DISPATCHES FROM IRAN: In and Around Tehran

The Cultch’s Executive Director Heather Redfern is in Tehran, Iran to attend the 29th Fadjr Theatre Festival. It’s an interesting time indeed in that part of the world. Here is her second dispatch from the festival. You can read her first post here, with more to come tomorrow.

Cultch Executive Director Heather Redfern visits Iran to see live theatre at the Fajdr Festival

At the pomegranate stand: David from Ireland (l), Manuel from Columbia (r)

Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011

Friday afternoon we were briefed by the festival and finally had an opportunity to see a bit of Tehran. We went to the north part of the city which is much brighter than the grey quality the streets have near our hotel. There are stores selling chain store chic clothing, people walking together in the streets, neon signs and for us a stop at a pomegranate stand where you can get all things pomegranate. On the advice of our translator we all had the pomegranate ice cream which was truly wonderful despite the chilly weather. This morning it snowed hard but the sun is out and the snow melted this afternoon. People think of Tehran as being hot but in fact it is in a bowl surrounded by mountains and can be very much like Vancouver in the winter.

In front of the bakery

In front of the bakery (l-r) Levon from Toronto, our translator Semper, Teresa from Berlin, Mojca from Slovakia, Avra from Greece

This morning at the festival we had our first encounter with the young Iranian theatre artists whose work it is we are here to see. At the “marketplace” in the foyer of the beautiful opera house, they made video presentations and invited us to speak with them. The atmosphere was very formal but the artists are eager to share their creations with the world so we are keen to learn about them.

Beginning tonight we will see their performances on stage. There are several international guests here including Peer from Germany, Shahin from One Light Theatre in Halifax, and Levon from Toronto. They have worked on co-productions with Iranian companies and their familiarity with the culture, language (Farsi) and some of the artists is very helpful to all of us in the International delegation as we try to decipher the program and get to know the work of these artists. I truly believe that this kind of artistic sharing and exchange is very important to international diplomacy. It is by seeing contemporary art being made by artists that we begin to understand a culture and develop a view of a people that we don’t see on the television news.

Street Sweeper

A Street sweeper readies the street for the celebrations of the revolution with strings of celebratory lights behind him

Some random observations:

There is a big difference between public and private life here. There is a formality to being in public. People are very nice to us but there is definitely a protocol. Though I have yet to experience it, I understand that when people are in their homes they lead a more relaxed life than we see.

There is one station on the television with English subtitles and the news out of Egypt is being compared to the Iranian revolution and celebrated as the beginning of Egypt’s Arab revolution.

The traffic in Tehran is wild and the air pollution is very bad. We have been grateful for the wind and snow showers that help to clear the air.

For lunch I had a most wonderful stew made with pomegranates and walnuts. This was a welcome change from the diet of rice and kebabs (meat and fish) that we have been offered at every lunch and dinner. I am now determined to seek out these interesting stews that are traditional Iranian fare but are not as widely available as the kebabs.

DISPATCHES FROM IRAN: Heather writes from the 29th Fadjr International Theatre Festival

Our own Executive Director Heather Redfern is attending the 29th Fadjr International Theatre Festival in Tehran, Iran this week. With dispatches coming all the way from Iran’s capital city, Heather is writing about her experiences being in a country that is new to her and what she will be taking in at the festival. The Fadjr Festival has theatre directors, producers, scholars and presenters participating from sixteen different countries. Here is the first post from Heather, check back tomorrow for the next update!

Heather Redfern: Cultch Executive Director

Heather Redfern

I have finally arrived in Tehran, Iran after 26 hours of travel: a ten hour flight to Heathrow Airport from Vancouver, a six hour stopover there, and then another eight hour flight to Tehran. We had to stop and refuel about an hour before arriving here as there is an oil embargo and the planes cannot refuel in Iran to make their return journey. I spent a great deal of time on the plane studying the women who were on my flight and their headwear. After tightly wrapping my scarf around my head before getting off the plane, a woman approached me and asked if it was my first time here. When I responded in the affirmative she told me there was no need to wrap the scarf so tightly. Indeed, in the airport, the women’s scarves came in many colours and most had some of their hair showing. However, as I looked out on the streets at the local women, most are wearing the traditional black hijab. A man at the airport tells me it is a design choice and not mandatory.

