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

MISCELLANEOUS Productions Presents AWAY with HOME

For two nights only, MISCELLANEOUS Productions, presents their 2018/19 new work, Away with Home at The Scotiabank Dance Centre’s Faris Family Studio Theatre.  

L to R: Zefanya Hardhian (in front), Lucy Luo, Kevin Nguyen, Arjun Panesar and Lennox Johnston-Yu pic: Amanda Skuse Photography

MISCELLANEOUS Productions is a hip hop theatre boot camp for youth from the community which presents an original theatrical work every two years, tours internationally, as well as giving free peer-run workshops for at-risk youth, and making films about their works.

What do home, identity, and belonging mean to you? With those three questions in mind, Away with Home director Elaine Carol began rehearsals, working with youth to draw from their own personal experiences, and together they have created a new work that explores issues of immigration, racism, mental health, bullying, maturation, family, victimization, identity and belonging.

L to R: Lucy Luo, Kevin Nguyen, Arjun Panesar, Lennox Johnston-Yu and Zefanya Hardhian Pic: Amanda Skuse Photography

Featuring five youth ranging in age from 14-21, AWAY with HOME combines contemporary and hip hop dance, neo-soul and hip hop music, Taiko drumming, image theatre, performance art and performance poetry together to examine the thematic questions.Watch these youth bravely share their own voice and personal experiences of what home, identity and belonging means to them as MISCELLANEOUS Productions presents Away with Home, September 27 or 28, 2019 (two shows only) at Scotiabank Dance Centre.
Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door and go on sale Monday, August 26 at brownpapertickets.com.

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

The Shipment Opens The Firehall Arts Centre Season.

The Firehall Arts Centre launches its 37th anniversary season with SpeakEasy Theatre’s powerful and provocative comedy, The Shipment, opening Wednesday, September 25th. 

The Shipment is written by award-winning Korean-American playwright Young Jean Lee.  The play is a subversive modern minstrel show about Black identity meant to wake the world to the ridiculous narratives in dominant media. Five Black actors – Andrew Creightney, Chris Francisque, Omari Newton, Adrian Neblett, and Kiomi Pyke – play a roster of characters that reads like a bad b-list of Black iconography: Video Ho, Crackhead John, Bad Cop, Standup Comedian, Drug Dealer Mama, Grandma from Heaven, and Record Company Executive, to name just a few. The brazen mash-up of these stereotypes with clichés, distortions, and brilliant sleights of hand all force us to go beyond the lampoon and shift the lens through which we perceive race in order to confront our own bias.

Speakeasy Theatre Company – The Shipment
photo: Jens Kristian Balle

“Young Jean Lee is one of America’s most fearless and exciting playwrights,” says Firehall Arts Centre’s Artistic Producer, Donna Spencer. “In her writing, she is not afraid to tackle difficult subject matter and does so with humour and intelligence. When SpeakEasy Theatre first produced The Shipment, I was privileged to sit in a sold-out performance and watch the audience shift in their seats, uncomfortably, and then laugh out loud a few moments later. The work engaged them and made them consider. I am proud to share this playwright’s work and this talented company of artists with Firehall audiences.”

The original production received five Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards nominations and a Best Actor win for Omari Newton, The Shipment is biting satire at its very best, and is set to shake up your perceptions of the subject matter.  The Shipment runs September 25 to October 5, 2019 at The Firehall Arts Centre, 280 East Cordova Street. Tickets are available online at firehallartscentre.ca

CONTEST – This contest is now closed…thank you for entering.

The kind folks at Firehall Arts Centre want you to witness this cutting-edge comedy for yourself, so they are giving a lucky reader a pair of tickets to to join us on Opening Night of The Shipment on September 25th at 7:30pm 

To enter the contest:

Leave a comment below telling us the person who would share your Oktoberfest experience (1 entry)

Follow @jminter and Tweet the Following & Tag a Theatre Buddy (1 entry) :

#CONTEST RT to #Win a pair of tickets to @FirehallArtsCte season opening production of #TheShipment from @SETheatreCo via @jminter http://ow.ly/w9xD30pxysT #giveaway #prize #Theatre

Contest entries will be accepted until Noon on Monday, September 16, 2019. 
One winner will be chosen at random. 

Speakeasy Theatre Company – The Shipment photo: Ryan McDonald

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