Category Archives: Canadian Identity & Heritage

Early media stories on Hapa Palooza – we got a buzz!

Early media stories on Hapa Palooza

– we got a buzz!

Hapa-Palooza challenges mixed-race stereotypes

Vancouver Sun – Vivian Luk – ‎Sep 7, 2011
The nickname Super Nip – partly derived from a Second World War term to
describe Japanese people – and racial jokes followed Jeff Chiba Stearns
everywhere when he was growing up in Kelowna.

Hapa-Palooza showcases Vancouver's 125 years of cultural passion

The Province – Tom Harrison – ‎Sep 7, 2011‎
This is especially true of Vancouver, where just boarding a SkyTrain is
a multi-cultural experience, or walking the streets can be an
eye-opening exercise in cultural diversity and acceptance.

Hapa-Palooza revels in fest of ethnic mashups – Jessica Werb – ‎14 hours ago‎
Here's to mixed heritage: circus artist Chris Murdoch will be among the
performers at the Hapa-Palooza event's wildly diverse Friday cabaret
night. Growing up, Zarah Martz never felt like she fully belonged.

Hapa-palooza hype builds, but will it deliver?

Open File – Meghan Mast – ‎Sep 6, 2011‎
It wasn't until this year, at age 56, that Jonina Kirton connected her
story with that of other mixed-race women. “I hadn't really put two and
two together that someone else could have almost the same experience as I
had,” says Kirton, who identifies

The Georgia Straight presents Hapa-Palooza – staff –  ‎Sep 6, 2011‎
Hapa is a Hawaiian word to describe someone of mixed heritage from
islands in the Pacific Ocean. And in recent years, it has gone on to
become a term to describe people of multiple ethnicities from around the
world. The following night in the same room

Interracial identities part of the mix at Hapapalooza Festival's Mixed – Craig Takeuchi – Sep 5, 2011

Interracial identities part of the mix at Hapa-palooza Festival's Mixed Flicks Anyways?” are part of the Mixed Flicks program at Hapa-palooza.

Check out the Hapa-Palooza Festival – featuring Mixed Race artists

Hapa-palooza Festival: September 7-10, 2011
A Vancouver Celebration of Mixed-Roots Arts + Ideas

This is an exciting idea whose time has come.  The seeds were planted at the 2011 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner – which featured Hapa-Canadians Jeff Chiba Stearns, Jocelyn Pettit, Patrick Gallagher, and Jenna Chow as artists and co-hosts.

Following the end of the last singalong to Auld Lang Syne, some of our performers and organizers met and discussed the idea of a Hapa-oriented festival or event.   ACWW directors Anna Ling Kaye and Tetsuro Shigematsu (co-host for the evening) were very enthusiastic. 

It was Anna who followed up on the idea and quickly arranged a meeting with Jeff Chiba Stearns.  Zarah helped her as they made an application for Vancouver 125 funding.  I am very pleased that many of the performers featured have also been featured at past Gung Haggis Fat Choy events such as poet Fred Wah, fiddler Jocelyn Pettit and film makers Jeff Chiba Stearns and Ann Marie Fleming.

Wednesday, September 7th, 7:00 –
Location: Alice McKay Room
Vancouver Public Library Central Branch


Writers, poets and spoken-word artists in dialogue!

Thursday, September 8th, 7:00 –
Location: Alice McKay Room
Vancouver Public Library Central Branch

Explorations of mixed identity in film with mixed actors panel and film
screenings with Q&A from the filmmakers!

Friday, September 9th, 7:00 –
Location: Roundhouse Performance Space

A delightful evening of mixed entertainment and celebration!
* tickets available at

Saturday, September 10th
Location: Robson Square


Installations by mixed artists and booths from community partners and
related causes.

12:30 to 2:45pm

Amazing performances by mixed talent of the future!

3:30pm to 7:00pm

Prepare to be blown away by Vancouver’s incredible mixed talent!

“To Be defined as Chinese or not to be Chinese?” Is this the question? CNN's Jane Leung writes an article.

Jane Leung: Tired of not being 'Chinese enough'

A Canadian-Chinese stakes her claim on the native land
Defining one's identity is an important part of maturity.  It becomes complicated when racial identity is also a part of that.  Jane Leung writes an interesting article about her perspective of being told she's “not Chinese enough” as well as being defined as “Chinese” by mainstream society. 

