Studio 58 : diversifying plays brought to life on stage

A plan is set to bring about more culturally diverse pieces is stalled due to lack of funds

Ashley Cook and Isaac George-Hotchkiss; set by Jessica Oostergo, costumes by Mara Gottler, lighting by Alan Brodie, projections by Candelario Andrade, photo by David Cooper
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By Ray Chopping

A Langara-funded research project aimed at increasing diversity in its theatre programs has stalled after insufficient funding.

The project will provide Langara’s contemporary art curriculum with plays, scenes and monologues, which will more directly reflect the cultural mix of the students who bring the works alive on stage. 

Artistic director of Studio 58 Kathryn Shaw, who is spearheading the project, said there has been a severe lack of diversity in Canada’s theatrical teaching curriculums for a long time.

The project

The project was started by Shaw in the summer of 2018 after receiving a Research and Scholarly Activity Fund award from Langara.

According to Shaw, the goal of the project is “to diversify and decolonize the Studio 58 curriculum.” 

Kelly Sveinson, the chair of Langara’s Applied Research Centre said that awards allow Langara faculty members to pursue projects outside their main curriculum, which help deepen the college’s teachings.

Shaw used the grant money to hire two research assistants and compile a database of more than 600 plays from around the world.

“We need to stretch beyond the canon of old white men’s plays,” Shaw said. “We need to find voices from all ethnicities, women and LGBTQ and better reflect them to our own diverse student body.”

Funds running out

But with the award money exhausted to pay for the research assistants, the project has effectively stalled.

“I simply don’t have the time to do it,” Shaw said.

Plays found in the new database are proving popular with students.

“It’s a really important thing that Kathryn is doing,” said Silken Lawson, a third-term student from Studio 58.

Studio 58’s current production Anon(ymous), a contemporary re-imagining of The Odyssey, directed by Carmen Aguirre, is just one of the plays found through Shaw’s database project.

Anon(ymous) narrates a story of a young refugee boy who travels to the U.S. looking for his mother who has disappeared. 

Contributor Lauren Gargiulo expresses her opinion: Opinion: Playwrights needs more diversity

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