Q&A with David Pay, creator of The Orpheus Project

The Orpheus Project by Music on Main starts tomorrow at The Cultch! This musical adventure will take you to every corner of The Cultch for an immersive, site-specific experience. The fantastic creator of this unique piece, David Pay, shared with us his inspirations, the context of the show, as well as his own experience working on it.

What was the inspiration for The Orpheus Project?

The idea first came about when, at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, I saw dreamthinkspeak’s Before I sleep, which was inspired by Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. You explore an entire building and see theatrical installations and interact with actors. I thought it was totally magical, and when I fall in love with art I want to possess it. When I see exceptional visual art I want to see it all the time. When I see amazing music I want to figure out how to present it. So when I saw Before I sleep, I thought, “How could this work, using music as the basis of an immersive experience rather than theatre?” Once I decided I wanted to develop an immersive musical experience, I really focused on seeing as much of that kind of work as I could, including large-scale works like Sleep No More, and smaller scale works that are more in line with The Orpheus Project.

How does that kind of experience translate into a musical one?

I explored a whole bunch of different ways to create an immersive musical experience, and with our ace creativity team, led by theatrical consultant Amiel Gladstone, we have landed on what theatre calls a “promenade experience.” Audiences are led on a path through the theatre discovering different rooms; different pieces of music inspired by Orpheus; installations and sets created by Naomi Sider; video, both with music and on its own; lighting by Adrian Muir; and new and existing compositions performed in surprising environments.

Can you give us a little hint of what people will see and where they’ll go?

We’re using both the Culture Lab and Historic Theatre at The Cultch; we’re exploring dressing rooms and stairwells; filling passageways with surprises, lounges with live performance. It is a show where the audience is on its feet, climbing stairs, stopping to listen. Keep an eye out for oracles, who might foretell your future as well. People should make sure to wear comfortable shoes! We’re asking people with mobility or other issues to let us know in advance, so we can create a special journey just for them.

What have you learned by being involved in the creative process for The Orpheus Project?

Conceiving The Orpheus Project is a natural progression for me. I’ve never been the kind of music presenter who simply chooses great artists and puts them on stage. I’ve always taken a hands-on approach to the performance environment, the relationship between artists and audiences, and how repertoire can speak to us across time periods and genres. Developing The Orpheus Project as a more theatrical music experience has allowed me to work with theatre experts who are helping me shape what feels like a new, but really authentic way of interacting with live music.

What do you hope people will take away from this experience?

I hope this will be a fun, intriguing, and new experience for every audience member. My ultimate goal is that we each see ourselves in the myths and stories and ideas presented by the composers. I think if you approach the show with an intellectual or analytical bent, you’ll have a really rich experience imbued with music and art history. But the creative team and I also want this to be a really fun, sexy date night, so you can just immerse yourself in the sights and sounds at the theatre, and that will be a fantastic experience, too.

The Orpheus Project runs from July 16 – 20 at The Cultch. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased online or by calling the Box Office at 604.251.1363.

Q&A with Peter Chu:
Cultch Artist-in-Residence

Right now Peter Chu can be found completing an artistic residency at The Cultch for his new solo work. We caught up with him to find out a bit more about his project and how he feels about completing an artistic residency with us here at The Cultch!

For those of us who don’t know, can you tell us what a residency is?

A residency can be approached in many different ways. Artists can use a residency to explore movement ideas, themes, or simply to better understand subject matter they would like to explore. I have chosen to use this 12-day residency at The Cultch as a technical residency – a place to dive into exploration of the lighting, sound, and multimedia elements that will be incorporated into this work. Stepping into this space last Wednesday, the first few days were spent with projection and lighting designer Eric Chad, and production manager Lois Dawson to introduce them to the movement vocabulary and themes involved in this piece. Next it was on to the technical side of this residency – getting into the nitty gritty details as to where and how we want to incorporate all the technical elements. I am extremely grateful to Heather Redfern and The Cultch to have been given this amazing opportunity to explore, discover, and research themes technically without the expectation of a final products – something that’s often expected of artists during a residency.

Photo by Lisa Wu

What does a Cultch residency mean to you as a choreographer?

