Part 1: Choreographer Victor Quijada shares the story behind his unique style of dance

Choreographer Victor Quijada. Photo by Roland Lorente.

Are you the type of person who likes to rock out in your bedroom to your favourite song? Or, would you rather tap your foot to a good groove?. There’s something about moving to music that just feels good.

Victor Quijada, Montreal choreographer and artistic director of RUBBERBANDance group, knows what we’re talking about. In fact, Victor’s regarded as a pioneer in the world of dance—not only has he created beautiful and inspiring dance pieces, he’s created an entirely original movement vocabulary as well! We caught up with Victor to hear more about his original style of movement and his thoughts on bringing his newest dance piece Gravity of Center, to The Cultch.

SC: Your choreography is recognized for being a fusion of hip hop, contemporary and classical styles. In your own words, how do you describe your movement vocabulary?

VQ: Actually, that description is probably the most basic, most rudimentary way to describe the movement vocabulary I use with RBDG. Why it doesn’t really work as a good description, is because it asks you to imagine these three styles—hip hop, contemporary, classical—and it forces you to think of the stereotypes that help these genres keep their labels.  Then, it demands that you imagine a fusion of these stereotypical aspects in some kind of a choreographic context.

Victor Quijada working with Company dancers. Photo by Lindsay Thomas

To be more accurate, I would say that as a choreographer, my voice and vision have been shaped by my history. At one end of the spectrum, this starts with growing up in the freestyle hip hop dance ciphers of Los Angeles, and on the other end it includes a professional career of working with postmodern, contemporary, and neo-classical choreographers in the ranks of high caliber dance companies.

I think this paragraph from my bio says it well:

A wide range of early performance experiences, from the hip hop clubs of his native Los Angeles to a performance career with internationally-acclaimed postmodern and ballet dance companies such as THARP!, Ballet Tech and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, led Victor Quijada to Montreal, a city he now calls home. By age 26, Victor had gained a rare perspective on a large spectrum of dance, possessing knowledge and experience that spanned from the street corner to the concert hall.

But even before you imagine motion or gestures or choreography, the RBDG movement vocabulary begins with the manner in which the dancer acknowledges the space and their own physical reaction to inhabiting it. RBDG movement vocabulary is actuated by the manner of muscularity the dancer adopts at the contact points with the environment. Furthermore, the RBDG movement vocabulary gains its aesthetic through the manner in which the dancer perceives his or her experience.

SC: How did you come to develop this movement style and quality?

VC: It was thanks to the different experiences I had, the different spheres I was exposed to, and to the fact that I was determined to become the best I could be in the different milieus that I found myself in. The “developing the style” part came through many years of practice, but the seeds were planted when I was still very young.

Jessica Tong, right, with Quijada in rehearsal. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

I remember that from a very young age, I already proclaimed, “I am a hip-hop artist,” except that I really didn’t know what “art” was.

But as a student at the L.A. Arts High School, I remember learning about “art” and coming upon the notion that through “art” it was possible to change the world. As a teenager, hip hop was my life, and art would change my life. I started to expand my ideas about my hip-hop. The knowledge and formal dance training I was receiving at that arts high school would mutate my relationship with hip hop forever.

And of course the professional experience that I would acquire over the next decade would further transform me. It’s not just my physical capabilities that would grow, but my mind was also growing. I was watching, learning, changing.

Once the style had developed in my body, the real challenge came in the transmission of the movement to new dancers—how to get them to understand and recreate the specific qualities I was asking for. That’s why identifying the style and developing a technique was important and necessary. And that took time. Lots of time. Lots of sweat. Lots of writing, testing, experimenting, practicing, and teaching. Lots of trial and error.

But finally, the method is all there, compact and airtight. And now we can pass the knowledge on very well, very clearly. No guesswork. Simply. Directly.

Gravity of Center 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.

Tim Crouch shines a light on bullying in I, Malvolio

On January 30, as part of the 2013 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, UK playwright and performer Tim Crouch brings his latest production, I, Malvolio, to The Cultch. A celebrated international performer, Crouch has developed a large following here in Vancouver, thanks to past visits performing My Arm and An Oak Tree in 2007, and ENGLAND in 2009.

I, Malvolio opens at The Cultch Jan 30

For I, Malvolio, Crouch uses humour as a means of exposing the harm caused in bullying and practical jokes in a re-imagined version of Shakespeare’s famous play Twelfth Night. In this version of the classic tale, the story is told through the eyes of the pompous steward Malvolio, a perspective rarely seen and explored in theatre.

