysler for her energetic attitude and sense of play.

    Gyllian Raby, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, reflects on crysler’s bright personality and her professional talent and work ethic. Raby, along with other DART faculty and staff, were working closely with crysler on the spring Mainstage production.

    “Across the community she was known and loved for her infectious energy,” Raby says of crysler. “She was a beam of light, a roller-derby queen, a published playwright, cabaret performer, theatre-technician and maker-builder extraordinaire. She believed in art and was endlessly creative.”

    A space on the MIWSFPA website memorializing crysler will be created in the coming weeks, where colleagues, friends and family will be invited to share their memories.

     


    The obituary for dawn is available in the St. Catharines Standard.

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  • Dramatic Arts students to interview Canadian theatre leaders during online event

    An online panel discussion Monday, March 29 will see Brock University Dramatic Arts students interview Canadian theatre leaders (clockwise from top left) Jani Lauzon from Stratford Festival and National Theatre School; Kaitlyn Riordan from Shakespeare in the Ruff; Nikki Shaffeeulah, a theatre and community artist; and Kate Hennig from the Shaw Festival.


    An upcoming online panel discussion will explore life and careers in the arts, with Brock Dramatic Arts students interviewing celebrated Canadian theatre makers.

    Open to the Brock community as well as the public, The Act of Creation: A Panel Discussion will take place Monday, March 29 from 7 to 8:45 p.m. on the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) YouTube channel.

    Hosted by Danielle Wilson, Associate Professor of Theatre, the event will include prominent theatre artists Kate Hennig from the Shaw Festival, theatre and community artist Nikki Shaffeeula, Kaitlyn Riordan from Shakespeare in the Ruff and Jani Lauzon from Stratford Festival and the National Theatre School.

    The special guests will be interviewed by DART students Joanna Tran, Holly Hebert, Heidi Nickel and Genevieve Batista. Conversations will explore what it is like to be a multi-faceted theatre artist, and how to sustain a career in the arts.

    The online event is free to attend and no registration is required. Watch by clicking here.

    The event is presented by the Department of Dramatic Arts and supported by the MIWSFPA and Faculty of Humanities.

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  • MIWSFPA community mourns the loss of Dramatic Arts graduate Dana Morin

    Pictured above: (Left) Elena Milenkovski, Roberta Doylend (Head of Wardrobe, holding Miss Bit), Paige Morris, and Dana Morin in the Green Room of the MIWSFPA Theatre. 

    Dana Morin standing in the hallway outside of the Costume Shop at the MIWSFPA, seen beside the emptied boxes and crates used to move costume inventory.  Dana assisted with the move from main campus to the new MIWSFPA at 15 Artists’ Common in the Summer of 2015.

    The staff, faculty and students at Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) are mourning the death of Dana Grace Morin, a beloved former student at the School.

    In 2017, Dana graduated with First-Class Standing in Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Production and Design.

    “Dana was a very large and generous heart in the student community of the Department of Dramatic Arts.  Following her updates to a Facebook group set up to keep everyone updated on her progress through treatment for cancer, we shared our hopes and encouragement for a successful outcome.  We are deeply saddened by the news of her passing and so very thankful for the time she shared with us at the MIWSFPA,” reflects David Vivian, Associate Professor of Scenography and Director of the MIWSFPA.

    Roberta Doylend is creating a rainbow for Dana in honour of her life and memory. Roberta will find a permanent location for the rainbow backstage at the MIW Theatre – a place that Dana loved to be.

    Memorial donations in Dana’s honour can be made to Pink Pearl Canada and Young Adult Cancer Canada.

    Dana Morin’s obituary can be found on Smith’s Funeral Homes website.

     

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  • Online symposium celebrates new publication on theatre pedagogy and climate crisis

    Image caption:The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines.

    An upcoming weekend of online events will explore the role that theatre education plays in relation to climate crisis.

    To launch the new Routledge publication Theatre Pedagogy in the Era of Climate Crisis, the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) is hosting a two-day online symposium featuring historians, theatre practitioners, playwrights, designers, professors and activists.

