Celebrating a Season of Queer “Cultch-er!”

Celebrating a season of queer “cultch-er!”

With Vancouver Pride approaching, it seems the appropriate time to take a look back at The Cultch’s colourful 12/13 season.

Many proud representatives of the LGBTQ community took to the stage last year, sharing a myriad of voices and stories. The list includes Miriam Margolyes, sole performer (of 23 characters!) in Dickens’ Women, Evalyn Parry singing tales of bicycle led revolution in SPIN, and of course Cameron Mackenzie and Dave Deveau (or, as you may know them: Isolde N. Barren and ‘The Baddest Bitch Peach’ Cobblah) took us on a wild ride through Vancouver’s Drag Herstory in Tucked and Plucked.

Miriam Margolyes, the 69-year-old British lesbian actress, starred in The Cultch's presentation of Dickens' Women

In addition, one of the best attended gallery events of the year was the opening gala of photo-based artist SD Holman’s show Butch: Not Like the Other Girls. Holman’s images, each a stunning portrait of a different self-identified butch model, decorated The Cultch’s lobby this April.

Opening night of SD Holmon's exhibition 'BUTCH: Not like Other Girls'

Not unique to this year’s IGNITE! Youth Festival was Fruit Basket, a cabaret of performances created by youth around the themes of sex, gender identity, sexuality, and sexual orientation. This year’s show was comprised of The Magic Spells, Saul Chabot, Dörothy Griffith, Ruby Slickeur, Sahara Hildebrandt and Leroy and The Lovebots. Included in the process was a workshop with Evalyn Parry, as well as the Gender Blender, a youth-led forum on sex and identity…facilitated by all the smoothies you can drink, of course (oh, and a professional facilitator from Out in Schools )!

Brendan Agnew a seasoned member of The Cultch's Youth Panel

We had the chance to talk with seasoned Youth Panel-er Brendan Agnew, to ask him a few questions about his experience on the panel, and his views on queer theatre for youth in Vancouver.

Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got involved in the IGNITE! program and Fruit Basket specifically.

I am going into my grade 12 year at Templeton Secondary and have been very involved in their Theatre program. I also play piano, but really fell in love a few years ago with the backstage side of things, particularly stage management. I hope to do a BFA in theatre.

When I was in grade 9, some of my friends in higher grades were on the Youth Panel, and told me a bit about it and encouraged me to come to the festival. So I dragged some other friends to go see it. It was a good festival, but I left thinking “it would be so much better if I helped organize it.” It also seemed like a fantastic concept, kids organizing their own arts festival. So in Grade 10, I joined the youth panel, and one committee, the one organizing The Olivia Project, which is a multi-disciplinary devised performance created by young artists. We group together youth who do different types of art (say filmmaking, dancing, visual art, etc) and give them three weeks to create an original ten minute piece combining their arts.

In grade 11, I did Youth Panel again, but also added the Fruit Basket committee to my schedule. I’d already attended two Fruit Baskets, and knew it was a great supportive environment for queer and allied youth. I identify as a gay male, so I also felt close to the subject matter that way. What I found cool about Fruit Basket is that it is a queer show geared directly towards youth. There are many queer/sex related shows in Vancouver, but very few, if any of them, are youth focused. A lot of them require you to be over a certain age.

What kinds of shows or programs would you like to see more of in Vancouver to fill this void?

I think it’s important to recognize that queer doesn’t just mean drag, sex doesn’t just mean stripping or burlesque. These are huge topics that can be explored in all kinds of ways, and it can easily be done in a way that’s accessible to youth.

Floyd Cariad Van Beek in 'Fruit Basket' 2013

So specifically, the kinds of shows I’d like to see would be featuring young people of non-straight sexual orientation in cute romances, coming out stories or other plots. It would also be fun to see adaptations of traditional plays (Shakespeare, for instance) to a queer setting.

I saw a fantastic play called The Silicone Diaries by Nina Arsenault (performed at The Cultch in February 2011). It was an autobiographical work telling the story of her transition from man to woman. It was phenomenal, and even though it wasn’t targeted at youth, didn’t feel “adult exclusive.” More programming like that (accessible to all ages) would be great-things kids can drag their parents to, which can then spark discussion. That’s what I think good art does, after all: it makes you think about things a little deeper/differently, and that thinking transforms into conversation.

Nina Arsenault, star of 'The Silicone Diaries,' meets with The Cultch's Youth Panel

It would also be nice to see more young artists use their art as a means of expressing their sexuality. A lot of Fruit Basket performers (we love them dearly) are either queer artists doing thoroughly mainstream art, or people doing sexual dancing/stripping/burlesque/drag performance. While that’s all great, I think there’s a need for content that delves a bit deeper into what it means to be queer.

I heard that part of your involvement in Fruit Basket meant you had the opportunity to take a workshop led by Evalyn Parry. What was that like?

One of the unique things about the IGNITE! Youth Festival is the workshops. We have two types: “external” workshops, which are open to the public, and geared towards youth; and “internal” workshops, which are exclusively for youth panel members. Evalyn Parry was one of our internal workshops, and was centered around writing. The first part was a Q&A discussion about her, her artistic process, and her show SPIN, which most of Youth Panel had been invited to see. The last part was an extremely compressed version of the writing workshop she does. The primary focus was on MC acts, which are for the most part written by the youth panel, although a lot of the discussion and writing exercises applied to all sorts of other things. Evalyn Parry is a very neat person, and learning from her was an amazing experience.

Evalyn Parry ,star of 'SPIN,' meets with the Youth Panel

Queer artists from many backgrounds helped make last season at The Cultch a resounding success. If you are looking for another opportunity to celebrate before next season begins, or you are looking for an event to kick-start your Pride Week, join us in the Vancity Culture Lab for the Genderfest Launch Party on Thursday, July 25 at 8 pm. Head to http://www.genderfest.ca to find information about the event, and how you can participate in the event’s photo collaboration.

GRILLIN’ & CHILLIN’ AT THE CULTCH VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION BBQ!

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

Our annual Volunteer Appreciation BBQ

Christie (Volunteer Usher) and Nathalia (Volunteer Receptionist)

The end of the season brings a mix of emotions: Relief that we made it through another busy season. Sadness that it’s all over and we’ll not see our cracker-jack volunteers for a few months. But perhaps most importantly…that happy-happy-joy-joy feeling that comes from knowing it’s time for the annual Volunteer Appreciation BBQ!!

Karen Shimokura (Volunteer Usher) Jenn Graham (Head FOH Manager and Volunteer Coordinator) & Nena Pierre (Volunteer Usher and Receptionist)

This year, the sun smiled on us & the BBQ fairy graced us with a brand new grill to help celebrate the end of the season!

‘Griller-in-training’ Nicole (Director of Patron Development)

'Grill Master' Kathryn Kirkpatrick (FOH)

Once again, Choices Markets generously donated the BBQ spread and a gaggle of gifts were donated by local businesses and Cultch supporters.

Wonderful BBQ spread provided by Choices

We’d like to thank The Georgia Straight, Mogiana Coffee, Grandview Lanes, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Science World, Vancouver Aquarium, Long Live Cats & Dogs, The Reef Restaurant, the Arts Club, Bard on the Beach, Safeway on E. Broadway,  Red Bug Bijoux, Kris Boyd & Isa Szeto for their wonderful prize donations. We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers & we couldn’t show them sufficient appreciation without you!

 

 

Cultch Staff Picks: Favourite shows from the 12/13 season (part 1)

 

The Cultch’s 12/13 Season closed on June 2 with a sold-out run of Mump & Smoot in Something, bringing to an end another spectacular season of theatre, dance, and music.

At this time, we would like to extend a huge thank you to our donors, sponsors, and continued subscribers. Your support allows The Cultch to consistently deliver the best the contemporary arts have to offer!

To celebrate the end of our 39th season, we decided to ask a few Cultch staff members to share some of their favourite shows from the past season! Here’s part 1 of our 2 part feature.

