Monthly Archives: May 2004

Gung Haggis Fat Choy tv special nominated for Leo Awards

The Leo Awards celebrate excellence in British Columbia film and television – and the Gung Haggis Fat Choy CBC television special was nominated for TWO awards – pretty darn good considering the small budget it was given.

Congratulations to producer Moyra Rodger as her work Gung Haggis Fat Choy is nominated for Best Music, Comedy, or Variety Program or Series.

Moyra is also nominated along with Ken Stewart for Best Direction  for a Music, Comedy, or Variety Program or Series.

Moyra credits the success to a great team effort – and thanked me for all my hard work and involvement.

It was a great pleasure to work with Moyra in developing the concepts for GHFC and with Ken as different segments were filmed.  I really look forward to working with both of them again.  GHFC, the television special, is and was – a BLAST!


The 2004 sixth annual LEO AWARDS took place on May 28th, and May 29th, at the Westin Bayshore Resort & Marina. The LEO AWARDS is where the best and brightest film and television talent and programs in British Columbia will be honoured for their work.

The winners are highlighted in blue below.

LEO AWARDS 2004 Nominees – Music, Comedy, or Variety Program or Series

Music, Comedy, or Variety Program or Series
shall be defined as a production or series of programs presenting any mix of musical, comedic, or performing guests, or any other talent generally considered to be music, comedy, or variety entertainment. Series entries must have a minimum of six (6) episodes.


The Nominees for Best Music, Comedy, or Variety Program or Series


Double Exposure – The Special
Producer(s): Bob Robertson, Linda Cullen, Joe Battista


Faerie Queen
Producer(s): Kirk Shaw


Gung Haggis Fat Choy
Producer(s): Moyra Rodger


Western Alienation Comedy Hour
Producer(s): Richard Side, Mark Lawrence


Producer(s): McLean Mashingaide-Greaves, Jennifer Ouano


The Nominees for Best Direction


Moyra Rodger, Ken Stewart – Gung Haggis Fat Choy


Jordan Kawchuk, Edward Kay – I Dig BC


Mark Lawrence – Western Alienation Comedy Hour


Mark Lawrence – ZeD – ZeDbangers Ball


Terracotta Warriors deserves standing ovations on repeated viewings

I saw Terracotta Warriors again on Tuesday May 25, at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts.
It stands up very well to repeated viewing. And I was looking at it
with a much more critical eye concerning all the recent controversy.
All the things that amazed me the first time around, still worked their
“Wow” factor, despite my knowing what was coming. I could pay more
attention to observing the details such as the enuch character’s highly
stylized dance and movements.


A friend recently asked me some questions about the production using
the promotional hype of the ads. Here are my answers to share with you:

Q: Were you dazzled by the lavishness and scope BEYOND a traditional Broadway show (paragraph 2)

A: The costumes are incredible… There is a lot of “Wow” factor –
due to the exoticness of the Chinese theme unfamiliar to the Western
experience. They are not exact replicas – but more of a “let's take
this to the next level…” It depends on what broadway shows you mean?
Bullets over Broadway or the Lion King. I would Love to see Lion King!
I loved Cats – despite the use of the word “Chinks” and that all
the Siamese Cats looked exactly the same – I mean you couldn't tell one
of these “heathen chinese” apart from the other!

The set: the paintings are beautiful. It's almost like imagining you
are at the Forbidden City or on the Great Wall. They have a very 3-D
like quality with very life like perspective.  There are two
Terracotta Warriors props which are HUGE! They reach from floor to
ceiling and all you can see of 2 replicas are 3/4 of them. It allows
the imagination to visualize the rest reaching 10 stories high.

