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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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    Producing the past: the changing protagonists of Canadian heritage
    (2022) Gunter, Christopher; Nelson, Robin
    The Canadian private sector also contributes to the heritage commemoration landscape by working with the government and accessing support programs. Arguably, one of the most impactful contemporary examples of the private sector’s heritage commemoration involvement are the Heritage Minutes (Minutes), which are sixty-second videos depicting historical narratives of events and people from Canadian history. Given their notoriety, the production and story selections for each Minute raises questions about the Canadian heritage landscape: who and what is represented or missing, and what are the implications? By examining these questions, this article aims to hold these Minutes—financed and authorized by government—to account and to understand what themes and messages these vignettes aim to impart on and authorize as ‘commemorative worthy’ to the Canadian public. This article focuses on examining the Minutes and documenting their thematic trends with a specific emphasis on identifying how marginalized groups are represented in the Minutes.
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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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    "True when no one would listen": scripts for young readers and young audiences
    (2022) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    Playscripts present the vision of the playwright, while simultaneously opening spaces for multiple voices to tell stories their own ways. Since characters in a playscript are meant to be embodied, they immediately invite interpretation. And since scripts rarely, if ever, answer all the questions a reader, actor, director, or educator may have, they encourage complex ways of listening and having conversations. Selfie by Christine Quintana, A Bear Awake in Winter by Ali Joy Richardson, and Winky & Stinky by Curtis Peeteetuce are all recently published scripts that engage with some similar issues: consent, agency, voice and choice, bodily autonomy, gendered expectations, and controlling your own narrative. Selfie, published by Playwrights Canada Press as a standalone script, was first performed in English in 2018 (Young People’s Theatre Toronto), and in French in 2015 (Théâtre la Seixième in Vancouver). A Bear Awake in Winter was first workshopped in 2018 (Canadian Stage Toronto) and produced by Binocular Theatre in 2019 in Toronto. Finally, Winky and Stinky is part of Boca del Lupo’s pandemic project Plays2Perform@Home, which features five box sets containing four scripts each: British Columbia, Prairie, Ontario, Québec, and Eastern Canada. Winky and Stinky is part of the Prairie Box Set and was created with support from Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon.
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    Gumshoes and blanket wings: care in pandemic performances for youth
    (2021) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    When Canadian theatrical performances halted because of the pandemic, artists everywhere bravely reimagined their work. Creating for any remote audience is difficult, but young audiences present particular challenges. Danish artists Peter Manscher and Peter Jankovic (qtd. in Reason 46) explain that in successful child-focused work, spectators “must have the feeling that it would have been different if they hadn’t been there—that their presence matters.” How can children feel their presence matters if a performance streams regardless of a child’s presence? Foolish Operations’ Artistic Director Julie Lebel asserts “Working with children in general and the very young especially implies interactivity. To provide static content doesn’t do the job.” The issue of presence is also related to a second challenge of utmost importance for young audiences: relationship. What kinds of meaningful performance-fostered relationships are possible during this pandemic? In response to pandemic restrictions, Outside the March (Toronto) and Foolish Operations (Vancouver) reimagined projects for young audiences thoughtfully and very differently, but both companies decided that some of their pandemic pivots would avoid screens altogether, and their creative work would focus on intimacy, interactivity, and relationships. Outside the March’s Ministry of Mundane Mysteries Playdate Edition, and Foolish Operations’ Moving, Resting, Nesting boldly use limitations placed on artists and audiences to create opportunities in which a child’s presence matters. While Outside the March is interested in forging relationships between people who cannot be together because of the pandemic, Foolish Operations was interested in “supporting the family unit as the site of the experience.” Through content and dramaturgy that centralize relationships, intimacy, and audience care, each project considers what young people and their caregivers might be craving from a performance experience right now.
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    Reenacting the past
    (2022) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather; Schweitzer, Marlis
    This chapter explores cultural practices of reenacting the past in the present. How have understandings of reenactment, embodiment, and lived experience shaped, constrained, and misdirected interpretations of people’s actions in the present that purposefully reference the past? What is the state of this scholarship? What are the principal critiques and new directions?
