University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Dance, drama and music join forces for Aesop’s Fables

Collaboration is key for newly established School of Creative and Performing Arts

To hear Patrick Finn discuss the latest campus production he’s leading, one might think the drama professor was directing a western.

“It’s incredibly adventurous – wilder and more frontier-ish than anything we’ve done before,” Finn says. “What’s over that next hill? There’s a real maverick spirit at play here.”

These are not the sorts of descriptions we would normally associate with Aesop’s Fables, the timeless morality tales passed down through the centuries, most often told to children.

But consider the fact that Aesop’s Fables is the first major production of the University of Calgary’s newly established School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) and the pioneer aspect of the project suddenly makes perfect sense.

“This is the first time in the history of the university that dance, drama and music have come together for a single production, so it’s a fantastic way to launch the school,” says Finn.

The SCPA was officially created last July when the former departments of music, drama, and dance joined forces – along with University Theatre Services – pooling their resources into a single, more effective institution.

This was meant to yield, among other things, bigger productions and greater opportunities for students, who would now be immersed in a better rounded more multi-disciplinary learning environment. Aesop’s Fables will offer up both of these benefits in abundance, says Finn.

“This is not a musical,” he stresses. “It’s an imaginative journey. You’ll have scenes that are quite clearly dramatic, and others that are more focused on musical or dance elements. But most scenes are collaborative. There’s always students from each discipline onstage.”

The SCPA’s take on Aesop’s Fables – which will run from October 22 to November 2 at the University Theatre – will incorporate 18 of the famed fables most often attributed to Aesop, a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in Ancient Greece in the fifth and sixth centuries BCE.

Running under an hour, the production will provide “a brisk, inspiring engagement with each fable,” says Finn, with a “heroic journey narrative” that will tie together such famous fables as The Tortoise and the Hare, The Fox and the Crow, and the Peacock and the Magpie.

Third year drama student Amanda Iandolo is one of 14 SCPA students starring in Aesop’s Fables (which includes six actors, four dancers and four musicians, with about 40 additional participants behind the scenes). She believes that being involved with the interdisciplinary production has already helped her to make great strides as performing artist.

“It’s so raw creatively to see everybody growing together,” Iandolo says. “As an actor there’s a huge voice and movement component to what we do, so being able to work with dancers and musicians only enhances that. You’re working with people who are really well trained in their disciplines. Crossing over and learning from each other can be intimidating, but to conquer that is an amazing experience.”

Finn points out that the interdisciplinary approach of Aesop’s Fables helps puts the SCPA right on target with the University of Calgary’s Eyes High strategy to become one of Canada’s top five research universities.

“We’re meeting this call to action by working together in ways that engage the community and engage us as scholars,” he says. “Performance is our research and we’re happy to explore this exciting new collaborative research.”

Indeed, the collaborative nature of Aesop’s Fables is only the beginning for the SCPA, says the school’s acting director, music professor Allan Bell.

“This is the first of what we know will be many more events to showcase the results of putting talented and hardworking artists from all the disciplines together,” Bell says. “We will continue to challenge assumptions and seek new modes of creative expression.”