One of the first shows that I saw at The Cultch was Crystal Pite’s Uncollected Work. Many years later, I was fortunate enough to actually perform here with Kidd Pivot. I have always adored this theatre and the range of dynamic shows they present in their seasons. The Historic Theatre has big personality and a beautiful energy, and I feel so honoured to have been given the opportunity to dig deeper into the themes of this new work in such a significant space.

What are your thoughts on the importance of organizations helping out the artistic community though programs such as this?

Support from community organizations is absolutely crucial in allowing for the growth and development of creativity, regardless of the art form. This kind of backing is what allows artists to thrive and flourish, and produce significant lasting works. Without this assistance, there would be countless ‘hidden gems’ – beautiful works of art that would remain as the seed of an idea, never making it through to creation.

Can you talk a bit about your creative process when creating new works?

It’s hard for me to speak on my creative process – like all things in life it’s constantly in flux, changing and mutating depending on the work and the circumstance. I hold my creative process for this specific project very near and dear to my heart: I have been trying to better understand my process while I develop this movement vocabulary for the past several years.

Photo by Lisa Wu

Where do you look for inspiration when creating choreography?

For this specific show, the word ‘ community’ continued to present itself at the forefront of my mind. I was on the road constantly for roughly five years, living out of two storage units until I made the choice to move back to Las Vegas last July. I fell in love all over again with that city and the rich range of art and entertainment it has to offer. Inspired by the opulent history of Las Vegas lounge act artists and sounds from the 1960 s, I chose to use my new home and community as the focus and starting point for this new work. This is why The Cultch is the perfect theatre to develop this performance – it has the same intimate, charming personality as many of the Las Vegas venues that have been my inspiration.

Can you tell us a bit about the work you are currently rehearsing and what your hopes are for it in the future?

I can tell you as much as I can – as this is still a work in progress, things are constantly evolving and changing. This work revolves around themes of obsession, perfection, control, and doubt. It runs with the dangers of glorifying false appearances, and pulls back the curtain to expose the truths behind the “put on” smile. The character I have developed listens to what doubt has to say, almost befriending it in a way to truly understand why doubt has such a driving force in his life. On top of all of this, we’re blending cutting edge multimedia with these deep-rooted concepts and ideas. It is incredibly exciting stuff!

Cultch spotlight: Meet our interns!

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Over the past few months, The Cultch’s offices slowly became home to three wonderful interns who have been having fun and working hard! Since the sun has started to poke its head out, we thought it was time to shine some light on our interns.

Chantal - Outreach Intern

Chantal – Outreach Intern

Why did you decide to intern at The Cultch? How did you apply to become an intern?
I was interested in expanding my performance skills into arts administration and I thought The Cultch would be a perfect fit for me as I was a fan of the programming. I submitted my resume and cover letter through my internship program at SFU who had already made a connection with The Cultch. I was asked to come in for an interview and was thrilled when I was asked to come on board as their Outreach Intern.

What is your favourite place to go for lunch on The Drive?
Five Elements Cafe. The owners are awesome and the Vietnamese food is always fresh and delicious.

What was you favourite show from this season?
I think I am going to have to say The Daisy Theatre by Ronnie Burkett. He brings so much creative energy into the room. I am definitely going to see it again next season.

What is your best memory and what are you going to take away with you when you leave The Cultch?
It’s a toss up between the attack of Star Wars potato heads and the letter stuffing day. I’m going to take away with me more ideas and inspirations than I know what to do with and an even greater dedication to making theatre happen in Vancouver. Oh, and the perfect way to fold a letter.

Paige – Archivist & Research Intern

Why did you decide to intern at The Cultch? How did you apply to become an intern?
I am an arts co-op student at UBC, and a masters candidate at the School or Library, Archival and Information Studies there. A posting for an internship opportunity came up on the co-op board, and I was eager to apply at an organization with such a wealth of history. I applied and met Cindy & Nicole in December, and started working in the archives in January.

What is your favourite place to go for lunch on The Drive?
Definitely Five Elements.

What was your favourite show from this season?
Mies Julie was definitely a heavy-hitter. Really excellent!

