Taylor Kare and Nelson Wong; Photography by Tina Krueger
WELCOME TO YOUR DIGITAL PROGRAM GUIDE!
The Cultch Presents
My Little Tomato
By Rick Tae
A Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (vAct)
and Zee Zee Theatre co-production
in association with rice & beans theatre (Vancouver)
A Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (vAct)
and Zee Zee Theatre co-production
in association with rice & beans theatre (Vancouver)
Written by Rick Tae
Directed by Cameron Mackenzie
In this surreal rom-com, Keaton Chu, a Chinese-Canadian kindergarten teacher, inherits a farm from his deceased parents and vows to continue the business to honour his family name. Unlucky in love in real life, he begins to pour his heart out into every fruit and vegetable, believing that every life form has a purpose even when they’re deformed.
When Japanese-Irish-Canadian produce wholesaler and bar star Joe McKinley unwittingly falls for Keaton, they struggle to deal with historical, familial, cultural and relationship issues while proving love is possible—even when dirty rotten tomatoes squeeze in on the fun!
By Rick Tae
A Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (vAct) and Zee Zee Theatre co-production, in association with rice & beans theatre
My Little Tomato was developed as part of Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre’s (vAct) 2019-20 MSG Theatre Lab 1 with the assistance of PTC. The play received further development support with the participation of vAct.
Shay Dior, MLT/MLP
Taylor Kare, Joe McKinley
Nelson Wong, Keaton Chu
Playwright: Rick Tae
Director: Cameron Mackenzie
Assistant Director: Jack Bumbala
Dramaturg: Joanna Garfinkel
Producer: Derek Chan 陳嘉昊
Associate Producer: Shanae Sodhi
Set & Props Designer: Sophie Tang
Costume Designer: Melicia Zaini
Lighting Designer: Jonathan Kim
Sound Designer & Composition: Mary Jane Coomber
Assistant Sound Designer: Mishelle Cuttler*
Production Manager: Jamie Sweeney
Associate Production Manager: Brianna Bernard
Technical Director: Christian Ching
Props Coordinator: Monica Emme
Stage Manager: Yvonne Yip 葉澔暉
Apprentice Stage Manager: Yuting Yue
Movement Coordinator: Ted Littlemore
Intimacy Director: Karyn Mott
vAct is a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatre and engages under the terms of the Canadian Theatre Agreement, professional artists who are members of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.
*The services of Mishelle Cuttler were made possible through the Associated Designers of Canada Assistant Designer Program funded by the Government of Canada
Donna Yamamoto, Anjela Magpantay, Kathleen Flaherty, June Fukumura, Derek Chan, Joanna Garfinkel, Cameron Mackenzie, my parents Gloria and Oliver, my best friend Ryan, my partner of 20 years (!) Ty, Heath, Erik, Darren, that piece of crap from high school, some ravaged tomatoes and other sentient beings are all who have made this seed of an idea into a playscript, and then into a production that I’m grateful to be sharing with all of you today, myself having weathered through enough of a life labyrinth to finally welcome its themes.
Food, Surrealism and East-meets-West have always driven my creative endeavours. As the world continues to shift towards wedging us all apart with our differences, I chose to highlight idealistic characters that insist we are all the same. The universality of loving and being loved should aim to transcend race, sex, culture and species. Cirque du Soleil, Stephen Chow’s Mo Lei Tau nonsensical comedies as well as filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s caffeinated storytelling had weaved together in my mind also as a mosaic of stylistic inspiration.
As I found myself escaping into this fantastical creative process, being told throughout life that I’m too Asian, too Western, too straight, too gay, too fat, too skinny, too serious or too sensitive, it is my first foray into playwrighting that has finally summoned this: no one else gets to define you, cause maybe you’re ALL those things and then some, so just make sure who and what you love will always keep loving you back! Now, that, to me, is romance! Unless, of course, you like it a little rough instead, then… perfect! This is ALSO the show for you! Please enjoy.
When Joanna Garfinkel brought this to me I thought “A Gay, Asian, rom-com? YES please!”
