Theatre is a Celebration of Humanity

When asked what theatre means to me, I am immediately overwhelmed by the prospect of trying to articulate what I feel and put it down on to paper. Ever since I was young, I have been completely and irretrievably in love with the performing arts. I was a very happy kid and I have always been rather happy growing up but, life has its tough moments and acting offered an escape that real life couldn’t. I believe this is part of why theatre and performance in any medium will always be in demand in society –everyone needs to get away from real life once in a while.

  Theatre is a unique escape that appeals to our empathetic nature as humans. By witnessing real people with names and back stories the audience is brought into a new world through that connection. Their circumstances and consequences become the audiences’, creating a temporary new reality for the duration of the performance. I think it’s fair to say that the expression of emotions is viewed in today’s society as weakness and uncomfortable for others. Emotions are yours to be felt, but not shown. Theatre challenges this frame of mind by encouraging audiences to feel the full spectrum of emotions, without fear of any real-world implications.

  I personally believe being in touch with these emotions is what makes being human so special. There is a quote from Dead Poets Society that I believe serves as a reminder to not take the privilege of feeling for granted: “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering; these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love; these are what we stay alive for.” I actually want to be a professional actor and it is this very philosophy that drives me to do so. There is something enticing about the prospect of living multiple lives within my one. When I came to Western University to study Kinesiology, I knew that I needed to find a way to still stay connected to the art as a way of reminding myself what is important to me. I have been fortunate enough to be a member of the Theatre Western community and after 4 productions I can honestly say that those involved are the best people I know. Everyone is supportive of each other and we celebrate each others unique minds. I am convinced it is because we all recognize the importance of vulnerability and we feel together, which has brought us closer. We are a family.

When I enrolled in Destination Theatre, I was hoping to connect with like-minded individuals who share the same passion for life and who would help me remember that this is what I live for. At times it can be daunting to fully express how much I love theatre, but I have never felt out of place with the people in this class because they all experience and express that same love in different ways. With this class, my main desire is to learn from all these unique individuals what theatre means to them and what makes them passionate. Through this, I hope to learn from my peers what their takeaways from shows are and their focuses during performances. By learning this I will improve my critical lens and ideally immerse myself in theatre performances further to enrich my viewing experience.

Sadly, the trip is cancelled for this year due to our current health crisis, but I am keen to join this class again for the 2021 winter term. I can’t wait to be back with those in the class wishing to defer to next year and to meet the new faces that will be joining us!

Disaster may be a new beginning

Covid-19 has infected an increasing number of people past few months. In front of this global disaster, losing a trip may not an unacceptable result. I mean, losing our summer trip is definitely bad news for us, especially for me a person who has never been to Europe before. Considering the number of people facing the risk of losing their life and some people have lost their families, we are lucky enough for just losing a trip. Covid-19, this new virus really brings pain and a period of a hard time for our generation, but every coin has two sides. Maybe we will see the positive side in the future. 

About one or two months ago, I was planning on the travel route and feeling really excited. I was curious how “big” London looks like and how their citizens’ lifestyle was. I researched the British cultures, climates, foods, and history; even sometimes I tried to imitate some London accents to make sure they can understand me in the future trip. I founded an interesting thing which is in England they call “Bog” as the washroom; I wondering why they always make the washroom so wet?  

