Review – UBC Theatre’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

By Britt MacLeod

You don’t need me to tell you we are living in strange times.

UBC Theatre’s production of Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. by British playwright, Alice Birch opened last Thursday and closed two days later after three performances. There are many things to be saddened and stranged about during this confusing time, and I certainly feel for the cast and crew of this show, who after months of work are not able to continue their run. And indeed, I am sorry that you will not be able to enjoy this thrilling piece of theatre by a very talented ensemble.

The experience of witnessing this production will buoy me through the coming weeks of self-distancing and scarcity of live performance. It was brave, exciting and dynamic work.

Emily Dotson’s set was minimalistic, an asymmetrical arrangement of boxes painted in greyscale that were rearranged gradually over the course of the fragmented vignettes which make up the play. From the top of the show, the boxes and the cast (who costume designer, Sherry Yang had clad in greys whilst playing as ensemble) were set back on the stage, framed by the proscenium, but both would later splay across the playing space and spill out into the house as the production dipped a toe into more avant-garde forms. This greyscale scene formed a backdrop for the thrust stage that was constructed to extend two rows deep into the centre orchestra of the auditorium. The square took on the role of a pedestal sometimes, or a podium, where actors edged closer to the audience making their arguments for revolt and offering themselves as art or timeless artifact, all the while reeling the audience in.

The ensemble deftly maneuvered from the series of realistic scenes between twos and threes of actors to moments of controlled collective chaos rooted in experimentalism. 

I could distinguish the mature, searing and grounded performances of Charmaine Sibanda, and Ava Maria Safai, or point to the comedic chops of Pamela Carolina Martinez and Drew Ogle, the gripping energy and intensity of Holly Collis Handford, or the incredible show of vulnerability and courage by Hana Cripton-Inglis.

But the true strength of this show, and a great credit to director, Sloan Thompson, was the power of the collective energy, the unity and cohesiveness of its ensemble. The actors did not move as one in the literal sense, quite to the contrary, their blocking and movement remained individualized and distinct throughout their group work, with each gesture or glance seeming to be supported by specific character choices even in moments where they remained set back from the main action of the scenes. At every twist and turn, there was a palpable thrust of energy from the group, they leaned in together to hear and judge the wording of every argument presented in the vignettes, they were collectively unctuous and looming then empathetic and luminous. I got the sense that there was a great deal of trust and harmony between them—everyone was sharing the work to deliver this story, parts of a whole. This idea is further supported by the equality exhibited in the program… every performer has the role of ‘Ensemble’; the artistic statement was not the director’s alone, but rather one by the ‘Director and the Cast.’

In the previously mentioned experimental moments, the ensemble not only broke the fourth wall, but burst through it. Painting their bodies, shouting, holding up signs, peddling hymens to the crowd with deeply unsettling flyers featuring Victorian portraits of young girls. This production is challenging, and yet, I felt taken care of.

The play does not offer much for intersectional feminists, it’s not for trans women, not for queers, really, but then again, it examines with a laser focus—different forms of oppression of cis-women and demands put upon them in the historical heterosexual/heterosocial relationship while staying true to the playwright’s experience, and it can still stir thought about identities that are not represented. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of theatre. Are there voices missing? Absolutely. But whether it’s Alice Birch’s job to write those voices, I’m not so sure. (This bears thinking about, though, particularly while our minds are bent to isolation… who is being left out? What is left unsaid?)

It is really a shame that this show couldn’t continue. I don’t know how else to say it, and, admittedly, I don’t know what all to say. I find myself conflicted about whether to avoid spoilers or to explicate the action of the play to fill in what you now cannot (for the time being?) experience. But suffice it to say, Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. was exciting. It happened. And hopefully it can happen again in some way, some time.

UBC Theatre and Film Department’s production of Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. by Alice Birch was directed by Sloan Thompson. It was slated to run March 12-28, 2020 at the Frederic Wood Theatre on UBC’s Point Grey Campus, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and global responses to it, the show was forced to close on Saturday, March 14.

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Festival Dionysia – Have you got your tickets yet?

