Winter Term Things

Hello! This is the page where Kim and Abhi (your instructors for Destination Theatre 2020) will post class activities, “pocket lectures”, and other cool stuff ahead of our class sessions. Check back regularly to see what’s up next!

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WINTER WEEK THE LAST, ON ZOOM!

1. Warm-up!

FOR OUR VIRTUAL BODIES…

In this weird time, warming up seems more important than ever…

(Don’t forget to bring / wear an item of clothing, hat or accessory that reflects how you’re feeling, and coping, right now!)

What’s the story of your item? We’ll chill into the class by sharing.

… AND FOR OUR ADDLED BRAINS

Reflection and contemplation is more important than ever, too – it’s easy to get stuck in mindless surfing (with all the anxiety that can produce!).

Instead, let’s write for TWO MINUTES about how things are going.

Here’s the challenge: write about ONE THING that is way way different, and ONE THING that has not changed, in your world.

(Kim will join you!)

2. London Calling: Moving Forward… Questions, Comments, & Concerns

Gang, it super sucks that we can’t make the journey. But this period of time will pass, and the course will run again, in Winter 2021, pretty much EXACTLY the same.

I’ve given you three options for progressing, and I’m happy to answer any/all questions about how they will work.

  1. Withdraw, no penalties (we are appealing to the registrar to return your full tuition, and you’ll receive your $2500 back, too)
  2. Defer to winter/spring 2021 (complete winter term now, join us for spring term 2021. Also open to fourth years graduating in June 2021!)
    • This will mean completing your first blog post AND your first paper, now due 30 April. I’ll port your grades over, no worries!
    • A couple of times in winter 2021 your attendance will be required, alongside the new cohort, but otherwise you’ll be able to “overload” to make up your missing winter 2020 0.5 credit, if you want/need.
  3. Continue online this June, to complete the credit now. Less fun, but gets the job done! (Note: if you would prefer to defer, but need to complete this credit now because of terms and conditions related to your enrolment in your program, let Kim know and I’ll see if accommodation can be made for you!)

I know this might be a tough decision, but I need to know your preferences ASAP so we can lobby for necessary refunds and adjustments. Please communicate your preferred option to me by tomorrow (WEDNESDAY 1 APRIL) at 6pm.

A couple of notes re assignments:

Most of you have completed your first blog posts, even with COVID looming; thank you! If you haven’t yet posted your edited post to the blog, AND you would like to continue in the course one way or another, please do that ASAP so Abhi can mark it for you!

If you’d like to withdraw, nothing further to worry about. I’ll be in communication re any administrative processes that need your attention.

If you’re continuing via either options 2 or 3, you’ll need to write that first paper too. It’s not long or complicated; here’s the task description from the syllabus/OWL:

For each of these papers you will analyze a work of live theatre using a critical lens borrowed from one of our course readings. Think of this as a performance analysis that derives its methodology from one of our readings and uses that method or framework to look closely at details from the performance in order to build an argument. (For example: you might see Every Brilliant Thing at the Grand, and then use one aspect of Rebecca Schneider’s argument in Theatre & History to talk about how the play explores an individual’s coming to terms with difficult memories.)

You must a use different reading (that is, a different book) for each of your reflections. Your first paper will reflect on one of our two winter-term theatre trips to the Grand, OR you may choose to write about another show you’ve seen this winter on your own. Your second paper will reflect on one of the shows you see in London in June, whether with the class or on your own.

Now, I know we never got to see Room at the Grand, which is a bummer. And the fact that I call here for a “live” work of theatre makes things tricky when we are all in quarantine!

So, for paper #1, I’m happy for you to choose your performance to analyze from among Every Brilliant ThingThe Shipment, and The Container, AS WELL AS from one of the great pieces of theatre that UK companies are streaming for free online during COVID-time.

The Royal Court, the Hampstead, and Cheek By Jowl (an amazing experimental company that does a lot of Shakespeare, for you Bard-heads) have all sent me email blasts lately about options for online viewing; click the links above for options, and/or feel free to find your own! (Just tell Kim and Abhi what you’ve picked, so we know to watch it too.)

3. Theatre & Community

I know you’re all busy with assignments, etc, and that reading a final book about theatre for a course that is no longer going on the trip of a lifetime is a SERIOUS BUMMER.

