Articles tagged with: Colleen Smith

  • Spotlight on STAC 3P93: Producing a Performance Event

    STAC 3P93 Producing a Performance Event prepares students for careers in business and the arts by focussing on the practises and procedures to produce a professional performance event.  Collaboration through teamwork and adaptability to the creative, dynamic and stimulating conditions of cultural production are just two important skills that students develop in this intensive 12-week course. 

    In a recent capstone event, each student group pitched their ideas to a trio of panellists in a time-limited competition for producing success. The presentations included a conceptual outline of the cultural experience, supported by the planning, operating, funding, marketing, staging and production components of a successful audience and community engagement event.  

    Canadians recognize that the performing arts improve their quality of life and acknowledge the impact of the arts on the social and economic health of their communities. Events that imagine storytelling, music, dance and visual arts in different spaces of community engagement, such as theatres and cafes are often proposed by the students in this course. The students share a concern for improved mental health, sustained housing security and the well-being of the individual and the community, and they propose cultural experiences that will contribute to these outcomes.

    “Do not be afraid of the art!” – Colleen Smith, CEO, First Ontario Performing Arts Centre. 

    pictures of Colleen Smith (FOPAC) and Steve Remus (NAC)

    Colleen Smith (FOPAC) and Steve Remus (NAC)

    The guest panellists, invited for their breadth and depth of experience in their professional fields, share their wisdom learned from many years of successful leadership in the arts and culture sector. In recent years this has included the CEO of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (FOPAC), Colleen Smith, the Minister of Energy, Minds and Resources at the Niagara Artists Centre (NAC), Stephen Remus, and the Director of the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, David Vivian.  

    Students conceptualize the events through an examination of the complexities of planning and creating public productions. Each group integrates the technical and business demands with the creative experience. And what was the overwhelming advice from the panelists at a recent presentation? Keep the production – the art – at the centre of the plan. 

    Art is the most important part of an artistic event, and I realized that it’s easy to lose sight of that in all the technicalities and logistics of planning, but it’s important to always come back to it.
    Hannah Cain (Student, STAC 3P93, Winter 2022). 

    Impressed by the enthusiasm and originality of the students’ proposals, the panelists encourage students to further explore their ideas and make suggestions of how to take their work from the classroom into the community. Some students have received invitations to pursue the projects with the community partners.  

    Fleshing out a fully comprehensive plan, and then having the opportunity to pitch our performance event not only created an opportunity to apply my learning from the myriad of lesson materials but also gave me the experience of working with a team of other passionate peers whom I could see myself working with in the future…theory alone cannot teach the valuable life lessons that occur when you get your hands dirty and create something that excites you.
    Skye Rogers (Student, STAC 3P93, Winter 2022). 

    STAC 3P93 Producing a Performance Event will be available for registration in the Fall session of 2023-24. 

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  • Much work to be done on live theatre’s road to recovery, says Brock prof

    Editor’s note: The following article tells about the challenges, enthusiasm for, and success in relaunching the performing arts in the Niagara Region, now 18 months into the pandemic. Students of the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture may register for the course taught by Professor Fricker, DART 1P91 Introduction to Theatre and Performance, as part of their degree program.

    (above) Brock Dramatic Arts graduate Amanda McDonnell (BA ’15), who is part of the front of house team at the Shaw Festival, welcomed audiences back this summer.

    THURSDAY, AUGUST 26, 2021 | by 

    After 17 months, the live theatrical experience is slowly making its return — but not without challenges ahead, says Brock theatre expert Karen Fricker.

    “Amidst the adversity that live performing arts have been faced with through the pandemic, a wonderful thing has happened this summer: the return of live theatrical performance, because it has been able to be outside,” says the Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Officer in Dramatic Arts (DART), who is an expert in theatre criticism, theatre theory and contemporary theatre.

