Denise Kenney

Denise Kenney
Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Performance
Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies
The University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus
CCS 339, 1148 Research Road
Kelowna, BC V1V 1V7

T: 250.807.9632
F: 250.807.8027

2017-2018 Courses

CCS 506-001 Term 1 MFA Graduate Colloquium I
FILM 100-001 Term 1 Introduction to Film Studies
THTR 201-001 Term 1 Acting II: Actor/Creator Resources

THTR 280A-001 Term 2 Devised Public Performance
THTR 480B-001 Term 2 Special Topics in Performance Creation
VISA 371-001 Term 2 Digital Documentary Production

Research Interests

Devised theatre, physical theatre, applied theatre, eco-art, interventionist performance, experimental and documentary digital media.  Co-Artistic Director of Inner Fish Performance Co. and Co-investigator (with Nancy Holmes) on the Eco Art Incubator research project.  

Interdisciplinary Performance; Interventionist Performance; Experimental & Documentary Digital Media; Eco-Art; Applied Theatre

Interdisciplinary Performance; Applied Theatre; Interventionist Performance; Eco Art; Experimental & Documentary Digital Media


I studied at the Lecoq Theatre School in Paris, and have my MFA in film directing from the University of British Columbia - Vancouver.  I have a Bachelor of Arts in Drama (Distinction), and a Bachelor of Education in Drama and English from the University of Alberta.  My training with Jacques Lecoq included the embodiment of plants, animals, minerals, as well as manufactured objects and materials.  My research and teaching is also anchored in processes of creative devising.  Devising is a form of creation in which the script originates not from an independent writer, but from collaborative, usually improvisatory work by the artists themselves.  Unlike many forms of theatre or digital media that draw from already existing material, this kind of practice is uniquely positioned to create work in direct response to one’s surroundings. 

Additional training workshops include: Kate McIntosh (Belgium) Nigel Charnock (UK), Toshiki Okada (Japan), Mariano Pensotti (Argentina), Chrystal PIte (Canada), Pol Hayvaert (Belgium), Guy Cools (Belgium), Ame Henderson (Canada), Siegmar Schroder (Germany), Robert Benedetti (U.S.), Philippe Gaulier (France), Jillian Keiley (Canada).  

Teaching | Research

Artist Statement

In 2007 I moved to the Okanagan valley in the interior of British Columbia - a fragile dryland region undergoing radical urban and agricultural development. More specifically I found myself practicing and teaching performance in a more rural place. It was in this more rural place that I began to wonder how I, and my students/audience, could re-indigenate ourselves to the place where we live. I began to wonder how I, and my students/audience, could engage with the more-than-human community through our physical and sensorial selves. Both Inner Fish Performance Co., the company I co-direct with Neil Cadger, and the Eco Art Incubator project that I co-direct with Nancy Holmes are meant to be structures within which I can explore these questions. The Soundcan Tour in Europe was an exploration in interventionist work. Through sound we wanted to intervene in public spaces and interrupt habitual perceptions of site-specific sound. Green Space was an interactive performance in which the characters literally colonized the space with 150 two-by-fours and eventually boxed themselves in because of their need for the proverbial “greener grass.” Recent and ongoing projects like New Monaco are more community-based dialogical works meant to engage the public with particular neighbourhoods or local aesthetics. Much of my recent work occurs outside of culturally sanctioned spaces.  


My teaching, like my research, focuses the development of different ways of seeing and on the creative translation and integration of disparate inspirational sources to produce hybrid work. My pedagogical approach to teaching is greatly influenced by my own training with Jacques Lecoq. The work is predicated on the understanding that every aspect of our physical and emotional world can be represented in the human body. Freeing one’s impulses and working with a sense of “play” is the foundation for all work. I like to work with students to practice art, not as a commodity, but as a 
regenerative process. I believe my job is not only to prepare students for a theatre
 world that already exists, but also to inspire students to contribute to the theatre world
 of the future. I aspire to remain curious, to look forward as well 
as back, and to challenge the boundaries of my 


Journal: “Ground Rules:  Live Performance and Eco Art.” Canadian Theatre Review 144 (Fall 2010):  48-53.           