As we drive through the early morning streets of Tehran to our hotel we can see preparations for the big rally that will be held this morning. Today is the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and our hosts let us know that everything will be closed as a result. This morning there will be a big street parade: motorcycles are driving through the streets sporting large flags and banners and streets are lined with bunting and lights. I have slept through some of the action this morning but the rally is blaring on the TV as I sit in the hotel lobby writing this.

Today is a “day off” and the festival begins in earnest tomorrow with the arts market in the afternoon and the shows beginning in the afternoon. I am looking forward to my first adventures here.



What the Heck is Unison? A Viewer’s Guide

This January 25th to 29th The Cultch is presenting one of its most innovative pieces of the season, relay. Created by Toronto-based choreographer Ame Henderson, relay explores the concept of unison in dance.

We all know the word unison means “at the same time as somebody or something else,” but what does it mean when we talk about dance?

live dance: Swan Lake

National Ballet of Canada

Turns out, unison pretty much means the same in dance terms as it does in general usage. It’s when two or more dancers perform the same steps at the same time on the same stage. As one of the oldest conventions of movement there is, unison is commonly used in all choreography and dance styles from hip hop and salsa to classical ballet.

Check out this photo of the dancers from Canada’s own National Ballet. This iconic piece from Swan Lake shows how effective true unison in a dance piece can be. Notice how every dancer is performing the same steps at the very same time. If any dancer were to stray from performing in synchronization, the whole effect would be lost.

Now, check out this photo from Vancouver’s own MOVE: the company as it illustrates dancers abandoning the concept of unison. They move in their own time and their own way, independent from one another. While this choreographic choice is much different from true unison, creating a different story onstage, it still makes for quite a compelling performance.
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What is Unison? An Interview with Public Recordings Choreographer Ame Henderson

vancouver live dance: Ame Henderson, choreographer of relay

Ame Henderson - photo by Aaron Mackenzie Fraser

On Tuesday January 25th, Ame Henderson brings her creation, the contemporary dance piece relay, to The Cultch. This cross-disciplinary work uses live music and dance to examine the idea of unison, questioning the “politics and possibility of being together.” We spoke with Ame about her process, the artistic journey she traveled in creating this highly anticipated work, and how she feels about bringing it to Vancouver.

Ame, Can you tell us a little about your background and the creation of Public Recordings? How did you get to where you are today?

I grew up on Vancouver Island and finished high school in North Vancouver. I then moved to Montreal to attend Concordia University, staying in Montreal for several years after graduating from the dance program. I think these early years in Montreal were really important for me in terms of exploring ways to work with other artists and creating strong connections with performers and musicians that I still work with today. We were making things happen ourselves, creating contexts for our projects and working collectively. The spirit of these collaborations is still very much at the crux of how I imagine Public Recordings. With the company, I hope to create a space for people to come together to work and to share time and to come up with ways to extend what we’re thinking about to our audiences.

What are your thoughts on the current Canadian dance scene?

I am excited by what’s happening in dance in Canada. It is sometimes challenging to bridge the great expanses of space between our cities, but I think artists find incredible ways to work with these distances and differences while also working locally. I am now based in Toronto where the dance community is made up of many artists that come originally from other parts of Canada and from other countries. I think that we are in an ongoing and dynamic conversation with each other about how to nurture the forms we work in, as well as our own artistic growth, and then how to connect with the outside and move our work. These questions are challenging but they are also exciting.

Vancouver live dance: relay

photo by Omer Yukseker

As you are originally from Tofino, how do you feel about coming back to the West Coast to perform?

