Dr Ryan Reynolds
‘The Department of Theatre and Film Studies at UC is one of very few such departments worldwide where theory and practice are fully integrated. Every single student, in every course, must be both an artist and an academic,’ says Dr Ryan Reynolds, explaining why he chose to work at UC.
‘I enjoy this dual focus. In this department, we are all asked to create, to be imaginative, to act, to direct, to push boundaries – not merely to make art for its own sake, but to make, or contribute to, art that is in pursuit of something, art that actively questions things that we take for granted, often including art itself and its value.’
Ryan’s own approach to teaching reflects this emphasis on creativity. ‘Ultimately, the goal of an Arts education must be to develop the ability to use one’s knowledge and experience to analyse our society critically and fathom our place in it, to open up new possibilities and help us contribute to a better society. Such knowledge cannot be stagnant, but must be able continually to evolve. Facts are important, but take you only so far…’
Originally from Indiana, USA, Ryan’s journey to his current role began with an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering. ‘I especially liked the design tasks, getting to see a project through right from conception to completion,’ he says. ‘There can be a real creative side to Engineering.
‘I came to Canterbury on a study abroad programme for a year and took Arts papers. Those courses nourished and provoked that creative side even more, and I encountered the appealing and appalling situation where, unlike in Engineering, there was no bottom line, no right answer, no certainty in the end.
‘I found the Theatre and Film Studies courses at Canterbury to be both more difficult and more rewarding than any I’d done before. I never went back to the US, and now I teach here – hoping to facilitate a similar eye-opening experience for other students!’
Ryan is particularly interested in political theatre and he completed a PhD at UC which re-evaluated the genre, concluding that the most deeply political effects lie in a certain aesthetic approach rather than actual political content.
He was able to base much of his research on his own work with the Free Theatre in Christchurch. ‘We treat the theatre as a laboratory, exploring and testing artistic and theoretical ideas, with most Free Theatre productions providing material for academic theory and writing,’ he says.
Ryan has been president of Canterbury Film Society for eight years and is currently vice-president of the national film federation. He has recently participated in the New Zealand International Film Festival, performing as a vaudeville-style narrator for early silent films of the 1900s and 1910s. He also likes to perform music, and enjoys tramping and mountain biking to make the most of the outdoors.