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By Tet­suro Shige­matsu. Di­rected by Richard Wolfe. A Van­cou­ver Asian Cana­dian Theatre pro­duc­tion, pre­sented by the Cultch. At the Cultch’s His­toric Theatre on Wednesday, Oc­to­ber 4. Con­tin­ues un­til Oc­to­ber 15

“How does one live?” It’s a 2

good ques­tion, one that writer­per­former Tet­suro Shige­matsu seeks to an­swer by look­ing at the life of one man, Mas Ya­mamoto—father of his friend and “boss”, pro­ducer Donna Ya­mamoto.

Shortly after his own father’s death, Shige­matsu be­gan a se­ries of weekly in­ter­view ses­sions with Mas about his ex­tra­or­di­nary life. At 14, just a few months after the death of his fish­er­man father, Mas was in­terned along with thou­sands of other Ja­panese Cana­di­ans in B.C.’S In­te­rior dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. After the war, he laboured in or­chards in the Okana­gan, then moved to the Arc­tic to help build the radar sta­tions of the Dis­tant Early Warn­ing line. It was there that he met his wife, and in his early 30s, he re­sumed his ed­u­ca­tion, even­tu­ally earn­ing a PHD. But his ca­reer as a sci­en­tist was short-lived; in his 50s, he rein­vented him­self as a busi­ness­man, opening a store that be­came the most suc­cess­ful one-hour­photo fran­chise in the coun­try.

The events of this ex­tra­or­di­nary life would make a fas­ci­nat­ing story all by them­selves, but Shige­matsu con­tex­tu­al­izes them within the trends and in­ven­tions of their re­spec­tive eras, en­hanc­ing the com­mu­nal ex­pe­ri­ence. “Do we re­mem­ber mem­o­ries or rec­ol­lect pho­to­graphs?” he asks, after a riff on the dis­tinc­tive colour qual­i­ties of par­tic­u­lar types of pho­to­graphic film. Space ex­plo­ration is a re­cur­ring mo­tif in a text that is by turns ca­sual and po­etic.

But the cen­tral voice here is Mas’s. The first time we hear the record­ings of him talk­ing, he’s re­call­ing be­ing asked by a cus­tomer if he could de­velop and print “sen­si­tive” pho­tos. He ex­plains that he un­der­stood this to re­fer to light-sen­si­tive film, and was sur­prised to see the pho­tos: “I wouldn’t call them ob­scene, but they were cer­tainly eye-openers,” he says with a laugh. He can­didly re­calls loss, dis­lo­ca­tion, heart­break, and joy in a life touched by so many global currents of the 20th cen­tury.

Un­der Richard Wolfe’s di­rec­tion, the play is a buf­fet of sen­sory tex­tures. Su­san Miyag­ishima’s ex­quis­ite minia­tures are pro­jected onto a rear screen edged with black photo cor­ners. We see Mas’s father’s fish­ing boat spin­ning in cir­cles as Mas’s voice nar­rates the story of his death. A mir­ror box cre­ates rows of bunks and tents in the in­tern­ment camps. In the lit­tle model of Shige­matsu’s house, we see the kitchen ta­ble where he and Mas talk ev­ery Mon­day morn­ing, com­plete with their tiny cups of tea. Pam John­son’s set is spare and hand­some, with a wide chest of draw­ers be­low the screen and a ro­tat­ing plat­form that al­lows Shige­matsu to an­i­mate the minia­tures, and it’s all beau­ti­fully lit by Ger­ald King. Com­poser Steve Charles con­trib­utes live mu­si­cal ac­com­pa­ni­ment and oc­ca­sional ban­ter.

The most im­por­tant prop of all is the clear vinyl record that holds just 18 min­utes of the 36 hours of in­ter­views Shige­matsu con­ducted. I’d love to know if there are plans to share more of the story.


By TJ Dawe and Itai Erdal. Di­rected by Rachel Peake. An El­bow Theatre pro­duc­tion. At the Fire­hall Arts Cen­tre on Thursday, Oc­to­ber 5. Con­tin­ues un­til Oc­to­ber 14

There’s a com­pelling thread 2

through­out Hyperlink, a story that un­folds via a se­ries of email ex­changes ver­bal­ized by writ­ers and per­form­ers Itai Erdal and TJ Dawe, about Erdal’s life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with a “sub­let­ter” on Craigslist. It starts out in­no­cently enough, as do so many rel­a­tively anony­mous ex­changes on the In­ter­net, but there’s fore­shad­ow­ing that it’s going to get weird. Then comes the ma­jor red flag that things are ac­tu­ally going to get bad: a man who be­haves er­rat­i­cally with a woman he barely knows, but who puts on a mask of calm when deal­ing with the man who ques­tions him about his be­hav­iour.

I won’t give away the end­ing to the Craigslist story, ex­cept to say that it is al­most lost in Hyperlink’s ca­coph­ony, and its pur­pose­ful ob­fus­ca­tion is a bril­liant bit of com­men­tary by Erdal and Dawe about the very na­ture of our dig­i­tal lives.

