At first glance, it seems like a quieter month for performing arts in Vancouver, as many of the major theatre companies prepare for the season’s big holiday shows.
Still, there are plenty of local gems to be found if you look deep enough, from the long-anticipated return of a homegrown Japanese-Canadian production, to a large-scale musical performance of 100 guitars.
For original Canadian content, the list also includes the world premiere of two new plays that, at first, seem on opposite ends of the spectrum. Both, however, deal with human connection, which is why you’ll stop reading this on your phone and go see some true north productions. Right?
Here are our picks for the hottest arts shows in November.
Last year’s sold-out premiere of Empire of the Son proved one thing: Vancouver audiences are highly receptive to new, nuanced work from diverse voices. With all the recent talk about diversity in theatre, both in Vancouver and internationally, few productions are actually hitting the mark on both cast and creative. Here’s one of the exceptions. Empire is an exquisite exploration of the relationship between former CBC Radio One radio host, Tetsuro Shigematsu, and his dying father.
Where: The Cultch Theatre – 1895 Venables St, Vancouver
When: November 1 to 13
Tickets: From The Cultch, $8-$10
Here’s the one-line synopsis for Now or Later: When photos emerge of the Democratic president elect’s son dressed as the prophet Muhammed, all hell breaks loose. Given today’s accelerated political climate, the description for Fighting Chance Productions’ 10th anniversary show hardly raises any eyebrows. More known for their musical productions, the company takes a dip into the more thorny themes of white privilege, anti-Muslim, and media bias – all wrapped into a fast-flying 60 minutes.
Where: Pal Studio Theatre – 581 Cardero Street, Vancouver
When: October 28 to November 13
Tickets: At Fighting Chance Productions, $20-$25
Classical music gets a new twist during this five-day festival at the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre, presented by Music on Main. This year’s large-scale, free community event is called 100 Very Good Reasons Why _____, and will feature a performance by 100 electric guitars, singers, and percussionists. A musically adventurous listener’s delight, Modulus Festival will go from pop culture references to multimedia opera to improvisation. You never knew classical music could sound like this.
Where: Roundhouse Community Arts Centre – 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver
When: November 4 to 9
Tickets: At Music on Main, admission varies
Sexy, brash Miss Shakespeare returns to the Firehall this month. Featuring a simple set of a few chairs and a rustic bar, six leading ladies belt out powerful anthems of sisterhood in this original Canadian musical. Rebelling against the blatant sexism of the time, the show is a brave and passionate approach in showcasing feminist values and the sexism that is still about today.
Where: Firehall Arts Centre – 280 E Cordova St, Vancouver
When: November 5 to 26
Tickets: At Firehall Arts Centre, admission varies
Detroit starts with a suburban couple meeting their new, recovering-addict neighbours over a backyard BBQ. Predictably, the friendship soon spirals out of control, as the couple grapples with unemployment and alcohol abuse. Notably, Mitch and Murray Productions almost had to cancel this show due to lack of funding from the BC Arts Council, but the five-year-old indie company rallied through with a crowdfunding campaign and corporate sponsorships.
Where: Studio 16 – 1555 W. 7th Avenue, Vancouver
When: November 3 to 19
Tickets: At Brown Paper Tickets, $12.50-$29
An iconic play from China will be touring to Vancouver for a limited engagement, chronicling the 50-year rise and fall of a teahouse. History and cultural buffs will delight in the revival of the 1958 play, portraying three major shifts in modern Chinese history. Performed in Mandarin with English surtitles, Teahouse is an enduring epic drama of Chinese culture and politics.
Where: Centre for Performing Arts – 777 Homer St, Vancouver
When: November 10 to 11
Tickets: From Frontline Ticket, $40-$233
After a seven-year hiatus, an acclaimed North Vancouver company is coming back to put on the musical blockbuster RENT. Proudly building on their long-standing North Shore presence, the return marks URP’s first large scale production since 2009. RENT, of course, is the Tony Award-winning classic that follows a group of impoverished artists over a year, set in Manhattan’s East Village. This might just be worth the seabus ride over.
Where: Centennial Theatre – 2300 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver
When: November 15 to 20
Tickets: From Centennial Theatre, $28-$44
Pi Theatre returns for a show that lives up to the company’s name. Seven characters are linked by a sequence of ultimately tragic events, but there is more to the pattern than first appears. It’s like six degrees of separation on stage, albeit through number theory, geometry and logic, instead of ancestry.com. If you’re looking for less fluff and more complexity in your theatre experience, multimedia Long Division might just be the winning ticket.
Where: Gateway Theatre – 6500 Gilbert Rd, Richmond
When: November 17 to 26
Tickets: From Gateway Theatre, $29
A new play by emerging playwright Katey Hoffman, Green Lake is a dark comedy about a young woman who reconnects with her deadbeat dad on Knight Street. Set amidst minimalist cafes and basement suites, the funny yet heartbreaking story showcases a new voice in the Canadian playwriting community. Despite not receiving critical funding from the BC Arts Council this year, Solo Collective is resiliently putting on Green Lake, their 30th original Canadian play since 1999.
Where: Performance Works – 1218 Cartwright St, Vancouver
When: November 18 to 27
Tickets: From Theatre Wire, $15-$30
For some, Christmas can’t come early enough, and one of East Van’s unique theatre traditions has to agree. This year, Little Red Riding Hood is up for East Van Panto’s transformation, as the classic fairy tale gets reinvented with a modern touch. Expect stunning set design, catchy reinterpretations of current pop songs, and an inventive narrative to keep both parents and kids entertained. Not to mention Vancouver references by the basketful.
Where: York Theatre – 639 Commercial Dr, Vancouver
When: November 23 to December 31
Tickets: From The Cultch, admission varies