 

By far the most memorable show for me this season at The Cultch was Blind Date.  An improvised blind date with Mimi the sexy French clown and a different unsuspecting audience member each night!  Rebecca’s courage, comedic talent, and quick wit were really put to the test and she pulled it off every time.  As the venue technician for the run of this show, I had the special privilege to see it every night for three weeks.  I’ve seen more shows than I can count in my career, and this one truly kept me fully engaged, literally on the edge of my seat, at every moment.  Everyone has eavesdropped on the couple having their first date at the table next to you at a restaurant, but I had the voyeuristic pleasure to see the whole date unfold 18 times.  Many times, Mimi said that her goal was to help the guy be “the romantic hero”, and she always did, even though it sometimes seemed impossible.  The dates were awkward, outgoing, reluctant, charming, shy, funny, quiet, drunk (!), open, nervous, older, younger (his real first kiss on stage at The Cultch!); such a variety of wonderful, real, characters.  It would have been so easy to just make fun of these men, but instead Rebecca (and co-stars Bruce and Jamie and sound improviser Sean) coaxed nervous volunteers into endearing dates, and brought us along for the ride.  I would love to see this show another 18 times!

LEO – It was succinct, entertaining, moving and embraced the digital change (or at least experimentation) in theatre. It incorporated multi media, physicality and music to bring the audience into a different reality. I found it pretty emotional as well, which I’m not sure was the intention, but it spoke to me on the themes of new beginnings, fear, and the excitement of the unknown. 

White Rabbit Red Rabbit – This show had a really weird premise which I thought was going to be self indulgent and boring, but I was totally surprised. I felt incredibly engaged and curious throughout the performance. I still don’t know if I “got it” in the sense of the intellectual ramifications it poses about society and isolation. But I was left with a feeling of empowerment that all barriers to assuage the turmoil of the human experience can be traversed through art.

The 2013/14 season begins this September with Rumble Theatre’s production of Penelope. Don’t forget to subscribe to our 2013/14 season and stay tuned for part 2 of The Cultch staff’s 12/13 season highlights!

Five things you (probably) didn’t know about Mump & Smoot

 

Even if you’re a die-hard fan of Mump & Smoot, there are still “some things” about the clowning duo that might surprise you. For those of you not versed in the world of Ummo or who have yet to see Something (playing at The Cultch until June 2), no need to worry as the facts below are spoiler free and simply give you a look behind the grease paint. Enjoy!

1. Ummonian (the language of Mump & Smoot that’s part gibberish and part creative language) is completely made up on the spot – every night.

John Turner (Smoot) spoke with The Times Union (NYC) and explained:

“The gibberish is improvised on the spot. Although we do have a number of words and objects that are named, and as time goes on, we have phrases that are repeated. It does have rules though. They’re more active rules than syntax rules, however. It requires emotional grounding, for example. You have to know what you’re saying, because it’s largely an emotional language. It’s more or less a set of actor’s awareness rules.”

Mump & Smoot's language Ummonian is made up on the spot!

2. Both Michael Kennard (Mump) and John Turner (Smoot) have parents in the medical field.

Michael and John are both sons of doctors. Turner even considered a career in the medical field until he decided to shift gears and pursue a career in entertainment. Ironically, a doctor’s office plays a significant role in their first feature-length work Something.

3. John Turner originally hated clowns.

John Turner (Smoot) originally hated clowns!

In his interview with the Times Union (NYC) John Turner revealed:

“I didn’t like clowns very much. But then I had the mime/clown confusion, which I don’t anymore. I never had any idea . . . until Mike talked me into taking a clown workshop against my better judgment.”

4. The legendary Richard Pochinko was their mentor.

 

Richard Pochinko, Paris 1970

Kennard and Turner became friends when they both enrolled in the Second City Training Centre, where the legendary Richard Pochinko became their mentor. Pochinko worked closely with the duo and encouraged them to develop a 20-minute short called Jump The Gun which premiered on May 13, 1988 (fittingly Friday the 13th).  Their clowning style, which focuses on archetypal characters of a manipulator and a victim, has been credited with their studies with Pochinko. Unfortunately, Pochinko passed away in 1989 and never had the chance to witness a full-length Mump & Smoot performance.

5. The picture we used in our Mump & Smoot in Something poster is from 1992 (proof that the power of analog photography stands the test of time)!

Mump & Smoot image from The Edmonton Fringe (1992)

Mump & Smoot in Something (2013)

Mump & Smoot runs at The Cultch until June 2. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.


