Grilling Up A Good Time at The Cultch Volunteer Appreciation BBQ!

Jenn Graham

Jenn Graham

By Jenn Graham, Head Front of House Manager & Volunteer Coordinator, The Cultch

The annual Volunteer Appreciation BBQ is a highly anticipated event in the life of The Cultch. It’s the day at the end of the season when Cultch staff get to hone their chopping skills on salad fixings and burger toppings. It’s the day that no one comes between our Marketing Manager and her role as ‘Queen of the Grill’. It’s the day when the Weather Network is the only channel worth watching. Most importantly, it’s the day we get to say thank you to everyone who has graciously given of their time and energy to make The Cultch such a vibrant community venue.

On June 2nd, we honoured the 120+ volunteers who gave their time to usher at performances throughout the past year and provided valuable administrative support in our office, as well as the numerous volunteer interns who worked in our marketing, youth and development departments. More than 3700 volunteer hours were contributed in total for the 2011/2012 season!

Lisa Snider with Jenn Graham and Rebecca Sharma

Lisa Snider with Jenn Graham and Rebecca Sharma, with the moody BBQ grill

And while the weather was a bit cooler than we’d hoped, it didn’t stop the volunteers who attended from having a fun afternoon! Guests were treated to a BBQ spread courtesy of Choices Markets in Yaletown and a plethora of prizes donated by local businesses on The Drive and numerous Cultch supporters. After the ‘Name Tag Follies’, some mingling, and a helping (or three) of tiramisu gelato, we asked one volunteer to share his memories of working at The Cultch.

A heartfelt thanks to our amazing volunteers for making our 11/12 Season a smashing success!

Jack Vickery, Volunteer Extraordinaire at The Cultch

Jack Vickery, our 12 year-old Volunteer Extraordinaire at The Cultch

Full Name:
Jack Vickery

How long have you been a volunteer at The Cultch?
Approximately 12 years. I started during the Jazz Festival in 2000.

What’s been your funniest/most amazing/weirdest moment volunteering at The Cultch?
There have been many. The one that comes up for me was the first night of the Shane Koyczan show in the Historic Theatre. Best. Rock. Concert. Ever.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer at The Cultch?
The shows, the staff, the volunteers. I have made some great friends here. And see some amazing shows. Helping the audience enjoy their evening is also fulfilling and many of them have become familiar faces.

Did you have a veggie burger or beef burger at the BBQ?

Did you win a door prize at the BBQ?
Yes I did! Two tickets to the Vancouver Aquarium.

Did you meet any new people at the BBQ?
Yep, and renewed connections with many others, including volunteers and staff.

Craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Hmmmmm . . . I will pass on this question (Jenn likes to say I have a sordid past and I do!!!)

Most anticipated show of the 2012/2013 Season?
“Mump & Smoot” and Blackbird Theatre’s “Don Juan

Due to popular demand, currently our volunteer ushering positions are full. If gaining transferable administrative office and people skills sound good to you, contact Cindy Reid, Managing Director, at 604.251.1766 x 112, or email your resume to

IGNITE! Youth Festival’s Visual Arts Exhibition now in the Gallery until June 3rd, 2012

IGNITE! Youth-Driven Arts Festival 2012

IGNITE! Youth-Driven Arts Festival 2012

Once again, the Cultch Gallery presents the IGNITE! Youth Festival’s Visual Arts Exhibition in the month of May.

Every year, for one week, The Cultch is taken over and transformed by young people. Hundreds of youth are involved in what has grown to be Vancouver’s largest youth-driven arts festival: IGNITE! This festival includes showcases in music, dance, and spoken word, the world premiere of three one-act plays, a visual arts exhibit, variety shows featuring diverse forms of entertainment, and much more. All of this is created by local artists between the ages of 13-24. During the festival, these events take place in our Historic Theatre, the Vancity Culture Lab, the main lobby and the café galleries.

In the gallery, the theme of the show revolves around change, and presents some of the best young talent Vancouver has to offer. We are proud to showcase this next generation of visual artists and we hope you come enjoy them too!

