A look at Canada’s residential schools

Children of God is back in the York Theatre (until March 10, 2019) after a national tour, and its highly successful 2017 world premiere at The Cultch.

Children of God a new musical written and directed by Corey Payette, Production Design by Marshall McMahen, Lighting Design by Jeff Harrison, actors David Keeley, Sarah Carlé, Michelle Bardach, Kaitlyn Yott, Cheyenne Scott, Dillan Chiblow, Aaron M. Wells, Jacob MacInnis, and Michelle St. John. An Urban Ink co-production with Segal Centre (Montreal). Photo by Emily Cooper Photography.

In this powerful musical, by Corey Payette, the children of an Oji-Cree family are sent to a residential school in Northern Ontario. This is a story of redemption: for a mother who was never let past the school’s gate, and her kids, who never knew she came. Children of God offers a thrilling blend of ancient traditions and contemporary realities, celebrating resilience and the power of the Indigenous cultural spirit.

The history of residential schools in Canada is a dark part of this country’s history. This selection from the Children of God study guide is a good starting place for those wanting to inform themselves about Canada’s past and present.

Residential Schools In Canada (Background)

The residential school system in Canada was designed to steal Aboriginal children from their home communities and forcibly turn them into Euro-Christian citizens of Canadian society. As former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s famous epithet from his 2008 apology to residential school survivors goes, the residential schools were meant “to kill the Indian in the child.”

Set up by the federal government, and primarily run by the church, the residential schools sprawled across the nation throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The last one did not close until 1996.

The system was rooted in the idea that European civilization was superior to the diverse civilizations of the Indigenous peoples, and that it was thus Canada’s moral, and God-given, responsibility to save Aboriginal children from themselves. By isolating the children from their lands, their languages, their relations, and their traditions; and simultaneously immersing them in European customs, primarily rigid gender roles, Anglo-monolingualism, and industrial vocational training, it was thought that Aboriginal communities would die out, and that a unified Canadian nation would emerge.

Archival photo

Residential schools, at their core, were built to commit what is called ‘cultural genocide’. These schools often became places where children would do menial tasks designed to keep the schools open at low cost, rather than as sites of meaningful education. It is also widely reported that these schools were sites of brutal physical, emotional, and sexual abuse against the children, often as punishment for speaking their traditional language, or trying to escape. Many children died while at these schools.

Residential Schools—Lasting Effects

As Children of God will explore, the horrible legacy of the residential school system is still felt today by many Indigenous peoples.

Many of the youth who attended residential schools not only grew up learning to hate their culture, but also grew up not learning how to raise a family, often in an atmosphere of physical and sexual abuse. This has had disastrous impacts for Indigenous communities. For many, survivors of the schools grew into adulthood lacking parenting skills, fostering another generation of children without a nurturing family environment. In many communities today, rates of domestic abuse, alcoholism, and youth suicide are high, many cases of which observers have traced back to the residential school system and the lack of self-esteem it instilled in the students. This ongoing process of undermining community well-being and cohesion, despite the schools being closed, is often referred to as intergenerational trauma.

Healing from Residential Schools

While understanding the vile history of residential schools and the lingering ramifications of this system, it is also important to pause and recognize that this trauma does not define Indigenous peoples and their communities. Many First Nations communities today are healthy and thriving, have a strong connection to their lands and traditions, and are raising younger generations that are eager and ready to continue this process.

On a national scale, it is becoming more common to talk about the residential schools in an honest way for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike—partly in thanks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (see below)—which sought to offer space and a platform for survivors of the schools to talk about their experiences as a means of mending relations between Canada and Indigenous nations. Reconciliation politics is by no means perfect, as many First Nations are waiting for the federal government to deliver on its promise of better futures, but we now have valuable entry points into necessary conversations around what healing can look like.

Many communities that still experience the lingering impact of residential schools are taking matters into their own hands, and are looking to break cycles of intergenerational trauma through their own community-led initiatives, such as education, residential school survivor-oriented societies, and drug and alcohol intervention programs (see below).

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Findings http://nctr.ca/reports.phph

Resources on Healing and Healing Initiatives

“Healing the Legacy of the Residential Schools.” Where Are The Children http://wherearethechildren.ca/

Aboriginal Healing Foundation http://www.ahf.ca/

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society – http://www.irsss.ca/

Legacy of Hope http://legacyofhope.ca/

For more information about Children of God, and more resources, read the full study guide here.


