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What you need to know about Fringe Fest 2016

Interviews with SFU’s Johnny Wu and playwright Mayumi Yoshida, plus: how to get the most out of Fringe

fringe

Vancouver Fringe Festival is a massive celebration of all things theatre. Some of the productions are weird and offbeat, while others are of a more low-key nature. It’s an opportunity for everybody to find something that they are interested in, but with over 700 performances to choose from, it can be more than just a bit overwhelming.

This is our solution to the overwhelming nature of Fringe: a guide that contains a few helpful tips and tricks so that when you decide to go to Fringe you don’t yell, “Fuck this shit, there is just too much and I can’t even.”

PLAN AHEAD

While this would seem obvious, it never hurts to be reminded. There are numerous venues that take part in Fringe (with the majority being on Granville Island), so one way to plan ahead is to pick a specific venue if you want to watch a little of this and a little of that. It also helps to know how you plan on getting places. Find out what the transit schedules look like for the area and if buses run late. Nobody wants a $50-cab to a SkyTrain station. You could also make a show-by-show schedule if you know there are only specific ones you are interested in. The program guide is available on the festival’s website or at select Blenz Coffee locations.

GO WITH A GROUP

Just like any other festival, it can help to go with a group. Having other people to rely on can take away some of the uncertainty if you are debating what to go and see, as there is usually at least one person within the group who has a set idea on what shows to attend. If that person isn’t you, it will help you to make a decision without feeling overwhelmed, and can also introduce you to something that you didn’t know you liked.

KNOW YOUR AGE RESTRICTIONS

Some of the venues are 19+. So make sure that if you are underage you don’t set your heart on a show at one of these venues.

TICKETS, MEMBERSHIP, AND OTHER BORING THINGS

There will be some tickets sold at the door beginning 45 minutes before the show starts, but sometimes shows will sell out early, so if you really want to see something buy your tickets early. All tickets are $14 unless you purchase a Frequent Fringer card, which will get you discounts.

You also need a Vancouver Fringe Theatre Society membership to get into the shows. It’s $5 and is good until September 6, 2017. You need this to get into any and all shows, so make sure you have it with you at all times, or you’ll be charged again.

Be there early. Every show starts right on time, and with over 700 shows scheduling is important. If you aren’t there on time you won’t be let into the show. No exceptions.

 

An interview with Mayumi Yoshida, creator of the play NeOn

Alex Bloom, Multimedia Assistant

Mayumi Yoshida’s NeOn weaves together many different stories to explore how love shapes us. Yoshida is a Japanese actor, playwright, and director. Born in Yokohama, Japan, she has lived in Belgium, Washington state, and currently resides in Vancouver. She grew up speaking Japanese and learned English at a young age, but NeOn is her first time writing and directing a play in English.

The Peak: What was your vision in writing NeOn?

Mayumi Yoshida: I wanted to see how many different types of people could be on stage and mesh together. They’re so different but they still coexist. Which is what we live in right now. I feel like what I tried to do is [. . .] everybody is so different but they seem to have similar problems, even in different time periods, different races, backgrounds we seem to struggle or strive for something that is quite similar.

P: Why the capitalization of the “N” and the “O” in NeOn?

MY: Right, because in Japanese “Né” is a sound that we have, and it has so many meanings, and “On” [means] sound so Né-On, it’s two different words but in English it means neon.

P: Would you consider yourself more comfortable speaking in Japanese or English?

MY: Japanese. Sometimes I dream in both languages, though.

P: Do you think in English or Japanese?

MY: It depends on the topics. I taught an acting class in Japan when I went back. I did these acting exercises and it was so hard because I kept on thinking in English. Some things are easier to do in English and sometimes it’s vice versa. I don’t [know] where or how my mind separates that.

P: What is it like writing a play that’s not in your first language?

MY: Actually I wrote the first two-thirds of the play in Japanese and then translated it. It took a while. It felt like I was writing two scripts but by that point I had the tone of the English-speaking characters and how I wanted to have these dialogues flow, so it was easier to just write in English.

P: How much Japanese remains in the play?

