What are the interconnections between climate change, sea rituals and traditional ecological knowledge and practices, and how those be explored through applied theatre practices? That’s the focus of the research currently being conducted by Theatre PhD candidate and Vanier ScholarDennis Gupa.
Gupa is currently wrapping up a year of research on the ground—and on the seas—in his native Philippines, which is partially supported through a 2017 CAPI Student Research Fellowship.
Dennis Gupa in the Phillippines
“I have been here in the Philippines for my field work since September 2017. My site is located in Samar-Leyte Region and I am working with local elders in the island community of Guiuan, where the deadliest typhoon of 2013—Haiyan Typhoon—entered,” he writes.
“One of the most relevant activities I organized during this field research was the intentional congress festival, Paddling Visions [which saw] scholars and artists from the Philippines and Canada gather in a four-day congress festival of performances and academic dialogue and issues about climate change, human, ecological and gender violations, and indigenous knowledges.”
Held in May 2018, Gupa’s Paddling Visions sought to expand dialogue on climate justice in the Philippines. “This event is one of the activities that executes and explores my methodologies—participatory/community action research and applied theatre as research,” he writes.
Hear more about Gupa’s work in this short video:
“My heart overflows with gratitude for the participation extended by the communities in engaging them in grounding stories on the impact of climate change,” he says, noting the widespread participation in his research from all walks of life—including elders, women, children, fishermen, government officials, teachers, artists, scholars and others.
When Art History & Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler-Palmer received an email from the Bank of Canada back in 2017, she didn’t put much stock in it. “To be honest, I thought it was a scam email,” she laughs, “but in fact they wanted to speak to me as an art historian.”
“They knew I had an interest in women and issues of diversity,” she says. “And while they’d already determined Viola Desmond would be on the front side of the bill, they were trying to get different regional perspectives on options for the flip side—including what they ended up with, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.”
Carolyn Butler Palmer with one of Ellen Neel’s masks in the Legacy Gallery exhibit
Often described as Canada’s Rosa Parks, the 32-year-old Desmond refused to leave her seat in the “whites only” section at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, back in 1946. As a result, she was dragged out of the theatre by police and then jailed; it wasn’t until 1954 that segregation was legally ended in Nova Scotia, partly due to the publicity around Desmond’s case.
While over 450 iconic Canadian women met the initial qualifying criteria, that list was then narrowed down to a dozen candidates by an independent advisory council for possible inclusion on the $10 bill; Desmond was eventually selected by the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Bank of Canada from a shortlist of five (including poet E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake), engineer Elsie MacGill, athlete Bobbie Rosenfeld and suffragette Idola Saint-Jean) in December 2016. “It was long overdue for a banknote to feature an iconic Canadian woman,” said Stephen Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada, when the new bill was unveiled in March 2018. (Butler-Palmer says she “had, in fact, already voted for Viola.”)
And while we now know the new $10 bill features the exterior of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, as well as an excerpt from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and an eagle feather representing the continuing struggle for recognition of the rights of Canada’s Indigenous people, the question of what was going to appear on the reverse of the bill was still up in the air during Butler-Palmer’s consultation. But does she like the final design?
“To be honest, I’m not sure I would’ve gone with what they selected—without going into specifics, there were other objects I thought were more favourable,” she says with a chuckle. “But I understand why they went in that direction—it’s a new museum and suits the broader issue of human rights. And the vertical design does have more impact.”
All in all, it was a unique experience for Butler-Palmer, who also teaches an AHVS elective titled “Fakes, Forgeries and Fraud” (returning in January 2019), which deals specifically with art forgery and theft—both of which are popularly associated with money. “It certainly was interesting to be contacted by a federal agency and be asked your professional opinion,” she says.
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“The announcement didn’t necessarily surprise me because there is a feeling in the public consciousness that video games are addictive and that kids spend too much time on them,” Leach told the Vancouver Sun in this June 21 interview. “My problem is when you label it addiction it conjures up visions of heroin and your 12-year-old kid living on the street and not talking to you anymore. It’s like talking about being addicted to movies when what you’re really talking about is being addicted to pornography.”
A journalist who is also an expert in gaming culture, Leach had just returned from Toronto where he’d organized two symposia on the social power of video games the week before the WHO news broke. He recently launched UVic’s fledgling Digital Storytelling & Social Simulation Lab to further these interests, he has also done a double-blind study about the use of gamification for education when he was director of UVic’s Technology & Society program.
The WHO felt labeling “gaming disorder” as its own unique addiction would allow governments, health care workers and families to be more aware of the risks and better prepared to identify and deal with them. But even though they admitted gaming disorder is rare — estimating three percent of all gamers (at most) are affected — Leach challenges this idea.
“Three per cent is a wild exaggeration,” he told the Sun, noting all the people in the world — including grown men and women — and all the platforms on which they play games. “That would be millions of people. It speaks to the lack of understanding of how predominant interactive games and media is. If you think of how many people play video games, that number must be much lower, something like 0.001 percent.”
According to the WHO, gaming disorder shares many symptoms with substance and gambling problems — which, says Leach, “feeds into media and parental concerns that already exist . . . it shouldn’t be disparaged as a gateway drug to addiction.”
For someone who has built his career working behind the scenes, the spotlight is definitely on Theatre alumnus Nathan Medd (BFA, ’01). Having spent the past five years as the National Arts Centre’s Managing Director of English Theatre, Nathan was announced as the new Managing Director of Performing Arts for the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity, effective August 27, 2018.
Nathan Medd (photo: Andrew Alexander)
“Banff Centre is an exciting place to support the performing arts for the next phase of my career,” says Medd. “So many companies I have worked with over the years have created extraordinary works at Banff Centre that have toured Canada and the world. I’m very grateful for the chance to help the artistic faculty and visiting artists to do their very best work, and to help one of Canada’s most enduring arts organizations thrive.”
His new role will see Medd oversee all of Banff Centre’s performing arts educational programs and residencies, including theatre, dance, opera, classical music, jazz, and contemporary music.
“I am thrilled that Nathan will be joining our Banff Centre team,” says Howard Jang, Vice President of Arts and Leadership at Banff Centre. “Nathan is one of the country’s brightest stars in cultural management and his leadership in working with our Performing Arts directors and Arts programs will strengthen Banff Centre’s place as Canada’s leading resource for the advancement of arts and culture.”
An active volunteer, Medd serves on non-profit boards including plastic orchid factory, a contemporary dance company in Vancouver. He serves as chair of the large theatres caucus of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres. Medd will also soon complete a liberal arts graduate degree from Harvard University in Management, as well as a graduate certificate in Non-Profit Management.
“We are so pleased that Nathan is joining the Banff Centre team during this exciting time,” says Janice Price, President and CEO of Banff Centre. “Nathan has worked with some of the greatest artists and arts administrators in Canada, including Peter Herrndorf, former President and CEO of the NAC; he also served as producer to some of Canada’s most extraordinary theatre artists, including Jillian Keiley, the Artistic Director of the NAC’s English Theatre, and Kim Collier, the award winning director, creator, actor and co-founder of Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre.”