“A powerful and relevant work” – Jay Minter, On The List
“Donna Spencer…brings together a skillful, sensitive cast.” – Jo Ledingham
“Refuge is a genuine eye-opener, and Donna Spencer’s production gives full value to its concerns. The acting is excellent… “ – Jerry Wasserman, Vancouver Sun
“I don’t remember the last time I saw such raw despair on-stage” – Colin Thomas
There are 6 more chances to see this powerful play
Today’s matinee is PWYC, so get here early to guarantee a good seat!
Thank you to everyone who came to the opening of Refuge. We had some very special guests in attendance including playwright Mary Vingoe, Hon. Sen. Mobina Jaffer, and Yasin Kiragga of the African Descent Society of BC.
Yasin Kiragga, Nicola Lipman, and David Petersen
Larry Ho, Ines Ortner, Stephen Heatley, and James Irving
Mary Vingoe with Aadin Church
Angela Moore, Robert Moloney, Yasin Kiragga, guest, Mary Vingoe, Donna Spencer, and Almaz Assefa
Sen Mobina Jaffer, Donna Spencer, Almaz Assefa, and Yasin Kiragga
Canada has become a beacon for refugees leaving war torn countries, poverty and oppression to find a safe refuge for their families. As numbers of refugees crossing the border increase in this era of actions by the current U.S. President, we need to consider how we, as Canadians, respond to this need. How do we show our support while creating a balance? Our goal is to make this production of REFUGE available to students across the lower mainland and we need your help to make this happen!
The Firehall Arts Centre has set a goal of $6000 in order to offer subsidized tickets to high school, college, and university students who have limited funds to access the arts. It is important that students are exposed to and included in discussions regarding the social, cultural, political, and economic integration of refugees.
Click below to support this initiative!
We hope you can share our campaign with others. Share the link, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter; whichever social channel you prefer. Help us spread the word!
Marguerite de la Rocque de Roberval, a French nobleman fits the description of what someone whose name shall go unnamed would label a “nasty woman”. She was abandoned by her uncle, who had set out to Canada to help colonize it, on a remote island off the coast of Newfoundland, for her sexual indiscretions in a shipboard romance. Elle survived two winters before finally being rescued. She was then taken back to France where she lived out her life with the memory of her uncle’s cruel judgment haunting her.
This story became a legend. When Severn Thompson discovered the Governor-General Award winning novel Elle, written by Douglas Glover, she was determined to bring it to the stage. “His exploration of this story was so inventive and the character itself that he created – there was something about her humor, and the fact that she was written as quite a misfit …She’s not perfect by any means, but her imperfection makes her quite human and relatable”, Thompson said in a recent Georgia Straight interview with Andrea Warner. Thompson plays the role of Marguerite in her Dora Mavor Moore award-winning stage adaptation of Elle, currently playing at the Firehall. In the play, Thompson explores Glover’s text with passion, humor and physical nuance. In this re-telling she is supported by Jonathan Fisher as Itsik, an indigenous man who discovers her as he is seeking his own redemption and an evocative production design by Jennifer Goodman.
It seems alarming now that someone would have been punished so harshly for engaging in consensual sex and yet “We’re still going through that, “Thompson says connecting the puritanical values of the 1500’s to today. “What I love about her is she can’t help herself. She does have some sense of guilt for religious reasons, but she has such a strong drive to live and to explore her sexuality and everything. She’s very impulsive and it’s interesting to see somebody like that. That’s kind of coded as a headstrong girl, which is still the case, right? Well, ‘headstrong’ is the nicest label, but still, there’s all these labels that women get, you know. ‘She’s so opinionated, she’s so …’ People are very quick to label, dismiss and destroy if they can.”
Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate this NASTY WOMEN – ELLE playing at the Firehall until February 18th, 2017.
Following its debut at the 2016 Vancouver Fringe Festival, The Nether continues to receive high critical praise on the Firehall Arts Centre stage.
