What's Upintheair with multi-disciplinary artist June Fukumura!

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June Fukumura is a Japanese-Canadian, multi-disciplinary artist with a BFA in Theatre Performance from Simon Fraser University. June is the Co-Artistic Director of Popcorn Galaxies, an experimental theatre company interested in re-enchanting the everyday through unconventional site-responsive works. June is also the Co-Founder of New(to)Town Collective, an artist collective with a mandate to provide ongoing accessible physical theatre training and experimental research workshops in Vancouver. She is the Assistant Dramaturg at the Banff Playwrights Lab and the Emerging Dramaturg for Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre's MSG Lab produced in association with Playwrights Theatre Centre. Her practice is a blend of experimental contemporary theatre, site-responsive and site-specific art making, embodied performance techniques, and community engaged art making and education. She has a deep interest in playing with and interrogating traditional theatrical conventions, often blurring the line between reality/fiction and performer/audience in her work. We asked June What’s Upintheair and many other questions:

Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis. Who is SUMIKO?

Sumiko is a hyper-kawaii, unabashedly raunchy, J-Pop idol wannabe bouffon character. Sumiko is an assemblage of all of the “taboo” parts of my identity as a second generation Nikkei (Japanese-Canadian) woman. She is a larger-than-life manga character come to life. Sumiko subverts Japanese cultural stereotypes by embodying and amplifying iconic Japanese images. By hyperbolizing these stereotypes she defies expectations, inviting the audience to critique and deconstruct their internalized assumptions about Japanese culture.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement in theatre is being the Artistic Director of Popcorn Galaxies and the Co-Founder of New(to)Town Collective. I started building both of these organizations when I was still an undergraduate student at SFU. I had no idea Popcorn Galaxies and New(to)Town Collective would become such a core part of my artist career. With both organizations we’ve been able to accomplish so much and I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done.

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What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for the theatre?

In 2014 I travelled to Iquitos, Peru to be a part of the 9th annual Festival de Belen, a community art public health festival in the Peruvian Amazon. Festival de Belen organized by The Gesundheit! Institute and Bola Roja brings together clowns, musicians, artists, and doctors from around the world to exercise collaborative social action with the people of Belen, a community sadly characterized by poverty and marginalization. I was one of the one hundred clowns who spend two weeks in Belen. We performed clown turns, paraded down the street, made hospital visits and more. It was a really pivotal moment for me as an artist.

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

I absolutely love the surge of female, POC, queer, comedy shows happening in Vancouver right now! One show in particular I’m totally obsessed about is Lady Parts by After Party Theatre. I saw it at the rEvolver Festival this year and I’ve been mad about it ever since. It was smart, provocative, naughty, and rowdy – a shameless celebration of feminism.

If you could sit down with any artist living or not and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

I would love to have a glass of wine with Carolee Schneeman. She was an extraordinary feminist trail blazer who paved the way for so many female artists. Her multi-disciplinary work exploring female sexuality, gender, and politics influences my artistic work. I wish I could go back to the 1970s and spend a week hanging out with Schneeman in New York.

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Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist?

Whenever I’m feeling stuck in the heaviness of my own artistic neurosis (which happens quite often) I ask myself, “What is my delight? What am I curious about?” I have to go back to the thing that sparks the most delight and curiosity in me. When I’m in this state of playfulness my mind turns away from fearing what other people might think or the pressure to make ‘good art’ –  instead I can relish in the fun of making things! I think as emerging artists we often put pressure on ourselves to prove our worthiness and that pressure can actually prevent us from making anything at all! My advice for emerging artists (and for myself) is to cultivate a healthy relationship with your own creative process.

What is My Name is SUMIKO about? Short blurb.

My Name is SUMIKO is a new clown performance created by New(to)Town Collective (June Fukumura, Davey Calderon, and Avyen von Waldenburg) premiering at the 2019 Vancouver Fringe Festival. My Name is SUMIKO interweaves clown turns, J-Pop tunes, and Japanese variety show games into an unstoppably zany, East-meets-West comic experience. Sumiko invites the audience into her dark, twisted, and magical world where she meets Death, falls in Love, and battles her inner Demons. My Name is SUMIKO is a delightful exorcism of our deepest fears, shame, and taboos. 

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details. Dates/times/venue/ticket links?

My Name is SUMIKO
Fringe @ What Lab (1814 Pandora St.)
60 minutes
Tickets: https://tickets.vancouverfringe.com/shows/my%20name%20is%20sumiko/events
www.newtotowncollective.com

IG: sumiko_the_clown

FB:SUMIKO_the_clown
Sept. 5th - 6:45pm *1/2 price
Sept. 7th - 5:00pm
Sept. 8th - 8:30pm 
Sept. 11th - 6:45pm 
Sept. 12th - 8:30pm 
Sept.14th - 3:15pm 
Sept. 15th - 8:30pm 
Warnings: Course language, violence, sexual content, 18+

 Juicy detail: I’m one of four shows showcasing new works at Fringe’s new BYOV venue, What Lab! Check out Fringe @ What Lab http://whatlab.ca/fringe-at-wl/ for more details!

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What's Upintheair with Mr. Truth

Our two National Shows—both featuring ground breaking artists from Toronto—play our closing week of rEvolver Festival with only four performances each.

See Lester Trips Theatre’s Mr. Truth (May 29-June 1) and Madonnera’s Body So Fluorescent (May 30-June 2) and BTW, you grab a National Show Pass to check out the two shows for just $30!

We talked to the creative team behind Mr. Truth that includes creators/performers Alaine Hutton and Lauren Gillis to find out more about their approach to this off beat sketch comedy show.

Alaine Hutton, Lauren Gillis. Photo by Michael Cooper

Alaine Hutton, Lauren Gillis. Photo by Michael Cooper

How many characters do you play jointly in Mr. Truth?

It’s either 18 or 22, depending on how you count realities nested in other realities through the use of wigs and deliberately awful green screen.

You push the boundaries of what is it to be uncomfortable. What has been the reaction been like from audiences in previous runs?

We’re all about that teetering feeling of discomfort where the potential for huge failure and ecstasy are both hovering in the air. Is a particular discomfort an unnecessary and harmful experience, a sign that you should avoid or put a stop to the thing causing it? Or is it the discomfort of transformation as your mind and body hatch new things? How do we navigate this in the erotic realm?

The reactions we get to this exploration are all over the map. Sometimes we get laughter, sometimes audible sounds of disgust, sometimes quiet contemplation. Some people find it very cathartic, or fun, or frustrating, in equal measure. We love hearing about friends who see the show together and come out with completely different experiences. One person’s delicious really is another person’s revolting; one person’s intense experience of shame and alienation is another person’s banality.

Alaine Hutton, Lauren Gillis. Photography by Michael Cooper

Alaine Hutton, Lauren Gillis. Photography by Michael Cooper

Costume design is important in your works and in Mr. Truth some of the costumes are for comedic reactions. How do you work with envisioning costuming when creating new works?

We think as big and imaginative as we can first, and then consider how it’s going to be done with an indie theatre budget later. I think a lot of this comes from loving puppetry, but wanting to use our whole bodies and faces “inside” puppets, so our work often features large costumes that sit somewhere between full-body puppets and creature costumes. Lauren loves assembling creature heads, and Alaine loves the minutiae of men’s clothing that initially appear to look the same, but create completely different people with small gestural adjustments. We find these interests create a useful spectrum of fantasy, horror, and reality to work with.

Some costumes, like the enlarged human cervix who converses with its host, appear live onstage. For others, the laws of physics have necessitated that we film particular sections, and then figure out where the dramaturgy of film vs. theatre intersects with the content. As a company, we want design—whether it be costume, sound, light, film, or projected animation—to function on equal footing with text, character, and movement.

Alaine Hutton. Photo by Michael Cooper

Alaine Hutton. Photo by Michael Cooper

What's up next? Any new productions in creation phase?

We’re currently working on a piece called Safe and Sorry. It’s about a mens’ dating coach named Keith Much, a pretty ethical, savvy guy who is severely challenged when his seminar gets suddenly popular online and new students start flooding in from the darker corners of the internet. He does the ill-advised (Reads The Comments) and things really spiral from there. It’s an uneasy comedy that dips further into grotesquery as it unfolds.


