The end of July marks the end of our season and our fiscal year. We had two great shows, including new Artistic Director Richard Wolfe’s Pi Theatre debut, the ‘haunting’ Bashir Lazhar. If you saw Bashir or the remount of the ‘riveting’ John & Beatrice, we really hope you enjoyed the show and we’d love to hear your feedback — drop us a line! On behalf of Richard and I, thank you so much for being part of our season.
Many of you have also generously donated to Pi this year as well. We are very appreciative of your support, which makes a significant impact on our ability to bring you the best in theatre from around the world. Especially in the current economic climate, with sponsors and granters cutting back their commitments to arts organizations, ongoing and new support from the people we know is more important than ever.
As Pi is a charitable organization and ticket sales only cover a small portion of our costs, we rely on your generous and thoughtful contributions to make ends meet. Our donors during the 08-09 season have helped us to continue connecting communities through cultural exchange, offer free tickets to our members through our accessibility program, and operate our emerging artists’ program.
If you haven’t yet had the chance to make a gift this season, there is still time! Our fiscal year end is July 31st, and all donations through this date still count towards the 08-09 season’s bottom line.
Making a tax-deductible gift to support our 2008-2009 season is very easy through Canadahelps.org. Alternatively, you are welcome to donate by phone or by mail. For more information, please contact Emma Luna Davis at 604.872.1861 or at email@example.com
Again, thank you for being part of our season. We wish you a great summer, and look forward to seeing you next year - we’ve got a very exciting season planned!
The final session of the conference at 10 AM Sunday morning was entitled Theatre of War. It was an astonishing presentation. Director and Greek scholar Bryan Doerries presented the conceptual framework for his project with examples from his translations of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes. The goal of his work is to destigmatize psychological injury through ancient stories about warriors struggling to be heard. Given the military context of service in 5th Century BCE, Doerries theories on the relationships between the Athenian drama of Dionysus and the military culture of the city of Athens and how that culture mirrors that of the United States were illuminating.
The conference wrapped with everyone who was still in attendance relaying a moment that stood out for them. And then it was over.
It’s always hard to walk away from conferences like this. Something feels incomplete.
I went back to the Vietnam memorial for another look. Despite its controversial history, I find it to be the most powerful monument on the Mall. It is an expression of sorrow that honours the dead in a way the others don’t. It humanizes the scale and emphasizes the tragedy of all war. That said, a similar monument in present day Vietnam commemorating the North Vietnamese military dead (not counting the civilian casualties on both sides which were many times the number of military dead) would have to have been twenty times the length of this one. The horror.
My final event before heading home is a visit to see Barack Stars, a Second City Chicago offering at the Woolly Mammoth. Watching a satirical review focusing on a president from Chicago in the heart of Washington DC was very much of the moment, and a great way to wrap up my visit to this great Capitol City.
Today’s early session at the Kennedy Center was excellent. Shifting Boundaries: Perspectives from African American Dramaturgs – was a discussion of issues of race theory, aesthetics and the agency of theatre. It was perhaps the most thoughtful and ultimately wide reaching sessions I’ve attended at the conference.
Our regional caucus meetings were in the Café at Kennedy Centre. Most of the discussion was centered on next year’s conference, which will be held at the Banff Centre.
Lunch was followed with a walk around George Town. A municipality founded in 1751 and absorbed into Washington in 1871. It was replete with the same shops I could find on Robson Street in Vancouver. I felt ashamed walking into a Banana Republic, lured by the promise of a BIG sale.
The evening was the banquet at the infamous Watergate hotel. A place that’s to go on the auction block this coming Tuesday (update – no one made a bid). It was a great event. Brian Quirt won the Elliott Hayes Award for the second time for his work on City of Wine. His phrase of the evening: “Don’t think big, think huge!”
The greatest things about these conferences are the people and the ideas they generate.
Found the conference bar afterwards (eventually).
Asleep by 3.
The sessions in DC started quite late. Today’s session on dramaturging the museum started at 1:30, but since I was using the whole city as my point of departure, I decided head off on my own.
The Spy Museum store clerk liked my Motherland Sputnik t-shirt. I was pleased.
My first session of the day was on International Dramaturgy and it was held at the Canadian embassy, which is a truly beautiful building designed by Arthur Erickson.
I was thrilled to meet panelist Robyn Quick (Towson University), a kindred spirit who has taken an interest in the new Russian dramatists. I directed concert performances of The Russian National Postal Service by Oleg Bogaev and Terrorism by the Presnyakov brothers for Theatre Conspiracy a couple of years back. There is fuel for the future in that relationship.