Some­times our on­line in­ter­ac­tions fa­cil­i­tate deeply in­ti­mate and pro­found con­nec­tions and the hu­man­ity spills out of our screens and into our liv­ing rooms. Yet, as Hyperlink il­lus­trates, these are the very real mo­ments that can get en­tirely lost in a sea of In­ter­net dis­trac­tions: the “cute over­loads” or an abun­dance of trite memes, porn, and Face­book, find­ing the right Snapchat fil­ter or all the spam Vi­a­gra your dick could ever need.

Not ev­ery­thing about Hyperlink works: its struc­ture feels a lit­tle hap­haz­ard and the mo­ments of au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion are hit-and-miss. The great dou­ble bas­sist Mark Haney feels wasted in his role, de­spite be­ing on-stage the whole time. But Hyperlink’s big­gest chal­lenge is its premise. Most of the ex­is­ten­tial angst about what it means to live in a dig­i­tized world and cul­ti­vat­ing em­pa­thy on­line be­longs to peo­ple over a cer­tain age. There’s an off-putting priv­i­lege to most nos­tal­gia, be­cause pro­longed nos­tal­gia is a cop-out. It re­fuses to con­tend with present-day re­al­i­ties, and it does lit­tle to shape the fu­ture.

Thank­fully, Dawe and Erdal don’t dwell in this mind­set very of­ten. Both have long his­to­ries of cre­at­ing one-man shows, and mem­oir work is its own kind of self-mythol­o­giz­ing— just like the cu­rated lives we present on­line, per­fect or messy or some­where in be­tween. For the most part, Dawe and Erdal seem in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing the hypocrisies and truths in their own on­line be­hav­iours with can­dour and hu­mour, demon­strat­ing how all of these dif­fer­ent per­sonas com­pare, con­trast, and in­form what it means to be a hu­man, even a hy­per­linked one, in 2017.


Cre­ated by Khari Wen­dell Mcclel­land and An­drew Kush­nir, with Jodie Martin­son. Di­rected by An­drew Kush­nir. A Pro­ject: Hu­man­ity and Ur­banink Pro­duc­tions pre­sen­ta­tion. At the BMO Theatre Cen­tre on Saturday, Oc­to­ber 7. Con­tin­ues un­til Oc­to­ber 18

Be­tween 1834 and 1860, an es­ti­mated 2 30,000 es­caped Amer­i­can slaves made their way along the Un­der­ground Rail­road to free­dom in Canada.

One of these was Kizzy, the great-great-great-grand­mother and “mytho­log­i­cal ma­tri­arch” of Detroit-raised, Van­cou­ver-based singer, ac­tor, and Free­dom Singer cocre­ator Khari Wen­dell Mcclel­land.

A look at a ne­glected pe­riod in the coun­try’s past—in­tro­duced to some only through a cringe­wor­thy Her­itage Mo­ment broad­cast on 1980s Cana­dian tele­vi­sion, eye-rollingly re-cre­ated here to great comedic ef­fect—free­dom Singer bills it­self as the un­told his­tory of the Un­der­ground Rail­road as ex­pressed through the mu­sic that ac­com­pa­nied the es­caped slaves on their jour­ney.

Kizzy es­caped to south­ern On­tario, had two chil­dren with a Bri­tish man, and lost her legs to frost­bite be­cause she was forced to sleep in the barn. When the Thir­teenth Amend­ment abol­ished slav­ery, a leg­less Kizzy and her two chil­dren re­turned to Detroit. It’s such a ter­rific story you want to know more. Well, that’s all there is.

Noth­ing else of Kizzy’s life has sur­vived in fam­ily lore, and blessed lit­tle of the es­caped slaves’ mu­sic has ei­ther. This was glar­ingly ap­par­ent in 2015 when Mcclel­land and the CBC’S Jodie Martin­son trav­elled across Canada from Hal­i­fax to Amher­st­burg, On­tario’s Free­dom Mu­seum, in a fruit­less search for both. The lack of source ma­te­rial is just as dis­ap­point­ing on-stage. A mu­si­cal record of the Un­der­ground Rail­road, Free­dom Singer is not.

Free­dom Singer is more about Mcclel­land’s de­sire to un­cover a for­got­ten past, and the re­sult, from a nar­ra­tive stand­point, is dis­ap­point­ing. With so lit­tle in the way of pri­mary sources, it’s puz­zling that Mcclel­land and cocre­ator and direc­tor An­drew Kush­nir went the doc­u­men­tary-theatre route with Free­dom Singer.

1 Hour Photo,

The strong­est mo­ment comes, un­sur­pris­ingly, from the lone con­tem­po­rary source: a record­ing of a 1940s in­ter­view with an es­caped slave who croak­ingly sings a few bars of a song he re­mem­bers. Mcclel­land, gui­tarist Noah Walker, and soul singer Tanika Charles take those cracked notes and build them into a haunting re-cre­ation, com­plete with up­dated lyrics that trans­form “No more auc­tion block for me” into “No more crooked cops for me,” re­flect­ing how lit­tle ground has been gained in the past 150 years. Even in Canada.