Children of God runs until March 10, 2019, at the York Theatre. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

Karaoke favourites from the Cultch staff!

In preparations for Feminist Karaoke, Cultch staff dish about their karaoke favourites!

Julia Croft wants you to sing along!

Power Ballad, from New Zealand’s Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan (Jan 22-26), is part performance piece, part feminist rant, AND part karaoke party! On Friday, Jan 25, the party will continue after the show, when Julia invites Cultch patrons to join her for Feminist Karaoke — a completely free Femme Series event!

The buzz in the Cultch office is palpable—we are a karaoke loving bunch! Here are a few karaoke favourites—and a couple karaoke memories—from some of the staff, to help you get in the mood for Jan 25.

Chelsea Isenor, Marketing Manager

Favourite Karaoke Song: Total Eclipse of the Heart. I don’t really have the vocal chops to sing it well, but it is so fun to belt out. It’s even better if you have a duet partner, but I have been know to sing both parts!

Kelly Barker, Artistic Associate

Karaoke Memory: I sang “I Love Rock and Roll”, by Joan Jett, at my sister-in-law’s wedding, and it was so terrible that the host of the wedding (it was at a small inn in the Okanagan) told me, the next morning, that it was, “the worst thing he’d ever heard”. My mother-in-law apparently has it on video—and I’ve refused to watch it.

Louise Chapman, Development Associate

Karaoke Memory: It’s not a particularly interesting story, but it’s my only personal karaoke experience!

I do not have a good singing voice, so I have only done karaoke once in my life! I was 19 and travelling in Japan with my friend Mariesha. We went along to a karaoke place and got a little room with some people from out hostel. I drank a lot of plum wine (delicious!) and sang Umbrella by Rihanna. A good memory.

Another time, I was staying in a village on a tiny island in the Philippines, where the local fishermen would gather at night to drink rum and sing karaoke. Their singing filled the tropical night air.

Leslie Dos Remedios, Sales Associate

Favourite Karaoke Song: I actually have a running list of karaoke songs on my phone – like when I’m in a store and hear a song I love, I put it in my phone just so I’m not at a loss in those times I’m flipping through a karaoke binder, not at my full capacity and about to make a questionable adult decision.

Some of my faves to sing are:

I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Wannabe by The Spice Girls
Since You’ve Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson

Very eclectic, I know, but such good guilty pleasures!

We wanna know your karaoke favourites—come sing with us!! Feminist Karaoke with Julia Croft is a FREE Femme Series event on January 25, 2019, at 9PM.


Power Ballad runs until Jan 26 at the Historic Theatre. Book tickets online or call The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

The Femme Series is generously supported by the Charlotte and Sonya Wall Arts Fund.

Power Ballad Creator’s Notes

A Note from Julia Croft | Power Ballad Creator/Performer

Power Ballad is a living, breathing, and demonic little show that we are absolutely delighted to be presenting in Canada for the first time.

This work is the second in a trilogy of feminist works that we created. Power Ballad was inspired in part by the misogynistic train wreck that was the 2016 US election and the implicit gendered narratives that were played out in the politics and media of that time and continue to ripple through our lives and our culture. It was also inspired by a lifetime of personally feeling the ways in which language was used against me as a woman and the ways I felt (and still feel) that language can be an impossible bind.

Over the course of making the show, the concept of language began to also stand in for all those other seemingly immovable patriarchal structures we are all trying to live within or against. They seem permanent but they aren’t – things could be different. While making this work I thought often of the famous Ursula Le Guin quote “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.” This work is about finding the cracks where resistance can begin.

This show started to become a small rally cry – or at least my own attempt to begin to understand what a resistance could look like and my reminding myself of the importance of being hopeful.

Then as we began rehearsals for the show millions of women around the world marched collectively as part of the Womens’ March. And then we had #metoo. And Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. And a million other acts of resistance both big and small seem to be appearing every day. And I feel in my gut that things are shifting. Maybe the revolution has already started.

Either way, it is my great joy to be in a room with you all while we sing our hearts out.

Julia x


Power Ballad runs Jan 20-26, at the Historic Theatre. Book tickets online or call The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

It’s party time—time for good music, good laughs…and great food!

It’s party time—time for good music, good laughs…and great food!

