DART Critics: an example of inter-faculty co-operation

Every year, students in the Goodman School of Business taking the course “Management 4P90: Business Strategy,” have the opportunity to do a real-life case study for a client. One of the classes this year, taught by Goodman Assistant Professor Wesley Helms, was given DART Critics, a course initiative by Dramatic Arts Assistant Professor, Karen Fricker.

“The course is on strategic management with the goal of teaching students how to use strategic frameworks for analyzing their organizations and their environments, and to develop competitive advantages that enable their long-term success,” said Helms.

Students in the course were divided into small groups and tasked with coming up with a potential business model that could be applied to DART Critics in order to help them continue to function in a financially stable manner.

DART Critics is a blog site that was started by Fricker for the DART 3P95 and 3P56: Studies in Praxis courses. Students enrolled in the course learn how to write professional theatre criticism pieces, which are then posted on the blog. One of the more unique features of DART Critics is that it takes the form of embedded criticism. Embedded criticism is an in-depth feature that doesn’t just review a performance, but follows it through the whole production process. The written piece is therefore a continuously updated piece and not just a one-time critique.

“Writing about theatre productions in Niagara was very welcomed,” said Fricker. “We have a very outstanding arts scene but not nearly enough quality commentary and professional theatre criticism.”
Fricker, who is a professional theatre critic herself, has been able to run the DART Critics through fundraising in the summer and research grants that she has received, since theatre criticism is also her area of academic research. However, since the course isn’t offered every year, there is very little continuity or stability on the blog site.

“I would like to see it funded at a base level, in order to see new content coming all year-round,” said Fricker. “I would also like to retain some stellar students and be able to employ them and see them make a career in theatre criticism.”

When Helms inquired in the Brock community for potential case studies and clients for his class, Fricker felt like it was the right moment to have DART Critics looked at by Business students. She presented her initiative to the whole class at the beginning of this semester and then met several times with the different groups or with individual students in order to answer questions and talk about the direction of DART Critics.

Each group was responsible with coming up with a functional business model for DART Critics. One of these groups, consisting of Jennifer Philpott, Bennett Magnacca, Carissa Iskander, Sinan Chen and Huiwen Tien, spent the semester doing background research and coming up with potential ideas. They also looked at a variety of potential marketing and advertising strategies. Through meetings with Fricker, and narrowing down their ideas, they came up with their final proposal which they presented last week, along with the other groups’ presentations.

The work of Fricker’s students can be found online at dartcritics.com

The work of Fricker’s students can be found online at dartcritics.com

“This prepares you for the real world by giving you that experience and knowledge on how to work with people,” said Magnacca.

“This project was unique because we were working with a case that did not yet have a clear business approach and so we had to look at all the areas of business, not just human resources or accounting,” added Philpott.

Fricker was very happy with the different groups’ presentations and spoke highly of the experience working with the class and listening to their proposals.

“It’s been a very valuable experience, and exactly what I wanted,” said Fricker.

Fricker also praised the work of the students enrolled in the course.

“The students were really well-spoken and the level of professionalism was very high,” said Fricker. “I was delighted to see such great poise and presentation.”

The compliments were echoed by Helms, who also thought that his students did a good job with the case study,

“Their presentations were highly creative and offered a broad range of strategies. Goodman Business students can present really, really well,” said Helms.

Now, Fricker is looking forward to taking all the information and ideas that the student presentations have given her and using some of the proposals for DART Critics. She will be meeting with Helms in the near future to discuss the most feasible solutions that the students have given her.

“I’ve been given a lot of potential for great funding,” said Fricker. “It’s a really exciting moment for theatre criticism in Canada thanks to the new government’s investment in the arts community.”

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