Q: Were you immersed in the emotion, the drama, and the battles of the second century B.C. (paragraph 3)

A: There is an incredible scene where one of the young lovers… is
dancing with the corpse of her dead lover. Beautifully choreographed
pas de deux. I thought it was an amazing idea. Rather than just boo-hoo
over him and dance around him, she pulls him up to dance with him,
pulling his corpse with her, and rolling along the ground with himI
couldn't recall seeing this theme ever before. She also incorporates
the Chinese dance technique with long sleeves – using them like ribbons.


Another pas de deux – very risque is the seduction scene, the
Emperor's Mother with her lover – actually performing many positions of
the “Tao of Love” – The audience must be thinking “Can they show this?
Is this alright for children to see?” These two dances for me were as
interesting as the battle scenes. Seeing the martial artists performing
with 3 staff rods, whips, swords and spears was definitely another WOW!
Having some knowledge of martial arts in knowing that a body can lean
against the spear point and survive is not known by everybody – some
Westerners must be thinking… it's rubber.

Q: Was it a musical and action thrill-ride (paragraph > 4)

A: Most definitely… There is constant music and movement. Even
between set changes, watching live musicians beside the stage in front
of the procenium arch is very exciting.

Q: Did you/do you remember the final sequence of the “Dance of the Terracotta Warriors” (last line)

The soldiers come out of the fog – there is a painted back drop and
it looks like hundreds behind them. They are marching and dancing –
just enough out of “military precision” to give the effect that each
soldier is a unique individual. But then I knew that each real
terracotta warrior is supposed to be uniquely crafted. It was not the
desire to make each warrior exactly the same. Even their costumes are
all slightly different. It's a pretty cool scene.

Q: I mean, I think you were entertained… (first page, > under the tag line)

Definitely entertained. I would definitely go see it again – if my
budget allowed me too. But I would have to choose between going to see
Cirque at a higher price. If I had the money – I would go see Cirque.
If I only had half the money, TCW is a good value for the dollar
Cheapest seats are $45 for a matinee and you can get 20% off from
various deals around town – like on my website.

Q: Hyperbolae aside, I do think that critics are allowed to
respond in some way to the claims made by advertising… and if the
show doesn't match up to its claims (cross-cultural misunderstandings
not withstanding tee hee)… well, they're allowed to say so…

A: Oh most definitely – and if they feel that they are getting
deceived – for sure. But if they are not understanding the production –
they also have to ask themselves why? And admit if they don’t
understand it, rather than say it is a flop as Alexandra Gill did. I
think it is important to note that none of the media has actually sent
a reviewer who is Asian or has knowledge of Asian culture. It would be
very interesting to read a review by Mr. Goh of Goh Ballet Academy or
Dr. Jan Walls, director of SFU International Communications and former
cultural attache to Canadian Embassy in Beijing , or Max Wyman, the
internationally renowned Vancouver dance critic.

Q: And just WHAT is an action-musical(tm)?!

A: Dr. Dennis Law invented the term. He wanted to blend in elements
of an Action-movie with the emphasis on music and singing. I think it
is more of an action – dance – with songs… but it is very different
than what is found on Broadway. imagine the fight scenes on West Side
Story… make everybody dance and have only an intermittent narrator
sing. What do you call it? An Martial Arts-Action-Ballet?

