Wednesday, September 29, 2010

soul food menu

If you'd like to receive occasional Soul Food emails - news about art around Vancouver with a spiritual flavour - let Andrea Loewen know: No spam, nobody gets your email address, and you can opt out any time.

The Busy World Is Hushed continues at Pacific Theatre. Move fast: it's a short run, closing Oct 16, and people are loving it.  Everyone talks about the strong performances by Adam Bergquist, Gina Chiarelli (PT regulars) and Sebastian Kroon. The set and lighting are exquisite (Michael Schaldemose), transforming our theatre into the cosy, book-cluttered Upper West Side apartment on a seminary campus. My artistic director notes are on the blog.

Miracle In Rwanda, featured in our "fringe of the Fringe" a couple weeks back, is held over at the Arts Club until Oct 10... Craig Erickson and David MacKay are onstage in Tear The Curtain, a tribute to the movies by Vancouver's often-Brilliant Electric Company...  Gina Chiarelli's husband Timothy Clayton has a show of his paintings at the Havana Gallery through Oct 16, and the Lookout Gallery at Regent College is showing the multimedia acrylic paintings of James Nesbitt until Oct 29... Nelson Boschman's Mennonite Jazz Committee headlines a LifeBridge benefit concert Oct 2...  Richard Osler's hosting a poetry retreat Nov 4-7 And Spencer Capier has a whole new album of Christmas Instrumentals, that'll be ready to go in time for Christmas Presence!

Soul Food Movies is busy as heck these days, with the Vancouver International Film Festival opening Thursday. Don't miss Rejoice And Shout (Friday 2:30, plus two more showings), a history of gospel music featuring The Dixie Hummingbirds, The Soul Stirrers, Mahalia Jackson and The Blind Boys. Or  Of Gods And Men (Oct 10, 12, 14), the Cannes Festival Grand Jury Prize winner about Cistercian monks threatened by Islamic extremists during the Algerian Civil War of the 1990's. My other VIFF picks are listed here...
Other possible Soul Food films
Other Cannes Festival standouts, including the new Abbas Kiarostami
Notable films by acclaimed directors, including the new Mike Leigh
Other films of interest, including a documentary about a staging of Twelve Angry Men in a Lebanese prison

Soul Food Movies has also just launched a new series - "What's In My Queue?" - with a look at the videos Vancouver filmmaker Jason Goode is eager to see... Also noted, a new play at the Havana Theatre by Kenneth Lonergan, screenwriter for such notable films as You Can Count On Me, Analyze This and Gangs Of New York...  And don't let VIFF distract you from other Soul Food fare: there's more going on than you might expect in George Clooney's The American, ongoing at the Fifth Avenue and elsewhere.

tear the curtain | craig erickson, david adams

Pacific Theatre regular Craig Erickson and David Adams ("Jesus My Boy") are in the cast of this loving tribute to the movie ghosts that must surely haunt the Stanley Theatre. Created by Electric Company, who've been... well, Brilliant... since their very first production, which was rehearsed in our space, Anthony F. Ingram in the cast. Closes Oct 10.

Tear the Curtain! has been custom built for the Arts Club Stanley Stage and reflects the Stanley's dual identity as both historic cinema and playhouse. Written as a screenplay, this live production slips seamlessly between play and feature film. It's a stylish thriller inspired by the “reel” history of the theatre. It uses and abuses Hollywood film noir archetypes like the mob boss, the femme fatale, the hardboiled detective, and the girl friday. It is an attempt at authentic originality in a world of imitations and stereotypes. It is a story of ultimate compromise. Can the truth be revealed somewhere between the stage and the screen?

Written by Electric Company's Jonathon Young and Kevin Kerr
Directed by and created with Kim Collier

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

sep 24 - oct 16 | the busy world is hushed | artistic director's notes

Welcome to Pacific Theatre's 27th season! With more shows on our stage than in any previous year, we celebrate the artistry and passion of our company members with an extraordinary range of theatrical adventures.

