Inside the Seed: Playwright predicts future?

Photo of Carl Kennedy and Patrick Sabongui. Photo by Daniel Martin

Photo of Carl Kennedy and Patrick Sabongui. Photo by Daniel Martin

Inside The Seed – a new play produced by UpInTheAir Theatre, and written by Jason Patrick Rothery – explores the story of Foster Bryant, a great scientist who makes a startling discovery when he genetically modifies a new kind of rice. The play, which runs until October 12, is a re-imaginingg of the Greek-morality tale Oedipus Rex. However, Inside The Seed perhaps speaks more of the future than of the past. ‘Golden Rice,’ a genetically modified variety of rice developed by scientists in the Philippines, is currently being evaluated by the authorities of bio-safety; and shares a similar name as the hotly-debated ‘Golden Grain’ in Rothery’s new play.

Inside The Seed is making the news, getting coverage in The Vancouver Sun and The Georgia Straight regarding its involvement with the GMO issue:

Meanwhile, in the real world, an almost identical crop known as ‘Golden Rice’ — with bonus beta carotene — is on the verge of being green-lit as safe for humans by the World Health Organization. Rothery was unaware of this when he started working on his script three years ago.” – The Vancouver Sun

Just weeks before the show’s upcoming premiere in Vancouver, meanwhile, hundreds of farmers in the Philippines made headlines for trampling a test plot of a genetically engineered product known as Golden Rice.” – The Georgia Straight

Inside The Seed explores the dark side of innovation and technology, and asks questions that become increasingly relevant in our fast-paced lives. Is it possible to save the world commercially? When do the needs of the many out-weigh the few? How will the decisions we make today affect our children? And what truths are we prepared to face?

Inside The Seed runs until October 12th in the VanCity Culture Lab at The Cultch. Tickets only $30 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com or call 604-251-1363.

Beckett + Greek mythology + The Bachelorette?

In just two weeks, our 40th anniversary season kicks off with the Canadian premiere of Penelope, Enda Walsh’s critically acclaimed take on Homer’s The Odyssey. Brought to you by Rumble Theatre, the team behind The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, this show promises to be the first hit of the 13/14 season! We asked Stephen Drover, the show’s director and Rumble’s Artistic Director, to tell us a little bit about this extravagantly imaginative tale:

“In 2010, the Oberhausen Theatre in Germany was interested in exploring Homer’s The Odyssey and commissioned five playwrights to create new plays based on the epic poem. One of those five, Enda Walsh, was not very keen on the heroic journeys of the superhuman Odysseus nor his intrepid son Telemachus. Instead he was drawn to the degenerate bunch of suitors camping out at Odysseus’ home, trying to win the love of his hapless wife, Penelope. The result is a play that connects an ancient story with a contemporary sensibility and explores the surprising complexity of the story’s minor characters. For me, the play is an exciting intersection of the work of Samuel Beckett, the narratives of Greek mythology, and reality TV tropes like The Bachelorette and Big Brother. Its rich language and brutish male posturing form an odd marriage of the beautiful and brutal. The characters have realized that they are somewhat inconsequential – that the gods have forgotten about them – and they have constructed a complex and deluded game to give their lives meaning. From a certain perspective, I cannot help but sympathize.”

Stephen Drover is the Artistic Director of Rumble Theatre. As founding Artistic Director for Pound of Flesh Theatre, he adapted and/or directed The Bond, Macbeth, DenmarK (adapted from Hamlet), co-directed Everyone (at the Caravan Farm Theatre), and most recently directed The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at The Cultch. Other directing credits include: Romeo & Juliet, Leaving Home and Of the Fields, Lately (Theatre Newfoundland Labrador), PolitoKo (Ghost River Theatre), Boston Marriage (Guild Theatre, Whitehorse), The Pillowman (Wild Geese Co-op), The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Carousel Theatre), and Skydive (Realwheels – for which he shares a Jessie Award for Outstanding Direction with Roy Surette). He lives in East Van with his wife, Sasa Brown, and their son, Jack.

