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Co-Producers of The DTES Community Play

 

Vancouver Moving Theatre

Formed in 1983 in the downtown eastside, VMT has performed all over the world and for many different events.  They create and tour theatrical repertoire for schools and festivals and produce educational programs and community residencies. VMT has received Jessie Richardson Theatre awards and nominations for Outstanding Production and Significant Achievement in Spectacle Design (1998), and Outstanding Production Theatre for Young Audiences and Significant Achievement in Cultural Exchange and Education (2002). They enjoy playing for audiences of all ages in high quality productions that celebrate the power of the human imagination.

 

Highlights of their touring repertoire include Samarambi: Pounding of the Heart, Luigi’s Kitchen, Hot Music/ Cool Tales and Tales from the Ramayana.  Highlights of VMT’s commitment to the downtown eastside include Brecht in the Park (co-produced with Touchstone and Ruby Slippers), Strathcona Kids Dragon Band, the Strathcona Community Marimba, and the Annual Strathcona Artist at Home Festival.

 

VMT has a local and international reputation for rhythmic, emotionally charged interdisciplinary productions featuring visually striking and polished professional presentation.  Veterans of over 3000 performances in Canada, the USA, Europe, Japan, Indonesia, Korea and Australia, Asia and Australia, VMT presents workshops, lectures, and articles to better share our work and create a legacy for the future. 

 

Carnegie Community Center Association

Located in a heritage building operated by the City of Vancouver, the Carnegie Community Center provides social, educational, cultural and recreational activities for the benefit of the people of the Downtown Eastside. Operating since 1983, the doors of Carnegie are open 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, with facilities that include the most utilized public library/reading room in the city as well as ongoing writing, theatre and music programs. In 2003, the historic Carnegie building (home to Vancouver’s first public library and museum) will be 100 years old.  The community play is planned as part of the 100th anniversary celebration.

 

 

Artist Biographies

 

Terry Hunter, Executive Director

 

A resident of the DTES for over twenty-five years, Mr. Hunter has been active in the performing arts for 30 years as a theatre producer, director, performer, creator, band leader and teacher.  Most recently, he produced Tales from the Ramayana and the Fifth Annual Strathcona Artist at Home Festival. A six-time Canada Council Arts Award recipient, Mr. Hunter is the co-founder and Executive Director of Vancouver Moving Theatre (1983) with whom he has toured to more than forty national and international festivals throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia, Japan, Korea and Indonesia.  Mr. Hunter is also a co-Founder of the Terminal City Dance (1975), the Vancouver Dance Centre (1983), the co-recipient of the Jessie Richardson Award for Significant Artistic Achievement in Spectacle Design (1998), and a co- nominee for Jessie Richardson Award for Significant Artistic Achievement in Touring.  Most recently Mr. Hunter was the 2002 co-Artist in Residence at the Strathcona Community Centre where he implemented the Strathcona Community Marimba Project.  He is also a co-founder and member of Shangara Marimba, the Director of the Strathcona Kid’s Dragon Band and the former Artistic Director of the World Rhythms Youth Ensemble (Jabulani).

 

Savannah Walling, Artistic Director/Co-Writer

 

My first memories of the DTES are travelling to restaurants – Chinatowns’ Green Door, Vi’s Chicken and Steak House, and The Punjab.  I began living in the DTES in 1975 with my husband and creative partner Terry Hunter.  We moved into the 2nd floor of a warehouse across the street from the B.C. Sugar Refinery. Here we fixed up a studio and home and listened to the railroad bells.  Here we rehearsed with an experimental company called Terminal City Dance.  We used to walk down to Chinatown for supper, and over to the Marine View Café at the Campbell Ave. fish wharf for breakfast.  We walked down to Main and Hastings to City Nights (the old Pantages theatre) to see movies like 'Night of the Living Dead'.  We’d go for a drink at one of the beer parlours and relax at the Hastings Steam Bath.

