Great art always inspires thought and discussion. From the future of climate change to the Cantonese diaspora, Vancouver’s artists are provoking our minds while entertaining our senses.
On a more playful front, ex-figure skaters are putting aside their sequins for a new expression of the sport, and a play about the straight lines of home improvement will satisfy any obsessive perfectionist.
Here are 11 arts shows you should go see in Vancouver this month.
With Ghost in the Shell and Marvel’s Iron Fist racking up controversies on Hollywood’s blindingly white casting choices, audiences are becoming more critical of the stories we choose to tell on stage. It’s heartening then, to see local theatre company Hardline Productions weave themes of diversity, inclusion and reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples in this new play.
Boca del Lupo’s unique Micro Performance Series (shorter plays with an affordable price tag) has consistently dived into thoughtful content matter in bite-sized pieces. Genetic Drift proves to be no different, and is about splicing our genes to adapt to an increasingly hostile Earth – basically, global warming taken to its disastrous conclusion. Follow Gary 3, a human/creature hybrid as the play unravels how ‘human’ life continues on in the post-apocalypse of tomorrow.
In Generation Post Script, college-age space kids look down on a dying Earth and wonder how it all went so horribly wrong. By newcomer Nebula Company Theatre, the sci-fi play is a kind of “Breakfast Club in Space” reaction to our tech-addled generation. Generation examines the ongoing climate crisis and the rise of the political right by imagining the consequences of our current actions, all wrapped up in the microcosm of living aboard a space station.
While Hongcouver has been typically used in a disparaging fashion, it still points to the lasting impact of the Cantonese diaspora in Vancouver and in communities around the world. Telling the other side of the story, Room 2048 dives into the social-political realities of the mass migration, through themes of loss, nostalgia and desire. Spoilers, it’s probably not wrapping up with a happy conclusion, as choreographer Natalie Tin Yin Gan states: “If the last twenty years of controversy are any indication, 2048 symbolizes a future Hong Kong that will be wrought with struggle, loss, and erasure.”
A collaboration of some of Vancouver’s most exciting dance and theatre artists, How to Be promises to transcend preconceived notions about the performing arts. It’s a hefty proposition, helmed by the always-ambitious Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, and will put ‘proper behaviour’ to the stress test. How we think we “should” be, how we feel others “should” be, and the beautiful failure of it all.
A bunch of ex-figure skaters got tired of the sequins and sparkles, and the result is Montreal’s free-skating Le Patin Libre. Shedding the over-the-top costumes and routines for contemporary dance on ice, the underdog group has won no love from the conservative world of professional figure skating. Instead, they’ve formed unlikely coalitions with community ice rinks and arts organizations around the world, and will be bringing their love of the sport-cum-art to The Drive’s Britannia Ice Rink.
This Tony Award-winning musical is about a Jewish man falsely accused of the murder of a young girl, in post Civil War Atlanta. The resulting trial becomes a circus in the tumultuous south, as local authorities are out for blood and redemption. Artistic Director Ryan Mooney says themes of racism and classism of 1913 still resonate today, and are especially relevant in the renewed waves of anti-semitism of our current political climate.
Versus is billed as “Canada’s largest alternative literary festival,” and will showcase over 30 events across East Vancouver. The power of words is on prime display here, especially ones used to “support, provoke, protest and inspire.” Perhaps most important this year is the Black Lives Matter Showcase, commemorating the achievements of Vancouver’s local chapter in calling for an end to police brutality worldwide.
Even home improvement gets its own play, because why not? The long-winded DECK examines the fine line between perfectionism and obsession, chaos and freedom and why a piece of 2×6 lumber isn’t really two inches by six inches. If you’ve ever started a reno job in your life, or even started a conversation with other DIYers, this will remind you of the good times and the bad.
The bullying and violence between teenage girls takes a personal turn, based on 14 year-old Reena Virk’s murder in Victoria. Playwright Joan MacLeod leans on personal experiences for this one-woman show, on the progression of bullying and its violent ramifications. “With popular comedic movies like Mean Girls, I worry that people underestimate the long-lasting harm words can cause and the malicious violence young women are capable of,” notes the show’s solo performer, Lindsay Curl.
Modern opera classic Dead Man Walking is part of Vancouver Opera’s inaugural festival, along with traditional favourites Otello and The Marriage of Figaro. Dead Man Walking is considered the most-produced 21st Century opera, and is based on a popular movie and novel of the same name. Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch will take the role of a convicted murderer who is befriended by a Catholic nun (mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges).