‘Hello My Name Is…’ is a new profile series on The Cultch blog. Each post will feature a staff member, volunteer, subscriber, or community mover and shaker. Stay tuned for upcoming photos and interviews and drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a burning question for one of our staff members or volunteers!
With Vancouver Pride approaching, it seems the appropriate time to take a look back at The Cultch’s colourful 12/13 season.
Many proud representatives of the LGBTQ community took to the stage last year, sharing a myriad of voices and stories. The list includes Miriam Margolyes, sole performer (of 23 characters!) in Dickens’ Women, Evalyn Parry singing tales of bicycle led revolution in SPIN, and of course Cameron Mackenzie and Dave Deveau (or, as you may know them: Isolde N. Barren and ‘The Baddest Bitch Peach’ Cobblah) took us on a wild ride through Vancouver’s Drag Herstory in Tucked and Plucked.
In addition, one of the best attended gallery events of the year was the opening gala of photo-based artist SD Holman’s show Butch: Not Like the Other Girls. Holman’s images, each a stunning portrait of a different self-identified butch model, decorated The Cultch’s lobby this April.
Not unique to this year’s IGNITE! Youth Festival was Fruit Basket, a cabaret of performances created by youth around the themes of sex, gender identity, sexuality, and sexual orientation. This year’s show was comprised of The Magic Spells, Saul Chabot, Dörothy Griffith, Ruby Slickeur, Sahara Hildebrandt and Leroy and The Lovebots. Included in the process was a workshop with Evalyn Parry, as well as the Gender Blender, a youth-led forum on sex and identity…facilitated by all the smoothies you can drink, of course (oh, and a professional facilitator from Out in Schools )!
We had the chance to talk with seasoned Youth Panel-er Brendan Agnew, to ask him a few questions about his experience on the panel, and his views on queer theatre for youth in Vancouver.
Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got involved in the IGNITE! program and Fruit Basket specifically.
I am going into my grade 12 year at Templeton Secondary and have been very involved in their Theatre program. I also play piano, but really fell in love a few years ago with the backstage side of things, particularly stage management. I hope to do a BFA in theatre.
When I was in grade 9, some of my friends in higher grades were on the Youth Panel, and told me a bit about it and encouraged me to come to the festival. So I dragged some other friends to go see it. It was a good festival, but I left thinking “it would be so much better if I helped organize it.” It also seemed like a fantastic concept, kids organizing their own arts festival. So in Grade 10, I joined the youth panel, and one committee, the one organizing The Olivia Project, which is a multi-disciplinary devised performance created by young artists. We group together youth who do different types of art (say filmmaking, dancing, visual art, etc) and give them three weeks to create an original ten minute piece combining their arts.
In grade 11, I did Youth Panel again, but also added the Fruit Basket committee to my schedule. I’d already attended two Fruit Baskets, and knew it was a great supportive environment for queer and allied youth. I identify as a gay male, so I also felt close to the subject matter that way. What I found cool about Fruit Basket is that it is a queer show geared directly towards youth. There are many queer/sex related shows in Vancouver, but very few, if any of them, are youth focused. A lot of them require you to be over a certain age.
What kinds of shows or programs would you like to see more of in Vancouver to fill this void?
I think it’s important to recognize that queer doesn’t just mean drag, sex doesn’t just mean stripping or burlesque. These are huge topics that can be explored in all kinds of ways, and it can easily be done in a way that’s accessible to youth.
So specifically, the kinds of shows I’d like to see would be featuring young people of non-straight sexual orientation in cute romances, coming out stories or other plots. It would also be fun to see adaptations of traditional plays (Shakespeare, for instance) to a queer setting.
I saw a fantastic play called The Silicone Diaries by Nina Arsenault (performed at The Cultch in February 2011). It was an autobiographical work telling the story of her transition from man to woman. It was phenomenal, and even though it wasn’t targeted at youth, didn’t feel “adult exclusive.” More programming like that (accessible to all ages) would be great-things kids can drag their parents to, which can then spark discussion. That’s what I think good art does, after all: it makes you think about things a little deeper/differently, and that thinking transforms into conversation.
