Leftovers, An Interview with Charles Demers

Leftovers_Landscape

Charles Demers and Baby Demers. Photo By Simon Hayter.

One of the stars of CBC Radio’s The Debaters, a best-selling author, and one of Canada’s finest stand-up comedians, Charlie Demers also lectures in creative writing at UBC and continues to fight the good fight as a political activist. His newest adventure Leftovers, which he co-created with Marcus Youssef and also stars in, is presented by The Cultch and PuSh International Performing Arts Festival from Jan 26 to 30 at the York Theatre. We had a chance to chat with Charles about his latest show, its inspirations, and the political landscape in general.

1. You are the playwright for the hugely successful East Van Panto, which has its own brand of political speak. How does Leftovers differ?

I’d say that the biggest difference is that, in Panto-land, we’re in a marshmallowy, cartoon world where everything is ultimately going to be okay — we never really feel unsafe in the Panto. So the political mockery, the potshots, the little jokes, even when they are about real, awful stuff happening in the world — gentrification, uncontrolled speculation, political corruption, whatever — the jokes come from a place of safety. Those bad things can’t get at us in the Panto, because we’re playing pretend. In Leftovers, we’re leaving the door open to all the vicious beasts and monsters in the world. Capitalism isn’t a harmless subject of satire in this world — in this particular show, it’s a bulldozer, it’s everywhere, and we’re scared of it. We’re supposed to be scared of it, even when we’re laughing.

2. You are a very busy man engaged in many varying projects from being a lecturer to an author/playwright, to standup/acting, where does the inspiration and drive come from to create these artistic feats?

Well, the cynical part of me would say that core, unshakeable feelings of financial and emotional insecurity will forever drive me to try and find the greatest number of both paycheques as well as strangers to tell me I’m doing good things. That’s partially true, at least. But I love the life of ideas, I love engaging people with ideas, and I’ve been lucky and privileged enough to get the opportunity to do that on a really nice scale, with a number of people and in a number of different ways, and I will work as hard as I have to and say yes to as many opportunities as I’m presented with that will keep that process alive.

3. Ronald Reagan has been the poster boy for dumb politicians, which Canadian politician do you feel comes close to him?

Well, Jean Chrétien play-acted that he was dumb, but he was actually brilliantly cagey and that was all Machiavellian performance, I think. I had thought that our new man, Justin Trudeau, was a major intellectual lightweight, but as it turns out, there may be something of Chrétien in him after all. No, I’d say the closest thing we’ve seen to the Reagan brand of oblivious cruelty here is probably Bill Vander Zalm, or our current premier, Ms. Clark.

4. Do you find it easier collaborating with others as you have done with Marcus Youssef for Leftovers or creating solo?

It’s interesting — in some ways, I think there’s a mistaken feeling that sets in early on in the process that working with a collaborator is going to be easier, because there’s someone else there to share the load, and that’s true. But having a co-creator ultimately, I think, means that you’re going to work harder, because you’re constantly being challenged about what the piece is, beyond the limited, comfortable thing that you maybe thought it would be. So it makes the show an infinitely richer thing, because you’re being pushed and challenged in ways that you wouldn’t ever do if you were working on your own. In a really good way.

5. East Van and The Cultch have a history of challenging the status quo in what they represent, does the area of East Van, the neighbourhood, play into how and what you present?

I didn’t grow up in East Van, but I lived here when I was a baby (my first home was the rented ground floor of a Vancouver Special on Kaslo street), and I started coming back to hang out on the Drive, at La Quena and for foosball at Joe’s, as a teenager. I’ve lived here for years and the neighbourhood has shaped me culturally and politically and socially and in every other way possible. I’ve been watching shows at The Cultch since I was a teenager, seen so many of the amazing shows that made me want to create theatre myself, that it’s almost impossible for me to answer this question, it’s so big. Let me put it this way: the first time my aunt and uncle babysat my daughter, when she was still shy of a year old, they took her for a a walk in her stroller, and the only time she stopped crying was when they were on the Drive.

6. You pose the question,” Why are we so accepting of the world as it is?” Without giving away too much info about Leftovers, do you have the answer?

Ultimately, I think that the often bloody back and forth of the 20th century drained us of our political imaginations. We’ve hardened against the idea of utopia — and while it’s true that we can’t build utopia in the real world, there’s something profoundly depressing and disempowering about a world where we don’t even entertain the idea, where we don’t even play with thought experiments about what profound changes in the way we organize society might look like. Given this context, I think that a non-cynical comic sensibility is important for the left; to be a little bit ironic, a little bit smirking, is a useful guard against the nightmares of the 20th century, I think. But without other feelings — feelings of love, or fear, or anger — that sort of comedy can become politically harmless, and that harmlessness makes us even more cynical. That’s why we’re excited to be doing a comedy show that isn’t, in this case, only stand-up — to be able to tell jokes but also have those real moments of feeling alongside them

Get your tickets now before they’re gone! An extra show has already been added due to demand!

A LEFTOVERS GLOSSARY

Toussaint Louverture: (1743 –1803) Leader of the Haitian Revolution.

Maximillien Robespierre: (1758 –1794) One of most influential figures of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

Tibet: A region on the Tibetan Plateau in Asia northeast of the Himalayas; occupied by China

Frederick Douglass: (1818–1895) African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman.

Emma Goldman: (1869 –1940) Anarchist known for her political activism, writing, and speeches.

Oakridge: An area in south-central Vancouver with an average household income of $65,000.

Jean Jaurès: (1859-1914) French Socialist leader.

The Paris Commune: Radical socialist and revolutionary government that ruled Paris from 18 March to 28 May 1871.

Commercial Drive: Roadway in Vancouver, BC that goes through the neighbourhood of Grandview-Woodland. Better known as “The Drive”.

Rosa Luxemburg: (1871 –1919) Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist of Polish-Jewish descent.

Leon Blum: (1872 –1950) French politician, identified with the moderate left, and three time Prime Minister of France.

Michael Corleone: Main character in the Godfather film trilogy

Clement Attlee: (1883 –1967) British politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1945-1951) and the Leader of the Labour Party (1935-1955).

Jawaharial Nehru: (1889 –1964) The first Prime Minister of India

Ho Chi Minh: (1890 –1969) Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader who was prime minister

Deng Xiaoping: (1904 –1997) Chinese revolutionary and statesman influenced by Marxism-Leninism.

Salvador Allende: (1908 –1973) First Marxist to become president of a Latin American country through open elections.

Che Guevara: (1928 –1967) Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist.

Stuart McLean: Canadian radio broadcaster, humourist, host of the CBC Radio program The Vinyl Cafe.

Henry Kissinger: American diplomat and political scientist.

Karl Marx: Philosopher, economist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist.

Maoism: Political, social, economic, and military theories and policies advocated by Mao Zedong.

Bernie Sanders: American politician and the junior Senator from Vermont self-described socialist and democratic socialist.

French Revolution: A period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France that lasted from 1789 until 1799.

The Cultch receives $130,000 grant from Vancouver Foundation for “Democratizing our Stages” Project

The Cultch and Diwali Fest staff at Nirbhaya Community Engagement meeting1Left to Right, Rohit Chokani & Vineeta Minhas Co-Producers of Diwali Fest, Heather Redfern – Executive Director, Nicole McLuckie – Director of Patron Development, Kim Harvey – Youth Program Manager, Abdel Naroth – Marketing Intern, Ricky Choi – Marketing Coordinator

 

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve received a significant three-year $130,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation for our “Democratizing our Stages” Project! While The Cultch has a long history of diversity, community inclusion, and pushing the boundaries of art to benefit society, this grant will allow us to go even further, challenging the status quo by prioritizing community development and presentation with groups and communities that have not yet engaged with us.

“We are delighted and grateful for Vancouver Foundation’s support,” says executive director Heather Redfern. “I truly believe this is a game-changer. The confidence the Vancouver Foundation has shown in our ability to make significant change is heartening and meaningful not only to The Cultch but to the community partners we will work with on this project over the next three years.”

The project began in earnest this past November when we partnered with Diwali Fest, Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW), and Amnesty International to present and engage in community dialogue around Nirbhaya, the internationally acclaimed play inspired by the 2012 rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi and featuring the real life testimonials of sexual violence survivors. This was the first year in what will now be an ongoing partnership with Diwali Fest. Other Democratizing our Stages partners include Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (VACT), Dancers of Damelahamid, Neworld Theatre, Neworld Theatre, and Urban Ink, with plans to bring others on board over the course of the project and into the future.

“There is increasing diversity in professional arts practices in Canada, however there are still very few venues that present this work in a mainstage context throughout a season of programming,” says Redfern. “We are interested in talking to people who are not coming to The Cultch. We’ll be partnering with like-minded organizations from the community to diversify the audience that attends these productions, finding innovative ways to provide access to communities. Social exclusion is systemic and can only be reversed by conscious and proactive efforts. The democratization of our stages will happen when cross-cultural communication takes place between artists and communities over and over again, until we reach the point that it feels ordinary, as though it’s always been that way.”

Read more:
The Georgia Straight
Vancouver Presents

Rentals Roundup: Heathers: The Musical and Blackbird’s The Rivals excelling at The Cultch and York

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It has been a busy month at The Cultch with Blackbird Theatre’s presentation of The Rivals and …Gently with a Chainsaw Artists Collective’s Heathers: The Musical at the York. Both of these shows are playing to wildly appreciative audiences and we love having these high-calibre rentals buzzing in our buildings!