What is your best memory?
My best memories have been sharing treasures from the archives at the staff meetings and eating pie on my birthday.

Maria - Marketing Intern

Maria – Marketing Intern

Why did you decide to intern at The Cultch? How did you apply to become an intern?
As part of my French Business School, I had the opportunity to do an internship. I really wanted to do it abroad and had fallen in love with Vancouver years ago. I heard about The Cultch from one of my friends who told me what a nice environment it was to work at. I sent my resume and cover letter and got a phone interview. I feel very lucky that I got the job and also thankful for their patience dealing with all the paperwork that my visa required.

What is your favourite place to go for lunch on The Drive?
Havana, for their Parmesan and truffle fries.

What was your favourite show from this season?
I would say Me So You So Me because it wasn’t like anything I’ve seen before.

What is your best memory and what are you going to take away with you when you leave The Cultch?
It’s hard to pick a memory since my internship isn’t over yet. So far, I would say serving the food at the opening night of Mies Julie because it made my job feel more real. I finally got to meet some of the patrons and it showed me that what I do in the office means something. I can’t really say what I’m going to take away with me yet, but I already know that I learned a lot!

 

Q&A with the stars of DVOTE, Noam Gagnon and Nova Bhattacharya

Everybody at The Cultch is thrilled to welcome Noam Gagnon from Vision Impure (Vancouver) and Nova Bhattacharya from Nova Dance (Toronto) for the world premiere of their show DVOTE! The last show of our 13/14 season promises to be memorable! DVOTE offers an intimate world where longing and hope are magnified by the effort to find a connection between what was, what is, and what will be. In this first collaboration, Noam and Nova investigate the topics of spirituality and sexuality. We got a chance to catch up with two of Canada’s most innovative dance artists for an interview about their artistic process and chemistry.

We know you come from completely different worlds with different dance genres and inspirations, how did you decide to work together?

Nova & Noam: Yes, we are both from galaxies far, far away! Seriously though, we are both dance artists and we aren’t the first ones to boldly go into the studio with the assumption that as such we could communicate with each other and with an audience. We had a choreographic idea, we played around with it in the studio, and we decided that there was something there worth pursuing.

What do you like the most about each other’s dance style, and were you following each other’s work before beginning to create this show together?

Noam: I had heard lots about Nova as she had worked with a few of very close colleagues of mine but I had never seen her work. What I liked about her when we first met is her humour and her wit.

Nova: I’ve been watching Noam since the 90s. I love his explosive energy and how visceral and passionate his dancing is.

As shown on the poster, you will wear masks during your performances, which will make you blind from each other. What does it symbolize and how did you manage to dance while being blind?

Nova: The masks started as a device to bring the two of us onto the same page. If we were both “blinded” and destabilized, we hoped it would create a common ground. They then evolved into a metaphoric statement: when are we hiding? When are we revealing? When is it voyeuristic?

Noam: As Nova said the way it started was to create a common state beyond our known personal style of dance. Dancing with it is probably one of the hardest and most challenging tasks I have had to do. It’s an untamed beast with a life of its own, unwilling to be tamed. As for the metaphor for me, it is to reveal what is behind “the mask” and attempt to express what is invisible to the naked eyes.

What was the hardest thing about working together coming from such different backgrounds (contemporary dance and Bharatanatyam)?

Noam: Our very different views on how to generate and develop the theme of a work, and having to face a world of opposites in regards to our methods of accumulating movements into phrasing, and into creating structure. We created a work independently from one another since we were in different cities and that was a new experience for me.

Nova: My technical training is in bharatanatyam but for well over a decade I have been immersed in contemporary practice and have collaborated with many artists including Peggy Baker, José Navas, Louis Laberge-Côté and others whose techniques are different from mine. So the hardest thing about working together was not about background, but probably just the fact that we were trying to create a work while living in two different cities. We had a series of residencies in B.C., Ontario, and Quebec – it’s a challenging way to work – only coming together for short intense bursts.

The show investigates subjects such as spirituality and sexuality, what kind of audience do you think would enjoy this dance piece?