I am thrilled. I apologize for being incredibly personal, but one thing I keep thinking about is how exciting it is to get to perform this work for friends and family that have never seen what I do. I am absolutely looking forward to presenting at The Cultch for that reason. But at the same time, there is something about coming around full circle. I am the person and artist that I am partially because of my upbringing and where I grew up. I don’t think often of the direct connections between my youth on Vancouver Island and my work, but I think the opportunity to think about some of that when in closer proximity is interesting. I am curious about what it will feel like and also what conversations I’ll have with audience members.

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Christmas Carol Project Song of the Week: Bah Humbug

Bill Bourne as Ebenezer Scrooge, live music presented by The Cultch

Bill Bourne as Ebenezer Scrooge

The Christmas Carol Project makes its first visit to The Cultch this Friday and Saturday, December 17 & 18. The third and final installment of our song of the week from the album Songs of the Christmas Carol Project is Bah Humbug featuring Bill Bourne and Terry Morrison. The Christmas Carol Project is made up of a talented cast of Edmonton-based musicians who have created a collection of songs written from the perspective of each character in this beloved Christmas fable, and in Bah Humbug, Bill Bourne is playing Ebenezer Scrooge.

Listen to Bah Humbug here >> Bah Humbug

About Bill Bourne:
A multiple Canadian Juno Award winner, Bill has received international acclaim for his recordings and live performances. A mainstay on the international roots scene, life on the road is reflected in Bill’s music – powerful rhythms and soulful songs, steeped in world beat, blues, cajun, celtic, folk, flamenco, funk, poetry and more.

Bill Bourne as Ebenezer Scrooge in The Christmas Carol Project: Live music in Vancouver presented by The Cultch

Bill Bourne as Ebenezer Scrooge (in the top hat)


Bah Humbug (You Don’t Know Me)

Well if you think I care
You don’t know me very well
If you think I have a heart
You don’t know me, I can tell

If you believe in peace
You really are stone blind
for you waste my precious days
you leave your task behind

Well if you think I care
You don’t know me very well
If you think I have a heart
You don’t know me, I can tell

And if you stand up for love
well, you really are stone blind
you, who idle away the hours
pretending to be kind

Well if you think I care
You don’t know me very well
If you think I have a heart
You don’t know me, I can tell

© 1996 Bill Bourne

The Christmas Carol Project: An Interview with the Show’s Creator, John Armstrong

What is on your Christmas list this year? Socks? Underwear? An iPhone? How about tickets to see and hear Juno-nominated folk musicians that make up The Christmas Carol Project at The Cultch. Complete with an original score of 14 musical pieces, The Christmas Carol Project chronicles a transformative night in the life of one Ebenezer Scrooge. The Cultch was lucky enough to catch up with John Armstrong, the man behind The Christmas Carol Project. He was kind enough to answer a few questions and give a little insight into the show’s concept and talent, along with his personal insights.

The Christmas Carol Project: Entire band of Live Musicians in Vancouver for the Holidays

Tell us about The Christmas Carol Project – how does the show unfold?

The show is based on compositions by a collective of songwriters who have written from the perspectives of the main characters of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The songs are tied together with text from the story delivered by our narrator, Dave Clarke who makes his debut with the project this year.

What inspired you to make a music show out of the classic story, A Christmas Carol?

When the idea came to me, I was looking for a way to showcase some of the incredible musical talent that we have in Edmonton in one show. It just made a lot of sense as a vehicle and it’s a classic, timeless story with an important message for all of us.

What about A Christmas Carol made it the best platform to showcase the talent in Edmonton’s music scene?

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The Christmas Carol Project Song of the Week: On the Wings of the Wind

Kevin Cook - musician in The Christmas Carol, live music in Vancouver at The Cultch

Kevin Cook

The Christmas Carol Project is made up of an extremely talented cast of Edmonton-based musicians who have created a collection of songs written from the perspectives of each character in this beloved Christmas fable. Leading up to the show’s opening at The Cultch December 17 & 18, we are posting a song from the project.