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What he said.

So, I’ll aim to make this painless and fun. 🙂

Depending on how many people are able to join us on Zoom for our final class, we may do this work in breakout groups. Otherwise, we may simply read a bit and talk a bit together.

  • If you’re not able to join us, please work through these three questions on your own, in your own time.
  • If you are planning to continue in the class one way or the other, please note that it will be important for you to read Theatre & Community when you are able, if you’ve not done so already.

Three key concepts

I’ve highlighted three key moments in Fisek’s book that are worth thinking about right now. For each of these, I’ve posed a set of related questions.

Have a read of the couple of pages that surround the moment I’ve highlighted in each of the questions below. Then, let’s talk about possible responses to my questions.

In each case, we’ll be centring on this key paradox: 

Community always implies a sense of jointness, of sharing, of commonality. Does that mean community makes no room for the differences among us? How can theatre in particular address this paradox, complicating our most basic assumptions about what community is, and what it does?

  1. Look at the top of page 7, under the heading “Community: key debates”. Fisek cites Raymond Williams (an important cultural theorist), who talks about community’s “warm persuasiveness”, a “fuzzy feeling” it creates. Williams says this feeling describes both “an existing set of relationships” and “an alternative set of relationships” – a kind of “is now” and “could be” of community.
    • Think about how the past few weeks under COVID-19 quarantine have changed your relationships to communities to which you belong. Are “alternative” communities emerging? What are some of the strengths of those alternatives? At the same time, what has been lost in this shift from the existing to the (necessary) alternatives?
    • Are bonds strengthening? Which ones? Are cracks showing? Where?
    • What is COVID-19 teaching us about the nature of our “existing” communities?
  2. On page 47, Fisek writes: “Theatrical performance in particular generally involves the coming together of two collective bodies: first, the body of theatre-makers … whose collective labor produces the presentation, and second, the body of spectators, whose presence provides the actors with a collective toward which to direct this presentation.” She doesn’t romanticize this formation, this coming-together, though; instead, she adds, “performance’s ability to prompt questions about collectivity can itself actually result in the formation of a collective, however ambiguous its combined intentions may be.”
    • Think about a time that you attended the theatre, or helped to make a piece of theatre, and the outcome of the process (of viewing, or making) was “ambiguous” – feelings were mixed, rather than shared, amongst those gathered in the process. Where did feelings collide? Where did differences emerge?
    • Using your insights into this experience, can you think about how we might differentiate between theatre as a “community” experience, and theatre as a “collective” experience? What might be the advantage of framing theatre as the latter, not the former?
    • HINThave a look at Fisek’s additional comments on page 51…
  3. Audiences form a crucial kind of temporary community. Their coming together is, Fisek argues in relation to Ancient Greek theatre on page 58, “a fundamental political act.” Now, in 2020, our theatre (and social, and political) structures are very different from those of Attic Greece, yet spectatorship is still political: on page 79 Fisek quotes Judith Butler at length, as she speaks about the performative power of assembly (“a plural and performative right to appear”). At the same time, the final section of Fisek’s book (“Efficacy and Agency”) is focused on the contradictions that this power of assembly inevitably generates because “the relationship between the individual and the collective will always remain fraught with contradiction” (75).
    • Have you witnessed the power of assembly in action? What did it look like? Where did it make room for consensus, or dissensus? (Or did it?)
    • I’m hyper-aware of the irony of this question given the moment we’re in: assembly is banned! Think about how our perceptions of “assembly” and its “performative power” are changing right now. What is COVID teaching us about this power? What learning should we hold onto? What should we be wary of?
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Usually, last class = donuts. I know. I miss them too!!!

4. Last Call

That’s all I got for now, gang. I’m really, really hoping to see some of you next year, and/or in June online!

Let’s spend a few minutes on any final questions you might have, or stuff you want to talk about. I am here for you!

***

CLASS FIVE (aka week ten!): THEATRE & POLITICS & THE CONTAINER

PLEASE SIT IN YOUR HOME PODS!

1. The Inevitable warm-up!

FIRST, our bodies…

If you’ve been in a class with Kim before, you know Kim loves to play a certain game with a bunch of Zs in the title…

THEN, our brains…

Think about The Container. Was there a moment you couldn’t stop thinking about? Could we call it a “political” moment? Write for TWO minutes.

