NOTE: this article does not refer to the Fringe Festivals of 2015.
Students and alumni of the Department of Dramatic Arts are engaged in creating, performing and producing new and innovative theatrical productions In three out of the four Fringe Festivals in Ontario. Canada enjoys more Fringe festivals than any other country in the world with 16 individual festivals. Originating with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in 1947, these shows create an opportunity for affordable and accessible theatre where artists and audiences can take risks in an unjuried, uncensored, lottery programmed festival of the performing arts. The festivals are united under the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals.
The London Fringe Festival closed on June 16th and featured two shows developed and performed by DART students and graduates.
James Lowe (class of 2013) wrote and directed the production Super. A comedic farce on the Superhero genre, Super showcased the trials and tribulations of seven mismatched and dysfunctional Superheroes with unfortunately awful powers. Performing in the show were 8 students/grads of the program, Brent Cairns, Rachelle Lauzon, Kendra Kneaves, Brianne Lidstone, Cassandra Van Wyck, Matt Da Costa, Nicholas Leno, and Emma Strong. All of these performers have been featured in main stage productions at Brock. In a review published in theatreinlondon.ca Erika Faust said “The eight members of the cast work well together as they help each person tell the story of how they discovered their powers. Super is definitely about the journey, not the destination.”
Current DART student Evan Bawtinheimer wrote the edgy piece Trailers, Credits, Prologues & Epitaphs also produced at London Fringe this year. In theis new play a runaway teen, a husband with severe memory loss, and a nurse with a guilty conscience are victims of a movie theatre shooting. Each of them seeks redemption and recognition in this memory play exploring family, honour, and love.
Toronto Fringe, running July 3rd to 14th, has many DART students and graduates among the participating creators and theatre makers.
Empty Box Theatre is producing the new show A Young Lady’s Guide to Vivisection. This “gruesome dramedy” follows the Queen’s University medical class of 1884 as they adjust to the arrival of the first female students, new scientific ideas, and the marvellously mad world of Victorian medicine. Artistic director and DART student Keavy Lynch has cast performers from both the Brock and Queens theatre communities including DART grad Jonathan Philips (class of 2012).
In her review in Toronto Now Magazine, Kathleen Smith wrote “In a series of well written vignettes by director Keavy Lynch and the company, the struggles of women and men wanting to become doctors in mid-nineteenth century Ontario are explored, with both silly and macabre humour.”
Spencer Smith (class of 2011) is presenting his show Spoon in the Toronto Fringe Festival. This play premiered at Brock University as a part of his Honours thesis project. Spencer recently spoke to gathered future students at the May DART Invitational and imparted some words of wisdom about studying theatre.
Mooney on Theatre, a Toronto-based theatre website run by Megan Mooney, reviewed Spoon saying “The mention of a play in this year’s Fringe that explores queer theory through the lives of a gay couple trying to make sense of gender stereotypes caught my interest. Happily, this play more than delivers on its promise.” The full review can be found here.
Christian Baines wrote in The Charlebois Post: “Spoon swings happily from the disturbingly violent to the perversely erotic. But more than just titillating, writer and actor Spencer Charles Smith has created a work that attacks our preconceived notions of gender within the scope of a budding relationship […] It’s great to find a work that’s willing to go there with such vulnerability and intelligence.”
Another DART grad, Trevor Ketcheson (class of 2012) is also performing in the Toronto Fringe in The Retirement Plan, a comedic cautionary tale that examines one family’s priorities and the trade-offs they make in attempts to control their future. Mooney on Theatre also reviewed this production calling it “a charming play” and “while the play was a satire I left thinking about my own plans for the future.” The Retirement Plan was chosen as one of the Patron’s Picks. Selection is based on a combination of cash ticket sales after the first four shows coupled with media reception and overall ‘buzz’ of the production. The chosen shows receive an additional performance slot on the final day of the Festival.
Graduate Evan Mulrooney (class of 2013), general manager of the company Fulcrum Theatre, is producing the show Here. This multimedia dance-theatre piece examines the notions of being stuck and learning when to say goodbye to something you love. Another grad, Erica Charles (class of 2013), performs the role of Ester in the production Here. Erica was recently awarded the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Master’s) for her work “The voice in phenomenology and semiotic theory” as part of her Honours Thesis. Here is also being produced for the Hamilton Fringe Festival running July 18th-28th.
Mooney On Theatre also reviewed the production saying “Here has all the ingredients of a great play. It has the drama, the dance, the romance, the betrayal, the flashbacks and so much more.”
Alexandra Lean (class of 2007) is producing her show, Nobody’s Idol, also in the Toronto Fringe. This is an edgy musical parody where misfits and wannabes dual with their voices for a grand prize of a “lifetime supply of fame” at the world’s most popular televised competition.
In her graduating year Alexandra was awarded the F. Janet Dolman Prize for Playwritting. We asked her about her experience during the six years since graduating from the Department of Dramatic Arts. Alexandra commented “This award, which came out of the experience I gathered at Brock, really gave me the confidence to go out into the world and say I’m a playwright. I found my experience in courses like Directing (DART 3P53) and Advanced Studies in Theatre (DART 4F56) gave me the hands on experience I needed to take on the task of putting on my first professional production. Even though my Fringe show is a musical I have taken all that academic talk about theatricality and such into this experience” Alexandra continued. She also spoke of her experience running the Brock Improv club. “This was my first real leadership role and it has informed my work as both a writer and producer.”
Also playing in the Hamilton Fringe Festival (July 18th-28th) is Nocturne, where you will see Michael Pearson (BA 2011, BEd 2012) as a young aspiring (albeit incompetent) magician thrown into the depths of the second world war. See their Facebook page here.
The Department of Dramatic Arts is proud to have such talented, creative students and alumni in some of the largest Fringe Festivals in North America. Break a leg!