It would also be nice to see more young artists use their art as a means of expressing their sexuality. A lot of Fruit Basket performers (we love them dearly) are either queer artists doing thoroughly mainstream art, or people doing sexual dancing/stripping/burlesque/drag performance. While that’s all great, I think there’s a need for content that delves a bit deeper into what it means to be queer.
I heard that part of your involvement in Fruit Basket meant you had the opportunity to take a workshop led by Evalyn Parry. What was that like?
One of the unique things about the IGNITE! Youth Festival is the workshops. We have two types: “external” workshops, which are open to the public, and geared towards youth; and “internal” workshops, which are exclusively for youth panel members. Evalyn Parry was one of our internal workshops, and was centered around writing. The first part was a Q&A discussion about her, her artistic process, and her show SPIN, which most of Youth Panel had been invited to see. The last part was an extremely compressed version of the writing workshop she does. The primary focus was on MC acts, which are for the most part written by the youth panel, although a lot of the discussion and writing exercises applied to all sorts of other things. Evalyn Parry is a very neat person, and learning from her was an amazing experience.
Queer artists from many backgrounds helped make last season at The Cultch a resounding success. If you are looking for another opportunity to celebrate before next season begins, or you are looking for an event to kick-start your Pride Week, join us in the Vancity Culture Lab for the Genderfest Launch Party on Thursday, July 25 at 8 pm. Head to http://www.genderfest.ca to find information about the event, and how you can participate in the event’s photo collaboration.
‘Hello My Name Is…’ is a new profile series on The Cultch blog. Each month we’ll feature a staff member, volunteer, subscriber, or community mover and shaker. Stay tuned for upcoming photos and interviews and drop us a line at email@example.com if you have a burning question for one of our staff members or volunteers!
Last year, 114 volunteers contributed over 4492 hours to The Cultch in both our theatres and admin office! Many of these amazing people have been with the theatre for years, including Nena Pierre who’s been volunteering at The Cultch for the past four years.
Q: Well hello there. Who are you and what do you do at The Cultch?
Hi, I’m Nena and I volunteer here as an usher and at the reception desk!
Q: What inspires you?
Anyone doing their thing with sincerity and passion.
Q: Why do you volunteer at The Cultch?
It’s part of my neighborhood, and community. I love the closeness and immediacy of live theatre – what the performers and audience bring to any show. Volunteering here gives me a chance to witness this all the time. I’ve seen so many great shows here and I have loved feeling even just a small part of it all.
Q: Favourite show you’ve ever seen at The Cultch?
A: So hard to pick just one… I love puppetry and feel really excited when Old Trout Puppet Workshop or Ronnie Burkett are bringing a show to The Cultch. This year I saw Loon at the Fringe, then Grim and Fischer at The Cultch by WONDERHEADS Theatre and now I’m a big fan of them too.
Q: Favourite place to eat on the Drive?
A: Once again sooo hard to say just one place – coffee is my sustenance! I get all my beans from Continental and like to stop in at Turks now and again. Turks stovetop is heavenly….
Q: What’s a typical day like volunteering at the front desk?
A: Do I dare say quiet and calm and sometimes fun…? Jenn G ( Head FOH Manager) and Ricky ( Marketing Coordinator) will make sure I keep busy!
Q: What’s a typical night like ushering at The Cultch?
A: Depending on how many shows are going on that night it can be anywhere from fun to slightly mad! The other volunteers are great to get to know and work with. Then there’s always a bit of excitement getting everyone settled into the show.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about the theatre scene in Vancouver?
A: There are so many great theatre festivals all year long and the Vancouver theatre scene is anything but dull. There is always something to suit anyone’s tastes or sense of curiosity and adventure!
Looking to gain valuable work experience in a Historic Theatre? We’re always looking for a friendly and organized arts-loving person to manage our front desk! Click here for position details and how to apply.
The Cultch’s 12/13 Season closed on June 2 with a sold-out run of Mump & Smoot in Something, bringing to an end another spectacular season of theatre, dance, and music.