Having moved to Hong Kong, after growing up in Canada.  She finds other Chinese people thinking of her as “second class” because she doesn't speak Chinese or know about about Chinese culture and history?  How could she if she is technically an immigrant from Canada?

I spent 6 weeks in Taiwan, at age 20, learning the Mandarin language (my parents spoke Cantonese, because their ancestors had come from Guangzhou (Canton) province, then I traveled to Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea.  In 1993, I traveled 2 weeks in Beijing and Xi'an.  Like Leung, people asked me “You look Chinese. Why you don't speak Chinese?” 

In their perspective of the world, from the ethnocentric Middle Kingdom, being Chinese meant looking Chinese AND speaking Chinese. If you couldn't speak Chinese, you were basically regarded as stupid – even if you were technically a Canadian and very smart in Canadian culture.  But imagine what life is like for Chinese immigrants to Canada… if they can't speak English, they are similarly regarded as less equal.

Being “Chinese” is a spectrum, and a social construct. It means different things in Hong Kong, China, Halifax or Richmond BC, or Alberta. But Chinese emigration experiences to Canada, Australia, South Africa, and elsewhere all have similar experiences.  It all depends on context. Jane Leung is on the right path.  Define yourself, and don't let “others” define you.

This is why other definitions of “Chinese-ness”
are used in Canada, such as Canadian-Chinese or Chinese-Canadian, or
Canadian born Chinese-Canadian. It all depends on context. Last year on
the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat, we had paddlers
of Chinese ancestry who had been born in South Africa, Scotland, Italy,
Malaysia, Beijing, Hong Kong, Canada and Alberta… and everybody
thought it was very cool. Diversity or mono-culture tunnel vision?
Definitely the global perspective is on the rise, to include Chinese
emigration patterns around the world, something that Scotland National
Museum already does.

Every immigrant group to North America and
elsewhere goes through a similar identity shift, whether they are Irish, Scots, African, South Asian, Vietnamese or even Greek. I remember watching the movie
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” with a friend born and raised in Hong Kong.
Throughout the movie, she
kept elbowing me and saying “Ai-Yah! Just like Chinese!”

Even ex-pat Brits returning
to England after time spent in colonies had to endure derision, but it
is no where the same amount when language skills are involved.
Canadians born and raised with Chinese ancestry, are often called
“jook-sing” (hollow bamboo) by their immigrant counterparts, or
“bananas” (yellow on the outside and white on the inside”. Of course
this counteracts the names of “FOB” or “Honger” by “CBC”ers (Canadian
Born Chinese). Leung hits it on the head when she writes “For locals
who can’t adapt to multiculturalism accepted in other countries, the
only way they think they can tangibly confront this issue is by picking
on what they believe is the living embodiment of something they fear:
Westernized Chinese kids.”

Read Jane Leung's article here:
Jane Leung“Banana’s here! Poor thing. Illiterate and can’t speak properly.”

This was not the welcome I expected from family friends when I arrived
in Hong Kong from Canada. I had grown up as the token Asian, but now I
had become the token white girl, a.k.a. the “gwai mui.”

I am Chinese. I look Chinese. I was born in Hong Kong.

have had Confucian principles bred into me from birth. I put career and
good grades above life itself and believe that whatever I can’t achieve
through talent I can make happen through hard work and self-discipline.

Yet, if I listen to friends and family here in Hong Kong, I am no more Chinese than lemon chicken.

I was raised in a Western community in Canada and speak basic Cantonese,
but can’t read or write it, which apparently means I am a sell-out, a
banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) with no right to
associate with locals or their higher Chinese values.

It is apparent to me that some Chinese feel “more Chinese,” thus superior to those who aren’t fluent in the language.

Vancouver Sun: 10 Legendary Vancouverites

Do you know these 10 legendary Vancouverites?
Vancouver Sun article includes Yip Sang, Mary Lee Chan, Wong Foon Sien

Check it out at: Vancouver Sun: 10 Legendary Vancouverites

Here are my personal connections to Joe Fortes, Mary Lee Chan, Yip Sang, and Dal Richards.

I learned the story about Joe Fortes when I first worked at the Joe Fortes Library when I started as a teenager.  I can answer trivia questions that his baptized name was “Seraphim”, and he was one of Vancouver's most beloved life guards of English Bay.  Here's a great video of Joe Fortes by Global TV's Mike McCardell.

