Monthly Archives: June 2009

Standing Up for Community: Readings and presentations by Shirley Chan, Hayne Wai and Larry Wong for Eastside Stories

Eastside Stories is an offshoot of the Heart of the City Festival,
3 community leaders will speak at Carnegie Centre June 21st at 3pm. 
Shirley Chan, Hayne Wai and Larry Wong


Event 3. Standing up for Community with Shirley Chan, Hayne Wai and Larry Wong, Sun June 21, 3pm Carnegie 3rd floor (see below and

Shirley, Hayne and Larry are contributors to the book EATING STORIES: A Chinese Canadian and Aboriginal Potluck

All three helped to fight against the freeway proposal that would have knocked a swath through Chinatown in the 1960's.

Shirley and her mother helped lead the protests against freeway development in Vancouver Chintown in the 1960's, and were the topic of the documentary film Mary Lee Chan takes on City Hall. Mother Tongue | chinese community

has been involved with many anti-racism programs, and has served on the boards of Chinese Cultural Centre and Dr. Sun Yat Sen
Gardens, and Saltwater City Vancouver Centennial Exhibition.  He founding member of Chinese
Canadian Historical Society of BC.  Hayne is also my cousin, role model, and one of
my inspirations in creating Gung Haggis Fat Choy

Wong is curator of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum, at the Chinese
Cultural Centre Museum and Archives.  He is also childhood friend of
Wayson Choy, and founding member of Chinese Canadian Historical Society
of BC.

Heather Pawsey performing at Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens June 8

Monday, June 8, 2009 at7:30 p.m.

(Reservations required; 604-662-3207)

The Garden will reverberate ON A QUIET NIGHT with Canadian classical chamber music music to enchant the ears and soothe the soul. Join critically acclaimed musicians Ariel Barnes, cello; Kathryn Cernauskas, flute; Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, piano; and Heather Pawsey,
soprano on a musical stroll through the serene and intimate spaces of
this authentic Ming Dynasty garden for a joyful celebration of the rich
and ancient culture of China alongside the wealth of Canada's
multicultural traditions with works that include Music for Piano (Alexina Louie), Cold Mountain Songs (texts by the 8th century poet Han Shan, translated by Red Pine; music by Rodolf Komorous); On A Quiet Night (Chan Ka Nin); and A Simple Tune Without Words (for china bowl and chopsticks, by Murray Adaskin), among others.

Mayne Island's Japanese Memorial Garden is a place of peace, tranquility and forgiveness

Japanese Memorial Garden on Mayne Island:
a tribute and remembrance to the Japanese-Canadian residents who were removed in 1942 because of internment during WW2

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It's a beautiful place.  We visited the Japanese Memorial Garden twice during our visit in May.  Once at dusk, and the next day in the afternoon before leaving the island.  Land had first been set aside to create this park in 1987, while negotiations were still happening for Japanese Canadian Redress, and before the parliamentary apology in 1988 by Prime Minister Mulroney.

This park was basically recreated by Don Herbert and community volunteers from 1999 to 2002, after the initial garden suffered from drainage problems, overgrowth of alder trees and neglect.

Today, it is one of the island's most important attractions, and a proud accomplishment of what a community can do.

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This plaque identifies the ancestral villages and cities where the Mayne Islanders of Japanese ancestry came from.  And lists a map of where each of the families had lived on Mayne Island before they were removed and sent to internment camps in the BC interior.

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Todd poses on the bridge to the island – photo D. Martin

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A stream trickles down to a water pump, and reeds in the pond.

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This is a little resting house, where I discovered a newspaper clipping from the Georgia Straight.  It was a Chronicles column from former Mayne Island resident Terry Glavin.  This was especially significant for me, because since 2005, I have been an organizer for the “Save Kogawa House Campaign” to save the childhood home of author Joy Kogawa, and since 2007, Terry Glavin and I have become friends.  This year in April, he received the Lt. Gov. Award for Literary Achievement, the first time it was awarded to a non-fiction writer.  See my article 2009 BC Book Prizes with Terry Glavin

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Gung Haggis dragon boat team places 1st in Rec B division, at Dragon Zone Regatta

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team raced Saturday afternoon in the Dragon Zone Regatta

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Happy Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team paddlers after winning the Recreation B Final (standing l-r) Todd, Steven, Walter, Ernest, Stephen (back), Hillary, Wendy, Karen, Christine, Karen, Joe, Heather, Sean John, Raphael, (sitting l-r) Dennis, Jane, Katie, Tony, Debbie, Ashleigh, Tzhe, (front) Jim.

