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.

Our 17/18 season takes its final bow – thank you for making it so much fun!

Our 17/18 season takes its final bow – thank you for making it so much fun!

With the closing of Bears we have officially finished our 17/18 season — and what a season! Thank you for taking the journey with us, and making our 17/18 season our most successful one to date.

The cast of Bears gets a well deserved standing ovation! Photo by Roaming the Planet.

With 21 theatrical shows across our three different stages, three great Soft Cedar shows (and more to come!), partnerships with some of the most amazing companies in Vancouver and around the world, and a million amazing memories, it has been a busy year, and we can’t help but get a little nostalgic. Take a peek at a few of the great curtain calls from the season — we bet you can’t help but get a little nostalgic too!

And now it is your turn — take a bow — we couldn’t do any of this without you! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!


 Don’t forget to buy your subscription for our 18/19 season soon. Shows are already filling up!

Thank you for choosing to make The Cultch, and the arts, a part of your life!

Behind-the-scenes of Jabberwocky and No Foreigners!

Behind-the-scenes of Jabberwocky and No Foreigners!

It is an exciting week here at The Cultch – we have TWO shows opening! At the York Theatre, Jabberwocky runs Feb 6-17 (Opening Feb 7), and at the Vancity Culture Lab, we have No Foreigners playing Feb 7-17 (Opening Feb 8).

In this exciting blog post we reveal a few behind-the-scenes images for both of these amazing shows – A sneak peek just for you!

Jabberwocky:

Inspired by Lewis Carrol’s famous nonsense poem, Jabberwocky explores the things that keep us awake at night. What will it take to slay our own Jabberwock? Take a look at some of the behind-the-scene images from The Old Trout Puppet Workshop:

For an exciting behind-the-scenes look at Jabberwocky, check out this great video from Vancouver Presents!

No Foreigners:

An interdisciplinary collaboration (co-presented with Theatre Conspiracy) from Hong Kong Exile and fu-GEN Theatre (Toronto), two leading Asian-Canadian performing arts companies, No Foreigners takes a unique look at Chinese malls, through live performance, micro-to macro video, text, miniatures, and media design in this exciting world premiere. Check out these images from their time creating at Carleton University:

Jabberwocky runs at the York Theatre Feb 6-17. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

No Foreigners runs at the Vancity Culture Lab Feb 7-17. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

 

Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan brings attention to sex trafficking

Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan brings attention to sex trafficking

This year The Cultch is partnering with Diwali in BC, a new organization spearheaded by Rohit Chokhani, to launch the organization’s inaugural year. Diwali in BC has chosen the artistic theme of Shakti, feminine power. On October 17 we hosted the launch of this new initiative with a reception and the opening of Encounter (Oct 17-22).

The celebration of the power of the feminine continues with this Friday’s (Oct 20) opening of Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan.

Created and performed by Dipti Mehta, Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan is the story of a mother and daughter living in the red light district of Mumbai. Dipti Mehta has been using this production to shine a light on sex trafficking, and a portion of her profits is donated to an organization called Apne Aap, a company dedicated to helping at-risk and prostituted women and children.


According to Equality Now, trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. This, despite the fact international law and the laws of 158 countries criminalize most forms of trafficking.

Sex trafficking is a lucrative industry making an estimated $99 billion a year.

  • At least 20.9 million adults and children are bought and soldworldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labor and bonded labor.
  • About 2 million children are exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade.
  • 54% of trafficking victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
  • Women and girls make up 96% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

We, at The Cultch are thrilled to be have local company Atira Women’s Resource Society as the community partner for this important show.

“Atira Women’s Resource Society is a not-for-profit organization committed to the work of ending violence against women through providing direct service, as well as working to increase awareness of and education around the scope and impact on our communities of men’s violence against women and children.”


Here are a few of the many organizations in the city who are resources for our city’s women:

WAVAW

Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre

Elizabeth Fry Society

Pivot Legal

PACE Society

WISH

SWAN Vancouver

HONOUR: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan runs at the Vancity Culture Lab Oct 20- Nov 4. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

We are so excited to announce our 2017/2018 Season!

We are so excited to announce our 2017/2018 Season!

We had a blast at our season launch announcement party – thank you to everyone who joined us!

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We are so excited to announce our 2017/2018 season! Check out this fun video announcing the 22 amazing new shows coming to The Cultch in 2017 and 2018!

Subscriptions go on sale today! Browse our Spectacular 17/18 Season Overview. Save 20% with our Choose 5 subscription package or 25% with our Choose 8 subscription package! This season, the more you see, the more save. You’ll enjoy an exciting roster of artists and programs, from the best seats in the house. Order today: TICKETS.THECULTCH.COM

Single tickets go on sale August 8. Call The Cultch’s Box Office at 604-251-1363 or go online at tickets.thecultch.com.

Reviews are in for The Fighting Season…and they are Great!

Reviews are in for The Fighting Season…and they are Great!

Photo by Javier R. Sotres

Last Wednesday we opened The Fighting Season, our first show of 2017, and the winner of the 2015 Cultchivating the Fringe Award. What a way to start!  We are SO happy with the response it has been getting.

The Fighting Season is a deeply poignant play that delves into the heart of the Afghan war through the perspective of three Canadian medical personnel. The play examines the experiences of an OR surgeon, a medic, and a nurse as they deal with their experiences in Afghanistan. The Fighting Season addresses three of the many ways people deal with PTSD, and is partially based on the experiences of local playwright Sean Harris Oliver’s father who was an OR surgeon  in Afghanistan.

