New theatre dept. head putting new spin on Shakespeare
Kathryn Bracht gives her thoughts on the department, and the importance of fine arts
Author: Jennifer Marshall – Contributor
After four years as Head of the Theatre Department, Kathleen Irwin is taking a step back and passing the torch on to Associate Professor Kathryn Bracht.
As head of the department, Bracht is responsible for bringing forward issues, concerns, goals, and plans to the Dean at a variety of meetings. Since each faculty member in the department takes a turn acting as head (no pun intended), everyone gets a chance to learn how the university operates on a bureaucratic level and therefore how to function successfully within it. As a small department, the shared responsibility has created a highly collaborative working environment, enabling them to continue producing big shows and projects despite challenges due to budget cuts over the past five years.
With only two full-time professors in the Theatre Department, Bracht has had to draw from other avenues and resources within the fine arts in order to continue giving students enriching opportunities to work and learn within a tight knit community.
“It is unfortunate,” laments Bracht, “that when budget cuts need to be made, Fine Arts Faculties are targeted under the assumption that they are less essential to a university education.”
However Bracht passionately argues that a degree in fine arts, and in theatre specifically, not only creates talented actors but also encourages and nurtures critical thinkers resulting in a unique education that fosters empathy and greater understanding of the world. By transforming students into what Bracht labels “great global citizens,” a fine arts degree serves a much broader purpose than it is given credit for.
In addition to the duties as head of the department, Bracht is directing the major fall production titled ReMeasure, a contemporary reworking of Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure in which she takes inspiration from contemporary themes and news headlines as well as other popular Shakespeare works. Bracht describes this work as “an exploration on gender, feminism, sexuality and absolutism.” The show considers the dangers of absolutism, especially in terms of religion, while also recognizing the risks of an overly liberal society. Bracht draws material from contemporary people such as Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, and includes pop culture references to celebrities like the Kardashians and Kate Middleton. The show also addresses modern day relationships by transforming the lead characters’ traditional male-female romance into a same sex relationship.
In her new role, and as part of the theatre department team, Bracht hopes to be able to offer the same opportunities, experiences and quality of work that the department has always offered. While resources, budget, and manpower have diminished over the past few years, their commitment to the students and their success in the program remains a priority.