Photo by Ankita Singh

The holidays may be over, but the party is only getting started! Coming Jan 15-Feb 3 to the Vancity Culture Lab, Mrs. Krishnan’s Party is a play that takes place at Onam. Have you heard of Onam? It’s a Hindu harvest festival, and it could be the craziest party of them all! Onam celebrates the annual return of the beloved King Maveli to his people. King Maveli was defeated and pushed into the underworld by the gods, but because he was so beloved, he was granted the wish to return to his people once a year. The celebrations for Onam can last up to ten days!

Every great celebration needs great food, and Onam is no different! In fact Onam is know for its good eats—and there are a lot of them:

An example of an Onam Sadhya

All together there are 11 essential dishes which have to prepared…[The]Traditional Onam Sadya (feast) meal comprises of different varieties of curries, upperies – things fried in oil, pappadams which are round crisp flour paste cakes of peculiar make, uppilittathu – pickles of various kinds, chammanthi – the chutney, payasams and prathamans or puddings of various descriptions. Fruits and digestives are also part of the meal. The food has to be served on a tender Banana leaf, laid with the end to the left. The meal is traditionally served on a mat laid on the floor. A strict order of serving the dishes one after the another is obeyed. Besides, there are clear directions as to what will be served in which part of the banana leaf. – www.onamfestival.org 

In Mrs. Krishnan’s Party, Mrs Krishnan is surprised to find that, unbeknownst to her, her boarder, James, has filled her stock room with 100 guests expecting an Onam party (the audience members are the guests!). She is forced to throw an Onam party on the fly. And my oh my, what a party it will be!

And, because every good party needs food, food there must be. Mrs. Krishnan saves the day and makes a delicious daal for everyone to enjoy—yum! We just know you are going to want to know the recipe for this feast.

Here is the recipe for Mrs Krishnan’s Pepper Dhal, as prepared in the play:

RECIPE

(Serves 10)
500g pink lentils
1 litre of boiling water
3 chopped tomatoes or half a tin
2 Tbs of rice bran oil
1 small onion chopped
2 gloves of garlic
1 dried red chilli
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp white pepper

Put lentils, tomatoes and bruised whole cloves of garlic into a large pot of boiling water and simmer till lentils are soft (15-20mins).

Stir occasionally to stop from burning. 5 minutes before lentils are ready, heat oil in a frying pan and add onions and sauté till translucent.

Add all the spices except white pepper and salt to the onions and stir for a minute.Tip the onion spice mixture into the pot of lentils and simmer for five minutes.

Add salt and white pepper. For added deliciousness, add a dash of white vinegar and a big knob of butter right at the end and sprinkle with chopped fresh coriander.  Yum!


Mrs. Krishnan’s Party runs Jan 15-Feb 3, at the Vancity Culture Lab. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363

Feminist Holiday Gift Guide!

Feminist Holiday Gift Guide!

Struggling with your holiday shopping? Need a little help getting the perfect gift for that kick-ass feminist on your list? Look no furtherour Femme Series is coming up this winter, and there are so many amazing shows and events to choose from!

For the Karaoke Loving Feminist in your life…who wants a moment in the spotlight:

Do you have anyone on your list who could use a good evening of belting out classic power ballads? Have we got the show for you!

Power Ballad is an angry, feminist, live art investigation of language and its sometimes hidden ideologies that is part performance lecture and part karaoke party. With an ‘80s soundtrack to rival any school disco, Power Ballad is anarchic and loud; filled with feminist rage and…Annie Lennox.

And, as a BONUSgrab tickets to the performance on January 25, and you can stay behind after the show for a fun evening of Feminist Karaoke with Power Ballad performer Julia Croft!

For the Shakespeare Loving Feminist in your life:

Hipster Shakespeare!

Sure he’s an old, dead, white guy, but the Bard still has some interesting things to say, and in the hands of Classic Chic Theatre Company, this February’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing won’t be your status-quo, Shakespeare!

Shakespeare loving feminists will not want to miss an all-female cast as they take on one of the most famous stage comedies in the worlda deadly serious and sublimely ridiculous story—of soldiers in love and women confined by tradition. It’s a bold and playful romp through the extremes of desire and ambition, loyalty, and redemption.

