Monthly Archives: November 2004

CBC The National films rehearsal for Toddish McWong, Gung Haggis Fat Choy, Brave Waves and haggis wun tun.

Today, CBC National News reporter segment Eve Savory interviewed “moi”, Toddish McWong, about cultural fusion and Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  This segment is set to air on December 8th, Wednesday, CBC television.
Very Cool… across this vast country called Canada, Canadians everywhere will marvel at the sight of Joe McDonald on bagpipes, Harish Kumar drumming on a Doh, and a kilted accordionist wearing a Lionhead mask (me). 
Last week CBC National Vancouver producer Sarah Quadri called me about a Vancouver show on cultural fusion and she wanted to do a segment with me on cultural fusion with Toddish McWong and his musical friends as an example.  It was to be a 4 minute segment and we would film a band rehearsal at Floata Restaurant, a taste test trial of haggis wun tun, a kilt fitting with Bear Kilts (kilt sponsor for Gung Haggis Fat Choy), and Simon Fraser University's Geoff Vogt regarding setting up the inaugural SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Highland Games for the SFU recreation department. 
The piece got shortened from 4 minutes to 2 minutes.  But it will be higher up in the National news so more people will see it – rather than be the last segment.  But this is a great opportunity to be featured on CBC National News – across Canada.
We did a parade through the 11am dim sum crowd at Floata – much to the surprise of the very Chinese early dim sum crowd.  The CBC National crew next took pictures of the creation of haggis wun tun, and also filmed us digging in with chopsticks for a taste test. 
Jamie Griffiths also took some pictures with the Lion Head mask to use for the 2005 poster.  Imagine a kilted bagpiper with a Chinese Lionhead Mask!  I will post pictures of Joe, myself and Harish taking turns wearing the Lionhead mask.  It is a paper Lionhead – but with eyelids that wink! 
We had haggis wun tun – Floata style, and haggis spring rolls.  Very tasty.  This is the 3rd generation of haggis wun tun.  The 1st was created by New Town Cafe on Pender St. when I walked in with a haggis and asked if they could turn it into wun tun for an  evening “Welcome to Vancouver” reception at CBC for Shelagh Rogers.  Shelagh loved it and took most of them home with her.  She said that “the haggis wun tun and special plum sauce goes together like Bogart and Bacall.”
The 2nd generation haggis wun tun was created by Flamingo Restaurant, the site for Gung Haggis Fat Choy for 2003 and 2004.  The chefs created a special recipe with water chestnuts and celery, and we featured owner/manager Joseph Lee on CityCooks tv show on City TV.
So the third generation is something real special.  It is more like a dim sum dumpling.  This of course makes perfect sense because “dim sum” translated means “pieces of the heart.”  Haggis is made from the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep, mixed with oatmeal and spices.  My haggis is from Peter Black & Sons in Park Royal, so it is a “West Vancouver haggis” – definitely with attitude.
The January 30th dinner will be very very good.  The performers are excited.  The cooks are ready and the Floata restaurant will be redecorated in January.  Gung Haggis Fat Choy will be the first banquet at Floata following a $600,000 renovation.
Slainte, Todd

Cameron Collins wins Western US Highland Dance Competitions

Cameron Collins wins the Western US Open Championship 18+ for Highland Dancing.  The competition took place over Labour Day Weekend, September, 2004.

Cameron is one of the youngest ever to win the title, having just turned 18 years old in July.  He also won the Western Canadian Championship in Kelowna in April, and the BC Closed Championship in May.

“I am very proud of that boy, he's done a tremendous job.” says his teacher of 14 years, Angus MacKenzie.  Angus himself is a former world Highland Dance Champion.

In 2003, Cameron Collins also came in 3rd runner-up at the World Junior Championship in Scotland.  This year, he entered adult for the first time in Scotland and qualified as one of the top 15 dancers. 

Cameron and his brother Vincent performed at Gung Haggis Fat Choy in January 2004.  “The boys were thrilled, and the audience was very receptive.  It was very special for us.” 

“Now the boys are working on stuff for Gung Haggis Fat Choy,” says MacKenzie, “We have something planned that will knock your socks off.  I told the boys to keep it short, and have the audience wanting more.”