We hope humans can try to keep humor under recent condition but the truth is, this Covid-19 caused big losses worldwide. There are tons of people died worldwide every day and doctor sometimes have to make decision to save younger people which means the elder people were given up. Humans must try to look at light in the dark. When we go back to see the results of world war two; millions of people died during the war which is a much serious disaster than today. However, world war also active the development of modern technology. Modern physics and technology levels advanced dramatically, which became the base of modern society. Taking for example, the first Atomic bomb was invented to use for war. The devastating lethality of the atomic bomb killed many civilians. In other sides, the research and development of the atomic bomb also spawned the nuclear energy industry. The nuclear energy industry brings power to modern cities and brings unlimited possibilities for human development. Technology not only improved citizen’s normal life standards but also saved many people’s lives. Many disasters accompany new chances and challenge coming together. During the mid-century, the plague infected millions of people in Europe and nearly 90% of infected people died. But after this virus, humans began to realize we cannot only rely on god to save our life. Praying might work but we can also develop a scientific approach to cure disease by ourselves.  The plague also shook people’s trust in the religions and scientific legitimacy began to be accepted by the public. So, this time we have no reason to doubt humans will lose the battle. Maybe the positive side will show up in the future someday. This summer will over and the virus will leave. But we will have another summer, there are many interesting places in this world waiting for us to explore. Life will always leave one day, sooner or later. Art and knowledge are the driving force behind human progress. We can use rare time in disasters to learn the knowledge and wait for new opportunities. Disaster may be a new beginning.

Roaming with a Hungry Heart

Going into Destination Theatre, I was a little unsure about why exactly I was here. To clarify, I definitely knew I wanted to take this course knowing we’d be going to England with Dr. Solga and absorbing the theatre scene across the pond, but I had a nagging feeling that part of my reason going was because of simply being able to go on a trip with friends. However, with my time as an undergraduate ending and the inevitable thoughts about the future, I believe this trip will more importantly be a time to seriously consider my relationship with theatre.

            My relationship with theatre is an interesting one as generally speaking it has not been a constant throughout my whole life. I only really began to get interested in high school through drama classes and even then, did not participate in any major productions until I reached university. I think my affinity for theatre increased alongside my desire to be more confident in public and the opportunity theatre provides to step into the shoes of others. With every chance I get to be involved with theatre, my passion and desire to understand as many aspects of it as possible to refine my talents becomes a greater commitment each time.

A group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses

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(Scene from Theatre Western’s “POSH” and Scene from Western Summer Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”)

            At this point in my life on the verge of my undergraduate coming to a close, I, like many other people, have to confront the terrifying question of what we are going to do with our lives, or specifically, what will we do to pay the bills? This ever-present question for me clashes with my current passions, as a serious career in the theatre world has never occurred to me as a viable option. However, these last couple years where theatre has taken a more prominent role I have enjoyed greatly, suffered greatly, and loved every minute. The feeling of being onstage, entertaining audiences, and working with likeminded individuals to create something special to me is more like the passion you need to be satisfied in a career rather than simply enjoying a hobby. While to this day I still feel like the safer option would be to pursue a more conventional career, there is this voice that tells me to follow my passions without question or pause.

            That is why I believe going to London, England will not just be an enjoyable trip, but also provide a vital perspective that highlights the potential of my passions. If anything, this trip will remind me that theatre is where I thrive; it is something that both challenges me and compliments my strengths. But most importantly, this trip will highlight the potential and span of working in the performing arts, forcing me to face what I know I want to do and simultaneously provide the insight I so desperately need to feel confident in pursuing my passions as a career. So, I must go; to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Why Do We Love To Pretend?

I’ve been involved in theatre for as long as I can remember, participating in a wide range of roles: as a dutiful theatre-goer, a (painfully bad) actor and mediocre ensemble member, a stage hand, a set/lighting designer, and most happily as a stage manager.  Likely as a result of all of these experiences, I’m taking Destination Theatre to attempt to develop a more critical and nuanced lens through which to understand theatre, both as an audience member and as part of a production team.  This course is incredibly different from my usual classes; typically, there is no place I’d rather be than in a lecture hall surrounded by students furiously typing away.  This class, on the other hand, could not be further from my usual experience of university and, as a result, I am wildly outside of my comfort zone.  

Beyond looking great on my CV and making me look like a “well-rounded” student, theatre remains super important to me and fulfills me in ways that little else does… but why?  As a science kid through and through, my friends can confirm that I try my best to be ruled by logic and rationality.  So why does watching people play make-believe on stage make me, and many others, so happy?  

