Archive for August, 2011

Five Meditations on the Future City with Joel Stephanson

August 31, 2011

Hey everyone,

This week’s podplay, Five Meditations on the Future City, premiered as part of The Quartet at the 2011 PuSh Festival. If you missed that series the first time round, you are now in luck. We received a lot of great feedback on the event. Below is an excerpt from an email sent by Joel Stephanson, an artist associated with Pacific Theatre. Joel is working on his own podplay event that will come out later in September. His email gives you a sense of the serendipitous events and magical coincidences that help to make podplays such a unique experience.

Hi Adrienne,

I had a truly amazing time with your PodPlays last week! I wonder if any other key lessons have come to you in the execution of it, from the artistic or production side of things. I definitely learned valuable stuff during my walk.

I couldn’t believe how many serendipitous moments there were. At times I just stood there and said, “you’ve gotta be kidding me”. There was this strange confluence of your work and my truly random circumstances….

I really loved the variation in the route. It was so quick to get from Woodwards down to the street in the middle of Gastown – the space of the city seemed to shrink. Then (and pardon my indulgence here… there was just so much that was curious about my experience), I ran into old faces I haven’t seen in ages. Two on Water street alone. But they smiled, nodded and let me pass by, immersed in my soundscape. Further down I heard about the wine bottle breaking, and some few steps later my shoes were walking ON BROKEN GLASS. Perfect timing, glass! I saw an enigmatic smile (or a smirk?) from someone when I paused outside the Alibi Room, and started to gain this sense that the whole downtown was choreographed for my benefit. There’s more which felt significant while the audio was running through my head, but which now in the black & white of an email would not seem so remarkable…

A homeless guy who was having a (hallucinatory?) episode wandered ahead of me at Main & Alexander, and would stay in the vicinity for the next 25-30 minutes of my route. He even took on a role at a couple points. Standing on the beach facing the water, I think the voice told me to face my palm forward in a waving gesture. I looked over at Homeless Guy to find he, too, was looking at his own hand out in front of himself. Both of us in our own worlds, likely both hearing voices in our heads. At the moment the play mentioned “Sean Connery standing on the bridge,” he was standing over on the pier, arms up in majestic, if drug-induced, gesture. Another occasion, the voice speaks of how we are each individual agents, as a flock of runners passes me by, as if to illustrate the point.

Near the end, I walked out onto the corner facing Georgia Street, and when the voice described “the sun shining a little brighter”, it was. I had just come out from the shade of an awning at that instant. 🙂

I guess I describe all this because my experience allowed for this remarkable interaction with the outside world. It made me want to ensure that I let the surroundings do their work in my own podplay, and work with them as much as I tell stories about them. Thanks again.


Joel Stephanson is an actor and writer. His own podplays project, Corridors, will be running on Fridays from late September, in a century-old church building. Tickets available through Pacific Theatre.

Podplays podcast subscriptions are still available. You will receive all the podplays issued up until now (that’s eight, including this week’s podplay) PLUS three more plays and one bonus track delivered weekly between now and Sep 19. Go to to subscribe before Sept 30.

on PodPlays – The Quartet

August 23, 2011

Hey folks,

Did you miss PodPlays at the 2011 PuSh Festival? Never fear! We are re-issuing all four as part of the Retro Bundle. That means that every Monday between today and September 12 Neworld will podcast one podplay from The Quartet. Now you can listen to them at your convenience, as many times as you like. And it’s not too late to hear the new podplays, The Celebration Edition. The podplays are available to subscribers until September 30th.

