A conversation with Paneet Singh, Writer/Director of A Vancouver Guldasta!

A conversation with Paneet Singh, Writer/Director of A Vancouver Guldasta

Paneet Singh. Photo by Pardeep Singh Photography

The Cultch is excited to once again partner with Diwali in BC. This year we are co-presenting two shows, The Believers Are But Brothers ( Oct 30 – Nov 10, Vancity Culture Lab) and A Vancouver Guldasta (Oct 2 – 21, Vancity Culture Lab). A Vancouver Guldasta, written and directed by Paneet Singh and produced by South Asian Canadian Histories Association (SACHA), opens next week and we couldn’t be more excited. We chatted with Paneet Singh, and he gave us a little background about the show.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a playwright and filmmaker based out of Burnaby. I absolutely love history, and especially the history of the local South Asian community. A lot of my work is around examining intimate stories that happen within large-scale events, much like the story in A Vancouver Guldasta. I also work in admin and am part of the instructional staff at Arts Umbrella, working mostly out of the Surrey locations. Above all else, I love storytelling. I consider engaging with story to be a large part of my professional and personal life, as well as my spiritual journey – and really the only way in which all of these aspects of my life can intersect. I also like to make a lot of jokes. Usually when I shouldn’t be making jokes. I thought that was important to share.

Where did you get the idea for A Vancouver Guldasta?

About a decade ago, a friend of mine gave me a VHS tape that he had gotten from his uncle which contained a ton of local and newscasts from 1984 immediately after the invasion of the Golden Temple. I was so moved by the content and I knew that there was a story to discover around it. I played with it in many ways over the past few years, eventually discovering that the story would be well-served to be told in a way which captured that trauma is shared across generations and cultures – from there, A Vancouver Guldasta was born.

Is it true that the word ‘Guldasta’ means ‘bouquet’? Can you explain what the significance of the word Guldasta is in the context of A Vancouver Guldasta?

Yes, it does! Guldasta means ‘bouquet’ in a few languages from South Asia, including Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu. The title is meant to reflect the make-up of many Vancouver neighborhoods that many of us grew up in, where families weren’t just those who you were biologically related to, but also became those who you shared a living space with, and interacted with everyday. It speaks to this being a story experienced in a space which appears to be a Punjabi space, but is actually intercultural. ‘Guldasta’ is also a term used in Indian classical music to refer to a composition that is made up of contrasting musical measures – but I won’t go too far into it, as that’s explored in my favourite scene of the show!

The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib (“abode of God”) or Darbar Sahib, (Punjabi pronunciation: [dəɾbɑɾ sɑhɪb], “exalted holy court”), is a Gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. Credit Wikipedia

The invasion of the Golden Temple is a significant event in the Punjabi community. Were there difficulties writing about such a significant period of time, one that is so firmly cemented into people’s minds? How did you overcome these?

The biggest challenge comes from the fact that it’s in the lived experience for so much of the community. Even those of us who didn’t live through it personally, feel the tremors of its impact and have inherited the trauma from those around us. Furthermore, the politics of 1984 form the basis of politics today within the community. Most people want to examine one or the other – the politics, or the trauma. I feel as though the two are so heavily intertwined, to really unpack either you need to see how they intersect, and that’s what forms the basis of this piece. You can approach the politics and trauma in a sensitive manner if you put a face and experience to them. I did a lot of research, observation, and consultation in order to ensure that there was a truth and sensitivity behind every distinct voice that is reacting to this catastrophic incident.

What can you tell us about the characters in the play?

They’re so different from one another, but I think you can really believe them to be interacting the way that they do. They’re funny, they’re bold, they’re dynamic, and they’ve all got something to say – but, perhaps they’re still discovering the right way to say it. I don’t want to get too much into each character individually, but the thing that surprises me most about this show is that an audience member will often say that a particular character reminds them of themselves, but they really found themselves listening to the character who was opposed to them – to me, that’s really exciting because it means that there’s a strong thesis and antithesis being examined and there’s a compelling enough argument to draw the attention of otherwise unwilling ears.

