100% Vancouver: 100% exhilarating
Collecting 100 people to appear on stage for three shows and a preview over three days - as Theatre Replacement did with 100% Vancouver in co-opeartion with SFU Woodward's - seems a staggering task. That the cast more or less represented the demographics of the City of Vancouver today through word of mouth combined with a deliberate screening process is quite remarkable. To see the vision executed over the course of just 70 minutes in the new Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at the SFU Woodward's building was quite exhilirating. Music provided throughout the show by three of the city’s top jazz musicians - Ron Samworth on guitar, Andre Lachance on bass, Evan Arntzen on clarinet, bongos and whatever - made for an even more entertaining evening. The show director is Amiel Gladstone, also directed the Melissa James Gibson show This now on at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre. 100% Vancouver is a great signature event for both the 2011 PUSH Festival and the City of Vanocuver’s 125th birthday celebrations.
The opening set consisted of 23 stands holding a green plaque with the names of each of the 2006 census neighbourhoods in the City of Vancouver. Each of the 100 cast members introduced themselves and a favourite object they brought with them. These objects ranged from plush toys and gadgets for the children to bibles and a hand carved wooden paddle from the adults. Each then went to the stand representing their neighbourhood.
It was no surprise to see so many familiar faces on stage as some also volunteer at events such as the Vancouver Fringe, Film Festival and Jazz Festival. A surprise was seeing Dr. Doug Clement, a well respected sports medicine expert. Once everyone was on stage, various questions were asked and the participants moved to different areas of the stage depending on their answers to the question. For example, a question was asked about who was their favourite Vancouver personality and signs appeared with the names of Joy Kogawa, Trevor Linden, David Suzuki, Gregor Robertson and “Me”. Most of the participants lined up in front of the David Suzuki sign. It was interesting to see who lived in houses, who had been homeless, who were in debt, who regularly rode free on the Skytrain (8), who had saved a life and who had been victims of violence. A teleprompter on the back wall behind the audience was used to indicate which cast member was to speak and what was to be said. Projections behind the cast were used to show the question, response choices, the speaker at the moment and maps pertinent to the matter at hand.
As a break to the sequence of questions, some of the older participants provided great accounts of some of the highlights of their lives. The stories of Joan Symons and Dr. Doug Clement were particularly memorable. Another entertaining scene was when the participants were asked to mime what the activity they did at each hour of the day. While most people were in bed by 11 pm, a few party hardy types kept dancing until 2 am. Most people seemed to wake at 6 am. Many spent much of the day typing although the boxing champion from Guyana spent most of his time training young boxers. The performance closed with the participants dancing with each other, and sometimes with members of the audience. With such a large cast of local people, it is no surprise that a lot of the audience that nearly filled the opening night show would be friends and family members as well as the merely curious.
A companion booklet provides more details about the demographic matching and lists the full cast as well as thoughts from Rimini Protokol, the originators of the concept in Berlin and Vienna as well as the 2009 PUSH show Best Before. In his opening remarks, Norman Armour - the Push Festival Executive Director - stated that this was a challenging production not likely to be repeated for another 125 years. This production brought to life a demographic cross section at this moment in our history but much of what makes demographic statistics interesting is the changes over time. There were questions asked about who expected to be allive in 10 years, in 50 years and who wanted to live forever. Judging by the fun and bonding that the participants enjoyed, I suspect that a repeat performance might be resurrected more frequently.