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 

Realwheels Theatre Searches for Playwright-in-Residence

Vancouver-based award-winning Realwheels Theatre has announced a national call for submissions for a playwright who lives with disability to participate in a residency beginning in 2020.

Through an open application process, Realwheels Theatre invites emerging to mid-career playwrights in Canada who live with disability to submit new, English language, theatre-based projects at various stages of development from. Once announced in December 2019, the selected playwright will receive a flexible package of supports customizable to their needs including dramaturgical support, workshop space, access to professional actors, disability accommodation, and a financial reward of $7000. The selected playwright will also participate in Realwheels’ programming over a period of nine months. In addition to the resident playwright, two encouragement awards of $250 will also be announced.

“We’re excited by the opportunity to further the creative capacity of the disability community,” says Realwheels’ Artistic Director, Rena Cohen. “Plays written by individuals with disabilities are still largely absent from cultural platforms. A key strategy toward achieving equity lies in actively supporting the cultivation of stories rooted in the disability experience. We’re proud to be creating structures that nurture playwrights with disabilities to tell their own stories!”

The Realwheels Theatre playwright in residence is open to emerging to mid-career Canadian playwrights.  Submission packages should include a cover letter, a short biography, a synopsis of their work in progress, and a sample of their best writing. 

Submissions must be received between September 15 and 30, 2019.

For full details of the residence program, and instructions for submissions visit realwheels.ca/playwright-in-residence.

The Arts Club makes you Sweat

The Tony-nominated play, Sweat, is now on stage at the Arts Club Theatre Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.  A co-production with Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, this production is the Canadian Premiere of playwright Lynn Nottage’s second Pulitzer prize winner.  A gritty, raw drama that gives the audience a glimpse into the lives of a small group of residents of Reading, Pennsylvania, one of the poorest cities in the USA.

In spite of being written earlier, Sweat, shows how the era of deindustrialization during the George W Bush presidency, set up the election of Donald Trump. It’s easy to connect the characters in Sweat with the current Trump base.  As a result, the play could have very different reception depending on the demographics of the audience, city and country.

Sweat starts off in 2008 with a visit to a probation officer by two recently released convicts; Jason and Chris. In flashback we see the start of the story, in 2000 a group of friends and co-workers hang out at a local tavern.  We witness the disintegration of friendships and family as two co-workers, Tracey and Cynthia, compete for the same managerial promotion at ‘the factory’. When Cynthia gets the job, jealousy pushes Tracey to spread rumours that she only got the promotion because she is black. This begins the splinter in their friendship, which is further strained when Cynthia is forced to lock-out her friends and family when the union votes against the factories offer of concessions.  As the strike wears on the picket-line brings stress to all involved. Racism and anger grows as ‘scabs’ are hired to do their work for cheaper.  This leads Jason and Chris to impulsively make disastrous decisions in the heat of the moment, leading us back to the beginning and the probation office.

The whole company of Sweat admirably bring the realism of the characters to life, Nicole St. Martin as Tracey and Marci T. House as Cynthia especially stand out as the driving forces in the conflict.  While is it well written, the play feels a bit long at 2.5 hours (including intermission). It felt like Ms Nottage tries to packs in so much social commentary about, socio-economics, race relations, political history, with news/sports clips and music also helping to set the era, that the story feels bloated.  In spite of so much dialogue in the play, the ending felt abrupt with little resolution, at this moment letting the audience draw their own conclusion as to the fate of this collective. Also taking away from the climax, some unfortunate technical issues with lighting and audio in the final scenes distracted from the performances on stage.  However, if you like gritty, political, blue-collar dramas, Sweat is definitely in your wheelhouse and worth viewing.

Sweat plays at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until November 18, 2018. Tickets are available from The Arts Club box office or online at artsclub.com 

Midtwenties Theatre Society goes Above The Hospital

photo: Chris Cho

Midtwenties Theatre Society and Red Gates Art Society present the new play Above The Hospital, until January 21st at Red Gates Review Stage on Granville Island.  The new production is the first written by director Beau Han Bridge, founder of Midtwenties Theatre Society.

As with Midtwenties Theatre Society’s debut, This Is Our Youth, Beau Han Bridge continues with millennial themes in Above The Hospital.  This time a young couple are forced to take a hard look at their lives and choices that come from choosing to live in expensive Vancouver.  As much about aspirations as broken dreams, Above The Hospital demonstrates how the frustration of living on a thread of a budget can bubble over into anger and anxiety.

Cameron & Lauren
Photo: Chris Cho

While those of us not of this generation may not relate to everything the young characters are going through, we’ve all harboured youthful hopes and dreams.  The cast of Above The Hospital seemingly represent all the stages of youth; Cameron is dreaming of being a recording star, girlfriend Lauren is the practical one, friend Abbey is a slightly flighty earth mother,  artist Bo is the success story, and young Michael is the ‘baby’ of the group.

The bones of Beau Han Bridge’s story show the potential in the young playwright’s ability, telling ‘millennial’ stories without being prejudged by or alienating other demographics is a delicate balance.

The 75 minute first act starts slowly but builds and reaches a dramatic climax but the 20 minute second act, acting as an epilogue to the main act, feels a bit rushed and leaves just as much unanswered as answered.
In the production we watched, most of the performances were strong especially from Mira Maschmeyer (Lauren) who carries a lot of dialogue, delivered with clarity and emotion and Zack Currie (Bo) who again demonstrates the strength he showed as a lead in This Is Our Youth.  Aaron Paul Stewart brings a surprising amount of character to role of Michael in spite of few lines.  Tristan Smith’s Cameron gives a taste of actor’s singing abilities but his delivery of his ample dialogue pales when opposite Maschmeyer’s Lauren.  Oftentimes, Smith cannot be heard clearly or at all, as he spends much of the show facing the back of the stage, and the rest of the time is smoking. On opening night, Smith appeared to forget his lines, Mira and he cover this flub well enough to make us wonder if it scripted or not, showing how comfortable they are becoming in the characters.  The rest of the cast appeared equally comfortable with their characters, however, with such rapid-fire dialogue the actor’s enunciation plays a vital role in their role. Nadya Debogorski’s Abbey suffered from such fast-paced speech that she seemed to speak over herself.  Being so hard to understand, the character fell to the wayside especially being paired with the charismatic Zack Currie’s Bo as her boyfriend.  Overall, Above The Hospital, is a slice of life in Vancouver that’s sure to resonate with many locals who will enjoy the inside jokes and digs at the city’s pros and cons.

Above The Hospital plays nightly at 7pm at Red Gates Revue Stage on Granville Island until January 21, 2018.  Purchase tickets $20 online at mtstheatre.com. 
Note: The show contains graphic language, simulated sexual content, some violence, drinking and drug use with non-toxic smoke throughout.