At this time, we would like to extend a huge thank you to our donors, sponsors, and continued subscribers. Your support allows The Cultch to consistently deliver the best the contemporary arts have to offer!
To celebrate the end of our 39th season, we decided to ask a few Cultch staff members to share some of their favourite shows from the past season! Here’s part 1 of our 2 part feature.
By far the most memorable show for me this season at The Cultch was Blind Date. An improvised blind date with Mimi the sexy French clown and a different unsuspecting audience member each night! Rebecca’s courage, comedic talent, and quick wit were really put to the test and she pulled it off every time. As the venue technician for the run of this show, I had the special privilege to see it every night for three weeks. I’ve seen more shows than I can count in my career, and this one truly kept me fully engaged, literally on the edge of my seat, at every moment. Everyone has eavesdropped on the couple having their first date at the table next to you at a restaurant, but I had the voyeuristic pleasure to see the whole date unfold 18 times. Many times, Mimi said that her goal was to help the guy be “the romantic hero”, and she always did, even though it sometimes seemed impossible. The dates were awkward, outgoing, reluctant, charming, shy, funny, quiet, drunk (!), open, nervous, older, younger (his real first kiss on stage at The Cultch!); such a variety of wonderful, real, characters. It would have been so easy to just make fun of these men, but instead Rebecca (and co-stars Bruce and Jamie and sound improviser Sean) coaxed nervous volunteers into endearing dates, and brought us along for the ride. I would love to see this show another 18 times!
LEO – It was succinct, entertaining, moving and embraced the digital change (or at least experimentation) in theatre. It incorporated multi media, physicality and music to bring the audience into a different reality. I found it pretty emotional as well, which I’m not sure was the intention, but it spoke to me on the themes of new beginnings, fear, and the excitement of the unknown.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit – This show had a really weird premise which I thought was going to be self indulgent and boring, but I was totally surprised. I felt incredibly engaged and curious throughout the performance. I still don’t know if I “got it” in the sense of the intellectual ramifications it poses about society and isolation. But I was left with a feeling of empowerment that all barriers to assuage the turmoil of the human experience can be traversed through art.
The 2013/14 season begins this September with Rumble Theatre’s production of Penelope. Don’t forget to subscribe to our 2013/14 season and stay tuned for part 2 of The Cultch staff’s 12/13 season highlights!
Dear friend of The Cultch,
We need your support!
This December, The Cultch will open the newly renovated York Theatre. The theatre will be an invaluable community resource that will revitalize the north corridor of Commercial Drive between Venables and Hasting Streets and bring live performance to the Commerical Drive neighbourhood.
Following in the tradition of the naming of other heritage buildings such as the “Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage,” The Cultch would like to name the stage of the York Theatre and put signage on the exterior of the building that includes the name of its sponsor. The significant funds raised from this naming are essential in ensuring The York and The Cultch are financially healthy, stable, and sustainable both now and in the future.
About the signage:
- Low-tech and unobtrusive
- Will progressively dim as it gets darker; by evening the sign will only be at 30% of its brightness
- No flash; the projecting sign will scroll and will be text
- Controlled and monitored by The Cultch
- On the fascia sign, the lighting will come from below the sign and point upward
- Both signs will be turned off at 11 pm each day
We’re inviting Cultch supporters, neighbours, and artists to join us in showing your support for The Cultch, the York Theatre, and the sustainability of arts in this community!
COMMUNITY OPEN HOUSE
When: Wednesday, June 19 from 5 pm – 8 pm
Where: The Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab (1895 Venables Street)
What: An open house held by the City of Vancouver to review our signage proposal and receive community feedback.There will be pictures of the proposed signs and Cultch representatives and City staff available to answer your questions. There will also be an opportunity to fill out a survey. Please feel free to stop by any time during the course of the open house.
Please do not hesitate to contact me at 604.251.1766 or firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have any questions or would like to chat further.
Thank you so much for your ongoing support of The Cultch and the new York Theatre!
