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 Gillian Minaker
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.