A conversation with Paneet Singh, Writer/Director of A Vancouver Guldasta!

A conversation with Paneet Singh, Writer/Director of A Vancouver Guldasta

Paneet Singh. Photo by Pardeep Singh Photography

The Cultch is excited to once again partner with Diwali in BC. This year we are co-presenting two shows, The Believers Are But Brothers ( Oct 30 – Nov 10, Vancity Culture Lab) and A Vancouver Guldasta (Oct 2 – 21, Vancity Culture Lab). A Vancouver Guldasta, written and directed by Paneet Singh and produced by South Asian Canadian Histories Association (SACHA), opens next week and we couldn’t be more excited. We chatted with Paneet Singh, and he gave us a little background about the show.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a playwright and filmmaker based out of Burnaby. I absolutely love history, and especially the history of the local South Asian community. A lot of my work is around examining intimate stories that happen within large-scale events, much like the story in A Vancouver Guldasta. I also work in admin and am part of the instructional staff at Arts Umbrella, working mostly out of the Surrey locations. Above all else, I love storytelling. I consider engaging with story to be a large part of my professional and personal life, as well as my spiritual journey – and really the only way in which all of these aspects of my life can intersect. I also like to make a lot of jokes. Usually when I shouldn’t be making jokes. I thought that was important to share.

Where did you get the idea for A Vancouver Guldasta?

About a decade ago, a friend of mine gave me a VHS tape that he had gotten from his uncle which contained a ton of local and newscasts from 1984 immediately after the invasion of the Golden Temple. I was so moved by the content and I knew that there was a story to discover around it. I played with it in many ways over the past few years, eventually discovering that the story would be well-served to be told in a way which captured that trauma is shared across generations and cultures – from there, A Vancouver Guldasta was born.

Is it true that the word ‘Guldasta’ means ‘bouquet’? Can you explain what the significance of the word Guldasta is in the context of A Vancouver Guldasta?

Yes, it does! Guldasta means ‘bouquet’ in a few languages from South Asia, including Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu. The title is meant to reflect the make-up of many Vancouver neighborhoods that many of us grew up in, where families weren’t just those who you were biologically related to, but also became those who you shared a living space with, and interacted with everyday. It speaks to this being a story experienced in a space which appears to be a Punjabi space, but is actually intercultural. ‘Guldasta’ is also a term used in Indian classical music to refer to a composition that is made up of contrasting musical measures – but I won’t go too far into it, as that’s explored in my favourite scene of the show!

The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib (“abode of God”) or Darbar Sahib, (Punjabi pronunciation: [dəɾbɑɾ sɑhɪb], “exalted holy court”), is a Gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. Credit Wikipedia

The invasion of the Golden Temple is a significant event in the Punjabi community. Were there difficulties writing about such a significant period of time, one that is so firmly cemented into people’s minds? How did you overcome these?

The biggest challenge comes from the fact that it’s in the lived experience for so much of the community. Even those of us who didn’t live through it personally, feel the tremors of its impact and have inherited the trauma from those around us. Furthermore, the politics of 1984 form the basis of politics today within the community. Most people want to examine one or the other – the politics, or the trauma. I feel as though the two are so heavily intertwined, to really unpack either you need to see how they intersect, and that’s what forms the basis of this piece. You can approach the politics and trauma in a sensitive manner if you put a face and experience to them. I did a lot of research, observation, and consultation in order to ensure that there was a truth and sensitivity behind every distinct voice that is reacting to this catastrophic incident.

What can you tell us about the characters in the play?

They’re so different from one another, but I think you can really believe them to be interacting the way that they do. They’re funny, they’re bold, they’re dynamic, and they’ve all got something to say – but, perhaps they’re still discovering the right way to say it. I don’t want to get too much into each character individually, but the thing that surprises me most about this show is that an audience member will often say that a particular character reminds them of themselves, but they really found themselves listening to the character who was opposed to them – to me, that’s really exciting because it means that there’s a strong thesis and antithesis being examined and there’s a compelling enough argument to draw the attention of otherwise unwilling ears.

