A Q&A with Joyce Lam, founder of VACT!

A Q&A with Joyce Lam, founder of Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (VACT)

In Vancouver, we are thrilled to have access to such a great range of theatre. One of the companies we are so lucky to be able to partner with is Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (VACT). As we gear up for our 2018/19 season we are getting more and more excited about VACT’s The Ones We Leave Behind, Oct 24–Nov 3, at the Historic Theatre. We had a quick conversation with Joyce Lam, founder of VACT to chat about VACT, Asian Canadian Theatre, Crazy Rich Asians, and The Ones We Leave Behind! 

You founded VACT 18 years ago; can you explain what the impetus to start it was?

VACT was started 18 years ago because I loved attending theatre and it bothered me that there were no Asian Canadian stories or any Asian Canadian actors/characters on stage when Vancouver had a large population of Asian Canadians.  When a friend told me he had actually enjoyed an Asian American Fringe show at a BYOV, I thought it was a shame that more people didn’t get to see it and I decided to invite that show back to Vancouver.  We sold out the show and found a “starving” paying audience for contemporary Asian Canadian stories and actors.

What makes VACT unique in Vancouver, and in the world?

At first, VACT, was a stepping stone to assist Asian Canadian actors to gain more acting experience/skill in order to level the audition process in getting acting roles. Playing significant complicated characters would be instrumental in developing the actor’s talents. Also developing Asian Canadian stories was invaluable to showcase how an underrepresented group was seen in Canada without stereotypes from other mainstream shows. VACT was also unique in seeking out material that reflected specifically on the North American Asian experience—how we live here today and how our cultural heritage played a role in our collective identity as a North American.

Since leaving VACT you have moved on to many other exciting projects; do you feel that VACT has continued on with the mission and mandate that you initiated true to your initial goals?

VACT has continued with the mission and even surpassed its original goals by raising it to a professional theatre company that showcases Asian Canadian stories with Asian Canadian actors locally to expanding its audience nationally and hopefully internationally.

I understand that you recently organized a group of people to go see the new movie Crazy Rich Asians. The movie is making major headlines right now for being the first Hollywood movie in 25 years to have an all Asian cast. How did you like the movie?

I loved the movie, Crazy Rich Asians!  Before viewing it, I was secretly praying that it would have a good story, good acting & direction. After seeing the film, I realize my fears were needless. The acting was excellent, the story line was exceptional as the “ending” surprised me (and I don’t get surprised often).  The direction was the perfect combination of romance, comedy and timing.  What was surprising was that although I went to see it to support Asian American actors, it was a very good universally romantic comedy on its own merit that anyone (mainstream) could identify with. It was a significant rom-com because for the first time, I saw a romantic lead Asian male who was attracted to an Asian female and how each character brings their cultural backstory with them which I could identify with.

Do you think that theatre is ahead of film in representing underrepresented and marginalized groups? Behind?

I believe theatre is way ahead of film in representing underrepresented and marginalized group in a “real” sense because theatre is less expensive to produce and it develops a grass root foundation (locally) in acting and stories. Film is near impossible to penetrate without Asian representation in the decision makers.  For instance, Kim’s Convenience started as a Fringe Show, then Theatre Show and now a TV show.  These actors are now transitioning to film.  In theatre, it is more forgiving to show stories outside of the “mainstream” audience and to reach out and tell individual stories of marginalized groups and make the characters believable and not stereotypical.  With this realistic portrayal, audiences members will appreciate the story.  Hopefully through inclusive theatre, we learn and eventually bring societal tolerance.

The Ones We Leave Behind. Photo by Ray Shum. Photo Design by Terry Wong.

This fall, from Oct 24-Nov 3, we will be presenting, with VACT, Loretta Seto’s The Ones We Leave Behind. Are you looking forward to seeing it? What makes it exciting to you?

Yes, I am excited to see Loretta Seto’s The Ones We Leave Behind, as I am a fan of her other show Dirty Old Woman plus the fact that it is a female Asian Canadian playwright. I don’t usually research shows I see so that I don’t know what it is about.  I like to be surprised when I am watching the show.   I do love the title of the show, very intriguing.  With the fact that it represents three underrepresented components:  females, Asian Canadians actors, Asian Canadian stories in theatre …. I am highly anticipating its opening and wishing it box office success.


The Ones We Leave Behind runs Oct 24-Nov 3, 2018 at the Historic Theatre. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

SNEAK PEEK: BEHIND THE SCENES OF 1 HOUR PHOTO!

Sneak Peak: Behind the Scenes of 1 Hour Photo!

We are getting closer and closer to the start of our 17/18 season. 1 Hour Photo opens on October 4, in the Historic Theatre!

Written and performed by Tetsuro Shigematsu, 1 Hour Photo is the story of Mas Yamamoto, a man whose life was swept up by the major currents of the 20th century. From growing up in a fishing village on the banks of the Fraser River, to being confined at a Japanese Canadian internment camp during World War II, to helping build the Distant Early Warning Line in the Canadian Arctic during the height of the Cold War, 1 Hour Photo is a moving portrait saturated with the most vivid colours of our times.

