Gateway Theatre season opens with China Doll

Gateway Theatre opened its 35th Season with a production of Marjorie Chan’s China Doll. Ms Chan directs and revisits her 2004 play, inspired by Ibsen’s The Dollhouse, to bring it to the Gateway stage.

A period drama, telling the story of Su-Ling’s (Jennifer Tong) early life as she grows from 5 to 16 years. Starting with the traditional binding of her feet, to keep her feet dainty and make her more marriageable. The orphaned Su-Ling is raised by her traditional, and social climbing, Poa-Poa (Manami Hara) who is determined that she will marry well and bring prosperity to them both. Set in the time of China’s cultural upheaval Su-Ling is torn between two worlds, the traditions of her grandmother’s era, and the new world opening up to her as she learns to read by Merchant Li (Jovanni Sy). Seeing new possibilities and horizons, Su-Ling’s burgeoning independence puts her on a dangerous path.

China Doll – Jennifer Tong & Manami Hara photo: Tim Matheson

China Doll focuses on Poa-Poa’s tunnel vision of marrying Su-Ling off to a wealthy suitor, no matter how worthy he may or may not be. Historical and cultural references are hinted at, which I would have been interested to see more interwoven into the story. Merchant Li’s initial revolutionary leanings seem to be left behind as his paternal-like relationship with Su-Ling grows, bordering on uncomfortable at times.

China Doll – Jennifer Tong & Jovanni Sy photo: Tim Matheson

Heipo Leung’s simple stage set creatively let’s the audience imagine the indoor and outdoor settings. With such a simple set serving as multiple locations, the scene transitions were mainly defined by lighting cues, that felt a little too subtle at times. China Doll is an interesting work, juggling generational and cultural conflicts with the struggles that every adolescent goes through in seeking to gain their independence.

Presented with traditional and simplified Chinese surtitles, China Doll runs at the Gateway Theatre until October 26, special performances include Tea Matinee Tuesday October 22, Wine Wednesday (afterplay) October 23, and Talkback Thursday October 24. Find details, and tickets at gatewaytheatre.com

The Shipment opens Firehall Art Centre’s Season

The Firehall Art Centre kicked off its 37th season with Speakeasy Theatre’s production of the provocative work The Shipment by Young Jean Lee.

Omari Newton opens The Shipment photo: Ryan McDonald

The play takes a look at black cultural stereotypes and makes us examine our ingrained assumptions and perceptions of race. Starting off, the first half of the show firmly places the 5 black actors in stereotypical roles; brash comedian, wannabe rapper, drug dealer, crackhead, video vixen, and more in a variety show format.

The cast of The Shipment
photo: Ryan McDonald

The opening stand-up set by Omari Newton sets the audience up for the show that’s to follow, crass, graphic, offensive and uncomfortable, his set is equally amusing and thought-provoking. Amongst the spontaneous laughs, some of the audience’s laughter sounded awkward and forced, as though they felt like they needed to laugh along to prove they were ‘woke’. Following the stand-up set the cast; Omari Newton, Kiomi Pyke, Chris Francisque, Adrian Neblett & Andrew Creightney, whip through the previously mentioned roles in a choreographed minstrel-style review. Throughout the rest of the 75 minute play, laughter mixed with uncomfortable silence, actions, setting and dialogue designed to test our preconceptions of race, even if we didn’t think we had any.

The Shipment photo: Ryan McDonald

The simplicity of the direction by Kayvon Khoshkam and Omari Newton, plus staging keeps the focus on the actors and their actions, and of course, leaves us thinking.

Challenge your own notions about race, as The Shipment continues at The Firehall Arts Centre, 280 E Cordova, until October 5, 2019. Visit firehallartscentre.ca for more information

Presentation House Theatre presents launches 2019/20 season

North Vancouver’s Presentation House Theatre (PHT) launches its 2019/20 season October 8th.