Mary Lee Chan
I am friends with the children of Mary Lee Chan, and descendants of Yip Sang.  Mary Lee Chan's story about saving Strathcona neighborhood from Free way Destruction is wonderfully captured in the film documentary “Mary Lee Chan Takes On City Hall“.   There is a current campaign to name the newly proposed library in Strathcona neighborhood after Mary Lee Chan:

Here's a link from historia Chuck Davis' Metropolitan Vancouver

Yip Sang was an important figure for the building of CPR Railroad, and Vancouver Chinatown development.  The Yip Sang family reunion is also legendary.  I contacted descendant Hoy Yip when I started organizing a family reunion for the Rev. Chan family descendants for 99 and 2000.  Descendant Steven Wong (on his mother's side) paddles on the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team. Vancouver Archives has the Yip Sang project online:

Wong Foon Sien was a pioneer in fighting for the repeal of the Chinese
Excusion Act in 1947, and asking for redress for the Chinese Head Tax. 
Here's a good story about Wong Foon Sien, by my friend Larry Wong

Dal Richards at the 2010 Canada Day celebrations at Kitsilano Showboat stage – photo T. Wong

I have known Vancouver-born Dal Richards for the past few years from our roles on Canadian Club Vancouver.  I had the honour of being included with Dal for the BC Royal Museum's “The Party”centrepiece display for the 150th anniversary
exhibition – titled Free Spirit: Stories of You, Me and BC – The Party featured 150 British Columbians who’ve helped shape the province.

Nobody born in Scotland?

Lachlan Hamilton, CPR surveyor and alderman might have been of Scottish ancestry, as were many of Vancouver's pioneers, but a google search isn't revealing anything so far.  Sam Greer is listed as born in Ireland.  Major Skitt Matthews, who started the Vancouver Archives, was born in Wales.

A google search on Alfred Larwill reveals more about the history of Larwill Park, formerly the Cambie street Grounds, and now a parking lot, and the proposed site of a new Vancouver Art Gallery, where the Olympics hosted the Live City Downtown site.

Interesting how 3 of the 10, were evicted (or almost) from their homes: Larwill from the Cambie Street Grounds, Greer from the CPR lands, and Fortes nearly from his shack on English Bay – if not for a blockade of 100 people.  His house was moved to the present location of the English Bay bandstand, where a plaque now commemorates Joe Fortes.

It's officially (finally) Tartan Day in Canada

It's officially Tartan Day in Canada.

Canada finally has it's official Tartan Day, after all the provinces had previously proclaimed Tartan Day.  In 2008, I arranged to have Tartan Day proclaimed in the the City of Vancouver.

-photo courtesy of T.Wong

Xavier MacDonald, Todd Wong and Sean John Kingsley wear their tartans to the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team practice on April 6th, 2011, Tartan Day.

I also wore my kilt at the Vancouver 125 Celebrations where I was helping to supervise the ball hockey games at Jack Poole Plaza in the afternoon.  There was fresh snow on the mountains, so thank goodness it was warm in the sunshine.

Check out the different tartans of each province.  Personally, I like the Nova Scotia and Sasketchewan tartans… Something about the blues and yellows of each.  The BC tartan with its red and green looks too much like a Christmas decoration.

An Intimate Evening with playwright Marty Chan @ Kogawa House

30 March · 19:30 21:00

Historic Joy Kogawa House

Created by:

More info
his role as Canadian playwright, radio writer, television story editor,
and young adult author, Marty Chan explores the tensions between
opposing forces of assimilation and the search for heritage and cultural

His new play, The Forbidden Phoenix, combines adventure,
martial arts, and the coolest 10-piece orchestra you’ve ever seen, in an
eye-popping musical that tells the story of a father who comes to
Canada looking for a better life. High drama and visual spectacle
combine for a unique evening of family entertainment. Performed in
English with Chinese surtitles.

Please join us in the living room
of Historic Joy Kogawa House, childhood home of the author Joy Kogawa,
for a rare opportunity to sit with this master author and indulge in the
art of his smooth prose.

Ticket price $65
Includes admission to any production of The Forbidden Phoenix, running April 7 to 23, at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre.