“Don’t be daunted by The Nether’s subject matter. See it. But brace yourself: Haley springs a couple of plot twists that will stun you.” – Colin Thomas, colinthomas.ca
“Director Chris Lam’s minimalist staging is effective; the powerful contrast between the sterility of the real world and the richness of the Hideaway is largely left to our imagination and to the exquisitely atmospheric and subtly ominous sound design, by James Coomber, and lighting, by Jonathan Kim.” – Kathleen Oliver, The Georgia Straight
“The Nether is an insightful and riveting rumination on the virtual era looming in our potential future, beautiful and terrible in its strangeness and its familiarity. It’s guaranteed to infect your thoughts like virulent malware – but in the very best way.” – Max D’Ambrosio, Showbill.ca
“It would be a cliché, but nevertheless true, to say that The Nether deals with fantastic ideas that become more realistic and issues that become timelier every day.” – Jerry Wasserman, Vancouverplays
“Holding our hands through this difficult subject matter is the terrific ensemble of Linden Banks, David Bloom, Douglas Ennenberg, Lissa Neptuno, and Julia Siedlanowska. Maybe it is a defense mechanism given the topic, but under Lam’s direction the performances are somehow simultaneously realistic and detached; the result is an almost indescribable reaction to these characters.” – Mark Robins, Vancouver Presents
The Redcurrent Collective Production The Nether, runs until Saturday January 28th.
Our friends and neighbours to the west, the Vancouver Police Museum have a great offer for And Bella Sang With Us ticket holders: visit the Police Museum for FREE on the day of your performance or up to 2 days afterwards.
Museum hours: Tues – Sat 9am-5pm. Don’t have your ticket in hand? Stop by the Firehall Box Office beforehand, we’re open Mon-Fri 9:30am-5pm & Sat 1-4pm.
Check out @policemuseum for your chance to win tickets to And Bella Sang With Us! Contest closes Jan 8th.
On Sunday November 20th at 5:30pm, following the matinee performance of Miss Shakespeare, join us for a panel discussion: WIT – Women in Theatre in the 20th Century
“…If a painter can be male or female, then why shouldn’t an actor be. Or a writer. An artist is an artist. Women are born with creative abilities equal to any man.”
Many female Canadian artists have made a huge impact on my life since I was 17. Though there was a fine balance of male to female teachers while I was in theatre school, I always gravitated towards the female voices. During this time, I would also research and be in awe of the strong female artists throughout the country. I am aware of the skill, passion, and talent women in the theatre community have. Yet, I often find myself asking, “Why are there not more companies run by women? “ or, “Why is there only one female director in that company’s season?” or, “Why does that female character not have an opinion?”
These are just some of the questions I have and hope to discuss with our panel made up of multi-talented members of the theatre community. We’ll chat about the barriers women have faced in the industry, what changes we must start to implement, and the great impact of the female voice in Canadian theatre.
We hope you can join us this Sunday, November 20th, from 5:30 to 6:30 at The Firehall Arts Centre after the 3 pm matinee of Miss Shakespeare by inspiring female Canadian artist Tracey Power.
Writer/performer Tracey Power; Firehall Artistic Producer Donna Spencer; Actor Carmela Sison; Actor/Director Corina Akeson from Classic Chic Theatre and others will discuss the challenges and opportunities of women working in today’s theatre.
This panel discussion is a free event, open to all.
‘Miss Shakespeare’ uses musical theatre to champion women’s rights
Imagine a world where women weren’t allowed the same rights and privileges as men. The results of the US election last night – or, rather, the entire campaign process – were a potent reminder that women still encounter major roadblocks and double standards on the path to equality, and have done for centuries. Which makes a show about women challenging the status quo in Shakespearean England very timely.To wit, Chelsea Hotel creator Tracey Power has lent her considerable musical theatre talents to the story of Judith Shakespeare, frustrated daughter of the Bard.
“It’s the 1600’s and women are banned from the stage, but the suppressed female mind is finding it difficult to stay…well, suppressed,” reads the synopsis for Miss Shakespeare. “Behind the dingy walls of The Cage Tavern, six women explore the seductive power of the theatre.”
The result is a Jessie Richardson Award-winning evening of cabaret and courage, with an all-star cast featuring Susinn McFarlen (Vanya, Sonya, Masha & Spike), Caroline Cave (Story of a Girl), Meaghan Chenosky (Best Laid Plans), Erin Moon (Oxford Roof Climbers Rebellion), Medina Hahn (off-Broadway/Canadian tour of Any Night), Pippa Mackie (The Valley), and Power, with music co-written by Steve Charles.
We caught up with Power by email just prior to opening night to learn more about her creative process, and the inspiration for writing a show about these “nasty women”.
What are the challenges and highlights of acting in your own creation?
The biggest challenge is making sure I take the time to listen to the text of the other characters in the play. To make sure all their stories are being told. I play Isabel Loxley, and so as the actor I am very inside her story. As the playwright I need to be on the outside, so making sure I take the time to both is very important. The most exciting part of this business is creating new shows. I think it is for the audience as well. Nothing beats hearing a story for the very first time. I love it.
For those who, say, know you from Chelsea Hotel, what did that experience teach you and are there any similarities in style or tone?