      A couple of years later, we moved into Chinatown  into the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Association building on Carrall St. Years of grease had accumulated on the walls of the kitchen.  We spent weeks of hard labor – helped by our family and friends – turning the place into a dance studio and living space.    Although we didn’t have much money, what we had seemed to go a lot further in those days.  We shared our home with Doug Vernon, a clown and mime who still lives in the area.  I started going to the Carnegie Library. 

      Then Expo '86 came and the whole mood of the neighbourhood changed.  In a lot of ways, Expo was good for our company – it gave us work for 6 months and we could walk to work. It led to tours in Australia.  But getting a contract – and decent working conditions – was a real struggle.  We lost a friend, artist Howard Bloomfield, whose suicide was triggered – at least in part -  by his depression around Expo’s impact on the neighbourhood. After Expo, we moved out of our studio in Chinatown and moved into Mau-Dan coop at  Pender and Jackson.  Here we gave birth to our son Montana Blu. Somehow, having a child, we started to put in deeper roots.  We planted a garden at the community gardens.  Our son plays at Crab Beach, Oppenheimer Park and Maclean Park. He plays chess at Carnegie, dances at the Ukrainian Hall and does Karate at Strathcona Community Center.  We travel less.  Terry  started percussion classes for kids with the Strathcona Kids Dragon Band and marimba classes for adults with the Strathcona Community marimba.  I sing at the Ukrainian Hall. 

      My husband and I started The Strathcona Artist at Home Festival  (our 5th this year) to celebrate the artists and history of our neighbourhood – and get kids, lovers of the arts and professionals on stage all at the same time. We’ve done theatre at MacLean and Oppenheimer Parks. We rehearse our shows in the Ukrainian Hall. We made new friends helping out at a very special show I Love the Downtown Eastside.   We often have a hard time with the rent, but living in a coop has made it possible to survive as artists.

      We like the friendliness and honesty of the people we meet in this neighbourhood.  We like the human scale.  We like all the color and variety.  We like the good food from all over the world.  We like all the parks, libraries and community centers and cultural events.  We like taking care of our needs on foot.  We like learning about the history of the DTES.  It’s like opening a treasure box full of exciting, tragic and comic events, full of struggles for human rights and quiet heroes and artists from every tradition – and so many men and women to admire. 

 

 

James Fagan Tait, Director

 

James Fagan Tait is a native of Cornwall, Ontario and trained at Ryerson Theatre School and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto where he worked as an actor and director for several years.  He also studied theatre at Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris where he worked as an actor and director for four years.  He was co-artistic director of Dialogue Theatre Company in Cornwall, Ontario, a company dedicated to theatricalizing topical issues and local histories.  He was the artistic director of “Fly on the Wall Theatre Company in London, England, which received acclaim for its production of “The Watermelon” at the Edinburgh Festival.  He co-authored and directed Shadowland’s Lysistrata and the New Age, a community play, on the Toronto Islands a dozen years ago before establishing himself as a regular actor/director at the Caravan farm Theatre in Armstrong, B.C.  He is a regular performer for all the local theatres in Vancouver and co-authored and directed  Not the Way I Heard It in Enderby, B.C., a massive community play about and created for the residents of Enderby.  He has toured the province in A Change of Heart  for The Hospital Employees Union and The A.I.D.’S Informer for The World A.I.D.S. Group, both of which he co-authored and co-directed.  He directed the acclaimed productions of The Forced Marriage and The Hotel Play at Studio 58 at Langara College.

     After directing 150 actors in Enderby in Not the Way I Heard It, The Enderby and District Community Play, I never expected to have another opportunity like it again. For me, it was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity since these plays, which are enormous undertakings for so many people about a very unique community, don’t happen that often.  So when Terry and Savannah from Vancouver Moving Theatre approached me about it, I was overwhelmed.  But it didn’t take much for me to get interested in a community play that was going to be about the downtown eastside. As one of four writers and as the director I have the privilege of discovering the stories and voices of the DTES, translating them into a play for 150 actors from the same area and then making it work with a team of designers and managers.  The thrill is, of course, the people, that’s what it’s all about – the hundreds of people that the play requires in order for it to work at all.  And that’s the community. That’s you. And that’s why these projects are called community plays.

