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

The Tashme Project: The Living Archive brings history to the present

Tonight, The Firehall Arts Centre opens an eye-opening, award-winning play The Tashme Project: The Living Archives, on stage until April 13th.         

The play Created and performed by Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa, The Tashme Project: The Living Archives traces the history and common experience of the Nisei (second generation Japanese Canadians) through childhood, internment in Canada during the Second World War, and post-war resettlement east of the Rockies. The Nisei, now in their 70s and 80s, were children at the time of internment and their stories of adventure and play are presented in sharp relief with the more common internment narratives of hardship and justice.

Created from twenty interwoven interviews with Nisei from Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, Montreal, and Vancouver. The Tashme Project: The Living Archives moves from voice to voice and story to story with fluidity and with a purposeful and constructed gracefulness. The actors portray the voices of both men and women interviewees as they seek a deep emotional and spiritual connection with the stories of their elders, breathing new life into these memories.

The Tashme Project: The Living Archives highlights the Nisei character, language, spirit and story. Bringing to light this part of Canadian history, that is often kept in the dark, is an incredibly topical reminder of cultural division in the current social and political environment.

The Tashme Project: The Living Archives plays at The Firehall Arts Centre, 280 East Cordova St, from tonight, Tuesday, April 2 to Saturday, April 13, 2019. Tickets and information available online at

Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre Gains Perspectives

As The Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre reaches middle age, the landmark has partnered with Vancouver Heritage Foundation for a collaboration series; Perspectives.

In conjunction with its 40th anniversary, Perspectives, is a series of talks that explores Vancouver’s thought-provoking history that has shaped the city’s present.  Inspired by the rich history surrounding the Vancouver Lookout, Vancouver Heritage Foundation planned five unique speakers to present on the diverse history of Vancouver.  From the unique vantagepoint offered by the Lookout, guests will enjoy fascinating talks on Indigenous stories and context, South Asian history and immigration, architectural development and change, Vancouver music scene and nightlife, and the city’s seedy criminal history.

Four Perspective events in the series remain;

Cultural Landscapes: Vancouver’s South Asian Community –
Saturday October 7th 9:45 – 11:30am

Historic Crime: Early Forensic Investigations –
Thursday October 19th 6:15 – 8pm

Heritage From Up High –
Sunday October 29th 9:45 – 11:30am

Vancouver After Dark: History of the Entertainment Scene
Thursday November 16th 6:15 – 8pm

Tickets for all talks are available online at

All talks take place at the Vancouver Lookout, located at 555 West Hastings Street.  Arrive 15 minutes early to take the elevator up to the Lookout.

Culture Days BC 2017



On September 29, 30 and October 1, 2017, be prepared to create, participate and share during the Culture Days in British Columbia.  A collaborative, Canada-wide volunteer movement, Culture Days aims to raise awareness, accessibility, and participation of all Canadians in the arts and cultural programs within their communities.

The eighth annual Culture Days will feature free, hands-on, interactive activities that invite the public to participate “behind the scenes”—and to discover the world of artists, creators, historians, architects, curators, and designers at work in their community.

Whistler’s Audain Gallery will host the Culture Days kick off on September 28th. Then the following three days will be filled with free arts and culture events in all corners of the province, including;

The 2nd Annual Port Moody Scavenger Hunt – a hunt to explore and discover the city’s public art and historical sites.

Canada 150 Geocache Project in Maple Ridge – the Community Heritage Commission and City of Maple Ridge have established seven geocaches around town.

Squanderer Mural Festival – the large scale mural festival in Squamish wraps up it’s two month run during Culture Days.

Cannery Collections Storage Tours – a behind-the-scenes tour of the unique and rare finds hidden in the archives of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site.

Barclay Heritage Square & Roedde House Walking Tours – explore the urban oasis in the midst of Vancouver’s West End highlighted by the historic Roedde House Museum.

Behind the Scenes at Ballet BC – take a look behind the curtain to see what goes into the development of a new program

Try on the Gateway – visit Richmond’s Gateway Theatre to experience the magic of theatre; tour backstage, try on or buy costumes from past productions, perfect for your Halloween planning

These are just a tiny sampling of some of the local events, visit the Culture Days website to explore all that’s on offer in your community and set up your own custom My Culture Days itinerary.



3rd Annual African Descent Festival this weekend

The 3rd annual African Descent Festival gets underway at Thornton Park on Main Street this weekend, July 22 – 23, 2017. Presented by the African Descent Society, the festival is a celebration and promotion of the arts, culture, and music of the African descendants who make up Vancouver’s often unknown rich African history.

Vancouver boasts a vibrant and long-standing African descendent community, going back to the historic Hogan’s Alley, the first and only neighbourhood in Vancouver with a highly concentrated African-Canadian population.  Hogan’s Alley, not far from where Thornton Park stand now, came to an end with the construction of the Georgia Viaduct, part of a proposed freeway which destroyed most of Hogan’s Alley, but was halted in time to spare Chinatown and Gastown.  African Descent Festival commemorates the lives of the African descendants that lived then and the communities that are continuing to be fostered today. 