Mom, Dad, I'm Living with a White Girl: My personal experiences of the Mary Chan theatrical play

Way back in 1996, just before I graduated from Simon Fraser University with a BA in Psychology, I wrote a few reviews for the SFU Peak student newspaper.  I just came across the link for an old review I wrote, and thought I would share it with you.

I really liked the Firehall Arts Centre's production of Marty Chan's “Mom, Dad, I'm Living With a White Girl” and I interviewed several of the cast members after the show.  I was even able to interview playwright Marty Chan.

Marty was very excited about the play at the time.  I think it was the 2nd time it had been produced, the opening premiere was in Edmonton, where Chan still resides.

Four years later I saw the Richmond Gateway Theatre production in February 2000.  A number of elements had changed but the essence of the play remained the same.  It flowed more smoothly now, and it while I missed some of the hilarious gags that had disappeared, the play felt more complete.

What was most interesting was the audience I was now attending the play with.  I went with a social group from the Vancouver Chapter of NAAAP – the North American Association of Asian Professionals.  After watching the play, most of us all went to a local hotel restaurant for appetizers and drinks.  When I asked the question to my theatre companions, “How many people have had a white boyfriend or girlfriend – only one other person put up their hand besides me.  This was out of a group of 16 people.  It seemed almost incredulous to me, that in such a culturally diverse city as Vancouver, that I was sitting with a very homogeneous group of young Asian men and women to whom inter-racial dating was almost a forbidden fruit.  Needless to say… most people were very interested in what I had to say about intercultural dating with white people.

When I first saw “Mom, Dad…” I could relate to all the cultural differences and issues that Marty Chan wrote about.  Things like trying to find acceptance amongst your peers, and being ashamed of your ethnicity and cultural baggage.  Afterall, I had grown up in the very white suburbia of North Vancouver in the late 70's and 80's.  Almost all my friends were white.  It was so white that whenever I was seen talking to another student of Chinese descent – people automatically thought we were dating… or should be dating.

I now view my late teenage and early 20's as an anthropological field expedition: living amongst the white people of suburban Vancouver.  My forays involved visiting their homes, playing with White children, and even dating White girls.  It made me very conscious of my own ethnic identity, because the awkwardness of inter-racial dating was overshadowed by parental acceptance or non-acceptance.  Racism may not have been overt, but it was present in the ways of cultural ignorance. 

“Where are you from?”, I might be asked by the parents of my friends.  A legitimate question of curiosity.  When I replied that I was born in Vancouver, the next question invariably became, “I mean, where are your parents from?”  Again, the answer was Vancouver. 

“Well… where did your grandparents come from?” 

“My grandmother was actually born in Victoria BC.” 

Why did my family have to come from somewhere?  My family had been in Vancouver for five generations.

At various times, I would go through phases of telling myself, “I'm going to date only Asian women.”  Maybe to get to know my culture better, or to avoid culturally ignorant incidents on dates, or simply to be able to share with somebody the shared values and experiences that we had both grew up with.  But on occasion, I found myself experience cultural misunderstandings, as the women I dated had been born or raised by parents from Hong Kong, the Phillipines, or China.   

I have long grown used to the fact that being a multigenerational Chinese Canadian, my values tend to be a mix of Chinese and Canadian… but mostly Canadian, as I inherit the Canadian values of my parents and my grandparents. 

When I was 24, I met the woman I was to marry.  She was multi-generational Chinese-Canadian like myself.  Our families had known each other on a number of generational levels; grandparents, parents, uncles, aunties, cousins, even our cousins' children.  We did indeed share many of the same Chinese-Canadian values and perceptions.  We fitted easily into each other's families.  But we divorced later over other un-related issues.

A few years ago, I dated a Vancouver born white woman who didn't use chop sticks…  “What! You don't use chop sticks?”  How could someone grow up in Vancouver and not use chopsticks?  While we shared a common interest in dragonboat paddling – that was about as far as the cultural exchange program went.

White, Yellow, Chinese, Caucasian…  they are all labels dependent upon the social construction and political acceptance of labels of the era.  What is really important in inter-racial dating, is simply finding somebody that shares your interests, and is willing to learn and/or accept your interests that are new to them. 

My present girlfriend is multi-generational Canadian like myself.  She is completely accepted in my family as herself, as I feel accepted in her family.  Nobody asks about ethnic holidays in cultural ignorance.  She accepts that I am involved in so many Asian Canadian or Chinese Canadian activities and communities.  She stir-fries vegetables and even makes me sweet and sour pork, while I cook pasta for her, or bacon and eggs, with hash brown potatoes.  She fits right in at extended family dinners, as all my cousins on my mother's side, and half of my cousins on my father's side all married partners who were White Canadians.

