Articles tagged with: Department of Dramatic Arts

  • Health Sciences students learn to confront personal biases

    Though she may have appeared to be relaxing on a bench, Larissa DellaVentura was hard at work trying to see the world through the eyes of those around her.

    The third-year Medical Sciences student recently completed an observation exercise where she evaluated the behaviours of people while sitting in a public space and maintaining physical distancing. However, her preparation to complete the exercise started a few days earlier from the comfort of her home office.

    To become accustomed to observing the actions of others while also factoring in circumstances that are not initially obvious, DellaVentura and her Health in Canadian Society class completed an online experiential learning activity designed to heighten their perception of people’s body language as well as their own unintentional biases.

    In order to ensure the activity was completed in a physically distanced manner, local theatre company Mirror Theatre, which is mostly comprised of Dramatic Arts students and alumni, led the class through a virtual exercise that involved analyzing prepared photos and the body language of participants, while also attempting to make assumptions based only on what they had seen.

    “It really demonstrated how we have our own biases and our own unique perspectives,” said DellaVentura of the exercise. “Even as we were looking at the same pose on our screen, some interpreted it as embarrassed, while others believed the person was praying.”

    The course’s instructor, Assistant Professor Valerie Michaelson, said the lessons of empathy and self-reflection the exercise promoted are critical for aspiring health professionals.

    “When we are in professions in the health and medical sciences and don’t take the time to examine our biases, it can very literally be deadly,” she said. “This observation assignment also helps us to see how easy it is to make assumptions about why people have the health experiences they do. When we start to really pay attention, we see that some neighbourhoods have access to safe parks and fresh, affordable produce, but others just don’t. We start to consider how health is about a lot more than self-discipline, and that some of the most important health choices we make are often shaped by matters that are outside our control.”

    In addition to the broadened perspectives experienced by students taking part, those leading the exercise were also able to participate and grow.

    “We successfully accomplished our goal to assist us all in playfully and critically exploring our implicit perspectives on how we read the world,” said Mirror Theatre Artistic Director and Brock Professor of Drama in Education and Applied Theatre Joe Norris. “Feedback from a number of participants indicated that they became more aware of the assumptions that they make.”

    Mirror Theatre member and Brock graduate Bernadette Kahnert (BA, BEd ’19) said her team learned valuable lessons about their own assumptions when it came to online instruction.

    “The workshop was very informative of what can be done online,” she said. “It showed me that remote learning can open up doors I would not have in a traditional face-to-face atmosphere and has given me hope that I can still deliver an in-depth, reflective and educational experience.”

    Once the online portion wrapped up, DellaVentura put the reflective skills she learned to the test in a north-end St. Catharines plaza.

    As an aspiring physician, she said the exercise has encouraged her to look within herself while also being more aware of the circumstances of those around her.

    “We all have our own implicit biases that we may not even be aware of,” she said. “As a health-care professional, it’s important that we confront those biases and not let them influence our decisions.”

    Along with DellaVentura, some members of the class have chosen to safely visit outdoor public spaces, while others have decided to observe from their windows or through other means.

    Regardless of where they chose to conduct their observation, Michaelson is confident that the exercise will have a lasting effect.

    “These exercises light a flame in people, and it grows into something that is long-lasting and transformative,” she said. “We want our students to be leaders in the health-care system who have the skills to identify inequities so that they can then participate in the urgent work of dismantling them.”

    To learn more about Brock’s experiential education programs and in-class workshops, visit the Experiential Education website.

    Mirror Theatre is recruiting new participants from the Brock community with an online orientation meeting on Wednesday, October 7 from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. Anyone interested in participating is asked to contact Norris at jnorris@brocku.ca for login instructions.

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    Categories: Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, News, Plays, Uncategorised

  • Dramatic Arts graduate’s web series selected for digital innovation grant

    Image:Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) graduate Marley Kajan (BA ’14) and Connor Ferris, co-creators of new web series Like Comment Subscribe.

    (Originally FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2020 | by 

    Marley Kajan (BA ’14), who majored in Dramatic Arts during her time at Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, has good reason to celebrate.

    Last week, it was announced that the web series she co-created, Like Comment Subscribe, has been selected for the Canada Council for the Arts and CBC Digital Originals initiative. Kajan noted she and her co-creator, Connor Ferris, are honoured to be recipients of the grant and are excited to kick-off production of their pilot.

