Q&A with Titus de Voogdt from The History of the World (Based on Banalities)

A Q&A with Titus de Voogdt from The History of the World (Based on Banalities)

We are so excited to have the Belgian company Kopergietery here with their hit show The History of the World (Based on Banalities). It plays at the York theatre until May 5.

In The History of the World (Based on Banalities), a youngster, Philip, decides to look after his mother in the last months of her life. Starting from run-of-the-mill situations and objects, he embarks on a quirky voyage through her past.

Titus De Voogdt, the performer in The History of the World (Based on Banalities), is a beloved Belgian actor who works for theatre, film and television. He has worked/s with renowned directors as Arne Sierens (theater writer and director) and Felix Van Groeningen (movie director). He also starred as Vincent Bourg in the BBC-series The Missing (2014).

Titus De Voogdt in The History of the World (Based on Banalities). Photo by Phile Desprez

We are so excited to have you here in Vancouver. What makes you most excited about bringing this show to Vancouver?

I have never been here before. Vancouver always had an attraction on me, and I am very happy to finally be here. Besides, I love hiking and fishing so I hope I will get some opportunities in my free time to do so.

You are one of the co-writers of the show — what was the inspiration?

I’ve always been interested in inventions, how things work and stuff is made throughout history. That has been a key inspiration for writing this show.

While I was working on the script, Peter Higgs won a Nobel price for his work on the Higgs-Boson particle. It caught my attention and I started reading up on it. In this way it became a mayor topic in the show…

Your character, Philip, is interested in illusions and fantasy — do you share these interests with him?

I do, although I’m lousy at it, I like to do a coin trick from time to time..

What makes doing this show fun for you?

That it’s quite physical, it feels like a workout to me.

What makes doing this show meaningful for you? 

I hope people who see the show learn a thing or two about science they didn’t knew before. With a bit of luck it even moves them in the process.

Geoffrey Burton and Titus de Voogdt. Photo by Phile Desprez

The History of the World (Based on Banalities) features a musician (Geoffrey Burton- from Hong Kong Dong) who joins you on stage for the show — what is it like doing a show with live rock music?

It’s great, although he claims he is NOT a rock musician. It’s really a dialogue…the music brings the script to a higher level.

You do a lot of film and television work as well as theatre work — what are you working on these days?

Just finished a 12-episode series about a hostage situation in a bank it is called ‘de dag’ meaning ‘the Day.’  In Belgian TV an movies I usually play the bad guy. Don’t ask me why….

The History of the World (Based on Banalities) runs at the York Theatre April 25-May 5, 2018. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

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

Love to perform? Seeking performers for this year’s IGNITE! Youth Festival!

“You can time travel through wonderland, but you can’t wonderland through time travel…”

 
Get ready because this year, IGNITE! Youth Festival is all about wonderland! For one whole week in May (May 2nd-10th) youth will take over The Cultch and transform it into what has become Vancouver’s largest youth driven festival!
To help bring the wonderland alive, The Cultch’s Youth Panel is looking for talented performers of all kinds ages 13-24 to audition. No wonderland is complete without the wild and wacky, beautiful and graceful, bizarre and a little ugly, the amazing, the heroic, the new, the old… well really anything at all!

So if you have an idea of a real slam-bang performance, come out to the auditions. You can meet The Cultch Youth Panel, show them a little of what you can do and have a real fun time. We asked Mati, Clare and Mark of The Cultch Youth Panel for their thoughts on the upcoming auditions:

What are you excited to see at auditions?

“All the new and original acts, hopefully something that I wouldn’t have thought of, and maybe some familiar acts from previous years!”-Mati

“Everything! Last year was my first time on Panel, and while I didn’t know what to expect from the auditions, I was totally blown away. And it looks like it’ll be even better this year!”- Clare

“I’m optimistically looking forward to seeing acts I would never thought I would like, but will immediately adore. Last year, we had an acrobatic act that completely blew me away. Before that I’d never had much interest in that kind of performance. I’m excited to see what I will get introduced to this year.”-Mark

Who do you hope shows up?

