Articles tagged with: Dramatic Arts

  • Fluid identities onstage at DART: “The question generation” takes on Woolf and Ruhl’s Orlando

    (From: DARTCritics, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2019 | by )

    Contemporary theatre companies are making strides in representing individuals whose voices society has tried to silence, especially those who identify as transgender, or don’t identify with a gender at all. Transgender performance artist Travis Alabanza’s one-person show, Burgerz, has been getting rave reviews around Europe. Two-spirited actor Ty Defoe and non-binary actor Kate Bornstein made headlines when both made their Broadway debuts in Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men. Canadian transgender artist Vivek Shraya is creating and performing in her first theatre piece, How to Fail as a Pop Star, at Canadian Stage next February. There’s clearly an increasing amount of work created by and/or featuring individuals who don’t identify as cisgender, but nevertheless mainstream theatre and the theatrical canon seems to me to still be dominated by heteronormative stories.

    I asked David Fancy, director of Orlando, Brock University’s first Mainstage production of the 2019-20 season, why he thinks much mainstream theatre hasn’t treated gender non-conformity or gender fluidity. “I think humans are continuously in survival mode and think in terms of binary logic because it’s a way of cutting to the chase, and it’s simple habituation,” says Fancy. “I think it actually takes work to think outside of that, and I think there’s a lot of energy and anger that goes into reinforcing those perimeters simply because historically, properties have been perpetuated along these patrilineal lines.” He explains that there’s “a history of privileging the cisgender hetero matrix that [Judith] Butler talks about, what she describes as the false stabilisation of certain sets of binaries, and so many cultural institutions are organized around that.”

    Taj Crozier and Paige Hunt-Harman in Orlando. Photos by Neil Silcox.

    Enter Orlando, a play that directly tackles questions of gender identity and how we perceive it. Orlando: A Biography was written by Virginia Woolf in 1928 and adapted into a play by Sarah Ruhl in 1998. The play follows the titular character through six centuries, starting with the reign of Elizabeth I and ending in the present day. When Orlando turns 30, they stop aging and go to sleep as a man and wake up as a woman. They stay in the biological body of a woman for the rest of the play, but nothing else about them has changed. Paige Hunt-Harman, the actor who plays Orlando, feels the character doesn’t necessarily identify as either gender: “he/she/they don’t necessarily know who they are when it comes to gender,” says Hunt-Harman. “They kind of see themselves as just this ever-flowing entity that is kind of always going to be there, always there to ask those questions, to say, ‘who am I?’ and ‘what’s to come?’ and ‘what will people think, or do I even care what people think?’”

    Orlando premiered Off-Broadway in 2010; in July of 2018, Soulpepper Theatre produced its Canadian premiere with Sarah Afful in the title role. With Brock University staging the play this year, are we moving towards a theatrical landscape (and perhaps consequently, a society) where gender fluidity is moving further into mainstream representation? Both Fancy and Hunt-Harman agree that we are. And good thing, too – especially in a university setting in which many students identify as gender non-binary or gender non-conforming, representation on the stage is important. We still live in a heteronormative society and works like Orlando are needed to disrupt and question that thinking, to advocate that people of all genders and sexualities have avoice.

    The play certainly challenges questions of gender and how we perceive it. Hunt-Harman shared the story of an early rehearsal in which Fancy asked the ensemble what masculinity meant to them, after which there was an awkward pause before someone suggested, “big muscles?” And maybe that is how many see masculinity today – the big, strong, protective man versus the frail, delicate, damsel-in-distress. But do these traits have to be separate and rigid between the sexes? This play works to blur these lines: “Orlando really starts at the beginning of the play as a very stereotypical, heroic male, the hegemonic hero of the story,” Hunt-Harman says, “and I believe by playing that up we really show the audience just how we as a society perceive masculinity — and the same goes for femininity. But throughout the play we see… that stylized gender kind of transform into something that we now are able to connect with, where it’s not necessarily one thing or the other. It’s very grey… I see masculine in the feminine and feminine in the masculine.”

