Photo By: BrockTV

Matthew Martin is a fourth-year dramatic arts student whose thesis project culminates this month with a show called Connection

The show runs from Dec. 17-19 at the Marilyn I. Walker theatre and will begin at 7:30 p.m each night. The performance on Dec. 19 will include a talkback that all audience members are welcome to attend. 

The show will combine theatre and magic tricks to tell the story of an artist struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. The run time is just 30 minutes, but Martin hopes the audience will still be transported along with him on the journey of an artist finding hope in a time of isolation.

“You are not alone, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” is the message that he hopes audiences take away from this production.

Because Connection is his honours thesis project, Martin completed a research thesis paper outlining his ideas about the combination of magic and theatre. It essentially worked through all the theoretical parts of how his show would work. He undertook research in dramatic theory and magic theory, and as a magician of almost 10 years Martin was well prepared to tackle this project. 

One of his main influences for this project was Shin Lim, whose work introduced Martin to a new way of doing magic.

“He brings a sense of beauty and poetry to his work that I really admire. There is also Penn & Teller – their style of ‘explaining’ a trick without fully explaining the trick is entertaining and clever to me,” said Martin. 

He explained that Jacques Ranciere’s The Emancipated Spectator shaped his work as well. Ranciere argues that performers must acknowledge that the audience comes to the performance with just as much information as the performer and that the experience of storytelling is more like a feedback loop than a one-way delivery of narrative. He described how he noticed the connection that the magician has with their audience and how it is different from the relationship between theatre performer and audience. This, alongside his passion for both art forms, drew his interest to the topic of his thesis. 

“I had to learn more about how to express myself and tell a story with my movements, facial expressions, and my magic,” said Martin. 

Martin received a great deal of support on this ambitious project from the Dramatic Arts department. From his thesis supervisor Karen Fricker, the wardrobe department (Roberta Doylend, Alex Anderson, and Julian Valentin), and Ed Harris who provided set pieces.

The production has a three-person cast consisting of second-year dramatic arts students Jada Dawson, Laura Maieron, as well as Martin himself. Fifth-year concurrent education student Lia Strazzeri is working as the stage manager and assistant director, second-year dramatic arts student Abby Malcolm is running sound, and fourth-year dramatic arts student Alex Sykes worked lighting design and will be operating lights for the show.

The project sounds ambitious and it’s exciting to see what kind of research is happening in dramatic arts and how it can be applied to making a performance come to life. If you will still be in St. Catharines at the time, you won’t want to miss this performance.