Wednesday, March 18, 2020

'no show tonight' | behind the scenes at pacific theatre: coronavirus edition!

One of my favourite PT audience members sent me a thoughtful, inquisitive email, and I think our correspondence may be something worth sharing with other folks who may have questions about the practical challenges theatres and theatre artists are facing right now.


We are. Plus the stage manager, and a few remaining costs - settling up play royalties, truck rental to return set pieces and props, that’s mostly it.


If they signed the contracts with their Equity actors before first rehearsal, they will have to pay a certain amount of the actors’ and stage manager’s salaries, I think maybe two weeks’ worth? But it’s common practice to sign those contracts on first day of rehearsal, so the Arts Club may have no legal, contractual obligation there. But for whatever loss of expected revenue the artists themselves will now face, they will just have to hope that the financial compensation the government is putting in place for self-employed workers will apply to freelance artists.

The artists collective who were putting together our next production, Love/Sick, will actually break even on what they’ve already had to spend on front-end costs to mount their show - IF most of the people who bought advance tickets turn their ticket purchases into donations, which PT will of course pass along to those artists. We’re still proceeding to move toward our mid-May production of Trip To Bountiful, and even if we end up having eventually to cancel it, we will pay the designers proportionately for the work they will have done by the time we cancel; the set designer has done much of her work, I’m meeting (remotely) with the music/sound designer and the costumer today, and that will mean we’ll be committing to pay at least a portion of their contracts regardless of what happens. We’ll keep moving resolutely toward that production, and incurring whatever costs are involved, until we reach the point where it’s evident the show cannot go on - in the hopes that we find a way, that the community finds a way, for shows to go on. And if we can’t produce Trip To Bountiful this spring, we’ll put it in next season, so that the actors who’ve already invested time in learning their lines won’t have wasted that work - and because I’m dead set on producing that show! And we have already guaranteed the Love/Sick artists that we WILL present their show as soon as the doors are open again.

As for the Pacific Theatre artists who were touring Kim’s Convenience - which may have the dubious distinction of being the first show in BC that had performances cancelled? - I’m not sure what their Arts Club contract involves. They may be guaranteed pay right through to the end of the run, even though it’s not going ahead, or they may only have been paid for a week or two of their remaining run. I need to look into that.

It may be that larger theatres like The Arts Club have cancellation insurance. I really hope they do, for their sake as well as the sake of the artists. But Pacific Theatre doesn’t, and I’d be surprised if other smaller, indie theatres will have that protection in place.


You are the best! Truly, the people in Pacific Theatre’s audience astonish me, time and time again.

Here's a link to the Pacific Theatre website, for anyone who wants to make an online donation.

Friday, March 13, 2020

best of enemies cancellation | covid-19

Dear PT family,
In light of rapidly developing measures to limit the impact of the Coronavirus in our community, Pacific Theatre has made the difficult decision to cancel the remaining performances of Best Of Enemies, which had been scheduled to close March 21. While authorities have not mandated the closing of venues under 250 seats, their recommendations for social distancing would be difficult to guarantee in our theatre space, which is known and valued for its intimacy.
Ticket holders for cancelled performances will be contacted directly by our staff to make arrangements, offering a variety of options with regard to their tickets. We ask that ticket holders please DO NOT call the Box Office regarding your tickets until you hear from us, in order for our small staff to handle the complexities of the situation as smoothly as possible. You are welcome to e-mail with broader ticketing questions, and we will respond as quickly as we can.
Though we believe this decision by our Board of Directors reflects the company's values of serving our community with artistic, relational, spiritual, and financial integrity, it was a difficult one, involving both concern for public well-being and regret at the loss of such a substantial and significant piece of theatre. It has been a high water mark in our season, and we recognize the disappointment this abrupt closure will cause for those who have not yet seen the play, and for the artists who have invested such heart and passion into the work. But we respect the proactive stance being taken in our province to address the much more dire potential threat to the health of our community, and wish to play a role in that initiative.
We strive to care for Pacific Theatre staff and artists with the same intention we direct towards our patrons and our neighbours. Though ticket revenues will be significantly impacted by this decision, Pacific Theatre has committed to paying our Best Of Enemies artists for the duration of their contract.
While this closure is right for the health of our community, it creates profound financial hardship, not only for non-profit arts organizations which operate on very narrow margins, but also for individual artists whose employment may be compromised in coming days. We will need your help. If it is within your means, please consider making a financial contribution to help sustain our people and avoid lay-offs in this uncertain time.
Ron Reed & Ian Farthing
Artistic Director & Executive Director
Pacific Theatre

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

mar 14 | emily carr: small wonders | allen desnoyers

Allen Desnoyers founded Pacific Theatre with me back in 1984, he plays pretty much every year at Christmas Presence, and he'll be back on our mainstage next season!  Meanwhile, here's a chance to see Allen's work as a playwright, composer, and performer, this Saturday in Tsawwassen.

Monday, March 09, 2020

best of enemies | responses

All we can say is wow! We saw Best of Enemies last night and we were blown away by how great it was.  Everyone and everything was fantastic. Such a powerful story, too. ...  We are so grateful that PT staged this excellent play. Each of the actors was just marvellous. We still rave about Robert Salvador in “Jesus Hopped the A Train”—one of the most amazing productions in PT history in our humble opinion— he was just incredible in this, too. Celia perfectly captured the spirit of the strong African-American matriarchs that we have known who hold their communities together and fight for their children, yet display amazing tenderness, too. The final scene was wonderful beyond words. Anthony was completely believable as Riddick, and his interactions with both of the main characters were stellar. And Rebecca did such a beautiful job with Mary—understated in all the best ways which highlighted both her strength and her vulnerability.
I apologize for this long email, but we have spent a lot of time thinking about the show and talking about it since we saw it last night, and I wanted to thank all of you all.
We truly need more stories like this. It reminds me of what Golda Meir said in a different fraught situation: Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us. Thank you for producing this wonderfully hopeful, yet realistic play about a true story of redemption."
audience member

“The elements that really make Best of Enemies worth seeing are the relevance of the play’s themes and the excellence of the acting. Under Ian Farthing’s direction, this Pacific Theatre production is excellent. Informed by a deep — often furious —  undertow, Celia Aloma’s performance as Atwater is always wary, always listening.  As Ellis, Robert Salvador manages to humanize the racist without apologizing for him. Playing the Department of Education employee who brings Atwater and Ellis together, Anthony Santiago delivers a sophisticated portrait that combines wit and compassion. And Rebecca deBoer will make you feel the exhaustion — and fight — of Ellis’s wryly funny wife Mary. Colin Thomas

“Do yourself a favour and see this slow burn to brilliance, with stunning performances. Deftly directed by Ian Farthing.” audience member

Feels like a balm for our times right now. Really hoping it gets the buzz it deserves. A beautiful show.” audience member

“There are moments in this production where you know everyone in the audience is holding their breath.” Monika Forberger, Entertainment Vancouver
“Exceptional in all respects…powerful performances, great overall design, brilliant direction. Loved it!” audience member

“Ann (Celia Aloma) takes out her frustrations on white racists like Ellis with a quick tongue and wicked sense of humour […] Rob Salvador gives a marvellous performance as C.P. Ellis.” Jerry Wasserman, Vancouver Sun
Aloma and Salvador have great on-stage chemistry, and their flawless southern accents will truly transport you to North Carolina, circa 1971.” Erin Jane, Review Vancouver

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

best of enemies | AD Notes

Artistic Director Ron Reed's notes for Best of Enemies:

"Some years ago I visited the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.  Long enough ago that I remember only one thing from the visit: a row of red lunch counter stools. A few Mondays ago when we gathered on the partially built set for the first reading of Best Of Enemies, my eyes immediately picked out one detail from the visual clutter of construction materials and tools, props and scripts and lighting instruments and people. A row of red lunch counter stools.

Red barstools on the Best of Enemies set

Greensboro, North Carolina is 54 miles down Interstate 85 and US Highway 70 from Durham, just under an hour if you drive the speed limit. That distance and eleven years were all that separated the historic Woolworth department store sit-ins from the less well remembered civil rights battle reconstructed here on our stage.

Why do those red stools in particular have such power for me?  A few things preoccupied me in my growing-up years in suburban Calgary, that stood in vivid contrast to a pretty near idyllic childhood of banana bikes, Batman comics, Monkees records and kick the can. Nuclear bombs, and stories of people surviving the end of civilization. The Holocaust. And the American chaos I saw on the TV: black people beaten and lynched, Watts and Detroit burning, angry students swarming college campuses, bodies coming home from Vietnam.  Perhaps those images and stories gripped my attention precisely because they were such a surreal contrast to my quiet, safe daily life. But it did seem like the world was ending.

Only as I write these notes does it strike me how these things eventually manifested themselves in my art, and in my artistic direction, decades later. Remnant, and The Top Ten Thousand Of All Time. Refuge Of Lies, The Quarrel, even Talley's Folly in the shadow of anti-Semitism. That quintessential Pacific Theatre show Cotton Patch Gospel grew out of the soil of the Civil Rights Movement, from Koinonia Farm's quiet, costly stand against racism in rural Georgia. We're not an issue-based theatre, so I'd never say these themes have been constantly front and centre. But as this play takes shape on our stage, I instantly trace a direct line back to my childhood nightmares, and a suburban white kid's quiet obsession with trying to come to grips with unthinkable evil. 