Chelsea Hotel encouraged me to follow my instincts as a creator, to embrace vision and take the audience on an experience. The movement of this show could be compared to Chelsea Hotel in some ways as they both came out of my brain. As well as the passion and love for theatre and music.
Who was Judith Shakespeare and does the show take any liberties with her life and sensibilities?
Judith was Will Shakespeare’s youngest daughter. There are some factual clues to her past that I followed, and from those I drew my own personal opinion of what her life was like. Of course there are liberties, as I only had so much to go on, but everything that she does is inspired by the facts that we do know about her life. I have lived with this character for eight years now so she is very much a fully fleshed out human being to me and one whose courage and heart truly inspire me.
What was your process for creating the story. What kind of research did you do and what did you discover about this person?
The story evolved through many stages but really stemmed from my curiosity of how women began in the theatre. History at that time is only documented by men, so what were women doing at that time that men didn’t know about? Women didn’t just appear on the stage one day without having a curiosity or a drive to do it. To me it made perfect sense that they would have been exploring it in private. Germaine Greer wrote a fantastic book called Shakespeare’s Wife, which was a fabulous source of inspiration and I recommend it to anyone with a curiosity for the women of that time. I believe that women from 400 years ago weren’t that different than women today, they just had different rules to abide by. Therefor, different rules to break.
Why make it a musical?
I wanted Judith’s voice to be very different from her father’s. She has a wild imagination and music allowed the voice of a woman who’s creativity was forbidden to be released in a fun, exciting and sometimes heartbreaking way.
Women can obviously act and engage with the theatre these days, but we’re set to imagine a time when that wasn’t allowed. What was the inspiration for the story and how does Miss Shakespeare reflect life for the modern woman?
The inspiration was drawn from the feeling of what it must have been like for a creative woman of that time to be forced to suppress it. For Judith to have the same creative aspirations as her father, to see him succeed and to be denied that herself, even by her own father is gutting. Women’s voices are still being suppressed around the world. We are very lucky in this country, but it still exists. The US election has shown how warped and disgusting some views still are towards women.
Why do the other women feel compelled to get involved?
All of the characters are based on real women. Everything they do in the show is based on an imagination of how they would have dealt with their personal joys and tragedies.
After putting it out into the world in 2015, what were some of the show’s biggest successes and takeaways for you, personally?
The emails I received from audience members after seeing the show were some of the most beautiful letters I’d ever received about a show. From women and men saying how inspired, entertained and excited they were by the show. How seeing Judith’s story energized them with a belief that anything is possible. That artistic creation is limitless. By inspiring them, they ultimately inspired me, and how amazing is the theatre for that.
It features a rock-solid cast of women. Is written by you, a woman. But it’s direct by a man. What does James MacDonald bring to the piece?
He’s one of the best directors in the country. His attention to story telling details is a must for new plays. He has been working with me on it for four years and it is a better play because of him. He’s also an amazing director of Shakespeare, so he is very familiar with the world this play was birthed from. I love bringing teams of great artists together to tell stories, these are the artists I believed would be best to tell this story.
• Miss Shakespeare runs now until Nov. 26 at the Firehall Arts Centre (280 E. Cordova). Tickets from $23 at FirehallArtsCentre.ca
For the Mama’s and the Papa’s out there: Some quotes from Nicolle Nattrass’s Mamahood: turn and face the strange
“I’m not a perfect mother. I should just get that off my chest right now. But who is right? I mean that would be impossible, except if you were Mary. Now Mary was the perfect mother. Never lost her temper, never cranky. She was always calm because she had the perfect baby. Jesus. You can bet Jesus slept through the night. Do you think he was colicky? No and even if he was, Mary was a Zen peace loving Mama who never lost it. She’d have to be. Can you imagine? Giving birth to the Son of God. Jesus!”
This one woman show currently playing at the Firehall Arts Centre until October 29th explores the challenges of becoming a first time mom and discovering that behind the mystery of pregnancy and parenthood there is much to discover.
“My boobs are growing at a rapid rate! I am now DOUBLE D! I am only two and half months into my pregnancy! What’s gonna happen next month? What’s gonna happen in my 9th month?”
“I am Celiac. Celiac and pregnant? Seriously? Just when my taste buds make me feel like each bite is a mini orgasm? Everything tastes so good. Like an orange, the juice, the-everything is like 110% MORE GOOD than it could ever be!”
“Do you have a nutritional consultant? A pre-natal yoga coach? Catch the demonstrations ahead for Zumba for moms, as well as tot pole dancing for moms and babies. And, of course, there are workshops available for new mothers to begin a blog, write a book or memoir.”