“Anyone and everyone, the more the better! Some cool bands would be wicked fun!”-Mati

“Ringo Starr and David Bowie. But they’re probably a little too old…
I’m looking forward to seeing all of the auditions, but especially the people who are doing something out-of-the-box. I want to see people with acts that I’ve never even imagined seeing!”-Clare

“I’d like to see some more electronic musicians audition simply because it’s always fascinating to see how they each work their live setup, which are incredibly varied. Also: interpretive dance.”-Mark

What would be the craziest coolest act you could imagine?

“I’d love to see a Mindless Self Indulgence cover band, that performs only in their underwear”-Mati

“Something with streamers and balloons and trapezes and magic. Like if Harry Potter was riding a unicycle. With balloons.”-Clare

“A domesticated penguin improv jazz ensemble.”-Mark

Anything else you want us to know about IGNITE this year?

“Come to auditions, come to our shows, stalk our website, stalk us!”-Mati

“Just that it’s going to be super rad! I’m getting really excited — last year’s festival was great, but this year’s is going to be EVEN BETTER.”-Clare

It’s going to be rowdy. Wear protective sunscreen and make sure you have an alibi.”-Mark

To sign up for your audition, email auditions@igniteyouthfest.ca by February 24. Auditions will be held March 8 and 9 at the Russian Hall. Can’t wait to see you there!

‘Connect the Plots’: Gardening the Stage

The Cultch, in conjunction with the Environmental Youth Alliance, IGNITE!, Strathcona Community Gardens, and Theatre on Earth is proud to present Connect the Plots, an exciting youth program that has blossomed thanks to the nurturing hand of Rob Leveroos. This summer, the youth environmentalists/artists underwent a truly comprehensive experience, as they not only worked on the art of performance and acting, but cultivated their own ecological theatre/performance space.

Young actors giving the garden some TLC with spunky paint

An actor sporting a spooky mask, made by a member of Theatre on Earth

The garden boasts impressive local superlatives. It contains BC’s largest public heritage apple espalier and it’s the first public building in Vancouver to be granted a permit for the use of environmentally sustainable energy and waste treatment systems (the Eco-pavilion).

Vancouver's first Eco-pavilion

Refreshments will be prepared using the garden’s abundant harvest, coming from an orchard with 30 different kinds of fruit trees, a corn stalk wall, an herb garden, and a greenhouse. The seasonal pond and native trees are extra bonuses as they render the garden a friendly spot for wildlife. The theatre lobby includes a lovely lavender promenade and a spot with an upright ‘planted’ piano.

The orchard containing 30 different kinds of fruit trees

The Environmental Youth Alliance greenhouse

The seasonal pond

'Planting' the piano!

Connect the Plots has also received wide media coverage for its wholly unique and environmentally sound approach to theatre. The experience was learning about sustainability and local food sourcing as much as it was about improving the young artists’ craft in acting, music, and puppetry.

Read about the preview of Connect the Plots as covered by the Vancouver Sun here.

Check out the detailed review by the Georgia Straight here.

Check out the awesome work done by the Environmental Youth Alliance here.

Connect the Plots is ready for its sprightly unveiling on August 16 at 7pm.  It is running until Sunday (only three performances from Aug 16 – 18) so come on down to enjoy some theatre, outdoor fun, and lovingly-cultivated treats! Admission is by donation.

Tim Crouch shines a light on bullying in I, Malvolio

On January 30, as part of the 2013 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, UK playwright and performer Tim Crouch brings his latest production, I, Malvolio, to The Cultch. A celebrated international performer, Crouch has developed a large following here in Vancouver, thanks to past visits performing My Arm and An Oak Tree in 2007, and ENGLAND in 2009.

I, Malvolio opens at The Cultch Jan 30

For I, Malvolio, Crouch uses humour as a means of exposing the harm caused in bullying and practical jokes in a re-imagined version of Shakespeare’s famous play Twelfth Night. In this version of the classic tale, the story is told through the eyes of the pompous steward Malvolio, a perspective rarely seen and explored in theatre.

Tim Crouch re-imagines Twelfth Night in a brilliant one-man show that unlocks Shakespeare’s play for new audiences

In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Malvolio is bullied and picked on by the other characters, ultimately winding up as the crux of a hurtful joke. In the end, poor Malvolio meets a pitiful demise when he’s written off as insane, and locked away in a dark chamber. In his final words he pledges revenge on the other characters for treating him so poorly.

