Friday, September 16, 2011

Vancouver Playhouse and David Y.H. Lui

Two startling bits of arts-related news in the Vancouver Sun today.

First, I was stunned to read that the Vancouver Playhouse was on the verge of bankruptcy, and that it is being brought back from the financial abyss in part via emergency funding from the city. I do understand the arguments for shoring up our signature regional theatre company--including averting the ripple effects its going under would have on countless smaller theatre companies and performing arts organizations who depend on its theatrical infrastructure. However, I do wish someone would be honest and tackle the elephant in the room, which is the lackluster and uninspired programming at the Playhouse for the past several years. The argument has been made that to fill the seats, populist entertainments must be enlisted (cue the works of Norm Foster, which this theatre seems to love). But what about all of us who currently stay away because of the safe and largely recycled offerings, and who are waiting desperately to support more adventurous work? Why can't the Playhouse figure out a balance along the lines of what Bill Millerd has achieved at the Arts Club? These and other questions need to be answered if the Playhouse is to survive long term.

Also in today's paper was the shocking news that leading dance impresario and all-around patron saint of the arts David Y.H. Lui had died. Lui almost single-handedly put Vancouver and BC on the map in terms of international dance. He was largely responsible for the formation of Ballet BC (also just back from the financial brink) and the companies he brought through Vancouver through his Dance Spectacular and Dance Alive series provided an early model for Barb Clausen and Jim Smith's current DanceHouse seasons. The rooftop garden at The Dance Centre is named in Lui's honour, and as that space celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend, we would all do well to take a moment and reflect on the rich legacy Lui has contributed to the cultural landscape of our city.


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