Teaching the building blocks of theatre, the contexts and the modes of creation


Grounded in my professional practice as an artist-researcher, my scholarly work is broad in scope and application, and yet it is unified by a common concern: the redefinition of theatre practice, scholarship and pedagogy to address contemporary challenges. My research is governed by a belief that knowledge can only ever be fully shared and meaningfully developed through practice, and that an integration of performance practice and academic discourse are essential to both a vital academy and art form.

I have contributed a unique vision and pedagogical approach to the theory and practice of theatre in the Department of Drama and Speech Communication at the University of Waterloo. Our status as a liberal arts program suggests to me that – distinct from conservatory training – we owe it to our students to inspire their re-invention of the discipline.

In my introductory courses, I want my students to understand the building blocks of theatre, the contexts and the modes of creation, so they may fashion responses to the circumstances in which they find themselves. I have re-created several courses in our department’s curriculum, from introductory courses in theatre and performance to devising, theory, dramaturgy, and literature courses in political and postmodern theatre.

In every course, I have cut back the lecture format and expanded the practical exploration of theory, research and pedagogical models and contexts from the past. I have transformed intermediate level acting courses from the rote learning of skills to the examination of the body in performance and the consideration of the ‘bodiescape’ as a resource for creation. I establish an artist-researcher approach to classes and productions alike, as I believe I must prepare my students to be keen and creative researchers.

I make a point of breaking down the arbitrary barrier that often exists between research and teaching, as well as between pedagogy and professional practice. My approach is Socratic in so far as I am approaching learning alongside my students, and we are sharing our insights on how best to proceed. It is easy for a teacher to become an opaque substitute for the learning experience, presenting him or herself as the substitute for the material and experience of learning. In my mind, the ultimate goal of teaching is to get out of the way of my students’ pursuit of knowledge, to allow the authority of the material and the learning process to emerge.