A photograph of the opening of a rocky cave. The camera points outwards from within the cave, depicting a shimmering blue lake, grey clouds, and mountains in the distance.

Classrooms and Curricula: Socially Responsible and Just Teaching Strategies

Friday, June 11, 2021 | 9:30 - 11:00

Live panel on Zoom; spoken in English. No ASL interpretation or translation will be offered for this event.


Sponsored by Theatre and Performance at the University of Toronto Scarborough

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Unstoppable Performance: Teaching Acting in Lockdown and Beyond


Download access paper

This synchronously presented paper will focus on my current practices lecturing degree level students in Acting. During the first UK Lockdown, the team continued to teach online. This included taught practical skills, seminars, and online performances of both self-penned pieces and classical work as part of World Shakespeare Day.

Since returning to face-to-face teaching, we have employed a number of practices to both keep the learners safe and engaged. We have focused on a form of socially distanced rehearsal and performance that has involved safe spaces for the actors to create work whilst still considering ensemble work. We also live stream sessions to other ‘safe’ spaces so larger groups can be included.

The culmination of this period of work will be an online theatre festival, Interact. There will be showings of mockumentaries and solo shows, created as part of the course, a comedy night and a new translation/adaptation of Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck. This performance will be live streamed and will incorporate scenes played out on the eponymous character’s computer screen, pre-recorded elements and projection mapping. The audience can also follow emails and social media posts by various characters during the running time.

We obviously look forward to the return of the live audience but, as practitioners, we must utilise technology to continue creating. Young actors are the future of the industry and if we can show them that art and performance is unstoppable, then we can engage the past, present, and future in a new, blended, performance world.


After reading English at King’s College London, David trained as an actor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama before working professionally as an actor. In 2006 he established Vivid Theatre Company which has since gone on to produce over 25 plays including classical drama, contemporary works and new writing. Most of these were fully funded and several received support from Arts Council England.

In addition to this work, he is also Lecturer in Acting at The Northern School of Art and teaches on both the Acting for Stage and Screen and Film, TV & Theatre Production degree programmes. He is nearing completion of his PhD and his work focuses on arts and mental health, psychophysical performance techniques, and ensemble performance methodologies.

Our Responsibilities as Educators: Reforming Canadian Theatre Program Curriculum in Response to Students’ Experiences


As Thomas King once said, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are” (King 2). In July 2020, one hundred theatre students and alumni from the University of Victoria wrote a call to action to address curriculum changes in the Theatre Department with the intent of addressing systemic oppression and racism (Day et al.). A question for educators at the University of Victoria is: what is a framework that can support the demands listed in the call to action? Lived experiences of theatre students are providing a platform for anti-racist movements to reform theatre curriculum in schools with social reform leading educational reform. This begets several questions. What are our responsibilities as seasoned educators to respond to and take action to reform curriculum?  What insights can students’ experiences bring to curriculum reform in Canadian theatre programs? Even though curriculum scholars have worked to bring awareness to systemic issues of racism in the Canadian curriculum (Cynthia Chambers, Nicholas Ng-A-Fook, as well as Peter Cole & Pat O’Riley), curriculum reform’s intersection with a strong cultural movement provides a new opportunity for the curriculum to be re-examined in this context. This paper argues that some of the demands in the letter by Day et al. require significant changes within the curriculum and hiring practices to address issues of systematic racism, oppression and the colonialism of the institution in order to create a more inclusive environment within the Theatre Department at the University of Victoria; however, these demands fail to address issues of systemic racism, systemic oppression, and colonialism of the institution.


Kara Flanagan is a first year Ph.D. student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria. Flanagan’s research focus is on drama education. Flanagan is the co-founder of an acting school, the Victoria Academy of Dramatic Arts (www.vadarts.com), and a theatre company, Theatre Carpe Diem.

Engaging Bodies in Absent Spaces: Antiracist Teaching in Digital Spaces


This presentation is based on insights on embodiment and performativity gained from developing and teaching a course about racism in the Fall of 2020 called Race, Place, and Space: Tools for Navigating Turbulent Times.  Our class highlighted the power of bringing together theory with the voices and bodies of artists and activists whose work challenges dominant narratives through performance. We embraced a pedagogy of discomfort with our students while simultaneously emphasizing embodied responses to the material as a source of knowledge.  We drew from critical race theories, the art of social justice, and Indigenous ways of knowing in order to construct affective engagement with the students. 

Our presentation proposes that engaging bodies within online spaces is critical to antiracist work and Indigenizing digital spaces.  In this presentation we will offer strategies for bringing the body into focus and we will engage in an experiential form of delivery for this presentation to counter the dis-embodied impacts of the digital realm and to draw attention to the embodied aspects of racialization.  We will present sample assignments and exercises from the course and our own storied bodies as educators, performers and social-justice advocates.  The presentation will combine theory, reflective enquiry and an experiential learning component as we invite participants to reflect on social inequity and systemic racism and the stories we carry due to our unique positionality and embodiment. 

Our playful, performative engagement with these ideas is a reflection on our process of anti-racist teaching and the result of a conscious intervention in the disembodiment of the digital realm. This presentation will involve active audience participation!


Michelle LaFlamme completed her doctoral degree at UBC and is currently an Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of the Fraser Valley. Her research areas are Canadian literature and drama with a special focus on Indigenous literature and performance. She is versed in post-colonial theories, hybridity theories, and Indigenous methodologies.

Anna Griffith holds a Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies from York University. Her doctoral work focused on processes of racialization, postcolonial performance, and cosmopolitan culture. She is an Assistant Professor in the School of Creative Arts at the University of the Fraser Valley. Her work focuses on decolonial pedagogy, and embodied creativity.