    Like Comment Subscribe follows millennial influencers and BFF’s Meaghan and Avery, who seem to have it all: fortune, fame and followers,” said Kajan. “But when COVID-19 sends their lives into lockdown, the impact begins to reveal the people behind the profiles.”

    In addition to co-creating and co-writing the web series, Kajan, alongside Ferris, will play the two leading roles. In partnership with the CBC, the series will be produced by Hamilton and Toronto-based production company Dei Gratia Pictures.

    Kajan, a bright talent in the Canadian dramatic arts scene, originally hails from Welland. Graduating with a concentration in Performance, she achieved First Class Standing. She was recently invited by the Department of Dramatic Arts to virtually perform for this year’s orientation, inspiring the next generation of students for what promises to be a historic year ahead for the arts.

    “The CBC’s Digital Originals initiative funded by the Canada Council aims to assist artists as they pivot their work, or create new original work, for online distribution as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” writes the Canada Council for the Arts. “While many artists are discovering new performance platforms, the creative team behind Like Comment Subscribe will certainly help forge the path to bring compelling stories to audiences across Canada, and beyond.”

    This story was written by Gillian Minaker.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Events, Future students, In the Media, News, Plays, Uncategorised

  • The show must go on: Brock prof encouraged by theatre’s resiliency in midst of cancellations

    Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, says that despite the impact of COVID-19 on the performing arts, she’s encouraged by what she’s seen from the industry.

    (published WEDNESDAY, APRIL 08, 2020| by The Brock News {Alison Innes})

    The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating blow on the performing arts, but a Brock University Dramatic Arts professor is encouraged by what she has seen from the industry.

    “A vibrant industry went to ground over a matter of days, with theatres at first announcing cancelled or postponed productions and then, in most cases, cancelling the remainder of their winter-spring seasons,” says Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts and theatre critic for the Toronto Star. “Most performing artists are precarious gig workers who are seeing current and future bookings evaporate.”

    In St. Catharines, arts organizations including the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, the Meridian Centre, Essential Collective Theatre and Carousel Players are among those that have cancelled or postponed programming through May.

    The Stratford Festival has cancelled performances through to late May, and Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival through June. While Shaw has not laid-off workers and is conducting rehearsals online, Stratford has temporarily laid off 470 employees, including actors, technicians and box office workers.

    But Fricker sees hope among the gloomy news.

    “Theatre companies and artists have been demonstrating amazing resilience and ingenuity during this time of crisis,” she says. “A lot of activity has gone online.”

    Essential Collective Theatre is turning its annual vaudeville fundraiser into an online affair. “Quarantine Cabaret” will feature short video recordings of various acts, including singing, magic, clowning, drag and melodramatic readings, which will be live-streamed at the end of April.

    Several Toronto-based companies are putting on telephone plays: one-on-one shows in which an audience member gets a hand-made personal story delivered to them over the phone, says Fricker.

    “DLT (DopoLavoro Teatrale), known to local audiences for their immersive shows including That Ugly Mess that Happened in St. Catharines, is producing a series of phone and online performances,” says Fricker. Some of the performances are inspired by Boccacio’s Decameron, a 14thcentury collection of novellas about a group of youth sheltering outside Florence to escape the Black Death.

    “I have been uplifted by engaging with online theatre over the past few weeks,” Fricker says.

    “Watching theatre this way is not the same as sharing the same physical space and time with fellow audience members and the artists themselves, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lesser experience. It’s different, and theatres and audiences alike are adapting to what is, for now, the new normal.”

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    Categories: Announcements, Events, Faculty & Instructors, News, Performance Season

  • Brock project aims to improve long-term care for veterans and brain injury patients

    Brock University alumni now with Mirror Theatre perform a scene in Understanding person-centred care: Finding dignity within the shadows, a video series as part of a research project between Brock and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

    (From: The Brock News, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2019 | by Dan Dakin)

    Two Brock University faculty members from seemingly unrelated disciplines have collaborated on a project aimed at improving the relations of those involved in long-term care.

    Associate Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies Colleen Whyte, and Professor of Dramatic Arts Joe Norris, were at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto Wednesday, Oct. 2 for the premiere of Understanding person-centred care: Finding dignity within the shadows.