“I will be ready! No room for error at Mama Camp. First I remove all toxic paint and then Feng Shui the baby’s room. I take all the birthing courses no matter what the cost. I start a Registered Education Savings. ”
After the birth:
“Is this how babies are supposed to sound? From the Jurassic period? Baby wakes up. Every hour. Hungry. He screams nonstop. WAHHHHH. Every 20 minutes-He does not sleep. Hardly ever. Screaming red faced-Oh my god what have we done?”
The days pass:
“I look down at my beautiful baby, so pure, so perfect- Why am I thinking about this now? Oh god- I’m failing-I’m failing at this–I can’t fail at this. I do what I always do to get thru-What any self-respecting, God fearing person would do. I pull out my old David Bowie records.”
And more days pass:
“I’m caught in this loop – angry, scared, can’t sleep, angry, scared, can’t sleep. I don’t feel like myself. I don’t talk to Vincent anymore. Everything makes me irritated-angry-I slam doors. I yell and then look down and see his face.
This tiny face.
(beat) I can’t do this anymore.
I call the Child Resource Centre– I need help.”
This powerful piece explores the fear, the pain and the joys of parenthood. Check it out!
Mamahood: turn and face the strange. In honor of all those Mama’s and Papa’s who are working so hard to raise their young children the Firehall is offering a special discount. Go to firehallartscentre.ca and purchase tickets using our special promo code: babybrain
(Vancouver, BC) – The Firehall Arts Centre announced today the cancellation of The Motherf**ker with the Hat, which was scheduled to be remounted in January 2017 in association with Haberdashery Theatre.
The production would have involved the original cast and creative team from the successful 2016 run, with a budget based on a one-week rehearsal period. When advised that two of the five actors would no longer be available for the 2017 run, it was determined that it would not be possible to recreate a strong production of the work as over two-thirds of the play would have needed to be reworked, triggering the need for a three-week rehearsal period, additional technical rehearsals, and materials and fees needed to re-costume new cast members.
In making this announcement, Artistic Producer Donna Spencer stated, “Stephen Adly Guirgis has written a very important and dramatically well-structured play that speaks to the impact of addiction on all of the characters’ lives. These same issues are very relevant to Vancouver and the inner city neighbourhood in which the Firehall Arts Centre resides. When we chose to produce the play with our partners, it was indeed these issues that we felt needed to be heard by our audiences.”
“The Firehall and our colleagues at Haberdashery Theatre have heard the concerns that were expressed by the Latino theatre community regarding the casting of two of the roles in the production and, should a new production of the work be undertaken in the future, will approach the casting and auditioning for the work in a different manner.”
“At this time, I would like to thank our colleagues at Haberdashery Theatre and the cast and creative team from the January 2016 production. All of their work was of very high caliber, garnering the production a Jessie Award nomination for ‘Outstanding Production – Large Theatre’ and nominations for ‘Outstanding Performance in a Lead Role’ for cast members John Cassini and Lori Triolo.”
The Firehall Arts Centre is currently considering other projects to replace this production, and in doing so will continue its long-standing commitment to creating and supporting work that is reflective of the cultural pluralism of Canada. Many fabulous, ground-breaking works involving Indigenous artists, as well as artists from diverse cultural heritages, have been supported through the Firehall’s thirty-four years of bringing important plays and dance performances to Vancouver audiences. Playwrights and theatre, dance, and inter-disciplinary companies who have projects that may be of interest to the Firehall Arts Centre’s audiences are encouraged to contact Donna Spencer.
About Firehall Arts Centre:
Located in a heritage fire station built in 1906, for more than 30 years the Firehall Arts Centre has been producing eclectic seasons of theatre, dance, and interdisciplinary performance that reflect cultural and social diversity of contemporary Canadian culture.
In its 2016/17 season, the company will produce and present such dynamic works as: Hong Kong Exile’s Room 2048, whose primary creators Milton Lim, Remy Siu, and Natalie Gan will develop the production, in part, through an in-house residency; Theatre Passe Muraille’s ELLE, an exploration of how First Nations were integral in saving the lives of those who came to Canada unprepared for extreme weather, and featuring the work of Severn Thompson and Jonathan Fisher; Mary Vingoe’s Governor General Award-nominated Refuge, telling the story of a young Eritrean refugee who seeks refuge in Canada without success; and The Mars Hotel & Kwan Yin, a dance theatre collaboration between dumb instrument Dance’s Ziyian Kwan and cellist Peggy Lee.