As the Watts riots raged, Noah Purifoy gathered the detritus of a city breaking down - neon signs, the metal from ruined vehicles, shards of wood and brick from broken buildings, a busted, hollow TV set - and made art.  These assemblages were a way to mark what had happened, to re-member what had been dismembered. To create something like beauty, or perhaps just to ensure that the story of what happened would not be forgotten.

Set designer Sandy Margaret seeks to honour Purifoy's work as she assembles a world where this particular story can be lived out in our midsts, lunch counter stools and all. North Carolina was on the other side of the country from Watts, and their traumas seemed the other side of the universe from my suburban childhood in Calgary, or our safe Vancouver vantage point half a century later. But once a thing has happened, it leaves a story. And those stories must be remembered. And when artists remember, they make art.
And as far away and as long ago as these stories may be, the terrible realities they manifested are still entirely with us, even here. The past hasn't really passed, and perhaps re-membering our old stories might reshape the stories we are living now."

Get Best of Enemies tickets here. Runs Feb 28-Mar 21.

meet the crew | best of enemies

Introducing our incredibly talented crew for Best of Enemies!

Ian Farthing – Director
John Webber – Lighting Designer
Sandy Margaret – Set Designer
Julie White – Costume Designer
Rick Colhoun – Sound Designer
Ariel Slack – Properties Manager
Sammie Hatch – Stage Manager
Nicola Shannon – Assistant Director

See their hard work come to fruition on stage starting Feb 28! Get tickets here

Monday, February 24, 2020

meet the cast | best of enemies

We asked our remarkable Best of Enemies cast a few questions about themselves and the show – check out their answers!

Celia Aloma
Do you have any personal connections with the content of the play?
Best of Enemies talks about race relations and unfair treatment of African American and low income families in the public school system among other things. Racial discrimination in school isn't a thing of the past, though we have come so far since segregation it's still prevalent in our society. I've had many experiences through schooling where teachers have tried to keep me from achieving above my socio-economic status. In middle school, for example, my teacher refused to give me documents to go to an arts school that was mostly white. She told my mom that's not a place for me and referred me to my local high school in the black community which had one of the lowest grade averages in the Toronto school board district. She eventually gave me the document but many weeks after she had given it to a white student and the application deadline had passed. Going into high school, again, I was told by my music teacher when I expressed my intent to transfer to said school. He told me I wouldn't cut it there, and I will be back within the month and this is just the tip of the iceberg. If the spirit of a child is crushed, then the sky is not the limit when all they can see is the ceiling.
It's not often the conversation of institutional racism is brought to the forefront. I'm not the only one who has faced this and I will not be the last. The resolve is speaking about it and starting a conversation and forcing change.
What excites you about this show?
I feel excited and empowered by Ann’s story, one single act of defiance can change the course of h(er)istory. As a black woman, often times I feel like I have to lower my voice and play into the nice woman complex so as not to be labeled by the stereotype attached to an “Angry Black Women”. So I dim my light and voice. Ann Atwater reminds me where my voice box lives. She reminds me that no matter what the opposition, not to falter but to stand in my truth against all odds.

Rebecca deBoer
Do you have any personal connections with the content of the play? 
Well, I am not married to a KKK leader. However, my character is a mother of three and a passionate advocate of a Family First philosophy, which does hold resonance for me.
One thing I love about this story is that it's such a beautiful illustration of the power of empathy and the importance of getting to know people who are different from ourselves.
“I think that hate is a feeling that can only exist where there is no understanding.” ― Tennessee Williams
What excites you about this show?
I can't wait to dig into playing this grounded, funny, badass character, and to get to work with such an incredible cast!

Anthony Santiago
Why does Best of Enemies matter to you?
Best of Enemies is relevant to me because growing up in the seventies as a first generation black person I had the opportunity unlike my parents, of interacting with other races and other cultures and we had a dialogue. We were able to communicate with one another. Best of Enemies where it's set at a time and place, it shows the importance of that, the importance of being able to speak to one another, even though we have such strong opinions of where we come from and where we belong in this world. Which is beautiful, which is why I am so privileged to be able to do a show like this.
What excites you about this show?
The power of finding common ground through dialogue.

Robert Salvador
What excites you about this show?
I'm thrilled to return to Pacific Theatre, the place I consider theatre home, and honoured to play a small part in paying tribute to a champion of civil rights, Ann Atwater.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

kim's convenience | the mother meets appa

Anita Wittenberg, who played Joan of Arc's mom in MOTHER OF THE MAID, was at the opening night of the KIM'S CONVENIENCE tour, and I introduced her to Jimmy Yi, who plays the father in KC.  Which, by the way, transfers beautifully to the larger stage!  I was thrilled.