Players Club’s spring production, Festival Dionysia, is a festival featuring six one-act plays written and performed by local artists, whose talent is drawn largely from UBC. Local playwrights submit their original scripts in December and of the submissions, six scripts are chosen by the UBC Players Club’s Executive Team to be performed the following spring. Each year, the club tries to choose a variety of genres in accordance with a theme. This year, our theme is A Night of Love and Intrigue.
  The festival works to empower emerging artists in UBC and in the greater Vancouver area, and as a result is a wonderful place for artists to meet and support one another and hone skills they already have or to try their hand at something new! In every festival, there is a chance that at least one artist working on each show – playwright, dramaturg, director, actor, technical crew member, or production manager – is doing this for the first time. Every show benefits from the fresh ideas and encouragement of the community of artists involved in putting on the show, and evolves dramatically over the course of production.   The six plays will be shown consecutively in the Dorothy Somerset Studio on UBC campus from March 11-15, 2020.   🎭 UBC Players Club presents A Night of Love and Intrigue: Festival Dionysia 2020! 🎭

Introducing the following scripts being performed:

🌟 GRANNY KNOT 🌟
Written by Ruby Ravvin
Directed by Ryan Hollobon
Dramaturgy by Katie Czenczek
Rea – Emily Ison
Vince – Matthew Raffin

🌟 LOVE LETTERS 🌟
Written by Amelia Brooker
Directed by Daniela Shklover
Dramaturgy by Britt Macleod
Callie – Haley Allen
Zach – Matthew Raffin
Sara – Sophia Tavasieff

🌟 AFTER THE HARVEST 🌟
Written by AD Solitaire
Directed by Bailey Bates
Dramaturgy by Alysha Forester
Senka – Sasha Saksena
Alecto – Sophia Tavasieff

🌟 BLACK BARN 🌟
Written by Annahis Basmadjian
Directed by Shehab Khan
Dramaturgy by Britt Macleod
Stepan – Ryan Hollobon
Valery – Devyn O’Connell

🌟 WRONG COM 🌟
Written by Daniela Shklover
Directed by Jeremy Cruz and Jiejun Wu
Dramaturgy by Alysha Forester
Martin – Louis Liu
Alyssa – Renuka Rajamagesh
Cindy – Evie Hamilton

🌟 THE MERMAID 🌟 
Written by Nayoung Jin
Directed by Katrina Basnett
Dramaturgy by Katie Czenczek
Mom – Aurora Chan
Daughter – Lucy Li

SHOW DATES/TIMES:

Wednesday, March 11 @7pm
Thursday, March 12 @7pm
Friday, March 13 @7pm
Saturday, March 14 @7pm
Sunday, March 15 @7pm

Dorothy Somerset Studios
6361 University Blvd
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2

🎫 TICKETS: 🎫

Please select the link for the date you would like to attend.

https://www.showpass.com/dionysia-march11/
https://www.showpass.com/dionysia-march12/
https://www.showpass.com/dionysia-march13/
https://www.showpass.com/dionysia-march14/
https://www.showpass.com/dionysia-march15/

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Review – Backbone Collective’s Spine at Havana Theatre

Review by Britt MacLeod

There is nothing more terrifying than a teenager with something to say.” Or, you might add… than a feisty, worldly-wise pensioner.

This is an excellent production of a well-crafted and topical contemporary play and you should get tickets immediately.

You know when you love someone so much that even their little idiosyncrasies and ‘flaws’ seem few, and those that remain just make you love them more? That is what this show was for me. There was a moment when a minor costuming mishap made the sole actor—the very gifted and beguiling Kate Besworth crack a bit, but having inhabited her characters so effectively and having built such a strong relationship with her audience, this moment actually served to enhance the audience’s investment rather than threaten to weaken it. Her slight laughter was sparked by said mishap but was incorporated into the performance and delivered by Amy, the scrappy adolescent Londoner that delivers most of the engaging narrative of Spine. There were moments when the dialects of this character and the aforementioned pensioner, Glenda, seemed to regionally-oscillate, but frankly, while I did notice sometimes, I simply didn’t care. Again, the strength and charisma of the acting performance and the world that Director, Wendy Bollard and the collaborators of Backbone Collective had created won.

The world that was created was one that felt dramaturgically cohesive and fun. Ariel Slack’s set design is a smile-inducing layering of stacked up and spilled over books and the flutters of their pages which extend to the walls of the otherwise minimalist playing space. An exciting feature of the production is that these books have been made to function as an actual lending library—when you go to see the show, you may *take a book/leave a book*. I felt that this feature could have been emphasized more in the promo and pre-show experience of this production. The lighting and sound design, offered by Celeste English and Nico Dicecco, respectively, supported each other and the story’s emotional twists and turns well.

Importantly, the play, which is an award-winning piece by British playwright, Clara Brennan, feels especially relevant for our world right now. The piece is thematically-dense, touching on the importance and complications of community-, political- and social-engagement, particularly by youth, intergenerational friendship, and the threat to public libraries by funding cuts and waning appreciation, and the way that books (and libraries) can be “radical.” See Spine, a show staged at one of the best independent theatre spaces in the city that is (not without its small and few flaws but is nevertheless) thought-provoking and inspiring, not just for affect, but for action.