GIANTS VI: The Finale on May 26th

GIANTS VI: The Finale

By Nick Harvey-Cheetham
Co-Artistic Director, GIANTS Comedy

All good things must come to an end. But if you’re lucky, you can see the final installment in the GIANTS Comedy series before it’s over. Tickets are still available for the May 26th show, featuring Charlie Demers, Main Street Theatre, Graham Clark and more!

Presented in partnership with The Cultch, GIANTS Comedy brings together the very best in Vancouver comedy, showcasing creative new work from the finest stand ups, sketch groups and improv acts in the city.

GIANTS VI: The Finale

GIANTS VI: The Finale

The sixth and final show features an all-new one-act comedy, written by comedian and author Charlie Demers (CBC’s The Debaters) for Jessie Award-winning Main Street Theatre. GIANTS VI: The Finale also features an all-star line up of Vancouver comedians, including stand-ups Graham Clark and Ivan Decker, improv duo Sister Act and a special performance from Pick of the Fringe winners The Progressive Polygamists.

GIANTS VI: The Finale runs for one night only on Saturday, May 26th in The Cultch’s Historic Theatre. Tickets are on sale now from $10.

For more information on GIANTS Comedy, including videos, guest bios and more, visit

Gala Italia – A benefit in memory of Cultch supporter, Jim Green

Tickets are selling fast – buy yours today!

Gala Italia! at The CultchCelebrate the end of The Cultch’s 11/12 season and join us Friday, May 25 from 6:30pm for Gala Italia! – a fundraising event celebrating all things Italian with a focus on Italian art, film, fashion & food. Special guests for the evening include The Consul General of Italy, Mr. Fabrizio Inserra and Mrs. Loriana Inserra.

Arriving guests can linger, mix and mingle and enjoy abundant Prosecco and antipasti right off the red carpet.

Italian Cuisine
A sumptuous light supper of regional Italian cuisine will be provided from Chef “Action” Stations located throughout The Cultch courtesy of Robert Belcham, Campagnolo Roma; Julio Gonzales-Perrini, Lupo; Frankie’s Italian Kitchen; Hamilton Street Grill; and more!

Italian-themed Auctions
Madcap improv-theatre professional David C. Jones will keep us entertained during our live auction. Expect incredible Italian-themed auction items for both our live and silent auctions.

Lively Entertainment
Presented in our beautifully restored 200-seat Historic Theatre, the evening’s entertainment includes Intimissimi Opera Trio (Erin Schroeder, Melody Mercredi and Barbara Towell) performing selections from popular Italian opera repertoire; James Gnam’s post-Ballet BC, post-modern plastic orchid factory; critically acclaimed playwright Lucia Frangione reading from her play Fresco; and more!

Silent Italian cinema, bocce (of course!) and games of chance compliment the evening. Gala Italia! winds down with a selection of Italian pastries, gelato, coffee and tea.

Tickets are $99 (limited) or $250 (premium seating, private reception, take-away gift) and are available now through The Cultch Box Office by phone at 604.251.1363, in person at 1895 Venables Street or online at Tax receipts will be issued for maximum amount allowable. Tables and sponsorships available.

We hope to see you there!

Carmen Aguirre’s Blue Box recounts love, loss and revolution

By Sarah Marsh

Carmen Aguirre

Carmen Aguirre's Blue Box

Based on her unbelievably true life story, writer and performer Carmen Aguirre weaves a remarkable tale of love, loss and revolution in her play Blue Box. It’s a story of terror, romance, fear and abandon that takes us from the dangerous mountain passes of Chile to the perilous roller coasters of Hollywood; from an ardent love affair with a TV star, to a passionate love for a revolutionary political movement that strove to free and change an entire nation. We recently caught up with Carmen to gain insight into Blue Box, and her personal experiences that have inspired the production.

Sarah Marsh: Both the play Blue Box and your book Something Fierce draw upon your own real life experiences. How are the two different?