Noam: I honestly have no idea on this one, as this process could not have been farther from anything I have ever known; but that said there is a lot of HEART in this work and I hope it connects with theirs.

Nova: Spirituality and sexuality are not so much the subject matter as they were elements of conversation and inspiration that we drew on amongst others. I hope that anyone who has loved, or has wanted to love, will be moved by the images in the work.

DVOTE starts tonight and runs until May 31 at the Historic Theatre. Tickets arts at $18 and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 604.251.1363.

Q&A with Robert Leveroos about his theatrical production ‘Woven’

This week is very special to everybody at the office, since our Youth Program Manager and dear friend, Robert Leveroos, is presenting a show of his creation as part of the rEvolver Theatre Festival. Woven is a micro-performance that links theatre and comic-book art in the most creative way. It might remind you of a board game, where a cast of characters are evolving and thrown together in a shifting arena to find their way through a series of quests. The show talks about the perils of growing up and growing old. We got a chance to catch up with Robert Leveroos to get some insights into his work and also to understand the  inspirations behind his new piece.

Can you tell us about your background?
I am a theatre maker, performer, and insatiable tinkerer on all things I can build with my hands. I grew up in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota working with a theatre company for young audiences ( The Children’s Theatre Company). They are known for their imaginative productions translating beloved storybooks to the stage. I loved the ingenuity they used to bring these stories to life. It sparked my imagination and I’ve been interested in creating theatrical worlds ever since. I studied at The National Theatre School of Canada and moved to Vancouver nearly four years ago. I am so happy to have found a home here, I absolutely love the arts community and the incredible talent and generousity this city holds.

blog6We know that Woven links theatre with book art, can you tell us a little bit more about your inspiration and the reason why you decided to connect these two art forms?
Woven is a choose-your-own-adventure book that draws from childhood fears and transforms from telling to telling in the same way as spoken folktales. They’re made new by every single person who tells them.
While theatre and book arts may seem very different, there is quite a bit of a crossover. Theatre relies on a connection between performer and audience and has the power to tell stories through live imagery. Books must actively engage their audience by getting them to turn pages; a bookmaker can craft the way a story unfolds but it’s not until the reader turns the pages that the story becomes real. While illustrating stories, I often develop scenes as animated sequences, so this project felt like a natural progression. I set out to create a performable book, but I wanted it to be something that the audience gets to be part of creating. Woven is a living, breathing book. It’s designed to spark ideas in participants and the project itself is then fueled by these ideas. It continues to grow from everyone who plays along. It’s a big ol’ snowball that grows the more it’s played.

blog8What was your favourite book as a child?
I was always mesmerized by the folktale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, where a young heroine is taken away from her family by a polar bear to live in a mountain. When the bear is revealed to be a prince in disguise, she is sent on a harrowing journey to the far reaches of the world, traveling by each of the four winds to save him. The imagery in the story has always stuck with me, as well as the iconic treasures: the golden apple, the magic scissors, and the cup that never runs dry. I’m fascinated by folktales and could explore their wild and sometimes ridiculous concoctions forever. The polar bear prince holds a special place for me, especially these days as we’re watching them disappear.

blog9This is your second year presenting a show with the rEvolver Theatre Festival, how does your show relate to the vision of rEvolver?
rEvolver is fantastic. rEvolver is a great exploration of new theatre and new voices. There is a huge range of style and genre. Something I found pretty rewarding while attending last year, was discovering the various ways these works related to one another. Sometimes pieces will ask similar questions in subject matter but are presented in vastly different ways. This year, I see a thread running through the program, many artists exploring engagement, whether it’s running around the neighborhood with Superman, or going online with Brief Encounters. And other shows that allow the audience to direct where the show goes, as in Off Key: An Improvised Musical. We’re all looking at new ways to make a connection.

blog1Can you describe for us what a micro-performance is, and the kind of audience that would enjoy this production?
A micro-performance exists in many forms, but the underlying similarity is that it’s personalized for each audience member. It does something that you can’t do by performing to a wall of audience in a big dark theatre. Woven demands an intimate space. The audience is integral to deciding where the story goes. It’s a small audience because people need to be close, so they can get their noses right up into the book and enjoy all the details. You just can’t do that in a large theatre.
This piece is great for anyone interested in getting creative, being a little silly for 20 minutes, and allowing their brain to work in a way it’s not usually asked to work while at the theatre. Come be part of the storytelling, I want people to get in there and play along.