To purchase tickets, email

will be brilliant…. Marty is entertaining and very funny. He is the
playwright of “Mom, Dad, I'm Living With a White Girl.” I have been
waiting years for a story about Monkey King comes to Canada…. this is
it! Tickets to Kogawa House exclusive event include tickets to the
Forbidden Phoenix play at Gateway Theatre…. I am honoured to moderate
and host, Cheers, Todd

Montreal Gazette: Maple Leaf Tartan made official symbol of Canada

I like the Maple Leaf Tartan kilt….

It was the first polyviscous kilt I had made, with each of the colours of the maple leaf interwoven in green, golden yellow and red.  I would wear it on Canada Day, and to the Order of Canada luncheons organized by the Canadian Club Vancouver.

Now… the Canadian Government… has made the unofficial symbol of Canada into an official symbol of Canada.  Last year they recognized Tartan Day, to help celebrate Scottish heritage in Canada – this year they recognize the Maple Leaf tartan as an official symbol of Canada.

Read the Montreal Gazette story below. 

Maple Leaf Tartan made official symbol of

The Maple Leaf Tartan, inspired by the shifting hues of autumn 
leaves, was announced Wednesday to have become Canada's national tartan 
and also an “official symbol” of the nation itself.

Maple Leaf Tartan, inspired by the shifting hues of autumn leaves, was
announced Wednesday to have become Canada's national tartan and also an
“official symbol” of the nation itself.

Julie Oliver, Ottawa Citizen

The Canadian government has pre-empted a Liberal senator's
crusade to have Maple Leaf Tartan declared the country's official
Scottish cloth, announcing Wednesday that the distinctive green-and-red
pattern — inspired by the shifting hues of autumn leaves — has not only
been made the national tartan but also an “official symbol” of the
nation itself.

The designation means the tartan — designed
in 1964 by Toronto garment maker David Weiser ahead of Canada's
centennial celebrations — will join the flag, the coat of arms, the
beaver and a handful of other objects as state-sanctioned emblems of
Canada, according to a statement issued by Heritage Minister James

“The Maple Leaf Tartan has been worn proudly and
enjoyed by Canadians for decades, but has never been elevated to the
level of an official symbol — until now,” said Moore. “Our national
symbols express our identity and define our history. The Maple Leaf
Tartan represents the contributions that the more than four million
Canadians of Scottish heritage continue to make to our country.”

Conservative government's declaration comes less than a week after
Liberal Senator Elizabeth Hubley, of P.E.I., gave a speech urging
support for her proposed legislation, Bill S-226, to make Maple Leaf
Tartan the official national tartan.

“The Maple Leaf Tartan
has been Canada's unofficial national tartan for many years,” she said
last Thursday. “It is time to recognize the rich contribution Canadians
of Scottish descent have made to this country by adopting a national
tartan for Canada, which can be worn by every Canadian, regardless of
their ancestry, as a symbol of national pride.”

office initially expressed “shock” at Wednesday's announcement. And in
comments to Postmedia News following the government's statement, Hubley
pointed to “eerie similarities” between Moore's declaration and her own
expressions of support for the Maple Leaf Tartan last week in the

“I am pleased the government has been listening,”
she said. “And if you read the wording of the press release, there are
eerie similarities to my second-reading speech from last Thursday.”

also raised doubts about whether a simple announcement from the
government had the weight of legislation — duly passed by Parliament —
to declare the Maple Leaf Tartan an official emblem of Canada. “A press
release from a cabinet minister is not sufficient to create a national

Wednesday's announcement by the government made no
mention of Hubley's bill, but included comments from Conservative
Senator John Wallace, of New Brunswick, who recently spearheaded an
effort to have the government formally recognize April 6 as National
Tartan Day.

“The tartan is one of the most visual
expressions of Scottish heritage and culture,” Wallace said in
Wednesday's statement. “Making the Maple Leaf Tartan an official symbol
of Canada highlights the many significant contributions that people of
Scottish heritage have made to the founding of Canada.”

the Maple Leaf Tartan appears to have become an unexpected symbol of
political partisanship, both the Liberals and Conservatives do have
legitimate prior claims to being champions of the patriotic plaid.

2006, former Liberal MP John Matheson — a key player in the political
battle that led to the adoption of Canada's Maple Leaf flag in 1965 —
urged that the government adopt a national tartan as a readily
recognized “signal” to be displayed by Canadians of all ethnic stripes
to show that they “care about a united Canada.”

