Archive for the 'Education' Category

DESIGNING FOR THEATRE IN THE ROUND

Friday, January 7th, 2011

A Guest Blog post by MFA Design student Mandi Lau who’s set designer for our upcoming production of Sarah Rhul’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone ~

The use of the arena configuration in the Telus Studio Theatre is an honest and direct response to the existing architecture. From my recent lighting design experience in the space for The Madonna Painter, I noticed a lot of great qualities, as well as unique design potentials that set apart the Telus from all other black box or conventional proscenium style of theatres.

The Telus has quite a few flaws as a theatre in terms of practicality (ie. the lack of an overhead grid and efficient rigging system etc.), but nonetheless, it is a very interesting and special piece of architecture. For example, the unique “flexibility” of the Telus comes from the 12 movable towers that hold the audience seating, but such quality is only true to the extent that half of those remain attached to each other to form a semi-arena of box style seating, which there is no escape from.

The fact that there are three separate floors of seating in each tower creates an enormous sense of height and closure within such a small space. This imposing sense of height is not only to be felt by the performers but most importantly impacts greatly on how the audience perceives the space for the duration of the performance.

Most often for the audience members on the towers, they have to sit on the edge of their seats and lean on the ledge that surrounds the seats (in groups of 4) for the entire show in order to be able to see what is happening down below on “stage”.

If those unique spatial features of the theatre are appropriately utilized and appreciated, it could reward any production with a great theatrical experience rather than imposing a rigidly fixed set into the already limiting space. For this reason, I want to take this special opportunity and emphasize designing on the ground, embracing the floor that is already existing as the central focal point of the space.

This, in turn, will create a theatrical experience that is unique to the Telus. It is also an exploration and experiment to challenge the conventional “forth-wall-picture-frame” perception of theatrical spaces with a minimalist set and projected stage floor. The use of light and multimedia imagery from multiple projectors will morph and sculpt the space into different locales as the story unfolds. The design of the set and the stage itself only exist for the duration of the play, making all a temporal experience just as any live performance. ~ Mandi Lau

Note: Dead Man’s Cell Phone opens January 20, 2011. To see production photos, designers’ portfolio and more go to the Dead Man’s Cell Phone show site. Tickets are Reg. $22/Senior $15/Student $10 and are available online.

IS THEATRE DEAD?

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

In the first of a series of guest posts from the Arms and the Man company, second year BFA Acting Candidate Ryan Warden weighs in on the question “Is theatre dead?”:

Depending on what circles you’re in the answer will invariably vary. If you’re reading this your answer is probably “no”, but for the vast majority of the population, theatre is just a class they took in high school.

Even many in the theatre community are heralding the death of theatre due to the recent cuts in arts spending. Despite the recent resurgence in arts and culture awareness during the Olympic games, it doesn’t look like things are going to get any better. In fact, yesterday’s budget lockup at the BC Legislature revealed that arts spending will continue to drop to record lows.

High octane rehearsals for our upcoming production of Arms and the Man reveal signs of life.

High octane warm ups in rehearsal for our upcoming production of Arms and the Man reveal definite signs of life. Photo Credit: R Warden

So, for those of us who are investing years of our lives in theatre school, not to mention the years after paying off student loans, it begs the question, “Are you nuts?” Well the simple answer is “yes” and to be honest it’s a question I ask myself far too frequently.

However, all I have to do is look over the past couple years that I’ve been in UBC’s BFA Acting program and it’s plain to see that it would be nuts NOT to do this. It’s way too much fun! And I’ve achieved an awareness of myself and those around me in a way I never thought possible. I’ve managed to break out of my skull and inhabit my body as a whole, fully-functioning person, which is quite a feat in today’s world.

As social interactions and relationships become increasingly web-based, theatre is one of the last strongholds of good old fashioned human connection in its truest form. So those of us here in the Alamo might be committing suicide, but we’ll fight to the death nonetheless.

