This One Goes to Eleven: Jennifer Copping

Jennifer has been gracing stages and screens all over North America for years, and has recently found a passion for the director’s seat. Most recently she has crafted performances for Paige 18 and HeadKase Production’s In the Boom Boom Room, and before that she co-directed the Canadian premiere of Stiff Cuffs at the Beaumont and directed Shanley’s The Big Funk at the Havana. We’re very much looking forward to what’s next.


1. In one word, describe your present condition.


2. In as many words as you see fit, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

The thing I find interesting about the Theater scene in Vancouver is that the more involved in it you are the more interested you are. That feeling  is incredible when all your friends come out to support a project you are involved with. It makes you want to give that back to them and others who are creating work and art.

3. Please tell us your “how theatre found me” story.

My first theater experience was a production of Grease that my dance school asked us to play the chorus in. It was a high school production and all I kept thinking was maybe the Rizzo will drop out and they will put me in the role.

4. What have you found to be the greatest misconception about theatre among those outside of the scene?

Especially with musicals, I don’t think people have a true understanding of what it takes to put all those elements together. My favorite story of the possibilities of theater was when recently two friends of mine showed up at the play I was directing: In The Boom Boom Room. I had been so busy that I had forgotten to let some people know. They had randomly picked my play to see on their date night because they thought the content looked interesting and they liked to happen upon something instead go for the sure bet. If more of us would do this it would be very exciting.

5. What do you see as the greatest threat to the proliferation of a popular theatre here?

There really shouldn’t be any threat. The only thing that often gets in the way is a lack of support from the press and critics, who either don’t make the time to see new theater companies, or do and often fail to recognize the good as much as what they didn’t like.

6. Describe your ideal career trajectory.

I started out in theater and then spent many years doing primarily film and television.  The last five years my lust for theater has returned, and with it a new found love for directing. I hope to continue playing great roles onstage and help shape great performances from offstage.

7. What do you know about directing theatre now that you didn’t when you started out?

My first time directing was a co-direction with Stellina Rusich of a one act play called Stiff Cuffs. We had been telling each other for years that we should be directing. We realized that doing it together for the first time would be an exciting  hand-holding experience. Luckily our friendship survived and we created a fantastic show. I would say the next two experiences which were solo taught me more and more to trust my instincts and to trust my actors. And to give all of it time to come together. Often my idea of what a moment should be would change and grow as the elements came together.  Rigidity is the enemy of fluidity.

8. What effect, if any, do you see the current economic downturn having on indie theatre?

None. I think now more than ever people want the best bang for their buck. And where else but the theater can you get that experience? Producers need to be smart and get the bums in seats in creative ways. A good show and word of mouth will sell tickets…if you have to give some away to get that started, then do it!

9. Who or what are your greatest influences?

I know everyone says this but Larry Moss. I really feel that I have learned more from his teaching, and how it has grown within me through the years to become my own wisdom, than from anywhere else. So I guess now I would say that I am my biggest influence these days…huh.

10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?

On Directing by William Ball.  The Goat by Edward Albee. The Intent to Live by Larry Moss

11. What’s next?

Onstage 8 shows a week in Toronto with Jersey Boys. After that…who knows?

Everybody writes

Click Play then HQ to watch in High Def.

Write Club began as a cheeky little challenge to my company to get in touch with their inner playwright over one summer break. Write a short play, bring it in on the night we reasemble, I buy the beer and pizza, we all cast our scripts and spend the night cold-reading some new works. Just for fun. Kind of a team-building exercise, if you will.

As it turned out, the crew had more than just acting talent tucked into their shorts. That first Write Club spawned a short format festival called Riffs that went off like gangbusters, and now, tradition established, we’re back at it again…

Contains language and subtext most likely NSFW.

All material in the above video is the property of the members of Lyric Stage Project, and is protected under the copyright laws of Canada and all other countries of the Copyright Union.

The weird and wonderful world of the comments section

Best. Spam. Ever. I have no idea how this ended up on my little blog, but it’s wonderful. From the comments section to this post, from Marinkina:

1 п. “Не имей сто друзей, а имей сто шекелей” тоже хорошо рифмуется :)
8 п. Ты никогда не потеряешь работу. Когда закончатся фотографии можно размещать рисунки (да хоть бы и конкурс объявить на лучший рисунок Одри (-:), аппликации и фотографии поделок из пластилина…
9 п. Сто пудов ! :)

Shortly thereafter, Jack the Bear dropped this below it:

A web translation of the above:

1 item “have no hundred friends, and have hundred shekels” too it is well rhymed:)
8 items You never will lose work. When photos will end it is possible to place drawings (at least competition to declare(announce) on the best drawing of Odri (-:), applications and photos of hand-made articles from plasticine …
9 items of Hundred poods!:)

I’m so glad I did that!

Ain’t the internet wonderful?

This One Goes to Eleven: Patrick McDonald

Speaking of engaging the next generation of theatre artists, Patrick McDonald has made that very thing his stock-in-trade for since 1988. As Artistic Director of Green Thumb Theatre, he has been at the forefront of the drive to develop theatre artists and audiences for 20 years, a milestone that was recently celebrated at a veritable who’s who of Vancouver’s artistic community.

In 1998 he won a Jessie for Continued excellence in vision in the field of Theatre for Young Audiences, about as great an award as I could possibly imagine. He’s been recognized and awarded many times over for his work as a director and a leader in his field. And apparently, he’s not slowing down.