Tim Crouch re-imagines Twelfth Night in a brilliant one-man show that unlocks Shakespeare’s play for new audiences

In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Malvolio is bullied and picked on by the other characters, ultimately winding up as the crux of a hurtful joke. In the end, poor Malvolio meets a pitiful demise when he’s written off as insane, and locked away in a dark chamber. In his final words he pledges revenge on the other characters for treating him so poorly.

I, Malvolio is a charged, hilarious and sometimes unsettling rant from a man adrift in front of a cruel audience

In this version of the play, Crouch’s clever script gives audiences a unique position from which to view the issue of bullying – from the eyes of the bully. As Crouch explains in the video below, “It’s a very funny piece. He is a clown and we often enjoy laughing at people who are going through terrible situations and circumstances. Malvolio is really at the bottom of the pile and he encourages you laughing at him, and then he challenges you for laughing at him.”

It’s a performance that makes you wonder: what’s acceptable about laughing at someone who’s been broken down and humiliated? As Crouch puts it in this interview with journalist Mark Fisher, “It [the play] is about how far one is prepared to take pleasure in somebody’s cruelty to other people.”

I, Malvolio is an entertaining production that reinforces valuable lessons along the way. Don’t miss your chance to see this contemporary spin on a classic play!

I, Malvolio runs at The Cultch January 30 – February 10, 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.

Funeral home partners up with The Cultch for Grim & Fischer

By Ricky Choi

Death meets his match in Mrs. Fischer, a tenacious granny not ready to breathe her last breath.

This week, Grim & Fischer (the 2011 recipient of the Cultchivating the Fringe Award) makes its Vancouver return! Visiting us from Portland, Oregon, this surreal but tenderly presented work of imagination and whimsy brings us one woman’s fight for survival in a showdown with Death himself. Something that you may not have known is that Dignity Memorial, a funeral service provider, is the production sponsor for Grim & Fischer. We were lucky enough to catch up with Forest Lawn & Ocean View Funeral Homes’ General Manager Michael Hedden to find out about his experience at Dignity Memorial, and why this partnership is such a good fit.

Could you tell us about Dignity Memorial and your role as general manager?

Forest Lawn & Ocean View Funeral Homes’ General Manager Michael Hedden

Dignity Memorial is a network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers. All of our services are designed to help families through one of the most personal and challenging stages of life. We understand losing a loved one is an emotional and difficult experience, and we are committed to helping families with compassionate, professional and personal service. As the General Manager of two funeral homes and a crematorium under the Dignity brand I am responsible for leading a team dedicated to helping families honour a life lived.

As the production sponsor for Grim & Fischer, what role do you see Dignity Memorial playing in supporting the arts?

At Dignity Memorial we believe every life has a unique and special story to tell. The arts represent a form of story telling, so it’s really a natural fit. When we celebrate a life lived we perform traditional ceremony, we listen to music and reflect on visuals all with the intention of honouring a unique journey.

Did you ever imagine that Dignity Memorial would be involved with an arts organisation? How did this process take shape?

Dignity Memorial is an active participant in the Arts community with sponsorship and collaboration with dance companies, theatre and music. Living life to its fullest means getting out there and participating in the communities we live in. Our dedicated staff not only support the arts but participate in local theatre, bands, community charities and wellness activities.

What are some misconceptions about working in the funeral business?

Common misconceptions? Well most people forget that funerals are really for the living.

In Grim & Fischer, an aging grandmother is pit against the Grim Reaper and must confront the inevitable question that we all face: what is it to know your end is nigh? Do you wish to share any insight into this question?

Well, here’s the thing about being a funeral professional, seldom do I actually meet the person for whom we are creating a service for. I meet their family and loved ones and through the creation of a service gain insight into who they were and how they lived their life. Personally, when it’s my time I hope to be exhausted from fully participating in a rich meaningful existence.

For more information on Dignity Memorial please visit: www.dignitymemorial.ca

Grim & Fischer runs at The Cultch until January 13. Tickets are $30 and are available online at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at 1895 Venables St.

Don Juan throughout history: Then and now

Blackbird Theatre brings a bold new adaptation of Molière's most scandalous comedy to the stage with Don Juan, festooned with swordplay, seduction, and song.