    Two years ago, Sunnybrook Professional Practice and Education Leader Leanne Hughes came to Whyte with a research idea about how to help staff and family deal with the challenges associated with two specific groups in long-term care: veterans living with dementia and patients recovering from traumatic brain injuries.

    “I’ve known Leanne for 15 years and we’ve done research together in the past,” Whyte said. “She came to me and said: This is an issue we have. How do you think we could look at researching it?’”

    “What we’re looking at are person-centred approaches,” said Hughes, referring to a growing emphasis in health care that invites patients and family members to be involved in decision-making and strategizing ways to care for individual patients from a wide-range of services. It’s a more collaborative care model than a traditional top-down medical approach to care.

    In the fall of 2018, Whyte led research that included focus groups of those working in long-term care at the Toronto hospital such as doctors and hospital staff, as well as families of those in care.

    Brock University professors Joe Norris and Colleen Whyte hand a USB drive to Leanne Hughes from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Brock and Sunnybook partnered on a research project that included a 20-part video around patient-centred care. Pictured from left are Brock alumni Nadia Ganesh, Candice De Freitas Braz and Mike Metz, Hughes, Norris, Brock master’s student Kevin Hobbs, Whyte and Brock alumni Bernadette Kahnert.

    “We interviewed people who are doing this every day,” Whyte said. “This research is about taking the principles of person-centred care and trying to see how they are translated on a daily basis, when all partners experience unexpected challenges.”

    With the focus group data in hand, Whyte then turned to Norris, Chair of Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts, who worked with the student-run Mirror Theatre to translate the conversations into dramatic action, known as ethnodrama and applied theatre.

    “We took the focus group transcripts, read them, analyzed them and created dramatic scenes,” said Norris. “The purpose is to evoke conversations.”

    The result is a 20-part video series, each dealing with a different component of the long-term care experience. They range from something as simple the challenge of what to pack when a family member is moved into a new living situation to what to do when a patient whose mind no longer has much of a filter says something that crosses a line.

    “It’s all about answering the question of ‘How do we treat each other with respect in stressful situations?’” Norris said.

    He said the Dramatic Arts students who were acting the parts in the videos — including the patients who are represented as shadowed silhouettes rather than specific people — learned about more than just acting.

    “Many cast members say they don’t only get extra-curricular experience with theatre, they get the experience of dealing with a range of topics. It’s like an extra class for them,” he said.

    With the video series now complete, the next stage of the project is to create workshops for staff and families.

    “It gives staff some insight and helps them think, ‘If I’m in this situation, let me strategize and be thoughtful about what options I have,’” she said. “It will equip new staff with possibilities and allow existing staff to be reflective about their approaches.”

    Brock University alumni Nadia Ganesh, Bernadette Kahnert, Lindsay Detta and Candice De Freitas Braz interpret a scene from Finding dignity within the shadows at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto Wednesday, Oct. 2.

    Hughes said when the final videos were shown to those working with veterans suffering from dementia and patients dealing with brain injuries, the staff were impressed with how accurate they were in reflecting the situations they deal with.

    “It has been an absolute pleasure to see students take this data and enact it,” Hughes said. “We were in awe of their ability. They did a fantastic job.”

    The project, which was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant and a Practice-Based Research and Innovation Seed Grant from Sunnybrook, will continue with the development of facilitator tools and training sessions. Those will be developed and led by Norris and Kevin Hobbs, a master’s student in Social Justice and Equity Studies, who directed the Finding dignity within the shadows series and incorporated the research into his master’s thesis.

    “They’re training videos, but not in the sense of, ‘Here’s how you give a needle,” said Norris. “It’s more of a dialogic conversation where our audiences are invited to comment on the scenes and add their own insights and stories.”

    Watch the full Understanding Person-Centred Care video below and individual scene videos can be found at this link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Brock researchers partner with community groups to dispel myths about homelessness in Niagara

    Nadia Ganesh (BA ’19), of community theatre group Mirror Theatre, dramatizes the lived experience of homelessness, addiction and mental illness of women in Niagara in a video that is part of a new research study between Brock University, YWCA Niagara Region, Canadian Mental Health Association and Community Addictions Services of Niagara.

    originally published in The Brock News on Thursday, July 11, 2019 | by Sarah Ackles

    Through a partnership with local community organizations, Brock University is working to shed light on the complexities of homelessness for women in Niagara.