It's fitting that we launch things with The Busy World Is Hushed, a Guest Production that features the kind of initiative and collaboration that make this season what it is.

A couple years back, Richard Wolfe – then newly-appointed Artistic Director of Vancouver's celebrated Pi Theatre – approached me with a project he wanted to see on our stage. The play engages so many of the questions our company loves to wrestle with, and while it didn't quite fit in the season that was then taking shape, I kept it close at hand.

Early this year, as we turned to planning the current season, Adam Bergquist – a one-time PT apprentice you'll remember from Chickens, Last Train To Nibroc, A Man For All Seasons and any number of shows at other theatres in town – proposed a Guest Production of another piece we both became very excited about. When we learned that the rights had already been secured by another Vancouver theatre, I handed Adam a stack of other potential scripts – with Busy World on the top of the pile.

Adam loved the play, loved the actor challenges of the piece and the spiritual questions at the heart of the story. Exhilarated by the idea of working with Richard, and seeing an ideal role for Gina Chiarelli – another core company member, long overdue for a role on our mainstage – Adam made arrangements with Actors Equity, procured the rights, and we had our Season Opener.

This small, carefully drawn portrait of three complex and recognizable human souls is perfectly scaled for our intimate theatre. Chamber music if you will, a nuanced, understated contemplation of subtle and intriguing themes. For close listening.

I love this play. I love the fact that Hannah's theology, her understanding of God, is not my own – but that her God is unmistakably the same. And that her love for God, and for her son, resonate so strongly with the loves in my own life. How different we can be from one another, and yet so much alike.

I trust this play will challenge you, and move you, as much as it has me.

Ron Reed,
Artistic Director

Friday, September 24, 2010

sep 24 | how to watch improv comedy

ARTISAN U. Presents: How to Watch Improv Comedy, The Sequel
A Benefit for More Than a Roof Housing
sponsored by Artisan Vancouver Church

Friday, September 24
Alice MacKay Room, VPL Central Branch
350 West Georgia St
Doors: 7pm. Show: 7:30pm

Featuring the comic stylings of:
Mike deBoer
Vince D.
Cassie Moes
John Voth
and their funny friends
These actors know what they’re doing most of the time. The rest of the time they make stuff up. In the dog-eat-dog world of improv comedy, they have worked with The Panic Squad, Bust A Gut, Pacific Theatre and 11:07 at TWU. They specialize in comedy that is both clean and funny.

PLUS the musical stylings of:
Nelson Boschman - piano
Becca Robertson - double bass
Kenton Wiens - drums
Just like the actors, whenever this exciting jazz ensemble doesn’t know what to play, they're usually able to scrape together a few notes that sound OK. They will be featured before and after the show, during intermission, as well as IN the show itself!

Suitable for ages 8 and up.

Tickets $10 in advance (until 4:30 Sep 24),
or $15 at the door.

This is a benefit event for More Than a Roof Housing. All net proceeds will go towards MTR’s mission of developing and managing inclusive communities of affordable housing. Give the gift of laughter to your friends and loved ones while serving your community through a great organization seeking to "Bring People Home".

Thursday, September 23, 2010

the busy world is hushed | jeremy tow memorial performance

Our season opener THE BUSY WORLD IS HUSHED (produced by one2theatre) is upon us with a pay-what-you-can preview tonight (Thursday, Sept. 23) and opening tomorrow.  That's not all that's happening this weekend, however.

Adam Bergquist (founder of one2theatre) would like to announce that the evening performance this Saturday, September 25th will be dedicated to the memory of our dear friend Jeremy Tow.  A long time friend and member of the Pacific Theatre family, Jeremy passed from this life on Tuesday, September 14th. We at Pacific Theatre are deeply saddened by his passing, and are honoured to host a performance dedicated to his memory.

The opening Saturday night of any performance at Pacific Theatre is typically what we like to call our Associated Artist night.  It's the night we invite all the artists who have been involved in Pacific Theatre shows over the past two years to come join us at the theatre - it's an opportunity to not only take in our current play, but also to reconnect with our artist community, something that has always been very important to us here at PT.  As Jeremy was a vital member of not only our community but the entire local arts community, it seems perfectly fitting to dedicate our Associated Artist night to his memory.  Please join us.

look who's comin' to town!