“It has been my experience that gender-blind casting speaks to a diverse audience—straight and queer, men and women—and is a true reflection of our complex contemporary community.” — Rebecca Patterson, Much Ado about Nothing Director

For the Music Loving Feminist in your life:

There are so many things to choose from for the music loving feminist on your list. From indie, to hula, to punk…and don’t forget the rock ballads, and karaoke! We have the music lover in your life covered!

Don’t miss Ukraine’s Dakh Daughters in their cross-discipline performance from Jan 15-19, at the York Theatre. Seven actresses take musical instruments into their hands in order to create a life-affirming performance about love, freedom, and beauty which at the end of the day—will save the world. Get your tickets for this one fast, because it will sell out!

On January 12, 2019, at the York Theatre, Soft Cedar Presents: Only a Visitor’s Technicolour Education album release, with special guest Wallgrin. Only A Visitor is a quintet that blurs genre boundaries by straddling the line between art music and pop. Their new album, Technicolour Education, focuses on the Chinese diasporic experience in Vancouver through generations of immigrant stories. Tickets are only $20 and can be purchased here.

Soft Cedar will be back at the end of January as well! On January 27, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole will take the stage in a co-presentation with Capilano University as part of the CapU Global Roots Series. Kaumakaiwa brings to the stage an immense talent as a singer, chanter, and dancer as well as a deep understanding of her Hawaiian culture and her place as a modern, transgender (mahu wahine) Hawaiian in this contemporary world. She engages Indigenous thought to address today’s issues through music, chant, and sharing of spirit.

And, of course, who can forget about Power Ballad?!

For the aspiring Feminist Playwright in your life:

Do you have that one friend who always tells you their “brilliant” play ideas? Theatre creators and producers Kim Senklip Harvey and Pippa Mackie host Pitch, Bitch, or Ditch on Jan 14—an unforgettable night that puts the power in the hands of the patrons! From anonymous suggestions made by the audience, Kim and Pippa will lead patrons through a lively evening of banter and debate—no idea is off limits, no suggestions taboo or too dangerous. The bar will be open. There will be guest appearances…and loads of surprises! And with tickets for only $10, this makes the perfect stocking stuffer, or secret Santa gift!

AND THAT IS NOT EVEN ALL!
Full list of events for the Femme Series:

Jan 11: WROL (Without Rule of Law) by Michaela Jeffery—A new play reading presented by Touchstone Theatre, 8PM, Historic Theatre—FREE
Jan 12: Soft Cedar Presents: Only a Visitor album release, with special guest Wallgrin, 8PM, Historic Theatre—$20
Jan 14: Women in the Arts Mixer, 6-8PM, Historic Theatre—FREE
Jan 14: Pitch, Bitch, or Ditch, with Pippa Mackie and Kim Harvey8-9PM, Historic Theatre—$10
Jan 15 – 19: Dakh Daughters (Ukraine), York Theatre—Main Stage Season Production
Jan 22 – 26: Power Ballad, Julia Croft/Nisha Madhan (New Zealand), 8PM, Historic Theatre—Main Stage Season Production
Jan 25: Feminist Karaoke with Julia Croft, after Power Ballad, 9PM, Historic Theatre—FREE
Jan 27: Soft Cedar Presents: Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole, presented as part of CapU Global Roots Series, 8PM, York Theatre—$40
Feb 5 – 16: Much Ado About Nothing, Classic Chic Productions (Vancouver), Historic Theatre—Main Stage Season Production


Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

Ghosts of Scrooges past!

Ghosts of Scrooges Past!

The story of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is one of the best known and best loved Christmas stories. This beloved tale of redemption has been told and retold in many forms, from traditional tellings, to those that are down right brazen.

Esmé Massengill

Ronnie Burkett’s Little Dickens, which opened this week in the Historic Theatre falls firmly in the brazen category, with beloved Daisy Theatre character—the booze loving, faded and jaded Diva—Esmé Massengill, taking on the role of legendary miser, Scrooge.

In this role, so perfectly suited to her, Esmé Massengill joins the ranks of so many other celebrities who have taken on the challenge of playing Dickens’ Ebeneezer Scrooge (we think she does it best!).

Here is a look at a few other famous faces that have taken on this legendary role. Esmé is in good company!


Little Dickens runs Dec 4 – 22, 2018 at the Historic Theatre, 1895 Venables Street. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

 

Little Dickens: The Holiday Hit is BACK!