    In an effort to help break the ongoing cycle of mental illness, addiction and homelessness experienced by many women in the region, a pilot project was launched last year between Brock, YWCA Niagara Region, the Canadian Mental Health Association and Community Addictions Services of Niagara.

    Mental health and addictions services were brought in-house at the YWCA, providing women in need with the necessary services in a single location, reducing the need to repeatedly share their story to access different resources and helping to eliminate stigma related to their situation.

    Brock researchers Lynn McCleary and Joe Norris watch videos produced as part of a collaborative research project on homelessness, mental health and addictions with the YWCA Niagara, Canadian Mental Health Association and Community Addictions Services of Niagara.

    Brock researchers Lynn McCleary and Joe Norris watch videos produced as part of a collaborative research project on homelessness, mental health and addictions with the YWCA Niagara, Canadian Mental Health Association and Community Addictions Services of Niagara.

    Brock researchers and students investigated the impact of providing addictions and mental health counselling at YWCA Niagara emergency shelters, deeming the single-stop model more effective.

    The resulting research study, titled “The experiences of homeless women with mental illness of onsite partnership between women’s homeless shelters and mental health service providers,” was led by Principal Investigators Lynn McCleary, Professor of Nursing at Brock, and Elisabeth Zimmermann, Executive Director of YWCA Niagara.

    Co-investigators on the project included Joe Norris, Chair of Dramatic Arts at Brock, Brenda Grant, Mental Health Coach at the Canadian Mental Health Association and Cindy Jennings, Addictions Coach at Community Addictions Services of Niagara.

    The Women’s Xchange $15K Challenge, which supports research projects that address women’s health issues at the local level, funded the study.

    Zimmerman said it has been a positive and rewarding experience working with Brock on this important initiative.

    “It is very important to dispel myths and for the community to understand the complex nature of homelessness and the need for access to affordable housing, which has, and continues to be, at a crisis state in our community,” she said. “Too often, in terms of research, we find there isn’t a gender lens attached to the project — this seems to be particularly true of homelessness — so the other powerful result of this project is that it speaks to women’s experiences of homelessness.”

    McCleary said working on the study gave her a better appreciation for the importance of services like the YWCA, Canadian Mental Health Association and Addiction Service of Niagara, and the impact these services can have on people’s lives when they work collaboratively.

    It also connected the outreach work she does with social services in the community, both as a registered nurse and as a co-chair of Brock’s United Way Committee.

    “I know community agencies that receive United Way funding make a difference in the well-being of my students, my neighbours and my friends,” McCleary said. “Having the opportunity to listen to the women’s stories also connected me to my early clinical work as a mental health nurse and provided me with insights that will be helpful when I’m teaching Nursing students about nurse-client relationships and about mental health nursing.”

    The results of the study will be shared with service users and providers, and funders of mental health, addictions and housing services through forthcoming research publications and a series of videos created by Norris and community theatre group Mirror Theatre.

    Currently comprised of Brock students, staff and other community members, Mirror Theatre has created more than 70 social issues plays that explore everything from workplace safety, mental health, academic integrity, patient-centred care, alcohol abuse and the first-year university experience.

    “We dramatized testimonials from the women who accessed support services at the YWCA in order to develop short, educational videos that show the experiences these women felt on the street and in the shelter,” Norris said. “They are meant to be conversation starters that challenge our preconceptions of homelessness and those who experience it.”

    Mirror Theatre President and recent graduate Mike Metz (BA ’19, BEd ’19) hopes the videos will help to give a face to the issue of homelessness.

    “Ultimately, we are including the component of empathy into academic research, something that you do not always see,” he said. “We take research and we turn it into something that people can relate to, something they can understand. In doing this work, I have realized that people can act in different and more positive ways.”

    The videos are currently being edited by videographer Brad McDonald, a master’s student in Social Justice in Equity Studies at Brock. When completed, they will be available on Joe Norris’ Playbuilding website.

    Research publications are forthcoming.

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

  • First students to complete entire four-year degree at downtown MIWSFPA graduate June 14

    Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines.


    The first group of students to have completed their entire four-year degree at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts’ downtown St. Catharines facility crossed the stage at Spring Convocation on Friday, June 14.