Spine by Clara Brennan, presented by Backbone Collective and Peninsula Productions plays January 29-February 8 (with shows Tuesday to Saturday) at the Havana Theatre at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $10-20 and available through Showpass or through links on the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/598254954338789/

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Review – The Changeling by Theatre UBC

Review by Britt MacLeod

UBC Theatre Department’s production of The Changeling at the Chan Centre’s Telus Studio Theatre provides an exciting opportunity to witness a seldom-produced piece of Jacobean-era theatre. Written by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley in 1622, the play features two separate plot threads which eventually weave together. The main thread follows the romantically-tangled Beatrice-Joanna as she makes some regrettable, brutal choices, and is further entangled by a horrifyingly violent event and its repercussions. MFA Director, Luciana Silvestre Fernandes has crafted a production that is visually stunning and dynamic with its use of the three audience levels for staging, engaging ensemble choreography, and the beautiful set and lighting design by Luis Bellassai and Zach Levis, respectively.

The big payoff of the design elements is in the way they reflect thoughtful directorial choices of thematic continuity. A network of floor-to-ceiling ropes seems to stitch the three levels of audience in with the world of the play, offering a satisfying mirroring of the appearance and the plight of the corseted (and otherwise bound) female protagonist. Charlotte Di Change’s costume design features layer upon layer of sensuous red, highlighting the bloody deeds of the quintessentially Jacobean plot.

Some design choices prove less effective. In a recognizable historical convention of supporting evil with physical variation or ‘deformity’, the character of De Flores is written as being ‘ill-faced’ to match his villainy. Though we come to understand early on (and progressively more so throughout the plot) that he indeed disturbs Beatrice-Joanna greatly, the character is portrayed by the rather handsome (and engaging) Kyle Preston Oliverwhose face is not augmented beyond a few light blotches of red makeup. But rather than offering relief at the sidestepping of the prescribed metaphor, this design choice compounds confusion about the character, because with what could be understood as the impetus of his othering being omitted in this contemporized adaptation, the Disney-villain-like proportions of De Flores become all the more glaring. That being said, the work of Preston Oliver, and of Bonnie Duff is certainly laudable. Duff’s Beatrice-Joanna is marked by impressively complex micro-expressions, courageous attack, and a natural command of the language.

Although not necessarily portraying central characters, Connor Riopel as Alonzo/Madman, Abbey Laine Schwartz as Lollio and Ishan Sandhu as Antonio (or “Tony”) are standouts, each with surges of energy, bags of charm and bold physical choices.

While the subject matter of the play undoubtedly has great potential for meaning in our current times (as might be evinced by numerous recent adaptations around the world), offering an opportunity to reflect on what the director identifies as a depiction of “the reality of trauma,” this production also raises questions for this reviewer about the ways in which theatre-makers facilitate those afflicted with trauma, actors and spectators, alike. A moment of what seemed to me to be unnecessary nudity not only added fuel to this questioning but was dramaturgically disruptive. Additionally, I wondered if the nearly 400-year-old plot, which is fixated on honour and treachery, mightn’t benefit from a more satirical edge in this adaptation. Despite, or maybe because of some of the points problematized here, this production is worth seeing, as it offers a glimpse at a rather obscure play by a couple of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, and indeed raises important questions for the modern audience about rape culture and our responses to it, trauma and triggering and how theatre contributes to those conversations.

The Changeling plays nightly at the Telus Studio Theatre in the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts January 16-February 1, 2020 at 7:30 pm. Ticket prices: $24.50 Adults; $16.50 Seniors; $11.50 Students. Post-show Talkback January 22. Box Office: 604.822.2678 or box.office@ubc.ca or www.ubctheatretickets.com Website: www.theatrefilm.ubc.ca Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/629550977584876/