It’s bold, saucy, and completely outrageous! On December 26, Blackbird Theatre is bringing its newest production to The Cultch, a brave reimagining of Don Juan, the scandalous comedy written by Molière in 1665.

Don Juan, a legendary womanizer and defiant rogue, begins his journey as new husband to Elvira, a one-time nun who was seduced and stolen away from her convent by Don Juan. Already tiring of his beautiful new bride, Don Juan’s eye begins to wander, right over to the fiancée of a close companion! With Don Juan’s disapproving servant Sganarelle in tow, the hijinks that ensue during Don Juan’s quest for the many women of his dreams leave audiences roaring with laughter!

For this version of Don Juan, Blackbird Theatre promises nothing but the best! Two of Vancouver’s finest comedic actors will shine in leading roles: Peter Jorgensen, as the mischievous Don Juan, and Simon Webb as the not-so-trusty sidekick Sganarelle. While honouring Italy’s traditional commedia dell’arte, a form of theatre where actors use various masks to represent stock characters of a specific social type, Blackbird Theatre promises a fresh new spin on this historic and well-loved performance.

The story of Don Juan is over 300 years old, and through the years there have been countless versions, from stage plays and operas, to books and poems. Molière’s Don Juan wasn’t the first version of this famous story, but it was certainly among the most scandalous! Originally titled Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierreI, Molière himself played Sganarelle when it premiered in Paris. Alas, the production was closed after only two weeks because audiences of the time found it highly offensive.

Another notable version of the classic tale emerged years later, this time as an opera entitled Don Giovanni. With musical composition by none other than Mozart, this version was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte and premiered in Prague in 1787, and is still performed around the world today.

A ticket to the premiere performance of Don Giovanni in Vienna, May 7, 1788.

In the nineteenth century, another famous historical figure, Lord Byron, produced his own version of the tale, this time as a satiric poem. First published anonymously in 1819, readers found the poem highly immoral, yet overall it was a huge success. Interestingly, Byron reversed the character of Don Juan, portraying him as a man easily seduced by women, instead of the womanizer he’s traditionally regarded as being.

With so many versions of Don Juan throughout history, it’s no wonder this story has achieved such prominence in today’s theatre world. Don’t miss your chance to catch this incredible story, told through the eyes of Vancouver’s own Blackbird Theatre.

Don Juan runs at The Cultch December 26 – January 26. Tickets are available online at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at 1895 Venables St.

2013 at the Cultch – Programming as diverse as you

By Caitlin Bryant

It’s 2013 and we are ready to embark on a brand new year of performance that will warm the heart, push boundaries, expand the mind, and amaze the senses. Here’s what’s coming up!

Don Juan
Three songs, two duels and a road trip to hell
Blackbird Theatre (Vancouver)
Historic Theatre at The Cultch
December 26 – January 26, 2013
Opening night: December 28, 8pm

Peter Jorgensen stars as the legendary rogue and Simon Webb plays his beleaguered servant in Blackbird Theatre’s (Waiting for Godot) daring new adaptation of Molière’s most scandalous comedy, Don Juan.

Festooned with swordplay, seduction, and song, this satiric tale follows the irresistible rogue and defiant hedonist down an unrepentant path to hellfire and brimstone.

Music features a newly commissioned rock mass in Latin (with electric guitar) from composer Peter Berring, and arias from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, sung and played on the guitar and harpsichord by the leading actors.

Click here for more information. Tickets are from $17 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

Grim & Fischer
One granny’s showdown with Death himself
WONDERHEADS Theatre (Portland, Oregon)
Vancity Culture Lab at The Cultch

January 3 – 13, 2013
Opening night: January 3, 8pm

Winner of the 2011 Cultchivating The Fringe Award, Grim and Fischer is the epic tale of one mischievous Granny’s journey as she is pit against the Grim Reaper and must confront the inevitable question that we all face: what is it to know your end is nigh?

Click here to watch the hilarious trailer for Grim and Fischer.

Click here for more information. Tickets are $30 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

Cutting Edge Performing Arts Partnerships

As one of Vancouver’s signature performing arts festivals, The Cultch is thrilled to partner with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (January 15 – February 3, 2013) once again.

As a part of this exciting partnership, The Cultch will be presenting The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart taking place at East Vancouver’s own WISE Hall and I, Malvolio, taking centre stage at The Cultch’s Historic Theatre.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart
Extend your Robbie Burns Day  celebrations with a lock-in at the WISE Hall
National Theatre of Scotland (Glasgow)
The WISE hall (1882 Adanac Street)
January 29 – February 2, 2013
Opening night: January 29, 8pm

Robbie Burns Day is fast approaching and so now is the time for a supernatural lock-in with the National Theatre of Scotland’s band of actors and musicians.