    Sixty-three students from Brock’s Departments of Music, Visual Arts and Dramatic Arts graduated from the downtown arts school, which opened its doors in 2015. Nine students who minored in programs at the MIWSFPA will also graduate on Friday.

    The milestone is not lost on the 2019 graduating class.

    “It’s a cool honour to be part of Brock history and I’m grateful to have trained in such a professional environment,” said Emma McCormick, who completed a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts, Performance Concentration. “I feel that I’ve gained a lot of skills that will serve me in my career, specific to the learning I received at the MIWSFPA.”

    The London, Ont. native is the recipient of the Jean Harding Prize, which is awarded to the student who achieves the highest standing in fourth-year Dramatic Arts. She plans to remain in St. Catharines after graduation, where she will continue her studies in Brock’s Adult Education program and working in the performing arts sector.

    Providing students like McCormick with a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility was the vision of the School’s namesake, the late Marilyn I. Walker.

    When the famed textile artist and philanthropist donated $15 million to Brock University in 2008, she envisioned the creation of an arts facility that would revitalize downtown St. Catharines and encourage students to study and practice the arts here in the Niagara region.

    Her generosity and foresight allowed for the historic Canada Hair Cloth Building to be converted into the new home for the Departments of Music, Dramatic Arts and Visual Arts, and the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture, which had previously been housed at Brock’s main campus.

    The $45.5-million project also received a $26.2-million investment from the Ontario government, numerous private and corporate donors, and relied heavily on the insight and contributions of hundreds of partners such as then-Dean of Humanities, Rosemary Hale, and the City of St. Catharines.

    MIWSFPA Director Elizabeth Vlossak, who joined the School on an interim basis from the Department of History, said she has seen first-hand the impact the facility and its programming has on students.

    “Although the School is a cultural hub that acts as a living, breathing connection between the city’s past and future, it’s also so much more than that,” she said. “In my short time here, I have seen how these incredible facilities and engaged, passionate faculty benefit our students.”

    Graduand Alyssa Shanghavi, of St. Catharines, said she appreciated the availability of unique practice spaces on campus for music students like herself, which allowed her to focus on her studies and hone her skills on the trombone.

    The Bachelor of Music recipient said being around other artists all the time and in such close proximity to the downtown core was an invaluable complement to her education.

    Gianna Luisa Aceto, a graduand from Mississauga, said that as a painter, she “enjoyed and most definitely appreciated the space the MIWSFPA provided.”

    As well as making new friendships and plenty of memories, Aceto attributes the successful completion of her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Studio Art to the artistic identify she forged while studying at the School.

    “One of the biggest takeaways for me is finding my passion, my niche,” she said.
    “I struggled a lot in finding out what I wanted to create and the reasons for creating it. My time spent within the walls of the MIWSFPA allowed me to uncover that knowledge.”

    She also said she has an undeniable gratitude for her professors, and that “the drive they instilled in me has not gone unnoticed.”

    Faculty of Humanities Dean Carol Merriam said this milestone serves as time to reflect on the importance of the arts and its ability to create healthy and flourishing communities.

    “This first class of students to have spent their entire Brock careers in this splendid facility serve this mission in downtown St. Catharines and in the broader community, but they have also been a defining force within the MIWSFPA itself,” she said. “They have been largely responsible for creating the culture of the School as a place to learn, create and serve as a community. Their impact will last a very long time, and we are proud to see their graduation day.”

    Longstanding former MIWSFPA Director Derek Knight echoed Merriam’s sentiments.

    The Associate Professor said the class of 2019 should receive their degrees with pride having been part of an extraordinary university experience and contributing to the legacy of the arts, both at Brock and in the community.

    With the MIWSFPA’s fifth anniversary on the horizon, the School will continue to offer students unique teaching and learning experiences while honouring the spirit of its benefactor, he said.

    “What was interesting about Marilyn is that she was always very curious and engaged with how we, the faculty, envisioned the future,” Knight said. “She thought it was our job to rise to the challenge and define the potential of what she had given to us in the form of this extraordinary gift. I think, in many ways, we’ve done that.

    “Now, we are charged to think about not only what we will offer today, but in the long-term, and how we will define pedagogy and the School’s identity long into the future.”

