Coming to a Theatre Near You!

Professors Jacob Gallagher-Ross, Alexandra Gillespie, and Larry Switzky from UTM's Department of English and Drama
Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - 9:29am
Carla DeMarco

The Department of English & Drama is spearheading an interdisciplinary project to establish a digital performance environment at U of T Mississauga.

Professors Jacob Gallagher-Ross, Alexandra Gillespie, and Lawrence Switzky are the first to be awarded the jointly sponsored University of Toronto Mississauga / Jackman Humanities Institute Annual Seminar funding.

“We believe that developments in digital culture are beginning to render conventional disciplinary boundaries obsolete,” says Gallagher-Ross. “However, performance provides a flexible conceptual framework to unite related developments in overlapping fields.”

The project brings together scholars from a range of areas, including: theatre and performance studies; literature; visual studies; communications; cinema studies; computer science; and other related disciplines. It will combine expertise on collaborative projects, and also provide an outlet to share knowledge and enrich independent research. The long-term goal for the project will be to establish a Centre for the Study of Mixed Reality at UTM, an interdisciplinary scholarly institute that will investigate newly emergent literary genres, new media, and new digital approaches to the study of literature, performance, and the visual arts.

“Professor Robert Gibbs, outgoing director of the Jackman Humanities Institute, and I are delighted to provide funding for this project, which serves as an example of how the University of Toronto Mississauga is becoming a focal point for outstanding and contemporary arts and humanities scholarship,” says Professor Bryan Stewart, UTM’s Vice-Principal, Research.

“We are so very happy to establish this firm connection and partnership with the Jackman. Many UTM-appointed faculty members already have a relationship with JHI on an individual level, so to create this programmatic collaboration between JHI and UTM was a natural next step.”

“The annual seminar is a very thoughtful and creative proposal and we are thrilled to be supportive of such an interesting look at virtuality,” says Stewart. “The annual seminar is meant to be the ‘piece de resistance’ of UTM’s programs for the arts and humanities, and we are very much looking forward to the development of this year-long initiative.”

The $15,000 funding will help to support a range of activities and equipment, including establishing a guest speaker series, creating a reading group and sponsoring site visits to digital design labs. The group is eager to investigate virtual, augmented and mixed reality environments, as well as the gamification of education, and 3D modelling and printing of cultural artifacts. Additionally, they intend to nurture existing relationships with recent collaborators at Carnegie Mellon University, New York University, The University of Chicago, Bard College, Concordia and York University, among others.

The project also aims to launch a “makerspace”, a collaborative intellectual hub used for learning, sharing and exploring ideas. It would be available to UTM students and faculty, and would help to enhance the offerings in the digital-performance milieu on campus.

“Ultimately, our group would also like to establish a maker-in-residence program to bring cutting-edge artists and programmers working in digital performance to UTM to collaborate with students and faculty,” says Switzky.

“Our goal is to provide vital experiential-learning opportunities for undergraduates while also raising the campus’s international profile through community engagement with public lectures, workshops, performances and exhibitions.”


The annual seminar is one pillar of the opportunities UTM has recently established to support scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, and also includes opportunities to develop working groups, funding for colloquium organization, as well as direct support of preliminary explorations through the Research and Scholarly Activity Fund. To see the full suite of internal funding opportunities, visit UTM’s OVPR website.

To read more about the Jackman Humanities Institute’s recent initiatives, please see this article by U of T News.