2008: A tough act to follow


Well, that was a hell of a year.

I spent more time over the last twelve months submerged in independent theatre than in all of my previous years combined. Through this blog, and through explorations with my own company, I’ve been diving straight towards the heart of this form in an effort to come to terms with exactly why theatre affects me so profoundly, to determine why, for me, it speaks louder than music, than prose, than film – any amount of disciplines that I could just as easily have devoted my time and passion to. With the help of many generous and talented and very smart people I think I’ve found a few answers. But I also now have way more questions than I did this time last year. And so The Next Stage continues.

How are we going to top last year, Vancouver? I will always remember 2008 as the year we took a big step out of our quiet little closet and kick-started the movement. We should acknowledge that it is a very important time historically to be a member of the theatre community here. Ground is being broken. We certainly have a long way to climb until we sit in our rightful place in the hearts and minds of the city at large, but we’re marching. Momentum is building.

In 2008 we: hosted the city’s first Devoted and Disgruntled Open Space forum at PuSh. We finally put together a much-needed critical Fringe guide, and saw the highest attendance at our Fringe ever . We showed how well we take care of one of our own when they need it the most. We played host to Magnetic North, the country’s largest festival and forum for independent theatre, and knocked it out of the park. At Mag North, Hive 2 made Vancouver the envy of every attendant city in Canada, and heaved indie theatre that much closer to the mainstream. The York lives. The Wrecking Ball polarized our industry and proved beyond the shadow of a doubt the awesome power we wield when we come together as a community. And in amongst all of that I bore witness to contemporary independent productions in small spaces that blew my friggin’ mind: Dishpig. Rachel Corrie. Red Light Winter. Where’s My Money. Fortunate Son. The talent in this city is shocking. The potential here is staggering.

My goal for this site in 2009 is to continue to build it as Vancouver’s online indie theatre coffee shop. The Next Stage exists as a forum for promotion, discussion and debate. As always, please feel free to jump into the comments section to speak your mind, and if there’s anything at all that you feel deserves discussion, never hesitate to email me at vanstage(at)gmail(dot)com with your topical topic suggestions.

Oh, and The Next Stage is always open to solicitations for guest posts. If there’s something you need to say to the community and need a soap box, I would be honoured to discuss hosting your piece.

So, Vancouver. What’s next?

Downtown Vancouver skyline courtesy of Flickr user Penmachine

Vancouver Wrecking Ball participant update!

Further to Monday’s post on the Vancouver edition of the upcoming Canada-wide Wrecking Ball political theatre cabaret, the Alliance for Arts and Culture have listed the complete docket of talent for the night, and it sounds phenomenal.

The writers involved are Vancouver playwright Lucia Frangioni (Espresso), Canadian theatre giant Judith Thompson (The Crackwalker, Lion in the Streets), local author Michael Turner (Hard Core Logo) and media personality Bill Richardson. They will create “brief, explosive plays about the election: the candidates, their policies, and the controversies”. Each of these new works will be written within a week of the Wrecking Ball, to ensure their topicality.

The Ball will be directed by The Electric Company’s Kim Collier and Jonathon Young, and Lyric Stage Project’s Michèle Lonsdale Smith (Jonathon and Michèle are both onstage right now in the Arts Club’s production of Doubt), among others. Music will be provided by local punk icon Joey “Shithead” Keithley of D.O.A. and host John Mann of The Spirit of the West. Featured actors will be “a luminous cross-section of talent from Vancouver’s theatre, film and television communities”.

Sounds like an awesome night even if it wasn’t politically motivated. Admission to the event is free. Donations will be taken at the door for The Department of Culture www.departmentofculture.ca, a brand new initiative whose purpose is to challenge the political parties on funding for the arts. For more info, visit www.thewreckingball.ca. The event is on Monday, October 6th at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. Be there from 7:00-8:30 pm to hear representatives from each Federal Party debate the arts, and stay for The Wrecking Ball election cabaret from 9:00-10:30 pm.

The Wrecking Ball rolls across Canada

Toronto political theatre series The Wrecking Ball has just announced a country-wide series of brand new political theatre to support the efforts of The Department of Culture. Running all on the same day – October 6 – across Canadian cities coast to coast, the series will be comprised of staged readings of new works by several outstanding Canadian playwrights, all written for this series in accord with the mandates of the Wrecking Ball concept: that all work must be based on current world events and written in one week, with time allotted for brief rehearsals.

The Vancouver version will be held at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage at 1250 Granville, Tickets go on sale at 6:00pm and the show starts at 9:00 pm, following an All-Party Forum and Press Conference which begins at 7pm. Hosted by Spirit of the West singer John Mann, and featuring new work by Lucia Frangioni and Judith Thompson, among others.

In Victoria, the box office of the Belfry opens at 7 pm, the show starts at 8, featuring work by Judith Thompson and Dennis Eberts, Neworld Theatre founding member Marcus Youseff has been tapped to come on board as a director.

The Wrecking Ball was founded in Toronto in November 2004 to “address a nagging imbalance: too much theatre in our politics, not enough politics in our theatre”. Past WB playwrights include Jason Sherman, Judith Thompson, Karen Hines, Norm Foster, David Young, Michael Healey, Morwyn Brebner, Daniel MacIvor, Hannah Moscovitch, Andrew Moodie, Morris Panych, d’bi.young.

Each performance is Pay-What-You-Can, with proceeds going to The Department of Culture.

Update from Peter Boychuk at the Alliance for Arts and Culture: We’re taking questions for the forum. To submit, email me directly at peter@allianceforarts.com. Please keep them simple and be specific.