New Granville Island Theatre District to boost performance at three venues

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      Boca del Lupo, Carousel Theatre for Young People, and CMHC Granville Island have announced the launch of a new Granville Island Theatre District.

      The initiative is aimed at boosting arts programming at Performance Works, Festival House, and the Waterfront Theatre.

      Boca's artistic producer Jay Dodge, whose organization will be responsible for managing Performance Works, says the district will add to the scenes already established by the Arts Club Theatre Company, Vancouver TheatreSports League's Improv Centre, and the Arts Umbrella.

      "I've always been a big advocate of arts organizations having agency over the facilities," Dodge explains, pointing to the Vancouver Playhouse as one company whose demise was tied to not having direct stewardship over its civic-run venue. "Here we want to create a real identity for those venues, and build spaces that have a theme around them....It [the district] could potentially be a uniting entity for all six theatres on Granville Island. We're always better together."

      In the framework for the new theatre district, Carousel would oversee the Waterfront Theatre, building it into a venue dedicated specifically to live performance for families and young people, not just for its own work but for other dance and theatre companies aimed at that kind of programming, as well as the Vancouver International Children's Festival, which already regularly uses the space.

      Festival House would, true to its name, become a known hub for festivals, big and small (including the Vancouver Fringe Festival and Writer's Fest) that produce on Granville Island and activate Studio 1398. It will also act as the home of Granville Island Theatre District administration.

      And Boca will work to not only stage its own experimental shows and house its residencies at Performance Works, but help turn it into a home for other indie troupes--spotlighting "innovation, new forms, and cultural multiplicity", Dodge says.  

      "It's recently drifted more off into an event space," says Dodge, who made a submission to a Request for Proposals (RFP) process held by Granville Island. "Because we now have this 12-month grace period where it's booked full anyway, we're going to talk to as many people as possible. It will be a year of listening to folks about how Performance Works could work for them."

      Ideas floating around in Dodge's head include booking nonperformance events, like weddings, into a set period, so they don't potentially interrupt, say, a three-week theatre run. And he's considering innovative management models: "Boca is not interested in becoming the West Side Cultch or Firehall Arts Centre," he clarifies. "But we are interested in leveraging what our big expertise is--collaborating in new ways."

      Boca has been well-acquainted with Granville Island scene for years now, staging its own Micro Performance Series and residencies at the tiny Fishbowl space on the site. The company's administration is headquartered at the nearby Anderson Street space.

      Boca was also the driving force behind the East Side's Progress Lab 1422, a joint production and administration centre at 1422 William Street that it calls home, along with Neworld Theatre, The Electric Company Theatre, and Rumble Productions. The space has been used to develop everything from Electric Company and Kidd Pivot's hit Betroffenheit to Touchstone/November’s Hardcore Logo Live, Neworld/Leaky Heaven’s Peter Panties, and Boca's own shows, like PHOTOG.

      Back on Granville Island, the Theatre District is part of the larger 2040 Granville Island strategy--CMHC's effort to produce a comprehensive vision for the site for the next quarter century. Its stated goals are to expand the public market, embrace arts and innovation, and restore and sustain the public realm. With the departure of Emily Carr University of Art + Design, it will also encompass a new Arts & Innovation Hub slated to open on that site in 2021; meanwhile the former ECUAD campus’s South building will become the new headquarters for local arts-education nonprofit Arts Umbrella following a $7-million renovation that is expected to be complete by fall 2019.

      Of the theatre district's role in that, Dodge comments: "It's great to actually see this happening: CMHC and Granville Island taking real strides toward taking risks and embracing the original vision for Granville Island and perhaps embrace a new era."

      In today's announcement, the main players emphasized a theatre destination in the heart of the city will have benefits that ripple out far beyond the cultural industry.“As many world class cities have shown, creating a vibrant theatre district fosters a strong collective identity and high-demand destination that works to the benefit of all, including other businesses and industries on Granville Island," noted Lisa Ono, Granville Island's manager of public affairs and programming in a press statement.