What I found so charming was that two men meet, challenge each other, get day-drunk on a date and then a Non-Binary Tomato enters…astounding!
These two men have baggage. They have lives filled with hurt and disappointment, death and abuse. They struggle to find meaning and purpose and a way to contribute to society and yet none of this trauma, none of this struggle is tied to their Queerness. *GASP*
There is such a sense of humour and play and whimsy while at the same time grappling with the questions “what do we need to move beyond lived and ancestral trauma?” and “What do we want from our lives now?”
I find the exploration of embracing fetish as a means to heal very exciting, especially as it begins to pick at the way sexuality can be influenced by racism and colonialism.
When Derek approached me to do a vAct/ Zee Zee co-production I jumped at the opportunity to collaborate and what a joy to produce in association with rice & beans theatre.
The thing that grounds this piece for me, that is the underlying thread is the connection these two men have. There is something about the other person that is so profound that it forces them to change and grow. Derek and I agreed that the bed would be the central focus, that the act of sex as a catalyst for change was so powerful that the show needed to revolve around it.
We wanted the set all white to be able to impose various moods and locations but it also tied into the traditional Chinese colour for funerals. This play starts with the death of parents but becomes the death of expectations, of societal notions of how we should be and how relationships should look. The frame represents the past, the family behind us that we must choose to walk away from or at the very least evolve from.
Our brilliant set designer wanted to capture the essence of the kindergarten teacher and introduced the ball pit as well as the work of Yayoi Kusama and all of a sudden, as so often is the case in these collaborative processes, it all began to make sense.
Kusama’s installation and sculptural works are inspired and informed by her memories of childhood abuse, repression, and trauma, and her ongoing experiences with mental disorder and sexual anxiety. Covering sheets of paper with miniscule, repetitive marks not only fed her love of art, but also helped her cope with the stress-induced hallucinations she’d experienced from a young age. Using her work to inspire this incredibly surreal, abstract installation allowed us to house the story of these two men outside of realism but still stay connected to the heart of it.
On behalf of The Cultch, rice & beans, vAct and all of us at Zee Zee, thank you for joining us.
We hope you enjoy the show!
Founded in 2001 by Joyce Lam, Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (vAct) first began as a community theatre. Over the next 12 years, vAct collaborated with over 500 Asian Canadian theatre artists, and produced over 40 shows. In 2013, Donna Yamamoto was appointed as the Producing Artistic Director. Thus began vAct’s rapid transformation from a community theatre to one of the most exciting diversity-mandated professional theatre companies in Canada. In the Western Canadian theatre community, vAct plays a unique role. We are the only professional theatre company in Western Canada to consistently premiere new works by Asian Canadians. Following Donna’s retirement in 2022, Derek Chan took over as Managing Artistic Director, bringing with him over a decade’s experience in creating, developing, and producing original intercultural, multilingual works within BC, across Canada, and internationally.
Derek Chan 陳嘉昊 (he/him) – Managing Artistic Director
Christian Ching (he/they) – Associate Artistic Producer
Karla Comanda (she/they) – Marketing Coordinator
Annie Jang (she/her) – General Manager
Anjela Magpantay (she/her) – Programming & Outreach Associate
Laara Ong (she/her) – Hospitality Associate
Karen Tsui (she/they) – Development Coordinator
Zee Zee Theatre believes in individual stories that provoke and inspire us, and that foster common understanding and empathy across our diverse human experiences. We are devoted to telling diverse stories and amplifying the voices of those on the margins with a focus on LGBTQ2SI+ communities. Zee Zee explores intimate moments through which the infinite complexity of human character can be revealed.