In 2008,
Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney (who has since added immigration
to his cabinet portfolio) announced that he had officially registered
the Maple Leaf Tartan with the Scottish Tartan Authority in Edinburgh to
secure exclusive rights for the pattern for the Canadian government.

Government of Canada recognizes the many ways in which Scottish culture
and tradition have contributed to the strength of our communities,”
Kenney said at the time. “Scottish tartans are a wonderful symbol of
cohesion: each plaid, with its blend of different colours and patterns
represents a family, a region, an organization, or a nation.”

2006, after Matheson had launched his campaign for a national tartan,
the Globe and Mail reported that documents released under Access to
Information showed federal Heritage officials were giving the proposal
serious consideration.

One memo noted that Weiser's Maple
Leaf Tartan had been “greeted with wide acclaim” in the 1960s and was
already considered an unofficial national tartan by many Canadians.

notes indicated that “the use of tartan by non-Scottish or Celtic
peoples has dramatically expanded around the world” and reflected a
“more multicultural reality.”

But the documents also
contained a caution that “the notion of a national tartan might have
little resonance with Canada's multicultural communities, given its
traditional association with Scottish and British heritage.”

to the website of Canadian Heritage, 11 of the 13 provinces and
territories have their own official tartans, while Quebec has popular
design that is widely — though unofficially — used to symbolize the
province. Nunavut is not mentioned on the site.

Canadian government also recognizes the maple tree as the country's
“national arboreal emblem,” the beaver as its official animal symbol and
red and white as Canada's official colours.

Shelagh Rogers interviews Ken McGoogan, author of How the Scots Invented Canada

Ken McGoogan is interviewed on CBC Radio's The Next Chapter by Shelagh Rogers.
– with a mention of Gung Haggis Fat Choy by Shelagh

How the Scots Invented Canada by Ken McGoogan

Note that the tartan featured is the Maple Leaf tartan, featuring the yellow, green and red colours of a changing maple leaf.

It's a lively interview that Shelagh has with Ken McGoogan.  Of particular interest, McGoogan talks about pluralism and how the Scots themselves are an ethnically diverse group,

Shelagh: “I want to get back to pluralism because i find this a very interesting impact of the Scots in Canada, the population has never exceeded 16% of the country.  What do you think it wa was it about the Scots and what they brought over that created this pluralistic vision.

Ken: “Yes, that's a wonderful question Shelagh, because and you;re quite right to focus on that  because that to me is one of the central  themes of the book, and probably my favorite theme that arises in the book, because I do see Canada as multicultural and multi-racial. And I do trace that back… on the pluralism of the Scots themselves.  It's also interesting, the Scots were, First of all, they felt they were underdogs in relation to the English, Scots have always felt that England has always treated Scots badly.  There always had been this undertone of tension in the Scots' feeling to be underdogs.  But at the same time, in addition to that feeling, it made them more empathetic to other peoples than they might otherwise have been.  You also have the Scots being well educated and highly literate much earlier than almost anywhere in Europe.”

And McGoogan talks about Robert Burns, and his influence in Canada.  He calls it “singular and amazing,” who there are Burns statues and influences in Canadian cities from Halifax to Victoria.

Check out the TNC Special Podcast – Ken McGoogan

Shelagh's special unabridged conversation with Ken McGoogan, author of “How the Scots Invented Canada”.

Right click to Download TNC Special Podcast – Ken McGoogan
[mp3 file: runs 34:53]

Go to 18:10 to listen to Shelagh Rogers tell Ken McGoogan about Gung Haggis Fat Choy

Here are some reviews of McGoogan's book and a link to his own web page.

  1. Ken McGoogan: HOME

    Ken McGoogan is the author of four Canadian bestsellers about the search for the Northwest in October 2010, will publish How the Scots Invented Canada. – 

Ricepaper Magazine 15th Anniversary + ACWW Community Builder Awards

ACWW Community Builder Awards
to Evelyn Lau and Tradewind Books
at the 15th Anniversary Ricepaper Dinner

December 11th
Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant
Vancouver Chinatow

It was a successful evening, when somebody tells you that they can hear people laughing from down the hall.  Co-hosts Tetsuro Shigematsu and Todd Wong had the audience laughing and feeling they were all part of the Ricepaper community.   From their opening welcomes, they acknowledged all the writers in the room: Sean Gunn, Faye Leung, Charlie Cho, Lee Su-Feh, Larry Wong, Jim Wong-Chu, Evelyn Lau, Jenny Uechi, Bob Sung, Gail Yip, Ken Yip.  They introduced the Ricepaper editors, Eury Chang and Patricia Lim + Ricepaper volunteers, ACWW Board members, Allan Cho, Ray Hsu, Tetsuro and Todd, as well as the members of the Friend's of Foo's Ho Ho Committee that had helped to organize the event with ACWW, and Ricepaper.