 

Renae Morriseau, Co-Writer

Renae is of Cree/Saulteaux ancestry and originally comes from Manitoba.  She has worked in theatre and film for most of her life.  Renae played "Ellen" on North of Sixty for five years.  She has had guest roles in X-Files, Cold Squad and Neon Rider. She had three seasons on Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy, and hosted 4 - 1/2 hour television programs called All My Relations.  In 2002 she hosted Aboriginal filmmaker Tracey Jack's 1 hour special for CTV:  Crying in the Dark.  

      For more than 10 years Renae has worked within Aboriginal communities in Manitoba and B.C.focusing on theatre and community development.  She created regular programs called "Within The Circle" with the Winnipeg community cable TV station. These were designed as teaching tools for the Mama Wi Chi ItaTa Center in Winnipeg's North End.  Renae became co-host with Tom Jackson and writer/producer/correspondent for the national program "First Nations".

      In 1992 she joined forces with Motion Visual Communications, a national production company, to create segments for her First Nations program through the CanWest network.  In 1994 Renae wrote "Indigeni, Native Women: Politics", a series pilot through UTV in Vancouver.  This program was broadcast nationally and throughout New Zealand.  IN 1993 Renae won the Native American Journalists Association Awards for Best Documentary, and Best Cultural Material.  At the American Indian Film Festival in 2000 Renae won the Best Actress Award for her role as Ella Lee in the Shirley Cheechoo's film, Bearwalker.

     Renae is a member of the Leaky Heaven Circus, a Theatre Company that provides Christmas and Spring performances in Vancouver.  Renae teaches and facilitates popular theatre for Aboriginal communities across Canada and is working on a short film on an Okanagan Creation Story.  Renae is deeply committed to Aboriginal youth and uses her skills in theatre to begin a series of youth gatherings to promote concerns and issues that impact on Aboriginal youth.

 

Adrienne Wong, Co-Writer

Adrienne Wong studied theatre at Simon Fraser University. She has lived and worked in East Vancouver for 8 years.  She says, "When I moved to Vancouver from Calgary, I was attracted to the Downtown Eastside, and especially Strathcona, because my grandmother grew up here.  My Dad has told me stories about walking along Hastings Street and sitting on the roof of the Dominion Building, where one of his relatives worked, to watch the fireworks.  I like walking the streets of Chinatown and imagining that I'm walking in the footsteps of my Grandmother, who died before I was born."

     I work in Theatre in different ways.  Sometimes I act in plays at the Firehall Arts Centre, the Arts Club on Granville and even in school gymnasiums with companies like Vancouver Moving Theatre, Green Thumb Theatre for Young People and Carousel Theatre.  Sometimes I work as a director, in fact, I directed Wendy Chew's play The Red Dress Girl at the Firehall as part of the Rare Earth Arias.  I also work in the theatre as a writer.  I've written two plays for CBC Radio and two plays that were produced at the Firehall Arts Centre.  As you can tell, I work at the Firehall Arts Centre a lot!  In fact, this year I'm the artist-in-residence.

     Some of Adrienne's other accomplishments include: Peformance credits:  The Yoko Ono Project (Firehall Arts Cente) ,Tales from the Ramayana (Vancouver Moving Theatre), Foreign Bodies (Tangled Tongues Performance).  Writing credits:  Other Women (Rumble Productions); two radio plays Another Cup of Tea, co-written with her sister, and Kate's Dream (CBC Radio).  As a dramaturg Adrienne has worked with Savannah Walling, Heidi Taylor, Noah Drew, Jacob Zimmer and John Graham Lee.  She has collaborated as a director with Donna Spencer (An Enemy of the People), Norman Armour (Three in the Back, Two in the Head, and War of the Worlds) and in the paper theatre with Andreas Kahre (x,y: A Soldier's Tale). Adrienne has a BFA from Simon Fraser University's School for the Contemporary Arts, is an Associate Artist of Rumble Productions and co-Artistic Director of Tangled Tongues Performances.