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10 Tips for Auditioning

  1. Memorize your monologue.
    It may seem like a no-brainer, but you should aim to have your monologue memorized for your audition. That means not only knowing the words by heart, but also having your blocking and movement memorized as well. To do this, try breaking the piece into smaller increments or beats (based on the progression of the text and its changes), rehearse in different settings, at different paces and with different intentions informing the words. Have a friend be on book for you to check that you are sticking to the text.
  2. Read the plays!
    Again, it may seem obvious, but you may be surprised to learn that it is a common mistake for actors to not read the whole play that their audition piece is from. This is such an important step in preparing your audition and building your character– context is everything! Also, being able to speak a common language with other theatre people is important– the audition panel may know (and love) the play your piece is from, or they may not know it and be curious about it. Go into your auditions prepared to answer key questions about the play, and having done plot and character analyses. ALSO, if possible, you should read the plays you are auditioning for! In the case of Festival Dionysia, this is not always possible because it features new original work, but knowing a little bit about the company’s history and how they work is an asset in any audition (this will also you to ask informed questions).
  3. Think of the audition as an opportunity to meet new people.
    A simple way of approaching your auditions with confidence is to reframe for yourself the purpose of the exercise. Focussing on the audition being an opportunity to meet new people…and for them to meet you, rather than the fact that your work is going to be judged might open up a new way of viewing the audition process. Yes, you’re making yourself vulnerable either way, but by reframing the audition as a meeting rather than a site of judgement, you can focus on the quality of the exchange, listening and sharing, learning, being curious, presenting yourself as the cool person you know you are, instead of going off the assumption that your every move and word is being scrutinized. Imagine the possibilities if you look for connection instead of judgement!
  4. Remember the audition panel wants it to be YOU.
    It’s easy to walk into the audition room expecting the worst… because, again, that nasty inner critic can take over and the fear of being judged (in a negative way) can be overwhelming. But if you take a moment to put yourself in the audition panel’s shoes, and think about what their needs and goals are, and how that might inform their process, it can be very liberating, because they want the next person who walks into the room to be their next hire! They want it to be you! (We want it to be you!)
  5. Take time to introduce yourself.
    So, in review, you have an opportunity to meet people, and they are on your side… let them know who you are, and take the time/show yourself the respect to really get your name out clearly and confidently. Not so confident? Fake it ’til you make it! You matter, and so do introductions, so make sure you take the appropriate time for introductions, say your name clearly, and introduce your piece. Easy peasy!
  6. Embody the text.
    This tip goes into the craft of acting a bit more, but it can apply to you no matter what your level of acting experience is… it is so important to embody the text. What does this mean? Well, that might open up a whole can of theatrical theoretical worms, but the nitty gritty of it is… you have to make choices for your character, based on the text, that are reflected in your body, your physical choices. So, while we applaud anyone and everyone who auditions, it’s that much more meaningful when someone has thought about how (and why) their character might move, when (and how) they might be still, and made some well-thought-out choices. Whatever makes the text come alive, whatever seems appropriate for the character based on your work, whatever moves you (literally, figuratively), that’s what’s going to step your work up a notch.
  7. Be courteous to everyone you encounter.
    Probably a good rule of thumb for any situation, professional or otherwise, but having good manners, and treating everyone you meet during your audition with respect is so important. Positivity begets positivity, but negativity travels faster… so don’t spread frustration, stress, or sadness… theatre is a machine that relies on all of its parts. Be kind, and you’ll probably have a better more positive experience yourself. Plus, you never know, that person you thought was just a lackey might be the most powerful person in the room.
  8. Practise in the outfit you intend to wear.
    There are two key parts to this tip, one supports #6, you can better embody your text and give a great performance if you have rehearsed in the clothing you intend to wear (and you know it works for your piece), and the other is all about preparation… ever had an outfit all planned out days in advance only to find out on the night you try it on that the shirt is missing a button and the pants have a stain on them? Prepare to put your best foot forward, as actor and as character, and get comfortable in your audition clothes. Don’t forget the shoes!
  9. Be prepared to be dynamic.
    Auditions are an exercise in contrasts. Be well rehearsed, be memorized, but also be prepared to improvise and adjust! Yikes. Well, it’s quite common. You may not have to come up with something on the spot, but it is fairly common to be asked to do what is called an “adjustment” on your monologue. This is often an opportunity for a director to see a different side of you, or to see how you ‘improv,’ to judge your ability to think on your feet, your creativity or your level of preparation. Best way to prepare for this is to rehearse your monologue in as many different ways as you can think of, so if you’re doing a comedic piece, try doing it as if it were dramatic, play with accents, play with physicality (see also: tip #1), the main thing is: play!
  10. Remember to breathe…
    And breathe deep, from your diaphragm. Take some deep breaths before you enter the room, and keep your breath moving as you perform your piece. Sounds simple, but it can be easy to forget, to hold, to try to control our breath, just let go, let it flow! And remember to have fun! This should always, always be fun.

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Be a part of Dionysia Festival

TECHIES! Looking for some super fun super interesting backstage experience?! Well then myyy goodness have we got the opportunity for you!