    It’s not just gender that this production of Orlando addresses – it also touches on issues of racialization. While Ruhl’s adaptation has eliminated Woolf’s uses of words like “moor,” there are still remnants of racializing language that the ensemble has worked to challenge by, for example, cutting out all mentions of the word “gypsy.” When Orlando transitions from man to woman, they do so in Constantinople (now Istanbul), which is highly exoticized and orientalised in Woolf’s novel, and consequently Ruhl’s script. “There’s a whole tradition in colonial literature of white people from Europe going to a foreign place that’s exotic and they have all kinds of discoveries. This is a repeated trope in colonial texts,” Fancy explains, “and it’s left unexamined by Woolf because she takes on the question of gender, but it’s almost like it’s first-wave feminism where you have a white woman, upper class, going through these discoveries.” Without giving too much away, the ensemble has taken this scene in Constantinople and over-emphasized the racialization by being hyper-theatrical about it, before then deconstructing it.“We establish it and then just… almost campily, certainly almost cheesy, with theatrical means, take it apart,” says Fancy. “You have to make sure that if you’re foregrounding something, you’re foregrounding that it’s a construction. And you’re showing how it’s made, and how you take it apart.”

    Sid Malcolm in Orlando.

    Orlando and the questions intertwined with it come at the right time, especially with an audience likely primarily composed of university students. Young people are recognizing their power now more than ever and are questioning what has always been presented as “natural and inevitable,” as Fancy would say. “We are now the question generation,” Hunt-Harman says. “We want to ask more questions; we want to challenge the norms that society has brought upon us and I really think that this play brings that to the forefront.”

    Orlando plays at the Marilyn I Walker Theatre, 15 Artists’ Common, from October 25 – November 2. Purchase your tickets online.


    DARTCritics is a project of the Department of Dramatic Arts, founded by Dr. Karen Fricker.  Launched in 2013, the site originated as a practical way for students to train in the art of reviewing, and also sought to bring the artistic community of Brock University and St. Catharines closer together. The website features writing about theatre produced and seen in Niagara, Hamilton, Stratford and Toronto. Please follow DARTCritics as they continue to search for awesome theatre, meeting fascinating artists along the way.

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    DARTcritics.com is partially funded by the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, in support of student learning; experiential education; student professionalization; public engagement with the teaching, learning and production activities of the Department of Dramatic Arts; new ways of thinking; and the nurturing of links with our communities.

    The opinions expressed by the writers of the DARTcritics.com website are their own.

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Popular One Act Festival returns to Marilyn I. Walker Theatre

    Dramatic Arts students in the Directing II course are presenting a series of short plays as part of the upcoming One Act Festival on Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23 at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre.


    (From The Brock News, March 18, 2019 | By: Sarah Ackles)

    Brock’s Dramatic Arts students will bring the intricacies of human interaction, the banality of small-town life and even the future of ‘designer babies’ to the stage in the upcoming One Act Festival.

    Opening at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) on Friday, March 22, the popular One Act Festival will stage eight student-led productions in a two-night run.

    A yearly endeavour, the festival puts students in the Directing II course in the spotlight as they bring a selection of one-act plays to life. The students are responsible for the entire production process, including the selection of a script, auditioning the cast, rehearsing, designing the show and co-ordinating with the Dramatic Arts (DART) production team on all technical needs.

    The course’s instructor, Mike Griffin, said the One Act Festival is one of his favourite parts of the DART program.

    An exciting mentoring process happens, he explained, as students from all years collaborate to create theatre under the leadership of the third-year directing class.

    “As the student actors and directors come together, they put into practice the skills they have been developing throughout their courses, which supports them as they teach each other, grow as artists and inspire the next round of future directors,” he said.

    This year’s productions are all being presented under the theme ‘Rise.’

    Lauren Reid, a third-year DART major and Director of On the Porch One Crisp Spring Morning, said the inclusive and collaborative nature of the One Act Festival makes for a valuable learning experience.