Grab a beer and a seat with friends for this heartwarming and whimsical story infused with rhyme and Scottish karaoke. The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart takes theatre into the pub where stories are told, re-told and passed on.

Click here to watch The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’s preview.

Click here for more information. Tickets are $47 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

I, Malvolio
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as seen through his most pent- up steward
Tim Crouch
January 30 – February 10, 2013
Opening night: January 30, 8pm

Tim Crouch’s I, Malvolio is a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night but with its spotlight uniquely trained on Malvolio, the notoriously wronged steward with his hilarious tale of woe.

A story of lost dignity, prudery, practical jokes and bullying, this one-man act of storytelling alchemy draws us deep into the madness of Shakespeare’s classic comedy.

Click here to watch the trailer for Tim Crouch’s, I, Malvolio.

Click here for more information. Tickets are from $17 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

Gravity of Center
Hip hop meets ballet
RUBBERBANDDance Group (Montreal)
February 19 – 23, 2013
Opening night: February 19, 8pm

Critically acclaimed choreographer Victor Quijada presents his ninth work, Gravity of Center. In this exploration of individuality and interdependence with its obvious and inevitable struggles, raw movement expresses all the weight of this adversarial relationship. The dancers interweave, fight, crave, and hustle in an astonishing fluidity of action.

Click here to watch the Gravity of Center trailer.

Click here for more information. Tickets are from $17 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

*Holiday housekeeping note: The Cultch administration office will be closed from December 24 – January 1 and will re-open at 10am on Tuesday, January 2.  Have a safe and happy holiday from all of us at The Cultch!

Box Office hours:

December 24: 12 – 4pm, December 25: Closed, December 26: 12 – 4pm, December 27, 28: 12 – 6pm, December 29: 12 – 4pm, December 30: Closed, December 31: 12 – 6pm, January 1, 2013: Closed

The Christmas Carol Project: a holiday production for indie-folk fans

The cast of The Christmas Carol Project

Bah Humbug! If you’ve been out shopping for Christmas presents lately you might have noticed the Christmas jingles that stores like to impose upon us at this festive time of year. Alas, although it may prove difficult to escape these aural invasions, The Cultch is here to offer some relief with the ever-charming Christmas Carol Project.

The project, conceived in 1996 by John Armstrong and a host of talented Edmonton-based musicians, intricately interprets Dickens’ classic tale by harmonizing lyrics with narration amongst a cocktail of folk, flamenco, bluegrass, rock, blues, Celtic folk and jazz. Bill Bourne leads the cast with his award-winning talent as the stingy Ebenezer Scrooge. Bill is a one-man show himself having performed at many internationally renowned music events from the Montreal Jazz Festival to the New York City Folk Festival not to mention collecting several Juno nods along the way.

Accompanying him on his transformational journey is bluegrass-Celtic-folk-country artist Maria Dunn. Originally taking the role of Scrooge’s maid, cast changes allowed Maria to step up to the challenge of playing Tiny Tim the seriously ill son of Scrooge’s underpaid clerk Bob Cratchit. Maria, a classically trained pianist, born in Scotland, immersed herself in Celtic folk and has also gained award recognition along her artistic journey both in Canada and abroad. Maria brings her enchanting vocals and accordion accompaniment to the performance and charms everyone with the show’s centerpiece ‘God Bless Us, Everyone’.

Adding to the talent pool is Albertan finger-pickin’ guitarist Kevin Cook, foot-stomping drummer Bill Hobson, soothing songstress Terry Morrison, rockabilly front-man Tom Roschkov, soulful songwriter Al Brant and Chapman Stick player Dale Ladouceur. What’s a Chapman Stick? Take a look here:

Theatre actor and producer Dave Clarke narrates us through Dickens’ dark and delightful fable. The combination of these technically skilled and creative artists, with their diverse musical influences, filtering through the lens of Dickens’ timeless prose, makes for a scrumptious evening for the entire family.

The Christmas Carol Project will run at The Cultch December 16, 17 & 18 at 8 PM. Tickets for The Christmas Carol Project start at $17 and are on sale now at tickets.thecultch.com, or by phone at 604.251.1363 and also, in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.