Nobody comments on what type of person we should be going out with (eg. You Chinese… You should date a Chinese girl.) At my age, my parents are long since past trying to influence my dating partners.  I think I confounded them, by bringing home women who have had connections from every continent on Earth, and every colour and combination as well.

I actually learn more about Chinese culture from my many friends.  Some were born in this country and are ardent Asian-Canadian activists. Others were immigrants who came to Canada many years ago, and have White partners, and yet still others are newer immigrants who still speak with slight but distinguishable accents.

below is the Marty Chan interview that I wrote for The Peak, at Simon Fraser University.


Marty Chan is the author of the comedy play, “Mom, Dad, I'm Living With a White Girl,” now playing at the Firehall Theatre in Vancouver. Chan says the play is partly autobiographical and draws from his own experience of having to confront his immigrant Chinese parents concerning his living arrangements with his Caucasian, Canadian-born girlfriend.

Chan explains that the play's themes are universal and revolve around the conflict of personal happiness and familial sacrifice. Himself a victim of wanting to please his parents, Chan initially entered University of Alberta to study engineering, because engineers were supposed to make good money. Engineers also drove trains, and that was cool to Chan. But he soon realized he didn't have much interest in the field, so with the assistance of his professors, Chan soon found himself in the faculty of arts where he ended up studying english and drama.

It was at university that Chan also learned more about his Chinese-Canadian identity, or lack of one. The young Chan had grown up in the French-Canadian town of Morinville, just north of Edmonton, where there had been few Chinese in the community. Here he had assimilated gradually into Canadian society under the influence of his parents' immigrant experience, but it was also an experience that he found he couldn't bond with as he struggled to develop his own independence and sense of identity. But at university he was surprised to find that other students of Chinese heritage knew less about Chinese culture and could hardly speak Chinese at all.

Without the presence of strong Asian-Canadian role models he found that he did experience some sense of negative identity, struggling against the ideas of being Chinese and wanting to define himself as Canadian. This sense of identifying oneself as more Canadian is addressed in a key scene in the play, as the lead character denies his biological mother and declares his allegiance to his adopted homeland, Canada. Chan feels that a Chinese-Canadian identity is still being defined. “People don't define themselves as Asian-Canadian but largely react towards public sentiment, to be defined as an individual, versus stereotypes. At the same time they're trying to be aware of political correctness.”

When asked about how so many Asian-Canadian books or movies seem to be about indivuals struggling to find themselves, contrary to the expectations of their immigrant parents, Chan says, “My opinion is that minority culture is going through a phase to purge themselves. But what is lost by embracing Canadian society without acknowledging who brought you into the world, or sense of heritage? In a sense, I feel a sadness as independence grows… then how much Chinese culture will be retained? In my personal experience, I feel like the torch bearer for my parents. How much will my children know? The search for more and more identity will hopefully catch on.”

Chan points out that many Asian-Canadians get their sense of identity not from Asian culture but from North American pop culture. “There were always martial artists, restaurant cooks, high achievers, incompetent nerds, bad vision, etc, etc, etc. These images are not created by Asians but of what society thinks of what Asians should be.”

Chan takes the most outrageous stereotypes of the pulp fiction era when most of North America was afraid of being invaded by what was called “the Yellow Peril.”

He conjures up the images of the Dragon Lady, Ming the Merciless, and the Yellow Claw, and rolls them all up with bad pidgin english so that we can laugh at the absurdities. And in the play, the only White character, the noble RCMP officer hell-bent on destroying the “Yellow Claw's” planned invasion of Canada, is transformed into her own worst nightmare-she becomes one of the very stereotypes she has sworn to eradicate.

“The use of the stereotypes evolved from an actor's workshop in Toronto,” Chan explains. “The original draft consisted only of naturalistic scenes. As things came together, the actors kept asking me to push it, and what evolved was [the central character] Mark's worst nightmares coming to life. The alternate reality presents how Mark views his mother and father as the Yellow Claw and her minion.