Okay, he's already in town, but you get it, right?

Really stoked about this one. And about having Spencer back for CHRISTMAS PRESENCE this year, after having him on the road last Christmas. We'll make sure to feature some of his no-doubt tasty instrumentals each night that he's with us. (And no, we don't know which nights those will be. Almost never do until the last minute. SO DON'T EVEN ASK!! Or I'll tell Santa, and that will be added to your "naughty" tally.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

oct 3 - 16 | timothy clayton | havana gallery

Gina Chiarelli opens this Friday in THE BUSY WORLD IS HUSHED on the Pacific Theatre stage. Her husband Timothy Clayton has also been busy, but not necessarily hushed.... (Better judgment: delete that, it's just plain dumb. Final judgment: FEITCTAJ.... Better judgment: DEFINITELY delete that... Final judgment: Nope....)

Rock & Roll (Part 2)
Timothy Clayton

October 3rd to October 16th, 2010
Havana Gallery: 1212 Commercial Drive
Artist Reception: Sunday, October 3rd from 4pm until 8pm

sep 23 - oct 29 | lookout gallery | james nesbitt

Beyond Scene
This Thursday, September 23, from 4:30-7:30pm we invite you to join us in the Lookout Gallery for the opening of Beyond Scene: The Acrylic Multimedia Paintings of James Nesbitt.

James Nesbitt was born in Bangkok, Thailand, but has lived the majority of his life as a West Coaster. His works are often large scale, using non-traditional materials such as machined wood, acrylic gels, holographic papers, stained-glass, sawdust, and various found materials.

“Through art I hope to encourage reflection on life – the potential of love, the destructiveness of hate, the wonder of emotion, the beauty of free will, the infinity that can be sensed in the depths of the eyes. I wish for there to be something about my work that whispers there is purpose in life; that there is an infinitely creative God who put something wonderful of His own being into each of us, and that there is hope because He is on our side and loves us with an everlasting love.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

sep 28 - oct 10 | miracle in rwanda | arts club

The emotionally powerful Miracle In Rwanda, fresh from the Pacific Theatre stage where it was part of our Fringe Festival offerings, will return for a limited engagement September 28 to October 10 at the Arts Club Review Stage.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

nov 4-7 | poetry retreat | richard osler

Poet Richard Osler has another poetry-writing retreat coming up. Check out this link for further details.

A Poetry Retreat at the Honeymoon Bay Lodge with Richard Osler

Thursday November 4th to Sunday November 7th, 2010
All-in cost: Double Occupancy $380, Single Occupancy $460

Thursday, September 16, 2010

oct 2 | benefit concert | mennonite jazz committee, etc

This just in from Nelson Boschman, PT's jazz piano guy and Godspell musical director...

Dear Concert-Goers!

I am pleased to inform you of an upcoming event that you won’t want to miss.

LifeBridge Ministries is presenting a benefit concert on Saturday October 2nd at 7pm at Level Ground Mennonite Church
Address: 31216 King Road – Abbotsford.

Featured artists are:

Calvin Dyck
Father’s Daughter
Mennonite Jazz Committee

Proceeds will go to LifeBridge Ministries which is a ministry of Christian discipleship, mentoring and leadership training for people in recovery from substance addiction. Please see poster and press release attached for further information.

For more info – please call 604 854 8181 or visit

Tickets are $20 and are available at House of James – Abbotsford.


Nelson Boschman

sep 19 wake | sep 20 memorial service | jeremy tow

On Tuesday September 14th, we lost Jeremy Tow to brain cancer, which he had been fighting for almost two years. Jer had been the artistic director of Chemainus Theatre for many years, and was known to Pacific Theatre audiences for his remarkable performance in MASTER HAROLD & THE BOYS, and his direction of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. Though distance separated us, Jer and I had a strong and unique friendship, with a shared love for God and a passion for acting that sometimes placed us in tension with a calling to serve as artistic directors of our respective companies. His wife Anita Wittenberg is also dear to Pacific Theatre: you would know her from performances in PT shows such as MOURNING DOVE or AGNES OF GOD, as well as years of work on the Chemainus Stage.