    Presented as part of the 2020-21 Walker Cultural Leader’s Series program, the online symposium “Theatre Pedagogy in the Era of Climate Crisis” runs Saturday, March 20 and Sunday, March 21 and will be livestreamed free on the MIWSFPA YouTube channel.

    Convened by volume co-editors David Fancy, Professor and Chair of the Department of Dramatic Arts at Brock University, and Conrad Alexandrowicz, Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Victoria, the event features four online panel discussions with contributing authors of the volume, each a theatre scholar and/or practitioner.

    Through these panel discussions, volume contributors will answer the question of how theatre pedagogy can be transformed in response to the global climate crisis. Panelists are purposely divided into groups that mix their different expertise, encouraging a rich and invigorating discussion.

    “Nothing could be more pressing than understanding how to evolve our theatre training and pedagogy to address the climate crisis,” says Fancy.

    The volume’s authors, he adds, also “unpack how supremacy thinking informing the climate crisis — that humans are more important than nature — is echoed across racial and gendered violence in contemporary societies.”

    Each panel is based on a theme in the anthology: Intersectionality and the Body of the Earth; Eco-Aesthetics in Performance and Design; Eco-literacies in Teaching Theatre; and Theatre Pedagogy and the Climate Crisis.

    A summary of the volume can be found in a manifesto signed by all contributing authors in the epilogue of the book.

    Upcoming Walker Cultural Leaders events:

    Saturday, March 20

    1 to 2:15 p.m. — Theatre Pedagogy and the Climate Crisis
    Moderated by David Fancy with Lara Aysal, Derek Davidson, Katrina Dunn and Beth Osnes.
    Watch the livestream.

    3 to 4:15 p.m. – Eco-Aesthetics in Performance and in Design
    Moderated Conrad Alexandrowicz with Tanja Beer, Rachel Bowditch, Joan Lipkin and David Vivian.
    Watch the livestream.

    Sunday, March 21

    1 to 2:15 p.m. – Eco-Literacies in Teaching Theatre
    Moderated by Sasha Kovacs with Mary Anderson, Dennis Gupa and David Fancy.
    Watch the livestream.

    3 to 4:15 p.m. – Intersectionality, Solidarity and the Body of the Earth
    Moderated by Rachel Rhoades with Gloria Akayi Asoloko, Soji Cole and Conrad Alexandrowicz.
    Watch the livestream.

    More event information, including full biographies of each panelist, can be found online at brocku.ca/tpcc

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  • Brock students selected to participate in national Black theatre initiative

    Caption: Sid Malcolm (left), fourth year Dramatic Arts student with a minor in Music, and Soji Cole, second year PhD student in Interdisciplinary Humanities, are two of 21 students selected for “Seeding the Future”, a new initiative highlighting young Black voices. 

    Two Brock University students will be joining a historic group of Black theatre makers as part of the digital performance series “21 Black Futures.”

    Presented by Obsidian Theatre in partnership with CBC Arts, “21 Black Futures” has brought together 63 Black Canadian playwrights, actors and directors to create art during the pandemic and answer the question, “What is the future of Blackness?”

    The result is 21 filmed monodramas (theatre pieces featuring one person) that are currently premiering on CBC’s streaming channel, CBC Gem.

    Now, 21 students from across the country will join the movement, including fourth-year Dramatic Arts student Sid Malcolm, and Soji Cole, a second-year PhD student in Interdisciplinary Humanities.

    From a national call that attracted more than 60 applicants, Malcolm and Cole have each been awarded a spot in “Seeding the Future,” which invites Black students to create theatre pieces in response to each of the 21 monodramas of “21 Black Futures.”

    “Seeding the Future” is a partnership between Brock University, York University, Obsidian Theatre and CBC Arts, and allows students to create spoken word poetry, audio recordings, video recordings or written responses.

    “As we work at Obsidian to develop and advance Black artists across the country, we also recognize the glaring lack of Black voices in arts criticism and journalism,” said Michael Sinclair, General Manager of Obsidian Theatre. “Black and other BIPOC artists deserve to have voices at the table from their own communities engaging in dialogue about their work. We can’t wait to see what these 21 Black students have to say.”

    For Malcolm and Cole, being a part of this creative response highlighting young Black voices is very meaningful.

