Spring Arts Preview 2020 theatre critics' picks: Trans stories, tsunamis, and a spectacle in the park

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      As the buds bloom and the trees flower, life reveals itself anew. Spring is hope. But the truth is, hope is a complicated thing. Who gets to have it? Who has to fight for it? How do we hold on to it? Can it sustain us?

      The complexity of hope—the struggle, the urgency, the reward—is at the centre of many stories unfolding on Vancouver stages this spring. Be it a remount of a beloved musical about black women in a Toronto salon (the Arts Club’s ’Da Kink in My Hair), a “glittery bomb” of boylesque and cabaret (Briefs at the Cultch), an autobiographical one-person show (Boca del Lupo’s Inner Elder at Performance Works) by Gemini Award–winning Cree artist Michelle Thrush, or one of the highlights below, it’s hard not to feel a bit of hope about the scope of representation and lived experiences gracing the boards this season.


      Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women is based on interviews with transgender women from around the world.
      Tina Krueger Kulic

      Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women

      At the Firehall Arts Centre from March 12 to 21

      The Frank Theatre and Zee Zee Theatre copresent the Canadian premiere of this groundbreaking work, which Paul Lucas wrote based on 70 interviews with transgender women from around the world. It promises to be tender, funny, fraught, and human.

      The Draw: The show stars seven local transgender artists, activists, actors, and politicians, including Quanah Style, Morgane Oger, and Julie Vu.

      Target Audience: Everybody who is interested in witnessing the real life experiences of transgender women in their own words.


      Carried Away on the Crest of a Wave

      At the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre from March 19 to April 19

      David Yee’s Governor General’s Award–winning play tells the story of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people in 12 countries.

      The Draw: The scope of this tragedy is almost incomprehensible, but Yee brings it back to the people. The play unfolds in a series of vignettes based on interviews Yee himself did with survivors, as well as other survivors’ accounts.

      Target Audience: Literary nonfiction and drama enthusiasts, other survivors, first responders.


      Taran Kootenhayoo's play White Noise might have the most daring premise of the season.

      White Noise

      At the Firehall Arts Centre from April 18 to May 9

      The new play from Denesułįné and Nakoda Sioux artist Taran Kootenhayoo, copresented by Savage Society, might have one of the most daring premises of the spring: it’s a comedy about internalized racism, set during the very first dinner between two different families during Truth and Reconciliation Week.

      The Draw: Award-winning playwright, actor, and spoken-word poet Kootenhayoo, who hails from Treaty 6 territory in Alberta, is one of the most exciting new voices in contemporary literature.

      Target Audience: Comedy lovers, Indigenous people and settlers, fans of tense but funny, high-stakes dining scenarios.



      At Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park from April 22 to May 10

      This new work from Urban Ink bills itself as “an Indigenous musical spectacle”, and if that’s not enough to hook people, note the promise of “large-scale lantern puppets” to help tell the story of an Indigenous woman who is struggling to figure out how she feels about a pipeline coming to the territory of her people.

      The Draw: Those puppets! And, of course, a new musical score from award-winning composer Corey Payette (Children of God, Les Filles du Roi), all amidst the backdrop of beautiful spring nights in Stanley Park.

      Target Audience: Indigenous storytellers, artists, land protectors, and theatre lovers; settlers interested in decolonizing; musical-theatre and puppet enthusiasts alike; all-weather adventure seekers (outdoor theatre in April/May!).


      Made in Canada: An Agricultural Operetta

      At Performance Works from May 8 to 23

      This is the world premiere of a new operetta from Rice & Beans Theatre cofounder Pedro Chamale that aims to illustrate the reality of temporary farm workers and the laws that allow these workers’ ongoing exploitation.

      The Draw: A new musical in both Spanish and English is always a thrill. There’s also something to be said for an opportunity to be confronted by our complicity in the human cost of where and how we get our food, particularly because farm-to-table dining and sustainability are obsessions for many different types of Vancouverites.

      Target Audience: Musical lovers, socially conscious environmentalists, labour organizers, and anybody who eats.


      Paradise Lost

      At Bard on the Beach’s Howard Family Stage from July 10 to September 20

      This marks the Western Canadian premiere of Erin Shields’s wildly innovative play based on the epic poem by John Milton. In Shields’s adaptation, which the Toronto Star called “brilliant” as well as “irreverent, extremely funny and stingingly contemporary”, Satan escapes hell in order to upend humanity and get revenge on God.

      The Draw: Jessie Award–winning actor Colleen Wheeler plays Satan. SATAN!

      Target Audience: Lovers of the classics, literary innovators, people who like to laugh.