UBC Players Club is now accepting applications for tech crew members for Festival Dionysia, a show made up of six one-act plays written and performed by local artists.

Festival Dionysia is a wonderful opportunity to bring together artists of all different types of experience and talent. This festival is a great opportunity to try out new roles in the theatre or get involved for the first time! No experience required.

TO APPLY:
Email the following information to Veronica at productions@ubcplayersclub.com :
• Name and pronouns
• Are you a UBC student?
• What position are you interested in?

• Your resume with any relevant experience
• Are you available for all show dates: March 8-15?


Applications due January 15

——————– 


ACTORS! Looking for an opportunity to shine and make connections? We’ve gotcha covered! 


UBC Players Club is now accepting applications for actors for Festival Dionysia, a show featuring six one-act plays written and performed by local artists!


Festival Dionysia is a wonderful opportunity to bring together artists of all different types of experience and talent. This festival is a great opportunity to try out new roles in the theatre or get involved for the first time! No experience required; auditions are open call. 

TO APPLY:

Applicants must email the following information to Veronica at productions@ubcplayersclub.com :• Name and pronouns• Are you a UBC student?• Headshot and resumewith any relevant experience• What is your availability for our auditions Jan 16-19? 

Applications due Jan 15

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Review – Timothy Findley’s The Wars by Theatre UBC

Review by Veronica Blott

Another great show by the UBC Department of Theatre and Film! Timothy Findley’s The Wars adapted by Dennis Garnhum is a harrowing piece about young Canadians partaking in a war they had no stake in and no true understanding of. Although many may be familiar with Findley’s epic work from high school English class the UBC productions department truly gave the audience a unique and palpable experience as we follow Robert Ross, a young Canadian man who enters the army in 1915, across the battle field. Opening with a burst of action as the stage is transformed into a train platform by lights, sound, and fog effects all at once, director Lois Anderson’s production is gripping right from the start. The talent of the BFA actors is also well showcased throughout this production as they are challenged to express complex and difficult emotions as they watch young soldiers lie injured and dying in packed infirmaries or monologue about their son fighting a ceaseless war.

The technical elements of this show were especially noteworthy as the cast created live sounds of horses trotting, intense thunder claps and bombs crashing down on the characters. This element of the production truly added to the spectacle of The Wars on stage and was one of the effects that made this show feel so dedicated. Intricacies of costuming and props,
namely the amazing effect of having horses embodied by actors, also added to the worldmaking on stage and gave the feeling that the audience was truly witnessing something special with this production. Another decision made by the production team that was striking was leaving an extent of backstage activity revealed to the audience as makeup tables, costume racks, and lights were all exposed behind the main action of the stage. Staying for the Q&A the team discussed their motivations for this choice as wanting to emphasize the fact that the actors in this show are roughly the same age as the men going off to war and the women working in infirmaries or brothels. Although the decision to expose backstage occasionally drew focus from the narrative of the show and is not a part of how the script is written, it was a very interesting creative choice that brings a different feel to a familiar story. Overall, the technical and acting foundations of this production made for a unique experience with the narrative of World War I and really displayed the capabilities and talents of everyone associated with the UBC Department of Theatre and Film.

Timothy Findley’s The Wars plays Wednesday-Saturday at 7:30 pm at the “Freddy Wood Theatre” on UBC campus until November 23. TICKETS: Adults: $24.50. Seniors: $16.50. Students: $11.50, Youth: $5 VENUE: Frederic Wood Theatre, 6354 Crescent Rd. BOX OFFICE: 604.822.2678 or box.office@ubc.ca or www.ubctheatretickets.com

Don’t miss this great piece of Canadian theatre!

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Spotlight: Two Emerging Female Directors Share Some Inspiration and Advice

Shelby Bushell and Tanya Mathivanan are both independent and emerging Vancouver-based theatre directors. They are both UBC Theatre Alums and both have links to UBC Players Club. They are also both awesome! We were lucky enough to connect with these two inspiring artists and glean some insight on what makes theatre great for them, and also how they make great theatre. Read on.

*Republished version of November 10th article. The following interviews are a combination of edited transcriptions and written responses.*

Tanya Mathivanan

Tanya is a director, producer, and the founder of local independent theatre company, Aenigma Theatre.

When did you first become involved in theatre and what drew you to it?

I actually started out in Film, and I had intended to study Film production in university. I ended up following a classmate of mine to a Theatre class in my first term though, out of curiosity, and completely fell in love with it.