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    Categories: Alumni, News

  • 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

  • Dramatic Arts grad gets rave reviews in Soulpepper’s The Brothers Size

    Brock Dramatic Arts alumnus Marcel Stewart (BA ’07), centre, plays the role of Elegba in the Soulpepper production of The Brothers Size alongside Daren A. Herbert, left, and Mazin Elsadig. Photo by: Cylla von Tiedemann, courtesy of Soulpepper.


    The reviews are in, and Brock Dramatic Arts alumnus Marcel Stewart (BA ’07) is earning praise for his performance in what the Toronto Star calls a “stunning Canadian premiere.”

    Stewart stars as Elegba in The Brothers Size, the newest offering from Toronto-based production house Soulpepper.

    He describes the experience as a “whirlwind,” especially after Toronto-based rapper Drake made a surprise appearance at the May 10 opening night performance.

    Brock Dramatic Arts alumnus Marcel Stewart (BA ’07), second from right, and his castmates from The Brothers Size got a surprise visit from rapper Drake, third from right, at the opening night performance of the Toronto show.

    “It has been amazing; it’s such a gift to do something like this,” Stewart said. “Through my whole journey as an actor, I have wanted to work on a play that speaks to my experience, one that I can easily dive into, and this text was so comfortable it was like putting on a jacket that was made for me.”

    The Brothers Size is the second play in the Brothers/Sisters series, written by Oscar-winning screenwriter and Tony Award-nominated playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney.

    Set in a fictional town in Louisiana, it tells the story of two brothers, Ogun and Oshoosi, who find themselves living together after Oshoosi’s release from prison.

    Stewart plays Oshoosi’s best friend, who formed a bond with him during their incarceration together.

    “I think on a micro level, Brothers Size is about the experience of black men today in the world,” Stewart said. “But on the macro level, what the characters go through are things that all people experience: grief, trauma and searching for a sense of belonging.”

    Stewart’s performance marks his return to the Soulpepper stage, where he has previously performed three times and was a member of the Soulpepper Academy.

    Some of his other credits include the role of Miles in The Drawer Boy at Prince Edward County’s Festival Players, Coutts in the Mirvish Theatre Production of King Charles III in Toronto, and roles on popular Canadian television series’ Kim’s Convenience and Murdoch Mysteries.

    While he focused primarily on acting for several years after graduation, Stewart also developed a passion for doing outreach work and giving back to young, aspiring actors.

    Brock Dramatic Arts alumnus Marcel Stewart (BA ’07).

    When he’s not on stage, he gives private acting lessons and hosts workshops in communities across Canada. He’s worked with school groups at the Toronto International Film Festival, for example, and was the creator of What Noise is This, a workshop that explores William Shakespeare’s canon through the lens of hip-hop music.

    Stewart is also involved in the local theatre industry, both as the outreach co-ordinator with St. Catharines theatre company Suitcase in Point and the volunteer co-ordinator for the upcoming In The Soil Arts Festival, taking place this June in downtown St. Catharines.

    Brock Assistant Theatre Professor Danielle Wilson offered her congratulations on Stewart’s success.

    “Marcel was bright and hungry to learn and is an example of the breadth of career opportunities that become available after studying in DART,” she said. “We congratulate him on his success as a working artist and are very proud of the contributions he has made in the theatre community over the years.”

    Stewart attributes his ability to “wear many hats” in his career to the skills he gained from studying at Brock.

    “The ‘motor’ that I developed at Brock was probably my biggest takeaway that I still rely on 12 years later,” the 33-year-old said. “To keep going, to keep pursuing, and if a door is closed in my face, then there’s 10 more doors that I can open.”

    After the wrap of Brothers Size in Toronto, Stewart is headed back to work in St. Catharines.

    He wants to continue his outreach work and bring more eclectic and diverse artists to St. Catharines.

    He said instructors at Brock encouraged him to explore his sense of self and find cultural connections through the performing arts — and he wants to do the same for others.

    “My experience at Brock helped open me up to recognizing who I am as a black man and encouraged me use that voice and speak from my perspective whenever I can,” he said. “Now I’m on this representation kick, running workshops, doing outreach and looking at how to bring some more colour — in more ways than one — to the artistic landscape.”

    Brothers Size runs until Saturday, June 1 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts at 50 Tank House Lane in Toronto. More information and tickets are available at Soulpepper.ca

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    Categories: Alumni, Faculty & Instructors, News