Lou Ticzon as Andy, Gunjan Kundhal as Niranjan, Parm Soor as Chattar, and Arshdeep Purba as Rani. Photo by Pardeep Singh Photography

We are so excited to have A Vancouver Guldasta in our Culture Lab; the last time it was presented, the stage was set in an actual Vancouver Special, the location that the play is set. How did you manage creating a stage inside of a home? What are you looking forward to about having it in our Culture Lab?

Typical Vancouver Specials. “Vancouver Specials have similar floor plans with the main living quarters on the upper floor and secondary bedrooms on the bottom, making them ideal for secondary suites.” Credit Wikipedia

It was tough staging it in that space, but I was stubborn! I knew that I wanted to experiment with that location the first time we put it up, just because there’s so much gravitas with this particular story in that space which is, in other regards, so infamously humble and common. We had three rows of bleachers built into the room and squeezed in 25 people, crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder, to watch this show that was entirely lit by practical lighting, and had all the sound coming out of the television set. It wasn’t glamorous, but it really forced you into the world of the characters, and audiences really responded to it.

I’m twice as excited now because we get to bring that experience into the Lab. We’re playing with the audience’s seating arrangement, we’re playing with projection, and we’re playing with some of that good ol’ 80s technology to really make it as much of an experience as it was in the house. It’s fun re-imagining it in this space – it feels like a whole new production. I have been approaching it creatively not in a way in which I’m trying to get the Lab to become that living room, but rather respecting the Lab for what it offers, and discovering how these feelings translate in this new space, for a larger audience.

Is there anything else you would like to share about the production?

I am really struck by how much this show strikes a personal chord with so many audiences – Sikh, South Asian, Vietnamese, Vancouver residents, and those who fit into none of the above, have all said they found a story in this story that resonated with their own personal experience – and I love that. Experience and empathy lies at the heart of much my work, and A Vancouver Guldasta is no exception, so I really want to invite folks into this intimate space to spend time with this family. Certainly a unique family – but still one that’s perhaps not so far-from-home.


A Vancouver Guldasta runs Oct 2-21 at the Vancity Culture Lab. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

Staff Picks #3: don’t miss these highly recommended shows!

Don’t miss these highly recommended shows!

Jamie King, Box Office Attendant, recommends Kamloopa, Sept 25-Oct 6, 2018 AND New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken, April 2-6, 2019

Jamie King, Box Office Staff, couldn’t pick just one show from our 2018/19 Season!

Kamloopa – This is a brand new show from Kim Harvey who is one of the coolest people on the planet. Not only does it have some incredible Indigenous women onstage, but there is “no crying and no dying”. These women are badass, hilarious and in for an awesome adventure story . Beside writing and directing, Kim is facilitating the most incredible process in the rehearsal room, in talks with the community; this is more than a show – it’s medicine. I cannot wait to see it.

New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken – I think I cried out with joy when I saw we were bringing l’orchestre d’hommes-orchestres back this season. Think of performance art meets incredible Appalachian bluegrass, meets weirdly funny and sometimes erotic performers. After two amazing shows featuring Tom Waits & Kurt Weill’s music, I am PUMPED they are focusing on female voices and getting weird with some chicken.


Andrew McCaw, Production Manager, recommends A Brief History of Human Extinction, Oct 10-20, 2018

Andrew McCaw, Production Manager

 

 

Some of the artists involved in A Brief History of Human Extinction worked on the show in our studio earlier this summer. It was fascinating to see artists from very different disciplines develop a language to work with each other. The term “Puppeturgy” was jokingly coined. I am excited to see how it all comes together.


Cindy Reid, Managing Director, recommends Testosterone, Oct 2-13, 2018

Cindy Reid, Managing Director, a big fan of nudity!

 

 

 

I am really looking forward to Testosterone. I am interested in personal stories of transformation, and it looks like it’s going to be an interesting ride! Plus, nudity and strong language—should be a good night out!


Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363 | Save 20% with our Choose 5 subscription package or 25% with our Choose 8 subscription package! This year we also have a Choose 3 package—see three different shows for as little as $65!

GUEST POST: Kim Senklip Harvey, Protocols for the Indigenous Artistic Ceremony Kamloopa

GUEST POST: Kim Senklip Harvey, Protocols for the Indigenous Artistic Ceremony Kamloopa


This is a repost of Kim Senklip Harvey’s blog post, used with permission. The original can be found at www.kimsenklipharvey.com/blog.


It’s day 1 of the Kamloopa portion of the Indigenous artistic ceremony we’re creating and the power and energy is ancestrally kinetic. We’re going to spend the next 2 days honouring and presencing ourselves to arrive and get in tune. I did some deep work at the end of last week, disconnecting from tech and reconnecting to Indigenous values of love, respect and listening and I’m absolutely going to be embedding that practice into all of my artistic creation journeys.

The creation of the Indigenous ceremony Kamloopa has been a big learning curve for a lot of people including myself. Approaching this with producing partners that are Canadian colonial institution

Kim Senklip Harvey, Fire Igniter, Writer/Director for Kamloopa

We are focusing Kamloopa around the 7 Grandmother teachings of wisdom, love, respect, truth, courage, honesty and humility. In all of our creation work we’re reflecting back on how our engagements intersect with these 7 teachings and with the following Smoke Signal we strongly ask that as you engage the ceremony centring those values as well.  s with primarily Settler producers has evoked teachings of humility, understanding and knowledge. I do want to take a moment to honour the producing partners and all their staff for their courage in journeying into the dark with me until we all can arrive at the fire together. Limelet.

Please click here to read the official Smoke Signal that speaks to the protocol for this ceremony. One protocol states that Settlers do no write formal critiques of the ceremony, this request comes from a number of places that I really look forward to speaking about at the Community of Practices (COP) in Vancouver on On Monday, Sept 24, 6-7:30 pm at the Cultch. Dates to be confirmed in Kamloops at WCT and Saskatoon.

I will touch briefly on the main rationale but I hope that the community can respect that myself and the Fire Creation team are headed into a very intense portion of our journey. So I hope we can respond in a way that doesn’t put the labour of explaining settler oppression of Indigenous peoples onto Indigenous peoples participating in creating artistic ceremony. I was once taught that I should be mindful of what I ask of others, contextually in this moment with Indigenous peoples because those questions, that time is time away from us participating in spiritual practice.

So here goes:

First, Indigenous protocol. Period. End of story.

Hahaha but seriously like, we’re stating it’s Indigenous artistic ceremony protocol, that should be enough and that alone should be respected. I’ve had the fortune and privilege of participating in ceremony and in the Indigenous paradigm, questioning that would be extremely disrespectful. It makes me cringe thinking about questioning a knowledge holder of a longhouse or sweat or any ceremony. #Shudder #Barf

For Indigenous sovereignty to occur I understand that Settlers need to understand Indigeneity but I will say this, I have a PHD in Whiteness. I’ve been studying Settler Eurocentricity my entire life, I live under Settler oppression all of the time, so I’ve put my time in doing the work, research, lived experiences and detailed studies of why I’m positioned in society where I am.

So I offer everyone to do a inventory of where their level of understanding is with regards to Indigenous world views, ceremony, historical and pre-colonial paradigms of thoughts and everything beyond. Then I offer, you consider how you make your requests from Indigenous peoples or make potentially oppressive comments towards Indigenous peoples who continue to live under siege of Settler and white supremacy.

After that inventory, I would make another offer that as a Settler, take time, significant time, to listen and listen and listen and experience and experience and experience and before you speak and that maybe you use your Settler power that currently is wielded against us to actually hold space for Indigenous peoples to engage and be given voice instead of you taking more space.