See the trailer

 Woven runs May 14, 16, and 17 at The Cultch. Attendance is by donation at the door. Show runs approximately every 30 minutes, from 7 pm to 10 pm on May 14&16 and from 3 pm to 9 pm on May 17. Sign up for a timeslot at the info table in the lobby. Due to limited seating we ask that you arrive 15 minutes early for your showtime.

IGNITE! Festival: An interview with Chalene Scott, director of ‘Mighty Qualified, Plenty Smote’

Every year in May, The Cultch hands over its facilities to young artists in town to bring you the IGNITE! Festival. Chalene Scott is one of the three emerging directors selected from an application process this fall to participate in the IGNITE! Mentorship Program and direct the three new plays presented in the festival.

For the mentorship Scott was paired with director Stephen Drover (Penelope, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot) for guidance along the way. Chalene is directing Mighty Qualified, Plenty Smote written by emerging playwright Ronan K. Nanning Watson (also a participant, paired with mentor David Geary). The directors cast their own shows, found a crew to produce them, and will debut these brand new scripts starting next Monday in the Vancity Culture Lab. We had a chance to chat with Chalene about the play she is directing and the process she went through.

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Sean Fabisch, Deanna Rayne, and Chalene Scott – Photos by Maurice Tsai

Can you tell us a little bit about the play?

Mighty Qualified, Plenty Smote is a sort of surreal look at right and wrong. The main action revolves around a devil-figure, Staniel, trying to obtain a woman’s soul, but the woman, Liona, doesn’t believe in souls or the devil. We have a hero whose good intentions may have led her to do “wrong” things, and we have a classic villain who may be motivated by the purest ideals. So who’s right if everyone is wrong? On top of that, there’s a chorus of amoral and philosophizing child-mystics with no clear agenda, helping and hindering at will. The play explores themes of morality through blues music and sensationalism.

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Shon Burnett, Keren Katz, and Chalene Scott – Photos by Maurice Tsai

What drew you to this script?

The first immediate draw was that the script terrified me artistically. I had never done a show so incorporeal and transient in terms of setting and character. So, obviously, I had to direct it! Then there’s the lovely way Ronan (the playwright) plays with language and themes. I just sort of fell in love with it after the first reading.

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Keren Katz, Shon Burnett, and Chalene Scott – Photos by Maurice Tsai

What is something that surprised you about the IGNITE experience?

There have been many pleasant surprises thrown my way by IGNITE. I really had no idea what I was signing up for when I submitted my application. IGNITE takes  such good care of its participants! When I got the full schedule, I was surprised to see so many workshops aimed at forging the skills that young artists need to forward their projects, companies, or individual art. I think it’s amazing that the participants are supported not only in creating the art they were accepted into the program to create, but are also given the skill to continue creating afterwards.
Rob (Robert Leveroos, Youth Program Manager) has done an amazing job keeping everyone organized, but I was so pleased to see how much the youth panel is responsible for. I’m a huge advocate for giving youth the opportunity to experience responsibility in a safe environment before they have to deal with high stakes responsibility in the “real world”.

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Photos by Maurice Tsai

Tell us about working with your mentor Stephen Drover. Is there something you’ve learned that you can share with us?

Stephen’s been great to work with. He’s supportive in a very constructive way. If I come in with an idea and ask it it’s crazy, he won’t tell me what he thinks. Instead, he’ll give me a few more tools so I can decide for myself. I think the biggest lesson has been that there are no absolutes and when in doubt, I should trust my instincts. We have instincts for a reason and to ignore them is to spit in the face of artistic expression.

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Keren Katz, Beni Spieler , and Shon Burnett – Photos by Maurice Tsai

Your production marks a first in the IGNITE! Program, you’re working with three youth aged 10-11, tell us about that decision to work with such young performers.

