Archives for April 2016

Increasing the diversity of voices in theatre criticism

diversity and inclusion in theatre criticismAre you a person of colour who would like to develop their chops as a theatre critic or maybe just reach a wider audience? In the interests of creating more diversity in Vancouver’s community of theatre critics, I’d like to offer my mentorship/support/whatever I can.  [Read more…]

Viva rEvolver!

okay.odd, rEvolver Festival

Its creators describe okay.odd as “a multimedia meditation session that guides you through a stream of consciousness.”

While many larger companies routinely fail to represent the diverse cultural make-up of this city, the rEvolver Festival is doing a bang-up job of it.

Of the twelve ticketed shows that will be on view at the Cultch May 11 to 22, seven have been created by artists of colour or have artists of colour in significant leadership roles.

I’m particularly interested in Never the Last, which Christine Quintana, who is an artist of colour, has created with Molly MacKinnon. It’s about violin prodigy and composer Sophie Carmen Friedman, who was born in 1919, and the love she shared with painter Walter Gramatté. Delinquent Theatre, which also brought us the Jessie-winning Stationary: A Recession-Era Musical, is producing. There’s music in this one, too. Hang onto your hats.

And okay.odd intrigues me. Based on the concepts of concentration, mindfulness, and visualization, okay.odd promises to be “Part spiritual retreat and part commentary on our image-inundated affect-obsessed society.” Yeah, baby!

A company called Hong Kong Exile is behind okay.odd. That company consists of director and performer Milton Lim, choreographer and dancer Natalie Tin Yin Gan, and composer/media artist Remy Siu.

Not to forget intersectionality: seven of the shows have also been created or directed by women. And there’s a queer piece called Charisma Furs by Toronto’s Katie Sly.

Good for rEvolver, a relatively low-budget initiative, for showing the larger companies how it can be done!

Congrats on your nomination, Aaron Cully Drake!

Do You Think This Is Strange? Brindle and Glass, Aaron Drake, Colin Thomas

Aaron Drake’s new novel is a thing of beauty.

A book that I edited has been nominated for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award! Hooray for author Aaron Cully Drake!

Aaron’s book, Do You Think This is Strange?, is narrated by an 18-year-old autistic boy named Freddy. Freddy remembers everything—except for the circumstances surrounding an event ten years earlier: his mother walked him to a train station, kissed him on the forehead, and disappeared from his life forever.

The novel is often very funny: Freddy notes that his father often addresses him by a name that’s not his own, Jesus Christ. And, as Freddy starts to figure out what happened around his mom’s disappearance, the book is sob-inducingly moving.

As soon as I started reading Do You Think This is Strange?, I knew it was the real thing. Congratulations to Aaron, and all the best to him on May 26, when the winners are announced!

Thank you, Crystal Verge

Latino casting, The Motherfucker with the Hat, Vancouver theatre, Crystal Verge

The road to Damascus is harsh but rewarding.

I’m feeling a bit like Paul on the road to Damascus. I think I might be having a conversion experience.

I spent all day yesterday (Saturday) writing and rewriting my response to—well, to the shit storm. At times, that response was very lengthy. I spoke to a number of people during the day, trying to sort things out.

Early Saturday evening, during our third conversation, Crystal Verge said an extraordinarily helpful thing: she asked if I thought my pleasure in the Haberdashery production of The Motherfucker with the Hat justified the suffering that it unintentionally caused the artists of colour who saw it as emblematic of their systemic exclusion. Or at least she said something like that. And I found it persuasive. [Read more…]

George F. Walker, rape jokes, and the C-word

Jenny (Carmela Sison) is the smartest character in George F. Walker's Dead Metaphor. But is that enough? (Emily Cooper photo)

Jenny (Carmela Sison) is the smartest character in George F. Walker’s Dead Metaphor. But is that enough? (Emily Cooper photo)

There’s a bit of a shit storm happening about playwright George F. Walker’s response to Erika Thorkelson’s review of his play, Dead Metaphor in the Vancouver Sun. That shit storm is about rape jokes, use of the word “cunt”, comedy, and artistic context. It’s kind of a doozy.

In the dark comedy, Dead Metaphor, which the Firehall Arts Centre is producing, a demented 70-year-old lefty named Hank gets hopping mad with a vicious, self-serving, right-wing politician named Helen. Helen wants to send Hank’s son Dean, who is a vet, back to active service in Afghanistan. Helen wants Dean out of the country because Dean has started to blow the whistle about the illegal campaign funding she’s receiving from churches. At the height of his rage, Hank yells, “I’d like to fuck your corpse, you sinister whore!” [Read more…]

Arts Club double whammy

Colleen Wheeler and Scott Bellis in the Arts Club's Good People

Colleen Wheeler and Scott Bellis’s characters come from the tough side of the tracks on Good People.

This week, I have two shows to recommend: Good People and Onegin. Both are from the Arts Club.

If you haven’t already seen Onegin, buy your damn tickets! The run is selling out—partly because people are seeing Veda Hille and Amiel Gladstone’s vivacious adaptation of Pushkin’s verse novel three and four times.

The regular run of Onegin continues until April 10. And the Arts Club has been able to add three more shows: Tuesday, April 12, at 7:30, and Wednesday, April 13, at 1:30 and 7:30.

So grab yourself some seats. Don’t let those piggy repeaters suck them all up.

And Good People has just opened at the Stanley. The Act 1 set-up is laboured, but Act 2 catches fire.

Set in Boston, largely in a poor neighbourhood called Southie, Good People examines the stories that we tell ourselves about economic class.

David Lindsay-Abaire’s script asks nuanced questions and it’s often funny.

Laughlin Johnston’s set is superbly cinematic. Just wait till you see those rooms sliding together like puzzle pieces.

And there are some terrific performances, especially from Colleen Wheeler, Scott Bellis, and Jenn Griffin.

Vancouver theatre artists often diss the Arts Club. It’s a big commercial theatre, so it’s a large target, and it’s good for producers, large and small, to be held to account. But, right now, let’s give the company credit for two solid shows, one of which is an original local creation.