 

Jodi Smith, Publicist

Jodi has agreed to be the publicist for the community play in fall 2003.  Executive Director of JLS Entertainment, she has worked for twelve years producing live events and music videos, is involved in artist management and entertainment coordination, and has been a freelance publicist for musical concerts, modern dance, special events and theatre.  She has been the Entertainment Coordinator for the PNE mainstage concert series. the Harmony Arts Festival and the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.  Past and present publicity clients include Festival Vancouver, The West Coast Music Awards, North American Folk Alliance (World Ceilidh and A Really Big Night on the Drive), The Storytelling Festival, the Scotia BankDance Centre opening, Ravi Shankar, Moving into Dance Mophatong (from South Africa), Toronto Dance Theatre, Vancouver Moving Theatre, UHF (Ulrich Henderson Forbes), Barney Bentall,  Joe Ink, battery opera and the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.  Jodi provided friendly, efficient and very effective publicity for VMT’s “Tales from the Ramayana”.

 

John Endo Greenaway, Graphic Artist

John has lived in the east side for the better part of 30 years (He parents co-founded Strathcona’s first housing coop at Union St. and were involved in the 1970’s fight to stop the freeway).  He  co-founded both Uzume Taiko and Katari Taiko (whose founding helped marked the re-emergence of the Japanese Canadian community who had been scattered about the country after  World War II).  John is working on a book with his mother Fumiko Greenaway, on the Japanese Canadian internment camps of World War II. 

      John has worked in the print production, design and world music fields for the last 25 years.   Following his departure from Uzume Taiko in 2000, he has concentrated on his freelance design and editing business full time, working primarily in the Japanese Canadian and arts communities.    His freelance clients include Hard Rubber Orchestra, Kodo, Lola MacLaughlin Dance, Takeo Yamashiro, Caravan World Rhythms, Gary Cristall Artist Management, JLS Productions, the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre, the Japanese Canadian National Museum, Vancouver New Music Society, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Ashe Brasil, Vancouver Moving Theatre, Diane Kadota Arts Management, and the Japanese Canadian Citizen’s Association.

 

Marina Szijarto, Costume and Prop Design 

Originally from England (where she obtained a Foundation Arts Diploma and a Fine Art Embroidery Degree),Marina designs and builds costumes, sets and props locally and internationally for dance, theatre, celebrations and parades.

     She has lived in the downtown eastside for over 14 years and has been involved with several community projects here, namely,The footprints community mosaics and banners with the Carnegie Street programme in 2001, the Circus of Dreams with Public Dreams Society and Strathcona Community Centre 1996 - 1998. She also co-ordinates, designs and builds many other types of Community Public Art projects including Murals, tile & pebble Mosaics, Banners, Giant Puppets and Lanterns with a variety of communities in B.C. and the Yukon.She has worked with Many professional theatres in Vancouver and B.C. and has been nominated for 4 Jessie Richardson awards, and in 2002 received a ‘Jessie’ for best costume design for small theatre.

     Marina has worked both as a Director and collaboratively to create large-scale outdoor

multidisciplinary events and smaller personal rites of passage rituals, involving the community and implementing visual spectacle and celebration art techniques such as, Luminara - Victoria,The Arctic

Winter Games- Whitehorse Yukon, Illuminares, Parade of the lost Souls, Circus of Dreams, Vancouver.

     Marina has performed (most often on stilts or with fire) at parades and festivals in B.C. and in the USA. (The Leaky Heaven Circus, Burning Man-Nevada, Freemont solstice & Halloween parades-Seattle, Vancouver Folk Music Festival)

     She is a co-diva in the Bad Altitude Stilt Collective and has performed with them throughout Vancouver (Word on the Street, the Vancouver Pride Parade)Since 1984, Marina has exhibited her paper-mache, fabric appliqué and mixed media works in Galleries and Museums in Canada, England and Japan. Marina working on ‘Funeralia’ - an ongoing project exploring creative responses to death and dying, plus ‘green’ and alternative funerals. She is presently co-writing a book on the subject with Paula Jardine.