If you feel the need to speak or be given voice before, above and or louder than Indigenous peoples about the ceremony then you are actively continuing to use your Settler power to silence, take space and harm Indigenous peoples and I think you’ve missed the invitation, the offer, the opportunity here.

Settlers have oppressively positioned themselves in this theatrical context to have some presumed kind of academic and or artistic “authority” over Indigenous peoples. Historically and contemporarily that might be permissible protocol in Canadian theatre – but this is not that. This is Indigenous artistic ceremony, so I offer for you to take an inventory again, of why you think you have been given authority, permission or be entitled to speak, critique or position yourselves over Indigenous Matriarchs creating Indigenous artistic ceremony.

Kaitlyn Yott as Mikaya in Kamloopa (Sept 25 – Oct 6); Photo Credit: Emily Cooper

We’re not looking for comparative analysis with Canadian Theatre and we’re not seeking comparative experiential analysis with Canadian Theatre that has told Indigenous stories. We are inviting you to come and bear witness and participate in Indigenous artistic ceremony, to learn what that means and not assert Settler power aggressively over us. At the top of the Kamloopa ceremony we will share with you how to bear witness and we hope you can embody the values of respect, humility, courage, wisdom, trust, love and honesty as we journey through this together in our co-existence.

With all of that being said and with great excitement we’d like to make this our official invitation for Indigenous people’s who see themselves in the work to speak about the show: Mom’s, Sisters, Aunty’s, academics, community members, cuzzins and friends come hang out with us! We’re having talkbacks and talking circles specifically for Indigenous voices to be presenced and celebrated so please check out the websites for more details. We really would love to hear form the Indigenous community. DM us, grab us before or after the ceremony, tweet us, lets meet for tea, walks and chats.

This story, this ceremony is for our Indigenous peoples, it is to give voice and illuminate the power of Indigenous women. It is about our unwielded power and unsuppressed Settler suppremacy for the entire journey of the artistic ceremony. That is the power we are reclaiming over our storytelling ceremony with Kamloopa.

With respect, in love and deep hope we can be vulnerable together to live courageously, we look forward to seeing you in the Long Lodge.

Kim.


For more information about Kamloopa, and to be a part of the conversation, follow along the Kamloopa journey on Kim Senklip Harvey’s blog; learn about, the brave women who’ve agreed to bring this ceremony to life,” and read about how Kim is including Indigenous women in all aspects of the process, in Equity in Action: Access to the Fire.

“We’re looking for Indigenous women from all aspects of our community, I want our Grandmas, our teachers, our friends, Aunties—the women who are sometimes not seen or not appreciated enough. Kamloopa is about presenting Indigenous women throughout the entire process and this aspect is super important to me.”


Kamloopa runs Sept 25-Oct 6, at the Historic Theatre. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

Staff Picks #2: 2018/19 Season shows that we don’t want you to miss!

2018/19 Season shows that we don’t want you to miss!

The second blog post in a summer series featuring some of the 2018/19 shows that our staff just cant wait for! Read the first post here!


Lee Newman, Assistant to Head Front of House Manager / Volunteer Coordinator. Still photo from Parlour Panther music video by Grace Gadston at Jaunty Media

Lee Newman, Assistant to Head Front of House Manager/ Volunteer Coordinator, Dakh Daughters, Jan 15- 19, 2019

I am so excited for Dakh Daughters, starting January 15th at The York Theatre, part of the Femme Series. They bring this thrilling and captivating power to their performance that I LOVE. I am fascinated by how modern musicians perform, because these days the performance component is often much more than just people with their instruments. The Dakh Daughters use theatrical elements with their bodies, their voices, their instruments, their costumes, and the lighting, all in a uniquely bold and gritty style to create an unforgettable performance! And this I just got from the youtube clip on The Cultch’s website! I cannot WAIT for the live version.