Mump & Smoot live on the planet Ummo, worship the god Ummo and speak Ummonium – their own brand of gibberish. But as cute and cuddly as Mump & Smoot may sound, you’ll want to think twice about hugging these ‘clowns of horror’. Hailed as the ‘Laurel and Hardy from hell’ (Vancouver Sun), the pair of clowns use comedy to address all types of fears, from embarrassment to death to a visit to the doctor’s office. Says Michael Kennard (Mump), “All the horror stuff came from John and I wanting to examine fear and the fear that exists in human nature and the world.” [In ‘Something’,] “we start with a relatively gentle fear—by going to a café—around the issues of etiquette and manners, making a fool of yourself in public and being looked down upon by those who have a different set of decorum,” John Turner (Smoot) says. “So we start kind of gently.” Which is great news for people who are curious about the show but perhaps a touch afraid of clowns!
If you are afflicted with coulrophobia (phobia of clowns) you’re not alone. Type ‘fear of clowns’ into Google search and you’ll find page after page dedicated to the subject. Before we look at the why, let’s delve a little in to the history of the clown.
The tradition of clowning goes back quite a ways; to ancient Greece even – one could argue that the pantomimes in Greek plays were the basis of the modern day clown. When we think ‘clown’ most of us think of the typical ‘whiteface’ clown – face and neck painted white, eyes, nose and mouth usually painted in black and red, ruffled collar, terrible jumpsuit situation and over-sized shoes. But there are many different types of clowns: jesters and fools often found in Shakespearean plays, the Tramp or Hobo (think Charlie Chaplin), and the character clown (think Rodeo Clown) to name a few.
Mump & Smoot fall into a sub-category of the ever-so-popular, sometimes funny, sometimes frightening and murderous, Whiteface Clown called the ‘Grotesque Whiteface’. Although the word ‘grotesque’ sounds frightful (and is somewhat fitting for a show like Mump & Smoot in Something), the term actually means odd or unnatural in shape, as are the features of this type of clown. The mouth and eyebrows are exaggerated not only with various colors but also shapes and a bulbous red nose is the cherry on top if you will.
So what’s up with coulrophobia? One theory put forth is something called the ‘uncanny valley effect’. This is when, say, a robot or actual person behaves almost human, but not quite, causing people to become extremely uncomfortable or even repulsed. Think of a clown acting sad or in pain but has a huge smile painted on his face. Frightening, no? It also doesn’t help that film and TV has vilified the poor clown like in Stephen King’s ‘It’ featuring the nightmare-inducing Pennywise. But there are also the awesomely hilarious clowns like Homey the Clown from ‘In Living Color’, Krusty the Clown from ‘The Simpsons,’ and our homegrown Canadian duo, Mump + Smoot.
Mump & Smoot runs at The Cultch until June 2. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.
This week we’d like to spotlight one of the mentees from The Cultch’s
IGNITE! Mentorship Program — Nina Sky Robertson. Robertson was selected for a mentorship in Stage Design and has been learning the ropes from accomplished artist/designer, Alice Mansell. This brand new mentorship program in costume and set design is intended for aspiring young stage designers wishing to pursue a career in the arts. In the inaugural year of this program the assignment was to transform The Cultch lobby into a veritable Victorian gothic funeral parlor, for the world premiere of Tara Cheyenne Friendenberg’s Highgate (exciting, no?)
With the show opening this week, we managed to do a little Q&A with Robertson and her experience in working on the set of Highgate.
A: Can you tell us a bit about your design background?
N: I am a life long ‘odd’ schooler. I have attended an assortment of public programs and schools ranging from a democratic free-school to an academically driven philosophy and english program. The most relevant educational experience to this mentorship has been a series of apprenticeships with world renowned artists from Vancouver, Toronto, and Mexico. I truly believe in life-long learning.
A: Why The Cultch Mentorship Program?
N: I came to the mentorship through a conversation with Robert (Youth Program Manager). I had mentioned wanting to expand my textile arts practice into theatre design and two days later an incredibly lovely email arrived from him mentioning the program and asking me to apply.
A: Tell us a little bit about what the mentorship has entailed.