“It works really well as a built-in device from which to poke fun at Asian stereotypes and serves as a link between the two worlds, also able to comment and reflect on the natural scenes. The transitions also bring a frenetic energy, like a roller coaster quality. I think it's fun for the actors; they get to walk that line.

“Comedy goes to the brain and drama goes to the heart. Humour is trying to get inside the head without turning the mind off. Humour helps to get the point across of how Asians are viewed in pop culture. Hopefully, the comedy helps to enlighten the Caucasian population without the didactic monologues, that make it hard to listen to, then you end up preaching to the converted.

Although Marty Chan sees himself principally as a writer (his commentary, The Dim Sum Diary is heard regularly on CBC radio in Alberta), he has an opportunity to present a more realistic image of Chinese people on the CBC television show, Jake and the Kid, as Henry Wong, owner of the Sanitary CafŽ.

“I was fortunate enough that the producers wanted to update the W.O. Mitchell characters who are pretty hokey prairie stereotypes,” he says. “Thankfully, the producers didn't stress a Chinese accent. They wanted Henry to be defined as a real character, not as a Chinese guy.”

more later….

First Nations celebrate Haida / Tlinglit Supreme Court ruling in Chinatown

I heard drumming.  I heard people laughing.  I heard people clapping.  I was at the Floata Seafood Restaurant in Vancouver Chinatown, and the restaurant was filled with First Nations peoples.

Last night, I walked into Floata Seafood Restaurant to discuss details with the manager Antonia Hwang about the upcoming Jan 30th Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.  The Eagle Society fundraiser was celebrating the Supreme Court ruling that the BC Government must behave honourably in negotiations with the Haida people.

It was a joyous occasion.  I wondered if my Mom's cousin, Chief Rhonda Larrabee, of the Qayqayt (New Westminster) Band was there.  They knew of her, and said I could go look.

I stood transfixed as an older male and female First Nations peoples walked from one end of the restaurant to the other, speaking into the microphones.  It was a kind of comedy skit, addressing their journey to Vancouver, commenting on topical issues.  A First Nations comedy skit.  Wow!

I looked around the room.  I saw Miles Richardson, Robert Davidson and Guujaaw from the Haida Nation.  I last saw Guujaaw on a plane from Vancouver to Japan in 1993, when we were both on our way to China.  Me to Beijing to visit friends, and he to Yunan province to help consult with Chinese aboriginals “before the sharks from Hong Kong get in,” he said.  He was part of the a BC group of Canadian Aboriginal peoples going to network with Chinese aboriginals in one of China's ethnic provinces.  Leading the group was Sandra Sachs on a CIDA project to develop a banking trust company for the Chinese aboriginals in Yunan.  11 years ago, and he remembered me.

The couple on stage starte a blanket dance.  This is where in aboriginal culture, they call your people or clan up, and you dance your way to the stage and throw money into the blanket.  They called on CTV news anchorwoman Pamela Martin, who was there with her husband.  Pamela went up with her hosts, the Coast Salish people.  The Haida were called up next.  Later on they called on all the lawyers in the audience.

After Pamela came back to her table, I greeted her.  “Pamela, everytime I meet you, you are eating Chinese food!”  We had co-hosted a fundraiser dinner for the West Vancouver Rotary Club back in May in that very room at Floata.  It was titled Shanghai Nights, and introduced a Chinese theme to the West Vancouver crowd and their Rotary friends.   I told her briefly about Salish artist Susan Point, who had donated a blanket that her husband had just brought to her.  Susan Point is one of my favorite artists.  I have two silk screen prints of hers titled “Spirit of the Eagle.” 

The festivities of the First Nations celebrations brought back memories of visiting Haida Gwaii in 1990.  With friends we drove up to Massett, and met Claude Davidson (Robert's father).  Claude invited us to come back in the fall when they were going to do a pole raising that his other son was carving.  Unfortunately Claude passed away a few months later and the celebration pole became a mortuary pole.

But the land claims settlement is very important for First Nations peoples.  I wish everybody in Canada could have the chance to meet the people of Haida Gwaii.  It was only a week in September that I spent, but I felt like so many people opened up their hearts to me and my companion, as we visited the Haida watchmen at Skedans Village site, and Hot Springs Island.

more later…






January 17, 2005 Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry Night poster

Here is the 2005 poster for Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry Night.

January 17, 2005, 7pm Monday evening.

Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch, 350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver – Alice Mackay Room

Featured poets are:

Fred Wah, winner of Governor General's Award for Poetry for his collection “Waiting for Sasketchewan”, writer of 17 books including “The Diamond Grill” a bio-fiction work of prose poem examining growing up mixed race in a Chinese cafe in Prairie Canada.  Fred is a retired English professor from University of Calgary, and is the self-described son of a Canadian born Scottish-Chinese-Irish father and a Swedish born Canadian mother.

Dugald Christie, born in Scotland, winner of World Poetry Series Lifetime Achievement Award.

Shirley Sue-A-Quan, born in China, writer, jounalist.

Joe McDonald, born in Canada of Scottish ancestry, singer/songwriter and player of bagpipes, keyboards and harmonica.

Hosts are Todd Wong (5th generation Chinese Canadian and creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy), Ariadne Sawyer and Alejandro Mujica (respectively born and raised in Canada and Chile).


In the Shadow of Gold Mountain – Vancouver Premiere: I meet film maker Karen Cho

It's Sunday Afternoon, 4:30 pm. The Grey Cup game is playing
and the BC Lions are losing.  I am at the Firehall Arts Centre for
the 2nd showing of In the Shadow of Gold Mountain,

Film maker Karen Cho, is in town for the Vancouver premiere of her
NFB documentary.  Victoria was the day before yesterday. 
Calgary is tomorrow.  Winnipeg is next.  Her tour is also
being hosted by Chinese Canadian National Council, providing her with support and contacts in each city she visits. 

This is Karen Cho's film about head tax redress and the
survivors.  The film opens with scenes of many Canadians
celebrating Canada Day.  Narrator/director Karen Cho explains that
July 1st, wasn't always a happy day of celebration for all
Canadians.  In fact, for Chinese Canadians, it was known as a Day
of Humiliation.  Because it was July 1st, 1923, that the “Chinese
Exclusion Act” came into being. 

Karen explains that she came to learn that while her British
grandparents were enthusiastically welcomed to Canada, her Chinese
grandparents faced unparalleled racial discrimination, having to pay a
$500 head tax while other immigrants were given free land.  This
movie is Karen's personal journey in meeting the remaining known
survivors who paid the head tax and their widows and children.

It is a moving film, with interviews by Roy Mah and Gim Wong, who
are both veterans of the Canadian Army and Air Force.  They are
Canadians of Chinese descent who went to fight for Canada in WW II,
despite being disallowed from voting and being treated as less than 2nd
class citizens in the land of their birth.

Highlights of the movie include Gim Wong riding his motorcycle on a
campaign to bring attention to head tax redress, and displaying a well
known beer advertisment sign that has been re-organized to say AM I CANADIAN 
Another highlight is the same saucy Gim Wong recalling a tearful
childhood memory of being chased by older white boys as a child and

The movie's conclusion recieves a healthy and warm applause. 
Moderator Mary Woo Sims acknowledges special guests in the audience:
veteran Gim Wong, former MP Margaret Mitchell and current Vancouver
city councillor Ellen Woodsworth.

Next she invites Karen Wong to the front to answer questions from
the audience.  My question to Karen is: How do your British side
family feel about the head tax and discrimination, and have they signed
up for the head tax redress?

Karen says that in many ways, her non-Chinese family members are
more angry about the discriminatory head tax because it flies in the
face of what they know and consider to be a “fair” Canada.  She
says that many of her family members on both sides support the redress.

Following the Q&A, I join the organizers of the event, my
friends Sid Tan, Eric Chan, Elwin Yuen, Sean Gunn, Fanna, as they take
Karen out for dinner.  The plan is to interview Karen for Saltwater City TV, a weekly show on Shaw cable. 

Dinner is at Congee House on Broadway.  Somehow, I am blessed
with a seat beside Karen, our honoured guest.  She is wise beyond
her 25 years, and both enthusiastic and charming.  Upon our
introductions, she exclaims “So you're the one!” when Gung Haggis
Fat Choy comes up.  Karen loves the concept of GHFC, and I quickly
suggest that she could start a dinner in her native Montreal.

I quickly discover Karen Cho is 5th generation Canadian like myself,
and that all her cousins have married non-Chinese.  Her family is
a veritable United Nations including British, French, Japanese,
Iranian, African.  Karen really “gets” the concepts behind Gung
Haggis Fat Choy.  Our rapport is instant, and it is like meeting

Madly Off in All Directions – live at Vogue Theatre in Vancouver

Saturday night in Vancouver… I have two tickets to the CBC show, Madly Off in All Directions  I think my girlfriend is relieved that we are not going to see anymore experimental theatre this week.

