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Department of Theatre

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    Modern lighting: LED lighting fixtures offer enormous possibilities, but will they work for your production
    (2023) Hatt, Travis
    Topics discussed include the challenges and advantages of using LED lighting fixtures in theatre productions, specifically in terms of color rendering.
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    Research recast(ed): S1E5 - A conversation with Leigh Rivenbark and Dawn Sadoway
    (2021-10) Ekelund, Brittany; Cave, Dylan; Rivenbark, Leigh; Sadoway, Dawn
    Today we learn all about building the roof before the storm happens, the importance of trust, and how your cell phone is likely giving you more grief than relief. Two faculty members from MacEwan’s Music Theatre Performance Program join us to talk about resilience and caring for ourselves and others. Coordinator Dawn Sadoway is a professional singer, actor, and voice teacher, and professor Leigh Rivenbark is a professional film and theatre director and former Artistic Producer of Theatre New Brunswick. They recently presented their research on resilience building in theatre at the peer-reviewed Voice and Speech Trainers Association’s international conference in August, 2021, and they have already seen promising results in instituting resilience-building techniques into their programming here at MacEwan. If you’re interested in learning more about resilience and resilience building, Leigh and Dawn would be happy to send you all those long lists we talked about, so feel free to send them an email!
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    Creative process and co-research with very young children through flight
    (2023) Ayles, Robyn; Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather; Leach, Jamie
    With their abundance of openness, curiosity, and imagination, children are natural researchers. They ask questions and seek answers. As theatre artists and practice-based researchers, we strive to welcome these young, sometimes preverbal inquisitors, into our research process in meaningful, democratic ways. Our practice-based research centres on questions regarding the relationships between very young children (aged eighteen months to five years), actors, and materials, with a view toward democratically creating theatre as a collective and immersive event. Through workshops, artist residencies, immersive theatre offerings, and a Cycle of Co-inquiry, we develop a loose scaffold of dramatic work that forms the skeleton of a theatrical piece, which in turn becomes an immersive theatre offering for the very young. Our process creates spaces that welcome active participation for children and actors to play, and where exploration is encouraged and planned with purpose and intention. This intention crystallizes into reciprocity and generosity of ideas between the participants. The final creative work includes very young children as co-creators in the experience. Although our current immersive theatre offering explores local urban wildlife, our process could be applied to any topic or theme.
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    Harnessing the power of flight: devising responsive theatre for the very young
    (2022) Ayles, Robyn; Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather; Mykietyshyn, Margaret
    Successful theatre hinges on relationships. In our research, we devised an immersive theatre piece about urban wildlife through key early childhood education concepts outlined in the Canadian document Flight: Alberta’s Early Learning and Care Framework. The project’s guiding question was: How could we better understand audience engagement in the early years demographic by using the reflective process, rights-based perspectives, and holistic play-based goals of the Flight framework to interpret children’s experiences? Our creative team aimed to develop democratic and playful relationships with children during theatrical exploration, and using the Flight framework to analyse what children were communicating grounded our theatre creation and dramaturgy in respectful and agentic relationships between actors, theatrical objects, and young children.
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    When design is inspired by theatre: acting techniques as prospective design methods
    (2021) Roberge, Jacynthe; Sperano, Isabelle; Rivenbark, Leigh; Rubio, Daniel Caja
    In acting training, psychophysical exercises are used to strengthen the relationship between mind and body, thus fostering a deeper understanding of the character [1]. Intrigued and inspired by the potential value of these techniques in design contexts, we explored their application for interaction designers as research methods in a pedagogical setting. To do so, we first created a single-session workshop that introduced design students to basic actor movement techniques in the winter of 2019. The goal of the workshop was to help students empathize with their users and discover solutions when designing digital products. Later, in the fall of 2020, we used reflections from the first activity to develop two longer workshops; both consisted of three sessions and were carried out consecutively in two different universities. In this article, we present a case study of those three workshops. After discussing considerations for the evolution of the workshops, we describe how each was conducted. Finally, we share our findings and insights that arose throughout the process.