Lou Ticzon as Andy, Gunjan Kundhal as Niranjan, Parm Soor as Chattar, and Arshdeep Purba as Rani. Photo by Pardeep Singh Photography

We are so excited to have A Vancouver Guldasta in our Culture Lab; the last time it was presented, the stage was set in an actual Vancouver Special, the location that the play is set. How did you manage creating a stage inside of a home? What are you looking forward to about having it in our Culture Lab?

Typical Vancouver Specials. “Vancouver Specials have similar floor plans with the main living quarters on the upper floor and secondary bedrooms on the bottom, making them ideal for secondary suites.” Credit Wikipedia

It was tough staging it in that space, but I was stubborn! I knew that I wanted to experiment with that location the first time we put it up, just because there’s so much gravitas with this particular story in that space which is, in other regards, so infamously humble and common. We had three rows of bleachers built into the room and squeezed in 25 people, crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder, to watch this show that was entirely lit by practical lighting, and had all the sound coming out of the television set. It wasn’t glamorous, but it really forced you into the world of the characters, and audiences really responded to it.

I’m twice as excited now because we get to bring that experience into the Lab. We’re playing with the audience’s seating arrangement, we’re playing with projection, and we’re playing with some of that good ol’ 80s technology to really make it as much of an experience as it was in the house. It’s fun re-imagining it in this space – it feels like a whole new production. I have been approaching it creatively not in a way in which I’m trying to get the Lab to become that living room, but rather respecting the Lab for what it offers, and discovering how these feelings translate in this new space, for a larger audience.

Is there anything else you would like to share about the production?

I am really struck by how much this show strikes a personal chord with so many audiences – Sikh, South Asian, Vietnamese, Vancouver residents, and those who fit into none of the above, have all said they found a story in this story that resonated with their own personal experience – and I love that. Experience and empathy lies at the heart of much my work, and A Vancouver Guldasta is no exception, so I really want to invite folks into this intimate space to spend time with this family. Certainly a unique family – but still one that’s perhaps not so far-from-home.


A Vancouver Guldasta runs Oct 2-21 at the Vancity Culture Lab. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

Corporate Sponsor Spotlight: Giulio Recchioni from the Italian Cultural Centre

Corporate Sponsor Spotlight: Giulio Recchioni from the Italian Cultural Centre

Giulio Recchioni

Can you tell us how the Italian Cultural Centre first got involved with The Cultch?

Our very first time at The Cultch was in March 2012 with FRESCO, a play the Italian Cultural Centre commissioned from Lucia Frangione and BellaLuna Productions, telling the lesser known story of the internment of Italian citizens in Canada during WW2.

However the first proper partnership with The Cultch was in May 2017 with LA MERDA, featuring a naked Silvia Gallerano sitting on a stool on a dark stage… what a tough show that was!

What has surprised you and your colleagues most about partnering with The Cultch?

I was surprised by the richness and diversification of the shows offered at The Cultch, and also by the number of people that created a community around this historical institution in Vancouver;  some of the audience changes according to what’s playing, but there is also a hard core audience that comes to every show. I think that’s great. They trust The Cultch, they know whatever gets put on stage will be good and will have an impact on them, and they come with an open mind.

Over the years, the Italian Cultural Centre has supported several Cultch shows. Are there any highlights or memorable moments?

I still can’t help but smile when I think of Pss Pss and what they did with the ladder. Pss Pss was a funny show by Compagnia Baccalà that made adults and children laugh with non-verbal humour. In our line of work, cross-generational and cross-cultural are adjectives we use constantly, but this show brilliantly embodied both concepts.

How important do you think it is that the arts organizations continue to cultivate and sustain partnerships with corporate sponsors and local businesses?