A group of us had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The mole was great, but being surrounded by Spanish speakers, it occurred to me that I see more Spanish language signs in Portland than I did in Washington. I guess the unofficial second language of the United States has yet to find a seat at the table.
The evening’s organized activity was a tour of the monuments of the National Mall at night. They were very beautiful, to look at, and climbing the stairs to the Lincoln Monument was actually quite moving – not so much because of the idea of Lincoln, but more about the incline of the stairs and the size of the image that greets you at the top of them.
I felt like Moses climbing Mt. Sinai to have a chat with God. I guess my attitude illustrates a kind of psychological literacy that theatre artists specialize in.
The rest of the night was spent back at the conference bar where a group of Canadians discussed national identity and other things.
Today I moved to my new apartment in Foggy Bottom. As part of my Dramaturging DC effort, I felt it was necessary to stay in a couple of neighborhoods.
After I deposited my suitcase in my new flat, it was off to Woolly Mammoth theatre, to register for the conference proper. The theme of the conference was “Out of Bounds: Inspiration from Outside Theatre”. The first session was the university caucus, which I always enjoy. The second was entitled “Dramaturging Politics” which presented three young individuals who were involved in writing the narrative of the nation. One of them was on the rapid response team in the White House during the last year of the Bush administration, one was a campaign specialist and one was a grass roots campaign worker on the Obama campaign. I was struck by the commonalities of the language of narrative and the power of rhetoric - something Shakespeare and the Elizabethans knew intimately.
Their advice? Turn negatives into positives – an attitude that the theatre can certainly use.
The evening reception was at Woolly, after which the Canadian contingent went off to the conference bar. Canadians were the only LMDA reps there. A phenomenon that repeated itself on more than one occasion.
How should I make sense of that?
This is my last day before the conference officially begins. After doing some office work I prepared for a trip to Arlington Cemetery, one of the most iconographic sites in the USofA. I was late leaving my place and found myself grabbing a corner breakfast at Starbucks, a first for me, but it was fast food and it came with coffee.
There’s a Metro stop at Arlington Cemetery one stop from the Pentagon (Jose Rivera calls that iconographic building “the five-sided beast” in Marisol, his surreal apocalyptic play). Arlington Cemetery itself is a grand place. Row after row of white tomb-stones (almost 300,000 people are buried there) mark the lawns. Getting both the Pentagon and Arlington is a single shot lead me to imagine the picture could be titled “All Roads Lead from There to Here”.
I particularly wanted to see Kennedy’s grave site, but the first memorial that one comes in contact with is Women in Military Service for America Memorial. It is a fairly recent addition and was dedicated in 1997. Women had been active in American military service for over 220 years (I was surprised to learn that women flew military planes in World War II, although not in combat missions), so you could say the memorial took a while. I may be missing something but I don’t see it listed in the memorial section of the official web site. What’s up with that?
The Kennedy site was the next stop on the walk. The words I would use to describe to tomb are dignified and elegant with flat granite stones and an “eternal” flame burning above them (every great empire has the notion that they are capable of securing “eternity”). Geographically, the graveyard is on a hill that overlooks the city. A beautiful spot.
The final stop on my Arlington tour was at the memorial for the Unknown Soldier. A good idea. As Kurt Vonnegut implies in his novel Slaughterhouse Five, there were lots of those. What was missing from the cemetery, and from the city itself, with all of its war memorials, was any sort of recognition of the civilian casualties of war (at least I never came across one). But, as Faedra Chatard Carpenter said in our African American dramaturgy session later in the week, you can’t have a presence until you recognize an absence.
After leaving the cemetery, I headed off to a Neighborhood east of the Capitol buildings, known as the Eastern Market. Lovely homes. Not much else to say about it although I did have a drink in what is purported to be one of the oldest bars in DC – well, okay, full disclosure, it actually moved to its current location from its original location eight years ago, but it kept the name.
In the evening I took in August Wilson’s Radio Golf at the Studio Theatre. Although it’s not regarded as one of his best plays, the dramaturgy of place heightened the experience. Radio Golf is about how to stand up for what is right. In this case, right and wrong were being played out in the context of urban development by a black development company of a “blighted” black neighborhood. The Studio Theatre complex was built in an area developed under a similar circumstance, which made this a particularly resonant experience. I wondered who profited and who was left out.