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    Teaching acting techniques to designers: observe, embody, create
    (2021) Sperano, Isabelle; Rivenbark, Leigh; Roberge, Jacynthe; Rubio, Daniel Caja
    To design quality digital products, designers need to understand the user and their experiences on a deep level (Ritter et al. 2014). To do so, design practitioners have developed research methods that mainly focus on an “intellectual” approach to gain insight through quantitative research and analysis. While useful, these approaches often undervalue the role of the body in the process of understanding the user. In response to this, a more embodied approach to user research has emerged. Methods such as roleplaying and bodystorming are increasingly used to gain new kinds of insight during the design process (Burns et al. 1994, Schleicher et al. 2010, Wakkary et al. 2007). However, designers often encounter limitations with these methods (Think Design 2021). Some have trouble engaging in role-playing exercises due to a lack of acting training. Others struggle to apply insights to their work. Our team developed a workshop for design students exploring how acting techniques can be used as design methods to address these challenges. It was conducted in interaction design classes (Winter 2019 and Fall 2020) in 2 universities. Our goal at the Interaction Design Education Summit 2021 was to present this workshop to design instructors and practitioners so they can share it with their students or design teams. In this article, we describe an overview of the workshop and discuss potential benefits, challenges, and limitations of this approach to design.
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    Flight paths and theatre for early years audiences
    (2021) Ayles, Robyn; Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather; Mykietyshyn, Margaret
    This article proposes using the holistic play-based goals and model of co-inquiry discussed in Flight: Alberta’s Early Learning and Care Framework (2014) as a way to interpret very young children’s responses to theatrical experiences as theatre criticism. The process encourages wondering and reflecting on multiple possible meanings of children’s embodied, vocal, and play-based responses. Through an exploration of documentary evidence from The Urban Wildlife Project, our immersive theatre research outlines how the early childhood education processes can be adapted to a theatre context to listen to children’s responses on their own terms.
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    Costumes of the Pavley-Oukrainsky ballet: a material history analysis
    (2020) Chartrand, Josée
    In the early-twentieth century, ballet companies were beginning to form across the United States. This study explores selected costumes worn by founding members of the early-twentieth century Pavley-Oukrainsky Ballet dance company and a variety of historical documents pertaining to the company from the collection of the Museum of Performance and Design to explore how the makers of the garments used exotic influences as inspiration which helped to develop a new genre of ballet in the United States. These sources will help answer the question: how can the analysis of costumes shed light on the historical significance of the Pavley-Oukrainsky Ballet? Few researchers have observed the costume artifacts addressed in this study despite their importance as material records of what may be the first independent American ballet company. The artifacts constitute the main supporting evidence for the study and are contextualized by a variety of biographical documents, including a published biography of Andreas Pavley, two autobiographies by Serge Oukrainsky, newspaper clippings, and other media-related sources like programs, photographs, and private correspondences from Oukrainsky and the later owners of Oukrainsky’s personal collection. All primary sources come from the Museum of Performance + Design in San Francisco. Using a material culture methodology, four costumes are explored in case studies: a loincloth, torso ornament, cuff, and crown. The descriptions, deductions, and speculations of each artifact are combined with primary and secondary sources of information about the company in order to contextualize and understand the role of dress in the Pavley-Oukrainsky Ballet and, indirectly, the place of the dance company in early-twentieth century America.
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    The language of teaching voice: a qualitative study
    (2020) Sadoway, Dawn
    Voice practitioners use a variety of language to describe the act of sounding. Because practitioners cannot literally “see the voice,” they rely on imagery, imagination, anatomical descriptions, and acoustic feedback to encourage positive results for clients. There is often a debate among voice practitioners about the value of science and art when choosing both the type of voice exercise to give and ultimately the language to use with clients in order to achieve positive vocal training outcomes. This article outlines a qualitative research study assessing the effectiveness of using metaphorical or scientific language or both for improving student and client outcomes in the voice studio, the speech language pathology clinic, and in performance. The results of the study suggest that there is a pedagogical advantage to using both metaphorical and literal language with voice clients. Because of this, there is a potential need to advocate for the increased intersection between art and science in teaching voice. Suggestions for this approach are given, and the implications for training future voice practitioners are discussed.