DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

DAREarts Expansion Program… To Vancouver!

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This week the DAREarts expansion program has flown from beautiful Nova Scotia to the other side of the country—we’re in Vancouver, B.C.! Thanks to OPUS Art Supplies and the Vancouver Playhouse, students from three elementary schools in Vancouver are working with DAREarts teacher-artists Geneviève Anthony and Linda Carson, coordinator Trisha De Luca, teaching assistant Leslie Hannigan, volunteer photographer Kjersten Saude, volunteers Robyn Fitzpatrick and Jasmine Rezaee, and DAREarts grad Crisy Buck. The theme of this week’s program is Masks, specifically the social role of masks in public, including social media, and in private. At the conclusion of the week is the Vancouver Playhouse’s performance of La Cage aux Folles, where both literal and metaphorical masks are critical to the plot.

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Photo courtesy Kjersten Saude

On Monday, students learned about the role of masks in performance through Commedia dell’Arte. In this exercise, the children excitedly put on masks and became free to express themselves in an entirely new way. With the encouragement to focus on volume, clarity, body language, and emotion, the children effectively portrayed various versions of themselves and began to understand how their own identities are constructed by performance. It took a lot of coaxing to bring the children together, but by the end of the day they were no longer strangers to one another and were much more confident working as a team.

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Photo courtesy Kjersten Saude

In their second day, students used mirrors to observe their own behaviour, realizing that they can control their movements and body language with discipline. Through their own condensed script, Geneviève and Linda put on a two-woman show of La Cage aux Folles to demonstrate how important body language is in portraying multiple identities. When it comes to performing in front of others, Linda notes that “the students realized that even adults have the same nervous giggly emotions,” and that everyone shares the need to overcome nervousness in front of a crowd, both those who are outgoing and those who are painfully shy. The questions of identity, “Who am I?”, “Who are you?”, “Who are We and how are We DAREarts?” prompted an in-depth discussion of bullying and other issues that the students have been facing, leading them to a deeper understanding of each other and the social world around them.

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Photo courtesy Kjersten Saude

Moving forward with enthusiasm, the students began painting in groups. After completing their paintings and reflecting on them, Geneviève explains that “the children realized through the visual art painting that listening happens with one’s ears, eyes and body”. Through this exercise, the students learned how important listening and communication is when working together as a team. When Geneviève and videographer Roy Mulder later interviewed the students about what they had learned during their first days with DAREarts, one student admitted that the exercises “made me realize how I had been disrespecting people,” and another said that it “made me a better person.”

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Photo courtesy Kjersten Saude

In their final exercise, the students will create and perform a brief performance that will use their new knowledge of identity, character, and masks to showcase the importance of being respectful to others while being true to yourself. In preparation, the students have travelled by Skytrain to the Vancouver Playhouse where they met with Head Scenic Artist Justus Hayes. Justus walked the students through not only the set design and a massive collection of past props, but also through the themes of the play and its connection to identity, artistic expression, and self-expression.

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Photo courtesy Kjersten Saude

Tomorrow, the students will watch and analyze La Cage aux Folles at the Vancouver Playhouse. In the theatre lobby before the show, the students will present their own short play that emphasizes the role that masks play in identity. Feel free to join us at 1:30pm in the Playhouse lobby to see the students’ performance!

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