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Patrick Finn, Associate Professor

Biography

Dr. Patrick Finn is an Associate Professor in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary. He has degrees from McGill, the University of Calgary and the University of Victoria. His primary interest is in performance with an emphasis on technology, where technology can be anything from alphabets and physical movement to computer programming. He researches and teaches on creativity, performance and related areas at the University of Calgary and has lectured and led workshops in Canada, The United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and China. He has an active artistic and research publication profile and is the founding artistic director of the Theatre Lab Performance Institute. At one time or another he has been a professional writer, programmer, designer, musician and academic.

Research

I study performance.

My lens is technology, where that term can include anything from alphabets, to singing, to computer code. I have a particular interest in the forms of knowledge we use to investigate and express ourselves.

When I began my research career, I trained in paleography, codicology and computer programming in order to pursue a comparative study of the transition from manuscript to print, and our current state of change from print to digital. The structuring texts of that work were Piers Plowman, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, and James Joyce’s Ulysses. These works are embedded in textual and performance culture, and have involved applications of traditional publishing in tension with computer analysis.

The longer I pursued this line of inquiry, the more I became interested in expanding my explorations of performed rather than abstracted approaches to knowledge. In short: I wanted to return to the performing arts.

For the past several years, my work has focused on theatrical direction, performance studies and an exploration of the technologies of creation, collaboration and communication.

I regularly publish and present my work. My next book, Critical Condition: Replacing Critical Thinking with Creativity will be published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press later this year.

My artistic work focuses on directing and dramaturgy. I have a love of classical and new work as well as non-traditional performance. I am the founding Artistic Director of the Theatre Lab Performance Institute. Some favourite directing credits are: Clem Martini’s Bitter Medicine (SummerWorks 2014), Aesop’s Fables (UofC 2013), King Lear (UofC, 2011) The Humorous Magistrate (2010) and Hamlet (UofC 20009). I am currently directing a production of West Side Story (UofC Music Theatre, 2015).

I have an active practice providing workshops supporting creative and collaborative exploration and the use of performance studies in everyday life. 

Teaching

Rather than a teaching philosophy, it is more accurate to say that I have a teaching practice. To say that I have a philosophy would imply that I have arrived at a set of beliefs about teaching that I can espouse and defend. I have not. I view teaching as a calling, but I would never pretend to understand it.

I have developed more than twenty new courses and have taught more than three-dozen different classes in five different disciplines. I have taught in both the liberal and fine arts, in traditional and professional streams, and at both the undergraduate and graduate level. I enjoy the variety.

If I were to have a teaching philosophy, it would have to include the word presence somewhere in the formula. It seems to me that the only thing that holds true in situations as diverse as the acting studio, the graduate seminar, and the large lecture hall is the importance of being present to those who are in that particular class at that particular time. Different learners require different philosophies and any attempt to use a formula would be disappointing to everyone.

Evolutionary theory teaches us that it is not the smartest or strongest who survive, but those who can adapt. Perhaps there is something to this type of thinking when it comes to teaching. One of my favourite teachers told me as a student that we had to study all techniques because the only thing that was certain is that whatever works today will not work tomorrow.

I believe that students make me smarter, so I look forward to working with each new group I encounter. The best things that happen in my classes are due to the contributions of students and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them. 

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