Collecting the Ghosts of Waterloo and Staging our Memories

Friday, April 22, 2016

Written by Robert Motum (BA '13)

Robet MotumIn preparing this post, I have read dozens of other alumni contributions to this site. If this blog is any proof, we all have fond memories and sentimental stories which we have carried with us since our time at the University of Waterloo; stories which have, somehow, shaped who we have become.  As a theatre artist and researcher, I have a love of stories. I am interested in how we share them, but more importantly, how through this sharing, we can connect to places, communities, and to each other.

At UWaterloo, I discovered a passion for site-specific theatre; theatre which is taken out of a purpose-built theatre space. It is a theatre that relies on the myriad of stories connected to its chosen site in order to shape, dictate, and often create the work of the performance. It questions who has been here, what has happened, what are the ‘ghosts’ of this place. For me, these stories – these ghosts – enrich the performance material and invite political and critical engagements with a site. UWaterloo’s program encouraged me to push (and perhaps even erase) the boundaries of what performance can be, how it can be created, where it can happen, and what it can accomplish. The innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of our University is just as alive within the drama department.

My experiences at the University of Waterloo, and the encouragement of one particular professor/friend (Dr. Andy Houston, UWaterloo’s ‘site-specific guy’), led me to pursue graduate work in the UK.

I recently completed my Masters in Practising Performance at Aberystwyth University in Wales, where I spent a year studying under some of Europe’s most influential artist-researchers. It was the most incredible, eye-opening, and rewarding year of my life. The degree – a fantastic balance of critical theory and performance practice – allowed me to explore my passions and interests which I discovered at UWaterloo on a much more focused level. My Masters thesis: Dis/Connected: Mapping the Real and the Virtual in Site-based Performance, truly had its beginnings in Waterloo.

Photo credit: Madeline Samms

During my MA, I was tasked with creating a proposal for a new performance which would somehow ‘involve a community in its creation.’ I am excited to share that that proposal concept is now a reality – back here at home – in our KW community. I am organizing ‘Kitchener-Waterloo: A Guidebook from Memory,’ a community art project towards the creation of a map of stories, memories… ghosts connected to places in the Region. These community sourced stories will be plotted onto a map within the guidebook and can be followed as an intimate ‘tourist guide’ to our cities.

I invite you, UWaterloo alumni, to add your memories to the project. Whether you are still in the area, or have moved to another corner of the globe, this is an invitation for us to create together, to hear your memories of places in this community. I invite you to submit your story at:

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