If podplays are new to you, we are re-posting an article by Sarah Banting, which gives you a really good idea of how they work.

originally posted on PTC blog Friday, January 14, 2011
on PodPlays – The Quartet
Commissioned by Neworld Theatre and PTC
Presented by the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, January 21 – February 6, 2011
Created by Adrienne Wong & Joelysa Pankanea, Proximity Arts, David McIntosh & Max Murphy, and Martin Kinch & Noah Drew.

by Sarah Banting

Let’s say I deliberately chose one of the chilliest wet days of a dark December to preview PodPlays – The Quartet. Dusk, too: the growing dark must have been my idea. That gives me a measure of creative control, making me director of mood and wardrobe in this new site-specific piece for solo audiences. Damp gloves, hoodie, umbrella. Gloomy sea-coast city. iPod. I’m set.

The weather affected my experience of these four short plays, of course, and whatever the day is like when you take them in this month or in early February, it will affect yours. Look forward to it. Because these are audio pieces, downloaded onto your mp3 player* and piped in by your earphones, they unfold as if from inside your head. They are so intimately with and within you, as you walk along listening to them, that it’s your body that brings them into contact with the world. Your skin, chilled or sunlit. Out there alone in our Vancouver, as the night fell too early, the rain and cold made me feel how exposed I was to the elements of this specific place. But at the same time I was secretly a capsule containing voices and soundscapes. I was buoyed up and protected by what I heard, warmed and secured by this good company.

I’m tempted to say too much about the content and precise map of the PodPlays: the plays are each moving and thoughtful, in their quiet but insistent ways, and the experience of being guided by them around the fringes of downtown, through doors and passageways I had never seen before, gave me plenty to think about. The histories and futures of this city. Colonial guilt and greed. Our strained relationships with those we love, or once loved. The feeling of being in city space. Not wanting to spoil it for you—though perhaps that would be impossible? Your experience will be different than mine—let me comment instead on just one of the remarkable things I think theQuartet does to temporarily transform the experience of living in a city.

Landmarks are clearly an important part of how we map our worlds. And, although some of them may be private, we necessarily also use landmarks in our attempts to coordinate maps with others.Can you tell me how to get to the Woodwards Atrium? Well, if you’re coming from the east, follow the big W… Living in densely populated places, we are aware that many other people share landmarks with us. Especially major landmarks: the stand-out features of the street grid. But each of us knows a different version of the city, so it can take some explaining to orient friends or strangers to the little landmarks in a neighbourhood that’s new to them. What do you see around you?, we say into our phones. Okay, you’re almost there. Just keep going past the Nestors.

The PodPlays guide you—expertly, I think—along their four consecutive routes using little landmarks. Each play does it slightly differently, depending on who is speaking, and whether the voice is addressing you directly or guiding someone else along a path through the city, while you listen in and follow along. Do you see that building that looks like a flying saucer?, asks one voice.Keep walking towards it as it fades from view. Another voice instructs you, encouragingly, to see something you hadn’t yet noticed, picking it out for you from the view ahead, so that you may move towards it. See the restaurant’s black terraced railing jutting out into your path. Lean forward over the railing. Peer in the windows. Don’t stare.

I’ve done research, recently, on how Vancouver landmarks get mentioned in theatre and fiction set in this city. What strikes me, in many cases, is how conspicuous and deliberate these mentions sound—how conscious they are of their varied audiences, some of whom might recognize the landmarks, some not. The Second Narrows Bridge!, a play or novel will say, importantly. Stanley Park! Main and Hastings! Mentioning these major landmarks is almost a political act: it coordinates maps at a grand scale, pointing out that there is an audience out here that recognizes and identifies with these places. We are Vancouverites!

What the PodPlays do is to invent a new kind of very little landmark, one that does not depend on your prior knowledge of the city. (Usually, in fact, when they weren’t taking me through a part of the city I’d never yet seen, they were coaxing me to look at familiar places from a new angle.) To move you along their winding path they give directions by offering some immediate feature of the world around you as a point of orientation. They mention these new landmarks in the most make-shift of terms. Do you see that door straight ahead? The letter R. That’s where we’re headed. No official capital-letter place names here, names that might be marked on a map. Instead, they are simple, general nouns—descriptive, yes, but stripped down to the fewest words possible—which should for those reasons be vague directions except that, in the circumstance of these plays, they are absolutely, spectacularly precise. They are what sub-local knowledge you share with the voices of these plays. They are just what’s suddenly right there in front of you.

