The University of R is stepping out of the script with a new theater program

The U of R is launching a new Bachelor of Fine Arts program this fall unlike any other theater program in Western Canada.

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The Faculty of Media, Arts and Performance at the University of Regina is distinguished by its diversity.

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The U of R recently announced plans to introduce a unique Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Designed Performance and Theatrical Creation. Applications are now being accepted for the new four-year program, which is to be officially unveiled in the fall semester.

The original plan was to launch in 2021, only to be delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Kathryn Bracht thinks it will be worth the wait.

Kathryn Bracht, head of the theater department at U of R. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Chief’s Post

“It’s a very different program than what most traditional theater programs offer,” said Bracht, associate professor and director of the U of R’s theater department.

“(Other programs) would have a lot of study in the classical canon. You would study Shakespeare, Chekhov and Brecht. Our students will continue to do so, it’s just that the program will focus more on students creating work rather than them interpreting the work of others.

This is where the diversity aspect comes in.

Rather than limiting students to typical – and stereotypical – roles that could perpetuate prejudice, they have the opportunity to create roles for themselves and embark on an original project from start to finish.

The program offers a broad training base that includes elements such as design, performance, writing, and stage management. It was created after a series of pre-pandemic external consultations which identified the need for a “more modern and inclusive style of teaching”.

“(The timing) is really fortuitous in a way,” Bracht noted. “Movie theaters across the country have been closed for about the past year and a half. In this stop, we’ve had a lot of time to really reflect and reflect on who’s performing on stage and really trying to diversify and find pluralism in who’s portrayed.

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“(The new BFA) really empowers the student and gives everyone equal voice and diversity.”

Due to the range of teaching, students can experience a bit of everything and hopefully identify an area of ​​study that suits them best. Someone might enter the program looking to become a performer, but end up finding a niche in something completely different, like lighting or costume design.

“The idea is that they start to determine their own interests as they progress through the program,” Bracht said. “Or you could have all the actors who just want to perform. It’s good too.

U of R students Avery Hunt (left) and Jiness Hellend in a 2019 production of Secrets from the Borne Settee.
U of R students Avery Hunt (left) and Jiness Hellend in a 2019 production of Secrets from the Borne Settee. U of R Theater Department Photo

The U of R dropped its previous BFA 10 years ago in favor of a more generalized Bachelor of Arts.

The new BFA is a direct entry program in which students can enroll without a traditional audition. The first year includes a series of courses that conclude with the presentation of a showcase project, after which students meet with faculty members to discuss their future in the program.

“We really try to give students a chance to test the program a bit before making a decision,” Bracht said. “There’s hopefully this opening of doors that they can go through whereas in a traditional theater program you would go into the theater program and you wouldn’t really expand into other areas. You could touch briefly, but you wouldn’t spend a lot of time there.

The BFA is generating renewed excitement as students grapple with the limitations of online courses amid the pandemic. Bracht said no other institution in Western Canada offers this type of program, adding that “now is the right time for a change.”

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“It feels like an artistic and creative revival in this very difficult time; there will be something really exciting at the end of this COVID tunnel to look forward to,” she added. “We really hope this program will be exciting and invigorating for the city as well. We want to create young actors and theater artists who want to stay here. We really need it in this province. Too often we lose them to other places. It would be great to inspire people to (do something like) start a theater company. I hope they have the skills to do it when they leave.

Kathryn Bracht, head of the theater department at U of R.
Kathryn Bracht, head of the theater department at U of R. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Chief’s Post

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