Here is a note from Jeremy and Anita's dear friend, Michelle Lieffertz.

Wednesday September 15th

... the post I didn't expect to write when this began: - O, for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention and help me know how to write...

My friends, and fellow warriors: We have fought, with all our strength, a battle on Jeremy & Anita's behalf. - Jeremy had planned to be with us for many more years, but has been invited to a much greater celebration. He passed from this life last evening.

Anita, the children and his parents are so SO grateful for the support they have received from everyone over the past 13 months, and our prayers are still needed as they transition to an altered version of their lives. A memorial service is planned for Monday, September 20th, at 2:00 pm at 10th Avenue Alliance Church in Vancouver (corner of 10th and Ontario).

More than anything, Jeremy clung firmly to his deep faith, and went peacefully into the arms of his Father. And although we weep for the loss of him this side of eternity, let your hearts be encouraged:

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will all sleep, but we will be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory: Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you." (1 Corinthians 15:51...58)

Sunday September 19, 2010 8pm onwards
Progress Lab 1422, 1422 William Street

Common rooms

This is an informal gathering: come and have a glass of wine and a nibble with fellow artists and friends, ponder muse dream laugh grieve…a chance for the community to express their love for this remarkable actor, musician, director, writer…this soulful beautiful man.

Our aim is to also gather stories, remembrances, songs, whatever expresses your experience of Jer – in a compiled book/DVD for Emma and Sebastian to have: to know and remember the impact their father had on you and on so many people. We will have a basket to put any writing/cards/pictures in that you may want to bring. We will also have a videographer around if you want to record something in the moment. We hope to have a keyboard on hand…

Bring: your story of Jer, your own bottle of wine if you like, anyone you want to come along

Monday, September 20th, at 2:00 pm
10th Avenue Alliance Church in Vancouver

(corner of 10th and Ontario)

If desired, memorial gifts for their children's Education Fund may be directed to Anita Wittenberg. His friend Rev. Jyothi's Reddi's orphanage in India, Home for Children, was close to Jeremy's heart: as per Jeremy's wishes, a portion of memorial funds may be thus designated in the memo line on the cheque.

sep 19 | "organblaster rocks the dome | michael dirks | holy trinity

The folks who give Pacific Theatre a home have a new organist, and he'll be making glorious noise this coming Sunday...

Monday, September 13, 2010

sep 17-19 | diana squires | macbeth

Word just in from Dice Squires, who PT audiences will remember from GODSPELL this spring. "Light Of The World," anyone? In the picture below: sheep, unamused, bottom left.

Performing Shakespeare outdoors (or quasi-outdoors, a la Bard on the Beach) is quite a popular thing. And then there are those productions that reeeally sink their teeth into all that it can mean to make nature your stage. I'm tickled pink to tell you about a production of Macbeth which falls decidedly into that category. For three performances only, a coven of witches will lead the audience through a roving performance of The Scottish Play that uses a diverse array of areas within the park to enliven the many settings within the play. Picture actors standing in the ocean with their audience on the shore. Imagine supernatural creatures casting spells from a swingset. That's what this show promises, and all to fundraise for The Shakespeare Centre here in Vancouver.

Something wicked this way comes on September 17, 18, and 19 with a 6pm start time on a gradually darkening stage! The "damned spot" is, to be precise, the obliging Tatlow & Volunteer Parks in Kitsilano - where MacDonald St & West Point Grey Road meet. Admission is by donation. One of the witches looks frighteningly like myself.

See you there!

Luv, Dice

Friday, September 10, 2010

fringe @ pt | responses

"So incredible. Regardless of the brilliant writing and content of the piece, his performance floored me. I’ve seen his character on the street – I’ve smiled no too many times. It left me with a sense of shame, and a sense of resolve to see beyond the presumed obvious. To realize that everyone has a story."