Every June the Dragon Zone regatta is run 2 weeks prior to the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.  This allows the race officials, race organizers to know that the equipment is working, and that volunteers are trained.

On Saturday morning, the top teams raced.  These teams are expected to be in the Competitive and Rec A division during the festival.  On Sunday afternoon, teams that have finished in Rec B-E or Novice Divisions raced.  Junior teams are raced on Sunday morning, along with teams that couldn't race on Saturday.

2009_June_Dragonboats 007Katie is interviewed, after her first-ever dragon boat race, for the film documentary “In The Same Boat” – photo Todd Wong

It was a busy day for the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.  We were also filmed for the documentary film “In the Same Boat.”  This is a film about dragon boating, and is following a few teams that will race at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.  We were chosen because we specialize in promoting multiculturalism, and the film makers liked the fact that we are the only dragon boat team wearing kilts.

1st Race – lane 3
We were 1st or 2nd in our first race by fractions.
Very good race, trading places with Chilliwack Crusaders right beside us.  Good steering by Commodore Mirowski.
Our friend Manfred Preuss, was paddling on the Crusaders.  In 2005, Manfred raced with Gung Haggis at the Alcan Festival.  He is the founding president of the Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Association, and created the Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Festival at Harrison Hot Springs.
Crusaders 2:39.870
Gung Haggis 2:40.150
That's a difference of 0.280 seconds.

2nd Race – lane 2
We made changes, putting Jane on the drummers seat, moving Todd to
steer, and Stephen Mirowski to paddle.  The team adjusted to the
changes, but our rate was a bit high, and we lagged from the start. Our friends GVRD 44 Cheeks took off from us at the start.  Their steers Dave Samis, often paddles with us in races that GVRD doesn't enter.
Gung Haggis – 2:43.190 – 5th place
Crusaders – 2:41.560 – 4th place
GVRD – 2:30.860 – 2nd place

3rd Race B Final – lane 2
We decided to keep Jane on the drummers seat.  Devon spared out to go
to work, and Debbie Poon came in after spending the morning doing research on the ferries.  We had a strong
start, and took an early lead.  We surged farther by midpoint, and
pulled away with a strong finish by TWO BOAT LENGTHS. 1st place in B division – by 2 lengths… It's a good demonstration that the team could actually race well in A Division.  This does wonders for the confidence of our paddlers.
1st place Gung Haggis 2:36.110
2nd place Hmmm Sea Monster 2:46.300
3rd place Crusaders 2:46.330

Way to go Gung Haggis…
And everything was captured by the documentary film crew shooting “In the Same Boat.”

Please post pictures to Flickr and join the Gung Haggis dragon boat team flickr group.

Flower Drum Song hits all the right notes: Vancouverites should see it and demand more!

Flower Drum Song makes you laugh and sing…
It's Rogers and Hammerstein in 1950's San Francisco Chinatown!

May 29-June 14
Waterfront Theatre
Directed by Rick Tae
Produced by Joyce Lam
Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre

This VACT production is amazing, it should become a Vancouver regular.  Who knew Asian Canadians could put on such a good song and dance musical, worthy of being included into “Theatre Under the Stars” or at any of Metro Vancouver's stages. 

Actor Jimmy Yi is a knockout!  He plays Sammy Fong the night club owner who might or might not get married to Linda Low, played coquettishly by Lannette New.  But Linda might also marry Wang Ta, played by Isaac Kwok.  Or Ta might marry Mei Li (Rosie Simon).  And somebody else also has a crush on Ta.  Sound confused?  You should be.  It's a classic Love triangle times 2 with some great songs and dance numbers thrown in.

But then there is also Ta's father Wang Chi Yang, played by BC Lee (now known as the former Vancouver City Councilor), who wants to lay down the family law as he insists that Ta should be married, and sets out to set up a traditional Chinese style arranged marriage.  Gee… Sammy Fong has a picture order bride just arrived into town… how convenient.

Jimmy Yi as Sammy Fong with Lannette New as Linda Low – photo courtesy of VACT

Okay… forget that the characters and the setting are Asians in San Francisco's Chinatown.  This could be a plot similar to Shakespeare's As You Like It, or Gershwin's Girl Crazy, or Lerner and Lowe's Brigadoon, or Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific.  Love, trying to find the right person, and the ensuing moral dilemmas are universal themes in every language and culture. 