Photos starting top left (clockwise): Bare: a Pop Opera (ASTC, 2017), Chicago (Theatre Western, 2019), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (ASTC, 2018), and Chicago (Theatre Western, 2019).

I am intimately familiar with the cold calculation of performance elements that goes into creating a show; when I’m not studying, you can find me in various rehearsal rooms taking blocking notes, managing hordes of actors/crew/creative team members, and designing the technical elements that eventually help to create a show that will (hopefully) transport an audience to a different time and place.  My job as a stage manager is literally manipulating the stage in order to make it look like it is something else – so why does the performance seem so real, even to me?  When a show is broken down into its simplest elements, it can be easily viewed as 2+ hours of people playing pretend.  However, inexplicably, the whole of a production is greater than the sum of its parts (Gestalt psychology, if you will), and similarly my relationship with theatre is something I just can’t explain.  Why does every single show I’ve worked on seem to grow and develop on its own, even beyond the direction provided by the people involved?  Why can theatre displace me from the present more than any movie or book I’ve ever enjoyed?  Although I like to think that I am in the most rational role possible in a theatre context, my life feels incomplete without the adventure and wonder that theatre brings me; as I start to face the daunting task of planning my future, I’m hoping this course can help me understand why this is.

I believe that I’ve taken my first real step towards this goal simply by enrolling in this class.  Introducing theatre into a very “real” part of my life, my academics, is maybe the start I need in order to acknowledge the value of theatre for me beyond extra-curriculars.  In England, I plan to immersively experience a wide range of theatre opportunities in a uniquely academic way, surrounded by friends old and new who are also passionate about it, and I am hopeful that this will allow me to concretely decide that there is room for the arts in my life beyond my casual university experiences. 

The Stage Became Red Soil

I have always been in theatre: I come from a family of entertainers and artists. My mother is a beautiful dancer, as well as my uncle, his brother is a musician and my aunt an actress, and the other a fashion designer. I found my space on the stage. I have been in productions since I was six, and usually opted for musical theatre despite not being able to sing. I just wanted to be a part of the show, one of the butterflies right as the curtain raises, and to feel how your tongue and your arms know just want to do as the inorganic lights hit your cheeks. 

Then suddenly, at fourteen, I was living in Kampala, Uganda. In the middle of Africa. 

Everything felt backwards for me.

 It was hot, all the time. It never rained, and when it did no one sang the famous Toto song to bless all the rains down in Africa, which to my 14-year-old heart was simply disappointing. There was a security guard who managed our compound; it was garnished with barbed wire and broken glass on top of a mountain of misplaced bricks that formed four walls. There were bars on all of our windows, and each told the history of the country, of the iron fisted rule of Idi Amin.

            School, however, was a place that made the unfamiliar feel normal, despite me no longer having my theatre group to eat lunch with. I went to an international school. Everyone was from somewhere. I grew up in Burlington, Ontario, “not very exotic,” I thought compared to other people who were from Tahiti or Italy, and some from countries I had never even heard of. They made fun of my accent, although, I didn’t think I had one. I was the only one who would sweat in 52-degree Celsius heat under tin roofs, with no fans or air conditioning. I wasn’t able to go to shows, or experience theatre in a traditional sense, but I became the show. I became the performance because of how I presented myself: presenting the country I came from. Everyone did. I was embarrassed of having to fan myself constantly with heavy textbooks, getting small giggles when I called thing by weird names, until I realized that that was what made me Canadian. 

        Theatre can bring everyone together, no matter the boarder you cross. I still speak to all my friends from that time, and my greatest fear would be not being able to visit each other’s countries. I have learned so much about the world through the people I have met and all their stories; it would be a tragedy to not be able to tell my own. I have found a love for traveling, for completely immersing myself in cultures, alongside my love of theatre. Culture shock feels much like being on stage opening night: intimidating yet thrilling. I don’t have many fears movingor traveling places: since moving from my childhood home, I’ve lived in 21 different houses in the last five years! I need constant change; I crave it. I think there is something so beautiful about learning outside the context of a classroom; you discover more, because there are so many more teachers than just your professor to learn from.    