PRAISE FOR MR. TRUTH

“Funny and smart sketch show lampoons all sorts of amusing characters on the sexual spectrum” — Now Toronto

“…. a defiantly progressive work, dishing out satire at every turn to combat censorship in the panoply of things that get people off. Co-stars and co-creators, Alaine Hutton and Lauren Gillis, leave it all on the stage with virtuoso performances that dazzle in their display of characterization, emotional vitality, and comedic timing.” — Mooney on Theatre

“Mr. Truth… has a quirky, kinky heart that is beating to be expressed and experienced.” — My Gay Toronto


MORE ABOUT LESTER TRIPS THEATRE

Lester Trips (Theatre) teeters at the visceral and intellectual edge of what could uncomfortably be termed “comedy”, exploring moral conundrums in urban millennials’ relationship to desire, consumption, and doubt. Since 2011, Co-Artistic Directors Lauren Gillis and Alaine Hutton have been devising work with a bouffonesque approach to character, deliberately maddening dramaturgy, and a performance foundation stemming from shared training in butoh-based embodiment with Denise Fujiwara, and Fides Krucker’s approach to extended range vocal practice.

Previous works include the peri-apocalyptic deformation of the Wizard of Oz, Intangible Trappings (dir. ted witzel, 2016), and a seedy adaptation of Camus’ The Misunderstanding (Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, 2014). Their next project, Safe and Sorry, follows a well-meaning dating coach who Reads The Comments and descends into their own personal hell.


What's Upintheair with Body So Fluorescent

Amanda Cordner

Amanda Cordner

Opening Thursday May 30th at rEvolver Festival, Body So Fluorescent is a one-woman show, starring Amanda Cordner and co-created with David di Giovanni.

Two friends, Gary and Desiree, retrace their steps from the night before to figure out how it all ended in an explosive fight In their effort to figure out last night’s facts, Gary, a white gay boy, and Desiree, a straight black woman, shift from self to alter-ego, and along the way, are met with stunning revelations.

Described as outrageous story exploring complications of race and sexuality through the lens of a young friendship, performed with virtuosity, and leaving everyone implicated. 

Body So Fluorescent deals head on with the notion of cultural appropriation, both from the vantage point of a black female appropriating white gay culture and also drag culture.

The show was presented earlier this year at Wildside Festival at Centaur Theatre in Montreal. It picked up a number of awards at the Summerworks Festival in Toronto last year, including Outstanding Play; Outstanding Performance; Outstanding Direction; and "Best of the Fest."


Amanda Cordner

Amanda Cordner

PRAISE FOR THE SHOW

“Cordner’s performance is a sheer force of power. I have honestly never seen anything like it… You really need to see this performance to believe it happened.” - Lorenzo Pagnotta, My Entertainment World

“Intricately written in two acts, the details of the night are slowly revealed in a most engaging way.” - NOW MAGAZINE

“Amanda Cordner is brilliant. The show is ferocious and moving” - Bruce McCulloch, Kids in the Hall


ABOUT DAVID DI GIOVANNI

David directs, writes, and teaches. Some directing credits include: Learning How to Steal (October 2018) Macbeth in Action (April 2018), Body So Fluorescent (2016-2019), Holy Tranity! at the historic Cafe Cleopatra (June 2013). David completed his MFA in Theatre Directing at York University in 2017 and is currently Director of Education at Shakespeare in Action.

ABOUT AMANDA CORDNER

Made her solo-show debut with Body So Fluorescent co-created with David di Giovanni. Her recent work includes: Featherweight (Toronto Fringe), Divine (Summerworks Theatre Festival), Twelfth Night: A Puppet Epic (Shakey-Shake & Friends), Edmond (Storefront), Bitchcraft (Pure Carbon). She is an alumni of York University’s Faculty of Theatre.

ABOUT MADONNANERA

Madonnanera is an artistic collaboration invested in creating outrageous and intersectional new work.

After eight years spent living in different cities, high school friends Amanda and David reunited in 2015 to create, Body So Fluorescent. Can’t wait to see what the duo create next!


Reviews Just In.... rEvolver Fest

It’s day four of rEvolver Fest and six shows have already opened with more openings to check out this weekend.

Here’s what the critics are saying….

Lady Parts

Deb Williams, Alison Kelly, Katey Hoffman and Cheyenne Mabberley. Photo by Mark Halliday

Deb Williams, Alison Kelly, Katey Hoffman and Cheyenne Mabberley. Photo by Mark Halliday

Lady Parts: I like ’em

Colin Thomas

Lady Parts is a feminist revue that includes sketch comedy, personal testimony, and a whole lot of political fuck-you-ness. It’s hilarious, it’s necessary, and it’s so welcome…. With all the shit that’s going down these days — especially the shit about abortion, both here and in the States — it’s a relief to sit in the sanity and fury of Lady Parts for an hour and a half, and to share the release with an audience of like-minded (not-crazy) people.”


my dear Lewis

Photo by Lucas Saugen

Photo by Lucas Saugen

At rEvolver Festival, my dear Lewis explores puppetry as playful as it is mysterious

The Georgia Straight

“Loven’s creativity is breathtaking, as is his precision and the intimacy of his craft. Everything happening on-stage is physically small—mostly hand-sized puppets, a marionette that is maybe the length of Loven’s forearm, a small shadow-puppet scene on rectangles of paper—but the emotional scope aims to fill up the room… Loven’s fascinating skill with puppetry and mixed-media storytelling, and the DIY aesthetic he adheres to so charmingly and responsibly. There aren’t a lot of fancy materials at work here, and this kind of accessibility is thrilling to witness.”


Other Inland Empires

Stephanie Wong, photo by Tim Matheson

Stephanie Wong, photo by Tim Matheson

From surfing to Jewish history, Other Inland Empires rides a lot of waves at the rEvolver Festival

The Georgia Straight

“There’s a lot to appreciate about Julie Hammond’s Other Inland Empires. It’s an ambitious …. mix of surf and SoCal historical pop culture, semiautobiographical travelogue, and first-person audio testimonial from Hammond’s own grandmother recounting her experience as a little girl in a concentration camp. Interspersed throughout its 65-minute runtime are covers of classic California songs by bands like the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas.

Hearing Grandma recount the harrowing details of her youth is something I’m never going to forget, and I’ll be grateful to Hammond and her grandmother forever for sharing her story. It’s just Grandma’s voice coming through the loudspeaker, and the laid-back bustle on-stage (there are a lot of moving props and scenes, like inflatable palm trees and beach chairs and blankets, that are set up and struck within minutes) fades away, and we just listen. It’s perfect.”


Other Inland Empires: surfing in shallow water

Colin Thomas

Off the top, Other Inland Empires is seductive. One of the members of the artistic team pours sand from a beach cooler onto the top of another beach cooler. This action is a sensual evocation of the shore, and the pouring takes a while, so it’s also an invitation to allow one’s self to become meditative.

The brightly coloured elements in Robert Leveroos’s set feel innocent and elemental: the green screen, the bright orange beach chair, the blue fabric poured on the floor.

There’s playfulness, too. You can almost smell the soft plastic of the inflatable palm trees. Actors set up a fan and spray water into it to create mist. The green screen moves as if of its own accord and, in a charmingly low-tech kind of magic, you never know what props are going to emerge from behind it.


In the Press.... rEvolver Fest

The countdown is on for opening night of rEvolver Festival on May 22. The buzz is building with local press and here’s a few interviews with artists delving deeper into the shows that make up the opening week line-up.

Georgia Straight’s Cover Feature of Surveil

“The idea that our phones may be listening to us led Hip.Bang! to create one of several form-pushing shows at this year’s rEvolver Festival. Using immersive, and frankly scary, high-tech tricks, they force us to confront what many of us prefer to deny: that as we casually share our personal details on the Interweb, someone is looking on.

“Everything we’ve done to this point was 100 percent comedy,” Hill says. “Here, the comedy becomes a drama.” For its incarnation at rEvolver, Surveil has gone even further in that direction: “It’s demonstrably scarier. And I think vastly better,” Hill allows.

Mackenzie says hitting the right balance of laughter and darkness is key. “There are expectations of comedy for our shows, so people are coming in with that, but here they’re also getting slammed pretty hard with some hard truths,” he says. “I actually like that a lot. We’re presenting something different and that’s exciting for us.”


The Vancouver Sun talks with managing artistic producer Daniel Martin

“The works range from Fake Ghost Tours, a zany tour of East Van’s reputedly most-haunted spaces, to the undermining of personal privacy by technology in the present day (Surveil) and even a Contemporary Dance Solo, which recreates viral teen dance routines from YouTube.

“Anybody who is in the contemporary arts gets the question all the time by friends and family about why they don’t go on So You Think You Can Dance, or do an A&W commercial or what have you,” he said. “That’s actually the least meaningful thing you can do in your career, but it’s something that pays well and is high-profile. As a response to that, dance artist Robert Azevedo researched these teen dance shows and the whole solo format they use and now has a show where he does something like 18 of these solos back-to-back-to-back.”

Many of the shows in rEvolver had their beginnings in the Fringe circuit and had a successful run. Now they want to grow their show into something that moves beyond that format — everything from staging to venue size and lighting can be a factor — and then could eventually become viable for a stand-alone run at the Cultch or the PuSh Festival.”