Penelope runs from Sept 25 to October 13 at The Cultch’s Historic Theatre. Get your tickets before it’s too late!

Tickets start at $18 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Letter from Heather: We need your support!

Dear friend of The Cultch,

We need your support!

This December, The Cultch will open the newly renovated York Theatre. The theatre will be an invaluable community resource that will revitalize the north corridor of Commercial Drive between Venables and Hasting Streets and bring live performance to the Commerical Drive neighbourhood.

A shot from the new York Theatre. Photo taken on May 29, 2013

Following in the tradition of the naming of other heritage buildings such as the “Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage,” The Cultch would like to name the stage of the York Theatre and put signage on the exterior of the building that includes the name of its sponsor. The significant funds raised from this naming are essential in ensuring The York and The Cultch are financially healthy, stable, and sustainable both now and in the future.

About the signage:

  • Low-tech and unobtrusive
  • Will progressively dim as it gets darker; by evening the sign will only be at 30% of its brightness
  • No flash; the projecting sign will scroll and will be text
  • Controlled and monitored by The Cultch
  • On the fascia sign, the lighting will come from below the sign and point upward
  • Both signs will be turned off at 11 pm each day

We’re inviting Cultch supporters, neighbours, and artists to join us in showing your support for The Cultch, the York Theatre, and the sustainability of arts in this community!

COMMUNITY OPEN HOUSE

When: Wednesday, June 19 from 5 pm – 8 pm

Where: The Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab (1895 Venables Street)

What: An open house held by the City of Vancouver to review our signage proposal and receive community feedback.There will be pictures of the proposed signs and Cultch representatives and City staff available to answer your questions. There will also be an opportunity to fill out a survey. Please feel free to stop by any time during the course of the open house.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at 604.251.1766 or heather@thecultch.com, if you have any questions or would like to chat further.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support of The Cultch and the new York Theatre!

Heather Redfern

Executive Director

The York: The Little Theatre that Could

Left, November 1913, "Alcazar Theatre", only known image of the original facade; Middle, 1940s streamlined update, renamed "York Theatre""; Right, 2008 "Raja Theatre" (closed). Photo credits: (L) The Daily News Advertiser, 1913; (M) Vancouver Archives; (L) Heritage Vancouver

Vancouver has seen its fair (ok, more than fair) share of historical buildings being razed to the ground recently and an increasing loss of cultural spaces: The Pantages Theatre built in 1907, torn down in April of last year; The Ridge Theatre saw its final days last month and it’s not looking good for The Waldorf. One such building that was scheduled for the chopping block was the York Theatre; aka Alcazar Theatre, aka The Palace, aka The Little Theatre, aka the New York Theatre, aka the Raja. This place has had more names than Joan Rivers has had face-lifts.

1913 ; Early logo from the Alcazar Theatre

Built in 1913 on Commercial Drive at the corner of East Georgia Street by Vancouver architect John McCarter, the York is one of the oldest theatres in Vancouver that is still kicking. It is only one of a few purpose-built theatres in Vancouver. It’s purpose? Theatre. It has a fly tower (a space where devices for lifting and lowering elements such as scenery, curtains, people even – y’know, like in Peter Pan) and a proscenium stage.

Here’s a quick timeline of The York’s history:

  • 1913- Alcazar Theatre opens it doors, hosting plays and movies before closing down after two years of operations.
  • 1915- The Palace Theatre opens and operates as a movie theatre until 1923.
  • 1923 – The Vancouver Little Theatre Association (VLTA) purchases the space and renames it The Little Theatre.
  • 1940 – After investing a considerable amount in renovations, including a new entrance façade and marquee as well as updates to the stage and lighting; the VLTA renames the theatre The York.
  • 1978 – After more than 50 years as the home to the VTLA and due to the cost of upkeep for the aging theatre, VTLA opts to sell The York. The new owners converts it to a movie theatre and it became the home of Bollywood films.
  • 1981 – The owners decided to demolish the theatre and this is when the ‘Save the York Theatre Society’ was born. Due to community support, the York narrowly escapes the death knell, is re-purposed as a music venue, and becomes the New York Theatre.

