Unconscious Curriculum: Rape Culture on Campus


Event Web site


Unconscious Curriculum: Rape Culture on Campus
Written and devised by Theatre and Performance students
Directed by Andy Houston

March 16, 17 & 18 at 8 pm
March 19 at 2pm
March 23 at 7pm

How have we become complicit in the normalization of sexual violence? When post-secondary education addresses difficult, personal, and even traumatic subject matter, what kind of learning outcome should we expect? Unconscious Curriculum: Rape Culture on Campus is a performance project that tackles the complicated layers of rape culture in an educational context.

In a multimedia performance, student-performers dig deep to discover how rape culture is perpetuated in their classrooms and on their campus. Part of a yearlong project with the working title “Arresting Rape Culture”, the upcoming public performance is drawn from the research and creative work developed by students and faculty in three fall 2016 courses in performance, writing, and design. Unconscious Curriculum asks the audience to be witnesses, and even participants, in an exploration of mutual complicity in rape culture, including hidden factors and post-secondary educational practices, that normalize gender-based violence. Acting as characters not so far removed from their actual lives, the performers strive to articulate ways of experiencing and understanding themselves in relation to others, with the overarching goal to arrest – to recognize, to catch, and to stop – rape culture.

There will be audience talkback session, led by director Andy Houston, following each performance allowing audience members to engage in conversation about rape culture and our process of creation.


University of Waterloo,

200 University Avenue West, Waterloo

Theatre of the Arts,

Modern Languages Building



$17 General

$13 Students & Seniors

$5 eyeGO

Box Office: 519.888.4908

Groups of 10+ call: 519-888-4767

Unconscious Curriculum will be accompanied by three thought-provoking events that contextualize and deepen the performance experience:

Arresting Rape Culture Dramaturgy Hub


The objective of the hub is to provide students and faculty with pedagogical, curricular, and theatre and performance creation resources in order to facilitate a deeper contextual understanding about the complexities of rape culture. The site offers:

  • support networks
  • a range of media from the fifteenth-century to contemporary popular culture
  • critical resources and related reading
  • theatre, performance, and art project information
  • a dialogical space with students’ responses, classroom activities, and question centre
  • information about collaborative course-related projects, the panel discussion about gendered violence, and the multimedia performance of “Unconscious Curriculum: Rape Culture on Campus.”

Arresting Rape Culture Installation

Theatre of the Arts GalleryMarch 14 – 19 (1 hour prior to the performance)

Students of DRAMA/SPCOM 440 will provide creative reflections, through multi-disciplinary art works, on the prevalence of gender-based violence within contemporary North American society. These installations examine how the rhetoric of rape culture is supported and circulated throughout institutions, social interactions and popular channels of communication.

 Gendered Violence on Campus: Institutional Policy and Practice

Location TBA – Thursday, March 23, 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.

This panel addresses gendered violence, with specific attention to institutional challenges and UWaterloo’s response. Invited speakers include Constance Backhouse, Professor and University Research Chair on the Sexual Assault Legislation in Canada, University of Ottawa; Ian Orchard, Vice President Academic and Provost, UWaterloo; Chris Read, Associate Provost, Students, UWaterloo. Further panelists, including UWaterloo students, will be announced at a later date.

This panel is hosted by the Department of Drama and Speech Communication, the Equity Office and the Special Adviser to the President (Women’s and Gender Issues).

** Please note that the final performance of Unconscious Curriculum: Rape Culture on Campus will be at 7 p.m. following this panel
Follow us on:

Twitter = @UWTheatrePerf #UnconsciousCurriculum #ArrestRapeCulture

Instagram = @UWTheatrePerf



MUSH HOLE PROJECT – Sept. 16 to 18, 2016


Cultural Centre, Brantford, September 16, 17 and 18, 2016

Project Summary


The Mush Hole Project is an immersive, site-specific art and performance installation event taking place at the Woodland Cultural Centre (Brantford) September 16, 17 and 18, 2016. This collaborative project aims to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action and to preserve, query, and reveal the complex personal, political, and public narratives around Canada’s residential school system, in general, and the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School (at the Woodland Cultural Centre).