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    Time travelling girls: bravery, know-how and can-do in girl volunteers at Fort Edmonton Park
    (2022) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    Editor’s Note: Costumed interpretation is also the subject of Dr. Frey and Gigliotti, who work with Fort Edmonton Park in Canada. Utilizing observations and interviews with girls volunteering as interpreters, Frey and Gigliotti reflect on how flexible first and third-person interpretation provides an interpretive tool to understand both the historic and modern lives of girls. Notably, Fort Edmonton’s girl volunteers become activists in re-performing the past, countering traditional narratives of gender, age, and history at the Fort while also challenging visitor assumptions about the abilities of modern girls.
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    Acting charades in 1873: girls and the stakes of the game
    (2021) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    In February 1873, following the festive Christmas holiday season, Grace MacDonald, age nineteen, created a home newspaper—The Hastings Gazette—with her siblings and cousins. Included in the Gazette is Mac‑ Donald’s “[e]xperience at a tea party in a country town,” an entertaining report of a January country party she and her sister attended. Her essay candidly comments on the clothes, company, conversation, and activities of the country party, including their evening charades: “After tea, charades were proposed and those who were to act soon being chosen retired to the fire lit bedroom to consult and arrange.” MacDonald’s account of the charades offers a glimpse of her experience of this popular but ephemeral game, but it also reveals how Victorians played the game, what the conditions of playing could be like, and what the stakes were for participants and audiences, particularly girls.
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    Turning the light on: the Ontario Historical Society and museum governance
    (2022) Nelson, Robin
    Since 1953, the Ontario Historical Society (OHS) has played an important role in establishing the legislative and training framework within which museums in Ontario operate, providing the first recorded museum training workshops in Canada, establishing a newsletter to connect museums, and successfully advocating for provincial support to museums. This article considers the organization’s self-defined role in museum governance since the establishment of a provincial museum policy in 1981, asking: how has the OHS’s role evolved and why and how does their work contribute and relate to support for museums in Ontario more broadly? It examines the OHS’s role in publishing, training, and advocacy or capacity building in three periods. Most recently, the OHS’s focus has shifted to capacity building due to municipal amalgamation, governments’ divestment of heritage resources, and decreased government support for service organizations. Their role takes place within a broader network of relationships aiming to support museums based on the assumed value of heritage preservation and museum work rather than a call for excellence.
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    Performance for/by/with young people in Canada
    (2020) Chamberlain-Snider, Sandra; Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    This special issue examines the advocacy for and significance of discussing performance for/by/with young people in Canada. It asks how thinking about young people as audience members, creators, and co-creators can expose ideas about who they are, what they want, and what adults believe is good for them. The nineteen writers who contributed full-length articles and forum essays to this special issue demonstrate how attentive consideration to young people complicates creation ethics, aesthetic choices, affective impacts, content decisions, approaches to training, working conditions, and ideas about risk in connection to the performing arts. As the authors discuss how young people imagine, witness, train, and perform, they are simultaneously advocating for the young people they write about, for the specific issues that concern them, and for these perspectives to expand and invigorate broad conversations about Canadian performance for all ages.
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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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    Miss Toronto acts back: observing and thinking in montage
    (2016) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    Based on interviews with the DitchWitch Brigade, who created Miss Toronto Acts Back, this review discusses the group’s multimedia, semi-historical, stylistically diverse montage that playfully examined the story of the Miss Toronto Beauty Pageant, while questioning issues of beauty, gender performance, and spectator- performer relations.
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    Deking out reality: the challenges of staging hockey
    (2017) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    Through conversations with nine artists about seven performance projects from across Canada, this article discusses complex challenges of staging the speed and finesse of hockey. The artists engage with ideas of Canadian national identity, gender, embodiment, story, and the hockey knowledgeable body.
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    Flying hearts and sharing joy: Theatre for children with multiple exceptionalities and their adult companions
    (2016) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    Flying Hearts uses a community-oriented approach to creating work for a previously neglected audience: children with multiple exceptionalities and their companions. The most vital thing about this work is that it uses theatrical performance to engender a shared, joyful experience that expands ideas about what theatre performances and audiences can be.