Carmen Aguirre: There are many differences. First of all, prose and playwriting are completely different forms. The book is written in the past tense, is able to carry a lot of information, and the writing itself is more verbose. The play is written in the present tense, and the writing is sparse. The book covers a ten-year period in my life and is told (more or less) in chronological order. The play is an examination of different cores; two events that take place ten years apart from each other. The book is a coming of age story under the theme of commitment clashing with desire. It is also a political thriller that works with the theme of terror. The play is a lament that works with the theme of unconditional love, and the tension between revolutionary love and romantic love.

Carmen Aguirre at The Cultch

Images of Carmen Aguirre courtesy of Itai Erdal

SM: Something Fierce is the first account published about life in the Chilean resistance. Did you feel a responsibility to share your story, now that you no longer live under an oppressive dictatorship?

CA: I do not feel responsible to tell my story or anyone’s story, for that matter. That would be taking oneself way too seriously, and I don’t believe that that makes for good art. As a cultural worker, I do believe that it is my duty to put my skills at the service of the community, and I therefore am interested in telling stories that I believe are important, be it politically, socially, and/or historically. Something Fierce is an account of a universal experience, precisely because it is set within a political, social, and historical context.

SM: Do you see any parallels with the political movement you were involved in to any political movements happening in the world today? What advice would you give to people who cannot freely express themselves?

CA: Yes, I see lots of parallels between what my generation fought for all over the world, and what the current generation is fighting for today. It’s the same cause, really. The movements I see around the world today are fighting neoliberalism, which is exactly what we were fighting in the 80s. I cannot give any advice to anyone, as that would be pompous, arrogant, and condescending. I will however say that the Chilean resistance was not fighting for freedom of expression, as your question insinuates. We were fighting for justice and equality. We were fighting for the basic human rights of food, water, shelter, and healthcare for all. Freedom of expression is not my bottom line. Justice and equality are.

SM: Have you ever considered touring the show through Latin America? What do you think the response would be like?

CA: I have considered touring the show through Latin America. I have no idea what the response would be. Positive, I hope.

SM You said once in another interview that “non-violent resistance is a performance that requires an audience.” Can you connect this idea to expressing ideas through the performing arts?:

CA: The performing arts (or all art, for that matter) requires an audience. Otherwise it’s not art.

SM: Can you describe your decision to stage Blue Box very minimally?

CA: I was interested in writing a piece in which the content was far more important than the form. This was in response to seeing a lot of theatre where the form was astoundingly wonderful but the content never met the form. Sometimes I see theatre where it seems that the content was a mere afterthought. So I set out to write a piece where there would be virtually no design per se, and where the entirety of the theatricality would lie in the text. Not even in the performance. Just the text.

SM: Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?

CA: I am desperately trying to crack open the first draft of a play I’m writing entitled The Tina Modotti Project. I am not having much success at the moment.

Blue Box is playing at The Cultch until May 12. Tickets start at $28 and can be purchased by visiting, calling the Box Office at 604.251.1363 or by visiting us in person at 1895 Venables St, Vancouver.

Bringing street cred into the theatres: IZM propels street dancing to the performing arts

By Roanne Ward

Dancer, choreographer, teacher and speaker Crazy Smooth

Dancer, choreographer, teacher and speaker Crazy Smooth

Dancer, choreographer, teacher and speaker Crazy Smooth (Yvon Soglo) takes his inspiring mission to illuminate the tradition of street dance culture to the world of performing arts. Smooth’s ambitious goal is to prove that hip hop is a legitimate, professional contemporary dance form. From working as an acrobatic instructor for Cirque du Soleil to performing at the Nancy Jazz Festival in France and winning the Most Valuable B-Boy award at the 2006 Kings of NY Competition, Crazy Smooth is a force to be reckoned with on the international street dance scene. He was the first B-Boy to receive a grant from the Canada Council to study B-Boying and other forms of street dance in New York and Philadelphia. The articulate, fluently bilingual, Benin-born dancer says his new show IZM, which plays at The Cultch from April 24-29, “transcends age, race and gender, reaching below the surface where emotions live.”