What people are saying:

“Just got home from opening night…You guys were amazing!! This is my all-time favorite 80’s movie and you were on point!
Thank you so much for your hard work and allllll the laughs! Well done!” – Melissa McPherson, Audience Member

“Whether you’re a fan of the movie or not, you will still enjoy this energetic show with it’s strong-voiced cast” – Cassady Ranfordt, – Vancity Buzz

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Emma Slipp: photo by Tim Matheson

“This is an excellent production. On the night we went most of the audience were in fits of laughter throughout the play, and I seriously thought the lady in front of me would fall out of her seat, she was laughing so hard. So if you enjoy light hearted comedies, don’t miss this professional production of one of Richard Sheridan’s masterpiece comedy of manners” –  Gillian Lockitch, – Review From The House

“Love, money, language: The Rivals may be over 200 years old, but its concerns are still relevant—and very entertaining” – Kathleen Oliver – The Georgia Straight

Have a show or event and need a venue? If you have that eureka moment or if your company needs an outstanding venue, look no further than The Cultch and York Theatre. Get more info online at https://thecultch.com/rentals/

 

Hansel and Gretel: An East Van Panto ends our hugely successful 2015 season!

Dawn Petten and Maiko Yamamoto (front) as Hansel and Gretel with Caitlin Goruk, Allan Zinyk, Carly Pokoradi, Josue Laboucane, and Lillian Doucet-Roche; photo Emily

Photo by Emily Cooper

Thank you to everyone who made Theatre Replacement`s Hansel and Gretel: An East Van Panto a huge success. Charlie Demers` witty script, Veda Hille`s campy songs, and the superb acting, directing, and set design, made it one of the best Pantos yet.

But there is not much that can be said that will top what loyal audience members and media outlets have been saying.

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a little pantomime. Now on its third year, East Van Panto has proven itself a seasonal tradition” — Erika Thorkelson, The Vancouver Sun

Super-silly and with more puns than Vancouver has rainy days, Hansel and Gretel: An East Van Panto shifted the Grimm’s fairytale from Germany to Vancouver East. We booed, we cheered and you can, too”-  Jo Ledingham , Vancouver Courier

Had such an amazing time at @TheCultch watching #eastvanpanto! Amazing talent from a cast who truly love what they do! Thank you to them!!!” – Lavina Goossen @lavinahgoossen

We`re thrilled that the incredible year was also recognized by the critics on their year in review lists.

1)  The Vancouver Sun (5 out of 10 picks were Cultch productions!)

2)  Westender

3)  Georgia Straight critic Colin Thomas`s blog

4)  Vancouver Courier

Thank you to all the folks that made 2015 a memorable year for The Cultch and we hope that you will allow us to make your 2016 as memorable as we navigate the Global cultural landscape to bring these gems to East Vancouver.

Happy Holidays from The Cultch!

A few members of our Cultch team (plus staff pups Gary and Murphy) creating yuletide glow in The Cultch lobby!

A few members of our Cultch team (plus staff pups Gary and Murphy) creating yuletide glow in
The Cultch lobby!

The Cultch would like to wish all of you a very happy holiday season! We are truly grateful for the support from you — our supporters, patrons, and friends.

Thanks to your continued patronage we sold out three simultaneous shows in our season – a first in Cultch history. We literally wouldn’t be here without you!

Thank you for choosing to make The Cultch and the arts a part of your life – we look forward to more grand adventures in the new year!

The best of the season to you,

from The Cultch team

Box Office Holiday Hours:
December 24: 12 pm to 4 pm
December 25: closed
December 26: 12 pm to 4 pm
January 1: closed

For regular box office hours, click here Tickets for events happening at The Cultch can always be purchased 24 hours a day, seven days a week through our secure online ticketing system: tickets.thecultch.com

OPENING NIGHT PHOTOS: The Daisy Theatre and An East Van Panto at The Cultch and York Theatre!

Its been a busy month at The Cultch (Vancouver) as we opened Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre as well as Theatre Replacement’s Hansel & Gretel: An East Van Panto!

Ronnie Burkett, a Cultch favourite, kicked things off on Dec 2 at the Historic Theatre with the third installment of The Daisy Theatre – which marked his 200th performance of the show! Theatre Replacement soon followed with the opening of Hansel and Gretel: An East Van Panto on Dec 4 at the York Theatre, which the Georgia Straight described as a “phenomenon.” Here are some of our favorite snap shots from the both nights:

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Tickets are still available for both shows but some nights are already SOLD OUT. Click here to buy now and secure the best seats.

Thank you Dignity Memorial!