 

Little Dickens: The Holiday Hit is BACK!

Back by popular demand—Ronnie Burkett’s holiday hit Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre returns to The Cultch Historic Theatre Dec 4-22, 2018.

In December 2017, Ronnie Burkett premiered this Cultch exclusive, Little Dickens—an adults-only marionette rendition of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol created specifically for the amazing Vancouver audiences who embraced The Daisy Theatre characters in five sold-out runsto the Historic Stage. It was a huge hit with fans, old and new, as well as reviewers!

Check out some of the RAVE reviews from 2017interspersed with an insider look at Ronnie Burkett’s sweet and raunchy characters, direct from his Instagram @ronnieburkett:

“The Dickens story provides a solid platform for Burkett’s high-strung irreverence, but it also has a core of sweetness and generosity that make this show a genuine gift. Enjoy it, Vancouver” — Kathleen Oliver, The Georgia Straight

“The familiar characters from his bizarre repertoire ring a showbiz variation on Dickens’ tale that’s…warmer and fuzzier in a Christmassy way, punctuated by raunchy asides and moments of sheer Burkettian brilliance”—Jerry Wasserman, The Vancouver Sun

“Puppeteer Ronnie Burkett is a genius. He just is…I would watch Schnitzel all night long anywhere” — Colin Thomas, colinthomas.ca

“Ronnie Burkett’s Little Dickens is a retelling of A Christmas Carol but with more bah-hum-buggery, fewer heartwarming lessons in morality, and a whole lot of excellent banter” — Connal Mcnamara, Vancouver Weekly

I’d recommend seeing it twice because it’s guaranteed you’ll be laughing so hard you’ll have missed some of the great lines the first time around” — Monika Forberger, EntertainmentVancouver.com

“It was a delight to see Dickens’s timeless characters given a glorious and slightly smutty twist” — Molly Gray, The Vancouver Arts Review

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In her gender defying performance as Scrooge in Little Dickens last season, Daisy Theatre superstar Esmé Massengill appeared in a stunning red redemption gown at the end of the show. It was pretty wow, but given that Mrs.Edna Rural essentially stole the show in her light up Christmas tree costume, it was decided to give Esmé a new and “WOW”ier final costume. Kim Crossley, who has made my puppet costumes for almost three decades, came to Puppetland this week, and in two days – voilà! – Miss Massengill shines anew. And in Esmé’s own words, “What tops a Christmas tree, darling? A star, that’s what!” . . #esmemassengill #thedaisytheatre #littledickens #thedaisytheatrechristmascarol #esmeplaysscrooge #costumedesign #puppetdesign #puppetbuilder #theatredesign #maketheyuletidegay #instagay #acchristmascarol #bahhumbugdarling #ronnieburketttheatreofmarionettes

A post shared by Ronnie Burkett (@ronnieburkett) on

“…bold storytelling, black humour, and unscripted razor-edged dialogue” — John Jane, reviewVancouver

“I guarantee…you will not have seen anything like this before. It is visually spectacular, exceptionally well executed and truly special to behold” — Penny Warwick, Two Pence & Two Cents

“It’s foul-mouthed fun backed by artistic wizardry, and it’s entertaining as hell” —Lillian Jasper, Two Pence & Two Cents

“Burkett had the crowd laughing along heartily as his marionettes refreshed this classic with their inventive songs and quirky personalities” — Tessa Perkins Deneault, Centre Stage

Are you ready to see your favourite Daisy Theatre characters in in the merriest marionette mash-up again? It is almost time!


Little Dickens runs Dec 4 – 22, 2018 at the Historic Theatre, 1895 Venables Street. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

A time for Remembrance: Women in War

A time for Remembrance: Women in War

This month, The Cultch is presenting the Ceasefire Series: an exploration of war to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice of WWI. The series features three unique shows that explore the causes, effects, and traumas of war from different lenses; one taking place during WWI (SmallWaR), one taking place during WWII (Three Winters), and one taking place in contemporary times (The Believers Are But Brothers). We hope you will come and enjoy all three!

Inspired by Amiel Gladstone’s fictional recontextualization of his grandfather’s war experience in Three Winters, Outreach Intern, Charlotte Wright, wanted to share the story of her own grandmother’s heroic journey in WWII.

After seeing any of the shows in this series, if you would like to share your reflections, memories, or stories, please email us at outreach@thecultch.com


As we approach a very special Remembrance Day we are flooded with images and stories of the incredible and heroic soldiers that gave their lives. But, as important as it is to remember the two generations of men that were ravaged by two world wars, it’s also important not to forget the women – who weren’t just left behind, but who were fighting battles of their own.

Marija Rudzites, my Grandmother, was imprisoned in a Nazi labour camp at the age of 17 near Riga, Latvia. When she spoke about her time there, which wasn’t often, she remembered pushing what little food she had through a barbed wire fence into the hands of the starving children in the concentration camp on the other side.

Upon her release, when Latvia was “liberated” from Nazi rule by the Soviets, she was given a choice: stay or leave. She, alone, chose to leave. She walked across war ridden Eastern Europe, leaving her entire family behind. She spent her days trekking across the continent for months on end; she spent her nights sleeping in fields and barns in the dead of winter, avoiding air raids that lit up the night sky like fireworks. I don’t know much about what else she faced on this journey, as she didn’t speak about it much, but I’m sure the horrors that I can picture don’t even begin to come close.

When she finally arrived at her destination, England, she was alone in a country where the language was not one of the three others that she spoke. After securing a job working in a hospital kitchen, she began to study. Before long, she hadn’t just mastered this new language; she had also been appointed one of the top nurses in the hospital. She returned to Latvia once, just before I was born. I am told that as soon as she got off of the plane, she knelt on the floor and kissed the ground – so grateful to have finally come home.

Photo by Emily Cooper

It’s not often that we hear the stories of the women that lived through these wars. We often forget to consider our grandmothers just as deserving of hero status as our grandfathers. People find it unusual that the events that take place in Three Winters are being told by women, when all the experiences were had by men. But the women were there too. Women lived and died too. Besides, at the end of the day when all the men were gone, who was left behind to tell their stories?

A time for Remembrance: Three Winters captures the defiance of the human spirit

A time for Remembrance: Three Winters captures the defiance of the human spirit

Louise Chapman, Cultch Development Associate

This November The Cultch is presenting the Ceasefire Series: an exploration of war to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice of WWI. The series features three unique shows that explore the causes, effects, and traumas of war from different lenses; one taking place during WWI (SmallWaR), one taking place during WWII (Three Winters), and one taking place in contemporary times (The Believers Are But Brothers). We hope you will come and enjoy all three!

Our Development Associate, Louise Chapman, had the opportunity to hear the early read through of Three Winters. She responded by writing this post.

After seeing any of the shows in this series, if you would like to share your reflections, memories, or stories, please email us at outreach@thecultch.com


 

Playwright, Amiel Gladstone revisits the site of his Grandfather’s internment

Part of the Ceasefire Series, Three Winters is a based on the true-life experiences of Playwright and Director Amiel Gladstone’s Grandfather in Stalag Luft III, a World War Two Prisoner of War (POW) Camp. Stalag Luft has become one of the most infamous POW camps of the war, mostly due to the escapes engineered by the Canadian, US and British soldiers held there.

Three Winters is set against the backdrop of the famous escape, but the real focus is the plays that the soldiers perform in the camp. Men in Stalag Luft were sent plays by the Red Cross which they staged in the camp, providing a creative space to escape to during the long months of incarceration.

The 1963 film with Steve McQueen immortalized the escape efforts of the prisoners in Stalag Luft III

 

I’m from the UK and growing up, every Christmas I would sit down with my Grandpa and watch the The Great Escape, an iconic 1960s movie based on the Stalag Luft story. We’d laugh at the jokes, whoop at Steve Mcqueen’s motorbike stunts, and hum the theme song for days afterwards.

My Grandpa was in his early twenties when World War Two started. He lost his best friend, watched his city turn to rubble in the Blitz, and experienced the brutality of the army. Like many people who have experienced war, he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and had nightmares into his nineties. Yet he found humour in the darkest of memories and would wistfully recall dances, dates with barmaids in towns he was stationed in, and one boozy night when he slept through a bomb blowing the roof off the house was staying in.

I’ve found this same humour in other people of my Grandpa’s generation. My friend Helma, now in her nineties, lost both her brother’s in the conflict. She still cries with laughter when telling stories of how, in occupied Holland, she would win local potato peeling competitions. Even friends who lived through the more recent Gulf War in Kuwait will share hilarious anecdotes of people escaping whilst hidden in boxes of underwear drenched in pungent fish sauce.