NCHEM?U?S DAY

Before the season begins visit Presentation House Theatre this weekend, for Nchem?u?s Day on September 21st. The annual free community event welcomes everyone to join in the world’s largest Slahal “Bone Game”, an ancient traditional game of the Coast Salish territory. Presented in partnership with Spakwus Slolem (Bob Baker’s Eagle Song Dancers, Squamish Nation) and Tsatsu Stalqaya (Coastal Wolf Pack Dance Group, Musqueam Nation).

The Shipment

The 2019/20 season begins with the satirical comedy The Shipment, from SpeakEasy Theatre, which tests and challenges black culture stereotypes.  SpeakEasy Theatre Artistic Director Kayvon Khoshkam says, “The play does not judge, nor does it preach, rather it invites us in to share and listen. The Shipment is raw, challenging, and incredibly funny which is a perfect fit for the style of experience we have established for the company and our audiences.

Supporting their commitment to intergenerational theatre, PHT follows with Tomson Highway’s The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito from Ontario’s Carousel Players, an indigenous play for young audiences about acceptance and belonging.

Other shows in the 2019/20 season include Jake’s Gift (Juno Productions) the poignant remembrance of the legacy of veteransthe beloved wild rumpus of Where the Wild Things Are (Presentation House Theatre)God’s Lake (Castlereigh Theatre Project), a vivid original work of verbatim documentary theatre about the strength and resilience of the people in the remote fly-in reserve of God’s Lake Narrows, Manitoba. Germany’s Hands and Feet (Theatre Wrede) joyfully invites the littlest theatre newcomers into the magical realm of sound, movement and imagination. The season ends with the delightful House of Pooh Corner (Carousel Theatre with Presentation House Theatre), a celebration of friendship at every age. 

More information and show details can be found at www.phtheatre.org. Tickets are on sale now by phone at 604-990-3474 or online at  tickets.phtheatre.org

Vancouver Fringe Festival on stage until September 15, 2019

The 2019 Vancouver Fringe Festival takes over stages around the city starting today.  With 101 shows to choose from; comedy, drama, musicals, clowns, political satire and more themes make sure that you will find some “Theatrically Delicious” performances during the Fringe run from September 5 to 15.

Vancouver Fringe Festival’s vision is “Theatre for Everyone”, and employs an everyone is welcome selection process, drawing the mainstage performances out of a hat. Giving all artists from novice performers to veteran theatre companies, an equal chance to participate, and artists receive 100% of the box-office revenue during the festival.

The Festival program is filled with amazing shows, series and events including: 

Part of the 2019 Advance Theatre Series is playwright Taninli Wright’s Sis Ne’ Bi -Yïz: Mother Bear Speaks, which was inspired by the true story of a Wet’suwet’en artist who walked across BC to empower First Nations children.
  • Advance Theatre – New Works By Women : Ruby Slippers Theatre and Playwrights Guild of Canada partnered with the Fringe to showcase dramatic readings of five new plays by diverse Canadian women playwrights.
  • Dramatic Short Works :  This year’s Dramatic Works Series artists have been mentored by Hardline Productions’ Co-Artistic Director Raes Calvert.
  • Workshops for Artists & Aspiring Artists : a series of workshops aimed to help artists develop skills including theatre, dance, storytelling and more
  • Fringe Awards : the new TD Fringe Forward Award (for works from historically marginalized communities) joins the Public Market Pick of the Fringe Awards, the Joanna Maratta Award, the BC Touring Council Award, and the Artistic Risk Award 
Pulitzer Prize finalist Madeline George’s The Most Massive Woman Wins is part of the Dramatic Works Series this year. LA Weekly calls it “a thought-provoking glimpse at … women trying to conform to society’s often unattainable image of female beauty.”


Part theatre, part party, the Festival brings music every night to the Phillips Fringe Bar located at Ocean Art Works on Granville Island. The family friendly bar is all-ages and open Saturday and Sunday afternoons too.

Following the Fringe Awards tickets will go on sale for the Public Market Picks of the Fringe and Picks Plus program. Presented by the Granville Island Public Market the Pick is your last chance to see the hottest shows of this Fringe, while Picks Plus features top picks from festivals past.  Picks and Picks Plus run September 18 – 22, 2019.  