It’s also the only time you’ll hear an ac­tual song from the pe­riod per­formed in a show about songs from the pe­riod. Oth­er­wise, Mcclel­land sings ei­ther found lyrics from the era set to his own melodies or original com­po­si­tions. Free­dom Singer feels a bit like a bai­tand-switch from the tag line “a rare mu­si­cal jour­ney through the his­tory of the Un­der­ground Rail­road”.

De­spite its short­com­ings, Mcclel­land is a strong, al­beit stu­diously un­re­hearsed, sto­ry­teller with a ter­rific soul tenor voice. He and fel­low vo­cal­ist Charles har­mo­nize flu­idly and ef­fort­lessly, their voices over­com­ing an earnest­ness in the show’s de­liv­ery that, at times, comes across as heavy-handed or cloy­ing.

While it doesn’t al­ways suc­ceed in its stated mis­sion to give voice to the voice­less, Free­dom Singer still hits a few good notes.


Cre­ated by Eve Gor­don. Di­rected by Mike Ed­ward. A Dust Palace pro­duc­tion, pre­sented by the Cultch. At the York Theatre on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 3. Con­tin­ues un­til Oc­to­ber 14

This show is as sleek, pol­ished, 2

and sexy as the suc­cu­lent fruit that tempts its hero­ines.

New Zealand’s Dust Palace has cre­ated a cir­cus with a de­cid­edly adult flavour. Based on Christina Ros­setti’s poem, The Gob­lin Market ex­plores sex­u­al­ity and ad­dic­tion. It in­cludes only frag­ments of the poem’s text in favour of image, move­ment, and mu­sic to tell a con­tem­po­rary ver­sion of the story of two sis­ters. One gives in to the lure of sex­u­al­ity (sym­bol­ized in the poem by gob­lin men sell­ing fruit) and then wastes away; the other’s stead­fast re­sis­tance ul­ti­mately brings her sis­ter back.

Ur­ban grit in­fuses the at­mos­phere of this show: Ros­setti’s river­bank has been up­dated to a city over­pass; the sis­ters sleep in their car. Per­form­ers oc­ca­sion­ally shout barely in­tel­li­gi­ble rants into a mike at the cor­ner of the stage. The mu­sic, rang­ing from moody in­die rock to full-throt­tle noise abra­sion, ramps up the in­ten­sity. And be­hind the ac­tion are exquisitely at­mo­spheric, old-school pro­jec­tions: jumpy text, scratches, ab­stract shapes, and colour washes. At times you can even hear the click­ing of the reels. The fruit is here too, de­ployed in ways that con­tin­u­ally sur­prise.

It’s a hell of a con­tainer, but it’s still just the con­tainer: the main at­trac­tion is the jaw-drop­ping vir­tu­os­ity of the three per­form­ers, who use a va­ri­ety of ac­ro­batic tech­niques to tell the story. Ed­ward Clen­don strug­gles to shed his gob­lin na­ture in a riv­et­ing aerial silk se­quence. Clen­don and Rochelle Man­gan per­form a trapeze duet whose cul­mi­nat­ing kiss—as he’s sus­pended from the bar, hold­ing her by the chin be­low him—sets off an ex­plo­sion. At one point he walks with her body bal­anced on the back of his neck! Eve Gor­don has a num­ber of duets with Man­gan in the aerial hoop that serves as the sis­ters’ home: as Man­gan’s char­ac­ter suc­cumbs to ad­dic­tion, she flops out of the hoop and goes limp; when she’s fi­nally re­vived, the sym­me­try in their move­ment is ex­quis­ite. A mov­ing bal­ance beam, ropes, and a tower of chairs all serve to show­case the per­form­ers’ in­cred­i­bly toned bod­ies and mind-blow­ing ac­ro­batic skills.

Devo­tees of the poem might be dis­ap­pointed by the min­i­mal use of Ros­setti’s text and se­lec­tive ex­plo­ration of her themes. But as an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence for the senses, The Gob­lin Market daz­zles.


NIGHT MU­SIC Send in the clowns…and the lovesick fools, mis­matched cou­ples, and warm turn-ofthe-cen­tury Swedish nights. If any­one has the chops to mount Stephen Sond­heim and Hugh Wheeler’s el­e­gant but light­hearted ro­man­tic mu­si­cal com­edy it’s Pa­trick Street Pro­duc­tions—the lo­cal com­pany that’s worked magic on such shows as

Based on Ing­mar Bergman’s

the pro­duc­tion ex­plores how silly peo­ple act when they fall for each other, and the songs are the big, beau­ti­ful draw. Peter Jor­gensen directs, and the cast in­cludes favourites like Katey Wright and Patti Al­lan, at Rich­mond’s Gate­way Theatre to Oc­to­ber 21.-

A Lit­tle Night Mu­sic, The Light in the Pi­azza.

Smiles of a Sum­mer Night,

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