Mump + Smoot: Hstry f Clwng nd Clwn Fobya (Ummonium, translates to History of Clowning and Clown Phobia)

Mump & Smoot live on the planet Ummo, worship the god Ummo and speak Ummonium – their own brand of gibberish. But as cute and cuddly as Mump & Smoot may sound, you’ll want to think twice about hugging these ‘clowns of horror’. Hailed as the ‘Laurel and Hardy from hell’ (Vancouver Sun), the pair of clowns use comedy to address all types of fears, from embarrassment to death to a visit to the doctor’s office. Says Michael Kennard (Mump), “All the horror stuff came from John and I wanting to examine fear and the fear that exists in human nature and the world.” [In ‘Something’,] “we start with a relatively gentle fear—by going to a café—around the issues of etiquette and manners, making a fool of yourself in public and being looked down upon by those who have a different set of decorum,”  John Turner (Smoot) says. “So we start kind of gently.” Which is great news for people who are curious about the show but perhaps a touch afraid of clowns!

If you are afflicted with coulrophobia (phobia of clowns) you’re not alone. Type ‘fear of clowns’ into Google search and you’ll find page after page dedicated to the subject. Before we look at the why, let’s delve a little in to the history of the clown.

The tradition of clowning goes back quite a ways; to ancient Greece even – one could argue that the pantomimes in Greek plays were the basis of the modern day clown. When we think ‘clown’ most of us think of the typical ‘whiteface’ clown – face and neck painted white, eyes, nose and mouth usually painted in black and red, ruffled collar, terrible jumpsuit situation and over-sized shoes. But there are many different types of clowns: jesters and fools often found in Shakespearean plays, the Tramp or Hobo (think Charlie Chaplin), and the character clown (think Rodeo Clown) to name a few.

Mump & Smoot fall into a sub-category of the ever-so-popular, sometimes funny, sometimes frightening and murderous, Whiteface Clown called the ‘Grotesque Whiteface’. Although the word ‘grotesque’ sounds frightful (and is somewhat fitting for a show like Mump & Smoot in Something), the term actually means odd or unnatural in shape, as are the features of this type of clown. The mouth and eyebrows are exaggerated not only with various colors but also shapes and a bulbous red nose is the cherry on top if you will.

So what’s up with coulrophobia? One theory put forth is something called the ‘uncanny valley effect’. This is when, say, a robot or actual person behaves almost human, but not quite, causing people to become extremely uncomfortable or even repulsed. Think of a clown acting sad or in pain but has a huge smile painted on his face. Frightening, no? It also doesn’t help that film and TV has vilified the poor clown like in Stephen King’s ‘It’ featuring the nightmare-inducing Pennywise. But there are also the awesomely hilarious clowns like Homey the Clown from ‘In Living Color’, Krusty the Clown from ‘The Simpsons,’ and our homegrown Canadian duo, Mump + Smoot.

Despite fear being a major component of the show people are coming back in droves and loving it. But don’t take our word for it and check out these rave reviews from Jo Ledingham and Colin Thomas!

Mump & Smoot runs at The Cultch until June 2. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.

IGNITE! Design Mentorship Goes Goth

IGNITE! Youth Mentorship Participant Nina Sky Robertson in 'Garbage Girl'

This week we’d like to spotlight one of the mentees from The Cultch’s

IGNITE! Mentorship Program — Nina Sky Robertson. Robertson was selected for a mentorship in Stage Design and has been learning the ropes from accomplished artist/designer, Alice Mansell. This brand new mentorship program in costume and set design is intended for aspiring young stage designers wishing to pursue a career in the arts. In the inaugural year of this program the assignment was to transform The Cultch lobby into a veritable Victorian gothic funeral parlor,  for the world premiere of Tara Cheyenne Friendenberg’s Highgate (exciting, no?)

With the show opening this week, we managed to do a little Q&A with Robertson and her experience in working on the set of Highgate.

A: Can you tell us a bit about your design background?

N: I am a life long ‘odd’ schooler. I have attended an assortment of public programs and schools ranging from a democratic free-school to an academically driven philosophy and english program. The most relevant educational experience to this mentorship has been a series of apprenticeships with world renowned artists from Vancouver, Toronto, and Mexico. I truly believe in life-long learning.

