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.

Recap: The 32nd Annual Jessie Awards!

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The 32nd Jessie Award Nominees!

The Commodore Ballroom was filled with theatre folk on Monday, June 23 to celebrate the end of another fantastic Vancouver theatre season at this year’s Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards. The room was loaded with beautiful people, great speeches, and drinks!

A huge congratulations goes out to all the winners and nominees. Some of these people may seem like familiar faces from our 13/14 season! Here’s a quick recap.

The photos are provided by @JessieAwards and @UITATheatre


Floyd Collins by Patrick Street Production
Jeff Harrison – Outstanding Lighting Design (This is also the first Jessie received by a show at our York Theatre)


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James Sanders receiving the award on behalf of his dear friend Bob Frazer!

Whose Life Is It Anyway? by Realwheels Theatre
Bob Frazer – Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role
Adrian Muir – Outstanding Lighting Design

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Drew Facey giving his speech after receiving an award

Penelope by Rumble Theatre
Drew Facey – Outstanding Set Design

Uncle Vanya by Blackbird Theatre
Marti Wright – Outstanding Costume Design


Patrick Sabongui accepting the award on behalf of his Jason Rothery

Inside The Seed by Upintheair Theatre
Richard Wolfe – Outstanding Direction
Jason Patrick Rothery – Outstanding Original Script

Philip Birkby (one of our fantastic on-call electricians!) – Significant Artistic Achievement


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The outstanding design team from Jack and the Bean

Jack and the Bean by Presentation House Theatre
Graham Ockley (one of our regular on-call electricians) – Outstanding Design


The fantastic Brian Cochrane receiving his award

One of our box office staff members Brian Cochrane received the Ray Michal Prize for Most Promising New Director!

Our Executive Director, Heather Redfern, gathered with other members from the arts community attending the Magnetic North Festival in Halifax to cheer for The Jessies

Our Executive Director, Heather Redfern gathered with other members from the arts community attending the Magnetic North Festival in Halifax to cheer for the Jessies

Nominations for the 32nd annual Jessie Richardson Awards

It’s that time of  year again – Jessie Award season! The nominations for the 32nd annual Jessie Richardson Awards were announced this week, and four productions from our 13/14 season have been nominated! The Jessie Awards celebrate and promote the outstanding achievements of the Vancouver professional theatre community. Congratulations to all the nominees, we can’t wait to hear the results! The shows from our 13/14 season that got nominated are listed below in their respective categories.


Whose Life Is It Anyway? – Realwheels Theatre

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role – Small Theatre
Bob Frazer, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre

Outstanding Performance by and Actress in a Supporting Role – Small Theatre
Jennifer Lines, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Small Theatre
Kyle Jesperson, Penelope, Rumble Theatre


Uncle Vanya – Blackbird Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design – Small Theatre
Adrian Muir, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre
Alan Brodie, Uncle Vanya, Blackbird Theatre

Outstanding Set Design – Small Theatre
Drew Facey, Penelope, Rumble Theatre
Jergus Oprsal, Inside The Seed, Up in the Air Theatre
Pam Johnson, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre


Penelope – Rumble Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design – Small Theatre
Marti Wright, Uncle Vanya, Blackbird Theatre
Drew Facey, Penelope, Rumble Theatre

Outstanding Direction – Small Theatre
John Cooper, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre
Richard Wolfe, Inside The Seed, Up in the Air Theatre


Inside The Seed – Up in the Air Theatre

Outstanding Production – Small Theatre
Inside The Seed, Up in the Air Theatre
Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Realwheels Theatre

Significant Artistic Achievement – Small Theatre
Inside The Seed, Up in the Air Theatre

Outstanding Original Script
Jason Rothery, Inside The Seed, Up in the Air Theatre

To see a full list of the nominations, visit the Jessies website. The awards ceremony will take place on Monday, June 23 at the Commodore Ballroom. For tickets, click here.

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.

Watching Glory Die opening night photos!

Last Tuesday we were proud to host the long awaited world premiere of Watching Glory Die by Canadian Rep Theatre (Toronto). Patrons didn’t take long to voice their opinion about this intense production, describing it as “evocative and poetic” and “painful, uncomfortable and beautiful”.

We hope you enjoy our opening night photos below and a big congratulations to the crew of Watching Glory Die (Photos by roaming-the-planet).

Watching Glory Die

The crowd gathering to enter the theatre

Watching Glory Die

Judith Thompson talking to some of the patrons

Watching Glory Die

Ellie O’Day chatting with Lois Dawson and her friend Alisa Lokshin

Watching Glory Die

Playwright, Trina Davies and Sean Tyson

Watching Glory Die

Judith Thompson

Watching Glory Die

Andre du toit, Lighting Designer and Ellie O’Day, Publicist

Watching Glory Die

Katherine Carol

Watching Glory Die


Watching Glory Die

W Baird Blackstone

Watching Glory Die runs until May 3, 2014  at the Historic Theatre. Tickets starts at $18 and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 604. 251. 1363.