    Malcolm said being part of the project gives her and a large group of Black theatre students the chance to have their voices heard.

    “This is a space specifically intended to cultivate young Black artists and help them express what their experience is, and how that shapes the future of Blackness,” she said. “As a young woman of colour, it is often extremely difficult to find pieces of theatre I am able to connect with. There’s often very little representation for People of Colour within the world of theatre. Being a POC in theatre is seen as a rarity and is often trivialized.”

    Cole is excited about the project, and said it speaks to him on many fronts.

    “As a Black person, a migrant and an international student, I have been involved in conversations on the theme of Blackness and racism since I came to Canada in 2019,” he said. “This is the first one that intersects with a discipline and profession that I have identified with all my life.

    “This means a lot to me, as I have always believed that beyond the rhetoric of racism, arts — and especially theatre — can be used as twine to bind community together and dismantle the boundary of segregation.”

    The 21 student responses, including those of Malcolm and Cole, will be released in three instalments, initially on the students’ own social media channels and then re-published on the CBC Arts website. The first group of responses are now live. Malcolm’s work will be published on Monday, March 1 and Cole’s will be published on Monday, March 8.

    Cole, who is a playwright, director and actor, anticipates using his creative and critical wits to respond.

    “As someone who has a deep interest in the sociology of arts, I might want to connect my response to the social implication of the performance,” he said.

    Malcolm anticipates she may draw on specific aspects of her artistic practice.

    “I have a recent reignited passion for poetic writing,” she said. “Typically, I enjoy weaving controversial topics into my writing, which often means critiquing the way that race is perceived around me today.”

    She is also intrigued by the marriage of critical thought and artistic expression.

    “The arts are a dialogue and having Black theatre students continue the conversation begun by “21 Black Futures” is a hugely exciting prospect,” said Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts and the co-ordinator of Brock’s participation in “Seeding the Future.” “I can’t wait to see and hear how they all respond.”

    David Fancy, Chair of Dramatic Arts at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, said the Department is committed to “the ongoing labour of decolonization, Indigenization, and anti-racism. We are particularly pleased to be involved in such an important initiative,” he said.

    Malcolm is energized by the many conversations “Seeding the Future” ignites, noting the opportunity for discussion while fostering growth through shared experiences.

    “I think a large outcome from this project will be the amount of networking that is possible for young Black artists that would be difficult to do without this project,” she said.

    Cole acknowledges the significance and enduring nature of this project.

    “While this is not a policy project, the expectation is that it will strengthen our understanding of memory, redress, and inclusivity,” he said. “The outcome should be able to resonate with every community; it should generate a peculiar echo of its own that will resound in the heart and mind of everyone.”

    To read the entries in “Seeding the Future,” visit CBC Arts.

    To view the performances in “21 Black Futures,” visit CBC Gem.

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  • Call for Student Participants: 21 Black Futures, Seeding the Future

    Call for Student Participants
    21 Black Futures
    Seeding the Future
    A partnership between Obsidian Theatre Company, CBC Arts, York University, Brock University

    **

    As part of Obsidian Theatre Company’s 21 Black Futures season, we are seeking 21 Black theatre students from across Canada to offer creative responses to 21 monodramas written, directed, and performed by Black artists responding to the question “What is the future of Blackness?” The monodramas will premiere exclusively on CBC Gem in three parts, on February 12, 19, and 26.

    Participants will receive a $150 honorarium and direct mentorship from a Black journalist, scholar, or artist. Your responses can take the form of a 300-400 word written response, a TikTok or IG video, or an audio recording (two minutes maximum). You will post your response on social media using the project’s hashtags. All of the responses will be posted on the CBC Arts website and a selection of them will be published in the Toronto Star.

    The ambitious, nationwide 21 Black Futures project celebrates the 21st birthday of Obsidian, Canada’s leading culturally specific theatre company, and is the brainchild of its new artistic director, Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu. Mumbi took over the company last year in the middle both of the Covid pandemic and the global outcry against anti-Black racism was at the forefront of cultural and political discussions. “I felt an urgent need to respond to the moment we’re in and to create an opportunity for artists to respond,” says Mumbi.

