Dramatic works showcase diversity

Local audiences can encounter a different side of the city by taking in two original plays created especially for this year’s PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. The annual festival aims to bring innovative work from near and far into the spotlight to stimulate artists and their fans alike. Each play encourages the playgoer to explore new aspects of our urban environment and its citizens.

A co-production called 100% Vancouver, by Berlin’s Rimini Protokoll and Vancouver’s Theatre Replacement, involves 100 everyday people from around the Lower Mainland in a stage play that seeks to embody city demographics which are usually seen only on paper.

Tim Carlson is the casting director and dramatic consultant for Theatre Replacement. He is also the artistic director for Theatre Conspiracy which co-produces Club PuSh, the festival cabaret.

“[People] probably have never seen anything quite like it,” he said about the play. “We might go through our day in the city rubbing shoulders with a 100 people but rarely get to stop and think what that mix is about.  The show should give some real insight to where out city is at right now. Where the sample population has come from, how they feel about it.”

People were selected using the statistics describing the city choose representative sample. For example, there are 23 neighbourhoods in the city and they tried to find a person from each. The youngest participant is about about 3 years old and the oldest 88 years with most people between 30–50 years (like the bulk of the population). They are 49 per cent male and 51 per cent female. In terms of mother tongue, they are 49 per cent English, 25 per cent Mandarin/Cantonese/Tawainese, three per cent Punjabi/Hindi, about three per cent Korean, and about one per cent for each European language.

“We get to have a peek at how this sample population [on stage] represents Vancouver,” said Carlson. “It is like an ongoing choreography of statistics as people move around the stage.”

The script is based on responses these people make to a number of questions, such as where they are from, what are they obsessed with and what makes them unique. “There’s potential for great comedy in some places and some of the stories are very heartfelt,” Carlson said.

PodPlays – The Quartet takes audience members out of their seats and onto the city streets. Neworld Theatre, along with PTC (Playwrights Theatre Centre), commissioned four audio pieces that lead the person on a specific route downtown while listening to the story unfold. The production includes elements of voice, music and sound environment effects. It begins in the atrium at the new SFU Woodward’s site and ends at a secret location, lasting for about 65 minutes.

Playgoers will be sent the audio file by email after advance ticket purchase so they can download it to their personal media player. Alternately, they can borrow a media player on site at the start of the program. A hard-copy map of the route will also be distributed on site. Dispatch times to leave on the route are booked at five minute intervals and playgoers are sent off two at a time.

Adrienne Wong, who graduated from SFU’s School for Contemporary Arts, has been an artistic producer for Neworld Theatre for six years.
“PodPlays gives an opportunity to…literally walk in someone else’s footsteps,” Wong said. “You are seeing a street that maybe you’ve walked a million times but because of the story and the perspective that’s being discussed inside of the play, suddenly it throws it into a different contrast.”

She believes the ability to see things in a different way is integral to a person’s ability to encounter another person who is different from oneself.  This opens a person’s mind to seeing the world without being afraid or threatened by it and allows those different perspectives to sit side by side.

“Striving for that, is really important for our communities, for understanding between different cultures,” she said, adding on a global scale those abilities are important for creating peace, discussion, and exchange.

“Ultimately, this piece is a way for me to make steps towards the kind of world I want to live in. Where people can listen to each other, hear each other and express themselves and be heard.”

The PuSh Festival runs Jan. 18 to Feb. 6 with more than 15 major theatre productions plus a number of other events. For details, see pushfestival.ca or pick up a program at your local library.

About Kerry Hall

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