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

vancouver fringe festival | your PT-friendly guide!

As you all know already, PT is playing host to four fantastic shows which we've invited onto our stage as a BYOV in the Fringe Festival this year. While these are four shows you definitely do not want to miss, there are plenty more shows that members of the PT family are involved in this year. Here's your handy-dandy guide to everything PT at this year's Fringe! (Note: all tickets through The Vancouver Fringe website or at the door, but not through the Pacific Theatre box office.)


by Doug Curtis, performed by Giovanni Mocibob
Gio is a new arrival in Vancouver from Rosebud, and exceptionally gifted and charismatic actor. You'll be seeing more of him on our stage - including his performance in the title role of My Name Is Asher Lev in January
A young Christopher Columbus (no, not that one) has it on good authority he should become a paper boy - God told him to. So what's so important about delivering papers?
"Overflows with a beguiling mix of wit, humour, and intelligence. It's mesmerizing." Calgary Sun
WHERE: Pacific Theatre
WHEN: F10@11pm, Sa11@1&7, Tu14@5 & 11, W15@7, Th16@9, F17@7, Sa18@3

written and performed by Robert Olguin
Rob graduated from theatre at TWU, apprenticed with PT then grabbed an MFA at the University of Washington, one of North America's top theatre training programs. This show marks the inaugural production of Glass City Theatre, PT's company-in-residence this season: watch for their Last Days Of Judas Iscariot next spring, by Last Days Of Judas Iscariot playwright Stephen Adley Giurgis
Think of the worst commercial you've ever seen. Now think of the poor jerk who had to be in it. He didn't want to be there, but he's got a wife, a baby, a mortgage, and believe it or not, talent.
"Painfully hilarious. By turns Rob Olguin gives belly laughs and cringingly honest accounts of his version of the Human Condition." Mark Jenkins, The Actor's Studio
WHERE: Pacific Theatre
WHEN: Th9@9pm, F10@9, Sa11@5 & 11, Tu14@9, W15@11, Th16@5, F17@5, Sa18@7

written and performed by Leslie Lewis Sword
This show was put forward to us by PT regular Kerry Vander Griend (who directs Miracle) as "a perfect fit" for PT. It is. After performing the show internationally, Leslie has relocated to Vancouver, and we're proud to introduce her to Vancouver audiences.
Recommended, Marsha Lederman, Globe & Mail
For 91 days, Immaculee hid in a bathroom from machete-wielding killers. Twelve years later she returns the the tiny room that saved her life.
"A genuine inspiration. Sword's one-woman performance makes riveting theatre." The Village Voice
WHERE: Pacific Theatre
WHEN: Th9@5/11 , F10@4:30, W15@9, Th16@7, F17@9, Sa18@1/5/11

by Robert Schneider, performed by Christopher Domig
Ron met Chris at an arts conference at Schloss Mittersill in Austria several years back. Since then, an MFA at Southern Methodist University (another of America's top acting programs, Craig Erickson's an alum), then "Best Actor" Award in the New York Fringe Festival for this extraordinary little show...
An illegal Iraqi immigrant sells roses on the street to people who won't meet his eye. "My name is Sad. Actually, Saddam. A first name, just like Adolf or Jesus."
Check out this terrific feature article in the Globe & Mail
WHERE: Pacific Theatre
WHEN: Th9@7, F10@7, Sa11@3/9, Tu14@7, W15@5, F17@11, Sa18@9


Written by Kathy Parsons (PT literary manager)
Featuring Kaitlin Williams and Joel Stephanson (PT apprentices 2009-2010: Wardrobe, I Was Meant For The Stage, Godspell)
Everyone wants to escape something and everyone uses different ways to do it. Come see a bride try to skip out of her wedding ceremony, a man day dream about the promised land while he irons and a woman with her favourite form of escape – a romance novel. As an audience member, you will also get an opportunity to put in your two cents...
"The show’s mostly comedy and we’ll be taking theatre to new heights. A fire escape."
One of "Five shows we really like out of the 600 at the Fringe" - Vancouver Province
WHERE: Granville Island, Corner of Johnston and Old Bridge Street
WHEN: Th9@5:30, F10@6:30, Sa11@1:30/3:30/5:30, Su12@2:30/4:30/6:30
M13@6:15, Tu15@6:15, W15@5:15, Th16@5:15, F17@5:15, Sa18@12/2/4/6, Su19@1/3/5