Heather Redfern and Michael Hedden

Heather Redfern and Michael Hedden

We are thrilled that Dignity Memorial joins us for a third year as a production and In Memoriam sponsor with a contribution of $10,000. This year, Dignity Memorial is production sponsor for The Daisy Theatre.

Our Executive Director, Heather Redfern, had the following to say:

“I would like to thank Dignity Memorial for its generous and on-going support. I greatly share and commend its appreciation that arts and culture enrich our lives. It is fitting to support a show by perennial-audience favourite Ronnie Burkett with a work that is smart, touching and comedic.”

Market manager of Dignity Memorial, Michael Hedden, also commented on Dignity’s commitment to the Arts:

“Supporting The Cultch is really about supporting dialogue within our community. Art in its various forms is an affirmation of the human experience. As funeral service professionals, we help families tell their loved ones story and celebrate lives lived. Together, Dignity Memorial and The Cultch celebrate storytelling

Dignity Memorial sponsored Famous Puppet Death Scenes (The Old Trout Puppet Workshop) in 2014/15, and Grim & Fischer (Wonderheads Theatre) in 2013/14. In addition, it has supported the inclusion of the In Memoriam section of the season program, giving donors the opportunity to remember and recognize loved ones who were great supporters of the arts.

If you would like to recognize a loved one in our program, please contact Georgia Beaty, Development Coordinator, at 604-251-1766 ext. 108

It’s the York Theatre’s two-year anniversary! Share your York story!

YorkBlogThe two-year anniversary of the York Theatre is this Sunday, December 6! To celebrate we’re sending the call out to you – our friends and supporters – to submit your personal York story. Tell us about a gig you saw back when it was a concert venue, or a show you saw when it was known as the Little Theatre, or any other story –past or present – about the York. If you submit a story, you will be invited to an exclusive Cultch Rental’s Department and Heritage Vancouver Society event this February! Plus, submit your story by Dec 11 and you’ll be entered to win two tickets to the opening night of Leftovers at the York Theatre on Jan 26.

To submit your story please email marketing@thecultch.com with the subject line ‘York Memory’ or leave a comment below. Your personal story may be used in future promotional materials. Please be assured, that we would only list your first name and omit any identifying details. Do let us know if you don’t want yours included!

Nirbhaya Reviews!

We would like to thank all of the courageous human beings that attended and enabled us to present Nirbhaya. Based on real life experiences and the violent incident that shocked Delhi and the world, the production featured the real testimonies of survivors and helped us have a conversation around the issue of gender-based violence in our community and all over the world. Click here for some of the photos from the opening night.

Here are some of the reactions we received from critics and patrons like you:

Nirbhaya is stunning. You could feel the impact of the material in the silence that preceded the ovation on the opening night of the show’s run at the York” – Colin Thomas, The Georgia Straight

“True stories of violence deserve to be heard” – Erika Thorkelson, The Vancouver Sun

“Nirbhaya is not a play you like but it’s powerful, urgent and true. It’s also a remarkable piece of theatre. Be fearless. See it”- Jo Ledingham, Vancouver Courier

“Incredible and heart-wrenching” – Max Lloyd-Jones, @maxlloydjones1

“Most powerful theatre I’ve ever seen. Thank you  to the actors for their brave & eye-opening performances #EndTheViolence” – David v.d.B. @drvan

“You Need to see it. I can’t imagine having not. Thank you” – Tracey Power, @TeepTeep

Nirbhaya #EndTheSilence

On December 16, 2012, a young woman boarded a bus in Delhi heading for home. What followed changed countless lives forever. People poured onto the streets in grief and rage demanding justice. Legally prevented from revealing her real name, the press named her NIRBHAYA — “Fearless”. To march beside the women on the streets of Delhi was to take back the night, to salvage being a human being.

Around the world, one in three women will experience some form of violence in their lifetime. Based on the performers’ real life experiences, Nirbhaya is a voyage into a tapestry of personal testimonies. Bear witness to these brave women’s stories and join their call to action to Raise Your Hand and help us to break the silence around the world, one voice at a time.

Nirbhaya will be playing at the York Theatre Nov 3-14. Every audience member will be invited to participate in our #EndTheSilence campaign and will be given a card that allows them to write a message, share their story, or post their reaction to the show. The cards will be displayed as an installation in the York Theatre’s lobby as part of the #EndTheSilence campaign. We hope to start a dialogue and to take away the shame that surrounds sexual violence.

The Raise Your Hand installation at the York Theatre will be on display throughout the duration of the show’s run (Nov 3-14). 

Spread the word online and tag your comments, reactions, and stories with #Nirbhaya or #EndTheSilence.  Thank you for joining us to help #EndTheSilence!

Raise Your Hand #EndTheSilence

Raise Your Hand #EndTheSilence