 

For a Visual Portfolio please see Marina Szijarto’s Web page at http://www.msdemeanour.ca

 

 

Play Participants

Organizing Commitee

The Organizing Committee will assist the artistic team with the design of the project concept and particulars, with fundraising and general community know-how.  The committee includes key individuals from the district connected with various interest groups. They are established and dynamic people of the community who know the communities artistic, social and financial resources, and are aware of significant issues, communication barriers, and cultural protocols.

Committee members include:

Rika Uto-  Carnegie Programmer

Sharon Kravitz-  Artist/Carnegie Anniversary Co-coordinator

Dara Culhane-  SFU Professor/DTES resident

George Hui-  Vancouver Social Planning Department

Jil P. Weaving-  City of Vancouver Community Arts Programmer

Bob Eberle-  UBC Theatre Associate Professor

Gena Thompson-  Carnegie Board of Directors/DTES resident

Terry Hunter-  Executive Director, VMT, Producer/Community Play

Anne Suddaby-  First United Church

Valencia Bird-  Executive Director, Breaking the Silence

 

Artistic and Production Team

Savannah Walling-  Artistic Director/Co-Writer

Terry Hunter-  Artistic Producer

James Fagan Tait-  Director/Co-Writer

Renae Morriseau-  First Nations Consultant/Co-Writer

Wyckam Porteus-  Musical Director/Composer

Marina Szijarto-  Designer

Adrienne Wong-  Co-writer

Itai Erdal-  Production Manager

Jodi Smith-  Publicist

John Endo Greenaway-  Promotions and Legacy Project Designer

 

Friends of Carnegie-Fundraising

Russ Anthony-  Businessman

Jim Bishop-   Businessman

David Mowat-  CEO VanCity Savings Credit Union

Phillip Owen-  Businessman/former Mayor of Vancouver

Don Shumka-  Businessman/Chair, British Columbia Arts Council

Milton Wong-  Businessman/Chancellor, Simon Fraser University

 

Funding Agencies & Sponsors

Acknowledgements

The DTES Community Play greatly appreciates the financial support of The Canada Council Theatre Section,  Human Resources Development Canada, The BC Arts Council, The City of Vancouver Office of Cultural Affairs, the City of Vancouver Social Planning Department and the DTES Revitalization Program, Vancouver Parks and Recreation, The Vancouver Foundation, The Hamber Foundation, the Friends of Carnegie and Mail Box Etc (Nelson Street).  

Community Associates

Many individuals and organizations that have expressed a commitment to help out in the project. These include- Firehall Arts Centre, desmedia, Interurban Project, ARTSPEAK, DEMOCRACE, Theatre in the Raw, The Strathcona Community Centre, First United Church, The Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall, The Raycam Community Centre, Admiral Seymour Elementary School, Strathcona Community School, Breaking the Silence, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., The Chinatown Revitalization Committee, the DTES Revitalization Committee, Vancouver CommunityNet, The Chinese Cultural Centre, UBC Theatre Dept., Vancouver Public Library, Vancouver Museum, the Vancouver Community Arts Council, the Vancouver Parks Board and The Roundhouse Community Centre.

 

DTES Community Play Legacy Project

To celebrate and honour the DTES Community Play and its participating DTES residents we have initiated the DTES Community Play Legacy Project. This project has two elements- a permanent mounted public installation/display at the Carnegie Centre and a twenty page play booklet (a paper back version of the mounted instalment display).

These two historical legacies will include, among other areas of interest, photos of participants, articles on the play, the process and the history of the neighbourhoods, the play story line, interviews and quotes from participants, and credits of the participants and community supporters.

The installation/display at the Carnegie – a permanent installation/display for the public - will consist of nine 10 inch by twenty three inch panels.  The combined wall size of all the panels will be approximately 50 inches by 48 inches feet. The text and the images will be laser printed on archival quality paper and framed in metal frames with mat.