It’s of paramount importance. The population is growing in this expensive city, and we are also seeing the consequential multiplication of cultural and artistic organizations. Often putting up cultural activities costs more money than ticket sales can generate, and government grants (municipal, provincial, federal) do not always keep up with the growing demand for funds. I hope more and more thriving businesses will want to share some of their wealth with the local community to keep this city interesting and interested.

What are you curious about right now?

I am curious about the new Creative City Strategy that the City will be rolling out – hopefully soon. There have been a number of explorative meetings to get an idea of what is needed in the arts and culture sector, and I can’t wait to see how all that knowledge will convert into an action plan.

Do you have a favorite show?

This is always such an unfair question… I see a decent number of shows throughout the year, and I have to constantly update my list of favourites. If I had to single out something I saw recently, though – I am a jazz fan, and I was lucky enough to go to Pyatt Hall for the live concert of the great baritone sax player, Gary Smulyan, with strings. He is a powerhouse!


As a registered Canadian charity, The Cultch relies on the support of the community to operate as a cultural hub; bringing diverse and engaging live performance to the stage.
Please consider making a donation today! Contact Natalie Schneck, Development Associate: natalie@thecultch.com; 604.251.1766 x.121
Charitable registration # 11928 1574 RR0001

DONOR SPOTLIGHT: Jodi Sprackman with the Rosedale on Robson

DONOR SPOTLIGHT: Jodi Sprackman with the Rosedale on Robson

Can you tell us how the Rosedale on Robson first got involved with The Cultch?

Our long-standing partnership with The Cultch began in 2001 when we were approached to discuss accommodating your artists during the theatre season. This is our 17th year as a hotel sponsor, and we still love welcoming The Cultch’s artists to the Rosedale!

What has surprised you and your colleagues most about partnering with The Cultch?

The great relationships we’ve forged with many of the people who work at The Cultch.

Over the years there have been several artists who have made the Rosedale on Robson their home while touring shows to The Cultch.  Are there any highlights or memorable moments from meeting the artists?

Meeting Miriam Margolyes when she stayed with us in 2012 while performing in a one-woman show entitled Dickens Women. She is an award-winning actress and a long-time veteran of film, television and theatre. She was funny, outspoken and gracious (we chatted a few times during her stay), and made such an impression on us that we even changed our pool hours to accommodate her schedule (and we haven’t changed them back since!).

Jodi, can you tell us a bit more about what you do in your role as the Director of Community Relations?

I am responsible for all things community-related, with a primary focus on sponsorship agreements with various performing arts organizations. Accommodations are a big part of their budgetary requirements, and because we have the means to help out in this area, we do.

Because we’re an all-suite hotel that also happens to be located in the heart of the entertainment district, artists really enjoy staying with us. It’s an easy walk to a variety of theatres (and not too far a drive from The Cultch), and they love the convenience of having their own kitchen, especially after getting “home” after a late performance.  Working with theatre companies and festivals is a natural partnership that has flourished over the years.

How important do you think it is that the arts organizations continue to cultivate and sustain partnerships with corporate sponsors?

I think it’s crucial to create and foster these partnerships. The very nature of sponsorships focuses on building relationships where different organizations can help support one another. The reason we primarily focus on these organizations is because the arts are notoriously underfunded and are always in need of assistance from the community. The arts tend to be overlooked, and cultural events are often forced to be put on the back burner, having to be either scaled back or cancelled.

We believe that the arts are an integral part of our community as a whole, and partnering with various organizations helps foster the commitment the Rosedale has to the overall support and promotion of the arts in Vancouver. We’re committed to playing a part in helping to enrich our cultural community.

What are you curious about right now?

People. My kids say I’m nosy, but I’m really just interested (and maybe just a little bit nosy). Everyone has a story. I like learning about people and their lives.


As a registered Canadian charity, The Cultch relies on the support of the community to operate as a cultural hub; bringing diverse and engaging live performance to the stage.
Please consider making a donation today! Contact Natalie Schneck, Development Associate: natalie@thecultch.com; 604.251.1766 x.121
Charitable registration # 11928 1574 RR0001

Behind-the-scenes of Jabberwocky and No Foreigners!