This week’s song is On the Wings of the Wind by Kevin Cook. Click here to listen >> On The Wings Of The Wind

About Kevin Cook:

Kevin Cook, a long, lean guitar picker from Alberta conjures up his own brand of raw folk voodoo.  Critics unanimously agree, Cook’s obvious ace is his lyrics. From haunting ballads to edgy country blues his songs often reflect his western roots. Cook tours as a solo artist as well as working with a rockin’ four piece band. Recently he’s been exploring the world of film, scoring the music for the documentary “One More Mile”. His new recording “Calahoo” has just been released. Here are the lyrics to Kevin’s song:

ON THE WINGS OF THE WIND

Yeah, its me, your old partner
I suppose I look a mess
I’ve been doing some hard traveling
seven years without a rest

On the wings of the wind,
On the wings of the wind,
I’ve been doing some hard traveling
seven years without a rest

Yeah, its me, you better believe it
if you want to escape my fate
I’ve made my bed now, I’m lying in it
For you its still not too late

Oh, these chains, oh, these chains
Oh, these chains feel like the weight of the world

Yeah, its me, I’m here to warn you
three ghosts will come to haunt you
listen close my old friend
Its your last chance to make amends

My time is gone
I’m disappearing
you won’t be seeing me no more

On the wings of the wind, on the wings of the wind
I’ve been doing some hard traveling
On the wings of the wind

© 1996 Kevin Cook

Tickets to The Christmas Carol Project are available online at https://tickets.thecultch.com, or at The Cultch Box office by phone 604.251.1363 or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

Announcing the 2011 IGNITE! Mentorship Program

IGNITE! Mentorship Program poster 2011

IGNITE! Mentorship Program poster 2011

By Corbin Murdoch, Cultch Youth Program Manager

The Cultch’s Youth Program is proud to present the fourth season of our IGNITE! Mentorship Program. IGNITE! is designed to offer youth in Vancouver unprecedented access to professional artists and to demystify what it takes to build a career in the arts. In 2011 we will be offering mentorship programs in songwriting, spoken word, dance, directing and playwriting.

“Not only has the program allowed me to meet and work with a professional playwright that I admire, it also introduced me to a group of like-minded youth who share my love of the theatre. The program has made me want to continue to be active in the theatre even more, and all in all, has been one of the best experiences of my life.” – Jennifer Bednard, 2010 Playwriting Mentorship participant

The program is free for young artists between the ages of 13-24 who want to pursue a career in the arts. Each participant is paired with a professional for a series of participant-driven one-on-one workshops. In addition, the youth receive skill-building workshops with industry professionals in areas such as grant writing and media relations, an opportunity to document their work in a professional studio environment, and a showcase performance on The Cultch’s stage.

IGNITE! Mentorships - dance workshop with Ron Stewart

2009 Dance Mentorship with Ron Stewart

The Cultch has recruited an amazing roster of mentors for the 2010/2011 Season. They are:

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Taking Residency: The Transformation of “Fish Face” from Fringe Show to Cultch Presentation

By Ginette Mohr

Fish Face, live theatre for children and families presented by The CultchFish Face tells the story of a young woman who journeys into a vivid underwater universe to battle a giant sea monster and confront her destiny. A fantastical mystery full of humour and suspense, this solo show incorporates dance, puppetry and music.In September 2009, The Quickening Theatre‘s Fish Face toured from its home in Toronto to the Vancouver Fringe Festival, where it won the “Cultchivating the Fringe Award” – an award in which The Cultch chooses one show from The Vancouver Fringe Festival to develop in a residency at The Cultch and to be presented in its season. The Cultch offered Fish Face development residency for four weeks and a run from Dec. 3-5, 2010.

We at The Quickening Theatre Company believe original work is the lifeblood of this industry. Our residency here at The Cultch is instrumental in the development of both Fish Face and our creation process, as it takes time and space to develop original work.