    A full list of the 63 Black writers, directors, and performers participating in this project is here – this is an amazing group of creative, outspoken, and innovative artists who are at the heart of Canada’s cultural life.

    What’s missing from this project is YOU – Black university and college-age students, who are part of the present and will be the future of Black theatre in Canada, and of the country itself! Please consider sharing your creativity and voice in this project: We want and need to hear you.

    How to apply

    Please send your name, a statement (one paragraph maximum) about why you want to be involved in this project, an idea of what form you’d like your response to take (which can be subject to change), and contact information for a reference to 21StudentVoices@gmail.com.

    DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 8, 2021

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  • BIPOC Speaker Series welcomes Tanisha Taitt

    The DART/MIWSFPA 2020-21 BIPOC Speaker Series presents:

    Consciousness in Colour: Intercultural Scene Study for Contemporary Classrooms With Tanisha Taitt

    Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021
    7 to 8:30 p.m.
    Via Zoom
    To register and receive Zoom details, please RSVP via ExperienceBU: experiencebu.brocku.ca/event/172561

    Tanisha Taitt is Artistic Director of Cahoots Theatre and a director/actor/playwright, musical artist, accidental essayist, and audiobook director with Penguin Random House Canada. In this talk she will focus on her work as a theatre and anti-racism educator.

    Supported by the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation at Brock University in partnership with Niagara Community Foundations.

    2020-21 BIPOC Speaker Series
    Conversations in which Black, Indigenous, and people of colour theatre leaders address issues of interest to the theatre community, and beyond. For more information and upcoming speaker announcements, please visit the BIPOC Speaker Series webpage. 

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  • Brock students and newcomers to Canada unite online to create socially conscious theatre

    Originally published in The Brock News TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2020 | by 

    The shift to online learning has not stopped Brock Dramatic Arts and Faculty of Education students from connecting with newcomers, educators and theatre makers around the globe.

    While in-person activities are limited or non-existent due to the pandemic, students in Social Issues Theatre for Community Engagement (DART 3F93) are virtually meeting with newcomers to learn about their journey to Canada.

    The result is meaningful collaboration and the creation of applied theatre pieces rooted in issues of social justice.

    Half of the students taking the course are studying Dramatic Arts. The other half are pursuing dramatic arts as a teachable subject through their Concurrent Education program, which allows students to earn both their undergraduate degree and a Bachelor of Education concurrently.

    The Social Issues Theatre for Community Engagement course builds on a long history between the Department of Dramatic Arts (DART), Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre (NFAMC) and Brock University.

    In August 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding between Brock and the NFAMC was signed, solidifying a partnership between the two organizations aiming to address challenges for newcomers to Niagara and provide them with support through community-based actions. It was part of Brock’s ongoing community engagement efforts which create meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships that support social and economic development.

    Over a number of years, DART has had many collaborations with the NFAMC that have enriched the educational and creative experiences of Brock students and community members.

    This community engagement and scholarship continues to thrive online during the pandemic, offering students an experiential learning opportunity to gain valuable skills developed through the teachings of Dramatic Arts.

    The year-long course is taught by Rachel Rhoades, Assistant Professor of Applied Theatre, Dramatic Arts. Rhoades has worked as an applied theatre practitioner, educator and researcher for 12 years in community- and school-based settings in Boston, Toronto and now at Brock.

    Rhoades describes applied theatre as a creative tool for social change that is often mounted in non-traditional performance spaces and says different communities can come together to exchange stories of their lived experiences and create art based on these exchanges.

    The outcome is evocative theatre that promotes learning and healthy discussion around strategies for change and social justice in marginalized communities.

    In a photo taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brock students from Social Issues Theatre for Community Engagement (DART 3F93) rehearse their applied theatre play Identities Relocated at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

     

    Applied theatre techniques can assist communities in articulating issues, enhancing understanding of their complexity and planning future actions.

    As learning shifted online this fall, Rhoades organized the “Global Guest Speaker Series” as part of the course. Each week, a guest artist facilitated virtual workshops.

    As a result of these workshops, students and volunteer newcomers from Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, Angola and China created theatre scenes together that were performed virtually as part of the course work.

