Articles tagged with: Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts

  • Theatre in the age of climate change the focus of virtual events

    Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) and the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (PAC) are continuing their partnership in 2021, offering online performances and virtual discussions exploring the intersection of performing arts and climate change in the Walker Cultural Leaders Series.

    Taking place from Friday, Feb. 12 to Sunday, Feb. 14, the event is convened by DART Professors David Fancy and Karen Fricker and is a continuation of a series of events presented in November 2020.

    “Following the success of our first round of collaborative events with the PAC last fall, we are looking forward to this continued focus on the relationship between performance and climate crisis,” said Fricker.

    The second part of the series includes:

    • Three commissioned performances meant to inspire conversation and critical thought
    • A live-streamed sharing by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Santee Smith of the company’s new work in development called Skén:nen
    • A panel discussion entitled Honouring Balance in Times of Crisis and Change: Strength in Indigenous Women’s Perspectives

    Artists participating in the panel discussion include Audra Maloney, Diane Simon and Santee Smith, and Lyn Trudeau will moderate.

    “We are enthusiastic about the intersections between the Indigenous women’s panel, responses to the climate crisis, and the moves towards Indigenization and decolonization at Brock,” said Fancy.

    As part of the Walker Cultural Leaders Series, Brock commissioned 10 regional theatre artists to create short online presentations exploring the climate crisis in relation to any area of their interest.

    In this part of the series, commissioned artists explored a multitude of themes in relation to climate change including capitalism, consumerism, mental health and more. Excerpts of these works in progress will be shown, followed by a discussion.

    “Between the commissioned performances from local artists, nearly all of whom are DART graduates, and the focus on Indigenous women’s perspectives and creativity, this is going to be a memorable weekend,” Fricker said.

    “Renowned Indigenous scientist, professor and author Robin Wall Kimmerer recently said ‘People cannot see the world as a gift unless someone shows them how.’ Throughout history, artists have often been beacons to new ways of being,” said Annie Wilson, PAC’s Programming Supervisor. “We’re grateful for this opportunity to continue our collaboration with Brock’s Dramatic Arts Department to share emerging and established artistic works that centralize the climate crisis and imagine new ways forward.”

    All digital events are free and accessible for viewing on the PAC and MIWSFPA Facebook and YouTube pages until Sunday, Feb. 28.

    The full weekend program schedule includes:

    Friday, Feb. 12:
    Walker Cultural Leaders Series commissioned artists – 5 p.m.
    Kristina Ojaperv presenting “Travelling Roots”
    Trevor Copp presenting “Water, water, everywhere”
    Meryl Ochoa and Kaylyn Valdez Scott of Tethered the Ghost presenting “Bakunawa”
    Excerpts will be followed by a discussion chaired by Michelle Mohammed.

    Saturday, Feb. 13:
    Skén:nen – Prequel: On the edge of collapse – 2 p.m.
    A sharing by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Santee Smith on the company’s new work in development, Skén:nen.
    Presented by the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre with support from the Ontario Arts Council and Ontario Presents.

    Sunday, Feb. 14:
    Honouring Balance in Times of Crisis and Change: Strength in Indigenous Women’s Perspectives: A discussion panel – 2 p.m.
    Featuring Audra Maloney, Diane Simon and Santee Smith.
    Lyn Trudeau is moderating this panel with the generous support of the Well Earth Collaborative (WEC).

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future students, In the Media, News, Performance Season, Uncategorised, Visiting Artists

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

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

    **

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

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

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

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

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

    How to apply

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

    DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 8, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Categories: Alumni, Current Students, Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, News, Visiting Artists

  • Canada Games Research Spotlight: Karen Fricker

    Photo caption: Choreographer Monica Dottor (left) and Brock swimmer Ashley Falconer develop choreography for Circus on the Canal, a creative research project by Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts at Brock.

    Originally published THURSDAY, DECEMBER 03, 2020 | by The Brock News

    NOTE: This is the latest in a series of Q&A stories featuring Brock University faculty members who are integrating the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games into their research projects. For more information on Brock’s academic activities around the Games, visit brocku.ca/canada-games

    Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, is author of the monograph, The Original Stage Productions of Robert Lepage: Making Theatre Global, which was published this year by Manchester University Press. She is the co-director of the international research project Circus and its Others, a theatre critic at the Toronto Star and is involved in a number of research projects about the future of theatre criticism.

    Fricker is one of 11 Brock researchers and scholars who received funding under the 2019-2020 round of the VPR Canada Games Grant program. Here, she discusses her creative research project titled “Circus on the Canal.” 

    Please give a brief overview of your research project.

    Circus on the Canal is a creative research project exploring the connections between water sports and circus performance, which will result in a live performance in and around the Welland Canal during the Niagara 2022

    Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts.

    Canada Games. It’s a collaboration between me and the circus artist and producer Holly Treddenick of Femmes du Feu Creations.

    The first stage of this research project, funded by a Brock Canada Games grant, took place in summer 2020. It involved Holly working with Brock varsity swimmer Ashley Falconer, technician Peter Benedetti of Upstage Dynamics, circus artist Emily Hughes, choreographer Monica Dottor and musician Eugene Draw to develop a physical vocabulary for the performance, and to explore locations on and around the Welland Canal where the performance will take place.

    What do you expect will be the outcome of your research?

    The goal is for Femmes du Feu Creations to create a live performance for the 2022 Games, in collaboration with Upstage Dynamics and the City Of Welland, that will involve performers on paddleboards, canoes or kayaks, in addition to elements expanding on the previously mentioned creative work,. I will write a scholarly article about the creative process and performance documenting the work and discoveries made about the ways in which the physical experience and knowledge of sportspeople and circus artists mutually informed each other in the work.