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?

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.


Mies Julie opening night photos!

Last week we were proud to host the long awaited Canadian premiere of Mies Julie by Baxter Theatre Centre (South Africa). Critics and patrons didn’t take long to voice their opinion about this scintillating production. The Georgia Straight wrote that “it is impossible to take your eyes off Mies Julie” and Jo Ledingham said that “it is not to be missed”!

We hope you enjoy our opening night photos below (taken by one of our wonderful volunteers, Nena Pierre) and a big congratulations to the cast, crew, and artistic team of Mies Julie.

Maureen Flemming, our Business Development Consultant with Nicole McLuckie, our Director of Patron Development, welcoming the guests

Maureen Fleming, our Business Development Consultant with Nicole McLuckie, our Director of Patron Development, welcoming the guests

Emily Stuible with her friend Emma Wolchok

Emily Stuible with her friend Emma Wolchok

Our guest speaker David Chudnovsky with Heather Redfern, Executive Director of The Cultch and Jenn Graham, Head Front of House and Volunteer Coordinator

Our guest speaker David Chudnovsky with Heather Redfern, Executive Director of The Cultch and Jenn Graham, Head Front of House and Volunteer Coordinator

Borja Brown, our Production Manager with Nosipho Bophela, Stage Manager for 'Mies Julie'

Borja Brown, our Production Manager with Nosipho Bophela, Stage Manager for Mies Julie

Marianne Landers, Frank Constanzo, Annalies Camfferman and Dyane Lynch

Marianne Landers, Frank Costanzo, Annalies Camfferman, and Dyane Lynch

Zoleka Helesi, playing Christine, with Bongile Mantsai, playing John

Zoleka Helesi, playing Christine, with Bongile Mantsai, playing John

Mark Leiren-Young with Donna Wong Juliani

Mark Leiren-Young with Donna Wong Juliani

One of our volunteers, Bob Nath, with Hilda Cronje, playing Julie

One of our volunteers, Bob Nath, with Hilda Cronje, playing Julie

Mies Julie runs until April 19, 2014  at the Historic Theatre. Tickets starts at $31 and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 604. 251. 1363.

Ten Things You Need To Know About ‘Underbelly’

Underbelly is on now at The Cultch  and to get you even more excited about this fantastic show, we have compiled a list of the ten things you need to know about Underbelly!

Award1. Underbelly is the 2012 winner of the Cultchivating the Fringe Award! Presented once a year, this award is granted to a performance from the Vancouver Fringe Festival that demonstrates a strong potential for further development by granting the performance a spot in the upcoming Cultch season. It’s no surprise Underbelly won when…

Robot12. This is Jayson McDonald’s FIFTH touring solo show. This writer and performer has made his rounds before. Underbelly is the latest in a long line of shows that also includes Giant Invisible Robot. And speaking of Giant Invisible Robot

UNderbelly23. Jayson McDonald won the Georgia Straight Critics’ Pick….two years in a row! Giant Invisible Robot took home the prize in 2011 and came back in 2012 to take the award again with Underbelly. It seems Jayson McDonald is doing something right whether he is writing about invisible friends or…

Lastfarewell5. The Beat Generation! Underbelly takes its inspiration from the literary and cultural revolution that evolved from the events before and during 1950s. Questioning the old traditions and conventions and influenced by the new jazz scene, the Beat Generation explored a new, honest way of expression. The term ‘The Beat Generation’ was coined by none other than…

jack6. Jack Kerouac, well known author of On the Road. The most well known author of the Beat Generation, Kerouac fell to the pressure of the fame and attention his one success gave him. Kerouac and his friend…

Allen7. Allen Ginsberg, one of the first Beat poets and lasting mentor, appears in Underbelly but it is the third of this circle of friends that Jayson McDonald chooses to portray…

Burroughs8. The odd man out, William S. Burroughs.  The oldest of the three and the junkie struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, Burroughs defied the linear narrative in his work, and lived recklessly in his life. Using this as inspiration Jayson McDonald creates a ‘fevered hallucination’ with…

Underbelly_Mike9. Some of the finest spoken word poetry you will hear. Fans of slam poetry and spoken word rejoice! The words in this piece are no mere reproduction from a beatnik who only dresses and looks the part. Jayson McDonald’s words evoke the poetic and bold era of the Beat Generation. And finally…

Underbelly10. If Cindy Reid, The Cultch managing director, managed to stay awake the whole time during a 10:30pm showing of Underbelly at the Vancouver Fringe in 2012, it must be an amazing show!

Underbelly runs at The Cultch until March  30, 2014 at 8pm in the Vancity Culture Lab. All tickets just $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.