N: It has entailed – at least for Highgate and with Alice – a considerable amount of draping (predominantly Gothic, Victorian objects) some pattern drafting, not to mention the chance to create a relationship with Alice and gain insight into her process and history.
A: What are your plans for the future?
N: I intend to continue to expand my textile arts practice, hopefully moving further into the theatre community in the next few years and continue with a broad smattering of other arts, travel and academic projects.
If you want to see Robertson and Mansell’s creation firsthand, you’ll have to swing by The Cultch and get your tickets to Highgate which runs May 1 – 4 and invites you for ‘a morbid romp through Victorian funerary culture. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t love a good morbid romp?
The bicycle serves not only as inspiration but also as instrument in our new show SPIN running until
April 20. Through a series of songs played live on a vintage bicycle, SPIN recounts a theatrical cycle of stories about women, cycling, and liberation.
In honour of Evalyn Parry’s SPIN, we feature one of our very own, Isa Szeto from The Cultch’s marketing team! We were delighted to catch up with Isa – an avid bike enthusiast – to discuss her love for biking and to find out a little bit more about the Cultch’s talented designer.
Do you bike to work every day? Rain or shine?
Yes, I bike every day, 27 kilometres roundtrip to and from work every day. The Cultch has showers and lockers for which I’m very thankful for. I ride in the rain or shine or snow (-8°c is my record). I guess you might wonder why I would bike in such terrible conditions. Personally, there is something appealing about prevailing against the odds and arriving at the end destination with your blood pumping in your veins. Getting to work by bus or by car is just not the same.
How did you get into biking?
I grew up in the suburbs and while in high school, I did a lot of standing around, waiting for the bus. It dawned on me one day that the actual distance travelled was very short. So I saved up and bought myself a yellow Norco 10 speed and just started self-propelling myself to high school in Grade 11. I was hooked: the feeling of exhilaration and self-sufficiency has never left me. I ended up trying a few cycling clubs in Vancouver to learn how to ride in a pack and now ride with Glotman Simpson. I even rode when I was eight months pregnant. My husband Michael was quite wigged out by that!
How does biking make you feel?
Biking makes me feel strong and alive! It is a part of my life. This month, Michael and I will cycle up Mount Haleakalā Maui, a 10,000 foot ascent which is one of the few paved 10,000 foot ascents that you can safely cycle up in the world. Again, there is something about prevailing against the odds that’s very appealing to me. Biking has opened up so many worlds for me, geographically, socially, physically and mentally. I recently got the Strava app on my phone. Reading the tallies of the calculations of speed, distance, elevation gain, etc. after each ride (and my friends’ rides) is fascinating! Highly recommended for any person on two wheels.
SPIN runs at The Cultch until April 20. Tickets are available online at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at 1895 Venables St.
On Saturday, April 27, The Cultch will celebrate the tradition and culture of Barcelona with FESTA, a special fundraising gala. Set around El dia de la Rosa, or the day of the Rose, FESTA promises an evening of passion, food and revelry. A tribute to Sant Jordi (St. George to anglophones), protector of Catalania and of lovers, the festival is a staple of Spanish culture and is the inspiration behind this year’s event.
Hosted by the CBC’s Margaret Gallagher and actor Jay Brazeau, arriving guests can linger, mix and mingle and enjoy sangria and tapas right off the Historic Theatre! Here’s an exclusive preview of the festivities:
- FESTA will kick off the evening with a Cava Cabaret (CLab) where the Christina Barcelona Quartet will play until 8 pm.
- There will be roving entertainment throughout the Lobby Bar & Founders Lounge. Over 60 bottles of beautiful cava is on stock so there will be copious amounts of bubbles.
- At 8 pm guests will move to the Historic Stage for a fantastic dinner served “en familia” catered by Merchants and Cork & Fin. Long tables of 6 or 12 will fill the stage while guests quaff amazing red and white Spanish wines (or more cava).
- While guests eat and drink – they can sit back and enjoy “pop-up” entertainment from the balcony and special stage!
