Bauer Theatre dances and laughs

 
 

An update on that play that was like, acted out or something.

Cerulean Blue is a musical comedy by Drew Hayden Taylor, emphasis on the comedy. Filled with rich dialogue humor, the fast-pace repartee between characters is an outstanding feature of the play. A packed audience left Bauer Theatre with sore cheeks from laughing all evening on November 10.

Cerulean Blue is the name of a struggling blues band. Russel defines his vision of the band’s music as “avant-garde”. When new member Billy joins the band, Russel must compromise his one-way vision. Cerulean Blue characters have strong values and beliefs and their conversations with one another are especially interesting when personalities collide.

The author, humorist and playwright from Curve Lake First Nations has published non-fiction, fiction and edited collections. As well, his work appears in the revered Canadian literary magazine, Rampike (1979-2015). Taylor’s work is published in currently-running magazines Paragraph, Prairie Fire and Maclean’s. As well, Taylor is the author of 30 books.

The playwright’s 2014 commission by Ryerson Theatre School is a culturally relevant revival during this 150-years since confederation in Canada. This most recent series of performances from November 8-11 & 18-19 were commissioned by Theatre Antigonish, with support from the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture & Heritage.

Through humour, the play informs the audience of aboriginal traditions such as a language-fast; speaking only one’s native language for a predetermined amount of time. Also, there is a proposed smudging; a purification by burning medicinal and sacred herbs such as, sage, sweet grass and/or tobacco.

Featuring StFX students, members of the Antigonish and neighbouring aboriginal communities, the play was a local success. Chief Paul J. Prosper of the Paqtnkek First Nations community endorsed the production of the play in the program with these words of encouragement, “Cultural expression is a vital component in growing, healthy communities. We look forward to taking part in future initiatives with Theatre Antigonish to explore stories that resonate among our friends and neighbours. To our guests at today’s performance of Cerulean Blue, which includes Paqtnkek’s Virginia Silliboy and her daughter Nyesha – Enjoy the show! Wela’lin/Thank you.”

Next production hosted by Theatre Antigonish is Miracle on 34th Street; a holiday classic, retold as a 1940s radio show, with live choral music. The one-night production on December 10 is presented in partnership with The Antigonish Choral Ensemble and St. James Handbell Quartet.

Looking ahead to next semester, I am going to see Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman at least once between March 6 and 10, 2018. The Tony Award winning play is a spellbinding adaptation of Ovid’s myths told through stories in and around a large onstage pool. Although I have yet to read the play, I am familiar with Metamorphoses. The pool is predictably for the myths of Narcissus and Echo (Book III), and Midas (Book XI); among other myths which include water-nymphs, river-gods and perhaps even a voyage down the river Styx to an underworld pool.

Theatre Antigonish hosts a variety of plays based on ancient, classic and modern times. Tickets are $15 regular, $12 senior and $10 student.

 

Interdisciplinarity at X: Is the University committed or not?

 
 

 

Interdisciplinary programs give students the opportunity to receive a more holistic and multifaceted education that can be shaped and focused depending on their particular interests. Interdisciplinary programs work to teach core understandings of their specific programming while working alongside other departments to give students a wider understanding of the ways different disciplines interact, respond and build upon one another. In the last year, StFX has clearly shown it understands and appreciates what interdisciplinarity can bring to our education through the addition of the programs: Policy and Governance, Climate Change and the Environment and Bachelor of Arts and Science in Health, which are designed to enhance educational opportunities and bridge current gaps between sciences and arts to help these educational areas flourish. This is great news, but I do worry whether these new programs mean that resources that could have supported already existing interdisciplinary programs such as Aquatic Resources, Development Studies and Women and Gender Studies is instead, helping get the new programs get off the ground.

            I know the benefits of interdisciplinarity at X. As a student of two interdisciplinary programs: Women and Gender Studies and Development Studies, I have reaped the benefits of having an education that has both expanded my understanding of social sciences and the humanities in general and has enhanced my very specific interests and areas of research. On the flip side, I have also had the frustrating and tiresome experience of struggling to find enough courses that meet the needs of my degree year in and year out. These often small, but might programs, tend to only have very few tenured and contract professors and struggle to offer courses because of a lack of resources. And while some core courses in these programs are covered by staff from other departments, these bridges are far from stable as contributing departments also struggle to meet the needs of their programs in an environment of dwindling stable academic investment. When tenured professors are hired-on in interdisciplinary programs, it is clear that the numbers of students interested will go up. If resources are dwindling and classes cannot be offered, however, the student body will gravitate elsewhere. Unstable support for small programs is especially disruptive, as talented educators may join the program for a year or two, but then leave just as students have been able to connect with them. These realities are true of the already existing interdisciplinary programs at StFX. Adding new programs is only going to increase this unstable trend, unless the university makes it clear they are committed to stabilizing these programs across the board.

To put it frankly, because interdisciplinary programs are awesome, they attract students who want to do more than focus on just one discipline or want to have a more holistic understanding of the area they may end up working in one day. That being said, how do we know these new programs will be given the resources to flourish as years pass? By looking at the state of our current interdisciplinary programming is it not fair to assume that these new programs will face these same challenges in the future without a clear commitment to those programs already present? As each specific department and program continues to fight to meet the needs of its students with dwindling resources, the bridges between disciplines and interdisciplinary programs continue to unravel, undermining the whole system once built to promote interconnections across the campus. There are many wonderful professors who are dedicated to making interdisciplinary programs as fruitful and engaging as possible, but this an extremely difficult feat without more support and focus from the university.

