October theatre brings more treats than tricks
13: The Musical. (Handout)
With October upon us, minds are already turning to costumes for Halloween celebrations.
As people plan their transformation into all manner of monsters, movie stars, and more, Vancouver’s theatre community offers a not-altogether-different opportunity to walk a mile in another’s shoes.
This month, an eclectic array of productions shares an intriguing assortment of lives and experiences.
13: The Musical
Take a journey back in time to the angst, awkwardness, and infatuation of your teenage years. Currently onstage at Granville Island’s Waterfront Theatre, Bring on Tomorrow Co.’s 13: The Musical promises to authentically address every crucible and cliche that comes with the high school experience.
The hero of the hallways is Evan Goldman, a 12-year old transplanted from New York City to rural Indiana. Adjusting to his new life, he navigates a gauntlet of cool kids, bullies, and love triangles, all while trying to plan an epic Bar Mitzvah.
The boisterous work comes from composer Jason Robert Brown (whose musical The Last Five Years was adapted into the 2014 Anna Kendrick film). When Brown debuted 13 on Broadway in 2008, it became renowned for being the first such production to feature an all-teenage cast. This tradition continues in the Vancouver run, with a host of young stage-and-screen talents whose combined credits include productions for The Arts Club and Carousel Theatre, as well as TV programs such as Fargo and Strange Empire.
The events of Mas Yamamoto’s life read like historical fiction, something right at home in the pages of a sprawling Ken Follett novel, yet they happened right here in the city, as writer and performer Tetsuro Shigematsu will tell audiences at The Cultch next week.
Yamamoto grew up in a fishing village on the banks of the Fraser River and, at 14 years old, became one of the more than 22,000 Japanese-Canadians placed in internment camps during the Second World War (2017 marks this dark chapter’s 75th anniversary). During the Cold War, he would help build the Distant Early Warning Line, guarding Canada’s arctic against Soviet bombers at the height of the conflict. Anticipation is high for the production, as it marks Shigematsu and Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre’s follow-up collaboration to the wildly successful Empire of the Son. This 2015 work was also a biographic play (telling stories about Shigematsu’s father), which enjoyed a sold out extended run, a sold out remount, and as a tour across the country.
Halloween aside, if there’s a quintessential place where adults pretend to be somebody else, it’s the internet.
Opening at the Firehall Arts Centre next Wednesday, this intriguing exploration brings together a pair of Vancouver indie theatre icons—Itai Erdel and TJ Dawe—to theatrically investigate how we identify ourselves and interact with others in the digital era. Both artists take to the stage as themselves (something they’ve become renowned for individually), to engage in debate, descend into argument, and share personal anecdotes on life lived online. Expect comedy, confessions, and illuminating insight as these two storytellers take audiences on an intellectually-charged journey into the disjointed, distracting digital realm.
In the 1850's, a woman named Kizzy escaped slavery in the U.S. In her life, she would walk all the way to Ontario, lose her legs to the cold, have two children with a British-Canadian, and ultimately return to the States following emancipation. More than 150 years later, her great-great-great grandson, singer-songwriter Khari Wendell McClelland, decided to retrace her steps and discover her journey. The result is Freedom Singer, a scintillating piece of documentary-style theatre that combines personal monologue, verbatim text, and live music to ask timely questions about race and history.
To tell the story, Juno Award nominee McClelland blends the freedom songs Kizzy herself would likely have been singing with his own funk, hip hop, and soul influences. The work premiered in Toronto last February during Black History month, before bringing its songs and message to audience around the country - from Halifax to Calgary. It touches down at the BMO Theatre Centre in Olympic Village on Oct. 7.