Articles tagged with: Department of Dramatic Arts

  • BIPOC Speaker Series welcomes Tanisha Taitt

    The DART/MIWSFPA 2020-21 BIPOC Speaker Series presents:

    CONSCIOUSNESS IN COLOUR: INTERCULTURAL SCENE STUDY FOR CONTEMPORARY CLASSROOMS WITH TANISHA TAITT

    Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021
    7 to 8:30 p.m.
    Via Zoom
    To register and receive Zoom details, please RSVP via ExperienceBU: experiencebu.brocku.ca/event/172561

    Tanisha Taitt is Artistic Director of Cahoots Theatre and a director/actor/playwright, musical artist, accidental essayist, and audiobook director with Penguin Random House Canada. In this talk she will focus on her work as a theatre and anti-racism educator.

    Supported by the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation at Brock University in partnership with Niagara Community Foundations.

    2020-21 BIPOC Speaker Series
    Conversations in which Black, Indigenous, and people of colour theatre leaders address issues of interest to the theatre community, and beyond. For more information and upcoming speaker announcements, please visit the BIPOC Speaker Series webpage.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Department/Centre News, Events, Media Releases, News

  • 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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  • Dramatic Arts students mount ominous play from award-winning Canadian playwright

    Originally published in The Brock News WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2020 | by 

    Pictured above: Members of Sandbox Theatre, Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts fourth-year student-run company, rehearse a scene for their online production of Concord Floral by Jordan Tannahill.

    Ten teenagers must face their guilt — and their past — in the latest online production offered by Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts (DART).

    Sandbox Theatre, Brock’s fourth-year DART student company, will present the evocative play Concord Floral next month through a virtual format.

    Written by Canadian theatre maker Jordan Tannahill, two-time winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, Concord Floral was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Drama in 2016 and has been produced by theatre companies across the country.

    Directed by Dramatic Arts Instructor Ali Joy Richardson, the play will be streamed on the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) YouTube channel on Friday, Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 13 at 2 p.m.

    Inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio’s 13th century literary classic The Decameron, the story follows 10 teenagers who are fleeing a plague of their own making after a rumour spreads that two girls have found a body in an abandoned greenhouse called Concord Floral.

    The gripping production features original design, choreography and musical composition by the student cast as they perform virtually from their homes.

    To reserve your free viewing spot on the MIWSFPA YouTube channel, please visit Brock University Tickets.

    While there is no cost for tickets, donations are encouraged in support of the Black Health Alliance, a community-led registered charity working to improve the health and well-being of Black communities in Canada.

     

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    Categories: Announcements, Current Students, Department/Centre News, Events, News, Uncategorised

  • Bright future for Brock grad at leading Canadian arts festival

    Photo caption: Brock Graduate Dian Marie Bridge (BA ’99) appointed Associate Artistic Director of Luminato Festival Toronto.

    It’s no secret that 2020 was an incredibly challenging year for the arts, but for Dian Marie Bridge (BA ’99), there’s reason to celebrate.

    In September, Luminato Festival Toronto announced the appointment of Bridge as its new Associate Artistic Director.

    Based in Toronto, Bridge is an award-winning theatre creator and producer. A driving force in the local arts scene, Bridge graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, Major in Theatre from Brock University in 1999.

    Her excitement for the future is electric.

    “Luminato offers unparalleled arts programming for the city, and beyond,” said Bridge. “This festival is a major cultural draw, and it is so exciting to open the door for a lot of artists.”

    In her new role, Bridge will be drawing on personal and professional experiences in theatre and the performing arts gained over the past 30 years. Along the way, she has met many artists, joined important arts committees (including Toronto Arts Council) and worked on numerous grant applications. Bridge has been closely following current trends in theatre and critically examining how the arts community is moving forward. She has been living this reality, too.

    Bridge is ready to put what she has learned into play, especially given the global pandemic and its traumatic effects on the arts industry.

    “There is a shift happening – a real desire for community,” she said. “We want to be more than just spectators. We want to experience this thing together. People have done a virtual shift.”

    Bridge said Luminato was somewhat lucky in terms of timing of the first shut down announcement early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “It came at a time when we were able to shift planning, yet still ensure artist’s contracts were honoured,” she said. “We were able to pivot with digital programming at the right time.”

    Bridge’s time at Brock University had a profound impact on her career path and helped her articulate her creative voice. While pursuing her theatre degree, she did a third-year exchange program at the University of Minnesota. There, she worked on her first professional production at the illustrious Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis.

    It was a memorable year her as she lived and learned in the heart of a robust arts scene and attended some 40 productions. The exchange program shaped her artistic self and widened her perspective on theatre and performance, she said.

    During her time in Minneapolis, Bridge was taught directing by Lou Bellamy, Founder and then-Artistic Director of Penumbra Theatre. Located in the neighbouring twin city of Saint Paul, Penumbra Theatre continues to create timely and high-quality productions through the lens of the African American experience. At the time of Bridge’s exchange, Penumbra premiered works of American playwright August Wilson, and Wilson himself gave a private master class for her third-year directing course. Her introduction to Black American theatre was through watching three of Wilson’s professional productions.

    Bridge was one of four racialized students in the Theatre department during her time at Brock, but often the only one in certain classes.