This stand up comedy show is an absolute delight.  I have only previously heard it on CBC radio.  I wish I could have brought my parents, they would have fit right in.  Sitting in the audience, I look around… lots of white Canadians… hardly anybody who looks like me in sight… lots of 50+ and 60+ Canadians… Gee it looks like it could be a crowd for an Anne Murrary concert or for Don Messer's Jubilee back in the '70's.  Definitely a very traditional CBC Radio audience.

But host Lorne Elliot is a madcap genius.  Very funny.  Lorne really got the audience going.  Very fun crowd.  He got the audience to go “Awrrr,” for a sea shanty, and the audience couldn't stop.  We said “Awrrr,” for many responses – appropriate and inappropriate.  I think Lorne liked the attention.

And so are all the young guest comics on the show.  Did I say young? 20-Something, 30-Something, even 40-Something…

Outstanding was Todd Butler! Like Lorne, Todd (I love that name!) plays guitar and works in his comical folk and political songs.  T.J. Dawes was a favorite of my girlfriend, who had known him from their days working the Victoria Fringe Festival (she, my girlfriend, worked the Box Office).

And special musical guests were Tiller's Folly  During intermission, I was sitting in my seat, and a long lanky familiar-looking man comes up to shake my hand asking “How're you doing?”  Omigod, it is Laurence Knight, band leader, manager and bass player for Tiller's Folly.  We had met back in 2002 at a conference in Ottawa and had a great time.  Tiller's Folly specialize in creating stories about BC's history, and I had recommended them for inclusion for the CBC TV special “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.”  But alas it was not to be…  maybe for the future?

After the show, I was invited to have drinks with the cast and to meet the producer/director of Madly Off in All Directions, Bryan Hill.  Bryan is a great guy, and was introduced to me by Joan Athey, CBC Radio's marketing and publicity whiz.  Bryan wants to hook up with more Asian Canadian comics.  “I can do that,” I said, as I proceeded to tell him about my friends at Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre such as Tom Chin, and their wonderful Asian Comedy Night.  All in an evening's work in networking!

The Secret Project: Review

The Secret Project

by Adrienne Wong

Firehall Arts Centre

reviewed November19, 2004


The Secret Project is an amazing small production that breaks down the barriers of the traditional proscenium arch between the audience and performers.  It engages the audience, literally and physically transporting them through the show and the building, it seduces and pleads with them to choose sides in a revolution.

Director Adrienne Wong has created an interactive theatre production in which the audience first witness Dacia, the King Queen of Amnera, played by Nneka K. Croal, giving a political speech while assisted by her personal assistant Frances, played by Toni Rozylo.

It is apparent from the onset that this is not an ordinary theatre piece.  The performers use stylistic physical gestures while they speak.  This is the mark of  Tangled Tongues Performance, a company that sets out to create physical theatre that “slices through the skin of social and political relationships to see what really makes the heart beat.”  This affected physicality both emphasizes the performers words while distracting the eyes of the audiences.  In short, it adds a whole new dimension to watching the performance.  While it can be confusing, it puts the audience on edge, not knowing what to expect next.

And what happens next is an adventure.  The audience is split up into two groups, following the ushers into the hallways and stairways of the physical space of the Firehall Arts Centre which itself becomes the kingdom of Amnera.  Doors are renamed “Water Purification Plant” or “Hot Springs,” that aids in creating the suspension of disbelief that helps transport the audience into another time and space.

In our group on Friday night, we were approached by Frances, the King Queen's personal assistant, who revealed herself to be the underground leader of the Radio Zero Collective, revolutionaries of the people of Carvuun, now occupied by King Queen Dacia who creates a wonderful sensual sexually ambiguous character.  And we, members of the audience are suddenly drawn into something we weren't prepared to be… unwitting participants in a revolution.

The audience is moved next down a hallway to the the Firehall Arts Centre rehearsal space now transformed into a antechamber or reception parlour for the King Queen.  We witness an exchange between Frances and the King Queen over tea, that is both conversation and dance before it escalates to a peak and we are ordered to leave the room. “Now!” implores Frances.