Vancouver Fringe Festival is on, at venues across Vancouver, until September 15, 2019. With so much to see and do, you’d better visit VancouverFringe.com for program details and tickets 

Coriolanus blows up Bard on the Beach

The 30th Season of Bard on the Beach hosted its final opening night of the season this weekend as Coriolanus made its debut on the Howard Family Stage. Due to solid early ticket sales, Bard on the Beach has already added 7 more performances to the run, now ending September 21st.

The Company of Coriolanus photo: Tim Matheson

Quite literally fighting its way on to the stage, the drama brings battles to the Bard. One of Shakespeare’s last tragedies, Coriolanus, based on the life of Roman general Caius Marcius Coriolanus deals with the timeless topics of war, peace, family and politics. Dean Paul Gibson (The Winter’s Tale, 2017 and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2014) returns to the Festival to direct Bard’s first ever production of Coriolanus.

“I am honoured to be directing Coriolanus on the Howard Family Stage, featuring a female protagonist,” says director Dean Paul Gibson. “This production for me is an artistic expression of the times we live in, with the evolution of ancient stories for modern times. This is the first professional presentation of Coriolanus in Vancouver, and there couldn’t be a better time for us to present this work with a strong female lead.”

Coriolanus : Marci T. House & Moya O’Connell photo: Tim Matheson

Gibson has cast Moya O’Connell (Macbeth & Timon of Athens, 2018) as Coriolanus, who carries much of the play on her capable shoulders. The rapid fire dialogue (sometimes so fast it’s hard to keep up) and choreographed fight scenes make the role both physically and verbally taxing. Coriolanus’s mother, Volumnia, played by Colleen Wheeler holds great influence over both her daughter and Rome’s storyline. Rounding out a trifecta of powerful women, rival general Aufidius is played by Marci T. House.

Mirroring present day politics, the male characters in this production are those more concerned with retaining their power by wrapping themselves in the pretense of the good of the people and country. They turn out to be master manipulators and are able to whip citizens into a frenzy that benefits the short term but result in long term tragedy.

Gibson notes, “Flavours of past warfare, along with some very modern political maneuvering, serve to remind us that the original story, with its division, tribalism and social schisms, still resonates hundreds of years later – as if it’s been pulled from the latest news report. It proves yet again that we are drawn to repeat our transgressions with no thought of our history.”

The intimate Howard Family Stage along with Gibson’s direction brings the audience into the action as the players use all angles and levels of the theatre. Pam Johnson’s simple but effective set design along with Alan Brodie’s lighting (note: strobe lights are used often) create the high-drama required of the tragedy. Lisa Stevens and Robinson Wilson choreograph the flights to create the drama of warfare but also the fluidity of dance. Barbara Clayden’s costumes are reminiscent of a Starship Troopers-like dystopian world. The creative team and direction create an onstage civilization that’s as suitably timeless as the story itself.

Coriolanus plays on the Howard Family Stage at Bard on the Beach until September 21, 2019. For tickets and showtimes visit bardonthebeach.org

Ensemble Theatre Co. 7th Annual Repertory Festival

Ensemble Theatre Company Annual Summer Repertory Festival returns to Jericho Arts Centre, July 10th to August 16th. The 7th annual festival features An uplifting comedy set in a doughnut shop, a classic political satire for the age of Trump and a celebration of the power of storytelling. 

The 2019 line-up of works promise to provide with topical stories that can draw parallels from the climate of today’s news and politics. Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts, observes the relationships of the patrons and workers of different generations, races and cultures in a small Chicago donut shop. Garson Kanin’s classic Born Yesterday, follows a corrupt businessman turned politician and his naive showgirl, mistress to Washington DC. Rounding out the trio of plays, Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy shows a young actor researching the lives of two bachelor farmers  and highlights the power of storytelling in creating and interpreting reality, and how it can transform lives. 