Vancouver Presents’ Interview with Other Inland Empires’ Julie Hammond

“Among the mainstage shows this year is Julie Hammond’s Other Inland Empires, tracing an unlikely connection between California surf culture and the WWII-era Jewish diaspora. “On one level, it’s the story of what happened when I traveled to Slovakia to learn to surf. On another, it’s a story of discovery: of family history, of cultural infiltration, of looking at things and people and ideas a second and third time because the first look is so rarely the whole story.”

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It’s an autobiographical comedy about the Holocaust and a tragedy about surfing. How often do you see that? If not for the content, come for the beautiful music from guitarist Matthew Ariaratnam and performers Stephanie Wong, Dominique Hat, and Bana Biltaji. Or come for the palm trees. - Julie Hammond”


Stay tuned for more previews and show reviews as the festival opens.

What's Upintheair with Fake Ghost Tours

Shawn O’Hara and Abdul Aziz, on the run for laughs

Shawn O’Hara and Abdul Aziz, on the run for laughs

Comedians Abdul Aziz and Shawn O’Hara are bringing their Fringe hit Fake Ghost Tours to the Hastings-Sunrise hood for rEvolver Festival. Previous incarnations have been produced in Victoria’s Chinatown and Vancouver’s Gastown and Granville Island.

Abdul and Shawn met in 2013 performing in the Victoria’s comedy scene, and have been friends and writing partners ever since. Their close friendship and well-honed comedic connection is clearly evident and has resulted in shows that are hilarious and also well received.

“We've always directed our creative efforts to writing shows that are guilelessly funny — without any secondary agenda,” explains Abdul.

The duo star as two enthusiastic amateur ghost-hunting brothers — with audience in tow — who embark on absurd walking tours detailing ghost stories almost as unbelievable as the “hauntings” they’re based on. Think ghost-run organic fair trade juice bar or bloodthirsty seal herds — all meant to poke good natured fun at what they find in the streets around the venue.

“The majority of our material is only tenuously linked to reality and often times to the more contemporary aspects of the neighbourhoods. Also, it's easier for us to crack jokes about what people can see instead of a more intangible historic fact,” say Abdul.

How did Adbul and Shawn create this new version?

“The majority of our "research" is us walking through the neighbourhood around The Cultch and trying to make each other laugh while not freaking out the residents.”

Fake Ghost Tours 2: Tour Fast, Tour Furious

Fake Ghost Tours 2: Tour Fast, Tour Furious

Fake Ghost Tours premiered at the 2017 Victoria Fringe Festival and nabbed the Pick of the Fringe Award for Best Duo. Since then, the original show and the sequel, Fake Ghost Tours 2: Tour Fast, Tour Furious, have sold out three runs in Victoria and Vancouver and Abdul and Shawn have released a self-guided downloadable audio tour of Gastown.

Ghost Bros in Gastown

Ghost Bros in Gastown


Here’s what the critics have been saying:

“O’Hara and Aziz are skilled comedians, specializing in deadpan absurdity and strategic repetition; their humour is both topical and irreverent” — Kathleen Oliver, The Georgia Straight

“Aziz and O’Hara never take themselves seriously, and combined with their likability, makes this duo simultaneously funny, smart, and charming.” — Mark Robins, Vancouver Presents

“Their giddiness and looseness…. are infectious” — Colin Thomas

“Fake Ghost Tours would almost be believable if it wasn't so hilarious” — Madison Steele, Theatre Addicts


What haunting tales will Abdul and Shawn dig up around The Cultch? And will The Cultch’s-own much-rumoured ghost make a cameo? You’ll have to come and see for yourself!

Join Abdul and Shawn for Fake Ghost Tour rEvolver Festival edition, departing from The Cultch with six spooky tours May 29-June 2.



What's Upintheair with theatre maker Julie Hammond

Opening rEvolver festival’s 2019 edition, Other Inland Empires (May 22-26) traces the Jewish roots of surf culture from Europe to California and back again. Inspired by historical coincidence and field research in Berlin and Slovakia, writer and director Julie Hammond’s works to connect the dots with her Cali-surf-bum family to uncover details of her grandmother's Holocaust survival.

Julie Hammond

Julie Hammond

Julie Hammond is a theatre maker and instigator of public projects who works between Vancouver and Portland, Oregon. Her work has been presented across the west coast and been supported by Vancouver New Music, On the Boards, Art Starts Gallery, Vancouver Foundation, and Oregon Arts Commission, among others. She was a 2018 Artist in Communities in South Vancouver, a 2019 Artist in Residence at Caldera.

1. How did you get your start in theatre arts?

I started doing theatre as a pretty little kid (my first role was as an elf in a non-denominational school play), studied theatre as an undergrad, and worked as a performer/created with an ensemble devising company for a little over a decade.

In my teens and early 20s I had a side life in improv comedy (I once performed in the parking lot of a drive thru coffee shop as part of their grand opening party), which more than anything else taught me how to create with others out of nothing. As a teenager I started seeing experimental performance in odd spaces which turned me on to aesthetics I only later realized were derived from necessity/lack of budget, but also set me up with a really wide understanding of how to tell stories and probe ideas.

While my tastes and interests continue to lean towards performance, in the last few years I've been opening myself up to and trying to learn more about theatre by watching play plays again.

2. You have recently returned to Vancouver from Portland. Is the Vancouver theatre scene different from Portland?

In some ways it's really hard for me to say—I'm not sure if I see enough theatre in either city for me to make a proclamation of What It's Like. I was also so immersed in graduate school for my first 2.5 years here that I feel like I am just now, and only barely, starting to figure out what the Vancouver scene is all about. I throw myself into PuSh each winter, but that feels like taking the temperature of contemporary performance globally more than figuring out the local scene.

For a while I thought that Portland had more small companies, but then I hear or read about yet another company or collective in Vancouver, and of course new things are happening in both places all the time. Both cities are really struggling with space for artists to rehearse and present shows, but Vancouver seems to do more co-productions, perhaps out of necessity, and more remounts of shows from venue-to-venue. Funding of course is massively different; there is so much more money available to artists in Vancouver (and Canada generally) than in Portland, and while this means that people can pay and be paid for work (which I am 300% in favour of), I do find small shows here to be less scrappy, but even this statement ignores a whole world of super scrappy happenings so... I'm back where I started: it's hard to say.

Other inland Empires

Other inland Empires

3. Other Inland Empires deals with immigration, a hot topic around the world at the moment, what did you hope to convey about this issue?

I did not set out to make a show dealing with immigration, but I was in Europe in summer 2016 as the Syrian refugee crisis and anti-Muslim bias were reaching a fever pitch, so questions of who was welcome and who belonged and who controlled the narrative were really present for me.

In Berlin I went to an exhibit of 130 years of antisemitic stickers, and saw stickers from the 1890s displayed next to those from the present day; in some cases the cartoon drawings were identical and all that had been changed was who was being blamed: from Jews to Muslims, yarmulkes to hijab.

In Slovakia, the country from which my grandmother fled and where most of her family was killed for being Jewish, not only was I welcomed, I was given preferential treatment because of my passport. And of course today in North America, most Jews have both the privilege of being seen as white and the fear of being shot in their places of worship. Neither I nor my play claim to have any answers, but I hope we are both part of a complex conversation that acknowledges the flows of people and ideas across borders.

4. A thriving surf culture in Slovakia — was that a surprise to you?

This was a massive surprise! I went to Europe with failure in mind; I really did not expect to find anything surf-related, but it was relentless. At the same time, I realized that surfing as I was seeing it wasn't about the sport itself, but was a representation of an idea and aesthetic. I'm still curious about the kinds of beach culture I saw and would love to know more about the when/where origins of certain beach behaviours. At nearly every lake-side beach I visited I would see 100 things that would fit right in at Third Beach and one or two that would never happen here.

5. Did you know much about your grandmother's experience in WWII before you embarked on researching this project?

I knew shockingly few details about my grandmother's 1941-1946 life, but this is part of the culture of silence that develops around deep family trauma. My mother was surprised I didn't know that my grandmother had been in Dachau, but my grandmother never spoke about it and my mother never told me, so how I was I to know? As a kid I didn't have a need to ask, and when I got old enough to want to ask I knew it would be painful and I didn't want to cause her any harm. I started asking questions about her life in Slovakia before the war as a way to lead into more difficult territory, but those hard conversations are yet to come. It wasn't until I was pretty far into writing the play text that I finally listened to an interview my cousin did with my grandmother in 2008 or so. I'd had the audio on my computer for years and had always meant to listen, but something stood in the way. He asks gentle and beautiful questions and she opens up as though she has told those stories over and over. Her language is particular and considered, while her voice is deeply emotional; the events she describe feel both very far away and very very close. I lay on the studio floor and cried for a long long time after that first listen.