The York Theatre before it's $14.8 Million renovation

Let’s jump to 1996. The New York was now the Raja Theatre and was once again featured Bollywood cinema. Only a few short years later, the Raja Theatre was no more. After that, various initiatives were put forth to save the York to no avail, until a 2008 City of Vancouver administrative report recommending, “that council support the ongoing efforts to retain the York Theatre”, paving the way for the Wall Financial Corporation and The Cultch to form a partnership to purchase and restore the York Theatre once and for all. This is very much a restoration and upgrade as most of the original theatre built in 1913 will remain intact

Construction work on The York theatre

As we enter 2013, one hundred years after it’s initial construction, the York is finally getting some TLC and is in the midst of a full-on makeover. This is very much a restoration and upgrade as most of the original theatre will remain intact and the exterior will reclaim its Art Deco design from the 1940s. The renovations, by Henriquez Partners Architects, will be up to the LEED Gold Standard, which takes into account sustainability, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design. A major new feature will be a two-story glass lobby to showcase the mosaic finishes inside the building.

This resilient theatre that found a place in a community’s hearts, and managed to survive against all odds, is expected to re-open in the fall and will be managed by The Cultch as a rental venue for performances and special events.

The York’s restoration, when combined with The Cultch Historic Theatre, the Vancity Culture Lab, and the clubs, restaurants and other amenities on Commercial Drive, will solidify Grandview/Strathcona as a major cultural district in East Vancouver, while revitalizing the Drive between Venables and Hastings Street. Stay tuned for more on the progress of the renovations and to find out what you really want to know – when’s the Grand opening party?

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

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

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

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

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

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

OH: From concept to reality – what happened next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sarah Cruickshank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words to live by: our favourite dating dos and don’ts from Blind Date’s Mimi!

Picture this: you’re on a first date with the person of your dreams, happily enjoying dinner at your favourite restaurant. Things are going well when suddenly you feel compelled to talk about your ex. Before you can stop yourself, you’re lamenting every horrible thing they’ve ever done. Next thing you know, your date is out the door, never to be seen again. Ugh!

Rebecca Northan in Blind Date

Rebecca Northan stars as Mimi in Blind Date, Sep 18 - Oct 7, 2012

Ok, so maybe that exact scenario hasn’t happened to you, but we’ve all made dating mistakes we’d rather forget. Lucky for us, Blind Date is coming to Vancouver and Mimi, the show’s loveable Parisian temptress, is full of dating and relationship tips and tricks. To give you a sneak preview of what’s to come, here’s a few of our favourite quotes from Mimi!

“You want a dating tip? Don’t be an asshole. That goes for women too.”

“The further away you are from a dance floor when you ask a woman to dance, the more romantic it is. Ask me to dance in a gravel pit and I will give you my panties.”

“I don’t understand men dating younger women in order to feel younger…you want to feel YOUNG – date an 80 year old, you’ll feel amazing getting naked…although, you’ll have to sleep with an 80 year old. Which, could be awesome, we just don’t know. The 80 year olds are quiet about that stuff.”

“Women set ‘lady-traps’ for men. It’s what we do. There’s no right answer, and it’s not fair…but then again, men get paid more than we do, so it all evens out. You make more money, we psychologically torture you.”

“I won’t drink out of the milk carton, if you clean underneath your fingernails. That’s romance!”

“When a woman asks you, ‘what are you thinking about?’ what she really means is, “how much do you love me right now?”

“I’m French. Life has no meaning. You might as well drink wine and fuck.”

Don’t miss out on this hilarious performance! Blind Date runs from September 18 – October 7. Tickets start at $17 and are available online at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at 1895 Venables St.