How do research funds support the expansion and diversification of the contemporary arts?

Kathryn Shaw, Artistic Director of Studio 58, has used research funding to expand the offerings of Langara College’s esteemed Theatre Arts at Studio 58 program by creating a new compendium of plays, scenes, and monologues.

By working with two researchers, Jane Heyman, former acting instructor and Associate Director for Theatre Arts, and Shanae Sodhi, a 2018 graduate of Studio 58, Kathryn and her team created an annotated database of over 644 plays. Within the scope of this project are 344 plays by Canadian authors, 195 plays by American authors, 28 by other playwrights writing in English, and 77 plays in translation. The compendium offers expanded diversity of authors, narrative subject matter, and acting roles for students. Many of these plays have been read and analyzed for suitability for use in scene study, monologue selection, and as potential plays for production by Studio 58.

While proud of their accomplishments, as Kathryn uncovers new plays with this project, she sees the need to further expand the database of materials.

“As I discover new plays, it feels like the research thus far is only the tip of the iceberg. The breadth and depth of this project is much greater than I anticipated,” said Kathryn.

“As a result of this research, I have included Anon(ymous) by Naomi Iizuku as part of the 2019/2020 Studio 58 season. This script by a diverse writer is a modern reworking of Homer’s “Odyssey” and features a wide range of characters which will serve our current student body well. We will also be using scenes in acting classes which I have found that better reflect the cultural mix of our students. Another bonus of this research was finding many new monologues and sight reading scenes to be used in our audition process when recruiting students.”

The new database is being prepared for release to other stakeholders. In the 2019 fall term it will be beta tested with our students, faculty, and staff to see if it can be easily navigated and understood. Following this, feedback will be sought from select members of the theatre community and the chairs of other theatre programs across Canada. With stakeholder feedback, the database will be further refined before it is made available as a publicly accessible tool.

This is the first theatrical database project in Canada of this size and scope, and Kathryn aims to share their research findings with a wide range of users in an effort to increase diversity within training institutions and the broader Canadian theatre community.

This project received funding from Langara’s Research and Scholarly Activity Fund. The RSAF awards up to $3,000 to encourage and support College employees who wish to pursue research and/or scholarly activities. With the initiatives outlined in the Langara College Academic Plan, activities may include, but are not limited to: building upon, or undertaking, projects of original research or scholarship involving community partners; initiating, maintaining, or updating an individual research portfolio; engaging Langara College students in research and scholarship; employing Langara College students as student aides; initiating collaborative research or scholarship with community partners; and building infrastructure pertaining to research and scholarship.