If you are like us, you can hardly wait to get a taste of this new show by critically acclaimed VACT. And so here to the rescue, we have a few little glimpses into the behind the scenes world of 1 Hour Photo; just a little taste to wet your appetite!

Check out this great interview that Mark Robins of Vancouver Presents did with Tetsuro (and a few unsuspecting crew members) onsite at the rehearsal hall at PTC Test Kitchen.

And here are a few behind-the-scenes photos taken during the creation of 1 Hour Photo:

1 Hour Photo runs at the Historic Theatre Oct 3-15. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

TWO SOLD OUT OPENINGS! Thank you to our AMAZING Supporters and Partners!

TWO SOLD OUT OPENINGS! Thank you to our AMAZING Supporters and Partners! 

Yesterday (November 1) was one of the most exciting days of The Cultch’s 16/17 season! We were supremely lucky to have two amazing shows open on the same night –The Elephant Wrestler, co-presented with Diwali Fest, and Empire of the Son, Tetsuro Shigematsu’s smash hit presented by VACT.  Both of these shows are big hits: Empire of the Son has already SOLD OUT its run, and The Elephant Wrestler is very close behind.

We are so lucky to live in Vancouver and have access to great performing arts from a diverse and culturally rich background.  The Cultch is happy to co-present with Diwali Fest, and to have the chance to present shows from great local companies like VACT.  We want to take this opportunity to highlight them and the wonderful work they do.

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As many of you will know, Diwali is a South Asian festival known around the world as the festival of lights. Diwali brings people together to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.  Vancouver is lucky to have Diwali Fest, to bring us all the fun and joy of Diwali in an nearly month long festival. Their mission is, “To break cultural barriers and celebrate the spirit of Diwali by embracing diverse art forms to build a sense of community across the Greater Vancouver Lower Mainland.” This year’s festival started Oct 11 with the opening of Piya Behrupiya in the York Theatre, and will run until Nov 30.

Get out and enjoy as many of the Diwali Fest events as possible.

PHOTO: RAY SHUM | PHOTO DESIGN: TERRY WONG

Photo: Ray Shum/Photo Design: Terry Wong

We also encourage you to check out VACT as they highlight and promote Asian-Canadian stories like Empire of the Son. VACT was created in 2000 in order to produce and promote professional Asian-Canadian shows. They have has gained an amazing reputation in the arts community for presenting powerful and engaging stories from an Asian-Canadian perspective. The Cultch has been lucky enough to be a part of a couple of these productions. We are especially thrilled to have Empire of the Son back in The Vancity Culture Lab before it goes on tour in eastern Canada.

The Elephant Wrestler runs from Nov 1 – Nov 5, 2016 in the Historic Theatre.  Empire of the Son runs from Nov 1-13 in the Vancity Culture Lab. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363

 

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The Cultch receives $130,000 grant from Vancouver Foundation for “Democratizing our Stages” Project

The Cultch and Diwali Fest staff at Nirbhaya Community Engagement meeting1Left to Right, Rohit Chokani & Vineeta Minhas Co-Producers of Diwali Fest, Heather Redfern – Executive Director, Nicole McLuckie – Director of Patron Development, Kim Harvey – Youth Program Manager, Abdel Naroth – Marketing Intern, Ricky Choi – Marketing Coordinator

 

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve received a significant three-year $130,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation for our “Democratizing our Stages” Project! While The Cultch has a long history of diversity, community inclusion, and pushing the boundaries of art to benefit society, this grant will allow us to go even further, challenging the status quo by prioritizing community development and presentation with groups and communities that have not yet engaged with us.

“We are delighted and grateful for Vancouver Foundation’s support,” says executive director Heather Redfern. “I truly believe this is a game-changer. The confidence the Vancouver Foundation has shown in our ability to make significant change is heartening and meaningful not only to The Cultch but to the community partners we will work with on this project over the next three years.”

The project began in earnest this past November when we partnered with Diwali Fest, Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW), and Amnesty International to present and engage in community dialogue around Nirbhaya, the internationally acclaimed play inspired by the 2012 rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi and featuring the real life testimonials of sexual violence survivors. This was the first year in what will now be an ongoing partnership with Diwali Fest. Other Democratizing our Stages partners include Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (VACT), Dancers of Damelahamid, Neworld Theatre, Neworld Theatre, and Urban Ink, with plans to bring others on board over the course of the project and into the future.

“There is increasing diversity in professional arts practices in Canada, however there are still very few venues that present this work in a mainstage context throughout a season of programming,” says Redfern. “We are interested in talking to people who are not coming to The Cultch. We’ll be partnering with like-minded organizations from the community to diversify the audience that attends these productions, finding innovative ways to provide access to communities. Social exclusion is systemic and can only be reversed by conscious and proactive efforts. The democratization of our stages will happen when cross-cultural communication takes place between artists and communities over and over again, until we reach the point that it feels ordinary, as though it’s always been that way.”

Read more:
The Georgia Straight
Vancouver Presents