Practice review for Wed May 26 – dragon boat

Hi everybody,
Good practice last night – lots of improvements all around.
We are working on strength and endurance training now – so I am pushing the team more.  Less work on technique but more on finesse.
Lots of individual compliments all around. People are refining their technique and their timing.  This team is really coming around…  I swear it is the best performing Gung Haggis team I have seen.  You can really feel the surge of the boat, when we all pull at the same time. 
The next step is to sustain that surge for 66 strokes per minute for 2 minutes and 20 seconds… that is only 165 strokes over 500 metres.  We can do 165 good strokes or we can do 200 poor strokes in 2 3/4 minutes to cover the same distance.
Much of the same emphasis continues… Sit up straighter so you can rotate more effectively.  If you hunch over and forward, then you compress your diaphram – leaving you with less lung capacity.  Also you then are off your centre of gravity and are more likely to injure your back.
So… sit up straighter – visualize the pole or light, running from the sky, through your body and down through your tailbone into the centre of the earth.  Rotate on its axis.  Very simple.
Remember to exit at your knee… a few people are coming back to their thighs – the longer stroke means you have less time to recover.  Get in early and get out early – this is how sprinting works.
For your exit…  Use your thumbs to push the paddle away from the boat rather than lift the paddle up.  This reduces the repetitive arm strain of lifting your paddle above the water – by swinging (or feathering) the paddle outwards, the paddle can keep a lower profile.  Your Top Arm should not move more than 6 inches throughout the entire stroke.
For this coming Sunday…  May 30
We meet at 12 noon.  Dragon Zone at Science World.
Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens… tour and Tai Chi lesson.  This is a Gung Haggis team tradition.  We get to explore the gardens and park, while learning about chinese philosophies such as harmony and balance.  We see how this works combining the human body with movement in Tai Chi demonstrations.  Then we integrate into our afternoon dragon boat practice.
I will propose Sunday May 30, June 6 or June 13.  We can meet at 10:00am and have the tour and lesson for 1 1/2 hour then have Chinese lunch in Chinatown before practice.  This might work better on June 13 as on June 6 we have regatta and being outside from 10 to 4pm might be a bit long…  But on June 6th – we can also use it for team bonding prior to racing that afternoon… and hopefully more people can commit to both garden tour, tai chi and race regatta on one day.
Cheers, Todd

Vancouver Sun reappraises “Terracotta Warriors” and writes “Law 'bang-on' with Centre”

Today's Vancouver Sun put Dr. Dennis Law on page 1 of the Arts & Life section with the headline “Law 'bang-on' with Centre.  Writer Peter Birnie writes:

“Many people consider Dr. Dennis Law a visionary, but the future looked a little cloudy this week for the Denver impresario who bought the former Ford Centre and brouth it back to life as The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts.

“Law was roasted by critics, some more than others, when the recent opening night of his “action musical” Terracotta Warriors suffered many technical glitches…”

Birnie goes on to quote Calgary Theatre critic Louis B. Hobson who called Terracotta Warriors “seamless and compelling” as well as quotes from Vancouver Civic Theatres Manager Rae Ackerman: “I think he's absolutely on to something important, but he's ahead of the curve in terms of trying to address the multicultural audience that we have n Vancouver.  It's a big issue for all of us down the road, and he's bang-on in trying to address that.  He's just a bit early.”

feedback from CBC Commentary “Terracotta Warriors ingnites war of words”

Here's a comment on my CBC Radio Commentary heard on Early
Edition on May 21st, at approximately 6:45 am, from Dr. Jan
Walls.  Dr. Walls is the Director of the David See-Chai
Lam Centre for International Communications at Simon Fraser
University.  He is also former cultural attache for the Canadian
Embassy in Beijing, and currently an advisor or board member for
many organizations.  Most recently he was invited to Boston
by Yo Yo Ma to perform his “clapper tales” at the Peabody Essex

Hello from Seattle, Todd.

I wanted to congratulate you, by the way, for the excellently worded
“Commentary” I hear you deliver on CBC's Early Edition the other
day.  I think you're on to something, which may have to do with
what I would call “misplaced cross-cultural expectations,” a phenomenon
we noticed when comparing the very different responses to “Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon” among Chinese (PRC and Hong Kong, and recent
Chinese immigrants overseas) and among “foreigners.”  to long-time
kung-fu fans, it was not all that great, while Western people who
didn't know all that much about the kung-fu move tradition, but who had
been “prepped” by “The Matrix,” were entranced by it.  I'm sure
it's much more complex than this, and I look forward to having the time
to figure it out.

I'll talk to you when I get back.


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5th Annual Asian Comedy Night
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See another round of Asian Sketch Comedy Troupes
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Friday, May 21st – Rice Bowl – Judged Event
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Visit or call 778.885.1973 for more information


Note: 14+ years, some coarse language and suggestive material. 

