Fall Arts Preview: Theatre comes to Vancouver in many forms in midst of pandemic

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      Vancouver’s theatre companies continue to be ingenious in the face of a shifting pandemic landscape and the always looming spectre of renewed restrictions. One has scheduled live performances for the fall season, another is going the digital route, and yet another is continuing programming that harks back to the golden age of radio, along with live shows.

      Listen to This

      (streaming or downloaded audio play series, various dates)

      The Arts Club Theatre Company continues its series of four audio plays by western Canadian playwrights. The productions are Unexpecting (by Bronwyn Carradine, now until September 15); Night Passing (by Scott Button, now until October 27); Someone Like You (by Christine Quintana, now until January 19, 2022); and My Father Is the Greatest Man in the World (by Tai Amy Grauman, from September 15 to May 15, 2022).

      Another audio play, Mala (by Melinda Lopez, September 1 to 28), will star Carmen Aguirre in a one-woman show that the Arts Club describes as a “candid and ultimately cathartic exploration of family bonds [that] creates space for contemplation and provides a message of resilience and optimism”.

      Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol

      (Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, November 18 to January 2, 2022)

      This Arts Club live performance is the first of five scheduled shows in the Stanley Series for the company’s 2021-2022 season. It’s a musical, set in East Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains in the 1930s, and it is based on Charles Dickens’s immortal novel A Christmas Carol, with music and lyrics by the seemingly immortal Dolly Parton. In this Depression-era version of the seasonal classic, Ebenezer Scrooge is a mining-town owner visited by his dead business partner and three ghosts as a Christmas Eve snowstorm approaches.

      TRANSFORM Cabaret Festival

      (online or limited in-person watch parties at the Cultch Historic Theatre, September 23 to October 2)

      The Cultch and Urban Ink copresent the third annual version of East Vancouver’s celebration of music, theatre, drag, circus, and comedy, featuring Indigenous and non-Indigenous performers (this year including Buffy Sainte-Marie, Colin Mochrie, and a family/children’s production). The proceedings are cocurated by Heather Redfern and Corey Payette. As Redfern said of the unique festival in a news release: “In just three years the festival has become a catalyst for Indigenous artists to make brave new works and build relationships with each other. When I see the projects that these creators are leading and how they are engaging makers seen in the two previous festivals, I am blown away.”

      This second pandemic installment can be either streamed or enjoyed in person at an evening filmed performance with a live-audience watch party at the Historic Theatre (all patrons will have to be masked and provide proof of vaccination). Special opening- and closing-night bashes—starring an all–IBPOC and 2SLGBTQIA cast—can also be streamed. The featured shows will all be followed by live Zoom after-shows broadcast from the Cultch.

      The fest’s five shows are: The Candy Show With Candy Palmater and Friends (September 24); Connective T/issue: Classical Cirque (September 25); Duckie (September 26 and October 2); The Queer and Compelling Case of The Darlings’ Demise (September 30); and Break Horizons: A Concert Documentary (October 1).


      (Studio 58, Langara College)

      Studio 58’s new artistic director, Courtenay Dobbie, announced six shows for the venerable and acclaimed professional-theatre program’s 56th season, with two of them scheduled for live performances this fall. On the program website, Dobbie characterized the productions as capturing “a spirit of rebirth, of reckoning, of celebrating humanity. With these events, let us feel again, be together again, and run wildly into a reawakening of the soul.”

      The first student production, Cerulean Blue (by Drew Hayden Taylor, October 9 to 17), concerns a blues band that is invited to play a benefit in the remote First Nation community of Dead Rat River. After arriving, the band finds that all the other acts have cancelled, and “chaos ensues”.

      Everybody (by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, November 25 to December 3), the second fall production, is an update on the 15-century morality play Everyman, wherein the symbolic protagonist is summoned by Death to account for their existence. The website describes it as an “irreverent and poetic exploration of life and death” that “asks us to consider what it means to be human”.