A sneek peek at The Cultch lobby for Highgate. Photo courtesy of Christine Quintana

A: Why The Cultch Mentorship Program?

N: I came to the mentorship through a conversation with Robert (Youth Program Manager). I had mentioned wanting to expand my textile arts practice into theatre design and two days later an incredibly lovely email arrived from him mentioning the program and asking me to apply.

A: Tell us a little bit about what the mentorship has entailed.

N: It has entailed – at least for Highgate and with Alice – a considerable amount of draping (predominantly Gothic, Victorian objects) some pattern drafting, not to mention the chance to create a relationship with Alice and gain insight into her process and history.

Highgate creator Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg (Dance/Choreography) and Alice Mansell (Stage Design)

A: What are your plans for the future?

N: I intend to continue to expand my textile arts practice, hopefully moving further into the theatre community in the next few years and continue with a broad smattering of other arts, travel and academic projects.

If you want to see Robertson and Mansell’s creation firsthand, you’ll have to swing by The Cultch and get your tickets to Highgate which runs May 1 –  4 and invites you for ‘a morbid romp through Victorian funerary culture. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t love a good morbid romp?

A conversation with Isa Szeto, Web and Design coordinator for The Cultch

Isa Szeto, Design and Web Coordinator for The Cultch, on top of Cypress Mountain

The bicycle serves not only as inspiration but also as instrument in our new show  SPIN running until

April 20. Through a series of songs played live on a vintage bicycle, SPIN recounts a theatrical cycle of stories about women, cycling, and liberation.

In honour of Evalyn Parry’s SPIN, we feature one of our very own, Isa Szeto from The Cultch’s marketing team!  We were delighted to catch up with Isa – an avid bike enthusiast – to discuss her love for biking and to find out a little bit more about the Cultch’s talented designer.

Do you bike to work every day?  Rain or shine?

Yes, I bike every day, 27 kilometres roundtrip to and from work every day. The Cultch has showers and lockers for which I’m very thankful for. I ride in the rain or shine or snow (-8°c is my record).  I guess you might wonder why I would bike in such terrible conditions.  Personally, there is something appealing about prevailing against the odds and arriving at the end destination with your blood pumping in your veins. Getting to work by bus or by car is just not the same.

How did you get into biking?

I grew up in the suburbs and while in high school, I did a lot of standing around, waiting for the bus.  It dawned on me one day that the actual distance travelled was very short. So I saved up and bought myself a yellow Norco 10 speed and just started self-propelling myself to high school in Grade 11.  I was hooked: the feeling of exhilaration and self-sufficiency has never left me. I ended up trying a few cycling clubs in Vancouver to learn how to ride in a pack and now ride with Glotman Simpson. I even rode when I was eight months pregnant. My husband Michael was quite wigged out by that!

How does biking make you feel?

Biking makes me feel strong and alive! It is a part of my life. This month, Michael and I will cycle up Mount Haleakalā Maui, a 10,000 foot ascent which is one of the few paved 10,000 foot ascents that you can safely cycle up in the world.  Again, there is something about prevailing against the odds that’s very appealing to me. Biking has opened up so many worlds for me, geographically, socially, physically and mentally. I recently got the Strava app on my phone. Reading the tallies of the calculations of speed, distance, elevation gain, etc. after each ride (and my friends’ rides) is fascinating! Highly recommended for any person on two wheels.

SPIN runs at The Cultch until April 20. Tickets are available online at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at 1895 Venables St.

A Cultch favourite brings his hilarious new production to the stage!

Writer, Director, Producer, & Set Designer: Andy Thompson

This writer, director, producer and set-designer is so loved by The Cultch he needs no introduction. From his 2011 dramatic hit 1984 to the smash hit Broken Sex Doll currently wowing audiences on The Cultch stage, Andy Thompson of Vancouver’s The Virtual Stage shares his creative process behind Broken Sex Doll, or as The Province reviewer Jerry Wasserman likes to call it: “The biggest hit of the season and maybe the Next Big Thing in Canadian theatre!” We recently caught up with Andy Thompson to talk about producing his new feature length feature.