Behind-the-scenes of Jabberwocky and No Foreigners!

It is an exciting week here at The Cultch – we have TWO shows opening! At the York Theatre, Jabberwocky runs Feb 6-17 (Opening Feb 7), and at the Vancity Culture Lab, we have No Foreigners playing Feb 7-17 (Opening Feb 8).

In this exciting blog post we reveal a few behind-the-scenes images for both of these amazing shows – A sneak peek just for you!

Jabberwocky:

Inspired by Lewis Carrol’s famous nonsense poem, Jabberwocky explores the things that keep us awake at night. What will it take to slay our own Jabberwock? Take a look at some of the behind-the-scene images from The Old Trout Puppet Workshop:

For an exciting behind-the-scenes look at Jabberwocky, check out this great video from Vancouver Presents!

No Foreigners:

An interdisciplinary collaboration (co-presented with Theatre Conspiracy) from Hong Kong Exile and fu-GEN Theatre (Toronto), two leading Asian-Canadian performing arts companies, No Foreigners takes a unique look at Chinese malls, through live performance, micro-to macro video, text, miniatures, and media design in this exciting world premiere. Check out these images from their time creating at Carleton University:

Jabberwocky runs at the York Theatre Feb 6-17. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

No Foreigners runs at the Vancity Culture Lab Feb 7-17. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

 

Q&A with Governor General award-winning playwright, Colleen Murphy!

Q&A with Governor General award-winning playwright, Colleen Murphy!

Photo by Heidi Hamilton

How did the idea to adapt a Shakespearean text incorporating Bouffon come about?

When Stephen [Drover] asked me to write an adaptation of Titus Andronicus I wondered how to connect with a play I felt was emotionally vacant but intriguing.  “What makes people so angry they kill children?  What is under such rage? Terrible hurt probably, and terrible grief.”

While adapting the play I was the Lee Playwright in Residence at the University of Alberta, working in the same department as Professor Michael Kennard, aka Mump from the incredible duo Mump & Smoot.  Michael teaches clown there and I was inspired by the rigor and the fearlessness he used in his hilarious student presentations.  I felt that given the blood-bath of the 21st century, Bouffon were more suitable to my adaptation because they bring a primal urgency to a story that both begs to be taken seriously and begs not to be taken seriously.

Can you tell us a little bit about the effect that the Bouffon style has on the piece?

The Bouffon style opens up both the emotional and the farcical aspects that are already in Shakespeare’s play.  He must have enjoyed writing it, and there are some beautiful passages, as fine as any he wrote.  The murders and the outrage might even be funny…and the funny is sometimes sad.  The world of revenge is an over-the-top world driven by sad, angry people.

What is something about the show that audiences may be surprised to learn?

Perhaps members of the audience might be surprised to discover that nothing is sacred, that everything is human, including the worse things people do to each other.

Can you describe the show in 3 words?

Fun Meets Death.

What most excites you about bringing this piece to the stage?

Marrying Shakespeare with Bouffon offers another perspective on Titus Andronicus in the 21st century.

Peter Anderson in “The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius”. Photo by Stephen Drover


The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius runs from Nov 22 – Dec 3 at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre. Tickets are from $22 and can be found here.

Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan brings attention to sex trafficking

Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan brings attention to sex trafficking

This year The Cultch is partnering with Diwali in BC, a new organization spearheaded by Rohit Chokhani, to launch the organization’s inaugural year. Diwali in BC has chosen the artistic theme of Shakti, feminine power. On October 17 we hosted the launch of this new initiative with a reception and the opening of Encounter (Oct 17-22).

The celebration of the power of the feminine continues with this Friday’s (Oct 20) opening of Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan.

Created and performed by Dipti Mehta, Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan is the story of a mother and daughter living in the red light district of Mumbai. Dipti Mehta has been using this production to shine a light on sex trafficking, and a portion of her profits is donated to an organization called Apne Aap, a company dedicated to helping at-risk and prostituted women and children.