Two thousand copies of the twenty page booklet will be printed and distributed to the residents and organizations of the DTES who participated in the play and/or its process. The booklet will be made available to libraries and other interested institutions and organizations, and sold to members of the audience.  The inside cover page, the back page and the back inside page will be sold to advertisers. (The advertising pages will not be included in the installation/display.)

The designer for the DTES Community Play Legacy Project is John Endo Greenaway- founder of Uzume Taiko – a former long time resident of the DTES and the promotions designer for the Community Play. John will photo document the process and the play (workshops, parades, rehearsals, performances, meetings and other community play events) and create the visual layout of the installation/display and the booklet.  Savannah Walling – the Artistic Director of Vancouver Moving Theatre and the Artistic Director/co-writer of the DTES Community Play is the head writer of the DTES Community Play Legacy Project.

Project Work Plan

May - August    

                  -Photo document Community Play Outreach workshops, auditions, readings,etc.     

                  -Determine text content of display and booklet.

                  -Create draft layout of display and booklet.

Sept. – October          

                  -Photo document Community Play rehearsals, meetings and other events.

                  -Complete layout, text, and design of display and booklet.

                  -Assemble equipment and supplies for Installation of display.

November         

                  -Print Booklet.

                  -Distribute booklet to Community Play participants and public.

                  -Submit invoices to date.

What's Happened So Far

To date, the writers’ have interviewed over fifty residents (including local activists, artists, historians and writers) and gathered questionnaires from 275 students and local residents. Fifty residents attended the historical neighbourhood walk and two historical talks (Strathcona Artist at Home Festival). Fifty residents have also participated in the building of a giant Phoenix, a giant Dragon and a Community Play banner, which were premiered to the delight of the thousands of people at this year’s Chinese New Year’s Parade. We are projecting between 500-750 DTES residents will participate in the process of building, rehearsing and performing in the play.

Outreach Program Description

While the play rehearsals start in September 2003, since January 2003 there have been  lots of special events and skill building workshops to generate popular support and community participation in the play process.  Funding for this program has been provided by the DTES Revitalization Committee (of the Vancouver Social Planning Department) and the Carnegie Centre.  The purpose of the program of workshops and performances is to inform the DTES Community about the play and to begin involving them in the play building process. To date we have built a giant Phoenix puppet -which is the symbol of our play - and a giant Dragon puppet. The phoenix and dragon puppets debuted before an audience of thousands in Vancouver’s annual Chinese New Years Parade. 

VMT is also organizing a series of between 40 workshops in writing, performing and building that are designed to foster creativity and team spirit and give voice to residents.  Our strategy is to attach workshops to existing DTES events and programs. Workshop topics will include choral singing, stage fighting, theatre improvisation, puppet and banner choreography, introduction to shadow puppetry, plus the making of masks, puppets, banners, hats, and lanterns. Artist involved include, among others- Karen Wong, Zhongxi Wu, Renae Morriseau, Marie Clements, Yvonne Chartrand, Cathy Stubington and Russell Shumsky. These workshops have been organized by a team of outreach workers- Leith Harris, Rosemary Georgeson, Colleen Tillman, Dana Wong, and Karen Wong.

Evaluation Process

The Community Play has received funding from the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation to contract the Strathcona Research Group to undertake a professional evaluation of the Community Play. This research will be carried out by Sister Victoria Marie OSF and PHD Candidate, using the logic model. The purpose of this evaluation process is to create a DTES Community Play Evaluation Document which will measure the outcomes to the original objectives. Copies will be made available to the play’s funding agencies and theatre artists to promote Artists and Community Arts funding and the development of both new models of Community Theatre in BC.

Outside Documentation

The Roundhouse Community Centre is providing the services of their 2003-2004 Artist in Residence, writer/theatre artist Valerie Method to write a travelogue of the process of creating the DTES Community Play. This travelogue will be an important element for the professional dissemination of the process of creating a community play in a BC/Canadian urban context for the broader theatre community.