The characters in Three Winters, performed by an all-female cast, have the golden glow of youth that tinged my own Grandpa’s memories. They banter, they joke, they dream of the future and their sweethearts back home. In a world where millions are suffering and dying and their own fates are so uncertain, they explore morality and humanity in the form of theatre. Three Winters captures this defiance – to laugh and dream and live in the face of hopelessness.


Three Winters runs Nov 7-17 at the Historic Theatre. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363. See all three Ceasefire Series shows for as low as $65 with The Cultch’s Choose 3 Subscription package.

Javaad Alipoor: The Believers Are But Brothers looks at the shape of contemporary violence

Javaad Alipoor: The Believers Are But Brothers looks at the shape of contemporary violence

The Believers Are But Brothers (part of our Ceasefire Series) is in full swing in our Vancity Culture Lab (runs until Nov 10), and it has been getting amazing reviews!

“The textural variety of the show is rich…There’s more to take in than a single viewing affords; that’s an enormous achievement.”— Kathleen Oliver, The Georgia Straight

“The Believers Are But Brothers is about the internet and it’s like the internet: it’s bursting with information and I’m not sure how to make sense of it, but I find it really f**king stimulating.”— Colin Thomas

“It’s an impressive and important show.”—Lincoln Kaye, Vancouver Observer

We had a chat with the writer/director/performer, Javaad Alipoor about creating the show that The Georgia Straight said “clicks all the links”:

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a mixed race writer, director, poet, and political/social activist from a city in northern England called Bradford. I tend to make work that tries to encode the questions it asks about the world in the form of the play; whether my own writing like this play or my versions of classic plays. I also do a lot of community and participatory art works, and try to keep my hand in some other stuff too; I helped to set up a campaigning group that defends migrants in the UK, and write about politics and social theory occasionally.

What inspired the creation of The Believers Are But Brothers?

Really, I wanted to decanter the Islamophobic and racist narratives around the war on terror. So if you look at a lot of the ways that so-called “Muslim radicalisation” is talked about its as if we are told there is a problem with Muslim young men. To be slightly tongue in cheek, there’s just a problem with men; and that’s what this play explores.

We are so excited to have you here as part of our Ceasefire Series: An exploration of war to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice of WWI. With this series we set out to start conversations around the cause and effects of war; in what way does this show add to that conversation?

I think there are some ideas in the play that will help people to think about (and ask questions about) the shape of contemporary violence, and in particular how it exists as a sort of fantasy that helps to order a masculinity that finds itself in crisis. From Brexit to Trump, Modi to Bolsonaro, a revanchist and vicious right wing masculinity is ripping through the world. We need to think about what it is, if we are ever going to stop it.

The Believers Are But Brothers is also a co-production with Diwali in BC, and part of this year’s Diwali celebration. We understand that Diwali celebrates “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance”; how do you think that your show brings light and knowledge to issues we are often ignorant of?

I think a lot of the show is about things that people sort of know exist, or have heard of, but that exist just at the corner of vision. The bits of the internet just below the surface, or the young man in the room in the corner of your eye. Hopefully, we turn the light from the centre onto the fringe for a moment or two.

The Believers are but Brothers
Credit: The Other Richard

The Believers Are But Brothers utilizes the app Whatsapp—it is a rare show that people are encouraged to keep their phones on for! How does having people actively engaging via the app change the relationship between you, as the performer, and the audience?

A lot of my work, especially the stuff I write myself, tends to be work that responds to the physical reality of performers and audience being a room together, so in one sense its not all that different. I suppose what this extra level of interactivity brings out is a sense of liveness (weirdly, given that the audience engage through a screen!) that helps me to tell a little bit of the story about the way that we can often be over faces or consumed by the velocity of digital media.

Have you been to Vancouver before? What are you most excited to see or do while you are in town?

I haven’t been here before. I’m really looking forward to seeing some theatre and film here, as well as seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time. I’ve heard pretty great things about BC wine and seafood too.

The Believers Are But Brothers runs in the Vancity Culture Lab until Nov 10. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363. See all three Ceasefire Series shows for as low as $65 with The Cultch’s Choose 3 Subscription package.