Frances then takes us into another stairway hall to reveal more background information about the politics of Anmara and her role in it.  We are next led to an area at the rear of the stage floor.  The rest of the audience joins us, and we look each other suspectly, wondering what they have been told, and by whom.

The final climatic scene approaches as Frances scales a dam with the assignment to blow it up with explosives.  The two characters face off and by now, half of the audience is secretly cheering for the revolutionary Francis.  The other half is silently supporting the King Queen.  The ensuing fight scene is set underwater.  Lights and choreography produce good effect and the slow motion movements are wonderful to watch.

The Secret Project is an engaging piece that keeps the audience on its toes while moving them literally from set to set.  The audience is kept wondering what will happen next and thus is forced from the role of passive observer.  But to learn the whole story, the audience must come back to find out the rest of the story from the other performer.  It is sort of like a children's adventure story, where you choose the story line options and jump to the corresponding pages, allowing you to re-read the book many times with different outcomes.  This may ultimately be both a blessing and a curse.  Because, at the play's conclusion, my companions and I wanted more.  We wanted to know more about the ending and what was happening.  Not used to experimental theatre, maybe we have become too complacent in pat endings for our movies and tv shows.

Created collaboratively from a series of workshops, Adrienne Wong, Toni Rozylo and Nneka K. Croal, have produced a work that challenges the audience to re-think not only the issues of the play happening them but also what happens in our own lives.  After the play, my friends and I discussed how our society has evolved into a cocooned environment, where people spend much of their time on personal computers, internet games, dvd home theatre movies.  The very idea of of inaction whether political or social recreational, is what Tangled Tongues Performance aimed to address with The Secret Project.  Mission accomplished!

To find secrets, background information and audience feedback + director's notes check out:



Fred Wah to be featured poet at Gung Haggis Fat Choy poetry night

Fred Wah will be the featured poet at Gung Haggis Fat Choy poetry night at the Vancouver Public Library, January 17, 2005.  And hopefully for the January 30, Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner in Vancouver.

Fred Wah has an extensive writing catalogue and recieved the Governor General's Award for Poetry for his collection Waiting for Sasketchewan (1985).  He also wrote Diamond Grill (1996), about growing up in a small-town Chinese-Canadian cafe in a “hybrid” family, which won the Howard O'Hagan Award for Short Fiction.  In 2000, Wah recieved the Gabrielle Roy Prize for writing on Canadian literature for Faking It: Poetics and Hybridity, Critical Writing 1984-1999.

Last year the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop honoured Fred at the annual ACCWW Community Builder's Dinner, along with fellow poet professor Roy Miki, the Japanese Canadian Bulletin, and radio pioneer and yo yo champion Harvey Lowe.

Every time I have talked with Fred Wah about Gung Haggis Fat Choy, he smiles broadly and laughs.  Fred should know about the combination of Scots and Chinese Canadianisms… His father was Scots-Irish-Chinese Canadian and his mother was Swedish.

The retired University of Calgary English professor moved to Vancouver last year.  For more about Fred check out:



The Secret Project by Adrienne Wong

Check out this show at the Firehall Arts Centre by my friend Adrienne Wong!

The Secret Project
By Adrienne Wong
November 17 – 21 Firehall Arts Centre

The Maid plots revenge. The Queen can’t sleep. Secrets entangle them. They seep into the women’s dreams… and nightmares.

The Secret Project is a collaborative creation project set in an irreverent world of revenge, upheaval and redemption. It examines voicelessness and survival inside the tangled intimacy of servitude.

The Secret Project integrates physical theatre and radio drama. It leads the audience on a journey in, around and throughout the Firehall Arts Centre. Viewers peek under the skirts of convention for a glimpse at the passionate underbelly hidden beneath. As an attempt at a new form of storytelling, the project invites those with a sense of adventure onto the puzzling and shifting territory of secrets, gossip and lies.

Developed out of a series of workshops conducted by director Adrienne Wong (The Plum Tree) during her residency at the Firehall Arts Centre, the project is a collective creation featuring performers Nneka Croal and Toni Rozylo. Tangled Tongues Performance creates physical theatre that slices through the skin of social and political relationships to see what really makes the heart beat.

Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm, with matinees Wednesday at 1pm (pay what you can), Saturday and Sunday at 2pm

Tickets $15 / $12