2. London Calling!

First: the good news!

All our tickets have been reserved, based on our voting last class. We are all set for Waitress, Gatsby, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and BOTH Much Ado at the Globe AND The Show That Goes Wrong. Ten of you lucky people will see the latter; the rest of you lucky people will see the former. Hooray Democracy!

Second: the trickier stuff.

The global COVID-19 outbreak is causing all kinds of travel headaches right now. We at present have nothing to be too concerned about; the outbreak in the UK is still at fairly low numbers, though these will grow and the UK government and NHS have put emergency measures in place to brace for a widespread outbreak over the next few weeks. Hopefully, these measures will work, the outbreak will remain relatively controlled, and by late spring things will be getting back to normal.

However, if either the UK or Canada experience significant escalation in illness and fatality numbers, Western may cancel our journey.

If that happens, rest assured that Eunice will work with me, our department chair and our dean to ensure we can save your course credit and return your fees.

(What’s significant escalation? It’s relative, of course, but right now the only study abroad travel Western has canceled is to China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Italy. These cancelations happened after case numbers in those places jumped by hundreds or more overnight, signalling significant, untraceable community spread. For comparison’s sake, on Monday morning the UK was at 311 cases, while Italy is at almost 6000. Three people in the UK have died; about 300 people have died in Italy.)

Western International is following the UK’s COVID-19 case numbers closely, along with those across mainland Europe, and any new information I receive I’ll share with you immediately.

For right now, what can/should you do?

  1. Make sure you do your pre-departure work on Western International’s website, and make sure you’re registered with the UWO Travel Registry ASAP. That means, once we’re abroad, if anything changes Eunice will be able to get hold of us all directly, and immediately.
  2. Keep informed: check the Western International web page for updates and stay in contact with me and Abhi if you’re concerned.
  3. If you plan to enter the UK from a third country (AKA not directly from Canada), get informed about what that might mean. For example, even after the outbreak slows, the UK might restrict entry to travellers come from affected countries like China or Italy. Stay on top of this as you plan your travel, and don’t hesitate to contact Eunice with questions.
  4. If you or your parents are at all concerned, come speak to me. If you would prefer to withdraw from the course as a precautionary measure, you can do so without any penalty, and your fees will be returned.
  5. Don’t panic! The situation is dynamic and evolving, but the best thing for all of us is to stick to our normal routines. Focus on staying well as we move into March and all the work that brings: wash your hands often, prioritize sleep, eat your greens, and if you feel unwell, don’t hesitate to stay home and rest.

Questions?

3. Participation Reflection #1

Grab pen and paper/quill and ink/tablet/keyboard/whatever!

You’ll have FOUR minutes to reflect on each prompt.

  1. Identify a participation “success” from our class so far. Maybe this is a moment when you spoke even though you weren’t sure you knew what you were talking about, and it went well! Or maybe it was a moment when you decided not to speak, because you wanted to make space for others. Maybe it was a blog post-related success! Or perhaps it was about something else – attendance, reading, group work, etc. Give yourself kudos!
  2. Now, identify a moment when you think you could have been a more effective participant, or a more generous class citizen. What do you want to work on while we’re still in our “regular” classroom here at Western, over the next few weeks?
  3. Think ahead to London. First, identify some of the strengths you see yourself bringing to our class community as we travel to a whole new context. Then, reflect on a couple of things you want to work on, in terms of your contribution to our class community, as you prepare for our journey abroad.

That’s it: PR#1 DONE! Remember: at the end of class today, you can feel free to upload your writing from this exercise straight to OWL, under “participation” in the “assignments” portal. All your participation reflections will go here – the portal is configured to accept multiple resubmissions.

4. Theatre & Politics & The Container, with Abhi!

Gossip- Tell us all the things you liked and did not like about ‘the container’ and ‘T and P’. 

A Photo Contest…

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Emma the Dog: political? Not political?
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A golden gun resting on its case: political? Not political?

Now, go to pg. 6. Read from line 8 from the top, till the end of the paragraph.

In the light of what we just heard/read, does our perception of the photos change? What changes? How is it different from what you thought earlier?