SC: The last time you were at The Cultch you enjoyed enormous success with 1984. How does it feel to be back in the historic theatre with Broken Sex Doll?

AT: It’s a tremendous honour, of course, to have been invited back to The Cultch!  The venue is so intrinsically awesome, the acoustics are amazing, it has such history and The Cultch’s team is so friendly and helpful.  It’s really a great place to work.

SC: You’ve been successful in staging both dramas and comedies. Which do you prefer?

AT: Ha, that’s a funny question. Well I certainly had my fill of “doom and gloom” with No Exit (set in hell) and 1984 (set in a hellish totalitarian state). Broken Sex Doll is certainly a fun and much-needed bounce back into the realm of comedy and laughter. I think I’ve had my quota of producing dark works filled for the time-being!  I’m really excited about doing more comedy.  Letting “fun” be my guide—for myself and the audience alike—in my last two shows (I’m including The Zombie Syndrome here) has been a tremendous value in my work recently.  It gives me a bounce in my step and a warmth in my heart that I’d like to continue to nurture.

A shot of the original one act version of Broken Sex Doll. Photos by Bettina Strauss

SC: This production was originally created in the fall of 2011 for Theatre Under the Gun. Can you talk a bit about the evolution of this production?

AT: It’s been quite a journey.  The original was created and performed in only 5 days, so there was little time to work detailed back stories. For this version, I dove headfirst into character arcs and backgrounds and the end result was this “new, full-length” version of the show.  It is now functioning as a sort of sequel to the original.  The original told the story of how Ginger gets tossed out in the first place.  This new version tells the story of what happens after she’s dumped… at the dump.

As well, in this new version, the major character of Daryl is introduced.  He was not in the original.  For a time, in the re-write process as I was developing the character of The King (who is essentially a futuristic porn star), I realized that I was unclear about who The King was and who this new character of Daryl was, in terms of their respective roles in the new version of the story.  What has emerged is a sort of battle: Daryl functions as a kind of “Dirk Diggler” (from Boogie Nights; essentially an unlikely porn star) who is thrust into stardom.  He turns out to threaten The King.  I’m really happy with how it has turned out.  I do think a little bit of tightening could be done, so I’ll be looking to perhaps trim a bit from Act One in any future remounts to keep things clipping along. But it’s minor cuts that I’m imagining.  The script is overall in great shape, I think.

Gili Roskies (left) and Ben Elliott appear in a scene of Broken Sex Doll

SC: What have been the challenges in adapting the original 20 minute performance into a full-length production?

AT: Well the first challenge was turning it into a full-length script and all that comes with that process.  Once that was more or less accomplished, then the challenge of producing a large-scale theatre piece then emerged.  Finding a way to make the show as “big” as possible (it “wants” to be a big show) on our fairly limited resources was also quite challenging.  But we were really blessed with angels on this show, such as with our Technical Director Duncan MacCallum, who poured his heart and soul into the set build.  He is just one example, though.  This production, much like the inaugural production of No Exit (which we co-produced with Electric Company Theatre at the Centre for Digital Media a few years ago) is a real example of members of our community coming together in a united cause that they all believe in.  It’s been quite a magical process.  And everyone at The Cultch has been so incredibly welcoming and supportive.

SC: Can you talk about the collaborative process working with musical composer Anton Lipovetsky?

AT: I approached Anton almost a year ago.  After he agreed to come on board to write the music for about ten songs, we had some working sessions together.  In a “sesh” we would just hang out, have tea or coffee and snacks, riff on ideas and sing together.  I wrote the lyrics and he wrote the music.  Occasionally I had musical ideas or Anton had lyric ideas, but the roles generally fell cleanly along those lines, so that is how it’s credited.  It was a lot of fun.  We each listened to one another quite a bit and respected the opinion of the other, so it was a really healthy and productive working relationship.

We then had a workshop in August 2012 sponsored by The Cultch in its Culture Lab.  That workshop was instrumental in the development of the show.  I am so grateful for Heather Redfern for allowing us to hang out for that critical week and work on the piece in that facility.  We worked on music, the script and choreography.  The developmental process that summer was crucial to the show’s later success.

