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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Back-in-the-land : space and anglophone Canada's professional farm theatres Dunn, Katrina


At Anglophone Canada’s four professional farm theatres, performance often foregrounds relations between beings and landscapes in unusually rich and striking ways. In this thesis I argue that the success of these theatres lies largely in their ability to connect audiences affectively to the specific natural environments of their performance sites or regions, and to embody the stories held within these respective rural spaces. More particularly, they share the stories of two land-hungry eras: the settling of what is now Canadian soil by European colonizers, and the transformation of farming culture since 1950, including the back-to-the-land movement of the nineteen sixties and seventies. Four questions guide the analysis. What do the histories, geographies, mandates, programming and other artistic choices of these farm theatres reveal about each theatre's relationship with the land on which they perform? Do the theatres share any common impulses? What distinguishes their efforts and aesthetics? How does the land itself perform? Research presented in this study builds from spatial thought in theatre studies, archival research on the four theatres and their histories, inquiry into the material history of the theatres’ sites, and performance analyses of select productions. More particularly, I provide close readings of a single night’s offering in each theatre’s 2013 season. This includes, Peter Anderson’s Head Over Heels at the Caravan Farm Theatre near Armstrong, B.C.; the collective creation Beyond The Farm Show at the Blyth Festival Theatre in the village of Blyth, Ontario; Andrew Moodie’s The Real McCoy at 4th Line Theatre in Millbrook, Ontario; and both Shakespeare’s As You Like It and the Iliad by Fire by Ken Schwartz (from Homer) at Two Planks and Passion in Canning, Nova Scotia. The thesis brings together research that demonstrates how the material evolution of Canada is deeply tied to farming. It charts how the theatres considered here are similarly connected, and posits a new field of agro-poetics, to which these four companies’ respective aesthetic innovations and animations of sites are contributing.

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