Write for 3 minutes, and share with class.

…and a reading contest!

Pair up once more, this time with a different person. Find and highlight two key arguments – claims that strike you as pretty important to the whole! – from two different places in Theatre & Politics.

You have FIVE minutes. Two teams will be declared winners, and will get a special surprise…

Work at the theatre:

Read pg. 31- Last paragraph, and Pg 42, Last paragraph. Pair up.

What kind of ‘work’ in theatre does Kelleher focus on? What kind of ‘work’ at theatre happens for him?

Discuss for two minutes with your partner.

Discussion, in general.

Kim and Abhi will talk about one production they saw where mechanics of work was revealed and how it made them feel.

Now think of a moment in things we have seen together, and write for about five minutes about that moment, especially about how you FELT!

Write the emotions on the board, and then walk around in different pods, discuss the emotions with other people on other pods.

The Container, in a container: the politics of PLACE at the theatre

What are the different ways in which ‘container’ is political? The content, yes, but what about the form?

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CLASS FOUR (aka week eight): THEATRE & RACE & THE SHIPMENT

PLEASE SIT IN YOUR HOME PODS!

1. Not you again!!! 🙂

As ever, first things first… let’s warm up!

FIRST, the body.

…Abhi’s choice!

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SECOND, the brain.

Was there a moment, as you watched The Shipment, when you felt uncomfortable?

Reflect on that moment, and on your discomfort, for two minutes. Where do you think it came from? What did your discomfort do for you, as a viewer?

 2. London calling!

It’s our long-awaited Battle-of-the-Shows!

As I noted in my announcement on OWL yesterday, this class represents a perfect democracy, for the purposes of this exercise.

Step One: the citizen’s assembly

(What is a “citizen’s assembly”, and why is it democratically important? Click here!)

  • In your home pods, share the research you’ve brought with you into the show(s) you’d like to nominate for one of our remaining four spots.
  • After you’ve heard from everyone, and have asked any/all questions, decide on TWO shows you’d like to present to the class as finalists. Decide WHO will do the presenting of each show!
  • If you have extra time, get some images up on your screen and/or some details on your white board(s) to help make your pitches their best.
  • You have TEN minutes!

Step Two: the hustings

Get ready to hear one another’s pitches, and to ask questions!

Step Three: the vote

We’ll do a show of hands for every finalist.

Abhi will tally the results on one of our rolling White Boards. Kim will go away and book our winners on Wednesday; the runner(s) up will be on deck in case there’s any reason we can’t get our top choices.

FYI, here’s a snapshot of our draft schedule so far:

Monday 15 June:

Morning – welcome to London, and to Queen Mary!

Afternoon – tour of the arts side of campus and the surrounding area with Kim; goal setting and participation reflection work in a cool outdoor setting (weather permitting!)

Evening – WHAT SHOW SHOULD WE SEE?

Tuesday 16 June:

Morning – theatre debrief chat with Abhi + Kim

Afternoon – Motion Capture workshop with Amy Borsuk (Queen Mary UL)

Evening – Death of a Black Man at the Hampstead Theatre

Wednesday 17 June:

Morning – theatre debrief chat with Abhi + Kim

Afternoon – travel to and arrival at Stratford-upon-Avon and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; archival treasures visit; pre-show talk with Kim about Comedy of Errors

Evening – Comedy of Errors at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, RSC

Thursday 18 June:

Morning – theatre debrief chat with a lecturer from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Q&A with an actor from Comedy of Errors

Afternoon – workshop, “Shakespeare and Directing” (prepare for hands-on!)

Evening – Peer Gynt, Swan Theatre, RSC

Friday 19 June:

Morning – theatre debrief chat with a lecturer from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; visit to Shakespeare’s birthplace; any last-minute sightseeing!

Afternoon – back at QM, you’re free for the weekend! OR: WHAT SHOW SHOULD WE SEE?*

*Your weekend is your own, but we can slot in a group show on Friday evening, or on Sunday afternoon or evening, if our group choices invite us to do so. ALSO: Kim has a suggestion about a BONUS SHOW option that she’ll discuss on Tuesday…

Monday 22 June:

Morning – visit to Mile End’s Poplar Union, an important space for intergenerational and intercultural, community performance and play, hosted by Sue Mayo (Goldsmith’s UL)

Afternoon – students’ choice! (choices will be forthcoming…)

Evening – WHAT SHOW SHOULD WE SEE?