Book Chapter: Kenney, Denise.  “The Eco Art Incubator and the Ethics of Belonging.”  The Ethics of Art:  Ecological Turns in the Performing Arts.  Ed.  Guy Cools and Pascal Gielen.  Antennae, Valiz, Amsterdam: Arts in Society, Fontys School of Fine and Performing arts in collaboration with the Modul-Dance Project of the European Dance House Network, 2014. 

Town Criers

Performer for Theatre Replacement’s first incarnation of Town Criers at the Shadbolt Centre, Burnaby, as part of Burnaby Days.  Directed by James Long and Maiko Yamamoto.  In one part of the city, writers type out observations of the world unfolding around them. In another part of the same city, a town crier receives these observations via tablet - a modern-day version of the trusty scroll. Drawing upon patterns of relaying information that mirror Twitter or Facebook, Town Criers treats everyday considerations as the news. Intimate and minute details are transmitted through the ether, and then filtered through the live body and voice in an oratorical sculpture. 

Handheld Devices

Created for Encuentro, MANIFEST!  Choreographing Social Movements in the Americas The 9th Encuentro: Montreal. Handheld Devices- Body Politic uses the functionality of the smartphone to invert the now-common dynamics of distance created in a screen-mediated culture. The performance space is a simple portable wardrobe structure or tent, housing two people—performer and audience.  The phones depict the skin beneath the clothes of the performer, as the performers’ bodies become geographic sites, being excavated, exposed, mediated and re-imagined by the use of accompanying text and storytelling.


My current creative research examines indoor and outdoor public spaces as performance venues for live art and leads to the creation of documentary video films. Returning to my performance practice after working in Film and Television, I began integrating media into my stage work in the form of multi-media performance. Examples of this work can be seen in the Seed Trilogy, a series of works created in collaboration with Neil Cadger under the auspices of our new company Inner Fish Performance Co. While I continue to find this work valuable, simply bringing technology to the stage does not address certain questions I have regarding the relationship between the performer and the spectator; I question the role of the dedicated performance site in sanctioning cultural products and I am interested in examining how the form of dissemination in live art determines the nature of the audience and the audience’s experience. Integral to this research is the creation of hybrid documentaries that depict live performance practice and product while existing as creative entities to be valued beyond their archival function.



Drawing on the idea of technology or business incubators, Denise Kenney and Nancy Holmes established The Eco-Art Incubator. It is designed to provide support for eco art in the Okanagan valley by fostering a network of artists, collaborators, and contacts with the goals that Okanagan conservation programs will benefit, that UBC-O students will be trained in this growing field of fine arts, and that local artists and community members can participate in this growing area of art and ecological activism. The Eco Art Incubator generates eco art in the Okanagan by providing a support system for research, production, documentation, and dissemination. Graduate and undergraduate students are linked with community artists, ecologists, activists, and scientists through a comprehensive series of Okanagan-based resources and projects. Our goal is to not simply generate a series of works of art, but to create case studies and models that can be used for future groups and art-makers.

This project was funded through The Canada Council, SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council), and UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.


The second incarnation of The House at the End of the Road was Green Space. It is a hybrid of installation/performance art and traditional theatre staging. Six performers use 64 two-by-fours in an open interactive space to tell a story of a man, a woman and a house. The work continues our investigation into the destructive migration of Dick and Jane, a restless urban couple in endless pursuit of greener grass. It was invited to the 2012 Canoe Festival in Edmonton and was performed at the Kelowna Art Gallery and Kelowna’s Summerhill Winery Pyramid as part of their fertility festival in 2012.

This project was funded through the Edmonton Canoe Festival, The Canada Council, and the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, UBC Okanagan.