After I got the script, I spent some time with it, as one does, and fairly immediately realized that the chorus could not have the same effect (in fact, their effectiveness would be significantly diminished) were I to cast adults, or even teenagers. There’s something weirdly gripping about seeing the devil pandering to a posse of preteens. I knew there would be extra challenges in casting kids so young, but ultimately, I knew it would be worth the effort. So far, I think I’m right.

 

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Sean Fabisch, Gauri Roy, Shon Burnett, Deanna Rayne, and Keren Katz – Photos by Maurice Tsai

How has it been to work with them? What can audiences expect when they come see your show?

They’re all wonderful to work with. The trickiest thing about the kid’s roles is that they really aren’t written for children. Audiences should not come in expecting to see a children’s show. The themes are mature and the young ones rarely get to say anything they’d be likely to say outside of the show. They’ve risen to the occasion beautifully, expounding strings of large, complicated ideas that I think, would sound weird coming out of anyone, let alone a ten-year-old.
There’s also some blues music and shadow-play in the show. Something for everyone! (Except small children. Don’t bring the kids. We have a few foul words.)

 

The show is part of the IGNITE! Theatre Festival, May 5-10.
Monday, May 5: Mighty Qualified Plenty Smote and The Lies We Tell 6 pm
Tuesday, May 6: Party Princess No. Five and Mighty Qualified Plenty Smote 6 pm
Wednesday, May 7: The Lies We Tell and Party Princess Rule No. Five 6 pm
Thursday, May 8: The Lies We Tell and Party Princess Rule No. Five 6 pm
Friday, May 9: The Lies We Tell and Mighty Qualified Plenty Smote 6pm
Saturday, May 10: Party Princess Rule No. Five, Mighty Qualified Plenty Smote and The Lies We Tell 2 pm
Saturday, May 10: Party princess No. Five and Mighty Qualified Plenty Smote 6 pm

Tickets start at just $2 and can be purchased online.
Full festival information at igniteyouthfest.ca

An interview with Heather Redfern, Executive Director at The Cultch

Mies Julie has been playing for almost three weeks and has been the breakout hit of our 13/14 season! This love/hate story between Julie, the daughter of a landowner and John, her father’s favourite black servant, in a conservative area of South Africa, is powerful and intense. Yael Farber, writer, and director of the play, is a multiple award-winning director and playwright of international acclaim.

The reviews from both patrons and critics are coming in and they are all unanimous about the show: they love it! We caught up with Heather Redfern, Executive Director at The Cultch, to get some insight about her decision to bring the show to The Cultch’s 13/14 season.

Heather RedfernWhen and where did you see Mies Julie for the first time?
Edinburg Festival Fringe 2012

7What made you pick the show for The Cultch’s 13/14 season, and how did you know it would be a good fit for audiences here in Vancouver?
It is one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I have ever seen and I knew Vancouver audiences would appreciate the quality and excellence of the artists involved and the importance of having this conversation about where we belong in our societies, how we treat each other when we do or do not have power, and how the ownership of land, or being disenfranchised from land, affects all societies everywhere causing wars and disenchantment. Because freedom was won 20 years ago it is important for people outside of South Africa to see just where the country is now. Mandela was a great man but he is only one story.

2Mies Julie is a multi award-winning show that got sensational reviews from New York to London. How does it feel to bring the Canadian premiere of the production to The Cultch?
It is a privilege for those of us who live in the Lower Mainland to have the Baxter Theatre and the wonderful artists who create this production in Vancouver. I am overwhelmed and honoured.

pic3_highres_cmykWe know that another South African play is coming to The Cultch for 14/15 season, Cadre by Chicago by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Richard Jordan Productions Ltd in association with the Market Theatre of Johannesburg. Is there a reason why you’ve decided to program two South African production in two consecutive seasons?
Yes, it was very deliberate. I believe that one of the things we do here at The Cultch is stimulate dialogue over multiple seasons; that productions do not live in isolation but bounce off of each other and resonate throughout a season and across several years. Having Cadre in the season will deepen the dialogue we have with audiences that we began Mies Julie.

6How would you describe Mies Julie in three words?
STEAMY, BRAVE, STUNNING

Mies Julie runs at the The Historic Theatre from until April 19, 2014 at 8 pm. Tickets are from $31 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 604.251.1363 or online.