Tuesday 23 June:

Morning and afternoon – Kim is working on a full day of workshops and programming at Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside, and at the Rose theatre excavation site (featuring a chat about early modern audience conventions with Pen Woods, Queen Mary UL)

Evening – WHAT SHOW SHOULD WE SEE?

Wednesday 24 June:

Morning – theatre debrief chat with Abhi + Kim

Afternoon – students’ choice! (choices will be forthcoming…)

Evening – The Glow at the Royal Court Theatre

Thursday 25 June:

Morning – theatre debrief chat with Abhi, Kim, and possibly featuring Cat Fallow too!

Afternoon – workshop on new writing in London’s theatre ecology, with Cat Fallow (Queen Mary UL and dramaturg about town)

Evening – SHOULD WE SEE ONE MORE SHOW?

Friday 26 June:

Morning – farewell! We will have CAKE, and a little party, and do one more participation reflection before you head off into the next phase of your summer.

Take a Break!

When you come back, sit with two people you have never sat with before.

3. The Shipment (Blackface? Whiteface? Post-race? What would Harvey say?…)

What did you write about in your warm-up?

Take a minute to get back into that headspace. Share your reflections with your two new friends! You have FIVE minutes.

Now: what might our feelings of discomfort tell us – or not – about race in this performance?

Let’s work with the moments and experiences we’ve just shared as we put this performance into conversation with Harvey Young’s Theatre & Race.

(Quick gossip: what did you think of this volume? How did it compare to the other two so far?)  

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This is Harvey Young, is Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Boston University.

Still working with your new trio, select ONE of the moments your group reflected about during the first part of the exercise.

Now, find a place in the book where Young’s comments about some aspect of race in performance connect pretty well to the moment you’ve chosen.

What’s the connection?

Can Young help us figure out what your moment might be “doing” to, or about, race?

Here are some spots in the book that are ideal to look for connections. (Of course there are others too! But these are places to start, if you need one.)

  1. Being “hailed” by race, pages 10-13
  2. Race and “habitus”, pages 14-17
  3. Other “faces” in performance, pages 36-55 (there are pockets within this span on blackface, yellowface, redface, and whiteface)
  4. Colour-blindness, and colour-consciousness, pages 56-63
  5. “Post-race” vs “Post-black”, pages 63-68

Let’s see how far we can get in TEN minutes.

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CLASS THREE (aka week five): THEATRE & HISTORY & BRILLIANT THINGS

1. Well hello again!

Please sit in your home pods!

For today’s body warm-up…

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…and now for our brains:

Look at pages 10 and 11 of Theatre & History. It’s filled with great – and great BIG! – questions.

  • Does one of these questions speak to you? Get you wondering? Bend your brain sideways?
  • Highlight a question and write in response to it for TWO minutes.

2. London calling!

(We are seeing both of these!)

  • Welcome to Eunice!
  • Reminder: 25 February is battle of the theatre plans!
  • Shakespeare’s Globe: to go or not to go, that is the question…
  • Finally: second instalment due Friday!

3. Pre-departure Things…

Over to Eunice!

4. Theatre & History: GOSSIP

What did you write about in your brain warm-up exercise? Pair up with a pod-mate and compare notes.

  • What questions did you highlight?
  • How would you reply to them?
  • Do you have QUESTIONS about your question? Write them down…

Prepare to share in FIVE minutes!

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Dr Schneider, in her Brown University profile pic.

5. Theatre & History & Every Brilliant Thing

Schneider has a lot going on: she’s engaging and readable, but also a lover of PARADOX. At times, she may have had you scratching your head.

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You might also have noticed that she doesn’t really use a lot of concrete examples; she likes to work ideas through wordplay, and through logic that is often more philosophical than not.

This is one of the qualities that makes her an exceptional theatre theorist; it also means, though, that a case study might be in order to help us put the puzzle pieces together.

Luckily, we have a great one to hand!

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Theatre? History? “Life”?

Every Brilliant Thing: Theatre / History?

For this exercise, we are going to put three key ideas from Theatre & History into conversation with Every Brilliant Thing.