Tetsuro worked the crowd talking about the role that Ricepaper Magazine plays, while Todd playfully held up a cover of Ricepaper Magazine with Tetsuro's picture on it – “The Icon Issue”. Todd gave a very quick history of Ricepaper Magazine from it's humble beginnings as a newletter, acknowledging some of it's founders in the room, Jim Wong-Chu, Sean Gunn and Sid Tan, opening up the 15th Anniversary issue, to the Ricepaper origins stories Jim and Sean had written.  Todd also pointed out the people that had been profiled in Ricepaper such as writers Wayson Choy, Joy Kogawa, Denise Chong, environmentalist David Suzuki, dancer/choreographer Andrea Nann, and many others.

Good old Cantonese Pioneer “Soul Food”, is how attendee Bob Sun described the menu.  It was very fitting considering the pioneer history roots from which many of the ACWW and Ricepaper organizers have.  Soup was followed by an appetizer plate of garlic ribs, pan-fried squid and deep-fried chicken wings. Pan-fried sticky rice chicken is a Foo's Ho Ho specialty.  Mushrooms and Bok Choy, followed the black bean vegetables. Pan-fried prawns were followed by black bean fish, and more dishes.  It was good eating all around. 

During the dinner courses, volunteers sold raffle tickets, people socialized, and also checked out the many prizes such as theatre tickets to Red Letters and Rising Phoenix, bottles of wine,  + more.

2010_December_Ricepaper_Dinner 008 Co-host Todd Wong – photo Deb Martin

Tradewind books by Paul Yee, were a very successful live auction item.  Todd successfully conducted the live auction taking bids from both sides of the room with Tetsuro's help.  The book set contained “The Bone Collector's Son” which is the only children's book to be nominated for the Vancouver Book Prize. Also included were The Jade Necklace, What Happened This Summer, Shu-Li and Tamara, Shu-Li and Diego and also Bamboo – which was a nominee for BC Book Prizes Childrens' Literature Award. Lively bidding went between many different bidders… finally going to Vancouver City Councilor Raymond Louie.

What an introduction to Tradewind Books!  Todd next gave a brief history about the ACWW Community Builder Award, citing the first recipients were Paul Yee, Wayson Choy and Roy Mah in 2002.  In 2003, awards went to Roy Miki, Fred Wah, Harvey Lowe, and The Japanese Bulletin Magazine. In 2005, recipients were Joy Kogawa, Scott McIntyre publisher of Douglas MacIntyre and Gim Wong.  And earlier in May 2010, ACWW had acknowledged Edmonton writer/playwright
Marty Chan as a ACWW Community Builder, while he was in Vancouver for
the book launch of Henry Chow and Other Stories.

And with that, Carol Frank was invited up to the stage to receive a certificate for the ACWW Community Builder Award.  Carol gave thanks for the award and talked about working with ACWW and Ricepaper on the “Henry Chow and Other Stories” anthology which also included stories by Paul Yee and Evelyn Lau.  She talked about the important role that cultural diversity makes in the books published by Tradewind Books, and acknowledged how grateful she was to Ricepaper Magazine was in helping them find writers for Henry Chow project.  It was an earnest and sincere thanks that closed with her hope and promise to work with Ricepaper more in the future

Evelyn Lau was acknowledged for her trail blazing contributions to the community and significant body of work.  Tetsuro talked about how her works are studied in classes, as well as inspiring to writers.  Todd mentioned how as a young teenager she had first met with Jim Wong-Chu to submit her work to Jim's anthology “Many Mouthed Birds” and how she had only two weeks ago, received the City of Vancouver Mayor's Arts Award prize for Literary Arts.
2010_December_Ricepaper_Dinner 011 Evelyn Lau gives thanks for the Community Builder Award and shares stories of being a writer – photo Deb Martin

Evelyn shared with the audience how strange it is to be considered a community builder when as a writer she spends much of her time alone writing and thinking, but it was so gratifying that her work was able to touch so many.  She specifically thanked Jim Wong-Chu and Marlene Enns for sharing time and meals with her when she was a wayward youth.  It was a very heart-warming acknowledgement.   She next went on to read two poems: A Grain of Rice from the 15th Anniversary edition of Ricepaper; and a poem about Sidney Crosby's goal that won the Olympic Gold Medal.  Evelyn joked about how her poems are mostly dark, and she wanted to read something happier for the occasion.

