Ecological sustainability and theatre

PROFile: Dennis Gupa, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Film

Supplied photo

Supplied photo

Dr. Dennis Gupa, a queer artist of Colour and assistant professor in the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Theatre and Film, says “(Theatre) gives you the possibility of imagining.”

Gupa has a master’s of fine arts in theatre directing from the University of British Columbia and a master’s degree in theatre from the University of the Philippines. He received his PhD from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria in applied theatre.

He says applied theatre is the practice of working with community members who do not have professional theatre expertise.

“Building on this academic (experience), I also went to Indonesia to study traditional theatre and dance as a scholar for six months at the Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia,” he says. “It’s not a degree, but it’s a very important and artistic exposure for me.”

His dissertation connected applied theatre, climate-change and Indigenous ecological knowledge in the Philippines. “I went back to one province in the Philippines, which is the homeland and birthplace of my father. I did my dissertation there as a field site. And this is an important site, because (it was) devastated by a big typhoon in 2013.”

“I worked with fisherfolk. We did theatre together to tell about the Indigenous knowledge of their fishing tradition.”

Gupa’s current research is a transnational project.

“My method of engagement connects Canada to the Philippines and Southeast Asia. I work with immigrants and migrant people and communities, understanding their emotions, challenges and experiences around climate change in Canada and also back in their own homeland.”

His focus is on “ecological sustainability and stewardship in times when we are facing the enormous challenges of tragedy brought by climate change and climate emergency.”

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

“Intellectual humility ... Working with them is always a riot of inspiration and creativity. And their hunger for knowledge ... I am forced to work hard and really be better as an artist and as a teacher.”

What do you do in your spare time?

“I call my family back in the Philippines. I write letters to them ... I walk a lot, even during winter. I try to find the beautiful things around me.”

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

“I would like to have an equal distribution of wealth.”

What do you like most about Winnipeg?

“People are so welcoming. The sky is so close. It feels intimate. And, also, I observe that it’s a migrant city. It’s so global in that sense ... The Assiniboine River in winter taught me that I should be open to change and transformation.”

Published in Volume 77, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 23, 2023)

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