Yoshié Ban­croft’s Ja­panese Prob­lem is cre­at­ing early buzz, while Ruth Bruhn man­ages Green Thumb’s ac­tion be­hind the scenes

The Georgia Straight - - Contents -

In our an­nual Fall Arts Pre­view, we talk to some of Van­cou­ver’s ris­ing tal­ents in the­atre, dance, mu­sic, com­edy, and vis­ual arts; plus, both crit­ics’ and in­sid­ers’ picks for the sea­son.


Yoshié Ban­croft’s labour of love, Ja­panese 2

Prob­lem, hasn’t even opened yet, and al­ready the 31-year-old Jessie-award-win­ning ac­tress and her cre­ative part­ner, di­rec­tor Joanna Garfinkel, have been hear­ing from peo­ple across the coun­try.

“It’s been re­ally ex­cit­ing, the re­sponse so far, and we haven’t done the show!” Ban­croft laughs a lit­tle in amaze­ment. “We did a small teaser ver­sion of Ja­panese Prob­lem at the Pow­ell Street Fes­ti­val, but the re­sponse has been re­ally pos­i­tive. We’re get­ting mes­sages from var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions in Toronto, the Koote­nays, the In­te­rior, and peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in bring­ing the show to them.”

It’s what Ban­croft has been work­ing to­ward since she toured the PNE Live­stock Build­ing in 2015 with a group from the Nikkei Na­tional Mu­seum and Cul­tural Cen­tre. She’d grown up go­ing to Playland, un­aware that it was where more than 8,000 Ja­panese-cana­di­ans, just like her, were held and “pro­cessed” dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. Now, sit­ting here with the Straight at Kafka’s on Main Street, she’s two weeks from the first ful­l­length per­for­mance of Ja­panese Prob­lem—staged right in the sta­bles where the in­jus­tices took place.

She didn’t nec­es­sar­ily en­vi­sion her­self as a pro­ducer when she started act­ing at Arts Um­brella when she was 14, or even when she grad­u­ated from UBC’S the­atre pro­gram in 2008. “But I feel like it kind of goes hand in hand with be­ing an ac­tor in this city,” Ban­croft says. “You want to do cer­tain work, so at the end of the day, if you’re not get­ting those jobs then you’re go­ing to make the jobs for your­self.”

Ja­panese Prob­lem isn’t Ban­croft’s only project this month, let alone this fall. She’s costar­ring in Adult Com­pany at the Van­cou­ver Fringe Fes­ti­val to Septem­ber 16. Ja­panese Prob­lem opens Septem­ber 22, and af­ter it wraps its run on Septem­ber 30, it will tour to Kaslo, B.C., from Oc­to­ber 6 to 8 as part of an event com­mem­o­rat­ing the 75th an­niver­sary of the in­tern­ment. Af­ter that, Ban­croft will head to Pre­sen­ta­tion House The­atre in North Van­cou­ver for The Dou­ble Axe Mur­ders, run­ning from Oc­to­ber 25 to Novem­ber 5. There will also be a Ja­panese Prob­lem ex­hibit at the Nikkei Mu­seum from Septem­ber 30 through Jan­uary 2018.

“I’m feel­ing a lit­tle tired,” Ban­croft ad­mits with a laugh. “But my heart is full and I’m so happy to be do­ing all the things that I’m do­ing. This year’s been full of val­i­da­tion, which has been re­ally pow­er­ful as an artist.” > AN­DREA WARNER


For the last six weeks, Ruth Bruhn has prob­a­bly 2 been the hard­est-work­ing 23-year-old the­atre pro­fes­sional in Van­cou­ver. She’s pulling dou­ble duty, fin­ish­ing up the sea­son at Bard on the Beach as as­sis­tant stage man­ager and set­tling into her new role as the pro­duc­tion man­ager at Green Thumb The­atre. “As we say at our weekly check­ins, I haven’t cried at work yet,” Bruhn says with a laugh, sit­ting in­side the Green Thumb meet­ing room, her dog, Stella, ly­ing at her feet.

Bruhn is a quick study, but she was also pre­dis­posed to the craft. Her mother was a stage man­ager at the Play­house be­fore Bruhn was born, and in Grade 10 she talked her way into Gate­way The­atre, first as a “child wran­gler” and then as an ap­pren­tice.

“I was ‘lit­tle Ruthie’ who ran around, and I did about five or six shows with them be­fore I went to Stu­dio 58 for pro­duc­tion,” Bruhn says. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, she se­cured an ap­pren­tice­ship at Bard and was hired back the fol­low­ing two sea­sons. She also stage-man­aged the East Van Panto, but it was Green Thumb’s tour­ing pro­duc­tion of Alone To­gether that changed ev­ery­thing.

“They got to know me and I got to know them, and then when this [pro­duc­tion man­ager] po­si­tion came about, I was like, ‘Hey, guys, I know I’m su­per un­qual­i­fied but I’d love this op­por­tu­nity,’” Bruhn says with a laugh.

Bruhn has been in­volved in stage man­age­ment for a third of her life, but she “100 per­cent” had to prove her­self be­cause of her age.

“Even just talk­ing with the scene shops and deal­ing with the main­te­nance of the vans and try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate with peo­ple who know I don’t fully know what I’m talk­ing about yet,” she ex­plains. “But it’s just keep­ing that con­ver­sa­tion go­ing with them, like, ‘Hey, I’m learn­ing, but you’re not go­ing to be able to take ad­van­tage of me.’ ”

Green Thumb has two shows hit­ting the road this fall: Not So Dumb by John Lazarus and Jab­ber by Mar­cus Youssef. The for­mer is headed to el­e­men­tary schools, while the lat­ter is tour­ing high schools. “Green Thumb is con­ver­sa­tion starters for youth,” Bruhn says. “Even if it’s just one kid who’s like, ‘I didn’t even know what I was feel­ing was that,’ and is able to talk to some­body about it, that’s an­other big rea­son why I wanted to work here.” > AN­DREA WARNER

Ruth Bruhn (left) has been in­volved in stage man­age­ment for a third of her life but still had to prove her­self; Yoshié Ban­croft’s Ja­panese Prob­lem started with a tour of the PNE Live­stock Build­ing. Emily Cooper photo.

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