The other thing that was particularly startling about being in the audience was the audience. Just as there was a good sampling of younger theatre goers at Spring Awakening, the Radio Golf audience (an African American story by an African American playwright) was around 50% African American. It was invigorating to hear an audience so responsive to relevancy on the stage.
Today was a great day for walking. The temperatures were in the mid 80’s. Cool for this time of year. I headed in the direction of the White House and the National Mall. Washington is about myth building and tourism, policy making and government, the military, education and history. I was puzzled by the single sign in front of the White House until I realized that although the photo below looks like a protest, it supports Obama’s current nuclear treaty negotiations with Russia.
One thing I found remarkable were the number of large union buildings – headquarters of the American labour movement, centered around the Capitol. It makes perfect sense of course, but I couldn’t help but think of the union-busting era of Ronald Regan and Margaret Thacher and how the proximity of these buildings to the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government plays out in the national narrative.
After clocking many miles on my poor feet during the day, I walked (or should I say limped) to Kennedy Centre that evening to see the Broadway touring production of Wendikin’s Spring Awakening. The show won 8 Tony’s in 2007, but I’d never seen it. It turned out to be an excellent production and, although a little tame in the era of South Park, it was still able to speak to the generational divide. It was extremely well produced and the songs are actually very good, not always the case for new musicals.
After the show I hit went back down into the Metro and popped up in my own neighborhood not far from the Utopia bar, a very nice little jazz joint with a small stage where a solid quartet played on into the night.
I’m crossing the continent today to attend the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) annual general meeting and conference in Washington DC. I’ve never been to “DC” and I’m looking forward to it. It’s one of the most storied cities in North America, if for no other reason than it’s the Capitol City of one of the most storied countries on earth. A great spot for a dramaturgy conference.
The UA flight was bumpy, but I arrived at Ronald Regan National Airport (or National as the citizens of the city prefer to call it) on time. I hadn’t been on the ground for more than 10 minutes when I overheard someone say, “hello Senator”. A middle-aged guy had just run into a senator from his home state and was proud to inform his elected representative from the upper chamber that he’d toured the senator’s office earlier in the day. The Senator was polite. Connections are everything.
DC has a subway known as the Metro that runs from National into the heart of the city. It’s a new system, built in the 80’s. All the stations look exactly the same. What struck me the most about the system was the station lighting, best described as dim. Underground twilight. Above ground the city itself is classic old-world North America - about as different from the Pacific Northwest as you can get without being in Mexico. Old architecture. Medium density. Lots of brick. Lots of signage screaming “NO” to one thing or another. Very few bikes and almost no bike-lanes. But a great town to walk in.
After unpacking I ventured into the streets to see what was immediately available. I was staying in the U Street area, a Victorian-era neighborhood that began life around 1862. As Washington became progressively more segregated in the early 1900’s, the U Street Corridor became a centre for black fashion and culture – the largest one in urban America. Duke Ellington grew up here. By the 1960’s it was officially “blighted” and when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 by James Earl Ray (or someone else) , the neighborhood was the centre of the Washington D.C. riots.
Walking up U Street at 11PM, looking for a kitchen that was still open, I ran into three folks doing exactly the same thing. After sharing our puzzlement at our lack of options and our determination to find something somewhere, we made our way to Adams Morgan (a neighborhood named after two formally segregated elementary schools, one black and one white).
After sitting down and ordering some food and drink (one of my compatriots couldn’t get a drink because the city’s establishments don’t recognize foreign driver’s licenses as valid ID – Canadian licenses are okay) we launched into a round of good conversation. I learned that the group was international - one from Israel, one from Berlin and one from India. They had become friends while doing a post-doc public health program at Harvard, which they’d just completed. The Berliner was heading home in the morning.
Mohan had been in school for 27 years and was a medical doctor (as was Orli). He should have gotten his drink, but as smart as he is, he couldn’t convince our server. Of course it wasn’t her fault. The law is blind. And I guess, deaf as well.
The National Nikkei Museum & Heritage Centre is hosting an afternoon of traditional and contemporary Japanese music featuring professional koto player from Japan, Chikako Kanehisa.
Sunday, July 26, 2009, 3pm
6688 Southoaks Crescent (Kingsway & Sperling), Burnaby
Tickets $20 adults, $15 seniors & students, available at the National Nikkei Museum & Heritage Centre. Tel. 604.777.7000 | www.nikkeiplace.org
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit Vancouver tomorrow as part of their 12-day Canadian tour. The Emperor hasn’t been here since 1953, when he came here on his first visit to a country outside of japan.