© Brooks Peterson
Newest artistic collaboration The Fairy Queen is ‘over-the-top, cheeky and playful’
Since its inception in 2013, the School of Creative and Performing Arts has been on a mission to explore opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. Over the past few years, the divisions of dance, drama and music have worked together on mainstage productions like Aesop’s Fables (2013), West Side Story (2015) and Conduct (2018). The Fairy Queen, the school’s latest ambitious interdisciplinary project, will open on Feb. 7 in the University Theatre.
Co-directed by Melanie Kloetzel (dance), Peter Balkwill (drama) and Laura Hynes (music) and conducted by Julie Harris (music), The Fairy Queen is adapted from Henry Purcell’s semi-opera. It features baroque music smashed together with contemporary sonnets and movement.
“It’s opera turned on its head,” says graduate drama student Lizz Windnagel. “It’s over the top, cheeky and playful, with a greater message at play at the same time.”
Most university productions have a rehearsal schedule of four to six weeks. For The Fairy Queen, the weekly and then daily rehearsal process started in September. By working closely together, more than 40 dance, drama and music students have witnessed first-hand that the three performing art forms use very different vocabularies and techniques. Through this extended rehearsal process, students have had more time to research and experiment and to learn from other disciplines.
“We’re not all on the same level, we’re not all using the same language so there is a learning curve for everyone,” says drama student Precious Akpoguma. “I like seeing what other students do and how they integrate other disciplines in their work.”
This production has been a tremendous opportunity for experiential learning. Students are honing skills and knowledge within their field while also exploring new disciplines and contextualizing their craft within the wider performing arts. Dance student Stephanie Jurkova, who says interdisciplinarity initially took her out of her comfort zone, lauds the collaboration and energy among students.
“The students have been very accepting of each other, and helpful with each discipline’s shortcomings,” says Jurkova. “The more we got to know each other, the more comfortable we got. I made so many connections that future creations and collaborations are now definitely possible.”
Being part of such a big and unique project has been eye-opening for music student Mihnea Nitu.
“I learned that the bigger picture isn’t always going to be visible from the very beginning. Why are we doing this part? Why are the sonnets modern and the music baroque?” explains Nitu. “Now it’s become clear what that direction was all along. Interdisciplinary work isn’t weird or useless. It’s a process of bringing people together to create art. And that goes beyond themes and ideas and the show itself.”
The Fairy Queen, a fully interdisciplinary performance, produced by the division of Drama as part of its Main Stage season, runs from Feb. 7–14 in the University Theatre. UCalgary students, employees and alumni can benefit from special ticket offers. UCalgary alumni are encouraged to attend the performance on Feb. 13, with a special pre-show reception.