However, I do not believe all is lost here, there are innovative ways to support bridge-building on campus, using our limited resources to foster connections, rather than protecting individual departments and programs. This is the beauty of interdisciplinary programs, they allow for the sharing of knowledge and joint learning of students from different areas. For example, instead of having to hire multiple professors for each department, educators could be hired and given the opportunities to teach in a department as well as an interdisciplinary program; thus, enhancing the departments and programs individually and together. This type of collaboration would bring to life the link between different parts of the university.

 As students, we feel the effects of these issues and begin to become frustrated with our own departments and programs, and the lack of opportunities to cross-disciplines and learn from different perspectives. Our frustration often happens without understanding the bigger picture. For instance, I am confused by the mixed signals the university is currently sending us students “interdisciplinarity is great, try it! But don’t get too committed to it, as the program you join today might not be supported tomorrow.” Maybe instead of this mixed signal, money should be allocated to supporting and enhancing the programs that already exist and strengthening the connections between programs and departments? Maybe we should look at the wonderful resources we already have and build from there instead of trying to incorporate brand new ways to attract students? Just a thought.

 

Gender Identity: Not a Debate

 
 

Immediately, I will start by saying that I am a cisgender female and therefore cannot speak about counter-dominant gender identities in terms of personal experience but only as to what I have learned through my education and from observing the world around me.

In more modern times, Western and liberal societies are trying to be more accommodating to all of their citizens. For these reasons, we are starting to see more concrete distinctions between definitions of gender and definitions of sex. Sex is your anatomy; what parts do you have? On the other hand, gender is how you identify on the scale of masculinity and femininity. Gender identity has nothing to do with your anatomy but rather with where on this scale – or at all on this scale – you feel your gender identity falls.

This is not something for an outsider to determine. The way you feel in your body is very much subjective and your own experience. For instance, I was a mega tom boy growing up. I spent most of my time playing with boys in my neighbourhood over girls, and would rather play cops and robbers three times over than ever play kitchen or dolls. By that logic, it would be easy to assume that I might later identify more with males than with females. Is that true? No, not at all. I am very much a woman and love being a woman. Gender isn’t so much about whether you strictly adhere to specific gender roles, but more about whether or not you feel right in your “assigned skin.” Though it is true that a biology professor and a sociology professor would have very different takes on the topic, it is not really a debate in my opinion.

Some people like to make the argument that it is a matter of biology – all other animals are male or female and just work with what they were born with. Ha, well let me drop some facts for you. In swims the anemonefish. All clown anemonefish actually are born with the predisposition of being male. However, when the female of the group dies, the dominant male will actually physically change sexes and become female, and another male will step up as the dominant male.  Not so black and white now, is it? In fact, in nature, gender works in many different ways than it does in human’s dominant Western narratives. For example, some species actually take on the physical appearance of their opposite gender when trying to mate in order to throw off potential rivals. Another oddity, male seahorses are actually the ones that give birth to little baby seahorses.

Now that we’ve cut through that particular level of bullshit, some people also make the argument that if we accommodate everyone, there will be an infinite amount of genders. “Why should we have seventy different types of gender when there are two sexes?” My question is, what is it to you? I have never understood why a cis-gendered person, whose life is much easier for that exact reason, could be so damn concerned with what other people do to be happy. Close-minded cis-people like to act as though saying “they” as opposed to “he or she” is more of a chore than it would be for others to conform to a gender that they do not identify with. Put frankly, grow up.

The longer the list of gender identities, the more possible that a young teenager that does not feel like themselves, feeling confused and utterly alone, can then go online, find a community of people that feel just like themselves and finally say “eureka! I know who I am now!”

The human brain is structured in a way that we like to categorize and label things to make it easier to organize and understand the world around us. We see a Robin and categorize it as a bird, which is also an animal, which is also a living organism. Labels and categories can be extremely beneficial to people that feel marginalized and as though they do not belong within dominant narratives. For them, finding a subcommunity of people just like themselves – be it transgender, non-binary, gender fluid, or any other – may give them validation, proof that they do hold a place and that they are valued members of society as opposed to an outsider.

People like to make jokes, such as “oh okay well I identify as a toaster.” These fears and objections are just not really realistic. Gender identity, as mentioned previously, is in regard to how you feel you fit on the scale of masculinity and femininity. A toaster has nothing to do with gender whatsoever and will therefore never be considered a gender identity.

Finally, as far as safety is concerned, the people most at risk when a transgendered person is in a public bathroom is that transgendered person. Most instances of attacks involving transgendered people in a public bathroom feature the cisgendered person as the transgressor, not as the victim. “What if men just start dressing as women to sneak into the women’s washroom?” News flash: they could do that regardless of legislation. The same people that argue that guns don’t stop crime and that women are “asking for” rape are also trying to tell us that someone is a danger to women everywhere just because they have a penis… and that legislation would solve that problem… hmm…

Bottom line, people are not willing to do the research because they know their point is moot. More than one form of gender identity is more than fine, it’s ideal. Sexism exists in terms of men oppressing women, granted. However, there is another form of sexism too. The form that forces individuals both sexes to submit to the societal norms and values assigned to them by whatever genitals they are born with. So next time you’re running your mouth about things you not only understand but refuse to research, please remember that you are contributing to a larger problem. You may as well tell a woman her place is in the kitchen.