After that week in August, Anton and I continued to have lengthy “song sessions” hammering out more music and lyrics.  It was very positive and synergetic and resulted in the very diverse, eclectic musical score that is now so critical to the piece’s success.  And it has over 15 or so songs: much more than Anton came on board for.  Ha ha!  It should also be noted that one song, Rise and Shine is actually the creation of Neezar, who plays The King.  He is a songwriter in his own right and had that song in his repertoire.  I loved it for the show and he agreed to loan it to the production for the top of Act Two. Anton tweaked it a bit to blend into the overall sound and the end result works well, I think.

Anton Lipovetsky (left) and Andy Thompson (right).

SC: What are some of the challenges in writing and staging a musical in comparison to a play?

AT: Well a musical of course requires choreography, so I had to get that sorted out.  Jane Osborne and Vanessa Goodman of The Contingency Plan have been on board  Broken Sex Doll essentially from day one of the original piece.  They are amazing, lovely, incredibly talented artists.  I am so grateful for everything they brought to the show. As a producer I had to make sure to give them the time they needed to choreograph numbers with the cast, so that was a bit of a balancing act.  But it all worked out.  The movement is great and really supports and enhances the storytelling.

This production also marks my first time working with lav mics.  We couldn’t afford a live band, so Anton arranged and recorded pre-recorded tracks that the cast sings live to.  They are mixed in the tech booth with the lav-captured live vocal performances.  This was something Anton and I were willing to do, artistically (not just for financial reasons) it made sense in a “sci-fi musical” that the music would be pre-recorded and effects heavy.  In future productions, producers could go with a live band, or license Anton’s tracks and use them instead.  It’s pretty cool.

Broken Sex Doll runs at The Cultch until March  24. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.


An exclusive Q+A with Tim Carlson, creator of Extraction

Tim Carlson, Theatre Conspiracy's artistic producer and show creator

There’s only one week left until the highly anticipated premiere of the bilingual, documentary-style theatre show, Extraction. Tim Carlson, Theatre Conspiracy artistic producer and show creator, is deep into rehearsals but took time to chat with us about how his childhood impacted the show, The Cultch’s involvement in making the concept a reality, and the importance of gaining a different perspective.

OH: Can you talk me through the creation of Extraction?

TC: Growing up in Alberta, I was surrounded by relatives in the oil industry. My grandfather, father, cousins and uncles were constantly exchanging tales of their experiences out in the field since the 1940s. This influenced me greatly and from then on, I always wanted to make some sort of play that spoke to my family’s heritage in the industry. The actual conceptualization for the play started in 2009, when one of my best friends from high school (Jimmy Mitchell) moved back to Vancouver after almost three decades in China and Taiwan as a teacher, journalist and diplomat.  As I listened to recollections of his time in Asia, it became apparent that there was an evolving story to tell and Jimmy’s insight became much of the starting point for Extraction. At around the same time, there was a growing interest from China in Canada’s oil sands. The two nations, which had little in common just over 30 years ago, now had a common thread in the form of oil trade. Much like the way crude oil is refined into products such as jet fuel and petroleum, we look at the way cultural nuances, history and language become intertwined and connected when people come together. There’s a symbolic and overarching theme of refinement throughout the performance.

From left: Cultch executive director Heather Redfern, Theatre Conspiracy artistic producer Tim Carlson, and Rio Tinto Alcan representative Richard Prokopanko.

OH: From concept to reality – what happened next?

TC: The Cultch’s support from early on was instrumental in our ability to receive grants from different organisations such as the BC Arts Council and Vancouver Foundation to conduct much-needed research for the play right from the start. Having The Cultch on your side means a lot – it’s well-respected and has a great reputation. With the funding we received, we were able to make a trip to Beijing in 2010 to do casting calls and conduct interviews with people such as professional interpreters and translators to form some of the content for Extraction. We were also able to make two trips to Fort McMurray to talk to a number of individuals, from new Chinese employees to union members to immigrant services.

Jimmy Mitchel, Sunny Sun and Jason Wilson play themselves in Extraction

OH: How did your background in journalism influence the style of this play?

TC: My background in journalism plays a big role in the research that I do for my productions and I wanted the play to be a documentary-style production right from the start.  Having real people on stage engages the audience in a different way. To find the cast for the play, we used social media and internet sites such as Facebook and Craigslist, Vancouver-based immigrant services S.U.C.C.E.S.S and word of mouth, through personal connections.