I loved the immediacy of theatre, as well as the exhilaration of the fact that it was performed in front of a live audience. There’s also a different type of artistry involved in getting an audience engaged in a live event and creating an entire world right in front of them that I found fascinating.  I had been exposed to theatre at a very young age by my mother, and I had always loved it. It didn’t occur to me to actually direct plays (instead of film, which I also love), until that first term at UBC. It was the point of no return for me after that.

What are your goals as an artist? What type of work are you drawn to, and what do you want to create?

I like to work on socially relevant plays that are intellectually and emotionally engaging. I always like to pick plays that aren’t produced often in Vancouver. Pieces that are rich in text and character-focused are my favourite.

I also always like a challenge as I believe that helps me grow as an artist. So sometimes dense or seemingly impenetrable plays are really fun to dissect.

How have your experiences at UBC and with UBCPC informed your career and your artistic practice?

My first full length play that I directed was The Pillowman at the Players Club. Working on that show taught me how to get creative, and how to build beautifully realized worlds on a very small budget. We didn’t have the budget to “bury someone alive in a glass coffin,” so I transformed a lot of those scenes into interpretive dance.

UBC Theatre really helped me hone my skills as a director. I was trained as a stage manager, which definitely prepared me for my current role as a producer. I learned the different tech roles, and I am very comfortable using tech language. It’s also really helpful as a director to be able to read ground plans yourself and to have a shorthand with your designers. I have a very good understand of the sheer amount of time and technical equipment that it takes to even create a simple design.

 I was also able to watch many talented directors work when I was stage managing, and able to learn techniques just by observing them.

What excites you about Vancouver theatre right now? What do you want more of?

The independent scene is really flourishing. I see many diverse small companies run by all types of people cropping up. The variety of experiences that we’re currently getting in Vancouver theatre is really exciting. We’re seeing more new voices, experiences and perspectives being put on stage in really interesting ways.

I just want to see even more people get the opportunity to create the things that they want to, and to be able to share their unique artistry with the community.

What advice would you offer to individuals looking to become involved in theatre direction and self-producing?

Email directors that you admire and ask if you can assist them. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to people for advice. I’m always more than happy to advise new producers on the things they need to get done. Producing is a big job, and it’s always nice to have a little support in that area. Also, most directors are more than happy to meet or email with aspiring directors if time permits.

Also practice. Get a bunch of people together and put on a show. It can even be in someone’s living room. But the very process of rehearsing and putting a show together will be invaluable in your growth.

A vacation. Haha. I usually spend all of November and December reading plays to see what I might want to do the following year. So, the plan is to read as many plays as I can and see what strikes my fancy.


Shelby Bushell

Shelby is a director, stage manager, producer, and artistic director of local independent theatre company, Wunderdog Theatre. Shelby’s most recent project was directing UBC Players Club’s mainstage production of The Grown-Up.

When did you first become involved in theatre and what drew you to it?

I wasn’t involved in theatre at all in theatre in high school but was in a film class and heard about some things going on in theatre from a classmate, and just thought, this is where I need to be. That’s what led me to do my double major Bachelor of Fine Arts in English Lit and Theatre Production and Design.

I know you wear a lot of hats…

In theatre in particular, you kind of have to… to know what everyone’s doing and what’s going on. When I knew that I wanted to direct I decided to try to stage manage for directors I admired. Working with directors like Evan Frayne, Chelsea Haberlin and Stephen Drover felt like I was taking a class, I learned so much.

What are your goals as an artist?

What attracts me to theatre is that it is playing make believe, and it’s really just grown-ups dressed in costumes pretending to be somebody else, telling a story. And that’s the part of it that I think… the magic that I’m talking about. It feels like when we have the chance to do that, why would we tell stories that are ‘real,’ why trap ourselves in everyday life when there’s a whole fantastical world available?

For me I want to tell stories that people can be carried away by. I think one of the things that excites me the most about theatre is the magic of it and the possibilities it brings—it asks the audience to suspend their disbelief, and once you’ve done that you can kind of take them anywhere. So many people love realism, they want to see theatre replicate a room, or portray characters that you would see in everyday life. I think there’s real skill in being able to achieve that but those aren’t necessarily the stories I want to tell. I’m more interested in the surreal.

Have your experiences at UBC and with UBCPC informed your career and your artistic practice?

Definitely. A lot of the performers I know and still work with are actors who graduated UBC in the same year as me or were there at the same time I was there. Chelsea Haberlin was a Directing MFA candidate in the year that I was graduating, and I actually had the opportunity to ASM with her while I was still at school and then I was hired by her as a touring stage manager for one of her shows once I graduated. So more than anything the contacts you make at school will be extremely helpful, ‘cause it’s a small community.