Other Inland Empires

Other Inland Empires

6. How would you describe the design aesthetic of Other Inland Empires that includes bunch of plastic palm trees and a green screen?

When I was in Germany I visited a place called Tropical Islands Resort, an indoor beach paradise built from a former airship factory on a site first developed as a Nazi air force base. The space is hard-to-describe huge: there's a rain forest, two beaches, hotels, hot air balloon rides, bars, ice cream shacks, water slides, tent platforms, flamingos, and all of it is inside this massive bubble building heated to a balmy 25 degrees (though of course the hotel buildings inside the main building are then air conditioned).

The space is so obviously fake—it is a beach inside a building sitting in a field an hour outside Berlin—but it is also so delightfully real. There's a massive blue sky banner that hangs over one of the beaches, and at night a sunset is projected onto it; snuggled inside the dirt and trees of the rain forest are camouflaged speakers playing sounds of insects; the grains of sand are all identical in shape and colour.

Tropical Islands Resort

Tropical Islands Resort

When I first started discussing ideas with scenic designer Robert Leveroos I kept coming back to this contrast of fake and real found at Tropical Islands, and thinking about how these same ideas of fake/real work (and don't) in the theatre. Rob suggested the green screen as a kind of portal, a surface that stands in for presence and absence. I love that the green screen creates a space onto which the audience can project their own images. I wanted to find other ways of playing with the real/fake divide, so brought inflatable palms from the Party Bazaar as well as a bunch of real plants into some early workshops and almost everything stuck.

I suppose the short answer would be to say my design aesthetic for this show is Tropical Stop Making Sense Maximalism.

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7. What's up next for you? Do you have a new project you are developing?

The most immediate thing will be taking Other Inland Empires to Portland at the end of June! I also just started on a new public art project in Richmond called Minoru Manifesto. I'll be working with folks from the community over the next six months on the twinned ideas of the manifest—the things we carry—and the manifesto—the things we claim—and building a performance of some sort. I don't know what the final piece will look or feel like, but I know it will happen September 27-29 at the Minoru Chapel, I'm also pretty sure there will be lots of words.

Thanks Julie for letting us know more about Other Inland Empires that plays opening week of rEvolver Festival.

What's Upintheair with musician and collaborative artist Molly MacKinnon

Molly MacKinnon is a freelance violinist and collaborative artist who lives and works on the unceded Coast Salish Territories of Vancouver BC. She has been featured as violinist in numerous theatre productions around town including STATIONARY: A Recession-Era Musical (Delinquent), The Tempest (Bard on the Beach), Elbow Room Cafe: The Musical (Zee Zee) and Urban Ink's Les Filles Du Roi. Together with playwright Christine Quintana, Molly is the co-creator of Never The Last, a genre bending show centred on the life and work of 20th century Canadian composer Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté. Molly is Artistic Associate of The Little Chamber Music Series That Could, an innovative series with a focus on multi-arts pollination, community engagement, and local history. Molly’s extensive orchestral experience includes the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Plastic Acid Orchestra, Vancouver Film Orchestra, and Allegra Chamber Orchestra, an all female ensemble dedicated to celebrating women composers and performers. Molly also performs regularly with the Black Dog String Quartet and indie-pop band Yawn. Molly’s work has been featured a number of times as part of the rEvolver Festival and we are so happy to see the continued growth and success of her work in and on ‘Never The Last’.

Molly MacKinnon

Molly MacKinnon

Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis.

Molly: Late 20's, high functioning and friendly but with something a bit weird going on behind the eyes. Known to hum nervously to herself in public.


What do you consider your greatest achievement?

This patchwork career I've built for myself. I'm honestly still pretty stunned by the sheer variety of work I get to do: everything from playing in indie rock bands to creating weird indoor tent installation pieces to performing with symphony orchestras. It's wild, in the best possible way.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for the theatre?

Molly MacKinnon (with violin Claudette) and Christine Quintana

Molly MacKinnon (with violin Claudette) and Christine Quintana

Nothing too crazy. I'm a classical musician. I have dignity.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I've been known to turn out some pretty impeccable (read: embarrassing) dance moves. Forget what I said earlier about having dignity.

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

East Van Panto, every year. It's a treasure. I also recently saw Hot Brown Honey, and it absolutely lived up to the hype.

If you could sit down with any theatre artist and/or musician living or dead and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

Right now, definitely Sophie Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté.

What is Never The Last about?

Promotional Photo of ‘Never The Last ‘

Promotional Photo of ‘Never The Last ‘

Never The Last is a love story: it explores the lives of Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté, one of the most brilliant composers of the early twentieth century, and German Expressionist painter Walter Gramatté. The couple’s 10 years of marriage, marked by adventure, poverty, artistic strife, and tragedy, are framed through Eckhardt-Gramatté’s 10 rarely performed violin solos. The show is a concert/theatre hybrid of sorts, blending live violin performance, movement and text to tell the story of these two incredible artists. I have loved Eckhardt-Gramatte's violin caprices for many years and I'm so very excited to share her music with new audiences.

If you could only use one prop onstage for the rest of your life, what prop would you choose?

My violin! I would be so lost without her, honestly. (Yes, my violin is a she. Her name is Claudette. She's from Paris, she's 127 years old, and I love her.)

Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist?

Show up on time, be rigorous, be kind to everyone including yourself. Also take a full day off at least once a week, for the love of all things holy. Go outside, eat some sushi, be a human!

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details. Date/time/venue/tickets$? Push Festival Show dates and times.

Never The Last runs April 9th-20th, 2019 at the Orpheum Annex. Tickets and showtimes here: https://tickets.theatrewire.com/shows/never%20the%20last/events

Never The Last Photo of: Anton Lipovetsky, Christine Quintana, and Molly MacKinnon

Never The Last Photo of: Anton Lipovetsky, Christine Quintana, and Molly MacKinnon

What's Upintheair with PUSH Festival Artist-in-Residence Aryo Khakpour

The Push Festival has started and that means it’s time for us to highlight a former rEvolver festival alumni as they present their work at the 2019 Push Festival! Aryo Khakpour is a Vancouver based multidisciplinary performer, theatre director and dramaturg. He holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from Simon Fraser University. His most recent performances and collaborations were with Theatre Conspiracy’s Foreign Radical (Canada Hub at Festival Fringe in Edinburgh), Justine Chambers’ Family Dinner (Canada Dance Festival), battery opera’s M/Hotel, Terroir Tours, and Dance Machine. Aryo cofounded The Biting School, which has been presented at Dancing on the Edge Festival, Dance Days Victoria, rEvolver Festival, Dance in Vancouver, and VIDF and PuSh Festival over the past five years. Aryo is interested in the dynamics of power, implications of ideologies, repetition of mythologies, and cultural adaptation. Aryo most recently directed Disagreeable Tales 1.0 and 2.0 (based on a compilation of Christian moral tales), and co-directed Suddenly Slaughter (based on an Iranian play in dialogue with Islamic passion plays). We asked Aryo What’s Upintheair and many other questions! Read on!

Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis.

Aryo Khakpour is a boy born in Tehran and fantasizes about making epic passion plays to undermine the patriarchy in Vancouver. His hobby is dreaming about pure math.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being able to make Theatre with the amazing people that I’ve worked with so far.

Aryo Khakpour

Aryo Khakpour

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for the theatre?

Being a shaman in a performance in Vancouver where I spat Port on another person and smoked couple of cigarettes indoors.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I have kind hands...I’m told.

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

So many. So many of the creators are my friends or mentors. I’m grateful for that.

If you could sit down with any theatre artist living or dead and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

Howard Barker

What is Suddenly Slaughter about?

It’s about desire, envy and maybe martyrdom.

Aryo and Arash Khakpour - Creators of Suddenly Slaughter

Aryo and Arash Khakpour - Creators of Suddenly Slaughter

What do you hope people will feel after seeing Suddenly Slaughter?

I hope they feel the grimy darkness we live in but feel empowered that we’re all in it together.

If you could only use one prop onstage for the rest of your life, what prop would you choose?

A long lock of the beloved’s hair.

Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist?

Read. Talk. Read.

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details. Date/time/venue/tickets$? Push Festival Show dates and times.

Suddenly Slaughter at the Push Festival

January 25th 8pm | January 26th 2pm & 8pm

Where? Russian Hall

GET TICKETS HERE: https://pushfestival.ca/shows/festival-2019/suddenly-slaughter/

http://www.bitingschool.com/suddenly-slaughter/

Suddenly Slaughter : Photo credit: Angel Lynne

Suddenly Slaughter : Photo credit: Angel Lynne

What's Upintheair with actor Melissa Oei?