Comments on “Terracotta Warriors ignites War of Words”

great article. thanks for tackling this sensitive issue.

I've seen the show and thoroughly enjoyed the production as did the rest of the audience who expressed their appreciation with a standing ovation. Unfortunately, the critics appear to be applying western standards to this innovative blend of eastern and western art forms.

Beverly Nann,

President, Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society


Hi Todd-ish, Good piece on the Law performance. Cool website.

Regards, Xu Xi


Hey Todd...

Great job, PRINT IT! Send it to the Sun for sure!

I do think it is valid to call a production "amateurish" however, if the reviewer deems it as such. These people are, afterall, well-versed in professional theatre and events to make such judgements. But to call something "Amateurish" does not make the writer racist or ignorant of another culture. They can only judge from the only perspective they know; their own. That's why it's important to have professional critics of other ethnic backgrounds out there and that is precisely the case you are making. bravo.

I do not agree with Dennis "banning" the reviewer from the Westender...sounds petty.

I wonder how the Chinese language press reviewed "Terracotta". That would make an interesting side note to your article.




WOW Todd – YOU ROCK! – Way to go! Kudos!

It must feel wonderful to be HEARD by an even larger audience.

I don't think that you sent me this initial article – it's great! Powerful words and you express them well. Great job!

I hope that you are well and I look forward to seeing you soon!!!!!!

Heather, Out To See Productions Inc.


I’m glad we have a capable spokesman in the community like you Todd.  Well done.

Roy Mah,  Former founder and publisher of Chinatown News


Great write up Todd. Can't say any better than this. I am 100% behind you. You score again.

Meena Wong


Good on you Todd!

David H. T. Wong MRAIC
President, E-Atelier


great piece except for the term 'White canadian' can we get beyond race 🙂 ? we are all humans, right? it seems to me that all race terms, caucasian, white, asian are hindering rather than helping, but perhaps that's just my hot button!

ciao! -- ...Roland Tanglao

War of Words heats up between Dennis Law and Westender scribe Leanne Campbell – CBC Radio Commentary on Early Edition Radio 690

CBC Radio show Early Edition called me today to ask if my opinion piece “Terracotta Warriors ignites war of words” could be edited for a “Commentary” piece for tomorrow morning, Friday May 21.  They said it aptly addresses “the story of the week.”

It will be heard on CBC Radio 690 at 6:45 am.  It will be an edited version of the longer opinion piece already on this BLOG.

Yesterday, The Afternoon Show on CBC Radio invited unbeknownst to each other, both Dr. Dennis Law and West Ender reviewer Leanne Campbell to the studio.  After writing a review of Terracotta Warriors that Law felt was a personal attack on him as well as being ignorant of Chinese art and culture, Campbell was banned from stepping foot into Law's Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts.  Campbell responded by trying to crash a press conference organized by Law at the Centre.

Neither Law nor Campbell knew the other would be there.  Tension filled the room and the airwaves as neither would speak directly to each other.  Law wanted to debate art and perspective.  Campbell wanted to defend her right to free speech and to write her opinion in her reviews.  Law said she was depriving audiences of the chance to make their own decisions, and said she should be writing opinion pieces and not calling them reviews. 

When Law had accused Campbell of writing strictly from a Western Caucasian perspective, Campbell shot back and said “What perspective do you want me to write, from a Zimbabwean perspective?  Law said, “If you can only write from a Western and Zimbabwean perspective that is too small, an open minded perspective would be nice.”