    How will this contribute to knowledge or understanding of the Canada Summer Games?

    Our hope is that this performance will engage audiences in the Games who may not necessarily have direct interest in sports themselves. Circus has a broad public appeal and the sights and sounds of a performance may draw people down to the canal and spark interest in the sports taking place there. Conversely, the performance is likely to enhance the experience of sports spectators and sportspeople by adding a creative and aesthetic element to the Games.

    How did you become interested in this research?

    I have been doing research about contemporary circus for seven years and am the co-director of Circus and its Others, a research project that organizes international conferences and publishes scholarly work about the ways in which difference is manifested and performed in contemporary circus. The dominance of Québec in the global circus scene has meant the work of circus artists and companies elsewhere in Canada is lesser known and under-resourced (Canadian circus is Québec circus’ “other”). It’s through research into circus in Ontario that I met Holly and became interested in her work as a creator, producer and promoter of innovative physical practice at the intersections of circus, dance and theatre.

    How do you plan on sharing your research? 

    We are preparing a video presentation about the first stage of this project for the Brock Research Showcase in January. The plan now is to apply for more funding so that we can bring the project to fruition during the 2022 Games, which will in turn lead to my academic writing about the project.

    Do you have any advice or tips on how colleagues in your Faculty can incorporate the Canada Games into their research?

    My advice around this, as with most things, is to network and build on relationships and proximity. Our project came about thanks to Holly’s and my desire to create a project together, to the fact that the Games have come to Niagara and to the location of her workplace and home right on the banks of the Welland Canal near the Flatwater Centre. We will need to do further networking as the project develops. The hardest part has been finding Brock partners on the sports and sports research side; the pandemic has made this particularly challenging.

    We hope to discover Brock students, faculty and staff who are paddleboarders, canoers or kayakers who might want to collaborate on the fully-realized performance. A related goal for us is to connect with Indigenous students or colleagues who have a particular connection to Niagara waterways.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future students, News, 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

  • Welcome to Dramatic Arts: Orientation for 2020!

    (a screen shot from the welcome by Dr. David Fancy. Watch the video below.)


    Brock University is launching the first-ever Virtual Welcome Week.
    During this year of the pandemic the Orientation activities are all online.
    Watch the welcome below and visit the official Orientation page for all the details!


    THE DEPARTMENT OF DRAMATIC ARTS (DART)

    Dr. David Fancy, Professor of Theatre Praxis, is the Chair of the Department:

    “I wish you a warm welcome to this new academic term, one that DART staff, faculty, and instructors have been carefully preparing for over the spring and summer. And now, with all of its adjustments and changes in delivery, this term is upon us.
    Please know that we are here to support you, to encourage you, and, perhaps most importantly: to collaborate with you to create contexts where much creativity, inquiry, and service will take place.
    Can’t wait to see you, virtually, and perhaps eventually otherwise, soon!
    Vive le théâtre!”

    Join Dramatic Arts Faculty on Tuesday, September 8th from 12 noon to 1pm for a drop-in session about Dramatic Arts. Non-Majors are especially welcome. Dramatic Arts Chair, David Fancy and David Vivian, Director of the Marilyn I Walker School and DART Faculty, will talk informally about the Department. David Fancy will answer your questions about how to take courses as a non-Major and should you how to achieve a Minor in Dramatic Arts. Find us on Lifesize. (click here)

    All Major students are invited to JOIN US at the Annual DART Orientation!
    Tuesday, September 15, 6:00 – 7:15 PM

    Online at :  https://brocku-ca.zoom.us/j/83578938305

    Meeting ID: 835 7893 8305
    (also available via telephone and mobile! contact dvivian@brocku.ca for details)

    The DART community is cordially invited to our 2020 online departmental orientation. This invitation is especially extended to DART first year students: We look forward to seeing you at the Orientation so that you can meet faculty, staff, and fellow students, and learn about the many opportunities for engagement – from auditions to performances to clubs – at DART.

    First-year students who visit at least three of the DART Orientation Zoom breakout rooms will be entered into a draw to win a $50 Brock Campus Store gift card!

    Be it online or face-to-face, DART is a vibrant and welcoming community, and we can’t wait to see you on Tuesday, September 15.


    The Department of Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts, and the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture are all part of the Faculty of Humanities.

    The Associate Dean, Dr. Neta Gordon, Professor of English, welcomes you to Brock University! She’s prepared an 11 minute video to introduce to you to the Faculty of Humanities:


    Michael Gicante is your Academic Advisor for studies at the MIWSFPA.
    He prepared this video for the April open House:


    Koreen McCullough is the Experiential Education Coordinator for the Faculty of Humanities.
    Watch her 3 minute presentation about Experiential Education opportunities at Brock University:


    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts

    Located at 15 Artists’ Common in downtown St. Catharines, the MIWSFPA is home to four academic programs. We are right next door to the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre on the main street of St. Catharines, St. Paul.

    Each program at the MIWSFPA is offering a special welcome to their students.  For example, if you are a beginning your studies as a major in Dramatic Arts, check out what that Department has scheduled for you and plan to join in the fun.  You are also welcome to join the activities of each program at the School even if you are only taking one course or beginning a minor program.  The activities and welcome messages from each program are listed below.

    Professor David Vivian, of the Department of Dramatic Arts (he teaches design and production for theatre), is the Director of the School:

    David will be hosting office hours on September 8, 2020, from 12-3:00 pm,on Teams.
    Drop in and say hi! (click here)


    We all wish you a very successful year at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

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  • 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

  • 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