Born and raised in beautiful North Vancouver, Melissa is a busy theatre artist working consistently in Vancouver theatre. She is a graduate of the acting program at Studio 58, Cap U's theatre diploma program, and Langara's film arts program. This year, Melissa received her first individual Jessie Award nomination for her role as Elle in A Beautiful View (Naked Goddess Productions). Some of Melissa's most notable acting credits include Les Belles Soeurs and The Duchess (Ruby Slippers), Long Division (Pi Theatre), We Three, Arthur Boy King, Aesop's Fables, Love You Forever, Seussical the Musical (Carousel), The Audience, Boeing Boeing, She Stoops to Conquer (Arts Club), Flare Path (Slamming Door) and many many more. Melissa has also directed with the PuLL Festival, MSG Lab, Place des Arts, and her good friend Keara Barnes' one woman show Traveltheatrics. We asked Melissa What’s Upintheair and other fun questions! Check it out!

Melissa at the 2018 Jessie Awards

Melissa at the 2018 Jessie Awards

Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis.

Melissa: Female Identifying, 20s-40s, Ethnically Ambiguous. Mature in the body like Whoa. Appears confident and self-assured, but is actually extremely sensitive, introverted and most of the time very confused.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I think my greatest achievement is making a living as a theatre artist for this many years and just sticking with it!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for the theatre?

When I performed with the Caravan Stage Company, I lived on a 90 foot sailing barge with 25 other people for 6 months sailing through Greece. Besides performing, my job was to climb the masts before every show and hang the lights. Maybe not crazy, but rather unusual.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I'm pretty good at impersonates. Not of anyone famous, just people I know. So I probably won't make it big with that talent anytime soon.

Melissa with Emmelia Gordon in Lady Parts

Melissa with Emmelia Gordon in Lady Parts

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

I loved Alley Theatre's The Ridiculous Darkness. The amount of coordination it must have taken to put that show together is mind-boggling, and the community involvement was very moving and impactful. I really admire the work that Marisa and Daniel are doing at Alley Theatre.

If you could sit down with any theatre artist living or dead and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

I know it's cliche, but I would have to choose Shakespeare. He has the greatest enduring legacy of any theatre artist in history, but there is also a lot of mystery surrounding him. People spend their lives researching his work and debating over who he really was. How great would it be if I could just buy him dinner and get all the answers. (And maybe ask him for a reference letter that I could send to Bard on the Beach).

When did you realize you wanted to be an actor?

My whole life I have had this performative, story-telling quality to me. I had no word for what that from of expression was until I saw theatre for the first time when I was about 11. I took my first drama class in Grade 9 which is when the addiction started. But it wasn't until well after high school that I learned that being a theatre actor was an actual job. So I started researching theatre schools, went to Studio, and now here I am!

IMG_0828 - Melissa Oei.JPG

If you could only use one prop onstage for the rest of your life, what prop would you choose?

I don't know if it's technically a prop, but Oh do I love me a wig! If I could be wigged in every show I ever did, I would be the happiest!

Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist?

I am still learning so much every day, but as a young actor I wish that I had enjoyed my opportunities more. When I was working, I was always so focused on what this show was going to lead to, or I was worried about finding the next gig. Being this many years into the lifestyle, I have observed in myself and others that as long as I choose to be an actor, there are always going to be highs and lows, so I had better enjoy the highs when I have them. Also, I have learned to practice gratitude more. Theatre is not something people get into as a last resort. It is a choice, often driven by passion. So, even though it can be gruelling, how lucky am I that I have gotten to do what I love every year for the past 12 years? If I can remind myself of that, then I remember to be grateful.

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details. Date/time/venue/tickets$?

I am just finishing up a run of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever with Naked Goddess Productions at the Havana Theatre until December 16. Then I head straight into rehearsals with Sticks and Stones Theatre's next production called The Open House by Will Eno. It is a darkly humorous, melancholy, intelligent script about family dynamics. The cast is stellar and includes Anita Wittenberg, Gerry Mackay, David Adams, Zac Scott and myself, and it's directed by Alan Brodie. It plays at Havana Theatre from January 17-26. I hear up to Prince George to do a show called Halfway There with Miracle Theatre in March. Then I am back in Vancouver to start rehearsals with Slamming Door Collective's next venture - The Sea by Edward Bond. Tamara McCarthy is directing and there will be lots of the old Slamming Door peeps in it again. It plays in May at the Jericho Arts Centre.

IMG_0826 - Melissa Oei.JPG

What's Upintheair with performer, director, writer and creator Conor Wylie!

rEvolver festival and Upintheair theatre alumni Conor Wylie has so many exciting projects on the horizon we thought it would be a good time to ask him ‘what’s up’ and other fun questions!

A LITTLE BIT ABOUT CONOR:

Conor Wylie is a performer, director, writer, and creator of new works of experimental theatre. He is the co-artistic director of A Wake of Vultures, regular collaborator of Hong Kong Exile, and the current COLLIDER Artist-in-Residence of Theatre Replacement. He was selected by his friend and mentor Marcus Youssef for the Mayor's Arts Award for Emerging Theatre Artist in 2017.

Conor likes to play at the edges: between performer and audience and between disciplinary boundaries. His work is mischievous, whimsical, and strange. He's made game-shows, shows with video games, fake motivational speeches, and other weird biz. He ain't crazy bout dat 4th wall. For Upintheair, Conor performed as Detective Qussim Dhatt in The City and the City (collaboration with The Only Animal).

He also wore a variety of turtlenecks and animal masks in OOOO's twisted game show, ALL THE WAY, at the rEvolver Festival in 2017.

dino - Conor Wylie.jpg

Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis.

Conor Wylie disappears and reappears at odd intervals. We frequently wonder whether he's still around. From chapter to chapter his style changes from patterned shirts to norm-core neutrals, etc, with no apparent through-line. The viewer should be unsure if it is the same guy they have met before.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I wouldn't call it an achievement. Maybe the opposite... but something I'm proud of was pulling the plug on the forward career-and-life momentum to travel, party, experiment, get lost, explore queerness and non-monogamy, and generally open up to the unknown in a vulnerable period around my 30th birthday. It was scary and messy, and definitely worth it.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for the theatre?

A solo show. Twice. WHY? SO LONELY :'(

Do you have any hidden talents?

Catching food in my mouth. I'm talking long distance catches, running catches, diving catches, food thrown from the balcony. Once in university at SFU we did a show where my buddy Sean Marshall Jr. threw a dino-sour across the stage and I caught it in my mouth while falling backwards, and I got the loudest, most enthusiastic ovation I've ever received on stage. CHEAP THRILLS, BABY.

money - Conor Wylie.jpg

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

Progress Lab's HIVE 2 at Magnetic North was a formative viewing experience for me. 11 companies in one massive warehouse making a variety of micro-pieces you had to rush around to see. So much formal exploration, such irreverent weird experiments. I was enthralled by the buzz in the room, of seeing so many respected companies collaborate rather than compete. I think that's very indie Vancouver and it's the vibe I cherish. The individual works I saw, and especially the form of the whole evening, really shaped my path when I was just starting to discover my aesthetics and practice.

If you could sit down with any theatre artist living or dead and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

Madelyn Kent. I don't really have big theatre heroes. Madelyn Kent is a humble and cool writer from NYC who has reinvented her practice a few times. I came to her work as a student, when I discovered her plays Enoshima Island and Sachiko in an anthology called New Downtown Now (curated by Young Jean Lee and Mac Wellman). The plays are these bizarre, disjointed slice-of-life stories created through English-language improvisations with her Japanese ESL students. Now she teaches a program called Sense Writing. We met in NYC and I'd love to sit down and chat with her more.

When did you realize you wanted to be an actor?

Many times forgotten and rediscovered. In first-year at SFU: After getting kicked out of Ryerson Theatre School a couple years before, I was low on confidence. I took Vancouver darling Patti Allan's intro acting course at SFU and she was just the mother I needed to get me back on my feet.

If you could only use one prop onstage for the rest of your life, what prop would you choose?

Those glasses with the nose and moustache.

Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist living in Canada?

Don't attach your self-worth to how much work you are getting. I was lucky to go through a training program that empowers its students to create their own work. I think there's a lot of competition in theatre schools. You jockey with your classmates to get the leading parts. You create a sense of self-worth based on how often you are chosen for them. You get out of school, you do the audition circuit, you get a few good gigs and you feel like dynamite, but as soon as you miss out on a few, and the momentum shifts, your self-worth plummets because if directors aren't casting you, you think you have no value. You're not good enough. WILL YOU EVER WORK AGAIN? That's a real trap for young artists, and all artists, really. Instead, I say: work on what you want to work on. Keep training. Make friends and stage the things you want to stage. Seek out your own funding, like the BCAC Early Career Development Grant. Create your own systems for evaluating the success of your practice. When you get hired for gigs, GREAT. But when you don't, you'll have a foundation of collaborators and your own creative practice to lean on.