The objective of the Mush Hole Project is to engage with the site of Canada’s first residential school as a space in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and scholars can meet and 1) acknowledge the residential school legacy, 2) challenge the concepts of “truth” and “reconciliation,” and 3) practice interdisciplinary art and performantive methods of decolonization. Details of the three central objectives are as follows:

  1. Acknowledge Residential School Legacy Blanche Hill-Easton, a survivor from “The Mush Hole” explains “there’s pain in remembering, but there’s power, too” (Gramble 1). When individuals seek accountability and the perpetrator does not acknowledge the wrongdoing, there is an empty space, a gap, and a shadow that haunts us. Acknowledgement, on the other hand, and the integration of Indigenous epistemologies is the beginning step across the chasm (of unknowing to knowing) in order to cast new light on histories that continue to be ignored. The segregated spatial language and logic of “residential school,” in its naturalized homogeneity, separates out and eliminates individual identity, race, class, ethnicity, and gender; the language authorizes states of power (science, church, and nation) unlimited access to private minds and bodies and subsequently to their misrepresentation with no public accountability. The concealed structure of the “residential school” thereby becomes a metaphor for its own history. The site-specific work intends to critique and make visible not only institutionalized violence, but also will attempt to unshroud the negation of life and death by examining the complex separations that took place within and outside the walls of the Mohawk Institute in order to find paths toward decolonization. Healers will be on and off site to support participants and visitors throughout the programming.
  2. Reflect, Question & Challenge: “Truth and Reconciliation” Christine Welsh (1991) explains that differing perspectives between the colonizer and Aboriginal peoples require the “surrendering [of] our pre-conceived notions of the very nature of history – that is linear, progressive, date-and event-oriented– and adapting our thinking to fundamentally different aboriginal world-view which is cyclical and ultimately timeless”

Mush Hole Project Summary 1

(16). The challenge to decolonize perspectives thus raises a critical question that is central to the project’s objective: how can a creative intervention at a historical site generate new knowledges and methods of communication? How will the site activate the willingness to “surrender” pre-conceived notions of education, research, and practice. David Garneau (2016) challenges the normalized terminology of “reconciliation.” He explains that the colonizer’s discourse reinforces the fallacy of a pre-existing equal relationship between the Crown and Indigenous Nations. Garneau instead suggests the language of “conciliation” which establishes a present tense of an equitable relationship between Nations as one of negotiation, respect, and autonomy (4). In this sense, the site-specific project will makes space for expressions and articulations of agency, honouring, and sovereignty.

3. Research-Practice: Artistic and Performative Methods as Decolonization The Mush Hole Project intends to unfold as a “cultural lab where artists [and researchers] would struggle creatively with the contemporary world as well as with traditional forms” (Garneau 20). Reflecting on Alex Javier’s artwork, Garneau describes his experience as “the combination of visual art, embodied knowledge, and a gathering of engaged participants that made the experience significant, that made it exceed the colonial container” (17). The container, as Garneau concludes, is the systemic structure imposed by the dominant culture. When structures are identified there is potential for openings, shifts, or cracks through which transformation might begin to breathe. Concomitantly, Homi Bhabha (2015) asks the question: What is the opening through which interest operates? Bhabha identifies “the interests” as enmeshed in established systemic structures and while they produce openings for “hegemonic formations under the sway of the state; on the other hand, and at the same time, they create marginal and interstitial spaces that empower counter hegemonic radical movements” (6). When considering both the former and latter observations, still more questions surface: is “excess,” or the refusal to be contained, a radical movement? Is the subversion of the colonial container an act of decolonization? Does refusing the dominant culture’s ideological or material constraints equate to conciliation? Or is this something else? Does it need to be something else? What happens when “the container” is identified (located) not only externally but also in one’s self? These are among the questions the project aims to deliver.


The assumed benevolence of the national policies, which instituted residential schools in Canada, has been revealed, through the work of social activism, political actions, artists, and storytellers, to be anything but benign. Residential schools were government sponsored religious institutions established to assimilate Aboriginal children into Euro-Canadian culture. In 1828, the Mohawk Institute opened its doors. It was one of over a hundred facilities operational across Canada. The survivors and their children, however, continue to call the institute “The Mush Hole” because of the school’s poor food quality, which was part of the humiliation, abuse, malnutrition, torture, and medical experiments that were endured by over 150,000 Aboriginal children and youth across Canada. How does this language of malnutrition

Mush Hole Project Summary 2

become a communicative norm that remains unaccounted for? What does it mean to be starved by a sovereign force whose intent was to “kill the Indian in the child?” What does it mean to be starved not only physically, but of one’s history, culture, intellect, dignity, ritual, cosmology, emotion, body, land, community, kin, and identity? The consequences of these institutionalized horrors and their ubiquity across this nation are still very much present. In 1970, the Mohawk Institute was closed and in 1972 became the Woodland Cultural Centre. Over the years, the Centre has worked steadfastly to represent Aboriginal artists in its collections, exhibitions, and events. For this project, the site-specific performances will demand a great deal from the spectator. Spectators become witnesses to history in the sense that they are present, not merely as observers, but also as participants who play an active role in understanding the environment, jurisdictions, histories, and present day implications. Working in consultation and collaboration with the Woodland Cultural Centre, Six Nations of the Grand, intergenerational survivors, and the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre, among many other individual, institutional, and community partners, the project is process-centred and focused on developing and sustaining fluid practices of relationship building that hinges on critical self- evaluation, understanding of historical contexts, and developing collaborative methods to address contemporary societal issues.

