Finding a Home in Molson

Theatre______Business: Fill Us In Looks at Where Theatre Belongs

When the theatre department’s TJ Building on the Loyola Campus closed almost three years ago, hundreds of alumni came from all over North America to say goodbye.

Concordia was quick to announce that the evicted departments would find new homes in the Grey Nuns building near SGW – but that move is still tentatively scheduled for sometime in the next decade or two. This puts the evicted departments in a foster home: the John Molson School of Business.

“It’s a little strange having to go incognito to school,” said Manon Manavit, Assistant Director of Theatre_____ Business: Fill Us In which is being performed at the D.B Clarke Theatre this week. “I’m in a business school but I’m not a business student. We’re there but we’re not acknowledged. There’s no signage that indicated there are fine arts students.”

The theatre department has found a home on the 7th floor of the JMSB during its limbo. But since they exist there only by the grace of the Molson family and the JMSB, they aren’t in a position to make demands that the building be more welcoming – or even acknowledge their presence.

“We have one floor and there are business students that come to the floor and use it, and there have been conflicts over space. We talk about that in the play–about this feeling of hostility, or an unwelcoming environment,” said Manavit.

The play has been developed through a series of interviews conducted by third and fourth year theatre students with administrators, business students, faculty members and even government officials.

“[The interviews were] to find out how the arts are viewed in society by the people who make those decisions about how to support it,” Manavit said. “Is there truth to this perception that art is not valued in society as much as artists would like? And if so, can we challenge that?”

The play that emerged from these interviews is a piece of verbatim theatre – a style that uses the precise words of interviewees to construct a script. Typically what emerges is a play that unfolds almost like a well-crafted documentary.

The students had Annabel Soutar, artistic director of Porte Parole and one of Canada’s top creators of verbatim theatre, guiding them through turning these disconnected interviews into a coherent narrative.

“[Soutar] led us in the research aspect of the class.” Manavit said. “It was the best class I’ve ever had at Concordia. […] She also helped us edit the interviews, she gave suggestions, she pushed and prodded us in the right directions.”

Since the next few generations of Concordia theatre students will only know their home to be the JMSB, will the university do anything to acknowledge them and promote a better atmosphere?

Manavit said that the play isn’t about that, but added, “Hopefully this play will make an impact in that direction.”

Theatre_____ Business: Fill Us In / Feb. 28 – 29 / D.B. Clarke Theatre (SGW Campus) / 8:00 p.m. / $5 students / $10 general

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