Fine arts convocation award winner shines onstage and off

Tubman-Broeren in full character as Eleanor of Aquitaine in King John Redux

Every year, the Faculty of Fine Arts singles out for special recognition the graduating student with the highest cumulative grade point average Faculty-wide. Currently, this special spotlight shines on freshly minted theatre alumna Meara Tubman-Broeren, whose GPA of 8.41 earned her the Faculty of Fine Arts Convocation Award last month.

“Sincere congratulations to Meara on her academic achievement,” said Barbara Sellers-Young,dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “It’s a testament to her talent, remarkable work ethic and dedication to her craft that will stand her in good stead as she makes her way in the world. May her years at York be the foundation for a successful and rewarding career.”

Meara Tubman-Broeren in the Last TrainMeara Tubman-Broeren in the Last Train

Tubman-Broeren, who came to York from Victoria, BC, has consistently been head of the class. She received a President’s Scholarship with her offer of admission, and stood out as the top achiever in the Faculty of Fine Arts two years ago (see the article in YorkU Magazine), midway through her undergraduate studies. Maintaining that high standard has brought her this latest distinction, the convocation award.

“It’s very exciting to be acknowledged in this way,” said Tubman-Broeren. “I’ve worked really hard for the past four years, which has paid off in learning tons and having some great opportunities – so the award just feels like a bonus!”

Theatre students choose their area of concentration in their second year, and Tubman-Broeren pursued her BA degree in Theatre Studies with a focus on Devised Theatre. Students in Devised Theatre work as an ensemble to collaboratively create and present their own work, culminating in a fully mounted production in their final year.

Allyson McMackon (MFA ’92), artistic director of Toronto’s Theatre Rusticle, taught Tubman-Broeren in her third and fourth year and supervised the ensemble’s year-end show, Last Train.

“Meara was always a strong leader in the class – smart, creative and a good collaborator,” McMackon said “For Last Train she created a character named Marie who was the victim of male aggression. This is the kind of subject matter even very mature artists struggle with, to find authenticity and depth, but Meara did it. She dug deep and came up against herself frequently in the process. Her commitment to the material, herself and her colleagues supported what eventually was a key part of the final narrative.”

“I’m looking forward to our paths crossing professionally in future,” said McMackon.

Tubman-Broeren continues to shine in collaborative work. She is performing the role of Queen Eleanor in King John Tubman-Broeren in full character as Eleanor of Aquitaine in King John ReduxRedux, a physical re-imagining of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, opening in Toronto on Thursday, July 19. The show is an independent production created and performed by the Pure Carbon Collective, a young company rich in York talent.

Tubman-Broeren in full character as Eleanor of Aquitaine in King John Redux

“Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of my personal heroes,” said Tubman-Broeren. “In the play she’s the real power behind the throne. She’s basically an all-around badass, especially for the time in which she lived. In our redux version, I’m looking at the kind of drive and ambition that it takes for a woman to succeed in such a man’s world, and how her power is only possible through her connection and control over a powerful man. As an ambitious and motivated woman myself, I can well imagine how frustrating that would be.”

King John Redux runs July 19 to 21 with performances at 7:30pm nightly plus a 2pm matinee on Saturday, July 21 at the Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley Street. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students) and available in advance online or at the door.

Next up, Tubman-Broeren is serving as producer for a new, site-specific production of Anton Chekhov’s classic drama, The Seagull, in collaboration with her former classmate and fellow alumna, director Meg Moran. Their plan is to focus on the play’s portrayal of the challenges and pitfalls of being an artist. The show will be set and performed in a Toronto bar (yet to be chosen), with live music helping to tell the story.

With one play set to premiere and another in development, Tubman-Broeren is adding still more to her plate. She’s hopeful that her application to become an artistic intern at a Toronto-based theatre company will come through. And she plans to start volunteering with the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre at the end of summer.

Like her theatre work, her volunteer work is also a continuation of her activities as a York student.

“I was involved with the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line and Leadership group at York for two years, and really want to continue the work I was doing there,” she said. “In addition to answering the 24-hour crisis line, I collaborated with other campus groups to plan events to raise awareness of issues surrounding sexual assault.”

Those events included a rally and march for the December 6 National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, an art show fundraiser for the No More Silence Rally and the Native Women’s Resource Centre, and an International Women’s Day party in Vari Hall.

“My work with SASSL was incredibly rewarding, not only in learning new skills and gaining great experience, but especially in being a part of an organization whose goals mean so much to me,” Tubman-Broeren said.