            

Brace Yourself: Finding Confidence in Theatre

I think the story of how I ended up in this class is fairly simple: I love theatre (as I imagine most people who take this course do) and jumped at the chance to explore it abroad.

I’ve also always loved dance. I began dancing when I was 4, and eventually transitioned into the competitive dance. This meant more hours in the studio and competitions in different cities with the routines you learned each year. I really loved what I was able to get out of my time in the studio and on stage.

Me circa 2007

Dancing was also very hard. I started competing later than most of my other teammates, who came from families who’d put them straight into lessons once they could walk. I worked incredibly hard to catch up, but I never quite got the flexibility that seemed to come naturally to them, which made me very self-conscious. The one time I did feel more confidence was during our ballet technique and our musical theatre classes. I think these were both classes my teammates took less seriously. Musical theatre was something that came naturally to me. I was doing theatre outside of dance where I could, but these classes were the ones where I didn’t feel like I was in a competition, where I would actually feel good about myself.

In addition, I felt a lot of pressure to expose my body around girls who were very comfortable with their skin. I remember being sent to Victoria’s Secret with my mom because we had to buy a specific bra we would be using as our tops for our jazz number that year. This didn’t do great things for my self-image. I was also diagnosed with moderate scoliosis at 14, where I wore a SpineCor brace for just over a year. I refused to wear it at dance class. It would sometimes dig into my skin to the point that I had sores (my teammates thought they were hickies) and, already disliking my body, it exacerbated the issue to the point of break downs. I eventually stopped wearing it for the sake of my mental health (it wasn’t doing much for my physical health anyways). I loved the community I found dancing, but the culture could also be incredibly toxic and looking back I think it was very draining on me.

Our burlesque themed jazz routine, 2015

Eventually, I quit dancing so I could focus on theatre. It felt like a breath of fresh air – I appreciated how much more diversity in ideas and artistic license I felt. Theatre still has its fair share of issues, but I wasn’t walking around on eggshells, thinking about my body. I was focused on the piece and the character, engaging in a collaborative process. Coming to Western and having the opportunity to work with Theatre Western as an actor, producer, and choreographer has enabled me to extend this passion and reconnect with dance. Working on Posh last year really opened my eyes to how comfortable I felt work in theatre and helped bring back confidence in myself and my abilities.

Posh by Laura Wade, Theatre Western, 2018

Having been born in Bristol, I’ve always wanted to study in Europe, and I’m hoping this trip will allow me to take another step towards merging theatre with my academic endeavours. I think I still have a lot of fears about whether I’m “enough.” I’ve struggled and still struggle with my self- esteem. This course is an opportunity to broaden my horizons and experience the world of theatre abroad and show myself that I do deserve to be here.

Realizing the Importance of Variety in My Life

Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

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Source: “Dead Poets Society” (1989 fim)

The first time I heard this quote, I felt my heart sink like it was written specifically for me, but I pretended not to realize it.

As a child, I had an incredible drive for creativity and adventure, which made the arts some of my favourite subjects in school. I loved making visual art, I excelled in music classes, and creative writing relaxed me. But my favourite class was drama, where I shocked my classmates by allowing my timid self to become possessed by my characters. One of my roles was playing as Jesus in a community-wide Passion Play. In another instance, I portrayed a serial killer from the fictional series “Death Note”.

At some point during high school, however, I lost touch with my artistic side. I had let myself be that convinced the arts were “useless” to me by my parents, by some friends, and by social media. While I now realize how wrong this was, I had believed that my desire for a career in medicine left no time to spend on artistic pursuits.