We have labeled three pods with the three key ideas, and their relevant page numbers, from T&H. Go sit at the pod/idea that YOU find most compelling NOW!

Once in your pods, have a good look at the idea, and a re-read, separately or together, of the page numbers listed.

Then, start working through the idea and its details. Here, I recommend using your recollections from the play sooner rather than later. Could EBT be an example of what Schneider is talking about? How/in what ways?

Prepare to explain what Schneider is talking about, how EBT relates to it, and why it matters, in 10 minutes!

KEY IDEAS:

What’s fake, and what’s real?

“For now, we can surmise that theatricality is in some senses the opposite of historicity, where ‘authenticity’ and ‘accuracy’ are keystones of the concept, despite the fact that both ‘theatre’ and ‘history’, as words, bear traces in their definition of being both the representation of the thing and the thing itself” (21).

(Check out pages 20-21, 48-49; anywhere else?)

An art of thinking, or an art of feeling?

“For [Stanislavsky], copies, imitations, replicas are not the ‘living’ art, for acting, paradoxically, must be resolutely tied, in his system, to some idea of the past – ‘what came before’ – in order to be ‘living’” (36).

(Check out pages 35-39; anywhere else?)

The problem with archives…

“Why do we continue to assume that if performance-based practices are not given to documentation or sonic recording, or otherwise made tangible, visible, houseable within an official archive, they are irretrievably lost to history, disappeared?” (57).

(Check out pages 55-57, 60; anywhere else?)

***

CLASS TWO (aka week four): ALL ABOUT THEATRE… & THE CITY

1. Welcome back!

Let’s warm up.

FIRST, the body.

We’re going to play The Name Game, complete with a memory quiz.

But first…

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SECOND, the brain.

 Was there a moment that struck you during Every Brilliant Thing? Maybe it stayed with you – you couldn’t stop thinking about it? Let’s call this a “critical moment” – it’s a gateway into an issue that you want to explore. Write about it for TWO minutes.

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Rebecca Northan, performing for US!

2. London calling!

Herewith, our first, regular logistics update!

3. Every Brilliant Thing: gossip, with Jen Harvie

To start us off today, let’s talk about the performance we saw last week.

In your home pods, PAIR UP and share your two-minute warm-up.

  • Where do your critical moments connect, or diverge?
  • What related issues do they touch upon? (These might be themes, they might have to do with the set, or sound, or lighting, or even audience engagement. Be creative!)
  • What do your moments have to communicate about those issues?

Prepare to share in FIVE minutes.

HERO_Brilliant

Now, still in your pairs, take a look at the first EIGHT pages of Jen Harvie’s book – where she introduces her opening case study, Small Metal Objects (SMO), and talks about how it “produces meaning” (7) in an urban context (in her case, at the Stratford tube station in East London, just a kilometre or so from where we will be staying in June).

First, talk about the ideas Harvie argues SMO communicates about the city and its inhabitants, and talk about the ways it does that. (Here, you’re just close reading these first few pages for Harvie’s key points).

Then, imagine that instead of SMO, Harvie was writing about Every Brilliant Thing.

  • What ideas does this show potentially communicate about the city and its inhabitants? How does it do this?

As you do this, don’t forget to think not only about the “dramatic text” of the play, but also its “performative practices” and its “material conditions” (7). (These include, for example, the venue where the play took place, the location of that venue, the audience make-up, auditorium structure, and much more.)

For the second task here, feel free to talk as a larger pod, if that’s useful!

Please also put your key reflections on your white boards for us all to see.

You have TEN minutes!

4. Theatre & The City: key ideas

We’ll spend the rest of class today digging into the Harvie reading.

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My fave photo of Jen Harvie, a prof at Queen Mary. She’s from Kingston. This is her Twitter display pic.

(Don’t worry! We will have occasion to reference Every Brilliant Thing, AND we will return to it next day, when we talk about theatre and history…)

FIRST, I’d like to draw your attention to two key definitions:

CULTURAL MATERIALISM (p. 24-25)

“Cultural materialism … understands cultural practices – including play texts and theatre events, but also working in theatre, funding it, situating it in the city – ‘as inseparable from the conditions of their production and reception in history… A cultural materialist analysis concerns itself with material detail to understand not merely what theatre is but, more important, what theatre’s political effects are, as well as how they might be changed.”