Fish Face director/co-creator Kate Fenton co-creator/performer Ginette Mohr rehearsing

Fish Face director/co-creator Kate Fenton co-creator/performer Ginette Mohr

The Cultch engenders a wonderfully inspired community of artists and celebrates the achievements of dynamic, independent theatre. Executive Director Heather Redfern is a wealth of information and has taken us under her wing, and the staff at The Cultch have been incredibly generous with their time and knowledge. The residency has also afforded us collaboration with a stellar west coast team: Ray Moschuk (lighting design), David Mesiha (sound design and composition), Diana Magallon and Kelsey Peacock (stage management).

In a solo show, the relationship between the actor and director is greatly intensified. Director/co-creator Kate Fenton is my life-line. We work closely together – playing, searching, questioning, investigating and following trails to magic moments. When I get on stage, Kate radiates better than a kindergarten teacher at a spring concert. I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far. Yesterday we read the final scene, counted the characters (five) and the actors (one), and said,  “Okay, let’s dive in.” I love that.

It is our ultimate goal to tour Fish Face. There is strong potential in the play to speak to audiences about fear, commitment and finding your own way. With the history and viability of our performance at The Cultch, Fish Face could be well-placed for future productions. The time, space and resources – what a gift it has been.

Fish Face, live theatre for children and families presented by The Cultch

Fish Face director/co-creator Kate Fenton co-creator/performer Ginette Mohr

Ginette Mohr writes and acts in Fish Face, which will be presented at The Cultch Dec 3-5, 2010 in The Vancity Culture Lab as part of its Family-Time Series. Tickets start at $15 – $18 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, or by phone at 604.251.1363 or in person at The Cultch Box Office at 1895 Venables Street at Victoria Drive.

The Christmas Carol Project Song of the Week: God Bless Us Everyone

The Christmas Carol Project is made up of an extremely talented cast of Edmonton-based musicians who have created a collection of songs written from the perspectives of each character in this beloved Christmas fable. In the coming weeks, we will be revealing one song from the concert leading up to the show’s opening at The Cultch December 17 & 18.

This week’s song is God Bless us Everyone by Maria Dunn. Click here to listen >>  God Bless Us Everyone

Maria Dunn, Sings God Bless Us Everyone from The Christmas Carol Project, live music presented by The Cultch

Maria Dunn

God Bless Us Everyone
© Maria Dunn, 1996

“I wrote this song from the perspective of Tiny Tim Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ beautiful story
A Christmas Carol and perform it annually in Edmonton’s original songwriter production of The Christmas Carol Project.” – Maria Dunn

When the world is feeling cold and the sky more grey than blue
And the snow it seems to fall heavy heartedly on you
Time to count your blessings though seemingly but few
Time to take a look at what’s within and without you
For health is more than walking
And wealth much more than gold
But kindness overwhelming as a gentle hand to hold

So God bless us everyone with the riches of the soul
And may hopelessness ne’er be the demon darkening our door

When the world is feeling cold and the sky more grey than blue
And the snow it seems to lie heavy heartedly on you
Remember when you see us: the hungry, lame, the meek
Who would feed us, heal us, keep us is the same one that you seek
For joy is more than dancing
Good cheer much more than wine
But love is all enfolding as beholding hearts entwined

When the world is feeling cold and the sky more grey than blue
And the snow it seems to lie heavy heartedly on you
To the counting house of blessings may we often chance to stray
And in company together spend many’s the night and day

Maria Dunn lead vocal, accordion Shannon Johnson violin, Dawn Anderson harmony vocal Andy Illig acoustic guitar, Derek Stremel electric bass. With the Cratchit Family Chorus: Dawn Anderson, Paul Bellous, Shannon Johnson, Terry Morrison, David Ward

Tickets to The Christmas Carol Project are available online at https://tickets.the cultch.com, or at The Cultch Box office by phone 604.251.1363 or in person at 1895 Venables Street.