According to Equality Now, trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. This, despite the fact international law and the laws of 158 countries criminalize most forms of trafficking.

Sex trafficking is a lucrative industry making an estimated $99 billion a year.

  • At least 20.9 million adults and children are bought and soldworldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labor and bonded labor.
  • About 2 million children are exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade.
  • 54% of trafficking victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
  • Women and girls make up 96% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

We, at The Cultch are thrilled to be have local company Atira Women’s Resource Society as the community partner for this important show.

“Atira Women’s Resource Society is a not-for-profit organization committed to the work of ending violence against women through providing direct service, as well as working to increase awareness of and education around the scope and impact on our communities of men’s violence against women and children.”


Here are a few of the many organizations in the city who are resources for our city’s women:

WAVAW

Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre

Elizabeth Fry Society

Pivot Legal

PACE Society

WISH

SWAN Vancouver

HONOUR: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan runs at the Vancity Culture Lab Oct 20- Nov 4. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

Lots and lots of ‘buzz’ for Hot Brown Honey at Edinburgh Fringe!

Lots and lots of ‘buzz’ for Hot Brown Honey at Edinburgh Fringe!

There are so many amazing shows coming up in our 17/18 season, and it is really hard to choose our favourites, but here is one that we don’t want you to miss – we think it is going to be one of our most popular!

If you haven’t gotten your tickets for Hot Brown Honey yet, make sure you get them quickly; this show may be in January (9-20th), but the tickets are already going fast!

Right now Hot Brown Honey is tearing up the stage at Edinburgh Festival Fringe! We couldn’t help but share some of the amazing buzz these amazing performers are getting in the twitterverse. Follow these FierceMamas @hotbrownhoney for the latest ‘buzz’.

Hot Brown Honey runs at the York Theatre Jan 9- 20. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

 

Join us for a FREE pancake breakfast July 30!

Join us for a FREE pancake breakfast July 30!

We want to have breakfast with you!

It’s summer time (Yipee!) – a time for getting outside, meeting with friends and exploring the city with those you love.

Here at The Cultch we are all hard at work getting ready for the upcoming season (our first shows, Goblin Market  and 1 Hour Photo start October 3rd).  We are all enjoying the sunny summer we have been having, but summers are quieter at The Cultch and we miss you all!

Come hang out with us this Sunday, July 30th and share a few laughs and some delicious grub! We will be flipping pancakes from 10:30 am-1:30 pm. The Pancake Flip-out is a Cultch Community eventeveryone is invited!

Mmmmm, piping hot pancakes slathered in ooey, gooey syrup!

This is an opportunity to meet some of the people in the community, those physically close and those close at heart. Good food, good friends, good community!

Let us know if you can make it – RSVP here!

Thank you to our Cultch audiences for a triumphant close to our 16/17 Season!

Thank you for a wonderful 16/17 season!

What an amazing year it has been! The 16/17 Season was one of The Cultch’s most successful thanks to the continued patronage of all of our amazing supporters!

With 21 theatrical shows in our three venues, as well as countless amazing rental and festival shows; 11 Gallery shows; plus three nights of great music including, The Sicilian Project, DakhaBrakha, and the inaugural East Side Live, 16/17 was a great season for us, and we are so glad that you joined us for it!

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We had many grand adventures together; here is a look back at a few of the many highlights:

We joined together to watch a version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night completely in Hindi (Piya Behrupiya).

Piya Behrupiya

Photo by Company Theatre

We saw paper fights break out between audience members and bendy contortionist performers (The Pianist)…maybe we threw a few pieces ourselves…

‘The Pianist.’ Photo by Roaming the Planet

We saw the dawn (dusk?) of a new era in US politics ushered in as we sat in the dark Historic Theatre and did a little voting of our own (Fight Night).

Cast of Fight Night

Together we raised money for Cultch Connects, bringing over 1,200 people into the theatre who might not be able to attend otherwise; including families who are struggling to make ends meet, caring for a child with a serious illness, or who are new to Canada.