This year, as part of International Dance Day on April 29, the Canadian Dance Assembly (CDA) asked Crazy Smooth to author the Canadian message that celebrates dance in our community. In his inspired message, he writes:

“Consider the enthusiasm of children as they express themselves through movement; the joy adults exude after a ballroom dance class; the profound emotional response of audiences and their reflections after a powerful dance performance; the incredible energy generated in a room when everybody starts to boogie; and the passion and history reflected in traditional and cultural dances. Imagine how desolate a world without dance would be. Dance speaks to the mind, body and soul in a way that goes beyond the power of words, and its social impact and capacity to engage should be celebrated. As an art form dance can be impressive but expression is its fundamental nature.”

Crazy Smooth

Created in 2010, IZM has been heating up provinces across Canada for the past few months, performing to sold-out shows and receiving critical acclaim. Brian Webb, Artistic Director of The Canada Dance Festival commented:

“When IZM premiered at the Canada Dance Festival, the sold out audience went wild! And, they have good reason to…. Crazy Smooth and his dancers hold nothing back, they dance full out and they give every audience member an authentic high!”

More than anything else, Crazy Smooth aims for the audience to have an ‘experience’ during the show rather than simply being a passive spectator. Whether it’s on an intellectual level or through a physical compulsion to jump out of your seat and join in, the energy flying out of IZM‘s talented ensemble is compelling to say the least!

Rehearsing before the tour:

IZM is just one of the many performances and events happening in Vancouver to celebrate International Dance Day, which has actually turned into Dance Week – it seems we have too much talent in Canada to pack into one day! Find out more about workshops and performances and to read Crazy Smooth’s entire message.

Leap into your sneakers and catch IZM at The Cultch from April 24 – 29. Tickets are from $16 and can be purchased by visiting, calling the Box Office at 604.251.1363 or by visiting us in person at 1895 Venables St, Vancouver.

Pump Trolley on GIANTS: November 26 at The Cultch

Giants II at The Cultch

Giants II at The Cultch

If you’ve ever seen Pump Trolley you’ll recognize their absurdist humour mixed with an interest in creating tight, refined live sketch. The group is a Vancouver comedy staple but has most recently hosted and headlined the sketch showcases at Music Waste and the Olio Festival, as well as being featured on Paul Anthony’s Talent Time. The Cultch loves them and their funny ways and is thrilled that they’ll be featured in GIANTS II: Rap Attack.

The Cultch: Who are you?

Pump Trolley: We’re a group of eight writer-performers that produce a
fantastic sketch show every other month here in Vancouver.

TC: What is your sketch like?

PT: We value silliness and games. We have fun. We try to be a party
that the audience is attending.

TC: Do you do anything else besides sketch?

PT: Like skiing? No.

TC: Do you have any traditions together?

PT: Sometimes we like to hit the slopes, you know, shred that powder.

TC: What is your creative process like?

PT: We work on an eight-week cycle based on a weekly meeting. It takes
us from the pitching of scripts, to casting, to rehearsal. Since there
are eight of us, we schedule writing and rehearsals into the nooks and
crannies of our life where yoga or strip-classes might go.

TC: If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive…

PT: We’d order the broccoli soup.

TC: …who would it be?

PT: The person who invented broccoli soup.

TC: Together, as a group, how tall are you?

PT: Next question.

TC: Who influenced you the most as comedians?

PT: Big Foot. One summer Big Foot captured us while we were in our
station wagon en route to a comedy show in Fernie. He carried the
vehicle deep into the forest and let us out near a cave. There, he fed
us deer jerky and showed us, through crude wall drawings, the secret
to comedy.

TC: What is the secret to comedy?

PT: Next question.

TC: Why do you guys do comedy?

PT: It’s a calling. We certainly don’t do it for the money. It’s our
other job that doesn’t pay, and we get to do it with our other family
who pays greater dividends than money.

TC: Let’s set the record straight. Did you really meet Big Foot?

PT: No.

TC: Have you ever had a giant butt on stage?