~ Ryan Warden

Bio: Ryan Warden’s production credits include UBC’s Mother Courage, The Rez Sisters, and A Dybbuk as well as lighting operator for Werewolves (Pi Theatre). Acting credits include The Collector and Weeding the Flowers (Brave New Play Rites), The Dining Room (Director Sarah Rogers) and The Laramie Project (Director Nicola Cavendish). His most recent work was in Romeo & Juliet for Theatre at UBC. He is most proud of his role in David Savoy’s Diary of a Madman, which was chosen for admission to Setkani/Encounter International Theatre Festival in Bruno, Czech Republic. http://www.wardenfilms.com

A PASSION FOR ACTING

Monday, January 11th, 2010

In the second of a series of guest posts from the Romeo & Juliet company final year BFA Acting Candidate Moneca Lander talks about the BFA Acting program:

Before UBC, I attended various acting schools and programs to further my education and training. As soon as I began my journey here at UBC I realized that this is where I needed to be in order to fully explore my potential as an actor.

Professor Gayle Murphy coaches BFA acting Candidate Monica Lander.

Professor Gayle Murphy coaches BFA acting Candidate Moneca Lander.

Throughout my years here at UBC I’ve been involved in many productions. The specialized training in my classes has broadened my range as an actor and exposed me to a variety of stylistic acting techniques – one of the most memorable, being the Commedia dell’arte mask work introduced in my Intermediate year. This stylistic training gave me a foundation for my work in full-scale productions, such as Servant of Two Masters in which I was given the opportunity to play the role of “Smeraldina” the lady’s maid. I was able to transform myself physically, vocally and mentally into a character, a task that would have been extremely difficult to do had I not been given the stylistic training.

I’ve developed a strong appreciation for the classical training this program has offered. I believe that a strong well-rounded foundation is crucial in the development of a young actor.  The specialized training in a wide range of stylistic genres such as Shakespearian, Renaissance, Commedia dell’arte and Modern/Contemporary has absolutely made me a well-rounded actor.

"...and playing is what i am here to do."

"...and playing is what i am here to do."

Romeo and Juliet will be my final performance before graduating the program – and what an amazing experience it is turning out to be! The amount of professionalism that I am experiencing in UBC’s academic learning environment makes me confident and ready to accept any new challenges in the “real world.”

Working with and observing actors from the various class years of the program has proven to be a fantastic way for me to expand my own skills. I often find myself more open to ideas and suggestions when surrounded by such an inspiring group of talented actors.

Monica Lander backstage in rehearsal for Romeo & Juliet.

Moneca Lander backstage in rehearsal for Romeo & Juliet.

The rehearsal process for Romeo and Juliet has been extremely organized.  The expectations are always set out by the director, and we are able to come to rehearsal with our work done, and just play! And playing is exactly why I’m here. I can’t think of anything else in this world that would ignite as much passion within me, as the satisfaction of bringing a written character to life and watching us both grow together.

– Moneca Lander

On Performance:“Secrets that Whisper in the Blood”

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

As an novelist as well as an actor, I have always been fascinated by ‘the secrets that whisper in the blood’; by inheritance, what we have taken from those that have gone before us, our parents, grandparents, even further back. In our genes, of course, but also in how these people behaved, characteristics and even attitudes passed on that we have adopted, that rule some of our actions in ways we cannot tell.

The theme reoccurs in my books… and it is one of the many reasons why the production of this play, ‘The Master Builder’ by Henrik Ibsen has been such a fascinating journey. He was Norwegian, of course, wrote about his countrymen and women. And I am half Norwegian, have always felt viscerally connected to that land of fjords and myths. It features in a lot of my writing. But there is another connection of blood and legacy – my Grandparents, all of them, English and Norwegian, were actors too. And most of them played Ibsen.

Tim Matheson

L-R: Chris Humphries, Norman Young Photo Credit: Tim Matheson

I have a framed photo of Betsy Jordal, my grandmother, on stage in a rather obscure Ibsen, ‘Fru Inger’. Also one of Karl Holter, my grandfather, playing the better known ‘Peer Gynt’. I brought both of them out to UBC, have them sitting there on my dressing table. It seemed appropriate, in the week that included November 2nd, ‘the Day of the Dead’ when people, especially in the Latin countries, visit with their Dead, for me to visit with mine.