MY: My part is entirely in Japanese. We’ll have subtitles, and I’m playing two parts: I play a grandmother and her granddaughter having a conversation over lunch.  

P: Why the choice to have English and Japanese in the play?

MY: I always felt like there was this weird division that we have, not just racial division, but we assume that people won’t be able to accept something that’s foreign when what matters more is the story and not just the language. I wanted to see how much I could blend that foreign language factor into an English-speaking play. So that the two languages can coexist. So it doesn’t feel like, “Oh, I just saw a Japanese play.”

P: What is it like directing a play that you are also acting in?

MY: Um. . . Terrifying?

 

NeOn

The Cultch Historic Theatre, 1895 Venables St.

Show times:

Monday, September 12, 10 p.m.*

Friday, September 16, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, September 17, 2:00 p.m.

*Half-price

 

 

An interview with Johnny Wu, assistant director of The Dance Teacher

Tessa Perkins

 

Disclaimer: The Dance Teacher centres on themes of sexual assault and may be triggering for some viewers and readers.

SFU theatre and criminology student Johnny Wu is the assistant director of The Dance Teacher at this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival. He talked to The Peak about how the play explores the many perspectives in a sexual assault case, what he’s learned from this directing experience, and how everyone can relate to the themes of the play.

The Peak: How did you become assistant director of The Dance Teacher?

Johnny Wu: I met Gerald [director and playwright] while working on another show and he asked if I would be interested in working on The Dance Teacher. We had a meeting and I read the script and said yes right away. It’s a topic I’m very interested in.

P: Can you describe the story of The Dance Teacher?

JW: It’s a fictionalized version of a sexual assault case, and it’s about the social reaction to the case. We don’t see any of Justin’s students, but we hear from parents of the children, detectives, professors, and his former dance teacher who had assaulted his students. It’s broken into small scenes such as Justin talking to a reporter or being interrogated. It’s almost like learning a bit more about the story each day if you were reading about it in the newspaper, and then you piece it together. The glue that holds those pieces together is your own critical thinking. By the end of the play you start to really question whether Justin is innocent.

P: What are you studying at SFU?

JW: I’m a theatre and criminology double major, and this show has a lot of connections to my criminology studies. I always want to tie social issues into the theatre, and this show ties all my studies together.

P: How has this experience contributed to your studies?

JW: I used to think that theatre always had to have a message, but now I see theatre as a medium to start discussion. We don’t know all the answers, and this show asks us as creators how we view sexual assault cases. I’m enjoying the process of questioning, and in class I’m going to ask more questions instead of always looking for answers.

P: What makes this show relevant and relatable?

JW: The show deals with the dilemma between being rational and emotional, and I think that resonates. We know rationally we need to think one way, but emotionally we feel another. In sexual assault cases we start using emotional connections to jump to conclusions; the show asks us where we stand in this dilemma.

P: Do you like Justin’s character?

JW: There’s something about Justin that makes you want to like him. He’s a sexual assault victim himself, so some people sympathize with him based on that, but it brings up the question of whether his victimization justifies his actions. It’s so hard to say whether you like him; he’s not made to like or hate and the play doesn’t push one way or the other.

P: Are there other SFU connections in the show?

JW: Tony Giroux, a communication alumnus, plays Justin. He’s a professional dancer in the city and he actually taught me dance in the past, so we joke that he’s my dance teacher.

P: Is Justin’s sexuality discussed in the play?

JW: The director wanted to create the idea that Justin is asexual. He has neutral relationships with both men and women. His dance students are mostly boys, so this adds another layer and raises questions of gender. One of the fathers says, “This is not rape because they’re not girls,” and one of the detectives mentions that for most sexual predators it has nothing to do with sexuality, gender, or marital status. It raises those questions about whether his sexuality even matters.

P: Sounds like a very interesting, multifaceted story.

JW: There is so much detail, and I see something new every time I watch it. It’s exciting to produce plays that are more than just entertainment.

 

The Dance Teacher

Studio 16, 1555 West 7th Ave.

Show times:

Monday, September 12, 5 p.m.

Wednesday September 14, 7:45 p.m.

Saturday, September 17, 9:45 p.m.

Sunday, September 18, 5:15 p.m.

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