Ensemble’s talented group of actors, directors, and designers, bring to life this year’s selection of plays showcasing the humour, insight, and excitement that only live theatre offers. As Tariq Leslie, Artistic Director of Ensemble Theatre Company says: “Theatre brings us together to celebrate, challenge and provoke through the telling of stories. The plays we have programmed for our seventh season embrace conversations about what our culture was, is, and could be – the stories we tell ourselves and the truths we all share – each one filled with humour and with pathos.”

The Ensemble Theatre Company’s Annual Repertory Festival should be a highlight in every Vancouver theatregoers summer Arts calendar. 

The 7th Annual Summer Repertory Festival includes: 

THE DRAWER BOY
Back (R-L) Morgan (Darcey Johnson), and Angus (James Gill), seated: Miles (Chris Lam). Photo by Emily Cooper.

The Drawer Boy By Michael Healey
Directed by Alan Brodie / Asst. Director Caitlin Fysh
Featuring James Gill, Darcey Johnson, Chris Lam 

Preview Performance: Wednesday, July 10 / Opening Friday, July 12

BILLY HOLIDAY LEFT: Billie Holiday (Alexis Kellum-Creer), RIGHT: Paul Verral (Tariq Leslie). (c) Emily Cooper Photography

Born Yesterday By Garson Kanin 
Directed by Shelby Bushell and Michael Scholar Jr.
Featuring Alexis Kellum-Creer, Paul Herbert, Tariq Leslie, Kira Fondse, David Wallace, James Gill, Kenneth Tynan and Steven James

Preview Performance: Thursday, July 11 / Opening: Saturday., July 13

SUPERIOR DONUTS Back: Franco Wicks (Chris Francisque) (c) Emily Cooper Photography

Superior Donuts By Tracy Letts 
Directed by Keltie Forsyth
Featuring Ron Reed, Chris Francisque, Steve James, Darcey Johnson, Lindsay Nelson, Alexis Kellum-Creer, Anthony Santiago, Richard Meen, Kenneth Tynan

Preview Performance: Thursday, July 18 / Opening: Friday, July 19

Ensemble Theatre Company’s 7th Annual Repertory Festival runs July 10, 2019 to August 16, 2019 at Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery Street, Vancouver. Individual tickets and festival passes are available at ensembletheatrecompany.ca

The Sea comes to Jericho Arts Centre

Edward Bond’s The Sea, comes ashore at the Jericho Arts Centre, presented by The Slamming Door Artist Collective, from May 2nd to 19th.  The Sea is set in the aftermath of a tempest on the salt-sprayed shores of a quiet village, two young lovers try to make sense of chaos in an irrational society peopled by eccentric characters.

A wild storm shakes a small East Anglian seaside village, and Willy is unable to save his friend from drowning. The raving coastguard is too drunk to do anything; Hatch the draper is passing by but he believes that hovering alien spaceships are slowly replacing people’s brains and he refuses to help, while the grande dame Mrs Rafi, bastion of respectability, amateur theatricals and velvet curtains from Birmingham, sets her face against the chaos.

First produced in 1973 in London, The Sea is the work of noted but controversial English playwright Edward Bond. Bond is widely regarded but also courts controversy due to the violence depicted in his plays, and radical take on modern theatre. The Sea is no exception, where its collection of furious eccentricity, bitter collision of class, and fierce burning of grief sways between light-hearted comedy and desolate poetry, in an unapologetic examination of rural manners and humanity’s unqualified potential.

With The Sea, The Slamming Door Artist Collective returns to the Jericho Arts Centre for its third time, having previously produced critically acclaimed Guest Productions of A Doll’s House and Flare Path.  The Sea’s creative team includes director Tamara McCarthy, lighting design by Celeste English, sound design by Matthew MacDonald-Bain, set design by Sandy Margaret, costume design by Chantal Short and Cheyenne Mabberley, stage management by Nico Dicecco and Victoria Snashall, assistant direction by Laura Jaye, and dialect coaching by Ashley O’Connell.

For tickets and show details visit jerichoartscentre.com