A Global Success! Patrick Ehrenwirth shares behind-the-scenes insights into the dazzling production, LEO!

By Sarah Cruickshank

Tobias Wegner in Circle of Eleven's LEO, winner of the Best of Edinburgh Award.

LEO, the jaw-dropping, gravity-defying production from Berlin-based theatre company Circle of Eleven, is coming to The Cultch! In its last stop on a whirlwind world tour, this remarkable production of physical theatre will leave you not knowing which way is up and which way is down!

We caught up with Circle of Eleven’s Marketing and PR Manager Patrick Ehrenwirth to find out more about LEO, and how it feels to be part of a production that’s enjoying global success.

SC: As the Marketing and PR Manager at Circle of Eleven, what are some of your responsibilities when touring a show like LEO?

PE: The first step in the creation phase of a touring show is to find a show title and to develop artwork that comes with the show. We usually do this in a small team which involves the key creatives, Circle of Eleven’s artistic director, and myself. We provide a full marketing package to the venues where our productions play. This includes show texts, a press kit, photos, a trailer, and the art work for the posters, flyers and ads. So, the first round is always a busy period with photo and video shootings and a lot of copywriting. Once a show is on tour, the respective marketing and PR team and I are planning press calls, interviews, TV gigs and advertising campaigns. Every city and every venue is different when touring a show; that’s why my job never gets boring!

SC: For those who may not be familiar with this type of performance, can you explain the concept of physical theatre?

PE: Physical theatre is a broad term for performances which convey drama or an actual story by primarily physical means, that is, the body. This idea allows a variety of genres to happily mingle, from mime to contemporary dance, from circus to performance art. You will notice when watching LEO that the show requires a lot of different skills from the performer. Besides being an excellent and strong acrobat, he also has to be a good dancer, actor, mime, and he has to be able to play an instrument.

Tobias Wegner stars in Circle of Eleven's LEO, which plays at The Cultch until Dec 15.

SC: What are some of the challenges in presenting a show with no words?

PE: The beauty of a nonverbal, visually captivating production like LEO is that it leaves a lot of space for personal interpretation. But at the same time, it’s also a challenge when marketing a show because you don’t want to give too much away. My experience is that visitors see so many different things in LEO, whether it is a situation in their own life or that of a friend or something entirely different. Theatre is a universal language, but it talks to everyone in a different way, so to speak. So for me the challenge is to keep that door, that personal access open for everyone.

SC: LEO has been called the anti-gravity show. How does performer Tobias Wegner make it look as though he’s floating in the air?

PE: LEO is based on a brilliant stage concept which actually involves two scenes: A box with the performer in it, and right beside it, a projection of this room turned by 90 degrees, so what is the floor in real life becomes the wall in the projection. The illusion is even enhanced by a fantastic lighting design, surreal animations and a visionary video design. But above all, it is Tobias’s talent and stamina that make his movements seem weightless. When Tobias developed the show together with director Daniel Brière, they’d been experimenting a lot with different movements and sequences to see which would work both in the projection and on stage. But even now, Tobias and the creatives keep inventing new elements, which they add to the show. On a technical level, the show is playing with people’s perception, and at a certain point, you won’t realize which postures are actually difficult or even impossible in real life.

SC: LEO has toured all over the world including places like the USA, Poland, Germany and Iran. What does it mean to come to Vancouver and perform on The Cultch stage?

PE: The Cultch will be LEO’s last station before going on a well-deserved Christmas holiday, and it is also the last stop on this 2012 world tour, which started in New York. This run is quite special. I know that Tobias Wegner and the crew are excited to be in Vancouver, and to perform at The Cultch, especially because its programme is so varied and interdisciplinary, just as LEO is. Unfortunately, I don’t get to tour with the crew, and to be honest, I envy them a little that they are travelling to a city that has been rated among the most liveable cities in the world!

SC: LEO is so popular that you’ve had to train two additional performers for tour dates in 2013. How does it feel to be a part of a show that’s enjoying this much success?

PE: Of course, it makes us all very proud! I’ve seen the show develop from a comedy act that Tobias Wegner created for our production called myLIFE, to a touching one-hour show that won three awards and played off-Broadway. Whether it be the USA, Iran, Zimbabwe, or Canada – regardless of the cultural background, people just love the show, that’s just amazing. But it’s not only the success as such but the feedback that we get that is very rewarding. I’ve seen people crying during the show simply because they were so moved by it. Others told me with a big smile on their face that LEO was the most beautiful piece they ever saw. It is a great feeling to be part of a team that makes this happen.