PERFORMATIVE ANALYSIS (p. 45)

“In contrast to cultural materialist analysis, performative analysis concentrates overwhelmingly on the ways people can and do act with freedom to self-author, exercising agency, control and power through everyday acts of self-articulation and self-creation. It does not see subjects as materially and socially trapped in restrictive, oppressive, self-denying social contexts already determined by the oppressions of inescapable material circumstances; it sees opportunities to challenge those conditions.”

Harvie’s key take-away: we need a bit of both of these frameworks for reading theatre; they are both important to the way theatre communicates important ideas about the shape of our world!

SECOND, we’re going to do some moving around for our last exercise of the class.

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Oh god yes.

I have highlighted four short sections of Harvie’s text, two related to each of “Cultural Materialism” and “Performative Analysis”. Each home pod has been assigned a section.

BUT WAIT! We are only starting here!

Round one: at your current pod, look into the section of the book assigned to you.

  • What key ideas or claims does Harvie make here that we need to highlight?

Put these on your white board.

Make them legible and clear, and be sure to cite page numbers: in the next round, a different group of students will need to read and work with your notes!

You have TEN minutes!

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ROUND ONE, PEOPLE.

Round two: ROTATE one pod to the left! Now, at your new pod, read the notes left by the first group.

  • Can you think of examples, from your own theatre-going or city-dwelling experiences, of the ideas discussed here?
  • (Feel free to draw on Every Brilliant Thing if you wish!)

Put these on the board in a different coloured marker, again being clear and precise for the third round…

You have SEVEN minutes!

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OH YAH BABY.

Round three: ROTATE one more pod to the left. Read and digest what has come before.

  • Do you have questions?
  • What challenges do these issue pose for students of theatre and performance, inside and outside theatres? Which ideas do you MOST want to bring with us into the rest of our class journey?

You have FIVE minutes!

POD SECTIONS

Places of performance (p. 25-32)

Theatre capital and theatre people (p. 32-40)

Urban studies (p. 47-54)

A performative right to the city (p. 66-69)

Pod 1 White Board 28 January 2020IMG_3487IMAG1759

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WEEK ONE: WELCOME!

1. Are we excited? HOW excited?

Woo hoo! We’re going to London!

(A completely unscientific selection of Kim’s fave personal London snaps…)

(Followed by a similarly unscientific selection of DT cohorts previous, having the very same ball you are going to have!!)

To get there, though, we’ve got work to do. We need to become a class community; we need to develop respect and trust; we need to learn a shared vocabulary for talking about performance and the work it does in civic, social space; and we need to prepare to have a load of fun.

Let’s start by warming up!

…our bodies:

What kind of energy have you brought with you into this new term? Are you super-stoked and ready to go? Tired even though you rested for two weeks? Wishing you were on a beach somewhere? Imagine your winter-term energy has a mass, a form. Think of it as a ball – though it doesn’t have to be a ball. You just have to be able to pick it up and pass it around.

Got it? OK: go for a walk. Meet as many fellow classmates as you can. Introduce yourself, then pass them your energy. They will do the same.

After a couple of minutes, I’ll stop us. I’ll ask you to introduce yourself to the class, and to tell us about the energy you’re holding!

.…and our brains:

Find something to write with. What are you most looking forward to about our class? What are you perhaps fearing most?

Write for TWO minutes.

2. The syllabus, like you’ve never seen it before.*

*Unless you’re also in TS2202, in which case, well, practice makes perfect!

You’ve all got a copy of your syllabus, yes? You’ve all had a read?

Excellent. Because now we are going to perform that syllabus kids. BELIEVE IT.

Five of our pods have been labeled with a chunk of the syllabus. Please sit at the pod that features the chunk you’d like to work on! (NB: We need AT LEAST TWO folks at every pod…)

Team 1: Course Description, logistical deets (p. 1)

Team 2: Objectives and Outcomes (p. 2-3)

Team 3: Required texts + costs (p. 3)

Team 4: Assessment (p. 4-7)

Team 5: Week-by-week schedules (p. 8-9)

Your challenge: to craft a two-minute performance that touches on the KEY items in your syllabus chunk. Two minutes?? You won’t have time to share it all! Decide what’s crucial; focus on THAT.