Zee Zee Theatre Team
Cameron Mackenzie – Artistic & Executive Director
Dave Deveau – Associate Artistic Director
Sabah Haque – Development & Operations Manager
Angela Vannatter – Digital Communications Coordinator
Maria Zarrillo – Associate Producer
Jordy Matheson – Collection Project Producer
Meredith Burney – Bookkeeper
rice & beans theatre is a Vancouver-based theatre company founded in 2010 by Pedro Chamale and Derek Chan. We provide a platform for the creation, development and production of boundary-pushing theatre by artists of colour or otherwise marginalized theatre-makers, as well as support to fellow artists by providing dramaturgy, direction, and mentorship. We are dedicated to facilitating original Canadian work that is accessible, honest, uncompromising and personal. In addition to Vancouver, we have also produced original work for audiences in Toronto, Richmond, Nanaimo and Victoria. In 2018, rice & beans was nominated for a Dora Award for its production of 食盡天下/A Taste of Empire with Cahoots Theatre in Toronto. In 2019, its production of Chicken Girl was nominated for 3 Jessies in Vancouver and in 2022, its production of Yellow Objects won a Jessie Innovation Award.
vAct would like to acknowledge the generous support of Bonnie Mah, Jack Gin Family Foundation, held at Vancouver Foundation, Elsie and Audrey Jang Fund, held at Vancouver Foundation, Anndraya Luui, Bruce and Susan Stout, Ken Gracie & Philip Waddell of The McGrane-Pearson Endowment Fund, held at Vancouver Foundation, and all of our donors listed on our website.
Special thanks to Allen Baylosis, Lisz Kaellen, Tina Krueger Kulic, Michael MacLennan, Sarah Race, Amber Smith, Principal Intimacy Professionals
Cast & Company Bios
Brianna Bernard (she/her)
Associate Production Manager
Brianna Bernard is an undergraduate student in the Theatre Production & Design stream at Simon Fraser University. She enjoys exploring both the design and production management aspects of art and theatre. Originally born and raised in Jamaica, Brianna now works, creates and resides on the stolen lands of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations.
Jack Bumbala (they/them)
Sprouting in the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation (Ottawa, ON), Jack Bumbala (They/Them), graduated from The Canterbury Dramatic Arts Program before rooting down in Vancouver, BC where they finished their “formal” education at Studio 58 (production). Credits include: Costume Designer for the Expressions Theatre Festival (Arts Umbrella), Stage Manager for One of a Kind 2022 directed by Deb Williams and Assistant Director for In My Day directed by Shawn MacDonald.
Christian Ching (he/they)
Christian Ching is an emerging technical director, producer, lighting designer, and scenographer with an interest in design and biological systems. He is a graduate of Simon Fraser University (2021) with a double degree in Theatre Production and Design and in the Biological Sciences. His practice revolves around collaboration and the consideration of ecological aspects of design. In his free time, he likes to run RPGs, draw, and make music.
Mary Jane Coomber (they/them)
Sound Designer and Composition
Mary Jane Coomber is a collaborative music/sound artist who primarily works on the occupied, unceded, sovereign territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people. Recent credits: In My Day (Zee Zee), Me Love Bingo (Arts Club), Yaga (Touchstone) To Perfection (Shameless Hussy), White Girls in Moccasins (Frank), Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls (Carousel). They are a member of ADC and graduate of the School of Contemporary Arts at SFU.
Mishelle Cuttler (she/her)
Assistant Sound Designer
Mishelle is a composer and sound designer based in Vancouver. Her work is centred around the integration of sound and music with storytelling and world building. With a foundation in scoring and sound design for live theatre, Mishelle works across various platforms with a particular focus on cross-disciplinary collaboration. Her most recent projects with Neworld have been The Seventh Fire and Clean/Espejos.