SC: What can an audience member expect to take away after watching LEO?

PE: For me personally, it is the simple realization that life is full of surprises – or rather chances you can take – and the conclusion that, no matter how trapped you might feel in certain situations, there is always a way out. But as I said, I’m sure everyone will find his or her own story in LEO!

LEO runs at The Cultch December 4 – 15. Tickets start at $17 and are available online at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at 1895 Venables St

LEO soars into Vancouver after sold out run in Montreal

By Caitlin Bryant

Montreal’s Nouveau Theatre video

After premiering at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it took home the Three Weeks Editors Award, the Scotsman Fringe First Award and the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award, LEO received this review from theatre critic Thomas Haywood: “LEO is a superb physical one-man dance show… mind-bending, illusionistic and spellbinding… This show is destined for a great future.”

Haywood’s intuition was right. Since then, LEO has toured numerous cities throughout the UK, US, Iran, New Zealand, Germany, Poland, and Zimbabwe. LEO has taken the international theatre community by storm – so much so, that they’ve had to train two additional actor-acrobats, Julian Schulz from Berlin and William Bonnet from France will also play the role of the “imaginary cosmonaut” named Leo.

Chamaleon Theatre Berlin, Germany

It’s really no surprise that LEO is enjoying such great success. This comedic piece of physical theatre is a funny, surreal, and surprisingly touching work that challenges the senses and tests perceptions of reality through the clever interplay of live performance and video projection. This creation by the innovative Berlin-based production company Circle of Eleven leaves audience members wondering which way is up and which way is down.

The Cultch presents LEO

But don’t take our word for it; check out the incredible buzz this show has created world-wide.

“LEO… does on its stage what Einstein and great physicists have dreamt of for ages… successfully break through the inter-space-time-continuum.”Review Fix

“An eye-teasing, deeply impressive work of sustained absurdist magic.”Time Out, New York

“Mr. Wegner knows just what he is doing, but his character has no idea: the man adjusts to a world of changed gravitational laws as the room around him becomes a fantastical playground.”New York Times

“LEO uses an ingenious combination of stage design and video projections to create an unexpected environment for extraordinary feats of acrobatic theater in which “our hero” literally loses his sense of gravity and departs on a logic-defying adventure”SHOWBIZZ CHICAGO

“By the end of the performance, your brain has been successfully hoodwinked: you almost forget to watch the performance in the real physical space, focusing all your attention on the fantasy taking place on the video projection,”Edinburgh Spotlight

“A triumph of coordination, Leo interacted perfectly with… the physical challenges thrown his way by an ever-changing environment” New Zealand International Arts Festival

LEO biscuit trailer

Interview with Tobias Wegner

Visit Circle of Eleven’s website for Performer Tobias Wegner, Director Daniel Briere, and Creative Producer Gregg Parks artist’s statements. –

For more information, click here . Tickets are from $17 and may be purchased by visiting tickets.thecultch.com, by calling the box office at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables St.

Tobias Wegner discusses LEO with a fascinated Gr. 1 class in Charleston, South Carolina

Only until Sunday, December 2: Purchase 4 or more tickets to LEO and enjoy 25% off Section A & B seats. This promotion is valid only for performances on December 4 – 9, 11 & 12. Offer valid with promo code GRAVITY25. This offer cannot be combined with any other offer. No cash value. Offer may not be applied toward past purchases. This offer expires Sunday, December 2, 2012 at midnight.

200th Anniversary of Dickens: What makes his prose so timeless?

By Roanne Ward


Award-winning British actress Miriam Margolyes (Harry Potter, Romeo + Juliet) brings her one-woman show, Dickens’ Women, to The Cultch this week setting out to discover the man himself.  The play is as much about Charles Dickens as it is about the twenty-three characters performed by Margolyes. These characters are drawn from his novels and sketches and include both the iconic and famous individuals including Mrs. Gamp, Miss Havisham and other, lesser-known creations from Dickens’ books. They all offer a unique glimpse into the real life of Charles Dickens.

Dickens’ Women is just one of many bicentennial events celebrating the author’s birthday this year. Some 142 years after his death, people around the world are still reading, performing and discussing Dickens’ work. At least 180 motion pictures and TV adaptations based on Dickens’ works have been produced.

