“Unconscious Curriculum”; U/Waterloo students stage a trailblazer Reply

Review by Sylvie Di Leonardo                  


The University of Waterloo is home to many of the world’s brightest young engineers. It is also the home of important theatre. Of course, I would realize this post my post-graduate, on Thursday evening, when I entered campus as a visiting member of the press rather than a pub-hopping grad student abusing inter-library loan. Speaking of which… I recognized myself in many of the characters on stage that evening, and I’m not sure how I feel about it quite yet. But I do know what I think about it, so there’s something.

a dramatic moment in Waterloo’s “UNCONSCIOUS CURRICULUM”

Bumbling, mis-qualified, feuding teaching assistants. An absent professor. Course material that is personal, and naturally, the course requirement to share. A constructive and scathing critique of the academy as a corporation; public institution; and incubator of human consciousness.
Unconscious Curriculum” had all the staples of a student production, including an opening night audience heavily loaded with supportive family and friends. Many reviewers make such comments to illustrate a production’s shortcomings.
I am not one of those reviewers.

Typically, this is the part where I comment about the production value, the writing, the performing, and the venue…
this is not one of those reviews.

While the quality of the production– especially the sound design and projections– was outstanding, and the ensemble’s voice work paid off, for the next 200 words or so, we are going to do something more important than review the individual elements that make up a stage production (Sorry, editor).
We are instead going to examine what it means to put them together at all. ‘Unconscious Curriculum’ is an important piece of theatre, and deserves to be regarded as such: While many shows are part of the conversation about staging sexual assault, Unconscious Curriculum does one better. It contributes to the conversation.
This production joins a small group of theatrical works which further the agenda of the movement. By this, I mean, the work is intersectional. Yes, this intersectionality is achieved using stock characters (such as the super-keen word-chewing reporter), but that is exactly why it does indeed work. In everyday life, many struggle to see the commonalities of activist groups. In farce, however, they are apparent. Parents in the audience who were around to witness the human rights movement and the women’s movement can now see, plainly, that these movements must enter into public discourse together. Moreover, there was something gratifying about having this many Boomers in the room while Tinder, date-rape, spousal rape, atypical survivors, toxic notions of masculinity, queer identities, biases within marginalized communities, racial profiling, ‘Grindr’, corrupt police, vigilante justice, and other hot topics were discussed not as separate issues, but as interrelated problems that, while disproportionately affecting the population (by landslides, for different communities) do affect the whole population nonetheless– a revelation for some.
Furthermore, this work examined the ways in which the academy is one of the most accessible locales for retroactively addressing the factors which contribute to sexual violence… and how unfortunate that we assume it must also be the only mechanism by which the issue must be addressed. While this column is not the time or place for further meditations on this matter, it is one way for it to begin.
It took me three days to write this review, and for that, I offer my sincerest apologies to the cast, crew, and artists of Unconscious Curriculum. It took me forty-eight whole hours to reconcile my roles as bystander & activist, plus 24 more to reconcile my thoughts as a writer, dramaturg, academic, educator, researcher, and arts administrator. And for that, I offer you my sincerest thanks. I watched three sunsets as I contemplated the larger implications of your work – and that is a good thing!

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