Tim Matheson

Chris Humphreys, Photo Credit: Tim Matheson

Karl, Betsy and Me. Eighty years apart, all playing ‘title’ roles’, all wrestling both with acting choices and personal demons, in the psychological maelstrom that are the plays of Henrik Ibsen. I wonder what from their lives they brought to the roles. How, perhaps, consciously and unconsciously, they used their grandparents. Wonder about the line that stretches back, the secrets hidden in time, held in blood.

Somehow, they are up there with me, Karl and Betsy, under the lights, in ways I cannot fathom. I am glad of it – and just a little bit scared.

Guest Post ~ C C Humphreys

Director’s Notes for MK Woyzeck

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

While I may have taken the extreme liberty of adapting Georg Büchner’s timeless masterpiece, Woyzeck, I remain well aware that no words of mine could ever come close to expressing the anguished ruminations at the play’s core as well as those penned by the author himself in an oft-quoted letter to his fiancée:

“I felt as though utterly crushed by the hideous fatalism of history.  I find in human nature a terrible sameness, in human circumstances an ineluctable violence vouchsafed to all and to none.  Individuals but froth on the waves, greatness a mere coincidence, the mastery of geniuses a dance of puppets, a ridiculous struggle against an iron law that can at best be understood but never mastered… ’Must’ is one of those words by which mankind was damned from the very beginning.  The saying, ‘It must needs be that offences come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh’, is horrifying.  What is it in man that lies, murders, steals?”

Theatre at UBC's production of MK Woyzeck

Theatre at UBC's production of MK Woyzeck

It was over fifteen years ago that the inspired and inspiring teaching of UBC’s own distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theatre, Dr. Errol Durbach, first ignited in me a burning obsession with Büchner’s Woyzeck that has continued to smolder to this day.  It is to him that I dedicate my work on this production.

Tom Scholte
Assistant Professor
UBC Department of Theatre and Film

Note: MK Woyzeck runs in the Frederic Wood Theatre at 7:30 nightly until Saturday October 10th. Call 604.822.2678 for tickets.

IMAGINE DAY: Speed Dating!

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Speed Dating: Imagine your Theatre & Film Major!

Ask not for whom the bell tolls – it tolls for you at the Department of Theatre & Film’s Speed Dating advising event!

Ask not for whom the bell tolls - it tolls for you at the Department of Theatre & Film's Speed Dating advising event!

On behalf of the UBC Department of Theatre & Film I dreamed up an Imagine Day event called “SPEED DATING: Imagine your Theatre and Film Major”. A lot can, and did happen in 5 minutes.

Students signed up for 4 rounds of 5 minute “speed dating” style mini advising sessions, held with 6 different representatives of the UBC Department of Theatre and Film. Theatre at UBC’s Player’s Club representatives Brendan Albano and Amanda Konkin were on hand posting auditions for their upcoming show and spreading the Player’s Club love. Established by UBC students along with Professor Frederic Wood in 1915, the club is UBC’s very first student club and it’s open to all students at UBC.

Huge kudos for bringing the day “Imagined” to life, particularly to Jenn Suratos our hostess with the mostest, 4th year MFA Design candidate Maria Fumano who rang our bell and finally our magnificent faculty, staff and students. UBC’s Imagine Day is a new Student Services initiative designed to help students understand all the opportunities for learning within each department.

Everyone knows the Department of Theatre & Film host the best parties and here’s documented proof – see more photos on our Flickr site.

Welcome back everybody, I look forward to all the exciting work that will unfold during our new 2009/10 theatre season!

Are MFA Programs Worth It?

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Recent PuSh Festival performer and monologist Mike Daisy continues a lively discussion of the value of MFA programs in theatre. He questions the choice that large institutions make to charge tuitions that are far out of alignment with what sort of income graduates can expect after their training. His focus seems to be MFA Acting programs (Theatre at UBC only offers MFAs in Directing and Design for the Theatre) and tuition at American colleges and universities far outstrips Canadian costs, but the various posts and replies from those who disagree with Mr. Daisey make for interesting reading, especially in the context of a recently released report on the dire situation of incomes for artists in Canada.

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