Skip to main content

Dennis Gupa

Man with shaved head and colourful pants standing in front of the ocean.
  • Category: Emerging Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Theatre, 2021
  • Current hometown: Winnipeg, MB
  • Birthplace: Mariveles, Bataan, Philippines

About Dennis

Dennis Gupa is a theatre director, performance maker/researcher, applied-theatre practitioner and an assistant professor at the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of Winnipeg. He has an MFA in Theatre (Directing) from the University of British Columbia, an MA in Theatre Arts from the University of the Philippines and completed his PhD in Applied Theatre at the University of Victoria as a Vanier scholar. His dissertation centred on climate change and Indigenous ecological knowledge. Dennis has directed and devised performances in Southeast Asia and North America. He received the 2023 inaugural Green Award (Individual Artist Runner-Up) from the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) and Boca del Lupo and RBC Foundation’s 2023 SLaM (Successor, Leadership and Mentorship) Program. He is a Dwight Conquergood Laureate of the Performance Studies International (PSi) and The Ada Slaight Drama in Education Awardee of Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre. Dennis is mentioned in the Cultural Centre of the Philippines’ Encyclopedia of Philippine Arts for his contribution to the contemporary theatrical heritage of the Philippines. 

How did your experiences at UVic shape who you are?

It's life transforming. I'm the only person in my family who received an international education and a PhD. But having such an achievement is empty when you are not connected to the purpose of the work that you're doing. UVic taught me to have an attentiveness to one’s purpose—a kind of an attention to the things that I wish to contribute to the world. It made me reflexive, value collaboration and to have the courage to constantly interrogate and question the work I create, communicate and circulate. My academic and artistic experiences at UVic made me realize that I have to constantly evolve with my own craft as a scholar, teacher and artist to become a better human being.

What skills or traits are needed to be good at what you do?

Humility. We cannot always answer the questions that we are pursuing. And once you have that humility, then you surrender to the spirit of collaboration. My heart tells me that engaging with the community is a duty and if we have the passion for social transformation and aspiration to contribute in making the world better, then we should begin developing a  deeper connection with our communities.

What’s a valuable piece of advice someone has given you?

To breathe. During the pandemic, it was extremely challenging to be calm, and the world taught me to draw life, peace and love from the breath. There's so much power when you understand the ways of breathing. I still have to master it. When you are attuned with the breath, I think it is easy to walk in gratitude and appreciate the life that we receive in every moment. Breathing is becoming.

What do you do to relax?

I listen to Filipino original music on YouTube… all the Filipino singers in the ’70s and ’80s [such as] Hotdog and the Manila Sound. 

What is one food you can’t resist?

Filipino adobo. It’s kind of a stew with vinegar and soy sauce. Just the smell of it makes me feel at home. Adobo is the best because every region in the Philippines would have a different variation of it. As a food it is versatile—it’s very adaptable and fluid. I liken the Filipino diaspora to an adobo!

What is a secret talent you possess that might surprise people?

Once there was a big typhoon in the Philippines, of course people can’t go out, [so] I tried writing a poetry on the sole of my foot. I think I learned that from a theatre production in the Philippines. I was fascinated with one of the characters who was dexterously scribbling his lines on the sole of his foot. And I said I probably should do that.

What’s the last great thing you’ve watched or read?

We have kind of a video streaming service in the Philippines like Netflix that you can access from anywhere in the world. And I'm able to watch films from the second golden waves of Philippine cinema. I’m completing [all of] those films available from that service from two icons of Philippine cinematic arts—Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal. They are absolutely beautiful and powerful!

Who plays you in the movie of your life?

I would like to be played by several actors—a young man, young woman and also a queer person. No one in particular. If someone were playing me, it will be of several actors of different genders. It’s just difficult for me to think of a human actor to play me because I’m also air, I’m also water, I’m also vegetable because I eat vegetables. So, probably a vegetable could play me.

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

Nominations for the 2024 awards are now closed. Nominations for the 2025 Distinguished Alumni Awards are open through Oct. 18, 2024.