However, something ironic happened to me when I got to university. While reading about the profiles of students who get accepted to medical school, I realized that many of them had impressive artistic pursuits, allowing them to demonstrate well-roundedness and passion outside of the classroom which strengthened their applications. Learning this made my heart sink, and I immediately regretted my decisions. I realized that, regardless of what medical schools thought, I should have never stopped pursuing my artistic passions for my own sake. But to make matters worse, they might have even helped me in my career goals.

I was dearly missing my artistic hobbies for the creative outlet and sense of curiousity that they helped me achieve.

In recent times, I have been vowing to make two major changes in my life.

One is to remind myself to devote more attention on the beauty and wonder of the world around me, in simple things such as the pleasant aroma of my coffee or the warmth of a sunny day.

The other is to actively commit myself to becoming educated in artistic disciplines such as theatre and literature, in hope of better appreciating humanity’s archive of artistic work throughout the rest of my life.

Taking Destination Theatre 3900 seemed like a great way to start with this. Of course, I expect to experience challenges in studying theatre for the first time since my childhood.

However, I hope that this class will help me achieve all of the things that I loved about studying theatre: learning about how theatre and art fit into society, studying how technical elements are used to convey subtle political messages in entertaining ways, and sharing all of these lessons with a tight-knit group of like-minded classmates.

TRAVEL FLOP BUT NOT A STOP

Theatre was always a way to express myself when growing up. I’m so appreciative that I was able to find my niche. Being that little awkward, chubby, troublemaker in elementary school, never really made me be the right person for sports or any kind of athletics for that matter. Theatre, gave me an outlet in my life to express who I was.

I used to be in Original Kids Theatre Company. A little theatre company in downtown London, Ontario. It gave me a head start to finding myself and expressing myself in the best way I possibly could.

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My parents are both such hard workers, working on average 50 to 60 hours/week – my father is a guard at Middlesex Detention Centre and my mother has her own bookkeeping business. They never really got to come to any of my shows, but one positive aspect was their ability for us to be financially secure, enabling us the wonderful opportunity to travel a lot. Traveling all my life is my strongest passion, whether it was Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Romania or simply San Antonio Texas, I’ve done a lot with lots more to come.

I bring my fiery passion everywhere I go and try to live my life to the fullest; because, one day I might not be able to. I think my passion for theatre and travelling is going to be a great aspect in this class. As I grew through my elementary school years, I began to travel to see theatrical performances in Strathroy, Toronto, etc. Whether locally, to the Caribbean or Europe, my interest was sparked with the variety of set designs, costumes, languages and styles of shows.

Shakespearean costumes, and the set design for We Will Rock You.


England – Exactly number three on my bucket list and counting. The history, the buildings, national parks, English breakfast, and the globe theatre, of course, are exactly the things I’m looking forward to seeing. One day after receiving an email about destination theatre, and reading about the experience offered by Western University, for the next 3 weeks I couldn’t shut up about it! All I could talk about nonstop to my mother and my friends was that I could be possibly going to England, a place to experience theatre in different culture, Shakespeare’s birthplace.

What I hope to get from this experience with Kim and all my fellow peers when studying abroad, is a glimpse back into why I fell in love with theatre in the first place and what it’s all about. Going to the theatres and seeing all the performances, being an engaging audience member really fuels my passion to get back out there and be apart of a open, theatre like environment. I stay to myself at times and normally travel alone, but now being able to experience something so wonderful and make friends and connections while there, is all I could have ever asked for.

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In March 2020, my number 3 on my bucket list came to a halt – temporarily. COVID-19 travel restrictions have saddened me with England postponement to next year. However, the fact that this virus is worldwide, affecting so many people, causes greater distress for me. With my career goal as a Secondary School teacher, the destination theatre course would be a learning asset for me to assist with theatre productions in the future. Truly hoping that my timetable next year will leave room for me to attend the course. If so, my next blog would have a different ending than this.