Terracotta Warriors ignite war of words about reviewing art and culture

Terracotta Warriors ignite war of words about reviewing art and culture

By Todd Wong

In Vancouver, a debate over how art should be reviewed is growing.
On one side is Dr. Dennis Law, one of the owners of the Centre in
Vancouver for the Performing Arts and the writer/producer and director
of Terracotta Warriors, the second in a development of show spectacles
he calls “Action-Musicals.” On the other side are Vancouver’s art and
culture critics of the Vancouver Sun, West Ender, Globe & Mail and
Georgia Straight. In the middle are Vancouver’s audiences, many whom
are enjoying “Terracotta Warriors” despite what the reviewers are

All this is taking place during Asian Heritage Month, throughout
May, recognized across Canada with major events and festivals going on
across the country. From Montreal to Calgary, from Ottawa to Victoria,
Asian Canadians from multi-generation descendents to new immigrants are
staging productions to affirm their identities as Asian Canadians, both
in traditional arts rooted in Asia, and also in contemporary arts that
are strongly Canadian.

“East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”,
wrote Rudyard Kipling during the hey day of the once mighty British
Empire. Colonial rule in India, Hong Kong, parts of Africa, Central
America, the Caribbean as well as North America, imposed upon resident
cultures its’ own brand of colonial justice and values, long before the
terms of “cultural relativism” and “multiculturalism” were invented.

And so it would seem to me, that when a new arts impresario from
Denver Colorado steps into our Western frontier town and challenges the
status quo of arts and culture in Vancouver, all the other local guns
have to challenge the newcomer. Indeed, the wagons are being circled
and the posse is being rounded up looking for a lynching.

Terracotta Warriors is neither traditional Chinese Opera nor dance,
neither is it a traditional Broadway Musical. Rather it is an
“Action-Musical,” a new artform that blends traditional Chinese Arts
with modern technology. This could be similarly compared to how Cirque
du Soleil has “borrowed” many traditional art forms from around the
world such as Chinese acrobats and Polynesian fire dancing combining
them with lavish costumes and music to reinvent the Circus in the late
20th Century.

Law is simply doing the same, merging the old with the new, to
create a new way of presenting the once familiar. Isn’t this what Art
is supposed to do? Show us new ways of seeing? Seeing the objects
around us with fresh eyes, the way Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso and
Igor Stravinsky did – much to the dismay and public outcries of a world
not ready for Modernism. But is the world ready for Chinese Dance and
Opera to be reinvented for the 21st Century? If not by Dennis Law, then by whom? And if not in Vancouver or Canada, then where?

Law claims that the reviewers are unfairly biased towards his shows
and instead of writing good journalistic art critiques, they are
writing personal attacks against him. The critics are writing that Law
doesn’t make his show accessible enough for Western audiences and that
the plot is convoluted and hard to understand.

Leanne Campbell (Westender) opens her review by comparing the music
and smoke effects to a Heavy Metal concert. What really happens is that
a Chinese percussion player plays on a large array of Chinese drums and
large bells. One must wonder if Ms. Campbell is ignorant of Chinese
music and art or mistook the theatrical smoke for her hard rock youth.
Such a statement comparing Chinese music to Heavy Metal music smacks of
cultural ignorance similar to bebop jazz music being derogatorily
called “Chinese Music.”

Understanding and appreciating cultural diversity is what Asian
Heritage Month is all about. Being open to new or different forms of
art is important to our culture, otherwise it stagnates. Ms. Campbell
and other reviewers are all Western Caucasians, presumably writing for
a White audience with a Western Caucasian perspective. But isn’t
Vancouver supposed to be the city of great diversity and
multiculturalism and tolerance for other cultures? Perhaps not in the
arts world. or maybe just amongst some specific critics.

Max Wyman, Vancouver dance critic emeritus, writes in his new book
“The Defiant Imagination,” that Canadian culture must embrace cultural
diversity. “Canada is an experiment in constant renewal, a
welcoming society built in a spirit of democratic pluralism. We are
finding that the experience and knowledge of a multicultural population
with roots in many countries and societies is one of our great
strengths. From that diversity flow insight, creativity, wisdom.
Confidence in our culture and belief in its living, ceaselessly
changing diversity gives us a communal ability to counter xenophobia
and cultural paranoia.”

