#CdnCult Times; Volume 6, Edition 7: VANCOUVER REPRESENT

#CdnCult Times; Volume 6, Edition 7: VANCOUVER REPRESENT


Your house has a smell.

Not a good smell or a bad smell. Just a smell. You probably don’t notice the smell because you live there. You’re used to it.

Whiteness as a social construct is like the smell of your house. We don’t really notice it because we’re used to it as the default.

Every so often, a situation arises that raises awareness of the sets of assumptions and conventions in place based on the assumed default of Whiteness. Google #OscarsSoWhite, “Black Hermione”, or “Mother Courage/Tonya Pinkins.”

Over the past 18 months, several situations have arisen that challenge Vancouver’s theatre community to examine assumptions around race and representation onstage: the ReaCT open letter to the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards Society addressing under-representation of artists of colour among the Jessie board, juries, nominees and award-winners; a letter to Arts Club Theatre decrying the representation of a Chinese character in their production of A Christmas Story: the Musical; and, most recently, actions (1, 2) by the Latino community challenging the casting of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Motherfucker with the Hat.

Each instance pushed Vancouver’s theatre community to re-examine values and expectations, current practices and possible alternatives, and what shared principles – if any – the community has the right to hold itself accountable for.

In this edition of #cdncult, we’ve collected three perspectives on Vancouver’s on-going discussion. Pedro Chamale writes about the tensions between finding his voice as an artist and advocate. Amy Lynn Strilchuk unpacks some White Girl guilt and discusses how entire organizations can promote change. And Lisa C. Ravensbergen poses a possible process to communally develop shared values and best practices around race, representation and cultural production.

This edition is not as a definitive portrait of the Vancouver theatre community’s struggles with “diversity”, but rather a snapshot of a community in flux that is, most importantly, willing to consider change.

Time to open the windows and let some fresh air into the house.



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About the Authors

With firm footing in performing arts practice and community building, I'm curious and passionate about change, systems, and participation. I'm a producer and an artist. I value collaboration, efficiency, and resourcefulness. Currently Artistic Director of Kingston-based SpiderWebShow Performance, which includes co-curating and producing the Festival of Live Digital Art (FOLDA). During eight years as Artistic Producer of Neworld Theatre, I collaborated with colleagues to found PL 1422, a shared rehearsal and administration hub in East Vancouver, as well as shepherding the creation and production of over 80 live events – including a series of 11 "podplays" audio plays before podplays were cool. In 2015, I was the inaugural artist in residence on CBC Radio’s q based on my digital project The Apology Generator. My formal training is in arts creation and producing, and I have practical experience managing production projects, festivals, and special events. I'm functionally bilingual in English and French. I'm a parent, a gardener, a cook and have recently started running.
Michael is Artistic Director of SpiderWebShow, which he co-created with Creative Catalyst Sarah Garton Stanley. He was previously Executive Director and Transformation Designer of Generator, where he led the transition from a fee-for-service model named STAF, to the current capacity-building model it operates on. Since 2003, he has run Toronto-based Praxis Theatre, with which he has directed 14 plays and curated several festivals while writing for and running performance-based websites. He teaches regularly at The National Theatre School and Queen's University, where SpiderWebShow is currently in residence.