    Reflecting on how different the political climate was then she said as a young person in the 1990s, “it was all so new.”

    “We did not have the language around racial injustices,” she said. “This was right after Rodney King’s trial. There was understanding that things were not fair, but the critical thinking around how racial injustice works, and how to fight it, was still new to me.”

    Now, students have much more understanding of racial issues and are more politically activated, said Bridge.

    “We can challenge hierarchy and authority and understand the limitations of other’s education.”

    When the creative job market falls on hard times, as happened during COVID, she said it’s easy for decision makers to go with obvious choices.

    “This leads to trouble in terms of representation. Now we are demanding better from the people who contract artists, challenging our own bias, and putting in the work to get more diversity in theatre spaces,” she said.

    At Luminato, Bridge will lead the Artists in Residence program, offering artists an opportunity to envision and actualize their work on a larger scale. She’s motivated to highlight creative work that has developed in the margins.

    “The Artist in Residence program is currently only focused on established and senior artists, as there is a lack of support for this group of professionals,” she said. “There is a lot of focus on supporting emerging artists, but for racialized folks, once you go beyond emerging, the opportunity for work becomes thin in terms of the companies you can work for, or the projects that you choose to work on.”

    To the next generation of students, creators, artists and theatre-makers, Bridge said collaboration is key.

    “Create art collectives, meet the dancers, meet the actors, meet the mathematicians. We are all living in the same world, yet our experiences are so different. Art is often born out of the issues of the time. What does this say about us?”

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

  • Health Sciences students learn to confront personal biases

    Though she may have appeared to be relaxing on a bench, Larissa DellaVentura was hard at work trying to see the world through the eyes of those around her.

    The third-year Medical Sciences student recently completed an observation exercise where she evaluated the behaviours of people while sitting in a public space and maintaining physical distancing. However, her preparation to complete the exercise started a few days earlier from the comfort of her home office.

    To become accustomed to observing the actions of others while also factoring in circumstances that are not initially obvious, DellaVentura and her Health in Canadian Society class completed an online experiential learning activity designed to heighten their perception of people’s body language as well as their own unintentional biases.

    In order to ensure the activity was completed in a physically distanced manner, local theatre company Mirror Theatre, which is mostly comprised of Dramatic Arts students and alumni, led the class through a virtual exercise that involved analyzing prepared photos and the body language of participants, while also attempting to make assumptions based only on what they had seen.

    “It really demonstrated how we have our own biases and our own unique perspectives,” said DellaVentura of the exercise. “Even as we were looking at the same pose on our screen, some interpreted it as embarrassed, while others believed the person was praying.”

    The course’s instructor, Assistant Professor Valerie Michaelson, said the lessons of empathy and self-reflection the exercise promoted are critical for aspiring health professionals.

    “When we are in professions in the health and medical sciences and don’t take the time to examine our biases, it can very literally be deadly,” she said. “This observation assignment also helps us to see how easy it is to make assumptions about why people have the health experiences they do. When we start to really pay attention, we see that some neighbourhoods have access to safe parks and fresh, affordable produce, but others just don’t. We start to consider how health is about a lot more than self-discipline, and that some of the most important health choices we make are often shaped by matters that are outside our control.”

    In addition to the broadened perspectives experienced by students taking part, those leading the exercise were also able to participate and grow.

    “We successfully accomplished our goal to assist us all in playfully and critically exploring our implicit perspectives on how we read the world,” said Mirror Theatre Artistic Director and Brock Professor of Drama in Education and Applied Theatre Joe Norris. “Feedback from a number of participants indicated that they became more aware of the assumptions that they make.”

    Mirror Theatre member and Brock graduate Bernadette Kahnert (BA, BEd ’19) said her team learned valuable lessons about their own assumptions when it came to online instruction.

    “The workshop was very informative of what can be done online,” she said. “It showed me that remote learning can open up doors I would not have in a traditional face-to-face atmosphere and has given me hope that I can still deliver an in-depth, reflective and educational experience.”

    Once the online portion wrapped up, DellaVentura put the reflective skills she learned to the test in a north-end St. Catharines plaza.

    As an aspiring physician, she said the exercise has encouraged her to look within herself while also being more aware of the circumstances of those around her.

    “We all have our own implicit biases that we may not even be aware of,” she said. “As a health-care professional, it’s important that we confront those biases and not let them influence our decisions.”

    Along with DellaVentura, some members of the class have chosen to safely visit outdoor public spaces, while others have decided to observe from their windows or through other means.

    Regardless of where they chose to conduct their observation, Michaelson is confident that the exercise will have a lasting effect.

    “These exercises light a flame in people, and it grows into something that is long-lasting and transformative,” she said. “We want our students to be leaders in the health-care system who have the skills to identify inequities so that they can then participate in the urgent work of dismantling them.”

    To learn more about Brock’s experiential education programs and in-class workshops, visit the Experiential Education website.

    Mirror Theatre is recruiting new participants from the Brock community with an online orientation meeting on Wednesday, October 7 from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. Anyone interested in participating is asked to contact Norris at jnorris@brocku.ca for login instructions.

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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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, Department/Centre News, Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, News, Uncategorised

  • 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: Department/Centre News, 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, Events, News