OH: You mentioned that having real people on stage engages the audience in a different way – what else does it achieve?

With a lot of art, there’s a heavy-handed point of view, which has its place and importance. With Extraction, however, the goal is to present the audience with a different point of view, which is to get beneath the stuff we hear in the news. What we usually see in the media is government and industry promoting the industry or conservationists protesting it. Most of us are somewhat caught in the middle. By bringing an alternate angle of real stories from people’s personal experiences, I hope to foster and encourage thought and discussion.

Extraction runs at The Cultch Mar 5 – 9, 2013. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St. Part of the DocuAsia Forum co-presented by Cinevolution Media Arts Society and David Lam Centre of SFU. Free DocuAsia Forum discussion: March 6 & 7. For other DocuAsia Forum events, please check www.cinevolutionmedia.com.

Part 2: Choreographer Victor Quijada shares the story behind his unique style of dance

This week we bring you the second part of our exclusive two-part interview with the award winning choreographer and creative director of RUBBERBANDance Group, Victor Quijada. His work, which examines human relationships through a seamless marriage of classical, contemporary, and urban aesthetics, is performed internationally.

In part two, Quijada shares with us the process of choreographing Gravity of Center ( opening at The Cultch Feb 19) as well as the process of adapting the stage production to film.

SC: Gravity of Center is the ninth work you’ve choreographed with RUBBERBANDance and many say that it’s perhaps your greatest work yet. What do you think sets this piece apart from your other works?

VQ: I think that it comes down to the fact that I simply had more experience when I created it, and a lot more practice. I had already tried out so many of my ideas, and all of those experiments with those old ideas (successful or not) were informing this new, bigger challenge. This piece really was a much bigger challenge that I had placed in front of me. However I was also more prepared and ready to take on this challenge.

Also, I had a great cast. Plus, my past experiences had taught me so much about casting and directing. Overall, I was a better director and a better choreographer during this creation. Also, I must say that having a great cast, and a great team of collaborators helped make this piece one of the best we’ve had.

This is the most narrative work I’ve ever made and I was surprised at how challenging it was to actually accomplish this. In the end, I’m very proud of it.

SC: Gravity of Center explores the idea that everyone is both at the center of the world and orbiting around others. Can you elaborate on this idea?

VQ: ,Simply put: At times we are followers, at other times we lead. There are moments when we take care of others, and moments when we are taken care of. We all want to be independent, but the truth is that we need each other. I believe this is true in the micro, as well as in the macro.

SC: How do you explore this idea through movement?

VQ: I was interested in behavioural phenomena that were found in both animals and in humans: herd and pack mentality, migratory and nomadic tendancies, and social hierarchy, specifically looking at dominant and submissive roles within a group.

SC: What was your inspiration when choreographing Gravity of Center?

VQ: I was inspired by my dancers, by composer Jasper Gahunia; my conversations with lighting designer Yan Lee Chan. I was also inspired by films and the craft of screenwriting.

SC: Can you talk about the process of adapting Gravity of Center from a stage performance to film? What were some of the challenges and considerations?

VQ: The biggest challenge was scaling down the 75 minute journey into a much smaller time frame. On the other hand I was very excited to work with Thibaut Duverneix as a co-director and with cinematographer Christophe Collette. I was confident that we would be able to achieve the contrasting sense of grandeur and subtlety in this film.

SC: How do you hope to inspire or transform Vancouver audiences when performing Gravity of Center on The Cultch stage?

VQ: I hope audiences get that feeling I get sometimes after seeing a great film that is so rich and so complete that I keep thinking about for days, weeks afterward. There are some films that keep me aware of my breathing, they keep me aware of my surroundings. They keep me on the lookout for something amazing to happen, or to take a chance to try something new, or to be ready for an adventure.

It’s as if in my brain I am saying, “Well, it happened in the film, and there was a writer that thought it up, and there was a director that brought it to life, and there were these talented actors that made me believe, so… VICTOR, DO SOMETHING!!”

Gravity of Centre runs at The Cultch February 19 – 23, 2013. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.