A local’s guide to Vancouver's theatre scene

by Megan Jones

With its close proximity to crashing waves, dark and spooky forests, and diverse and multicultural communities, Vancouver’s theatre scene is known for producing uncanny, thought-provoking works that push the boundaries of tradition­­ – while finding inspiration in the environment and stories that surround us. Whether you’re a theatre newbie or an aspiring bard, read on to learn more about Vancouver’s top theatre companies and their standout performances. [Photo courtesy of Arts Club Theatre Company]

A local’s guide to Vancouver's theatre scene

Arts Club Theatre Company

Founded in 1958, Western Canada’s largest theatre company offers more than a dozen productions each year, many of which come from across the world, and feature big-name directors and actors. The company’s three venues – the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, Granville Island Stage and Goldcorp Stage – can accommodate thousands of theatre buffs. Shows range from holiday specials such as The Day Before Christmas to summertime blockbusters like Million Dollar Quartet. In-between seasons? ReACT offers a behind-the-scenes look at Arts Club’s operations, with live readings, Q&A’s and more.

Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival

Each summer from June through September, pretty red and white tents cover oceanfront Vanier Park for the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival. During the annual open-air theatre festival, professional actors perform Shakespeare’s timeless verse most evenings of the week. Past plays have included Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, and Macbeth, as well as lesser-known works such as The Two Gentlemen of Verona, All’s Well that Ends Well and The Comedy of Errors. At times, such plays are reimagined in modern eras. Yet all remain true to the bard’s original vision – that is, they are rich with classical allusions, clever and deliciously bawdy.

The Cultch

This innovative arts and culture initiative operates three centers, with its main theatre venue located in the bustling Commercial Drive neighbourhood, operating out of a once-abandoned church. Specializing in innovative, community-driven performances, The Cultch presents theatre, dance, music, the visual arts, and all combined. East Van’s cultural hub, it’s an excellent spot for laid-back, local productions such as the hilarious and beloved East Van Panto: Little Red Riding Hood, a tongue-in-cheek spin off of the classic children’s story, complete with bike-riding, craft-beer-drinking bros and frantic yoga fanatics.

Pacific Theatre

Performances at Pacific Theatre often explore the spiritual elements of human experience – a particularly relevant theme in today’s modern world, some might think. Pacific Theatre has produced more than 100 main stage productions, which have included established works such as The Whipping Man and Doubt, a Parable, as well as world premieres featuring artists from Vancouver and beyond. Located in picturesque South Granville, it’s an ideal option for a romantic date or afternoon treat with friends (just don’t forget the tissues!).

It’s a Zoo

It’s a Zoo’s core values include immersion, risk, fun and community, with each performance including a little bit of each – imagine two men arguing on a life raft while the audience watches from atop a bridge, or the behind-the-scenes antics of staff at an actual movie theatre. Performing in such topsy-turvy venues, actors must not only be professional and talented, but also poised for the occasional curve ball (think: an unruly wave or overflowing popcorn machine). The result is an immersive, fly-on-the-wall experience that leaves a lasting impression on viewers, who are – at times – invited to participate themselves.

Boca Del Lupo

Boca Del Lupo is a socially-conscious, progressive theatre company that provides captivating performances in unconventional spaces, including, most notably, a Facebook LiveStream, which was used to showcase 2016’s Symposium to theatre-fans across the world. Boca’s diverse programming also includes micro-performances, lectures, improvisations and the respected 3.7% Initiative, which aims to help women of colour and diverse backgrounds find greater success in the performing arts.

Rumble

For centuries upon centuries, theatres have served as arenas for the sharing of essential human stories, and Rumble is no different. The award-winning theatre company focuses on stories that build community and empathy across cultural and political divides, and showcases emerging talent from Vancouver and beyond. Past performances have explored the trials and tribulations of emigrating to Canada, the impacts of toxic work cultures on staff, and the dual nature of sexuality. These are powerful, challenging plays that touch both the heart and mind.

Electric Theatre Company

Get ready for spectacular performances of high production value that challenge everything you thought you knew about theatre. Electric Theatre Company’s directors re-envision established works – such as Ted Mosel’s Pullitzer Prize winning All the Way Home – or present their own, including 2011’s Community Dinner, a theatrical feast celebrating Vancouverites’ favourite pastime: eating. Collaborating often with others (visual artists, poets, singers, scientists: you name it), performances are not only captivating themselves; they also offer a beautiful bridge between the theatre and the rest of the world.

Theatre Under the Stars

Theatre Under the Stars returns to Stanley Park this summer for another season of heartwarming musicals. 2017 shows include Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical and The Drowsy Chaperone: A Musical Within a Comedy. About one hour before each showtime, make sure to stock up on delicious snacks from The Garden Café, where you’ll find anything from grilled salmon to popcorn and crackerjacks.

From political commentary to immersive experiences and Shakespeare spin-offs, there are certainly plenty of options when it comes to viewing theatrical performances in Vancouver – the only problem is sorting out how to fit them all in!

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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