2015 Lawrence Prize Winners and Citations


Katrina Dunn, “Turning Our Backs On The City We Look On Water Canada’s National Arts Centre Considered.”

Focusing on the place – historic, ideological, and physical – that the National Arts Centre has occupied in nation’s capital since the time of its erection, the committee considered this paper outstanding in its combination of layered theoretical arguments with architectural images to trace the shifting forms and meanings that the NAC as a cultural building-monument has occupied in speaking to Canada’s iconic understanding of itself as a nation. Building on a strong basis of archival research and close consideration of the physical building itself as shaped by aspects of art and architectural theory, Dunn eloquently expands her examination of the building into a more nuanced and far-ranging analysis of its function as expression of nation, integrating the thought of Canadianists Filewod, and Hurley, with internationalists like Foucault and Carlson in a lucid, convincing fashion. She ends the paper on a powerful yet moving note with a trenchant commentary on the ambivalence she feels towards the proposed changes to the building, with their promise of more transparency and openness, and the rapidly changing reality of the city and nation beyond it. In doing so, the paper, while grounded in history, resonates strongly with the present, reflecting a time when the ideas of Canadian nationalism are being re-evaluated again, and when we’re witnessing the rise of neo-nationalism in Europe. Its impact was further enhanced by an excellent, lively presentation as effectively illustrated and supported by a striking series of slides.

Honourable Mentions

Matt Jones, “Hearts and Minds in Extremis: Performing the Body at War.”

The committee found Jones’s paper analyzing the cross-pollination of American and Middle East representations of the brutality of war in the bodies of three performance artists, Knecht, Mojadidi, and Bilal, with references to the work of several other male and female performance artists, to be disturbing, bold and original. His strong theoretical readings of selected performance artists attempting to embody the horror experienced by the Other in war – as powerfully illustrated by a series of jarring images – effectively captured the power of performance art in opening up spaces where the spectator gains empathy through not being able to identify with the incidents and individuals they see.

Zita Nyarady, “The View from an Ankle Hang: The Capital(s) of Inverted Spectacle in Cascade.”

While the Committee considered the paper original in its focus on the presenter’s personal practice, it went well beyond that to offer both original autoethnographic insights into the embodied life of Nyarady as a circus performer in Cascade, and to contextualize her practice further within Canadian cultural identity as explored by Hurley and Leroux. She then moved her analysis further into the realm of cultural theory by articulately using Bourdieu’s notion of capital to illuminate the value of doing this relatively populist—and massive—circus performance at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. Fluidly moving between her own embodied work in the piece to critical theory to physical memory, Nyarady effortlessly negotiated her circus terrain with applicable and illuminating critical theory. Her lively, enthusiastic presentation that continually engaged and involved the audience was also unique in inviting her academic audience to experiment with her ankle hang moves and shaking, thus simulating and involving them in something of the Nuit Blanche performance experience itself.

Jessica Riley, “Interrogative Feedback and the Myth of Neutral Dramaturgy.”

The Committee considered Riley’s examination of Urjo Kareda’s dramaturgical process in helping Rachel Wyatt develop her script Chairs and Tables for the 1984 season, to be a compelling combination of the presenter’s own impressive depth of archival detective work, her close dramaturgical analysis of the play as it evolved over multiple drafts, and her insightful reflections on dramaturgical theory. As enhanced by a lively, witty presentation with a strong conclusion, Riley’s paper convincingly interrogated the myth of the “neutral” dramaturge by effectively demonstrating how Kareda’s non-interfering carefully poised suggestions throughout the process actually hid a depth of unacknowledged cultural and aesthetic values that played a significant role in altering the play. In doing so, Riley left her audience with further intriguing questions about the impact that Kareda’s “neutrality” may have had on the shaping not just of this play, but of the Canadian theatre scene of that time – and of the hidden dangers of presumed “neutrality” in dramaturgical theory and practice in general.

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