Hope you are all well and am sure you are looking forward to the spring. The cherry blossoms are out in the Firehall Courtyard which is a very early sign that spring is coming. When will we be back in the theatre enjoying live performances? It is hard to tell as we approach the one year mark of the shut-down of live performing arts across a great majority of the globe. It seems there may be light at the end of this tunnel, as vaccinations ramp up. I have also been participating with a consortium of leaders of professional performing arts venues from across the province to encourage Public Health to consider our operations in a more accurate manner than casual one off events, as defined in current orders, but as the professionally run not for profit businesses that we are. This process has been slow but discussions are happening and we are hopeful that just as bars, restaurants, museums, galleries and retail outlets are allowed to operate, performing arts venues will also be able to do so soon.
With that first shut-down, the brief re-opening of our spaces for limited audiences and then the second shut-down it has begun to feel like we have lost a part of ourselves in this process. While I am not aware of how the Spanish Flu epidemic impacted cultural activity, I am aware that during the war years theatres were open and people continued to get together to listen to music, attend dance and theatre performances, and visit museums. And now with very few of us having experienced any restrictions on our ability to choose to attend a performance where we can be transported out of our day-to-day routines, a void has been created. So I long, as many do, for these particular restrictions to be over and wonder each day, with so many restrictions lifted, why all of these performing arts venues with COVID-19 Protocols in place continue to be closed. Audience members and supporters tell us how much they long to sit in a theatre and enjoy the unique experience of watching human beings share their artistic talents through music, dance or theatre.
As we look forward to the future, the Firehall is planning its 2021-2022 season. It will include many of the works we were unable to produce that had been planned for presentation in what we are referring to as the pause and pivot year. But before the next season launch, we look forward to sharing the streamed work of the In the Beginning’s discussion and a re-visit to Alan Morgan’s I Walked the Line. We have a mystery project planned for May and in June, will produce R.A. Shiomi’s Yellow Fever. No, it is not a play about a pandemic or yellow fever, the disease, but a play that takes place on Powell Street in Vancouver. A long time gathering place for the local Japanese-Canadian culture until their internment during the Second World War, Powell Street continues to play an important role in Vancouver’s history. This work set in the 1970s, features a Sam Spade-like main character, Sam Shikaze, who must work to unravel the mysteries that surround him. The production will be staged as a live-radio play with artists creating the folio and a small studio audience ( we hope). The work will also be recorded and shared through streaming. Hiro Kanagawa will portray the Sam Shikaze character and the production will be co-directed by Raugi Yu and myself. It is going to be fun to work on this important work and translate it with new tools for audiences online or in the theatre.
We have just had the Talking Stick Festival in the theatre recording many of the festival’s events. It has been so great to have artists in the building and in particular from this Festival. Talking Stick started as a Monday night Indigenous discussion and showcase event in the Firehall’s studio and now twenty years later has become one of the most important Indigenous Peoples Festivals across the Globe. A big congratulations to Margo Kane and her great team for keeping the festival moving forward during challenging times.
The end of this week we wrap our Canada Works program that has allowed us to have three talented young people working with us for eight weeks since the beginning of January working on administrative, marketing, and technical production tasks. Thank you to Mirna, Talya and Charlie for your help and we look forward to staying in touch in the future. Also, thanks to Canada Summer works for providing us with the opportunity to introduce young people into the world of the performing arts.
As a concluding note, today we are celebrating the Firehall’s 39th anniversary. The Firehall first opened its doors on February 25, 1982 with a performance by Axis Theatre, who were managing the venue in collaboration with the Playhouse Theatre Company at that time. Much has changed since that time but we have endeavored to fulfill the Society’s mission of enriching lives and expanding minds through arts and showcasing provocative performing and visual arts reflective of the diversity of Canada. We wish you could all enjoy a performance and the beautiful cherry blossoms blooming in the courtyard with us on this celebratory day.
-Donna Spencer, Artistic Producer