It was a wonderful evening, as lots of fun was made when Tetsuro led the raffle draw prizes.  More than 25 prizes were shared amongst the ticket buyers.  The room became smaller and friendlier as all the winners were introduced to the audience, and many of the prize donors were acknowledge.  It was a great end for a small organization and small magazine to acknowledge its community, and its community builders.

Red Letters is a Canadian Musical about love, family, tragedy and a dark time in Canada's history

Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre is doing their part to contribute to the Canadian theatre repertoire.  Red Letters is an original musical about love, family, history and tragedy.  The story spans decades, continents and generations.  It is also set during Canada's pre-multicultural age, when Canada had a discriminatory head tax against any person of Chinese ancestry, which forcibly kept families apart.

I was fortunate to see the stage reading, while the musical was still in development.   Producer Joyce Lam had assembled a very talented collection of actors to help workshop the work.  The music was lyrical and soaring.  Kathy Leung wrote the book, and had interviewed many people whose lives and families were affected by the head tax, and crafted a story which Alan Bau has set to music and song.

I am looking forward to seeing the full production of Red Letters, which will run ambitiously in Vancouver, Richmond and Victoria.  If VACT's production of Flower Drum Song set their standard of excellence, then you will want to bring your friends and see this show!

Roundhouse Performance Centre

November 25 to December 4, 2010

Gateway Theatre Studio

December 29, 2010 to January 8, 2011

Metro Theatre

January 12 to 16, 2011

Immediate Release



(November 1, 2010) – Following the success of 2009’s production Rodgers and
Hammerstein’s FLOWER DRUM SONG, Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (VACT)
is set to present the Canadian Premiere of its very first original production, a
musical by creator and songwriter Alan
and writer Kathy Leung. RED LETTERS is a period romance between
a young Chinese couple both separated by distance and torn apart by Canada’s
imposing of a head tax on new immigrants and eventually, the Exclusion Act of

story begins in present day as Ping rediscovers the love letters that his
parents wrote to each other when his father Shen immigrated to Vancouver from
China in 1922. Young Shen leaves his wife behind with the high hopes of making
his fortune in Canada, or “Gold Mountain” as it was coined, and earning enough
money to pay the head taxes to bring over his childhood sweetheart, Mei, and
their new baby son, Ping. Once in Vancouver, he finds support from all the
bachelors in Chinatown, but especially from his employer and sponsor, Boss. But
Shen also has to struggle against the harsh reality of language and racism. As
the final act unfolds, the main characters show their resilience as they strive
to maintain the dream of a better life in Canada for their

has assembled a strong cast of local Asian-Canadian talent under the leadership
of producer Joyce Lam and director
Andy Maton, with musical direction
by Yawen Wang and choreography by Vincent Tong. The cast includes FLOWER
DRUM SONG alumni Rosie Simon, Jimmy Yi and Isaac Kwok and newcomers to VACT, Alan Wong, Alvin Tran, Christopher Kim Sing and Ryan Erwin. Rosie Simon has recently
been seen in the highly successful Arts Club Theatre Company run of THE

LETTERS humanizes what many people in Canada may only see as a historical
political policy,” say director Andy Maton. “To portray the emotional life of
individuals as the effect of a governmental or bureaucratic decision is very


Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre is dedicated to showcasing Asian-Canadian
cultural stories and actors in a contemporary setting. VACT uniquely displays
“surtitles” transcribed in Cantonese to encourage Vancouver’s Chinese immigrant
population to enjoy English-speaking theatre.

LETTERS performances:

Roundhouse Performance Centre

November 25 to December 4, 2010

Gateway Theatre Studio

December 29, 2010 to January 8, 2011

Metro Theatre

January 12 to 16, 2011

more info: or call (604) 638-5537  | For tickets:  or

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