The students of Bishop’s University’s brand-new musical concentration present their first-ever production, an imaginative recreation of the classic Broadway musical Godspell, next March 10-13, 2022.
The Musical Theatre Concentration
For Dr. Art Babayants, director of the musical theatre concentration at Bishop’s, this art form is special as it “can include singing, it can include drama, it can include movement, dance, even puppetry, marionettes… anything you can imagine can go into a musical theatre performance.” This is what makes it the most “exciting form of theatre.”
The new concentration aims to enhance Bishop’s existing drama and music programs. As the only anglophone musical theatre program in the province, it is a unique experience offered among Quebec universities.
The program’s students receive an education in the performing arts, but they also get an understanding of the various competencies needed in the development of a big production. Sophie Kaplan, third-year drama major with a musical theatre concentration says that it is a “really good, rounded education,” covering everything from dance, musical theory, acting, history, “as well as a lot of practical knowledge and work in the field and on stage,” even including some technical skills behind the stage.
Second-year music student Willa Bateman explains that she had never learned about the work going on behind the stage. “I’d only done performance before. [Theatre tech] opened my eyes to a whole new part of the theatre process and now I feel like I understand what goes into a production and all the work that goes into it … it’s a super valuable experience.”
Tyler Casat, a third-year music student with a musical theatre concentration adds that “Bishop’s is unique because when you’re involved in a production, you’re never just only acting, or only on tech, you get to be involved in everything … you get a really good sense of what goes into the entirety of a professional production so you’re more prepared when you go to work in the industry … everybody here wants you to succeed, and it’s not about competition, it’s about opportunity.”
In the words of Dr. Babayants, a program like this creates “versatile, interesting artists,” ready for a professional stage.
All three students also emphasize that the program builds a strong community. “Everyone is super passionate about the same things that you’re passionate about and it’s just great to be able to work with all these people and put on a show,” says Bateman. Kaplan adds that it’s become “one big family.”
Dr. Babayants, the director of the musical, chose GODSPELL for the first production as it speaks to “building a community,” and because he wanted to “have a musical that allows you to focus on the singing, on being together.”
The production features a 14-member company with talented performers majoring in various fields, from psychology to education, neuroscience, as well as the performing arts. Diversity in the acting company extends to language as well, and audiences can expect to experience French, English, Hebrew, Spanish and American Sign Language during the show—a range not featured in the original production.
Dr. Babayants, a Canadian of Armenian origins, has produced various theatre pieces around the subject of plurilingualism. He also decided to update the musical with the inclusion of, not only different languages but also different cultures and art forms, including shadow puppetry.
The puppets are designed by Dr. Deniz Basar from Istanbul, who just visited Bishop’s and gave a public lecture on Karagöz, the type of Ottoman shadow puppetry that will be included in the play, on Feb. 24th. The cast of Godspell gave a short performance at the lecture.