    The Shaw and Stratford Festivals, two of Ontario’s most celebrated repertory companies, have been staging performances outdoors under canopies (tents with no walls) with mandatory masks for audiences in addition to capacity limits in accordance with provincial guidance. Both festivals are taking audience, artist and staff safety seriously, with COVID-19 protocols in place, says Fricker, who is also a theatre critic for the Toronto Star, writing about performances in the city as well as the Shaw and Stratford Festivals each summer.

    Although these outdoor performances do not come close to hosting the usual number of spectators, Fricker says this is a “big step in the right direction.”

    “Artists are being paid and creativity is happening,” she says, adding that while “innovative digital work has been heroic during the pandemic, experiencing live performances in a shared space is a joyous return.”

    Brock’s Dramatic Arts Department engages with the Shaw Festival in numerous ways, including the annual DART/Shaw internship and course-based experiences with Shaw artists and arts workers. A number of DART students and graduates work at the festival in front of house, producing and administration, and creative capacities.

    Seeing some of those familiar faces at Shaw this summer has been a particular highlight, Fricker says.

    While outdoor performances are a step in the right direction, Fricker says there is still more work to do. There will be limited live, in-person programming in the performing arts sector this fall, mainly due to unclear guidance from the provincial government around reopening, she says.

    In the early summer, the performing arts industry lobbied the government to address live performances in the official stages of reopening. Now that the performing arts have been included, companies have been able to plan. However, “you can’t just lift a theatre production off in a few weeks; you need a runway,” Fricker says.

    Colleen Smith, Executive Director of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (PAC) adjacent to Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, says the team at the PAC has experienced these challenges first-hand.

    “Never did any of us whose lives revolve around bringing together artists and audiences believe that we would witness the end of the age-old adage, ‘the show must go on,’” she says. “In fact, the show stopped for months at a time. It’s been an unbelievable period of disruption, heartache and loss of purpose for so many artists and arts workers.”

    Smith says that “buoyed by our partners at the City of St. Catharines and Brock University, as well as the support from our Board of Directors, we have used the first half of 2021 to develop a three-year recovery strategy that will place the PAC firmly within our community as a centre for creative and artistic experiences and learning.”

    The PAC is planning a gradual return, starting with the annual Celebration of Nations gathering, which will be in a hybrid format in September.

    Among the local theatre organizations taking important steps to make innovative work and engage the public in Niagara safely is the young people’s theatre company Carousel Players, which is focusing on new play development in August and September.

    “We are experimenting with a range of forms, including clown, puppetry and mask,” says Artistic Director and Brock graduate Monica Dufault (MA ’11). “We want to offer new pieces that are dynamic and theatrically alive when we meet our audiences again.”

    The company will present an outdoor performance, The Giant Puppet Party, for Culture Days in October, a new digital play for ages 12 to 17 called Meet Chloe starting in November, and a school touring production of The Velveteen Rabbit for ages four to seven in March 2022.

    Suitcase in Point, another St. Catharines-based theatre company, recently announced the launch of a reimagined In the Soil Arts Festival running Friday, Aug. 27 to Saturday, Sept. 25. The festival includes opportunities to see live, original theatre, new music, comedy acts, installations and participatory workshops. All-inclusive festival passes are available for purchase online.

    DART graduate Deanna Jones (BA ’02), the Artistic Director of Suitcase in Point and In the Soil, says the limits of the last 17 months have been a “unique test on our arts organization and the arts community at large.”

    “We knew this 13th edition of our annual In the Soil Arts Festival would be different, and we were determined to find inspired ways to get off of our screens and offer artists and audiences safe ways to connect — in person.”

    During In the Soil, artists from Essential Collective Theatre will be set up on James and St. Paul Street interviewing community members about their pandemic experiences. Working on this initiative are DART graduates Jordine de Guzman (BA ’20), Kristina Ojaperv (BA ’19) and Ren Reid (BA ’20). The project will culminate in the Pandemic Stories Project, a new play to be read at St. Catharines’ Culture Days in early October.

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