One caveat: your performance must feature AT LEAST ONE element of your pod’s built-in technology. (Streaming via Solstice; the electronic white board; the non-E white board or surrounding portable boards.)

You have TEN minutes. Make it snappy!

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What other “outside the box” course outcomes should we add to our list?

3. Devilish Details

Ah, logistics!

Accommodation at Queen Mary can happen on a room-only basis, or a bed-and-breakfast basis. We all need to pick the same option. So we need to decide!

    1. Note that your rooms are all in shared apartments with kitchens, and we will purchase for you “kitchen packs” so you can prepare food at home while we are in residence. There are many small grocery stores near the campus gates.
    2. The question is: will you want to eat a prepared breakfast each morning, or will you prefer to prepare your own in your shared apartment?

Abhi and I will select four of the shows we’re going to see in London, based on our desire to offer you a mix of experiences in a range of theatres and neighbourhoods. YOU will decide on the other four!

    1. We’ll be working on this in class on 28 January and 4 February; please start doing research now! (It will be fun!)
    2. You will present a range of options in class, and we will vote for the winners.

There will be some mandatory stuff we will all need to do to prepare for going abroad under the auspices of Western International. Our contact at WI, Eunice Isidro, will be in regular contact with us about these things, and will also be visiting class later this month. Keep up with this information – it will be important!

Winter term blog schedule!

    1. Each of you will write two posts for our public blog – one in winter and one while we are in London.
    2. There are a lot of you, which means that doubling-up on weeks will occur, and that’s fine!
    3. It’s also fine if you want to co-write a post with someone; check the fine print in the syllabus about this option.
    4. You remember the student survey I emailed you yesterday, which you’ve printed and filled out?… Please list your top three blog post deadline options on the back of that survey. We’ll do our best to accommodate everyone!
    5. Your options for deadlines are: Monday 3 February; Monday 10 February; Monday 24 February; Monday 2 March; Monday 9 March; Monday 16 March; Monday 23 March; Monday 30 March. Remember that your draft post comes to Kim and Abhi via OWL; after they feed back you can finalize it for the web.

Take a break!

4. Questions…?

 Before the break we performed the syllabus! It’s always a whirl of fun. But you might have questions…?

About winter term stuff, or about London prep stuff: ask now!

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5. The Performing City

Remember these questions? (Hint: they’re in the syllabus…)

  • What work does theatre and performance do in London in 2020? How do the performing arts touch and affect its many different spaces, cultures, and citizens?

These are just two questions that will help shape our theatre-going experiences, both here in LonON and in The Other One over the next few months.

Think about the last piece of performance you saw: maybe some theatre, maybe a film, maybe a sporting event, or a concert over the holiday. (Those of you from Toronto: Culture and Performance… surprise me!)

Where did it take place? How would you describe the relationship between that event and the community – the neighbourhood; the city; the region – around it?

Write for TWO minutes. Then, share with a nearby stranger for a few minutes more.

6. Whose City, then? 

To end today, let’s all have a look at the Land Acknowledgement I’ve placed in the syllabus.

Western University is situated on the traditional territories of the Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Lunaapeewak and Attawandaron peoples, who have longstanding relationships to the land and region of southwestern Ontario and the City of London. The local First Nation communities of this area include Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and Munsee Delaware Nation. In the region, there are eleven First Nation communities and a growing Indigenous urban population. (This particular land acknowledgement comes from Western’s Indigenous Strategic Plan, circa 2016.)

This is standard stuff now (here in Canada, anyway), but we should not let its standardization get in the way of our fulsome engagement with the ethical intentions behind such acknowledgements.

Imagine yourself forward to London, to Queen Mary’s campus. Imagine you’re sitting outside, along the Regent’s Canal, on a sunny morning. You strike up a conversation with a group of local students. They ask: where are you from?

Bearing in mind the goals and intentions of land acknowledgements, what would you say?

Turn to your nearby stranger from the last exercise. Compare notes on this question. What information would you want to include in your answer to this group of local students? Prepare to share with the rest of us in FIVE minutes.

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The canal beside the residence halls at QM. It’s gorgeous!