The House at the End of the Road (Green Space)

Kelowna Art Gallery, 2012


The Soundcan Project is an experiment using indoor and outdoor public spaces as performance venues for live art. The intention is to interrupt habit and challenge traditional and sanctioned cultural exchanges. In May and June of 2011, six public interventions in Europe were created, performed and recorded for a documentary film depicting public intervention practices and their goals and outcomes. These included performances in Utrecht, Gent, Bielefeld and Berlin.
 Soundcan technology combines a portable amplifier and a battery with an audio speaker inserted into an aluminum can. The soundcan is connected to an amplifier by 5 metres of speaker cable; the amp and battery are attached to the performer. Depending on the nature of the project, there are three sound sources used: a headset microphone, a cordless microphone receiver and an mp3 player. We first performed Instant Artifacts at the opening reception at the Performance Studies International Conference in Utrecht. We also performed a number of street interventions in Utrecht itself, the most successful happening in a courtyard (Neude Janskerkhof) beside St Martin’s Cathedral where we amplified Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and circulated through the highly resonant space. In Gent, Belgium we worked with Craig Weston from The Primitives and Koekoek, a street theatre group Weston created within the infrastructure of the social-cultural centre De Vieze Gasten. We created and performed a number of interventions throughout the city of Gent, including Sheep/Wolf, The Beach, andCafé Terrace. In Bielefeld, Germany, we performed Moo, and The Beach on the street and we created site-specific installations in Theater Labor’s large theatre complex as part of their Junge Triebe festival. In Berlin we performed in Gorlitzer Park where we were filmed by documentarian Volker Meyer-Dabisch as part of a documentary about this old East German railway terminus turned park.

This project was funded through a Hampton Research Grant, The Canada Council, and the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, UBC Okanagan.

Soundcan: The Art of Public Noise

European Tour 2011


In 2010 a site-specific performance work entitled Chainsaw Ballet was created for the Woodhaven Conservancy Eco-Art project. This work satirized our nostalgic relationship to logging and the mythology of our dominance over nature. The performance was filmed and turned into an experimental film that recently won a Seven Summits Award at the Mountain Film Awards in Mammoth Lakes, California.

This project was funded through a Hampton Research Grant, The Canada Council, and the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, UBC Okanagan.

Chainsaw Ballet
Chainsaw Ballet 2010


The first incarnation of The House at the End of the Road was a multidisciplinary performance using video imagery, text, movement and experimental sound. The narrative oscillated between two trajectories: the resolute and audacious settlement of the west, and the restlessness of a middle-aged couple in their home in the BC interior. These two narratives used archival material interwoven into the genealogy of the couple, linking personal and human histories to their current condition- the dissatisfied urban couple’s need to continue expanding. This was pitched at the Magnetic North Industry Pitch sessions in Kitchener Waterloo and performed at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in 2010.

This project was funded through The Canada Council and the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, UBC Okanagan.

House At TheEnd Of The Road
House At The End Of The Road
Vancouver, BC - 2010


Inner Fish explored our biological beginnings and ourselves as living organisms within that environment. We moved beyond the boundaries of the human experience and represented ourselves as members of earth’s broader community. The name for our company came out from this process.

This project was funded through the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, UBC Okanagan.

Denise Kenney - Inner Fish
Inner Fish
Kelowna, 2009


For Ground Rules, we observed that local culture had lost its connection to its agricultural heritage and we were looking for some way to embody and critique this observation. At this time we weren’t consciously doing “eco-art” or “community work.” We certainly had no illusions about educating our audience; we were simply embarking on a creation process in accordance with what was preoccupying us at that time. We presented our first work-in-progress Ground Rules at the 2008 National Independent Media Arts Festival and Conference (On Common Ground).

This project was funded through the National Media Arts Festival and the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, UBC Okanagan.

Ground Rules
On Common Ground, Kelowna, 2008

Last reviewed shim10/13/2017 1:37:44 PM