As far as UBC Players Club, the show that I directed for the Dionysia Festival—(gosh, what is it, five years ago? Six years ago now?) was the first show that I had directed since graduating. I remember talking to a friend who was part of Players Club at the time, Matthew Willis, and telling him I was interested in directing, and him saying, ‘Oh, well the Players Club is looking for directors, do you want me to put your name forward?” I was like, “yes, please!” My experience working on that show back then was when I realized I really wanted to pivot from stage management to directing. Up until that point I had been considering stage managing professionally, and maybe joining Equity as a stage manager… I love stage managing, and there are things that I will always love about stage managing, but I think my real passion is in directing.

What was the process like with this current play, The Grown-Up?

I submitted the proposal for this play because I felt that this play was so appropriate for university students to be performing, and for university students to be seeing. It’s a play about magic and time travel and pirates, but it’s also a play about slowing down and being in the present because life can move very quickly. There’s a point in the play where a character realizes that he’s far beyond the point in his life that he should be, “Wait, I’m not supposed to be here, I’m a boy, I’m ten,” I remember reading that and being struck by the levels of metaphor there, and recognizing that feeling, I think a lot of us have had that feeling: “Hang on, how did I get here? I’m supposed to be ten, I’m supposed to be playing with my siblings in the living room with blocks and how did I get to be, you know, thirty.” I was so struck by that and by what is just a really poetic play by Jordan Harrison. I remember when I was at UBC, and how everything just seemed to rush by, and being so desperate to get out into the real world and actually contribute, but I think it’s really important, especially in university, to slow down and just appreciate that time for what it is.

What excites you about Vancouver theatre right now? What do you want to se more of?

I want to see more theatre that is immersive. Immersive theatre is just so much fun and so interesting. And there’s a real lack, there a couple of companies who are really pushing for immersive theatre, Chelsea Haberlin’s company ITSAZOO Productions does a lot of it, and Raincity Theatre just did an immersive version of Company, and they did Sweeney Todd last year, so they’re doing immersive musicals and I think those are fantastic. I just love the idea that while we are building these fantastical, magical worlds, we can really bring the audience into it, and make them forget they are in a theatre or take them out of a theatre entirely. That’s number one, and I think number two would be more theatre that embraces the use of new technology. It’s just such a fascinating tool that hasn’t been explored to its full capacity in theatre. Electric Company Theatre does it quite a bit and they do a phenomenal job. Vancouver Asian Theatre just opened a new play called Kuroko which I am dying to see because it’s all about this! Involving new technology in theatre makes theatre more exciting and more accessible to younger audiences.

A couple of years ago I started Wunderdog Theatre which is a teeny, tiny company with me and a few friends. Basically, we started it so that we could have an outlet to explore the intersection of new technology and theatre.

What advice would you offer to individuals looking to become involved in theatre direction and self-producing?

My advice would be to find a company that is doing the kinds of things you want to do and to start off just volunteer your time. Say like, I love what you guys are doing, I’m very interested in being a part of it, how can I help. ‘Cause every theatre company needs help. Everyone needs someone to run out and grab those props last minute, or run laundry, or even just the little things, and if you can do those things well, you can often stick around. Think of it as a learning experience, because you will learn so much.

What’s next for you?

Ah, I think I’m going to take a little bit of a break. I’ve been directing non-stop since May. I worked on a show with Ensemble Theatre in the summer, and then directly after that I went into a show at Fringe, and then directly after that I went into this. So, I’m looking forward to taking a few months, and just maybe reading a few plays? *Laughs* Not really thinking about how, just reading them. And then next summer I’m going to be directing with Ensemble again. For me I feel it’s important to have space to recover creatively.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I have to say, the team on this show has been amazing. I remember thinking when I was told the timeline for this, ‘no, that’s not possible’ –it was a month from casting to opening. I thought, this would be near-impossible if we were rehearsing full-time, which we’re not, and if we had a professional cast and crew, which we don’t, but they pulled it off, and they did an amazing job. I would be so stoked to see any of the team out in the professional world and would highly recommend working with each of them because they were just on it. It’s been really lovely to work with this group of people, and I would love to do so again.

Many thanks to Shelby Bushell (Wunderdog Theatre) and
Tanya Mathivanan (Aenigma Theatre). The Grown-Up, Shelby’s mainstage project for UBC Players Club ran November 6-10 at the Dorothy Somerset Theatre on UBC campus. Tanya’s production of The Turn of the Screw ran November 6-10 at Studio 16. Be sure to check out more of their work in the future!