    Guest speakers have included: Brisa Areli Muñoz, Artistic Director of the Applied Theatre Collective, and Manager of Community Partnerships for The Public Theatre in New York City; Varshini Pichemuthu, co-founder of the RootPrints Theatre company in London, England; Taiwo Afolabi, Canada Research Chair in Theatre and many more from India, Singapore and Toronto.

    Inviting guest speakers from the arts and education field is a way Rhoades is using online platforms to the classes’ advantage and embracing the opportunity to promote global connections during a time of isolation.

    “The community members (newcomers) have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share their stories and opinions on how to resolve major issues through their experiential knowledge,” Rhoades says.

    Rhoades’ academic background in education and applied theatre is connected to her ongoing research. She is guiding young people to develop relationships with marginalized communities so there can be a mutually beneficial experience.

    In this model, students listen to the experiences of newcomers allowing them to learn from a cross-cultural context. In turn, this process can help newcomers feel affirmed and valued, recognizing and honouring their strength through adversity.

    “The students have gained much inspiration from hearing the stories of resilience from the community members, and the collaboration has really opened their eyes to the struggles of peoples around the world,” Rhoades says, adding that the students are improving as educators and artists, and also acquiring knowledge on strategies to demand and develop a more just society. Now, more than ever, these community collaborations are vital to a bright and inclusive future, she says.

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  • Dramatic Arts rewrites script for online learning with Shaw Festival

    Pictured above: Shaw Festival Theatre actors Jonathan Tan, left, and Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane coached Brock students online in DART 1F01: Acting for Non-Majors. (Photos by David Cooper)

    Originally published FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2020 | by 

    Brock Dramatic Arts students got a virtual backstage pass to the revered Shaw Festival Theatre this summer.

    An innovative teaching initiative gave students taking DART 1F01: Acting for Non-Majors the opportunity to connect online with and receive personalized coaching from professional actors Jonathan Tan and Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane from the Shaw Festival Theatre permanent company.

    For third-year student Jordan Henderson, the virtual experience was both valuable and uplifting.

    “Jonathan Tan had many wise words that really helped me build confidence in my acting skills,” he said. “He also helped me to understand that what I might consider a mistake, audiences may interpret as something completely different.”

    David Fancy, Professor and Chair in the Department of Dramatic Arts at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, developed the course’s online teaching material with the future in mind and produced 700 minutes of lessons over 70 separate videos.

    This foundational acting course, which Fancy describes as “extreme monologuing,” is designed to help students discover the underlying principles of acting. Students explore the actor’s process, including awareness, stimulus, impulse, intention and action.

    “We’re making some exciting changes to DART 1F01,” Fancy said. “We’re using this opportunity to build a course that we can also share with students who have to work remotely in the future.”

    In the virtual coaching sessions, students rehearsed monologues they’d written themselves with the Shaw actors, soaking in their expertise and knowledge.

    Second-year student Benoit St-Aubin gained unique perspective on the acting world, and it left him craving more.

    “I absolutely loved the session that I had with Olivia. We had the opportunity to run through our monologues with her and she gave us great tips to improve them,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much I missed being in class, but this meeting really made me want to go back in September.”

    Fourth-year student Alexandra Hunter was able to immerse herself in the story of her monologue, giving her a deeper connection and understanding of her character and the creative process.

    “I learned so much from Olivia,” Hunter said. “She helped me illustrate the emotions in a strong way so that I knew how to perform them and react accordingly.”

    This opportunity to leverage technology and connect students to professional actors was co-ordinated by Fancy and Dramatic Arts instructor Carolyn Mackenzie in partnership with the Shaw Festival. They worked alongside Shaw’s Senior Manager for Education Suzanne Merriam, Education Assistant Melissa Domingos and Education Co-ordinator Megan Gilchrist.

    This course is just one of the ways Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts is using innovative thinking and a creative approach to lead the charge on the future of performing arts. This fall, audiences can expect riveting new work, pushing the boundaries of live theatre with the Dramatic Arts mainstage production Scenes from an Execution by Howard Barker.

    More details on the Department of Dramatic Arts and the fall mainstage virtual production are available online.

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  • 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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