Shay Dior (they/them)
Shay Dior (they/them), also known as Van Dang, is an interdisciplinary drag artist and identifies as a genderqueer Vietnamese performer on the unceded Coast-Salish territories. Having performed in drag over the years, Shay Dior is no stranger to the stage; however, My Little Tomato is their debut acting role in a live theatre production. Other productions that featured Shay Dior include Body So Fluorescent (rEvolver Festival), The Bashes (TRANSFORM Festival), Slanted, Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny (Love Intersections), and Canada’s a Drag (CBC Arts). In 2020, they also produced two digital productions with their drag family, the House of Rice, for Upintheair Theatre’s rEvolver Festival and The Array.@vndng / @thatshaydior
Monica Emme (she/her)
Monica Emme (she/her) is a props creator, set designer, fabricator, and puppet maker currently based in Vancouver. Some favourite credits include: production design for The Old Man and the Old Moon (Arts Umbrella); Props for In My Day (Zee Zee Theatre), Messiah (Pacific Theatre), Iron Peggy (Boca del Lupo), Stiles and Drewe’s The Three Little Pigs (Carousel Theatre for Young People). Images and full credit list can be found at: monicaemme.com
Joanna Garfinkel (she/any)
Joanna Garfinkel (she/any) Dramaturg, Creative Engagement at Playwrights Theatre Centre and co-founder, with Yoshie Bancroft, of Universal Limited. Current dramaturgy: National Queer & Trans playwriting unit; UL’s To the Sea; Kamila Sediego’s Engkanto, José Teodoro’s Binary Star, Christina Cook’s PTMYTS, Tara Cheyenne’s Pants. Co-creator of JAPANESE PROBLEM. Other credits: Berlin: The Last Cabaret (PuSh), PQLB, (Passe Murailles) Nominated for 3 Jessie awards, winning 1; Pure Research grant (Nightswimming); Sydney Risk award for directing.
Taylor Kare (he/him)
Performer: Joe McKinley
Taylor Kare is a Vancouver based biracial actor. Coming from the world of film and TV where he has worked on everything from independent film to recurring network television. He’s studied under Deb Podowski since 2013. Taylor is excited to return to the stage for the first time in over 10 years, and is happy to be part of this wonderful production!
Jonathan Kim (he/him)
Jonathan Kim, better known as Jono, is a Korean-Canadian artist born and raised on unceded traditional Coast Salish territories, who currently works and lives on Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territories (Vancouver). He holds a BFA degree in Production and Design from Simon Fraser University. Jono is a member of the Associated Designers of Canada and Chimerik似不像. Recent credits: Redbone Coonhound (Arts Club Theatre Company); Murder on the Orient Express (Vertigo Theatre); Metamorphoses (Studio 58); Starwalker (Urban Ink & Raven Theatre); The Wrong Bashir (Touchstone Theatre). @jonovisionkim
Ted Littlemore (he/him; they/them)
Ted Littlemore is an internationally trained, Vancouver-based dancer, choreographer, director, stylist, and teacher. He is a graduate of the Modus Operandi contemporary school, and a co-founder of the dance collective CAMP. Originally a classical and jazz musician, he also performs as Vancouver’s crowned “Drag Superstar” Mila Dramatic. His interest in interdisciplinary art-making helps him to bring a unique contribution to his work in multiple dance and theatre genres.
Cameron Mackenzie (he/him)
Originally from South Africa, Cameron is a Vancouver-based director, producer and drag queen. He produced and curated Club PuSh for the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival from 2013 to 2020, and is the founder and Artistic & Executive Director of Zee Zee Theatre, now celebrating their 15th Crystal Anniversary Season. He has assistant directed for the Arts Club, Bard on the Beach, Centaur Theatre, City Opera Vancouver and the Vancouver Playhouse and directed for Studio 58. A recipient of the Ray Michal Award for Outstanding Body of Work by an Emerging Director for the 2014/2015 season, he has also been nominated for Outstanding Direction at The Jessie Richardson Awards. He is a graduate of Studio 58 and has further trained with Pochinko clown master, John Turner.
Karyn Mott (they/them)
Karyn Mott (they|them) is a Queer, non-binary intimacy director & coordinator, artistic mental health practitioner, workshop coordinator and board member of the National Society of Intimacy Professionals, and a proud team member of Principal Intimacy Professionals. Selected credits include In My Day (Zee Zee Theatre) Sleight of Mind (WCT), Shogun (Disney/FX), Career Opportunities in Murder and Mayhem (Disney), Resident Alien S1 & S2 (Syfy), Upload S2 (Amazon). Much gratitude to vAct, Zee Zee and Cameron for this opportunity and love to Dani, my parents, and our four-legged kid.@karynmott
Shanae Sodhi (he/him)
Shanae Sodhi lives and works on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. He is a graduate of Studio 58 where he was one of the establishing members and Head Organizer of the school’s Student Diversity Committee, a student lead group which works to give strength to marginalized groups within the theatre community by empowering students with the tools and knowledge to engage the conversations of inclusivity around them. Recent producing credits include: associate producer on The First Stone (New Harlem Productions), producer on Catalina La O: Ahora Conmigo (winner of the 2020 Fringe New Play Prize) and Mx by Lili Robinson (winner of the 2019 Fringe New Play Prize and Cultchivating the Fringe Award). He currently works with Rumble Productions. Photo Credit is Pink Monkey Studios
Jamie Sweeney (she/her)
Jamie Sweeney is a Vancouver based production manager and theatre collaborator also working as technical director and lighting designer. She holds a bachelor of fine arts in theatre production and design from Simon Fraser University.