Link to The Grown-Up event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2270194143272082/

Shelby’s theatre company: https://www.wunderdogtheatre.com/

Tanya’s theatre company: https://www.aenigmatheatre.com/


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Hold These Truths at The Cultch

Hold These Truths runs at The Cultch Historic Theatre (1895 Venables St., Vancouver) October 20-November 2 and is accompanied by two events presented by Asian Canadian & Asian Migration Studies on Thursday, October 24th

ACAM is delighted to participate in Hold These Truths, a play by Jeanne Sakata about the life of Gordon Hirabayashi, a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient who fought against the forcible removal and mass incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry in America during WWII.

Hirabayashi’s journey, from his time as a young man fighting injustice in America to his final days as an educator and activist in Canada, demonstrates his passion and hunger for freedom. It is an inspiring quest of what one can do to fight inequality, a tenacious reminder of history, and a reflection of how we, too, can change the future if we hold on to these truths.

Hold These Truths is making its international debut at The Cultch Historic Theatre in Vancouver after a celebrated U.S. tour.

This plays offers a chance to learn about histories of Japanese American internment through the eyes of someone who later moved to Canada and became a community leader here.

Nikkei Cultural Production and Legacies of War
Thursday, October 24
12:30-2:00 PM
Isabel McInness Ballroom, Walter Gage Residence (5959 Student Union Blvd.)

Moderator: Dr. JP Catungal, ACAM/GRSJ

Panelists:

Carolyn Nakagawa (BA ’15), Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre

Tamlyn Tomita, Producer of ‘Hold These Truths’

How have Japanese North American communities mobilized creativity, arts, media, and cultural production to respond to the legacies of World War II, including the internment of Nikkei communities and its contemporary impacts? This panel features cultural practitioners and organizers, who will draw on their histories of individual and community practice to shed light on the linkages between cultural and creative production and Nikkei histories, identities and community formations. RSVP at https://acam.arts.ubc.ca/events/event/hold-these-truths-acam-250-public-panel/ .


“Hold These Truths” Talkback
Thursday, October 24
After the Performance
The Cultch Historic Theatre (1895 Venables St.)

Moderator: Wendy Yip, UBC Ambassador

Speakers:

Joel de la Fuente, Lead actor

Jeanne Sakata, Playwright

Tamlyn Tomita, Producer

After the play, join the cast and production team for a discussion on the production of “Hold These Truths,” the play’s impacts, the importance of bringing the story to Vancouver, and how it fits into Asian Canadian or Nikkei pop culture production. Purchase a ticket for the October 24 showing if you would like to attend the talkback.

Tickets for “Hold These Truths” are available at https://thecultch.com/events/hold-these-truths/?mc_cid=5f98b2acd2&mc_eid=8de3fc173a . 

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Beckett 19: Review

Beckett 19: Review

Beckett 19: or some such semblance
Directed by Gerald Vanderwoude

Gone too soon! Yesterday was the closing night of UBC Theatre and Film’s production of Beckett 19: or some such semblance by Samuel Beckett. This year’s Beckett production was short but very sweet with incredibly versatile performances, evocative technical design, and much appreciated humor.

Opening with a radical drum solo by Tony Koelwyn under a multicoloured spotlight Beckett 19 captured our attention right from the top. The sparse but deliberate set and lighting design created the unique character of Mouth from Samuel Becketts’ short monologue Not I. Beverly Bardal delivered this biting and breathless piece about a nearly mute woman finally exposing the trauma of her youth and the buzzing voice in her head with impressive feeling and impact. A raptured audience was then briskly transitioned into a comedic series featuring light bulbs, a hat and a squashed cream horn. This light-hearted but thoughtful comedy came with performances from Joe Procyk, Norman Young, Chris Humphreys and Cam Cronin. Another short piece written by Beckett, Biddies in the Boat, finished off the first half of the show with Beverly Bardal, Deb Pickman and a gigantic moon challenging the audience to an evening conversation in the departments famous row boat.

After a brief intermission Beckett 19 concluded with a final piece – Act Without Words by Beckett. A darkly comedic piece centred on physicality and an animated desert island rounded out the performances and brought together an amazing night of talent, humor, and contemplation. Truly hypnotic the technical design of this series stood out with their stark contrast lighting and minimal but effective use of set, props and sound. Congratulations to everyone who made this set of performances into such an enchanting evening – the UBC Players Club is looking forward to the rest of the UBC Theatre and Film’s 2019/20 season!

Review by Veronica Blott, UBCPC Production Manager

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