 

The Inspiration Behind ‘Whose Life Is It Anyway?’: An Interview with James Sanders

The Cultch is happy to host Whose Life Is It Anyway? by Brian Clark, the latest production by Realwheels Theatre, now playing until March 22! The show has  already gotten great reviews! Fun Fun Vancouver said the play “will entertain you, but more importantly, challenge you”.  This is part two of our interview with  James Sanders, Founding Artistic Director of Realwheels Theatre, about the inspiration behind Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Your current production Whose Life Is It Anyway? is about a sculptor who, paralyzed from the neck down after a car accident, fights for the right to die. I understand that you have a personal connection to this play. Can you tell me more about why you wanted to produce it?

It was one of the pieces of film that I researched to see what stories were being told about disability. It greatly inspired me to see a high lesion quadriplegic fighting for the right to die. I cheered on his victory even though it meant his death because, to me, it was a victory about personal rights and, essentially, the right to live seemed extremely powerful at the time. At that point I was 21 years old and not age-appropriate to do the story. Flash forward to 2010 and I revisited the notion and decided that it was the right time the stage this production. Little did I know the incredible relevance that it would have this day in the community of people who are fighting for these rights on a daily basis.

Bob Frazer is playing the sculptor who is paralyzed in the play. This is also his third show with Realwheels Theatre. Could you tell me more about his connection with Realwheels Theatre?

Bob and I have been dear friends for almost 25 years. We have intimate knowledge of each other and it was a conversation on my balcony about the pursuit of excellence in theatre that would inspire us to create Skydive. Bob has been involved in every one of our professional productions and, I hope, will continue to be engaged with Realwheels Theatre for years to come in some capacity or another. I have been in many positions where I have had to trust Bob implicitly with my life. This, again, is one of those times. I trust Bob to accurately represent disability with the genuine craft of acting that will hopefully become another one of Bob’s great performances in his overall body of work.

What are you hoping audiences will take away with them after seeing Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Perhaps a moment to consider their own relationship with death, the difficult challenges facing its inevitability and the opportunity, if it presents itself, to have a choice in the last matter of time. It is hopefully going to be a conversation starter and an opportunity for people to consider their present beliefs and ways to challenge them. On a side note, I hope that the presence of the character with a disability will serve, in some capacity, to bring the audience closer to the disability experience when they encounter disability in their day-to-day lives.

Whose Life Is It Anyway? runs at The Cultch until March 22, 2014 at 8 pm in the Historic Theatre. Tickets are from $18 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 604. 251. 1363 or online.

An interview with James Sanders about his theatre company, Realwheels Theatre

The Cultch is happy to welcome Whose Life is it Anyway? by Brian Clark, the latest production by Realwheels Theatre, to the Historic Theatre this week! In anticipation of opening night, we had the opportunity to talk to James Sanders, founding Artistic Director of Realwheels, about the company’s mission and vision.

Realwheels is a professional theatre company that creates and produces performances that deepens the audience’s understanding of the disability experience. Could you tell me a little bit about the origins of Realwheels?

The origins of Realwheels go back over 20 years. It was when I was researching the body of work in film, television, and theatre that either employs actors, directors, writers, and/or producers with disabilities or stories that contains disability in their subject matter. I discovered hardly anything that was worth reproducing, save for a few gems here and there. I decided I was going to dedicate a section of my career to authentically representing disability and thus Realwheels was born. “Real” meaning authentic and “wheels” figuratively describing disability. Or something like that.

Since its founding, Realwheels has produced two original shows, Spine and Skydive and has a show in development. On top of that the company is also  active with the weekly community project Wheel Voice. How have all these different projects shaped the direction of Realwheels?

I believe Realwheels is driven by artists with vision and the voices from the community calling out to participate. And each has informed and inspired the other. The artists engaged in Skydive and Spine were greatly inspired by relationships around disability and that informed the scripts. The community artists saw these shows and many of them were then inspired to be engaged in the arts in some capacity. This engagement with the community has further inspired artists and production personnel to incorporate some of the values and relationships they have witnessed within the community of people with disabilities and to place it within their own work and/or the context of a new professional work. I believe this forms a very unique way of empowering and inspiring individuals and communities that will further reach out to the general public.