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details.

RIGHT NOW: MINE by Theatre Replacement Nov 14 - 17 (hurry on down!)

Where? Shadbolt Centre for the Arts

GET YOUR TICKETS NOW: https://tickets.shadboltcentre.com/TheatreManager/1/tmEvent/tmEvent1090.html

It's a sprawling and cinematic exploration of the mother-son relationship through the lens of myth, pop culture, and personal stories, using the sandbox computer game Minecraft as the container. This show feels seriously fresh! It's for the classic gamers, fans of anime and Adventure Time, classic films like Bambi and the Terminator. It's irreverent and so fun to perform. I get to do so many silly voices. But what I think is surprising to audiences so far is how cinematic it is. Huge landscapes, epic skylines. It's not just a little kiddie game (though we have 4 awesome kids playing with us), it also has a lot of dark beauty and deep questioning.

ON THE HORIZON: GIRL RIDES BIKE A team of 8-artists co-writing an algorithmic (like a beefed up Choose Your Own Adventure) science-fiction motorbike chase through a Utopian, post-scarcity world. Dozens of characters, story-lines, and competing outcomes that are chosen by computer, performers, and audience for a radically different experience each night. ETA 2021-22

K BODY AND MIND Another piece of sci-fi performed by two badass women of colour: a blend of theatrical minimalism and maximalist 90s anime cyberpunk. A cyborg security agent investigates the strange case of The Crying Woman, some sort of glitch occurring in their company's "body-share" program (think Airbnb for bodies). Commissioned by Theatre Replacement as part of their COLLIDER Artist-in-Residence program. ETA 2020-21.

Production photo from MINE (Theatre Replacement)

Production photo from MINE (Theatre Replacement)

What's Upintheair with puppeteer and actor Stephanie Elgersma?

With one week to go until we open A Brief History of Human Extinction created by Jordan Hall and Mind of a Snail and directed by Tamara McCarthy, we thought it would be fun to offer you a glimpse into the intricate and exciting work of one of our puppeteers Stephanie Elgersma. Stephanie is a puppeteer, puppet maker/director, and actor who works in both Vancouver and London, England. The majority of Stephanie’s puppet work is in the UK: she has studied with a wide variety of England’s puppetry icons; she has been a puppet maker on shows for Disney Paris, The Old Vic, and Birmingham Rep; and she most recently made puppets with Mervyn Millar (of Warhorse fame) for a musical in China. In Vancouver, she has puppeteered for the rEvolver Festival (Kolejka), the Vancouver Children’s Festival, The Only Animal, and Axis Theatre. She has directed/coached puppets on a number of projects and has made puppets for many of the shows that she’s puppeteered. Her training is in acting from Studio 58 and from a myriad of puppet workshops and intensives. www.stephelgersma.com

We asked Stephanie what’s up and many other questions!

Stephanie Elgersma hard at work.

Stephanie Elgersma hard at work.

Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis.

Stephanie is a bubbly, tall woman in her 30’s. A walking contradiction: a young face but with an older presence, innocent but sexy, seemingly confident and in control but she talks to herself and her room is always a mess.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Oh heavens. I think having a thriving career in the two things I love (acting and puppets) in both Vancouver and London is just astonishing to me. I have to pinch myself most days.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a theatre project?

At Studio 58 we created a show called Falling Upstairs, which was a physical theatre show with a number of unconnected scenes. In one I played a shy clown who asks an audience member to be her first kiss (and I got one every night!). And in an another I did a rather raunchy strip tease in mask, which always ended when I tripped over my own pants, and then slinked off stage with my pants stuck on my heels and my wig in my hands. I don’t think I’ve topped that yet.

Stephanie working on Ommie the Otter puppet in rehearsal

Stephanie working on Ommie the Otter puppet in rehearsal

Do you have any hidden talents?

Hidden talents. Nope. But I’m a bit of a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ kind of person, so maybe there’s one yet that’s hidden even to me?

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

A really formative show for me was ‘Studies in Motion’ by The Electric Company. It was one of the first shows I had seen that celebrated the body in all its forms and actions. And it really solidified my love of specific movement to music/rhythms, which a lot of my puppetry is based on.

If you could only put one prop for every single show you do from now on, what would it be?

An egg. They can be messy, yummy, gross, smushy, hard-boiled, raw, gooey, cooked, eaten. They can roll, break, smell, crack… All the possibilities!

If you could sit down with any theatre artist living or dead and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

Even imaginary me feels intimidated by this! But I think at this point in my life, I would want to chat with Emma Rice. She is both an actress and a director, and has been the Artistic Director of both a hugely successful puppet company (Kneehigh) and the Globe. She is such an inspiration to me.

How did you first become interested in puppets?

I wish I could say I started playing with puppets when I was kid and they have always been a part of my life, but I actually discovered puppets quite late… when I was working on Falling Upstairs only 9 years ago. We had one puppetry scene where I operated the head on a human sized puppet, and I discovered that I felt more open and expressive through a puppet than by myself on stage. And I’ve wanted to explore that relationship ever since.

steph-0020 - Stephanie Elgersma.jpg

Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist living in Canada?

I have always been a theatre artist that wants to do more than one thing in theatre. As soon as I graduated from Studio, I found work as a stage manager, scenic artist, costume designer, associate producer, front of house manager… all alongside acting and puppeteering. If it was in theatre, I wanted to do it. One of the most important things I learned while trying to figure out who I was with all these hats was this: define what success looks like to you. Not by what is expected of you by your peers or those who hire you or by what you THINK your career SHOULD look like. The most beautiful thing about a theatre career is that no one else can have yours. It’s entirely based on who you are and what you want and what you do with that. And once I learned that, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders! Who am I kidding though; I’m still learning it.

What would you tell someone who has never seen a puppet show before? Or someone who thinks puppets are just for kids?

Puppets are for EVERYONE! And the world of puppetry is so vast and varied! There are so many different types of puppetry and different ways of puppeteering within each of those types. It’s endless and exciting. To reduce puppetry to being ‘just for kids’ is closing yourself off to MAGIC. And who would want to do that!? What I love most about puppets is that they have the ability to communicate to our soul in a way that actors can’t. That is, if the show is done well. That’s pretty important. There’s a lot of bad puppetry out there.

What about being part of 'A Brief History' excites you most?

The most exciting thing for me on this project is making Ommie, the sea otter. I’ve been working with and learning from so many amazing puppet designers overseas, and this is actually my first opportunity to put a lot of that knowledge and curiosity into practice with my own design and build. Sea otters are complex creatures! They have to be able to twist and turn and walk and swim… And be ridiculously adorable while doing it. She’s by far the most complex puppet I’ve designed, and I’m super excited to puppeteer her on stage and introduce her to Vancouver audiences!

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details.

A Brief History of Human Extinction! As part of the Cultch Mainstage series. Oct. 10 - 20th

https://thecultch.com/events/a-brief-history-of-human-extinction/

And after this I'm off to Calgary to make puppets for GhostRiver's production of GIANT.

Ommie the Otter (in progress) crafted by Stephanie Elgersma

Ommie the Otter (in progress) crafted by Stephanie Elgersma

What's Upintheair with actor & director Brian Cochrane?

The Vancouver International Fringe Festival is coming up, which means it's time to highlight another incredible artist and a rEvolver Festival alumni: actor/director Brian Cochrane. Brian Cochrane is an award-winning director and performer who also writes and produces for the stage. His show Vampires in Barcelona (of which he is the writer and performer) was part of our 2017 rEvolver festival and we are proud to recommend this show to Vancouver Fringe Festival go-ers. 

Some of Brian's directing credits include: Director of David Freeman’s Creeps for Realwheels Theatre – the first ever production of that play to employ an integrated cast (winner of the 2017 Jessie Award for Outstanding Production and nominated for Outstanding Direction); Performer/Co-Producer of The Bomb-itty of Errors for Twenty Something Theatre (winner of the 2012 Jessie Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance) and remounted at the Arts Club and Belfry Theatres, respectively. At the 2014 Jessie Awards he received the Ray Michal Prize for Most Promising New Director.  Brian directors all over Canada and will return to Whitehorse this winter to direct Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Ages ago he played in the band Carbon Dating Service, which performed in nine provinces, released three albums, and twice recorded for the CBC. He has an MFA in Directing from UBC and a BFA in Acting from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

We asked Brian What's Upintheair and many other questions. 