The reviews are unanimous, The Fighting Season is not to miss!

“Theatrical make-believe has rarely felt more VISCERAL.” – Jerry Wasserman, The Vancouver Sun

“The performances under the direction of Evan Frayne are uniformly TERRIFIC.”- Mark Robins, Vancouver Presents

“The play feels excruciatingly real and scrupulously HONEST…it’s a powerful piece of theatre made even more potent by three SUPERB performances.” – Jo Ledingham, joledingham.ca

“Visceral and MOVING, The Fighting Season shines as a FASCINATING study of war medics.” – Lauren Chancellor, TheReviewweekly

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The Fighting Season is selling fast! Don’t miss it, get your tickets.

The Fighting Season runs until Jan 21, 2016 in the Vancity Culture Lab. Tickets are $35. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363

An Interview with Jenn Sungshine of Our City of Colour

Jenn Sungshine

Jenn Sungshine photo by Rebecca Blisset

March is shaping up to be a colourful month here at The Cultch. We are presenting two critically acclaimed plays, The Gay Heritage Project and Ga Ting, which both deal with issues related to the QTIPOC (Queer,Transgender, Indigenous, People of Colour) community. We had a discourse with Jenn Sungshine who works for our Ga Ting Community Partner, Our City of Colour, about her involvement in various organizations and the QTIPOC community in general.

About Jenn: Jenn Sungshine  facilitates with creativity and social justice media to evolutionize and revolutionize QTIPOC visibility and community-based work through Our City of Colours ( Community Partner for Ga Ting), Love Intersections, Out in Schools and the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia.

 

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1. What are your thoughts on the importance of organizations helping out the artistic community though presentations such as Ga Ting and other GLBTQ plays like The Gay Heritage Project?
Community partnership between organizations in the artistic community helps to facilitate a sense of connectedness through shared experiences. We all want to see ourselves reflected in the stories that are being told, outside of our own little silos. There is a sense of proud recognition and relatability when we can see ourselves represented in nuanced and three dimensional roles as they relate to race, gender, sexuality, culture and all of the intersecting experiences. I find this especially important through art because the ground upon which we walk and play and live our lives has the potential to be bigger and far more interconnected in an isolating city like Vancouver.

2. You mention the acronym QTIPOC. Would you mind explaining exactly what this means?
QTIPOC stands for queer, trans, indigenous people/person of colour – it’s a mouthful isn’t it? And why not? We are complex beings. We are cutie-pocs.

3. What is your involvement with The Pink Line and can you expand more on this initiative?
I’m the facilitator for The Pink Line, which is a new community-engaged theatre initiative created to foreground the stories of members in the LGBTQI+ communities, told in their own words. Our focus this year will be racism within the queer community. Participants will be drawn from the many racial and ethnic groups that make up Vancouver’s LGBTQI+ community. Chris Gatchalian, artistic producer at The Frank Theatre graciously asked if I would be interested in facilitating conversations around race and racism. It runs deep, like the microaggressions that we experience on a daily level.

4. You are a busy individual involved with many organizations that deal with important social issues. Do you think that Vancouver is more welcoming of people with alternative lifestyles than other cities around the world?
I don’t like to compare cities. It’s a dangerous road to go down on so I will only speak to my own experiences here. I think Vancouver is actually a relatively conservative city in terms of the actual minutiae of social interactions that people engage in and how they are subtly encouraged to express themselves creatively. Perhaps due to the scarcity of communal spaces and housing, Vancouver can sometimes seem quite stifling and full of unacknowledged competition.
That being said, Vancouver prides itself on embracing “diversity”. To me, the concept of “alternative lifestyle” is a relative one depending on sub/cultural connections as well as personal predilection and interests — from music to dance culture to food to activism — it’s very sceney here. Of course, like any city Vancouver has its own narrative. One that I find resonates with certain lifestyles and practices while not with others. I have my ups and downs with this city for sure but I have to remind myself everyday of how lucky I truly am to live here.
Lastly, I do think that we glorify busy-ness and quite frankly I am busy because I need to survive, not because I really want to be. Can I retire with cats yet?

5. How do you feel the Out in Schools program is succeeding in its mission? What more do you feel that our national, provincial, and local government can do more to promote the program? What can the community do?
Brandon Yan, my brilliant successor at Out in Schools can speak far more profoundly in all the ways that Out in Schools is succeeding in its mission! Personally I would love to see a SOGI policy at all levels of governance. While I do think tremendous strides have been made in classrooms here and certainly Out in Schools has played a hand in that, the work is far from over!

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The Cultch presents The Gay Heritage Project March 2 – 19 and Ga Ting March 8 – 19. To purchase tickets click here. Get your tickets before it is too late!

Ga Ting weaves a powerful and emotionally-charged story about an immigrant Chinese couple trying to come to terms with the death of their son, Kevin. When they invite Kevin’s Caucasian boyfriend for dinner after the funeral, the evening devolves into a fiery cultural and generational clash.

“Ga Ting isn’t just about being gay, but about parents getting to know your children and children sharing themselves with their parents…Go see it. Take your parents” — GayVancouver

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

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

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

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

Can you tell us a little bit about the play?

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

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

What drew you to this script?

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

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

What is something that surprised you about the IGNITE experience?

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

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Photos by Maurice Tsai

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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