Cultch Connects brought over 1,200 people to the theatre with your help!

We joined together with our friends and families to make the fourth installment of East Van’s favourite holiday tradition the biggest selling show in The Cultch’s history! (East Van Panto: Little Red Riding Hood) Go Panto Go!

YAY Panto! Photo by Emily Cooper

We celebrated the powerful work of creative women for an entire month during Femme February!

Femme February included Mouthpiece, NeoIndigenA, am a, and the book launch of Girl Positive

We chuckled, chortled, and cackled together as we paid tribute to the 30+ year legacy of a local restaurant with a big heart, while singing along to catchy hits like ‘Testosterone’ and ‘Let a Girl Eat’ (Elbow Room Cafe: The Musical).

Elbow Room Cafe: The Musical cast members sing ‘Testosterone’. Photo by Tina Krueger Kulic

We spent time with old and new friends as we gathered to watch some of The Cultch’s favourite performers like: Esme Massengill, Mrs. Edna Rural and everyone’s favourite flightless fairy -Schnitzel (The Daisy Theatre).

No one is immune to the cuteness of Schnitzel! Photo by Alejandro Santiago

We felt the spray of ice on our faces as we gathered on the ice of Britannia Ice Rink to see Vertical Influences.

Audience members sit on the ice during Vertical Influences. Photo by Roaming the Planet

We mourned together as we watched heartbreaking and poignant Children of God, and then we sat together in the theatre to discuss how to respond to the dark legacy of residential schools.

Children of God cast members lead a discussion after the opening night performance. Photo by Roaming the Planet

And, after so many shows and fabulous events – we joined together to share meaningful conversation over many a glass of wine!

Sharing a drink with friends in the York Theatre. Photo by Roaming the Planet

We would love to hear some of your favourite memories of the 16/17 season; what are your favourite moments? 

Don’t forget to buy your subscription for our 17/18 Season soon. Shows are already filling up, get the best seating while you can! Click here for the full lineup.

Thank you for choosing to make The Cultch and the arts a part of your life!

Box Office Summer Hours:

Monday- Saturday: 12-4pm

Sunday: Closed

Also, open 2 hour prior to all performances

Announcing the 2017 rEvolver Festival Mainstage!

A man stuck in a London train station. A live game show. A cardboard puppet sci-fi western. A live drag attari video game musical. An embarrassing birthday gift. A Spanish Vampire bar. A bespoke handmade book. The meaning of love.

Upintheair Theatre is thrilled to be back at The Cultch for the fifth annual rEvolver Theatre Festival. rEvolver runs from May 24th – June 4th, presenting new work by Vancouver and Canada’s most exciting up and coming performers and theatre creators. Past rEvolver Festivals have included world premieres of hit shows such as Jordan Hall’s ‘Kayak’, Delinquent Theatre’s ‘Stationary: A Recession-Era Musical” (which featured as part of The Cultch’s 2015/16 season) and Mind of a Snail’s gorgeous shadow puppetry in ‘Caws and Effect’.

This year’s programming represents the rich diversity of voices, aesthetics, and styles among Vancouver and Canadian emerging professional theatre makers. Join us in seeing all that this incredible community of artists has to offer.

Got to revolverfestival.ca for all the information you need!

MAINSTAGE SHOWS:

FREE EVENTS:

  • Habitats Isabelle Kirouac & Nayana Fielkov (Vancouver)
  • Plunge in collaboration with Resounding Scream Theatre (Vancouver)
  • SHINY Kelly McInnes (Vancouver)
  • UPDRAFTS Reading Series featuring new works by emerging playwrights

Excited by what you see? There are a number of different ways you can purchase tickets!

  1. With the 6-show flex pass, the passholder can see up to six individual shows, take five friends to one show, or any combination in between!
  2. If you can’t see 6 shows, you can still save by purchasing a 3-show pass instead!
  3. And of course individual tickets are available both through The Cultch’s Box Office and at the door.