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Act I Scene I

Student Voices- Barry Freeman


I’m Barry Freeman. I’m an Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and also at the Centre for Drama, Theater, and Performance at University of Toronto Downtown on St. George campus.


I first connected with Kathleen Gallagher as a PhD student. I started my PhD in 2004 and took interest in aspects of theatre on an experiential and social level. Rather than just seeing theatre as an art object, I was interested in how people experience theatre as participants as they go through it. And how the audience experiences it as a social event. As I developed that interest I hunted around for people who had the same perspective on it as I did and discovered that Kathleen Gallagher was teaching a course at OISE called “Liberatory Practices in Drama and Education.” I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but took the course and discovered that Kathleen had some of that same perspective on theatre as I did. So I was exposed to a lot of new ideas, but also to Kathleen as a really impressive researcher, writer, and thinker about theatre on many levels: about its impacts and about the ethics of representation, all of which had to do with my interests. I developed a PhD dissertation on intercultural theatre, trying to figure out what the social and experiential impacts of intercultural are for people who choose to use theatre to bring cultures together. And it seemed only natural given that subject that I invite Kathleen to be the supervisor, and happily she agreed and supervised my doctoral dissertation for 6 years. I completed that in 2010.


What I also did during that time, which was a massively beneficial education for me, was to participate in Kathleen’s substantial research projects. In which I was involved at all levels of the research, right down to the bottom including fieldwork in Toronto high schools, ‘at risk’ Toronto high schools, and working with high school drama teachers. And that was a world that I didn’t know very well because I had actually never took drama in high school myself. And I learned a great deal about theatre pedagogy, but learned a great deal about, more importantly maybe, doing research in the field. Ethnographic research where you’re interviewing people and observing their practice, which I have used in my own work.  


But one thing that I also really learned from all of that work was how richly Kathleen works with students. Often when faculty work with graduate students they involve them at a fairly low level doing some of the mundane, routine tasks associated with the research. Kathleen however involves her students at all levels. From working in the front lines, being in my case in the classroom observing teachers, all the way up to presenting at international conferences, and publishing in academic journals. I saw on a daily basis working with Kathleen the benefits for both the students and faculty member too, through that really thorough involvement. And now that I’m a faculty member myself, and I’m in the position myself of supervising PhD students, I have tried to do the same. And in the past three years have presented with a student at an international conference and published with a couple of students as well. So I continue to kind of reap the benefits of that.


Now that I’m doing my own research program I have a little bit less contact with Kathleen. Except that wonderfully we are working on a collection of essays together called “Why Theatre Now?” on the virtues and values of Canadian theatre in the new millennium. Exploring why theatre matters in our particular context, inviting 20 authors to offer their opinion about why theatre matters to them. So I feel very lucky to have connection to such a thoughtful and innovative researcher as Kathleen Gallagher. 

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