- Summer 2021
- Spring 2021
- Fall 2020
- Summer 2020
- Spring 2020
- Fall 2019
- Summer 2019
- Lighthouse Labs Prize propels Master of Digital Media grad’s career
- Professor Robert Hackett receives Warren Gill Award for Community Impact
- FCAT welcomes Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media Wendy Chun
- Semester in Alternate Realities students teach people to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes
- CBC's Connie Walker discusses reporting Indigenous stories at SFU's Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit [Video]
- First annual Demo Day at the Centre for Digital Media saw grad students mingle with alumni startups
- SIAT professors adjust teaching style for SFU’s ground-breaking Semester in Alternate Realities
- SFU students use virtual reality to address real-world problems
- New contemporary arts course offers behind-the-scenes experience of PuSh Festival
- Fall 2018
- Summer 2018
- Spring 2018
- Fall 2017
- Spring 2017
- Fall 2016
- Summer 2016
- Spring 2016
- Fall 2015
- Summer 2015
- Spring 2015
- Fall 2014
- Summer 2014
- Spring 2014
- Fall 2013
- News archive
- Future students
- Current students
- Get involved
- Return to campus
School for the Contemporary Arts, Performance & Culture
New contemporary arts course offers behind-the-scenes experience of PuSh Festival
By Tessa Perkins Deneault
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to put on an international performing arts festival? FCAT has a class for that.
The first offering of CA 359, led by Peter Dickinson and Cole Lewis, took students behind the scenes of the 2019 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival to attend and analyze a range of performances, sit in on industry talks and pitch sessions, participate in panel discussions and meet with members of the PuSh staff. Visiting artists also shared their expertise with students through master classes.
Our School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA) and the PuSh Festival have a long history of connections and collaboration. Festival founders Norman Armour and Katrina Dunn are alumni of the theatre program, Dickinson sat on the PuSh board for six years, many PuSh events are hosted at the SCA, and FCAT has been a sponsor for many years. The idea for the course came up when Dickinson and Lewis were talking to Joyce Rosario, then PuSh artistic director, about ways to deepen the festival’s relationship with the SCA.
“The course materials stemmed from the festival programming,” says Dickinson. Once the festival program was finalized, Dickinson and Lewis worked to develop a course that involved plenty of theatre-going, critical analysis, and studying the history of festival performance while placing the PuSh Festival in the context of a larger global network.
“Festival performance is different than a subscription series or a single show,” explains Dickinson. “It frames the work in a certain way and puts it in context with the other works.” Unexpected themes can emerge across vastly different performances that are placed side by side in a festival context.
As an interdisciplinary arts festival, PuSh is a perfect match for the SCA where students have many opportunities to collaborate across artistic disciplines. Students in the course came from all areas of the SCA and were able to develop a critical discourse of their festival experience together — they were exposed to a wide variety of work that will inform their own artistic practice.
Lewis, who moved to Vancouver from small-town Ontario in 2015, didn’t always have access to the international performing arts we see in Vancouver. This course exposes students to the broad range of artistic work coming to the city and encourages them and to attend other performances beyond the festival.
“It’s the kind of course I would have loved to have,” says Lewis. “I would read about the festival and wish I could attend.”
Lewis and Dickinson say the barriers students face in attending more live performing arts include high ticket prices, lack of time, and sometimes an apprehension to attend shows or talks on their own. “They’re hungry for them, but rarely attend voluntarily. This course gives them a community of peers to share the experience with,” says Lewis.
The course involved a heavy time commitment during the festival (January 17 – February 3) including attending ten shows, industry events, Critical Ideas panels, and their regular course lectures.
After the festival, students were tasked with devising their own shows and creating a pitch for them. This helps train them in the practical aspects of their work and encourages them to reflect on how they are presenting themselves as artists, explains Lewis.
For their final assignment, they are documenting some of the festival’s history through archival projects including an interactive map showing where artists have come from over the years.
The SCA and PuSh are eager to see this course continue as an annual offering so that more students have the opportunity to be immersed in the festival, interact with international artists, and develop their own artistic practice.