Live and silent Spanish-themed auction:
- Art by internationally known painters Jamie Evrard and Vicky Marshall,
- Private dinner for 10 (with cocktails and wine) at the legendary Penthouse Nightclub with hosts Aaron Chapman (author of Liquor, Lust & the Law), A burlesque show, lots of stories, an autographed copy of the book and a behind-the-scenes tour.
- Tickets and a meet and greet with Diana Krall
- Airfare and accommodation at a festival in Barcelona this July
- Private dinner for 10 with Espana executive chef Neil Taylor at Barbara-Jo’s Books for Cooks
Following the live auction and dessert, guests can sit back and relax with friends or head back to the Cava Cabaret for mingling, dancing or further revellry with music by one of Vancouver’s best dance bands – The Enablers.
Tickets are $200 ($150 tax receipt) or $150 ($110 tax receipt) and are available now through The Cultch Box Office by phone at 604.251.1363, in person at 1895 Venables Street or online at tickets.thecultch.com. Group tables and sponsorships are also available.
There’s only one week left until the highly anticipated premiere of the bilingual, documentary-style theatre show, Extraction. Tim Carlson, Theatre Conspiracy artistic producer and show creator, is deep into rehearsals but took time to chat with us about how his childhood impacted the show, The Cultch’s involvement in making the concept a reality, and the importance of gaining a different perspective.
OH: Can you talk me through the creation of Extraction?
TC: Growing up in Alberta, I was surrounded by relatives in the oil industry. My grandfather, father, cousins and uncles were constantly exchanging tales of their experiences out in the field since the 1940s. This influenced me greatly and from then on, I always wanted to make some sort of play that spoke to my family’s heritage in the industry. The actual conceptualization for the play started in 2009, when one of my best friends from high school (Jimmy Mitchell) moved back to Vancouver after almost three decades in China and Taiwan as a teacher, journalist and diplomat. As I listened to recollections of his time in Asia, it became apparent that there was an evolving story to tell and Jimmy’s insight became much of the starting point for Extraction. At around the same time, there was a growing interest from China in Canada’s oil sands. The two nations, which had little in common just over 30 years ago, now had a common thread in the form of oil trade. Much like the way crude oil is refined into products such as jet fuel and petroleum, we look at the way cultural nuances, history and language become intertwined and connected when people come together. There’s a symbolic and overarching theme of refinement throughout the performance.
OH: From concept to reality – what happened next?
TC: The Cultch’s support from early on was instrumental in our ability to receive grants from different organisations such as the BC Arts Council and Vancouver Foundation to conduct much-needed research for the play right from the start. Having The Cultch on your side means a lot – it’s well-respected and has a great reputation. With the funding we received, we were able to make a trip to Beijing in 2010 to do casting calls and conduct interviews with people such as professional interpreters and translators to form some of the content for Extraction. We were also able to make two trips to Fort McMurray to talk to a number of individuals, from new Chinese employees to union members to immigrant services.
OH: How did your background in journalism influence the style of this play?
TC: My background in journalism plays a big role in the research that I do for my productions and I wanted the play to be a documentary-style production right from the start. Having real people on stage engages the audience in a different way. To find the cast for the play, we used social media and internet sites such as Facebook and Craigslist, Vancouver-based immigrant services S.U.C.C.E.S.S and word of mouth, through personal connections.
OH: You mentioned that having real people on stage engages the audience in a different way – what else does it achieve?
With a lot of art, there’s a heavy-handed point of view, which has its place and importance. With Extraction, however, the goal is to present the audience with a different point of view, which is to get beneath the stuff we hear in the news. What we usually see in the media is government and industry promoting the industry or conservationists protesting it. Most of us are somewhat caught in the middle. By bringing an alternate angle of real stories from people’s personal experiences, I hope to foster and encourage thought and discussion.
Extraction runs at The Cultch Mar 5 – 9, 2013. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St. Part of the DocuAsia Forum co-presented by Cinevolution Media Arts Society and David Lam Centre of SFU. Free DocuAsia Forum discussion: March 6 & 7. For other DocuAsia Forum events, please check www.cinevolutionmedia.com.