Image caption: Dramatic Arts (DART) Research Assistants Geneviève Batista (left) and Ezri Fenton participated in the DART Summer Institute of Performance Research workshop session ‘Anthr-Apology.’
Brock arts students have been honing their creative skills and working alongside professional theatre artists through a new summer workshop series presented by the Department of Dramatic Arts (DART).
The inaugural DART Summer Institute of Performance Research ran from May 29 to July 7 at the University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA).
Conceptualized by DART Chair and Professor Jennifer Roberts-Smith, the workshop allowed students to be at the centre of the creative process as professional theatre-makers, artists and DART faculty explored performance ideas, working scripts and scenic possibilities for future work.
Roberts-Smith said DART’s Summer Institute was founded to expand opportunities for what the department calls ‘vertically-integrated’ experiential learning.
“It’s ‘vertical’ because members of the DART community at all career stages are learning together,” she said. “Collaborative research means we’re asking questions that none of us — not even the most seasoned professionals and faculty — know how to answer.”
Roberts-Smith said the model sees students’ perspectives and contributions as just as important as workshop leaders.
Anthr-Apology, a session led by DART Professor David Fancy and DART Scenographer and Associate Professor David Vivian, explored the creative possibilities of a new performance collective, with the first stage of presentation slated for 2024, building on creative research undertaken on the fall DART Mainstage production AnthropoScene.
Fancy and Vivian are motivated by exploring the ways in which theatre and performance as art forms can be truly responsive to the climate crisis.
“The project is based on the idea that the world needs a truth and reconciliation commission for all humans and their relationship with one another, as well as their individual and collective relationships with the planet,” Fancy said.
Vivian said the workshop also generated opportunities for participating graduate- and senior-level MIWSFPA students “to bridge their undergraduate studies to the next level of scholarship and professional opportunities.”
In another session, Packing a Punch, students worked directly with theatre artist Trevor Copp, Artistic Director and Founder of Tottering Biped Theatre (TBT). Students participated in the creative process of developing TBT’s new multimedia live-action play, Mr. Punch, adapted from a lesser-known Neil Gaiman graphic novel.
“It was a brilliant week. In the end, what we really found was momentum and artistic excitement about this piece and its possibilities,” Copp said.
Evalyn Parry, DART’s 2022-23 Walker Cultural Leader and award-winning queer performance-maker, theatrical innovator and artistic leader, led a workshop engaging with choral performance and text from their master’s research-creation thesis, “An Unsettled Account,” reflecting on queer arts leadership, decolonial futures and systems change.
“Together with my longtime collaborator Karin Randoja (music director for the workshop), rich discoveries were made about how the choral arrangements — both sung and spoken — work on the page and translate into the bodies and voices of singers and actors,” Parry said.
DART Instructor Mike Griffin, Faculty of Humanities’ 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award recipient, workshopped ideas for his DART winter mainstage production, The Mysterious Mind of Molly McGillicuddy. An original new work written and directed by Griffin, the play explores brain injury and related mental health issues.
“This has been a great laboratory experience for the development of Molly. The show is primarily movement-based and so we have had a productive week of getting up on our feet and physically working through and testing ideas. A highlight was seeing how deeply connected to the work the students became after such a short period of time. It really speaks to the value of this kind of intensive work,” Griffin said.
“A set of very strong projects with exciting futures emerged from the inaugural Summer Institute,” Roberts-Smith said. “DART students brought fresh and wise perspectives essential to the success of each project.”