Actor/Director Brian Cochrane

Actor/Director Brian Cochrane

Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis.

Brian is an introverted extrovert who is idealistic, loyal (to a fault?), and often speaks louder than necessary without seeming to realize it.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I have managed to assemble an amazing group of friends.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a theatre project?

Besides a lot of working for little to no money? Hmm... in 2015 Arlen Tom & I drove the set of Stationary: a recession-era musical from Vancouver to Barrie and back in a 24-foot moving van. We played for a week in Barrie and spent two weeks driving. It was a truly excellent experience that I would repeat in a heartbeat.

Brian_In_Action.jpg

Do you have any hidden talents?

I can play the trombone decently (even well, with enough notice)... I also rap sometimes... I make really good hummus.

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

Straight Jacket Winter by Esther Duquette & Gilles Poulin-Denis. I feel like I stole a lot from it for Vampires in Barcelona, and that's a pretty high compliment I'd say.

If you could only use one prop for every single show you do from now on, what would it be?

I guess tearaway pants would be a costume, not a prop, so I'll say a confetti cannon.

If you could sit down with any theatre artist living or dead and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

Caryl Churchill.

As a director, what's the strangest note you've ever had to give to an actor and/or company?

Directing East of Berlin was the first time I directed onstage sex (there were two scenes!) and I remember saying (in both scenes) "I need to see the moment it goes in."

Brian_Headshot_Sortof.jpg

Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist living in Canada?

Try to live a life where your actions are in line with your values. Try to leave collaborators better than you found them. Take care of your body and mind. And always be honest with yourself and others.

Describe your theatre school experience in 3 key words?

BFA in Acting: Very long days. MFA in Directing: Reading. Doubting. Believing.

What are you both most excited about right now?

I'm super excited to be working on Vampires in Barcelona with Jamie again. It's exactly what I want to be doing artistically and I love our collaborative relationship. Outside of theatre, I'm growing a tomato plant for the first time ever and it looks like I'll be able to eat something off of it... Very excited about that!

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details. Date/time/venue/tickets$?

Vampires in Barcelona, which premiered at the 2017 rEvolver Festival, will be at the 2018 Vancouver Fringe! Vampires in Barcelona is a theatrical storytelling show about falling in love, leaving home for the first time, and the magical power of fear. It feels like a mixture between a storytelling night like The Flame or The Moth, stand-up comedy, and a really good travel tale in a pub. Jo Ledingham said that it's "Very funny, offbeat - and I hesitate to call it sweet - but it's sweet".

Vampires in Barcelona

Written & Performed by Brian Cochrane Directed, etc. by Jamie King

Arts Umbrella - 1286 Cartwright Street on Granville Island. A Skinny Walrus Project

 Tickets here: https://tickets.vancouverfringe.com/shows/vampires%20in%20barcelona/events

Sep 7 @ 6:15pm , Sep 8 @ 3:00pm , Sep 8 @ 10:15pm,  Sep 9 @ 6:30pm , Sep 10 @ 8:15pm,              Sep 11 @ 10:00pm,  Sep 13 @ 6:15pm,  Sep 14 @ 8:15pm,  Sep 15 @ 10:00pm

 Find us on page 57 of the Vancouver Fringe Program Guide: http://vancouverfringe.com/pdfs/2018/WebProgramGuide2018.pdf

You can also check out www.skinnywalrusprojects.com

Vampires in Barcelona Promo Image

Vampires in Barcelona Promo Image

What's Upintheair with actor, director, producer Davey Calderon?

On the closing weekend of the 2018 rEvolver Festival, a beautiful drag queen glided gracefully through the Cultch lobby and all anybody could think was: WHERE CAN I SEE HER SHOW?! Davey Calderon had just finished the Plunge pitch of upcoming Fringe show : Big Queer Filipino Karaoke Night! and we cannot wait to buy our tickets! 

Davey Samuel Calderon is an actor, director, producer and theatre maker based in Vancouver. He has his BFA in Theatre Performance and Communication from Simon Fraser University. Co-founded New(to)Town Collective, an emerging theatre collective focused on theatre training and interdisciplinary works. 

He was the Partnership Coordinator for Alley Theatre’s The Ridiculous Darkness in association with Neworld Theatre. He is currently the Resident Producer for Neworld Theatre. Recent directing credit's include: ROAD (About Love Festival 2017) and How to Self-Suspend (Act II) (PushOff 2018/Tender Container). He's excited to be showing two new works: RUN, a short film written by Davey and being presented at the 2018 Vancouver Queer Film Festival; Big Queer Filipino Karaoke Night! at the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival (see interview for more details). We asked Davey What's Up?... and many other hilarious questions. 

BQFKN! photo credit: Rae MacEachern-Eastwood.

BQFKN! photo credit: Rae MacEachern-Eastwood.

Describe yourself in the format of a character synopsis.

Davey Calderon is the epitome of a transcontinental person. Descended from Filipino parents who immigrated to a small town in Newfoundland, but had Davey born in bright and sunny California (Trump eat your heart out, he's the guy Trump constantly talks about manipulating the system #sorrynotsorry). This small town boy with dreams of a bright future, moved to Vancouver from Newfoundland nine years ago. Where he not only found his bright future in theatre and the arts, but also his glittery one (queer and proud!). A Capricorn that's ambitious, stubborn, loyal, and cheerful.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A tie between co-founding New(to)Town Collective (check us out @ www.newtotowncollective.com #shamelessplug) and surviving falling off a cliff. Both taught me a lot about myself.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a theatre project?

I massaged a raw chicken on stage during a monologue and then shook keys out of it's,... you know.... Contemporary experimental theatre at it's finest.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I use to speed walk for Track and Field. If anyone wants to learn, hmu.

Davey in action at Training Jam - photo credit: Sheng Ho

Davey in action at Training Jam - photo credit: Sheng Ho

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

One of the biggest theatre events that had a huge impact on me was HIVE. It was co-produced by NERB (Neworld, Electric Theatre Company, Rumble Theatre, & Boca del Lupo) and others in a building at Great Northern Way. It was an immersive theatrical experience that really spoke to me and represented what Vancouver Theatre was about: collaboration, community, innovation, and humor. It inspired me to do my own site-specific work, and eventually joined the HIVE legacy as an artist when Resounding Scream Theatre revived the event under the name, HIVE: The New Bees.

If you could only put one prop for every single show you do from now on, what would it be?

I know this is such a basic thing to say, but it would be a black IKEA Stefan chair (minimalist directors will understand what I mean).

If you could sit down with any theatre artist living or dead and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

Ahh, I can only pick one? Okay. I would say Anne Bogart. She's been an inspiration for me as a director and theatre artist. She is such a versatile director and artist.

What's the strangest note you've ever had to give to an actor and/or company?

I pity my actors because my directions are always strange. The quirkiest thing was encouraging my cast for a play I directed (Donut Holes in Orbit by Prince Gomolvilas) to introduce a different type of donut the majority of scenes in the play. Favorite moment was when one of the characters had a glass eye. I had the actor pretend to pop out his glass eye during his monologue and reveal to the audience that the eye had turned into a Timbit. At the end of the monologue I got him to eat his Timbit eye. Every time the show ran, the audience always had a chuckle during that moment.

Davey Samuel Calderon

Davey Samuel Calderon

Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist living in Canada?

Something I wish I did way earlier in my career (I use to be such a shy person) was reaching out to established artists and producers in my community and ask them out for coffee. Not to pitch, no one likes cold pitches, but to get to know our colleagues in our community. The theatre community in Canada is actually very small and friendly. People are happy to support each other and hang out. You'd be surprised what comes happens one coffee date.

Describe your theatre school experience in 3 key words?

Weird. Loving. Independent.

What are you both most excited about right now?

I'm excited about the movement of theatre artists to tackle de-colonization and proper representation within their work. As scary as the world feels right now, I have hope because I see my colleagues not shying away from the issues we all face. I love that. And I'm hoping I'm contributing to this call towards what we all want in this world: humanity, respect, and equity.

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details. Date/time/venue/tickets$?

Upintheair creates some fine theatre, and such a supportive company of the Vancouver theatre community. I've been lucky to have been an artist they supported throughout various rEvolver Festivals. Especially after an excerpt of my show was presented at rEvolver Festival's and Resounding Scream Theatre's 2018 PLUNGE series. The play, Big Queer Filipino Karaoke Night!, is a one-man, Clown-Drag-Karaoke Extravaganza, serving up Filipino-Canadian identity shenanigans, queer insights, family epiphanies, and soul gratifying karaoke! Inspired by my visit to my family’s ancestral land, the Philippines, this show is an interactive celebration of the intersections found in oneself. All written and performed by me. Produced by Tender Container with associate producers Neworld Theatre and New(to)Town Collective for the:

2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival's BYOV series (September 6th to 16th, 2018).