Method and Approach

The Mush Hole Project seeks responses from artists that question the following: Apartheid, Assimilation, Decolonization, Education, Genocide, Intergenerational Trauma, Mohawk Institute, Nourishment, Reconciliation, and Truth. Artists may propose interior and/or exterior works or creative interventions and should identify a site on the grounds of the Woodland Cultural Centre for the installation or performance of their work (for example, the driveway, apple orchard, library, kitchen, etc). Artists are encouraged to consider the residential school system through the dichotomy of both historical and contemporary knowledges and creative practices. With this in mind, the site-specific and interactive process of the audience will be as the witness to piece together the found and the fabricated. As each person navigates a route through the site, the participant will embody different meanings of the event based upon how they have “read” the map. This reading is not only seen but felt, as the sensorium includes proxemic (spatial) dimensions, an audience’s physical proximity to the sweat, the dust and the stains of the performance’s elements; it includes a haptic (touch) experience in so far as witnesses are welcome to get a feel for where they are in the site through physical contact with the work’s elements; finally, it includes the kinesthetic (movement) dimension of walking/moving, the act of physically working out the most appropriate route through histories. In the way site-specific performance allows a felt knowledge of the past, it may be seen as a significant reconsideration of the idea of an archive, as well as the state of being and affect in the present. Rebecca Schneider reminds us that the Greek root of the word “archive” refers to the “house” of Archon; by extension, “the architecture of a social memory which demands visible or materially traceable remains is the architecture of a particular social power over memory” (102). She questions the role of performance in relation to the archive as a “site” of the past, and wonders if the logic of the archive demands that performance disappear in favour of discrete remains. Schneider proposes a performative relationship to the archival “house” and the objects found there in the same way that we are proposing a performative relationship to

Mush Hole Project Summary 3

the Mohawk Institute and what has been found here. Schneider emphasizes the value of re- enactment as a way of keeping memory alive and making sure that this embodied, performative sense of history does not disappear. The space is comprised of three components: the physical attributes of the environment, the activities that occur or occurred there, and the sense that the individual makes of these. Like story, “place” and “space” can be described as a way of understanding the world, containing loose remnants of affect, interpretation, and meaning. The crossroads of place and narrative, the space where stories occur, is powerful. The Mohawk Institute is one such intersection.

The Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School building at the Woodland Cultural Centre has been providing in-depth and historically significant insight into the Residential School System for the past 44 years. The Mohawk Institute is one of less than 10 residential schools still standing across Canada. With close to 10,000 visitors every year, tours and programs offer a distinctive look into First Nations and Canadian history. The Mush Hole Project aims to raise awareness and encourage support for the Save the Evidence campaign, to ensure that the physical evidence of this dark chapter in Canadian history is never forgotten.

Visit the project’s website.

Visit the Truth and Reconciliation Response Projects website.

SALON SERIES TALK #2 – MARCH 3 @ 5:30PM – CRItical MEdia LAB


Site-specific performance demands a lot of an audience, and in so doing it revitalizes theatre. Using examples of performances I have created with Knowhere Productions (www.knowhereproductions.ca) in Saskatchewan, this presentation will offer a perspective on how site-specific practices of animation and design challenge a spectator’s perception and understanding of a work, and in so doing ignite certain qualities of theatre as a communal, cultural practice that have long been dormant on the medium’s more conventional stages.

Click here for a blog written about this event by Darin White of MAKEBRIGHT.com.

CML Salon ad

The Mush Hole Project

The Mush Hole Project is a site-specific, multi-media performance that will happen in September 2016, at the former Mohawk Institute, now called the Woodland Cultural Centre, at 184 Mohawk St, Brantford, ON N3S 2X3.