It feels like Realwheels operates at an intersection of two communities, the professional theatre community Vancouver as well as the disability community of Vancouver. What are the challenges and rewards of bring these two communities together?

Perhaps the greatest challenge is the language around describing professional and community work. I believe all of Realwheels’ work is professional and community driven, whether it is a national tour with $1 million budget or a community project that empowers non-artists to tell their stories. It’s all the same to me and I don’t think it’s really an issue that worries me too much. Many people have advised me that a company should not try to do both professional and community work but, again, I try not to differentiate between the two that much.

Whose Life is it Anyway? runs at The Cultch from March 11 – 22, 2014 at 8 pm in the Historic Theatre. Tickets are from $18 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 604. 251. 1363 or online.

Insights from the creative minds behind ‘Me So You So Me’: Tiffany Tregarthen & David Raymond

The Cultch is happy to be presenting the unique dance piece Me So You So Me by Out Innerspace until Mar 1, 2014.

Want to learn more about the creative process and influences behind the show? Check out the interview with creators Tiffany Tregarthen and David Raymond below!

I understand that Me So You So Me was highly influenced by the music of the renowned percussionist Asa Chang from Japan. Could you tell us how you discovered his work, and how it came to influence your dance piece?

We first were introduced to Asa Chang’s music in 2006 at the same time that we were living in Antwerp and creating the building blocks for our collaboration as Out Innerspace. Japanese percussionist Asa Chang founded the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and later joined programmer and guitarist Hidehiko Urayama and tabla player U-zhaan to create genre defying music with a portable sound system called Jun-Ray Tronics. The percussive patterns of Japanese and English text with Indian tabla and experimental electronic sound production is composed meticulously in a way that transcends borders and predisposed ways of telling and listening to stories through music. The female and male text have an incredibly intricate rhythmic relationship that is conceptually rich and otherworldly.  We were blown away and collected every Asa song we could find.

Where did your inspiration for Me So You So Me come from?

Me So You So Me is plucked from our daily life as a couple, re-imagined through an eclecticism of hand-picked cultural, aesthetic, popular and personal influences. We collaged everything from the family dog, Popeye, Astro Boy, Araki Nobuyoshi, as DNA for our characters, as DNA for dance making. We watched a load of cartoons specifically for the accepted violence, animated psychosis and extreme story telling. Everyday we closed our eyes and listened to Asa’s music and described to each other what we felt and saw and everyday these emerging alter-egos invaded our domestic performances as a couple. Eventually even brushing our teeth and arguing became outrageous and therapeutic acts of dance research.

Can you describe how you worked in the studio, the methods you used?

In studio we pursued an almost dogmatic application of music in hopes that it would challenge us to create new movement vocabulary pushed by the unpredictability, density and richness of Asa’s composition. This extreme dedication to the music was at times a downright exhausting process but it asked us to focus deeply on the places and ways we find inspiration, the methods we use to take inspiration into creation, and the way we express and embody the result. We rely heavily on our contrastive voices and rigour to stretch our instincts and foundations and to commit to our imaginations. It was important to us to never once stop considering the body as an unlimited and unchartered resource for the music and our ideas to be physical.

How did you decide on the title for the show?

We wanted to challenge ourselves to expose real content of our relationship through loveable and lethal beings; caricatures of our inner monsters, children, animals…to show the ways we are most different or alike. We asked ourselves How do you see me? Who do I want to be to you, with you, for you?…and with a little help and time we titled the work Me So You So Me.

Will this experience change the way you create dance pieces in the future?

We were thrust into a new level of experimental and inventive territory by committing so wholly to the music and it has changed the way that we continue to make dance. Though we won’t always use music this way, we are thriving on the shared research process and language it has opened up to us.

Me So You So Me by Out Innerspace runs at The Cultch from until Mar 1 at the Historic Theatre. Tickets are from $18 and can be purchased online http://bit.ly/MAaAvA, or by calling the box office at 604.251.1363.