We’ll go in here, underneath it, the service tunnel straight on. The arrow points right but go straight on, just watch out for the traffic.

I felt oddly secure, as I experienced the PodPlays. I felt taken care of, gently guided by voices that knew just where I was, because they were there with me. There it was, the arrow. My eyes found it just as they said those words. The service tunnel. I get it! I was a solitary body wandering along the edges of the city. But I was in sure hands: a Gretel following Hansel’s little trail of stones through the weird forest safely home.

* or one borrowed from Neworld Theatre

Sarah Banting, PhD
Sessional lecturer
Arts Studies in Research and Writing

Reckoning With the Past in Days of Old by Joy Russell

August 16, 2011

When I started thinking about “Days of Old,” I was curious about how one engages with the past and how easily it becomes fossilized and disconnected from the present – a certain dysfunctional nostalgia that stunts. I confess I have found myself lured into that landscape until it was an impediment to being in the here and now. Who hasn’t? Then I began to imagine the conversations that might take place between characters with different agendas, complications and discomforts around these time zones. I asked what history would look like as a dynamic organism, a verb fully living in the present.

The important and necessary work that is taking place around Hogan’s Alley has involved the process of excavating histories and giving them a palpable and undeniable presence in the city’s psyche. Particularly important, I think, given the number of times people have commented they were unaware that there was, in fact, a black community concentrated in the Hogan’s Alley area in the past. It is an ongoing task pushing this historical presence into the city’s narrative and making visible where erasures previously existed.

From my observations, there seems to be two distinct camps that engage with the black community that lived in the Hogan’s Alley area: those with a direct, first-hand lived experience of the community and its places, and those of us who are visitors and listeners, retrievers, collectors and gatherers of this history. There are places such as the Harlem Nocturne, The Fountain Chapel, the house that Nora Hendrix lived in, which remain, their old buildings’ skins with new occupants, names and functions, or, the part of Hogan’s Alley which has been destroyed and smoothed over with a dull, green dress of grass. The intersection between these two experiences was compelling to me for a number of reasons, including what it might suggest about generational shifts in proximity to memory.

These questions kept itching – I had to scratch and find a way to embody them in the play and characters. In writing “Days of Old” I haven’t come up with any definitive answers or tied everything up with a pretty bow, but certainly have sharpened my thought that how we hold history tells us something about what our future might look like, how we forget tells us how we walk in the present.

Here’s more information on Hogan’s Alley.

A Memoir. Sort of. – C. E. Gatchalian speaks about Authentic, part 2.

August 16, 2011

A Memoir. Sort Of.

C. E. Gatchalian speaks about Authentic

Do you remember James Frey? He’s the drug addict-turned-writer who authored A Million Little Pieces, a “memoir” that Oprah selected for her hallowed book club six years ago.

A storm erupted when it was revealed that Frey had fabricated much of the stuff in the book. Oprah publicly scolded him and withdrew her endorsement of the book.

A similar “is it/is it not a memoir” agon took place in my own head while writing my podplay Authentic.

A fifteen-minute audio play. Piece of cake, right?

As it turns out, writing Authentic was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever had as a writer.

When I was greenlighted to write this podplay, the story called to me, despite myself. I’ve always stubbornly clung to the Eliotian ideal of hard, uncompromising impersonality, so writing something as directly autobiographical as what Authentic promised to be smacked of a too-easy surrender to our reality-TV-infested Zeitgeist. But the extreme intimacy of this particular art form lends itself to confessionalism, and it dawned upon me that some not-too-shabby writing also emerged from the gut-spilling, private-life-exposing likes of Berryman, Ginsberg, Roethke and Plath.