Wyman paints an artistic back drop of a Canada moving beyond
multiculturalism to become a truly global leader of culture, where
Vancouver’s artists are looked upon as leaders in their fields. Artists
such as Kokoro Dance, Battery Opera and Boca del Lupo all receive
worldwide recognition for their cultural fusion led by teams of
inter-racial marriages and partnerships. On the global scene it is
exotic, in Vancouver, inter-racial and inter-cultural is seen as the

And yet the Vancouver media seems to prefer criticizing Law on a
homogenous set of values based on Western morals and values as opposed
to trying to understand the new cultural ideas he is presenting to us.
Perhaps this is a diversion for what they don’t understand about
Chinese culture and art.

Witness comments by Alexandra Gill, (Globe & Mail), who writes
that Terracotta Warriors is “gorgeous but painfully amateurish” and
wonders if Law is “an artistic visionary who truly believes there is a
Broadway-bound future in his action-musicals? Or is he just a wannabe
director with lots of money and a big theatre to play in?”

Afterall, trying to understand Chinese culture is a tremendous task
4000 years of culture with a country 5 times the size of Europe and as
twice as many cultural subgroups if not more – all rolled up into a few
cliches and stereotypes for easy Western digestion. Small wonder that
after a few hours Westerners minds are hungry again – they didn’t
digest enough in the first place.

Being an impresario is hard work. Law denies he is one, but over the
past three years, he has brought us “Heaven & Earth” his first
action-musical, plus the Denver Ballet’s production of “Dracula” and
“Eagle and Dragon”, a musical concert featuring Chinese and American
classical singers. Vancouver’s own local impresarios have failed and
succeeded in our market. David Y.H. Louie, despite his financial
failings, is still lauded as a visionary to bring exciting dance
companies to Vancouver. And Vancouver Recital Society’s Leila Getz has
succeeded where people told her recitals weren’t viable. Getz herself
has said that it is important to maintain an artistic vision and to
bring artists whom she feels are important and not necessarily just
what the audience thinks they want to see.

But where are all the Asian voices in this debate. Well which Asians
do you mean? Vancouver’s Asian population is as diverse as the many
countries and generations they arrived from. And this may simply be the
problem. Vancouver and it’s artistic community still doesn’t understand
its’ Asian audience.

My own Asian heritage is descended from the Chinese pioneers who arrived in the late 19th
Century. Our families are so integrated into Canadian culture, we are
considered to be the “invisible visible minorities.” Chinese culture
and history is largely foreign to me, so I welcomed the experience that
Terracotta Warriors has provided for me to learn about Chinese art and
culture and especially one of history’s greatest leaders and
visionaries. Emperor Qin Shihuang accomplished not only the unification
of China, but also its language and monetary system, and is considered
only to be have Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar as historical
equals. Even Ramses, Genghis Khan or Napoleon couldn’t maintain an
empire as large or leave as lasting a legacy.

I took my Chinese Canadian parents and my White Canadian girlfriend
to see Terracotta Warriors. All enjoyed it tremendously and nobody had
a problem understanding the story lines. My girlfriend and I compared
it to attending European opera or ballet, sung in foreign languages. We
met people in the audience who planned to see it a second time, and
heard about people who had seen the show three times already. Many
audience members both Asian and Caucasian had their pictures taken with
cast members in the lobby, smiles displaying the enjoyment of the

Two years ago, I sat at audience development round table discussions
with the leading arts organizations of Vancouver. It was widely
understood that the Vancouver’s large Asian population was an untapped
market. But the talks were disproportionately represented by the faces
around the table, as only 2 or 3 out of 50 people attending the meeting
were Asian. And from the look and names of the people writing the
reviews of Terracotta Warriors and Asian Heritage Month events, all the
reviewers are white. No wonder the Vancouver media doesn’t understand
the show or Vancouver’s Asian population.