Monthly Archives: November 2010

Media previews for Red Letters from The Province and The Straight.

Here are some media previews for Red Letters and Jade in the Coal

It's a busy week for Asian-Canadian Theatre.  Jade in the Coal opened Thursday Nov 25th, and Red Letters opened on Friday Nov 26th. 

Both feature music and are set during an important time of Chinese-Canadian history.

Jade in the Coal debuts at the UBC Frederic Wood Theatre – ‎Nov 25, 2010‎

opera houses and one of the biggest Chinatowns in North America, and
it's here that Paul Yee has set his remarkable historical play, Jade in the Coal.

Performers in Jade in the Coal are a delight to watch – Colin Thomas – ‎Nov 26, 2010‎
Vancouver-based Pangaea Arts has joined forces with the Guangdong Cantonese Opera Academy First Troupe to present Jade in the Coal, a play set in Cumberland

Poignant tale of lovers kept apart

The Province – Glen Schaefer – ‎Nov 25, 2010‎
Red Letters
is centred on Shen, an immigrant from China who leaves his wife Mei to
come to Canada seeking his fortune. When the new Canadian laws keep the

Red Letters at the Roundhouse – ‎Nov 25, 2010‎
Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (better known as VACT) brings to life a
moving historical tale that touches on the dreaded head tax in Red Letters,

Musical confronts dark period of Canada's history

Xinhua – Al Campbell, Zhang Xiang – ‎Nov 26, 2010‎
The Red Letters,
a two-act play by Alan Bau, narrates the struggles of early Chinese in
Canada in a society where they faced extreme racism and exclusion

Joy Kogawa to recieve the Order of the Rising Sun, today in Vancouver

CIMG0190 by Toddish McWong

Joy Kogawa will recieve the
Order of the Rising Sun for her contribution to the understanding and
preservation of Japanese
Canadian history. So glad to be a part of
Joy's life, and to have Joy in my life! 🙂

I first met Joy Kogawa when she gave a reading at Expo 86.  It was soon after her first novel Obasan was published, and it would still be 2 more years until Japanese Canadians received Parliamentary Redress for the internment and confiscation of their properties during WW2.

I got to know Joy during the 2005 One Book One Vancouver program that featured Obasan, as the book for all Vancouverites to read.  By September, I was drawn into a lead role for the Save Kogawa House campaign, as her childhood home became threatened with an application for demolition.

In a few short weeks, together with Ann-Marie Metten in Vancouver and Anton Wagner in Toronto, we mobilized our communities and brought attention to the threat to Joy's childhood home, started a fundraising campaign, and received lots of community and media attention.  The Land Conservancy of BC stepped in to help purchase and finance the house, and today I am the President of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society and director on the board for The Land Conservancy of BC.

Here's the Vancouver Sun story.

Vancouver novelist Joy Kogawa will be receiving the Order of
the Rising Sun from Japan for her contribution to the understanding and
preservation of Japanese Canadian history. Kogawa is author of several
books, including Obasan — her account of being interned as a
Japanese-Canadian during the Second World War — and the children’s
version, Naomi’s Road. Kogawa is also a member of the Order of Canada
and of the Order of British Columbia.
The Order of the Rising Sun
also commends Kogawa’s promotion of the friendship between Japan and
Canada. Kogawa is the president of the Canada-Japan Friendship
Japan’s Consul-general in Vancouver Hideki Ito will
host a conferment ceremony in Vancouver for Kogawa on Friday, November
Kogawa's childhood home in Marpole was saved in 2006 by a
national campaign headed by The Land Conservancy of B.C., and it stands
as a cultural and historical reminder of the expropriation of property
that Canadians of Japanese descent experienced after the bombing of
Pearl Harbor in 1941.


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

30 –

Mayor's Arts Awards celebrate Evelyn Lau and Alvin Tolentino in Literary and Dance categories!


Evelyn Lau, Literary Arts Honouree speaks at the City of Vancouver 2010 Mayor's Arts Awards.  Her choice of emerging Artist was writer Kaitlyn Fontana – whom Lau had only met in person the night of the awards.  Previously Lau and Fontana communicated by email only, as Lau had given literary feedback to Fontana.

