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Although Amanda Sum studied dance, music, and theatre from a young age, she hasn’t always planned on a career in the performing arts. It was in her final year of high school in Vancouver when she considered her options that she decided to study at the School for the Contemporary Arts at SFU where she could concentrate on theatre right away. She has really enjoyed the flexibility of her degree and the chance to focus not only on acting, but also on creation.
In the spring 2019 term, Sum enrolled in the first offering of CA 359, “The Theory and Practice of Festival Performance: PuSh 2019,” a special topics course taught by faculty members Peter Dickinson and Cole Lewis that gives students a unique window onto the inner workings of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.
In this new course, students attended ten PuSh Festival performances along with industry talks, pitch sessions and master classes.
“I’m grateful to Peter and Cole for curating the shows our class saw at the PuSh Festival,” says Sum. “Some of them I would have picked out on my own, but some I would have completely missed out on. Even if it is a form I’m not particularly interested in exploring in my own practice, I think it’s necessary to show up. It can feed you and inform your work in unexpected ways.”
After the festival ended, students were tasked with devising their own creative project and pitching it.
“I found it valuable to be given the freedom to come up with a project and pitch it,” says Sum. “You learn a lot about yourself and the work that you want to create by attending live performances.”
She also enjoyed seeing what her classmates came up with for their pitches and hopes there will be more opportunities to champion each other and work together progress beyond the class.
Sum has already appeared with local theatre companies including Alley Theatre, Phantom Moon Collective, and Semper Fi Collective. Up next, she will be working with SCA alumni Pedro Chamale and Derek Chan of Rice & Beans Theatre on their new project, Chicken Girl.
As Sum nears the end of her undergraduate degree, she appreciates that she has been able to forge her own path and focus on her own interests.
“I don’t think anyone who has gone through the SFU theatre program has done the exact same courses, shows, and projects. While it sometimes feels very independent and scary, SFU gives space for students to think for themselves what they want to get out of the program,” explains Sum. “There’s no cookie cutter, and that’s clear looking at the work and individuals who have come out of the program. There are so many different shapes and textures of cookie! Some sweet, some a little burned, yet still delicious in a weird and wacky way.”