Rick Tae (he/him)
With a career stemming from a BFA in Theatre Arts, Rick has created, developed, written, directed and produced Theatre, Film, Multimedia content, and garnered Gemini and Leo Award nods/win for his acting work. His history with vAct began in 2003, and has spanned directing Flower Drum Song, mentoring Theory of Everything and directing Ga Ting. Other productions under his company Skycorner include Jessie Award and Ovation Award winning/nominated theatre productions Company, Falsettos and A… My Name is Alice.
My Little Tomato, developed as part of VACT’s 2019-20 MSG Theatre Lab 1 with assistance of PTC, and receiving further VACT development support, marks Rick’s debut as a playwright. Much gratitude goes to vAct, PTC, Zee Zee Theatre, rice & beans theatre and The Cultch.
Sophie Tang (she/her)
Set & Props Designer
Sophie Tang is an award-winning lighting and set designer working in Theatre, Opera and Dance. She has worked with companies including Stratford Festival, Push Festival, Electric Company Theatre, Vancouver Opera, Artsclub Theatre, Bard on the Beach, Citadel Theatre, Canadian Stage, Theatre Replacement and so on. Set design credits: Kuroko (Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre), Bad Parent (Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre with Soulpepper Theatre and Prairie Theatre Exchange), Rez Sisters (Stratford Festival). Portfolio website: sophieyufeitang.com
Nelson Wong (he/him)
Performer: Keaton Chu
Nelson Wong has appeared in 28 Hallmark movies & boasts 100+ IMDb credits. Nelson keeps his passion & exploration of acting alive & vibrant while training fellow actors at Haven Studios & as a Part Time Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Arts at UBC’s Dept of Theatre & Film. Nelson is extremely grateful to Rick Tae for this beautiful script, vAct, Zee Zee Theatre, rice & beans theatre, this amazing cast and crew, & theatre-goers for making this shared experience possible.
Yvonne Yip 葉澔暉 (she/her)
Yvonne is Hong Kong born; Vancouver based stage manager. Recent credits include An Undeveloped Sound (Electric Company Theatre), East Van Panto: The Little Mermaid (Theatre Replacement), Redbone Coonhound, Kinky Boots (Arts Club), and Clean/Espejos (Neworld Theatre). Favourites include King Arthur’s Night (Neworld Theatre), King of the Yees (Gateway Theatre), Competition Is Fierce (ItsaZoo), Fall Away Home (Boca del Lupo), and Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s Very Hungry Caterpillar Tour (Canada, USA, Bahrain, and South Korea).
Apprentice Stage Manager
Yuting is a recent UBC graduate with a BFA in Theatre Design and Production. Recent stage management credits include The Parliament of Birds (UBC, ASM), What the Buddha Never Taught (WTBNT Productions, SM), Cauldron (Vital Spark, SM), Machinal (UBC, ASM).
Melicia Zaini (they/them)
Melicia (they/them) is a costume designer and textile artist. Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia to a family of Chinese ancestry, they are grateful to be living and creating on unceded Coast Salish Territories, colonially known as Vancouver, BC. Recent credits: costume design for The Macarons Project: never be enough (music video, Pidgin Productions), Courage Now (Firehall Arts Centre); assistant costume design for Forgiveness (Arts Club & Theatre Calgary). Melicia’s passion lies in telling visually impactful stories through striking colours, and in uplifting the stories of marginalized voices through their art. meliciazaini.com