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    Theatre in Algeria and children: a dialogue on history, culture, and ambiances
    (2016) Makhloufi, Lilia; Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    The dialogue that follows deals with theatre and children in Algeria, and emphasizes the particular context of its emergence and development. It arises from an academic research project concerning ambiances in Algeria, initiated and directed by Lilia Makhloufi. Because of their artistic, cultural and imaginary dimensions, and their effects on Algerian society and young people in particular, theatre spaces were a case study in this research.1 As readers of the dialogue will see, theatre in Algeria has evolved in response to different theories and practices, some related to political or spiritual ideologies, others based on cultural or artistic concerns. Some theatre processes focus on a story, some on an event, and others act as catalysts for social change. When the editors invited us to connect for this dialogue, we were enthusiastic. Heather knew nothing about performance practices or childhood in Algeria and was keen to have an opportunity to learn more. Meanwhile, Lilia was working in a non-dominant language, answering questions about Algerian context, and trying to satisfy Heather’s curiosity about culture, politics, aesthetics, and intentions in creating theatre for and with children. The process proved to be challenging because we carried out the conversation via email whilst in different time zones and countries. By the end, both of us found that the whole process opened our minds to other ways of thinking about the significance of theatre practices, and ways a culture of theatre for young people might develop and be fostered. We hope that the publication of this dialogue will have similar impact for the readership of RIDE.
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    Producing meanings about cultural differences and identities in Canadian TYA: Three case studies
    (2016) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    The article discusses issues related to performing cultural difference in Canadian theatre for young audiences (TYA). Topics covered include the importance of cultural diversity on stage, the challenge of representing cultural difference that is not exotic or overly simplistic, and Eva Colmers' theater play "Beneath the Ice." Also mentioned is the relationship between non-Native and First Nations people for a performance project.
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    'Never be dull': Girl Guides of Canada performing physical culture and gymnastics drills in 1910–21
    (2020) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    In their first decade of operation in Canada, Canadian Girl Guides presented numerous performances, primarily as fundraisers, to raise money for the Red Cross or to go to camp. Their performances included a great deal of variety, and often gymnastics drills. While critics suggest that these drills were joyless affairs, girls chose to do them, and many probably took pleasure and pride in developing the choreography and performing them well. Preliminary research with twenty-first-century girls shows that developing the drills can be a lot of fun, and that the movement vocabulary has considerable creative potential. Performing the drills in early twentieth-century communities could challenge expectations about differences between boys and girls while demonstrating girls’ strength, emphasize a hopeful future full of healthy (probably white) girls who would become healthy mothers, and encourage audiences to think about unity. In the early twentieth century, Guides would have been unlikely to have seen a professional physical culture drill. With no professional counterpart, girls could not really be amateurs, but it is important that girls probably had to imagine the best drill possible.
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    We are all treaty people, Indigenous-settler relations, story and young audiences
    (2020) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    We Are All Treaty People is a Canadian play for young audiences (ages eight to twelve) that addresses difficult knowledge, Elders’ story sharing, and contemporary and historical Indigenous–settler relations. This article discusses the contemporary and historical political context of the play and its production, the creation process and its narrative anchors. It argues that through a respectful, Indigenous-led creation process, and structural techniques, the play has the potential to offer hope and healing, and encourage relationships based on knowledge.
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    Singing and dancing 'their bit' for the nation: Canadian children's performances for charity circa WWI
    (2017) Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    During the First World War, Canadian children supported the war effort by raising money for organizations such as the Red Cross through singing, dancing, and dramatic performances. Charitable performances by three distinct groups--the professional Winnipeg Kiddies, the educational Miss Sternberg's School of Dance and Physical Culture, and the amateur service organization the Girl Guides of Canada--share striking commonalities that demonstrate how children and children's bodies were powerful indicators of contemporary Canadian hopes for the good life in Canada.
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    Children's literature and imaginative geography
    (2018) Hudson, Aïda; Fitzsimmons-Frey, Heather
    Where do children travel when they read a story? In this collection, scholars and authors explore the imaginative geography of a wide range of places, from those of Indigenous myth to the fantasy worlds of Middle-earth, Earthsea, or Pacificus, from the semi-fantastic Wild Wood to real-world places like Canada's North, Chicago's World Fair, or the modern urban garden. What happens to young protagonists who explore new worlds, whether fantastic or realistic? What happens when Old World and New World myths collide? How do Indigenous myth and sense of place figure in books for the young? How do environmental or post-colonial concerns, history, memory, or even the unconscious affect an author's creation of place? How are steampunk and science fiction mythically re-enchanting for children? Imaginative geography means imaged earth writing: it creates what readers see when they enter the world of fiction. Exploring diverse genres for children, including picture books, fantasy, steampunk, and realistic novels as well as plays from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland from the early nineteenth century to the present, Children's Literature and Imaginative Geography provides new geographical perspectives on children's literature. -- From publisher's website.