Here is the first stage of conceptualizing the project:

Artistic Articulations of conciliation and reconciliation at Canada’s First Residential School

Project Proposal
July 12, 2015

Full Proposal

On June 2, 2015, the Honorable Justice Murray Sinclair released the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) with 94 recommendations for Canada’s federal government.1 In keeping with the TRC’s Calls to Action, as well as to foster collaborations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, and engage with the Woodland Cultural Centre’s campaign to Save the Evidence, this project’s objective is to produce an immersive, site-specific art and performance installation that responds to the former residential school, the Mohawk Institute. The Mush Hole Project: Artistic Articulations of conciliation and reconciliation at Canada’s First Residential School will produce a unique and robust gathering of artists, cultural institutions and practitioners, academics, and residential school representatives, among others to raise awareness concerning under-represented issues in scholarship, as well as in public and private sectors. The project’s aim is to gain understanding, share and acknowledge histories and contemporary issues, and activate the space for knowledges, stories, and voices to be heard, remembered, and transformed… [read more]

she haunts this place – Saturday June 21, 2014 @ 8pm, 10pm, Midnight – free admission

she haunts this place

June 2nd, Waterloo, ON

They walk these floors at night. Working in the afterlife. Like the buttons they crafted, we are fastened to our history.

Explore the Button Factory’s past and present in she haunts this place, an immersive performance piece featuring University of Waterloo drama students and members of the Baden Storytellers. 

Where: Button Factory Arts
25 Regina St South, Waterloo
Performances: Saturday, June 21st,   8pm, 10pm and midnight

Admission is free

This year, Button Factory Arts celebrates its 20th anniversary serving the community as an arts centre. But the building it inhabits served the community in a variety of industrial functions, primarily as Roschman’s Button Factory for which it was built in 1886.  While the uses are dramatically different, the building still stands as a place for group work and collaborative creation.

It has been rumoured that some of the spirits of past workers still haunt the Button Factory. Renters, staff and tenants in the building claim to have heard women’s footsteps. It is very reasonable to believe the spirits are those of women, as the Button Factory was one of the few places where young women could find employment. A photograph taken in 1890, found in Waterloo: An Illustrated History, affirms there were many female staff.  The photograph has been very inspirational in the creation process. Many of the staff members were quite young. The production imagines the reality of these girls and suggests that their spirits are still present in the building, and indeed the challenges they faced in the work place still haunt working women today.

The production weaves together a variety of different forms.  It is directed by Andy Houston and features stories told by Brenda Byers, Mary McCullum Baldasaro and Michele Braniff, all members of the Baden Storytellers; University of Waterloo drama students; film and projections by Samuel Houston; music by Meghan Bunce.

[S]he haunts this place, is part of a series of events called “Button-Up, Button-Down”, which reflect on the history of the Button Factory.  These events include an exterior installation and gallery exhibit from June 21st – July 25th.  All aspects of the project have been supported generously through the Ontario Arts Council, Multi and Integrated Arts grant.  These events are also a part of the Summer Lights Festival on June 21st in Uptown Waterloo and Downtown Kitchener.

For more information regarding the performance contact: Andy Houston, Director: houston@uwaterloo.ca

For more information regarding Button Factory Arts, the installation or gallery exhibit contact: Heather Franklin, Executive Director of Button Factory Arts: ed@buttonfactoryarts.ca

Solitary2Solidarity – March 19, 20 & 22 at 8 pm at uWaterloo


uWaterloo Drama presents From Solitary to Solidarity: Unravelling the Ligatures of Ashley Smith, a new project exploring issues of mental health in the context of the troubling story of Ashley Smith, a teenager who died at Grand Valley Institution for Women in 2007. The inquest on the circumstances surrounding her incarceration and eventual death recently declared her death a homicide. Ashley’s story has sparked a great deal of attention for its shocking exposure of Canada’s prison system and neglect of those suffering from mental illness.

This production is not a recreation and performance of the life of Ashley Smith. From Solitary to Solidarity: Unravelling the Ligatures of Ashley Smith uses a collaborative performance approach to try to understand the life and death of Ashley Smith. In the performance, students investigate the social and political consequences of broken correctional and mental health institutions, and address the evolving perceptions and assumed objectivity of the media.

The play is conceived and directed by Professor Andy Houston and written by uWaterloo alumna Melanie Bennett in collaboration with uWaterloo Drama students. The multi-year process creating From Solitary to Solidarity began with a Dramaturgy class assignment in 2011, and more recently was the main focus of a Devising Theatre course. Differing from docudrama, which creates the illusion of silent authorship and realism, From Solitary to Solidarity is auto-ethnographic, a form of research and writing that connects the personal to the cultural. Auto-ethnographic performance does not claim to  present ‘the facts’, but instead represents truth as always mediated, unstable, and entangled in politics and personal interests. It is a method of performance that allows the artists to approach the subject with unapologetic empathy and/or dissent – which in turn invites the audience to do the same. This auto-ethnographic performance incorporates the personal perspectives of the students who perform – students who are roughly the same age as Ashley when she died.