PT: Yes.

TC: Who is the bossiest planet?

PT: In our solar system, Neptune is the bossiest.

TC: Giants aims big. What is “giant” about your comedy?

PT: As the French writer Françoise Sagan said, “Art must take reality
by surprise.”

TC: Where did you hear that?

PT: Twitter.

TC: Finally, if you had one wish…

PT: Broccoli soup.

GIANTS II: Rap Attack takes place November 26 at The Cultch. Doors open at 9, show starts at 10. Arrive early to grab a drink and a seat. Tickets are just $10 and are scarce so buy early:, by phone at 604.251.1363 or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

Click here to see Pump Trolley in video form as created and directed by GIANTS video curators Weekend Leisure!

What’s it take to be the ultimate Ronnie Burkett “superfan”?

Image from Penny Plain. Photo by Ian Jackson.

Photo by Ian Jackson from Penny Plain

What does a serial killer, a cross-dressing banker and a talking dog all have in common? They’re all characters in master puppeteer Ronnie Burkett’s upcoming production Penny Plain, coming to The Cultch on November 17th!

Ronnie Burkett is a world-class puppeteer who’s traveled his productions everywhere from New York to Sydney, Australia and a host of different cities in between! Because he’s such an accomplished performing artist, we know all you die-hard Ronnie Burkett fans are out there, counting down the days until his arrival in Vancouver. To get ready for what is sure to be an incredible show, we caught up with one such “superfan,” long-time Cultch board member, Kathleen Bourchier to find out why Ronnie Burkett is one of her favourites.

How long have you been a Ronnie Burkett fan? Can you tell us how you were first introduced to him?

I’ve been a Ronnie fan since his return to Vancouver about eight years ago.  My first exposure to him was Tinka’s New Dress, which absolutely blew me away. (more…)

World of Strings: A Behind the Scenes look at Penny Plain and its Master Puppeteer, Ronnie Burkett

With his penchant for apocalyptic story lines, politically charged dialogue, and adult-only content, it’s no surprise that master puppeteer and playwright, Ronnie Burkett has been called the “bad boy” of puppetry. Equally unsurprising – this former apprentice to The Sound of Music’s puppeteer, Bil Baird has been credited with “single-handedly rejuvenating puppetry in North America”. Having received critical and public acclaim for his performances across Canada, the U.K., Australia, Germany, Austria, Sweden, and elsewhere, Burkett is recognized today as one of the world’s foremost theatre artists.

Now, with his latest creation Penny Plain set to take the stage from November 17th to December 17th here at The Cultch, we wanted to give you a back-stage glance at the incredible artistry involved in Penny Plain’s nearly 30 distinct puppets – along with some insight into the artist himself.

The puppets of Penny Plain

Photos by Ian Jackson from Penny Plain

The Early Years

Burkett’s fascination with puppetry began when he was just seven years old, after he opened The World Book Encyclopedia to an entry on puppets. “There was a diagram [in the Encyclopedia] on how to make a marionette,” he recalls. “I went downstairs and took a saw, cut a broom and jointed it with some screws. I got a really good spanking for cutting the broom up, let me tell you.”

But what began as an obsession with “just…building puppets” soon led to school shows, productions on TV, and eventually touring around community halls and shopping centres. For Burkett, the clear next step was full-length plays. At age fourteen he began touring his puppet shows, and, thanks to his persistent letter writing skills, by age 19, Burkett had scored a job in New York, working with prominent puppeteer Bil Baird.

“I was relentless in writing letters to old puppeteers as a child,” he says. “While other kids were learning to smoke and make out in the back of a car, I was doodling knee joints.”

The Production Process

A sketch of a puppet in Penny Plain

A drawing from a marionette in Penny Plain

Those “doodles” are the starting point for each and every one of Burkett’s handcrafted marionettes. Working in what he calls “factory mode”, Burkett’s year-long construction process begins with a working drawing of a full-sized marionette, including the front and profile. “First I start alone on paper,” he describes, “and then transfer my ideas to color sketches. It becomes a multi-week process of creating heads and faces [out of Plasticine], and then bodies and legs. It’s six to seven months of body parts alone.” From miniature sweaters with hand-sewn beads to tiny soles cobbled onto leather shoes, no detail of the finished puppet is overlooked.