So what is it that makes Dickens’ work so timeless? At the young age of 24, Dickens’ first novel, The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club (The Pickwick Papers), was published. Dickens provided text to a series of illustrations depicting cockney sporting life, which he would later tie into a more cohesive novel written under the pseudonym ‘Boz.’ With this he gained instant success. He would then go on to write 14 more novels, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, and would lecture and perform spirited readings of his work. He was the literary celebrity of his time. From The Pickwick Papers to Oliver Twist to Great Expectations, Dickens’ stories were filled with complexity and moral analyses that reflected on our own lives.

The times may have changed but the themes still translate and resonate today. Dickens often commented on the ‘hard times’ of Victorian London, warning us of the dangers of greed and the effects of poverty. With global economies facing challenging financial times, Dickens’ cautionary tales have never been more apt, illuminating the destructive power of money in society. Just as Fagin and his gang of juvenile pickpockets took to the streets of London in Oliver Twist, so did hundreds of teenagers in the 2011 London riots after a long and brutal recession. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens holds up the mirror to show us the corrosive power of greed through the wonderfully dark Ebenezer Scrooge.

Dickens created over 2000 multi-dimensional characters and rather than letting them lie flat on the page he gave them life. Margolyes says he had the ability to reveal the most interesting fact about people, which is that we all have secrets. Through his many characters we are exposed to the most intimate and complex of secrets, satisfying our inner-voyeur by being privy to such intimate thoughts and prompting self-analysis. He wrote on many social issues: housing, sanitation, education, labour laws and was a true advocate for the arts believing that “enriching people’s life with knowledge and enjoyment of the arts was key to building a fair society and creating opportunities”. Margolyes says, “I think our society needs mending. I think Dickens knew it and I think all his writings are testaments to the necessity to lead a moral life and the strange thing is that he didn’t do it himself and that’s the paradox that my show explores.” She and many others have commented on his writing as being incredibly effective for the stage and Dickens himself said that “every writer of fiction, though he may not adapt the dramatic form, writes in effect for the stage.”

Dickens’ Women runs at The Cultch until  December 1. Tickets start at $17and are available online at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at 1895 Venables St.

West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) Fundraiser: Dickens’ Women

West Coast LEAF’s ‘No Means No’ program has reached over 3000 youth across BC

In partnership with The Cultch, West Coast LEAF is delighted to be offering a fundraiser performance of Miriam Margolyes’ play, Dickens’ Women on Wednesday, November 14 at 7pm.
West Coast LEAF is a BC-based non-profit society on a mission to change historic patterns of discrimination against women through three key areas: Public Legal Education, Law Reform, and Equal Rights Litigation. They offer programming in each of these key areas, including peer facilitated workshops like ‘No Means No’ , the Family Law Project, and litigation in specific cases that have the potential to affect the lives of women across BC. This really just scratches the surface of the hard work that West Coast LEAF does for women in our community and across BC. We are proud to have partnered with such an inspiring organisation!

A veteran of stage and screen, award-winning actress Miriam Margolyes has achieved success on both sides of the Atlantic

As for Miriam Margolyes, you may remember her from any one of her amazingly talented and oft hilarious performances in films, plays, and TV series’ such as The Black Adder, Little Shop of Horrors, Magnolia, The Vagina Monologues, Being Julia, Romeo + Juliet, and the list goes on! In Dickens’ Women she moves seamlessly from role to role depicting 23 of Dickens’ little to best known characters whom, full of life and layers, were shaped from women in his own life – women he knew, women he loved, and women he hated.

The Cultch is thrilled to be presenting Dickens’ Women from November 15 – December 1 (in addition to the November 14 fundraiser performance for West Coast LEAF) considering the combined talent and strength brought to this hilariously entertaining one-woman performance, co-written and performed by BAFTA and LA Critics Circle award-winner Miriam Margolyes. Equally exciting is that this performance Dickens’ Women is Margolyes’ Canadian premier on a critically acclaimed world tour where Dickens’ Women has been eliciting much praise from audience members and critics alike in countries including Australia, New Zealand, India and the USA.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to support an exceptional, BC-based organisation and see the Canadian premier of Dickens’ Women as they continue on their critically acclaimed world tour!

Tickets are available at The Cultch for both the West Coast LEAF Fundraiser and the Nov 15 – Dec 1 run of Dickens’ Women. Tickets can be purchased online at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

Connect with West Coast LEAF on Facebook and Twitter or visit their website for more information.