Natalie Schneck, Development Associate. Photo by Tiana He

Natalie Schneck, Development Associate, This Duet We’ve Already Done (so many times), Nov 27 – Dec 1, 2018

I am excited for This Duet We’ve Already Done (so many times). For me, Frédérick Gravel’s work always feels like a sexy rock show with sophisticated themes woven throughout. I often sense a tension between power/persona and vulnerability. Both Frédérick and Brianna are charismatic performers and I am curious to see the energy that’s created when they work together.

 

 

 


Meghan Robinson, Rentals Sales Manager. Photo by Tiana He

Meghan Robinson, Rentals Sales Manager, NASSIM, May 7 – 19, 2019

I can’t begin to describe how excited I am to have Nassim Soleimanpour at The Cultch. His production “White Rabbit, Red Rabbit” was one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I have ever seen. It established my passion and adoration for the theatre. I have faith that “Nassim” will have a similar affect. I have no doubt that it will both connect audiences, and blow them away, from the moment the script is taken out of its envelope.

 

 


Leslie Dos Remedios, Sales Associate. Photo by Tiana He

Leslie Dos Remedios, Sales Associate, The Ones We Leave Behind, Oct 24- Nov 3, 2018

I’m excited to see The Ones We Leave Behind. It’s been so rewarding seeing VACT, Loretta and the entire creative team develop this show for over a year. It’s also great to have an ensemble show from VACT on The Cultch stage – we get to be a place where underrepresented voices have a platform to tell our stories.

 

 

 


Single tickets go on sale July 16, but you can purchase a subscription today to save! Save 20% with our Choose 5 subscription package or 25% with our Choose 8 subscription package! This season, the more you see, the more save. You’ll enjoy an exciting roster of artists and programs, from the best seats in the house.

2018/19 Season staff picks!

2018/19 Season staff picks!

As you can imagine, all of the staff here at The Cultch are getting very excited to share the 2018/19 Season with you! We asked a few of our staff members what show they just cannot wait for, and here are the first few staff picks:


Elysse Cheadle, Head Front of House Manager and Volunteer Coordinator, SmallWaR, Nov 6-16, 2018

Elysse Cheadle, Head Front of House Manager and Volunteer Coordinator.

SmallWaR entices me because it is the follow-up to one of my favorite shows we have had here at The Cultch: BigMouth. Valentijn Dhaenens is an extremely powerful performer, who displayed a totally magnetic kind of controlled weight and erratic; as if he was at any moment going to burst in any direction. In addition to Valentijn’s performance, it was the beautiful execution of a simple concept that drew me to BigMouth (one man performs a series of famous speeches made by over 25 000 years of human history). Similarly, SmallWaR is focusing its attention in on one moment: a dying soldier reflecting on the impact of the cyclical trauma of war on his life and the history of humanity. In BigMouth, Valentijn made use of 5 microphones in a wildly creative and impactful manner. I can’t wait to see how the same experimentation is applied to the use of five projectors in SmallWaR.


Paul Phalen, Business Development & Hospitality Manager. Photo by Tiana He

Paul Phalen, Business Development & Hospitality Manager, Testosterone, Oct 2- 13, 2018

I am so excited to see Testoserone, and to open the discussion about masculinity. How masculine do you have to be, to be a “man”? This amazing production explores a character’s journey into the unknown spectrum that is masculinity, having just transitioned from female to male. “Do you think you’re man enough?”


Kelly Barker, Artistic Associate, Power Ballad, Jan 22-26, 2019

I’m really excited about Power Ballad which is going to be part of our Femme Series in January. This one-woman show, from New Zealand, is a feminist, performance-art, karaoke party – what could be better?! The imagery I’ve seen is striking and the reviews are great. I think it’s going to be an awesome night which will have you singing along while deconstructing the patriarchy and examining the way we use language. A unique show not to be missed!


Single tickets go on sale July 16, but you can purchase a subscription today to save! Save 20% with our Choose 5 subscription package or 25% with our Choose 8 subscription package! This season, the more you see, the more save. You’ll enjoy an exciting roster of artists and programs, from the best seats in the house.