I, Malvolio is a charged, hilarious and sometimes unsettling rant from a man adrift in front of a cruel audience

In this version of the play, Crouch’s clever script gives audiences a unique position from which to view the issue of bullying – from the eyes of the bully. As Crouch explains in the video below, “It’s a very funny piece. He is a clown and we often enjoy laughing at people who are going through terrible situations and circumstances. Malvolio is really at the bottom of the pile and he encourages you laughing at him, and then he challenges you for laughing at him.”

It’s a performance that makes you wonder: what’s acceptable about laughing at someone who’s been broken down and humiliated? As Crouch puts it in this interview with journalist Mark Fisher, “It [the play] is about how far one is prepared to take pleasure in somebody’s cruelty to other people.”

I, Malvolio is an entertaining production that reinforces valuable lessons along the way. Don’t miss your chance to see this contemporary spin on a classic play!

I, Malvolio runs at The Cultch January 30 – February 10, 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.

Spotlight: Three youths expose their thoughts behind the nine months of hard work organizing the IGNITE! Youth-Driven Arts Festival

By Robert Leveroos

IGNITE! Youth-Driven Arts Festival

A few members of the Youth Panel chillin' out

Next week from May 14th to 19th, The Cultch will be taken over by young people who will lead, coordinate, and perform in the IGNITE! Youth-Driven Arts Festival. The Cultch’s Youth Panel has been working on this festival for nine month and can’t wait for it to start.

But who is the Youth Panel?

The Youth Panel, the core of The Cultch’s Youth Program, is a group of approximately 25 young, artsy people who meet once a week to plan the IGNITE! Festival. During their nine months, they are introduced to all aspects of organizing a festival, from media relations to technical workshops. All the work, effort, and enthusiasm that the youth put into the project ends with one week full of amazing performances by young artists from around the Lower Mainland.

We asked some panel members a few questions about the Youth Panel and the Festival. Emma Atkinson and David Cowling are new Panel Members this year while Delan Elliot is one of our returning veterans. Here’s what they had to say:

What made you want to be a part of The Cultch’s Youth Panel?
David Cowling: I joined the Youth Panel to meet youth excited about the art scene in Vancouver. In high school, I was always deemed “the artsy kid,” which was fine, but I had no other artsy kids to talk arts with! Joining the Youth Panel was a great way to meet fellow active youth and grow friendships and ties with people I might not ever have met otherwise.

Delan Elliot: When I was 14 years old, I was considering attempting to create a live music event centered around youth and youth involvement in the community. At the time, I had neither the resources nor the time to accomplish it. When I was searching to see if anything similar existed, I found the IGNITE! Festival, and it then led me to the Youth Panel… I became more and more excited at the prospect of having a major role in the creation of a festival. I knew that by joining a group of other enthusiastic youth, I would have a better chance of creating something that I was proud of.

Emma Atkinson: My sister, Clare, participated in The Cultch’s theatre summer camp for youth this past summer, and while there, she heard about the Youth Panel. She was intrigued, and asked me to join her at the first meeting of the year. Curious as to how it worked, I tagged along and was sold from day one. The opportunity to be the creative mind behind a festival as neat as IGNITE! was what really got me, and it hasn’t disappointed.

What’s the best part of being on the Youth Panel?
DC: The best part about Youth Panel is getting to come back, once a week, to a place where I can be with friends and collaborate on how to create something as epic and grandiose as an arts festival. It’s like in school when you get paired up with other kids you don’t know to create a project, except your friends with everyone in your group, and your project is the coolest party in town.

EA: The incredible knowledge and experience I have gained in the various facets of curating an event like IGNITE! On a very fundamental level, the maturity I’ve gained as far as communication and teamwork goes has been utterly invaluable, and is something I know without a doubt I’ll take with me to everything I do, professionally and personally. As part of the fundraising committee, learning the ropes of approaching, pitching, and maintaining good professional relationships with sponsors and supporters of our festival is something I didn’t expect to get out of my experience on Youth Panel, and I’ve learned volumes in a very short period of time.

DE: I love the experience of seeing my hard work translate directly into a successful show, and I almost enjoy seeing other people watch the show more than I enjoy watching it myself. The final week deservedly feels like the culmination of nine months’ worth of planning and careful preparation.