Entertainment includes 30+ artists over the weekend of July 22 and 23, headlined by South African top reggae star Nkulee Duke.  The festival also boasts an African Fashion Show curated by Zao Zeus Mohammed, traditional dances, a marketplace, tours of historic Hogan’s Alley, crafts and many guest speakers.   The African Descent Festival  takes place at 1166 Main Street, beside Main Street-Chinatown Skytrain Station and is a free community event but donations are welcome.  Festival marketplace and events run 10am – 8pm Saturday and Sunday. For a full line up and event details visit

Salute to Vimy Ridge 100 Anniversary.

This weekend marks the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. This First World War battle was a defining moment for Canada with special significance for the West Coast, through its connection to Major-General Arthur Currie.  The former Victoria High School teacher worked his way from a bottom-rung member of the militia to become the commander of the Canadian Corps. As commander of Canada’s 1st Infantry Division, Major-General Currie was a significant player in the historic victory at Vimy Ridge. If you’re in Victoria this weekend find out more about Currie and Vimy Ridge history in person. 

To honour Currie and Vimy 100, the Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site will hold a free celebration on Saturday, April 8th. The Military Band, historical re-entactors and presentations, a salute by the Guns of the 5th BC Field Artillery Regiment, and more take place throughout the event.

The evening’s agenda follows:

• 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. – Activities: Listen to music by the 5th (BC) Field Regiment, RCA Band and stories by historians and local military re-enactors, do commemorative crafts and enjoy hot chocolate around a campfire.
• 8:00 p.m. – Ceremony: Official speeches, a colour party from Royal Canadian Legion Branch 91 and a tribute to Victoria’s own General Sir Arthur Currie.
• 8:30 p.m. – 100-round rapid fire-barrage: by the guns of the 5th Field Regiment, RCA.

The Vimy 100 celebrations continue on Sunday, from 12:30pm, as the Bay Street Armoury, home base of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), near downtown Victoria hosts the public for a free open house and commemoration event illuminating the significance of the both the historic battle and the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, located in the heart of the site of the French battlefield.

Explore the historic Armoury with 30+ military units, regimental-family organizations, cadet units, veterans’ organizations, museums, archives, community heritage and history groups on display. Musical performances will take place during the day and as a Great War Era traditional tea party with costumes, food and music. 

Admission to both events is Free. Shuttle services provided Sunday from the Juan the Fuca de Fuca Park-and-ride (Ocean Blvd and Hwy 1A) to Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse.
Bay Street Armoury is located at Bay & Blanshard Streets in Victoria. 

Refuge – a powerful play at Firehall Arts Centre

Refuge - Firehall ArtsBalancing a fair refugee system and public safety are especially topical subjects with the current global debate on immigration.    Halagonian Mary Vingoe’s play, Refuge, reminds us that even a country as diverse as Canada has been touched by class, culture and sectarian violence as well as blemishes in our treatment of refugee claimants.

A powerful and relevant work, Refuge is a based on actual transcripts from an award-winning CBC Radio documentary “Habtom’s Path” about Eritrean asylum-seeker Habtom Kibreab.  Using the radio factual radio script as the centre of the story, changing the character’s name to Ayinom, Mary Vingoe has dramatized the rest of  his time in Canada.  Director Donna Spencer, has staged and cast the play nicely to keep the intimate story centred in the realism of the radio interviews with the rest of the staging kept sparse leaving focus on the human drama.

Pamela Ross (Sangeeta Wylie) & Saul Ackman (Robert Moloney)
Photo: Emily Cooper

Refuge feels a bit like a mystery, through the past vignettes we get clues to piece together the story being referenced in the radio interviews.  Although Ayinom is the central character, he never appears in the play, perhaps reflecting his uncertain refugee status. His limbo-like status is referenced by Pamela Ross (Sangeeta Wylie), the Halifax-born half-Indian woman who helps Ayinom’s mother Amleset (Angela Moore) learn English. Pamela learns of Ayinom’s plight and enlists her ex-boyfriend, human-rights lawyer Saul (Robert Moloney) to take his refugee case.

Interviewer (Nicola Lipman) & Mebrahtu (Aadin Church)
Photo: Emily Cooper

Brought together by the case, Pamela and Saul work through their own personal baggage, much involving the Air India bombings, and her family. Pamela’s husband Allan, played by Frank Zotter, is the voice of caution and fear of the unknown foreigner in his spare room. Perhaps a healthy dose of jealousy is nudging Allan to take the counter-argument to Saul as he sees his wife drawn to her human-rights activist past. Allan’s character is perhaps the least likeable character but also offers up dialogue that could be heard on any current-day debate on immigration.
Since Ayinom is never present but ever-present,  his friend and interpreter Mebrahtu, (Aadin Church) becomes his surrogate as he reads from his diary and shares his own first hand recollections. As the soft-spoken gentleman, Aadin’s performance offers up the most emotion and emotional scene of the 90 minute play.

See Refuge at the Firehall Arts Centre until April 1st, 2017 (dark on Mondays). Runtime is 90 minutes without intermission.