Flower Drum Song originally debuted in 1958 on Broadway with dance great Gene Kelly choreographing the moves.  This Rogers and & Hammerstein musical has everything.  Dancing, singing, corny jokes, love stories… and controversy!  It's a classic tale of old traditions versus assimilation into the New World. Addressing social issues within the Broadway musical format is the legacy of Rogers and Hammerstein.  They aptly addressed racism, sexism and classism with their hits Oklahoma, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific and The Sound of Music. In particular, The Sound of Music addressed how some Austrians objected to Nazi Germany taking over their country prior to WW2.  The King & I addressed how the kingdom of Siam dealt with and resisted the growing colonialism of Asia by European nations.

Set in 1950's era San Francisco, this VACT production addresses the nostalgia of the era.  Director Rick Tae has found the balance for the show in a post-modern politically correct environment, by willingly playing up the campiness of the 50's beatnik era language.

It is the older brother Ta (Isaac Kwok), the first born son, that is caught in the middle.  He wants to please his father, but he also wants to forge his own identity.  Kwok is a recent graduate from Capilano University's Musical Theatre program and does a good job in the lead role, singing and acting his way between the show's generation and love match issues.  His strong voice and good looks should could easily find him cast in leads for Brigadoon and other shows. 

Lannette New has a tough job, living up to the role of Linda Low played so excellently by Nancy Kwan in the 1961 movie.  The Low character is flamboyant role of a night club performer – sexy and independent – not your typical Chinese daughter-in-law material. New reigns in the energy with sweetness and presence.

With Vancouver's huge Chinese population, you would think ethnic Chinese actors would get tired of the perennial stereotypecasting playing Chinese waiters, kung fu baddies, chinadolls and gangsters.  But where do people get the chance to expand their horizons and resume lists?

For the past 10 years, Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre has been producing plays to showcase Asian Canadian talent, and feature works by North American Asian playwrights such as David Henry Hwang.  Asian comedy nights have become annual features that grew into sketch comedy contests.  The Sex in Vancouver series was adapted from the Sex in Seattle series originated by Kathy Hsieh and Serin

Producer and president, Joyce Lam also had a vision to put on Rogers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song as a full production in Vancouver.  Incredibly, it had never happened before.  Two years ago she saw Jimmy Yi, in the staged reading by APPLAUSE! Musical Society, and in that moment, she knew she had her casting for Sammy Fong.

Amazingly, the original 1958 production got six Tony Award nominations, and spun off some
national tours and the popular 1961 musical film version. It also marked the
first time in musical history that a mostly Asian cast appeared on the
Broadway stage.

But the work and film fell out of favour in the late 1960's due to criticism of the gender and racial stereotyping of the era, in the wake of the rising civil rights movement.

2002, playwright David Henry Hwang reworked the original music and
storyline for a Broadway revival that received multiple Tony nominations, a Grammy nomination for the

More later

Another Magical Evening for final event of Historic Joy Kogawa House's inaugural writer-in-residence program

Another Magical Evening for final event of Historic Joy Kogawa House's inaugural writer-in-residence program with John Asfour, Gary Geddes and Ann Erikson.

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Old friends and new friends, friends now forever at Historic Joy Kogawa House. Gary Geddes, John Asfour, “Joy Kogawa” life size photo, and Ann-Eriksson on the final event for John Asfour's inaugural writer-in-residence program. – photo Todd Wong

“John Asfour was the perfect choice to be the inaugural writer-in-residence for Kogawa House” said Richard Hopkins, board member of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society.

Asfour, a Montreal poet, blind since the age of 13 because of the injuries from the Lebanese civil war, hosted an over-flowing audience on May 30th for a final event reading with special guests Gary Geddes and Ann Eriksson.  Shelagh Rogers was a surprise guest emcee for this event which took place on a beautiful late spring evening in the backyard of author Joy Kogawa's childhood home.

“It was another magical evening” said Shelagh Rogers who had previously hosted the “Al Purdy Party” at Kogawa House on April 20th.  Shelagh had initially planned to come to the event as a guest, partially because “Falsework” by Gary Geddes, was one of Shelagh's favorite books of 2008.  She gladly accepted the invitation to host from John Asfour.

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Ann Erikson reads underneath the cherry and apple trees in the back yard of Historic Joy Kogawa House.

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Ann Eriksson describes her new novel “In the Hands of Anubis” to Shelagh Rogers.

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Gary read from his many works, and shared stories of traveling in the Middle East with John Asfour, describing the incident as “the lame leading the blind” because Gary had hurt his leg, and John would have his hand on Gary's arm, as they walked.

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Two old chums share a smile and a glass of wine.

More to come….