    “Everyone is so open and willing to help me with this great opportunity and to make it the best it can be,” she said. “I have a great team on all sides that are there to support me whenever I need help, and I think this course is a great way for people to explore different opportunities within the DART and theatre community, in general.”

    For second-year DART student Holly Hebert, the festival allows her to “actively participate in the growth of a production.”

    “As an actor in Winter Games, Director Chris Murillo had us engage in a number of exercises that built our relationships, our impulses and developed our One Act to become an incredibly stimulating process,” she added.

    The students encourage the community to attend, promising the roster of shows in the festival are “emotionally active” and will often have audiences “on the edge of their seats.”

    The One Act Festival runs on Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. each night. All shows take place in the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre of the MIWSFPA at 15 Artists’ Common.

    Admission is pay-what-you-can at the door.

    For more information on the 2018 One Act Festival, visit the Current Season page on the DART website.

    One Act Festival 2019

    Inside the Department of the Exterior
    Directed by: Josh Loewen
    Playwright: Philip Hall
    Actors: Jared Geden, Samantha Rideout

    Another Sense
    Directed by: Rina Wilkins
    Playwright: Melissa Major
    Actors: Madison Andrews, Bianca Taylor

    Winter Games  
    Directed by:Chris Murillo
    Playwright: Rachel Bonds
    Actors: Alex Sykes, Holly Hebert, Leah Rantala

    The Worker
    Directed by: Rachel Frederick
    Playwright: Walter Wykes
    Actors: Paige Hunt-Harmon, Asenia Lyall, Diego Blanco

    Baby Factory  
    Directed by: Tyler Simpson
    Playwright: Stephen Bittrich
    Actors: Tristan Holmes, Luke Huffman, Meryl Ochoa, Nathan Rossi, Elizabeth Martin

    Nightstand  
    Directed by: Uchenna Edozie-Egbuna
    Playwright: Fergus Church
    Actors: Molly Lacey, Luca D’Amico

    One Night Fran
    Directed by: Frances Johnson
    Playwright: Adam Szudrich
    Actors: Kristina Miller, Aly Markov, Sarah Rowe

    On the Porch One Crisp Spring Morning
    Directed by: Lauren Reid
    Playwright: Alex Dremann
    Actors: Alexandra, Chubaty Boychuk and Joanna Tran

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

  • Lecturer uses theatre to tackle social justice issues

    Director David Psalmon will travel to the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts from Mexico as the next presenter in the Walker Cultural Leader Series on Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.


    (From The Brock News, Wednesday, January 2, 2019 | By: Sarah Ackles)

    A night at the theatre can elicit fits of laughter and bring audiences to tears, but can it also serve as a tool for promoting social and political change?

    In a week of workshops and talks hosted at Brock this month, international director David Psalmon will blur the lines between actor and spectator as he explores unique performance-based problem-solving solutions to social justice issues.

    Born in France, Psalmon currently resides in Mexico where he is the director, producer, editor and founder of the multi-awarded theatre company Teatro sin Paredes (Theatre Without Walls).

    Brock Associate Professor David Fancy said Psalmon’s years of experience teaching and directingperformances around the world will make him a “rich addition to this year’s Walker Cultural Leaders Series at Brock.”

    “Psalmon is a real self-starter who moved from France to Mexico 15 years ago and now runs one of the largest theatre companies in the country,” said Fancy. “He is committed to theatre as a means of vibrant social engagement, and always takes the broadest possible view when undertaking his theatre productions.”

    Psalmon’s Theatre Without Walls project has been utilizing Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressedmethodology since 2001, with the audience and actors working together to perform scenes that tackle a diverse array of social issues such as gender violence, discrimination and racism, and workplace violence. In these workshops, the actors present a problem that needs to be solved and then work collaboratively with the audience to improvise and alter the scene to act out potential scenarios that could address the problem at hand.