Out of all the shows you’ve seen at The Cultch, which one made the biggest impression on you?
EA: Without a doubt, getting to see Nina Arsenault’s performance in The Silicone Diaries was one of the most special experiences of my life. Appreciating the simple but bold set design, as well as her complete openness with her life was a moving experience further emphasized by the chance to speak with Nina on a more personal level at a workshop we did with her, facilitated through The Cultch. Definitely an experience that will stick with me.

DC: The show that has left the biggest impression on me has to be Home Sweet Home, which was put on by Subject to Change last year. It was a very fun community bonding exercise, and something about the happy energy in the room during its exhibition has never left me, and somehow now represents The Cultch for me as well.

What has been your favourite activity so far this year?
DC: As a first year Youth Panel member, auditions were such a treat. I had no idea of the caliber of talent in this city that lies almost hidden in its youth. I had seen almost none of them perform before, but I would pay to see almost all of them perform again. Luckily I don’t have to; I can just go to IGNITE!

EA: As far as sheer pleasure goes, the audition process was phenomenal! It was the first instance when the festival started to feel real, and I got a clear vision of just how special it was going to be!

DE: My favourite activity by far has been hosting auditions. For an entire weekend, members of the Youth Panel all gathered in a rehearsal space and watched approximately 80 different acts perform in a diverse range of disciplines. The feeling you get as you watch a band that you really like perform and think “I would really love to see these guys again on stage” is truly fantastic.

IGNITE! Youth-Driven Arts Festival 2012
Why is this festival important to you?
EA: It’s so important that we give youth a platform from which to promote their art. For me, that is what will make it worth all the blood, sweat, and tears everyone at our wonderful panel has put into making this the best six days it can be. I think it’s also important to give youth thought-provoking and relatable art to view from the other side of the stage, as an audience. We’ve chosen a wide selection of diverse, unique acts with the goal that our audience will appreciate the massive spectrum of stuff that falls under the label “art”.

DC: This festival is important to me because it’s so refreshing to collaborate with a group of individuals who really care about what they are creating, and want to create something great. It’s an experience I know I don’t get enough of, and the Youth Panel is the best way to get a hit of it.

What have you learned about running an arts festival?
EA: It is WAY more work than one might expect! But also that it is so rewarding when things start to pull together and everyone supports it. As previously mentioned, I’ve learned volumes as far as sponsorship and promotion goes, and this is something I know I will take with me and apply to everything else I do.

DC: I’ve learned it takes a lot of work to put on an arts festival. A lot of work. But it’s so worth it. While I haven’t experienced it yet, I can’t wait to sit back and watch the culmination of everything we’ve put together over the past many months come together. It’s going to be a blast.

Which group are you MOST excited about in this year’s festival?
EA: This year’s line up is off the chain, and I’m pretty stoked on seeing the return of a favourite, Man Chat. But I’m also getting super excited about seeing DJ Michael Fraser rock it out with his violin!

DE: The olivia Project, which is a night of interdisciplinary performance. The olivia Project Committee commissions talented young artists in all different mediums to work in small groups of three to four people who then have a month to create a 10 minute piece. It’s a very unique night that’s different every year, and the sheer number of possibilities makes it my most anticipated night.

If there’s ONE thing you want our readers to know about this year’s festival, what would it be?
DC: If there’s one thing you should know, reader (yes, I’m talking to you), it’s that you (yes, YOU!) can join our Youth Panel (granted you’re somewhere between 13-24 years old) and experience all the excitement of putting on a festival, all without any previous experience or fancy resume. Just show up, check-in, and we’ll accept you unconditionally into our wings as another amazing youth putting on a remarkable festival.

DE: I have to pick one thing? Darn. I think I would want our readers to know that this year’s Finale Night is going to be incredible. We have put extra effort in this year to guarantee that the festival goes out with a bang. If you’re gonna come out and only watch one night, this is the one to see!

EA: That no matter what floats your boat, I can guarantee that IGNITE! has something to offer everyone in the way of music, theatre, art, you name it!

For more info:
www.igniteyouthfest.ca for the full schedule
www.facebook.com/IgniteArtsFest

Come join us at The Cultch May 14th-19th and meet the Youth Panel in action. Youth Tickets starting at just $2! To buy tickets, visit tickets.thecultch.com.