But rather than completing one marionette at a time, Burkett’s studio is a jumble of “feet and limbs and half bodies” that only come together in the final stages of the production process. His one rule for each of 33 puppets built for Penny Plain: “no matter if I have the most beautiful puppet head sculpture in the world, if I can’t do the voice for it while I’m sculpting, it won’t be a character in my show.”

Burkett’s insistence on treating his marionettes as “bona fide actors, moving with all the subtleties of life” sums up the playwright’s most revolutionary contribution to theatre. “Just as normal actors bring their life to a role, I bring mine to these little moveable people,” he says.

“These puppets are built and designed and exist solely to be those characters. It’s a whole kind of weird chemistry magic thing that goes on, because I don’t really make them come alive. I do the voice and I move them around, but the audience has to suspend their disbelief. And when they do THAT, that’s when the character comes alive.”

Penny Plain

Puppets from Penny Plain, Photos by Ian Jackson

Photos by Ian Jackson from Penny Plain.

As for his latest creation? “I wanted to be out of the way,” he says, “[to see] if the puppets can hold the show where they have their own playing space and I never go into it.” And while he’s never quite “invisible” to his audience – he stands in full sight, just above his puppets – Burkett continues to break boundaries with this David Suzuki-esque apocalyptic production.

After all, it’s this kind of innovation that Burkett argues is the reason “why audiences will sit and watch a two-hour marionette play.”

“I think they know it’s handmade. I think they know the combination of my point of view—that I’m not lying, that it’s an authentic point of view that brought us all together in this play,” he reflects. “But also that I cared enough about it to design it and build it and stand up there and jiggle it around.”

Penny Plain is running November 17 to December 17 at The Cultch. Tickets start at $45 and are available online at, by phone at 604.251.1363 or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

GIANTS: Six late night comedy events at The Cultch

In anticipation of the inaugural performance of GIANTS: Six late night comedy events at The Cultch this coming Saturday, we thought we’d hand the mic over to one of the four artistic directors to this new series, Tom Hill.

Hey there,

My name is Tom Hill, and I am one of four Artistic Directors of the new, big-thinking comedy project that is coming to The Cultch as part of their 2011-2012 season.  We’re thrilled—elated even—to be bringing the best of the Vancouver comedy scene to the Vancity Culture Lab for six special events this season, the first of which is this Saturday, October 8 at 10PM. Buy your tickets now!

GIANTS ComedyGIANTS I, our debut, is going to be fantastic.  It will feature a brand new major project from Kevin Lee and Sean Devlin (, CTV’s The Party) and segments showcasing talent from all across Vancouver’s tremendous comedy community, including performances by members of the Sunday Service, Graham Clark, and Andrew Barber.  You can read all about the particular guests, their bios, and what you can expect from them and the rest of the show on our website,

Even before we take the stage for our first show of the season, this project has already been exceptionally rewarding.  We brought together two of the finest video collectives, Weekend Leisure and The Shots along with over 40 actors to create the GIANTS Theme, a short video that encapsulates the collaborative spirit and hilarious exuberance that has been commonplace with this project.  It was a joy to create and we’re grateful to all our collaborators for their input on this fun-filled piece.

GIANTS ComedyFor us, this is the opportunity of a generation, and we’d love to have you there for our start. We’re thrilled to offer these hilarious, hard-working comedians a world-class facility to perform in, while at the same time exposing the amazing quality of their work to audiences that may not have seem them (that means you!).  With our debut only days away we are well on our way to announcing the line up for GIANTS II, and have some very exciting collaborators lined up for the rest of the season.

GIANTS is a big dream, and we are deeply thankful to The Cultch for believing in us and the caliber of comedy in this city.  GIANTS I, here we come!

Tom Hill

Co-Creator, Co-Artistic Director