    Psalmon will discuss this methodology and his experience working for theatre companies worldwide at a public lecture on Thursday, Jan. 10 at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. He will also spend two days leading immersive workshops for Brock Dramatic Arts students, where he will explore collaborative theatre-making practices that Fancy said will be extremely beneficial to students honing their craft.

    “Psalmon’s theatre company runs on a collective basis — meaning all members of the company create their theatre productions collaboratively — and allowing our Brock students to see the success of his power-sharing collaborative model will inspire them to create theatre in new ways,” Fancy said.

    The Walker Cultural Leaders Series brings leading artists, performers, practitioners and academics to Brock’s MIWSFPA.

    The sessions, which are generously funded by Marilyn I. Walker, celebrate professional achievement, artistic endeavour and the indelible role of culture in society.

    All of the events are free and open to both students and the broader community. The series offers unique opportunities for the public to experience the work of leading international artists and students to work closely with experts in their fields.

    David Psalmon presents: Towards a Contemporary Political Theatre
    Public lecture, Thursday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.
    Marilyn I. Walker Theatre, MIWSFPA

    Workshop for Dramatic Arts students:
    Saturday, Jan. 12 and Sunday, Jan. 13
    11 a.m. to 4 p.m., MIWSFPA

    Learn more about the Walker Cultural Leaders Series on the MIWSFPA Website.

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    Categories: Events, News

  • Brock prof and alumna explore circus performance in joint publication

    Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts Karen Fricker and MA graduate Hayley Malouin at the conference Circus and its Others II in Prague this past August. The two have recently published a special double issue of Performance Matters, titled “Circus and Its Others,” exploring questions around circus performance and gender, difference and dis/ability. (Photo by David Konecny)


    (From The Brock News, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018 | by Alison Innes)

    For many people, the circus is a place of mystery and wonder, filled with the extraordinary, unusual and strange.

    But what does it mean to be different and what does it mean to perform those differences?

    For Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts Karen Fricker and Brock alumna Hayley Malouin (BA ’15, MA ’17), these questions have led to a joint publication in the emerging field of circus studies.

    The pair launched a special double issue of the journal Performance Matters, titled “Circus and Its Others,” Aug. 28 in Prague at the similarly named Circus and Its Others II conference.

    Inspired by the inaugural Encounters with Circus and its Others conference organized by Fricker with assistance from Malouin in 2016, the publication features contributions from established scholars, graduate students and circus artists from around the world. Many of the contributors were in Prague to participate in the second conference and celebrate at the launch.

    The conference series brings together scholars from around the world to explore questions about the place of difference and “otherness” in contemporary circus.

    “We’re asking questions about circus in a way that allows people who have been working at these questions from different perspectives and different places to jump on board,” says Fricker.

    Malouin, who has an undergraduate degree from Brock in Dramatic Arts, explored ideas of public performance, political protest and public performance of the grotesque as part of her MA in Studies in Comparative Literature and the Arts.

    “Circus is an interesting cultural touchstone because it reflects societal norms about people, community and politics. This is in contrast to the image of circus – which circuses themselves cultivate – as existing on the margins of society,” says Malouin.

    The special issue of Performance Matters was her first foray into academic publishing. In addition to co-editing the issue with Fricker, Malouin worked with other circus scholars, including Brock student Taylor Zajdlik (BA ’15, MA ’17), on a section of the journal exploring questions of queerness and freakery in the circus.

    “It was a great experience to establish myself as someone with those skills,” says Malouin. “I really care about the work, I feel it’s important. It’s a substantial contribution to an emerging field.”

    The special edition also includes work by DART Associate Professor David Fancy on disability and the circus, making reference to a creative research project in which he participated involving intellectually disabled survivors of institutional abuse.

    The questions Fricker and Malouin are researching have application beyond the circus to culture as a whole.

    “What we’re looking at is how questions about difference and otherness play out in certain practices in the contemporary moment,” says Fricker. “And more broadly we’re asking, how do we work to make culture more inclusive?”

    The full issue can be read online for free.

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    Categories: Events, Media Releases, Uncategorised