Congratulations Patrick, here’s to another 20…


1. In one word, describe your present condition.


2. In as many words as you’d like, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

I think we are missing the mid-range theatres. By that I mean companies who produce a 5 to 7 play season and run each production for 3 to 5 weeks. Two examples would be Tarragon in Toronto and GCTC in Ottawa. They both own venues so they are more in control of their destiny. The mid-size allows everyone in theatre to grow as an artist. The contracts and budgets are more substantive—actors enjoy the lengthier runs…and it helps pay the bills. We have a lot of great work being created by the smaller companies but it seems everyone outside of the larger companies is boxed into 10 day runs. There is no chance for word of mouth and no chance for actors to settle into the run. Once the excitement of opening is gone you wake up and realize you will be unemployed in a week. So for me the eco system is not functioning properly for Vancouver theatre artists.

3. How has Green Thumb evolved from where it started 20 years ago?

Well, it started closer to 35 years ago. I have been here for 20. When we started we only created work for elementary age students and now we do work for elementary, high schools and young adults. We are one of the only companies in Canada developing work for the young adult market. I am talking about 17 to 30 year-olds. They are terribly underserved.

4. What do you know about theatre now that you didn’t then?

It doesn’t get any easier.

Photo of Gabrielle Miller and Patrick McDonald by Mark S. Bencito
Photo of Gabrielle Miller and Patrick McDonald by Mark S. Bencito

5. For those of us just starting our theatre companies, what’s the key to longevity?

Well, it helps if you don’t have any other skills. But if you do have other skills I believe you must be engaged with the content of the work you produce. You must remain interested in the mission of your company.

6. What kind of content lights a fire in young theatre artists above all else?

I can only speak as a director but I think they are most excited by work that speaks to them as people and not theatre artists. Plays that are about the lives they are living.

7. What can we as a community be doing better to popularize the art form?

It would be great if theatre were a part of the popular culture. For that to ever happen it must be embraced by our media and ticket prices need to be much more affordable.

8. What is your proudest moment from the last 20 years with Green Thumb?

I don’t think I can just pick one. There have been a lot of great moments. I guess I would have to say our work in developing new playwrights.

9. What would you like the legacy of Green Thumb to be in Vancouver?

Legacy is like a tombstone. I want it to continue to be a vibrant producing theatre company.

10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?

I really don’t have three. I don’t even have one. Sorry. I do really enjoy hearing Sir Ken Robinson speak on creativity. I encourage everyone to check out his speech on Ted talks.

11. What’s next?

I think another 20 years. Terrifying, I know.

The Alliance for Arts and Culture addresses our premier issue

An open letter to Gordon Campbell

Reprinted from The Alliance for Arts and Culture blog, May 13, 2009:

Dear Mr. Campbell,

Congratulations on your victory last night. You must be honoured to [be] among a select group of Premiers who have been elected for a third term.

As you have reminded us throughout the election, you have been a friend and ally of the cultural sector. Last year’s $150-million endowment to the BC Arts Council and the new funding for the Vancouver Arts Gallery and the Vancouver East Cultural Centre were wise and prudent investments. However, the 40-50% cut to arts and a culture laid out in your three-year service plan is a serious blow that will have a devastating effect on the creative industries. We have spent the last few months trying to gauge that effect. Here are just a few examples:

“For the Arts Club, a cut of up to 40% in our BC Arts Council grant will force our Board to consider diminishing or possibly cancelling some of our core activities. One area that could be adversely is our provincial touring program that has been successfully produced for almost 30 years. Our touring program has little financial benefit to our organization but serves every corner of our Province with the highest quality professional theatre generating to communities small and large.” – Howard Jang, Executive Director, Arts Club Theatre

“Many of our member arts councils (and other small arts organizations) depend on BC Arts Council funding, not just for projects, but for the core funding that allows them to offer the level of programming that they offer their communities. As an example, an arts council may receive 30% of its annual budget from the BC Arts Council, and offer a wide selection of programs with a part time employee. Reduced funding would impact the number of hours this employee is able to work, or in some cases, the employee may even be laid off, requiring a corresponding decrease in services provided to the community. This would reduce access to the arts, or require municipal arts and recreation programs, where they exist, to fill the gaps.” – Junko Sakamoto, Executive Director, Assembly of BC Arts Councils

“The repercussions of the cuts will be very hard on artists outside the Lower Mainland, where there isn’t a concentration of major cultural institutions like the VAG or massive spending like the Olympics. It’s also where economies have already been struggling due to the mountain pine beetle, the softwood lumber dispute, mill closures, etc.” – Bill Horne, Visual Artist, Wells, BC

“The stability of our Arts infrastructure will be threatened in communities large and small, and the province’s creative potential will not be realized.” – David Shefsiek, President of ProArt Alliance

“In the case of the Victoria Fringe, the Islands largest theatre event, we would have to shrink the Festival by two venues, having been able in the last few years to expand from 4 to 7 venues. This would impact the number of technicians and support staff hired by the festival. This would also dramatically reduce the number of artists that would be able to participate in the Fringe as well as dramatically reduce the festivals impact on the local community both economically and socially. Festival spending on outfitting and promoting would be reduced as would public participation as a result of the reduced programming.” – Ian Case, General Manager, Intrepid Theatre

Consensus seems to be that you were elected because the voters deemed you to be the best steward for our economy during this time of hardship and upheaval. Well, the arts are good for the economy. We won’t quote you the figures – the massive return on investment, the direct and indirect benefits to the economy, the community and health benefits – because you know them already. You’ve used them in speeches and printed them on your website. We only ask that you work with your Finance Minister to find a way to reverse the cuts for the good of the entire Province and the wellbeing of British Columbians everywhere.

Please let us know if there is a way we can help. On June 25th and 26th, we will be hosting a Vancouver Arts Summit in partnership with 2010 Legacies Now at the Vancouver Public Library. The theme of the summit is: “Shifting Ground: New Realities, New Ideas, New Opportunities”. The goal is to discuss the health and sustainability of our industry, and chart new paths to success. We hope will come and join in the discussion.