Featuring Kerri Norris (You Can't Take It With You, Refuge Of Lies, Bright Particular Star)
Times were tough for hard boiled detective Birnam Wood. He never asked to be in London. Especially in 1605. When Wood's Partner is killed, he has to find the killer amongst a cast of suspects that includes Richard III, Falstaff, Iago, Mercutio and a merchant from Venice. The worlds of film noir and Shakespeare collide in this "who hath done it".
WHERE: Waterfront Theatre
WHEN: F10@6:40, Sa11@2:45, Su12@4, M13@9:35, F17@10:45, Su19@7:35

Playwright, Cast: Shauna Johannesen
Shauna's not yet known to our Pacific Theatre audiences - but we bet that'll change. For now, here's a taste of her work both as writer and performer.
It's a story about about fish. About fear. About life, death, love, and spiderwebs. But mostly, it's a story about stories, and how we seek, create, and find ourselves in them.
“Deadley” weaves myth, musical ditties, and a ficus into a comic patchwork love story. Early on, Sam comes to terms with his grandfather's corpse, while Amy watches meaning flush down the toilet with her goldfish Charlie. Between zombie folk songs, the harrowing tale of a spider and fly, and the Intergalactic Bank of Karma, Sam and Amy dance a bizarre, delicate tango from loss to…somethingness.

WHERE: Firehall
WHEN: Th9@9, F10@11, Sa11@7, M13@5, T14@7, Th16@9, F17@6, Sa18@7, Su19@5

The Fringe at PT - Opening Night with Ron Reed


The Vancouver Fringe Festival is about to open, and I've got an idea. Want to join me for opening night at PT? Thursday, September 9. We'll see three of the four one-person-shows I've hand-picked for our stage during the Fringe. Each show is about an hour, with about an hour between each to talk together in the lobby about the plays, and perhaps even be joined by the performers.

The remarkable, inspiring story of a woman who survived the Rwanda genocide. PT regular Kerry Vandergriend championed this one, an internationally acclaimed piece by actress Leslie Lewis Sword, who moved to Vancouver about a year ago. The show repeats at 11pm if the 5:00 show is too early for you to catch.

DIRT - 7pm
I met Chris Domig at Schloss Mitterill in Austria about five years ago when I let an arts conference there. Since then he's earned his MFA from SMU (same program that Craig Erickson graduated from), moved to NYC and won Best Actor accolades for his performance of DIRT in the 2008 NY Fringe. Expect an extraordinary performance: I hear there are one or two other actors in New York.

Rob Olguin is a TWU theatre grad who apprenticed at PT before getting an MFA at U of Washington, one of North America's premiere training programs. This largely comic piece is in fact the inaugural production of his Glass City Theatre, the company-in-residence at Pacific Theatre this season. (Watch for their production next spring of Jesus Hopped The A Train by Last Days Of Judas Iscariot author Stephen Adly Giurgis.)

The one show we won't be able to see Thursday is Giovanni Mocibob's performance of CONFESSIONS OF A PAPERBOY, which opens Friday at 11pm - a guaranteed PT crowd favourite, I'm not kidding. (Unfortunately I'll be out of town Friday, which is why we're doing this Fringe Opening thing Thursday.)

All four shows continue through to the end of the Fringe, Sep 19.

Here's a link to a bit more on each of the shows. I'll follow this up with an email about other PT folks with Fringe shows - ESCAPE ARTISTS I, THE MALTSE BODKIN, and DEADLEY - but wanted to let you know about the Thursday shindig in time for you to include it in your plans.

By the way, you order tickets through The Fringe Festival, not through the PT box office. Though I'm pretty sure there'll be tickets available at the door.

See you then!


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

dirt | pacific theatre fringe | globe & mail

Join me Thursday night (Sep 9) for the launch of the Fringe at Pacific Theatre - three of the four one-person-shows PT invited onto our stage for the run of the Fringe. MIRACLE IN RWANDA at 5, STRETCH DOG at 7, DIRT at 9, and then MIRACLE IN RWANDA again at 11. One-hour shows, in between we'll hang out in the lobby, talk about what we've seen, maybe meet the actors and directors. Buy your tickets at the door, or in advance from the Fringe (not the PT box office). More details on our Fringe offerings here.

Getting caught in the sad tale of Sad
Marsha Lederman, Globe and Mail

Dirt begins with a sly surprise: a first act that comes and goes before the audience realizes the theatre has even begun. It is a bit of theatricality meant to bring the audience into the show without knowing it so that the tale they are about to hear has more resonance: To make them players, even culprits, in the sad tale of Sad.

Sad is an illegal immigrant from Iraq who sells roses on the street. He is lonely. Money is scarce. His roommate has defaulted on the electricity bill. The people to whom Sad tries to sell his roses treat him with utter disdain. And their disgust has had an impact on Sad: He feels intense hatred not just for his potential customers, but for himself.

Dirt was first performed in the United States in 2003 in an academic setting, and has been performed publicly since 2007 in New York and Europe. It will have its Canadian premiere at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival on Sept. 9, and will mark its 100th performance on Sept. 11.

As much as the one-man play feels like a post-9/11 tale, it was in fact written by Austrian novelist Robert Schneider in the early 1990s, a reaction to the first Gulf War.

“It’s uncanny how relevant it is,” says the play’s star Christopher Domig, who was responsible for bringing it to the English-language stage. “When I tell people it was written almost 20 years ago, they just don’t believe me.”

Domig, 29, is an Austrian-American who grew up in Salzburg speaking English at home and German at school. Today he has no detectable accent; in English, he sounds like a native New Yorker.

He read Dirt in high school, in its original German. “What struck me is this ambivalence and this tension between loving a culture and hating it, between loving your home country and critiquing it.”

In 2003, Domig was studying theatre in the U.S. and looking for a solo project to perform for his undergraduate thesis when he remembered Dirt. “What made those memories surface was that in ’03, we were already well into the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the whole question of what is Islam, what does it mean to be Muslim, what does it mean to be a foreigner ... were hot-button topics.”

Domig found an English translation, but learned that it had never been performed. His project earned him an A.

When he moved to New York in 2006, he quickly learned how difficult it was to get work as an actor. He felt he could only thrive with a project of his own.

Dirt was the natural choice. “We’re still at war and this play’s still relevant and I really should do a proper run of it,” he thought. He sent out 65 queries to producers and artistic directors. He received one response: a polite rejection.

Discouraged, he sought out Schneider, who met with Domig and offered his blessing. “He was immediately encouraging and said I think you should do it. ... It was a bit strange because I thought this guy hasn’t seen me act. How does he know that he wants me to do the English [language] premiere of his play? I might totally screw it up.”

He didn’t. Domig staged Dirt at the 2007 New York Fringe Festival (which is semi-curated). It was a hit.

Since then, Domig has mounted the show off-Broadway, in London, Berlin and Vienna – in English. The guy who couldn’t get a decent part has received some glowing reviews and landed roles in independent films. He’s now talking to Schneider about adapting Dirt for film.

Its relevance persists. Witness Arizona’s attempt to enact an anti-immigration law. “What pains me most,” says Domig, “is that if you live in Arizona and you do not know an illegal immigrant and haven’t spent the time to get to know them ... you will probably think in a much more clich├ęd way about the issue. All it takes is to know one person’s story.”

Dirt is at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival Sept. 9-18

escape artists | fringe | joel stephanson, kaitlin williams, kathy parsons

Kaitlin Williams
in Kathy Parsons' play "Escape Artists I"
front page, The Courier