So, with Authentic, I decided to spill it—guts, ejaculate, what have you—like never before. Meaning: I made no pretense to myself that what I was writing was fiction.

Meaning: this play is about my love affair. The central character is me.

Writing the first draft was wrenching—I was obsessed with transcribing every aspect of the relationship and every nuance of my thoughts and feelings about it as exactly and precisely as possible. Therapeutically, it was helpful; but it did not make for a good play—certainly not a good podplay.

But with each subsequent draft the how took over from the what, and, slowly but surely, I nudged it up into something I could be reasonably proud of. The extreme time and geographical constraints of the form forced me to cut everything that may have been personally meaningful but that, dramatically, was superfluous and unnecessary. Eventually the story came to deviate somewhat from actuality, and details were altered and in some cases invented for dramatic logic and flourish.

Suddenly, Mr Frey became something of a kinsman.

So, the product is a semi-autobiographical, semi-fictional audio play whose central character is mostly me and partly not me, dealing with a New York lover who is mostly my actual New York lover and partly other lovers/would-be lovers/imaginary lovers/friends/acquaintances.

So here is Authentic. A memoir.

Except I’m small-fry compared to Mr Frey and will fortunately never get into trouble for calling it that.

Paolo Pietropaolo speaks about Authentic

August 9, 2011

I love the idea of music that is tied to specific places. It’s a stimulating challenge for a composer: to try and write music that somehow evokes or captures a place.

That’s one of the things I wanted to do when I was approached by Neworld Theatre to write the music for C.E. Gatchalian‘s new podplay, Authentic, which was released today and is available from the Neworld Theatre website.

(What’s a podplay? It’s a play you experience while walking a particular route, in a specific place, through your earphones. There’s a great explanation here.)

Authentic is a love story between two men from very different cities, a Vancouverite and a New Yorker. The script is gorgeous, highly evocative, and the performances (by actors Marco Soriano and Bob Frazer) are very compelling. It was a privilege to work with this material.

I strove to create a musical flow that had two contrasting motifs within it: two motifs that would reflect the differences between the two cities, but that could also meld into each other. The Adagietto from Gustav Mahler‘s 5th Symphony plays a part in the story, so I wanted to incorporate snippets from that lovely, famous melody into the music for this play, as well; and, finally, because it is a play that unfolds along two of downtown Vancouver’s busiest streets, Seymour and Richards, I wanted city sounds to make up a part of the music too.

Authentic is best enjoyed while walking the route for which it is written, but of course, you don’t have to be in downtown Vancouver to give it a listen.

~ Read more from Paolo Pietropaolo on his website

How Do PodPlays Work?

August 4, 2011

How do PodPlays work?

1. Go to the Neworld website and subscribe to one of our podplays packages below.
The Celebration Edition is for those who attended PodPlays at PuSh and only want to purchase the five new podplays. The Retro Bundle features the four plays from PuSh and one from the Powell Street Festival. The 125 Bundle has all 10 plays – plus one bonus track! Clicking SUBSCRIBE NOW will navigate you away from the Neworld website to our Nanacast site. Payment is accepted via PayPal.

2. Choose your podcast player.
Most folks choose iTunes, but you can use others. Just copy and paste the Nanacast link into your player. (The link will look something like this:

3. Start downloading!
Launch iTunes on your computer. You will find your subscription under “podcasts”. Click “Get All” to download every podplay released between July 8 and today. You will have to repeat this step once a week to download the newest podplay, that’s one per week week until September 19th. The podplays are online until September 30th. That means if you sign up on September 29th you won’t miss any podplays, instead you receive all the podplays at the same time.

4. Go for a walk.
You are in charge. You can walk any of the podplays, any day, any time of day. It’s up to you. Once you have downloaded a play, it’s yours to keep and listen to over and over.

5. Got questions?
Contact us at or 604-602-0007 (M-F, 10-5), we’re happy to help.

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