Presented at XY YVR, one of Vancouver's LGBTQ+ friendly clubs (1216 Bute St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1Z8). Specific show dates, times, and admission details will be announce soon at www.vancouverfringe.com. See y'all there! #BQFKN!

Big Queer Filipino Karaoke Night! - photo cred: Rae MacEachern-Eastwood.

Big Queer Filipino Karaoke Night! - photo cred: Rae MacEachern-Eastwood.

What's Upintheair with actor Genevieve Fleming?

Sitting down with Genevieve and chatting about theatre over a martini, I came to a conclusion: Genevieve Fleming has re-defined the term triple-threat. Goodbye to the old actor/singer/dancer model. Genevieve is an actor, director and producer with a commanding presence both on and off the stage. As the Artistic Producer of Hardline theatre, she has garnered Jessie Nominations as both an actor and producer. As an actor, she is the Jessie Award Winner for Best Actor Small Theatre for her role in Upintheair theatre's production of The North Plan. As a director, she has worked with The After Party production, Studio 58 and Slamming Door (to name a few). As a theatre artist, Genevieve has carved out a place for herself and her theatre company and become a Vancouver theatre staple. Her hard work has paid off. This year Hardline theatre's production of Sean Oliver's Redpatch will be seen at both the Arts Club and the Citadel and next week she stars in Itsazoo's production of the award winning In-Yer-Face play WET by David James Brock. A play set during the height of Canada's involvement in the Afghanistan War. Read more about Genevieve below.

Genevieve Fleming stars in Wet with Itsazoo Productions

Genevieve Fleming stars in Wet with Itsazoo Productions

Describe yourself as if you were the lead character in a plays synopsis.

Genevieve – 30s, smart and confident, probably a hot mess inwardly

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Honestly, making my living by working in the arts. It’s not always a breeze

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done onstage/for a theatre project?

Scarfed down a huge bowl of chocolate pudding while an actor simulated oral sex on me. Yeah, my mom saw that show …..

Genevieve starred in Upintheair Theatre's production of  The North Plan for which she won a Jessie Award for Best Lead Actor

Genevieve starred in Upintheair Theatre's production of The North Plan for which she won a Jessie Award for Best Lead Actor

You won a Jessie award for best actor Small theatre for your performance in our show 'The North Plan'... tell us how it felt to receive that award? What were you thinking when you won it? Is there anything about your speech you would change?

I was simultaneously trying to avoid a JLaw/Oscars trip up the stairs and a Zoolander moment where I accepted somebody else’s award.  Fortunately I don’t think either of those things happened (?)

If you could meet any theatre artist for an evening of drinks and conversation, who would it be?

I really want to ask Chekhov why he thinks all his plays are comedies…

Seeing as how Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist living in Vancouver?

Make your own work!! Email me! I’ll give you tips! Like, actually – gjfleming009@gmail.com

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We sat down with Genevieve and asked her What's Up?

Describe your theatre school experience in 3 key words?

Formative, bewildering, epic

What are you excited about right now?

All the boss ass ladies in my life who are just taking over the world

Promo Photo for Itsazoo's production of Wet

Promo Photo for Itsazoo's production of Wet

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? What show are you in next? Give us the details!

I'm performing in Wet with Itsazoo Productions in May!

WHERE:
The Russian Hall (located at 600 Campbell Ave.)
WHEN:
May 8th to 27th, 2018
Tuesdays through Sundays – 8pm
Previews  – May 8th & 9th
Pay What You Can – May 15th
TICKETS:
Tickets on sale now at Theatre Wire
$29 Regular/$25 Students&Seniors

What's Upintheair with director Jamie King?

What's Upintheair with director Jamie King?

In this blog, we talk to Upintheair and/or rEvolver festival alumni and ask What's Up... and other stuff. 

Vancouver director Jamie King is a theatre artist born and raised in Vancouver, BC. I'm pretty sure if you look up the definition of busy and capable, a photo of Jamie King would show up. Jamie has such a passion and drive for everything she works on and she's just getting started. At the 2017 Jessie Richardson Awards, Jamie was awarded the Ray Michal’s Prize for Most Promising New Director and is now one of the resident artists & producers with Electric Company Theatre. She’s a board member of Wet Ink Collective since 2013, and a graduate of UBC. She just directed Fool for Love (ABB Artist Collective), Vampires in Barcelona (Skinny Walrus Productions), and The Wolves (Stone’s Throw Productions) which will receive a remount next season. She has also worked with: Rumble Theatre, Caravan Farm Theatre, Twenty-Something Theatre, Hardline Productions, Arts Club Theatre, Little Mountain Lion Productions and Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre. We asked Jamie King What's Up and lots of funny questions... check it out!

Jamie King in the Directors Chair

Jamie King in the Directors Chair

Describe yourselves in the format of a character synopsis.

Jamie King: late twenties to early thirties, bleached blonde, workaholic but somehow still lazy? Definitely that kid at the back of a classroom with a retort to everything the teacher says, now that she's old it's not cute anymore.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Making my bed every morning. Seriously, I start out every day having accomplished something. It rocks. In a bigger sense, I now feel like I'm becoming a peer to a lot of people that mentored me through my life and that's the biggest accomplishment of my career.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a theatre project?

Rehearsed a show with full male nudity in a children's theatre space with lots of kids around.... and potentially see-through curtains... and forgetting to lock the door....

Do you have any hidden talents?

God no - the second I'm even passable at something I'm standing on a rooftop shouting "LOOK AT THIS" and then whistling really loud or whatever.

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Winner of the Ray Michal Award for Emerging Director

What's one show and/or event in the Vancouver theatre scene you have loved?

I'm going to do two because one is a touring show and the other is local: HOT BROWN HONEY - this show blew my tits off and then glued them back on and then blew them off again. Women kicking ass and taking names and showing us how to fiercely love, how to have radical empathy, and decolonize and moisturize. THE ALIENS - I really loved this show. My mom and I went together and both of us just wept at the end. Such beautiful use of silence, so intimate and so so real. Felt like I was waiting for the big break to happen until I realized that that's what the characters were waiting for too... And we don't all get it. Annie Baker is brilliant and this production by Sticks and Stones Theatre was tight AF.

If you could only put one prop for every single show you do from now on, what would it be?

A banana cream pie.

If you could sit down with any theatre artist living or dead and have a long chat, who would you sit down with?

I have a hard time diving right into heavy theoretical conversations with people I don’t know very well, so I don’t think I would resurrect Chekhov.... If you’re gonna twist my arm - I loved Theatre of the Unimpressed and 100% want to hang out with Jordan Tannahill.

What's the strangest note you've ever had to give to an actor and/or company?

Doing Bull at Rumble's Tremors Fest in 2016, my SM Jessica Keenan recorded me saying quite a few bizarre notes, including: "Your vagina is a bear trap, dude, I don't wanna put my dick in there!!!" "Can you finger him? Not just one, use a couple" "Take your shit and wipe it on the wall" I swear they made sense and were a lot less sexual in context.......

Seeing as how one of Upintheair Theatre's mandate involves supporting the next generation of theatre makers, what advice would you give to an emerging artist living in Canada?

Work your ass off. Find a flexible & fun Joe job that you can work while you're pursuing your art for awhile. You're going to have at least 2 years in total limbo - it's going to suck. If you can see it through to the other side I swear it's worth it. No one goes to a movie and walks out saying "I'm never going to another movie again!!" Only theatre effects us like that. Learn to use it.

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In what capacity have you worked with Upintheair and/or rEvolver fest?

I stage managed 2 for Tea (James and Jamesy) at the rEvolver festival a couple years back. This last rEvolver I directed Vampires in Barcelona  written and performed by the one and only Brian Cochrane - we’ll be at the Fringe this September if you missed it then!

Describe your theatre school experience in 3 key words?

Expensive, Theoretical, Canadian

What are you both most excited about right now?

All the leadership changes happening through Canadian Theatre right now. (More women! More POC! More queerness!) Let's represent our population! Also - it's, like, spring now, right? I'm excited for slightly less cold rain and blackberries!

Now finally… what’s Upintheair? Give us the details of your show? Juicy details. Date/time/venue/tickets$?

Upcoming is Love/Sick by John Cariani! I adore producer Jalen Saip and can't wait to take this show to the finish line! We have such a great company and all female designers! ONLY 5 shows: April 18 - 20th at 7:30pm and April 21st at 2pm & 7:30pm. A Stone's Throw Production, at Pacific Theatre . Tickets are ONLY $15 (BUY TICKETS NOW by CLICKING LINK)

https://tickets.pacifictheatre.org/TheatreManager/1/tmEvent/tmEvent400.html

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