2010_November_Mayors_Arts_Awards 106 by Toddish McWong
After the awards ceremony, Lau was congratulated by Todd Wong and Patricia Lim, managing editor of Ricepaper Magazine.  Lau has contributed to Ricepaper Magazine many times and is featured in the just-released 15th Anniversary edition.  Wong is a main organizer of the 15th Anniversary Gala Dinner which will feature Lau as an award recipient for the ACWW Community Builder Award, on December 11th.

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Bill Richardson hosted the Mayor's Arts Awards, that were held at 560 Club, the former site of the now defunct A&B Sound record and stereo store. 

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Dustin Rivers gave an eloquent speech in his native Squamish language.  He was the Emerging Artist chosen by Cease Wyss, the honouree for the Film and New Media Award.

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Community Arts Honouree Carmen Rosen (right) smiles fondly at Maggie Winston, her choice for Emerging Artist.  I have known Carmen since 2005, when she performed at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner as a Celtic musician.  Carmen is the organizer of the Moon Festival held each year at the Renfrew Ravine.  She can also be found walking on stilts for other festivals such as Winter Solstice and Chinese New Year Festivals.

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Sal Ferreras is the Music Award Honouree.  He chose Evan Arntzen as Emerging Artist.  Sal is an incredible teacher of music at UBC, as well as a percussionist.  He really knows no cultural boundaries when performing music with musicians of many cultures and disciplines.

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The walls of the club were used as back drops for the projections announcing each award winner.

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Dance Award Honouree Alvin Erasga Tolentino chose Sujit Vaidya as Emerging Artist, describing the young Indian Classical Dancer with much enthusiasm.  I have known Alvin for about 10 years, and have watched many of his performances at the Firehall Arts Centre, the Roundhouse and Vancouver East Cultural Centre.

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Philanthropist Award recipient is Yosef Wosk, whom I first met many years ago at a board meeting for the Vancouver Public Library.  Very appropriate, since Yosef loves libraries – one of his current projects is helping to develop libraries in developing countries.  He is also the creator of SFU's Philosophy Cafes, which I helped program and co-host in 2003 for Vancouver Asian Heritage Month.

2010_November_Mayors_Arts_Awards 111 by Toddish McWong
Three Vancouver City workers with author Evelyn Lau: City Councilor Heather Deal, who handles the arts portfolio on council; Cultural Services worker Claudia who had helped to set up the Mayor's Arts Awards along with many other events last week; libary worker Todd Wong who has helped to set up programs for Vancouver libraries in his roles with Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, such as the inaugural One Book One Vancouver program.  Evelyn has told me that she would like to work at the library.  I think that Evelyn should be the library's next writer-in-residence.

Paul Yee @ Vancouver Museum, Nov 18 book launch for “I am Canada: Blood and Iron”

Paul Yee launches his new children's fiction novel:  Blood and Iron – part of the “I Am Canada” young readers series from Scholastic.

7:00 to 8:30 PM FREE

Museum of Vancouver – Studio

1100 Chestnut Street
Vancouver, BC

Paul Yee reads and
discusses his latest book, I Am Canada: Blood and Iron, Building the

I Am Canada: Blood and Iron, Heen, is written as a diary of a young Chinese teen who comes to Canada with his father to help build the CPR railway in the Fraser Canyon.

From a teenage perspective, it struggles with the sacrifices made by Chinese labourers, leaving behind loved ones in order to provide for their families in China, as well as staying alive during the dangerous work.  Family loyalty and responsibility is also an issue, as the teen grows into a young man.From 7:00 to 8:30 PM FREE

This event is co-presented by the Chinese Canadian Historical Society
and the Museum of Vancouver. I Am Canada: Blood and Iron will be
available for sale by Sitka Books & Art.

This is a fun easy read, which I quickly read over a few days.  The story is gripping and gives lots of information to the building of the CPR.  It made my summer time visit to Craigellachie, site of the Last Spike, even more insightful as I found information about the Chinese labourers not in the gift shop and book store, but only on pictures posted on the side of the building.  Racism is addressed in this book in a matter of fact educational manner.   It is funny to have the Scottish rail workers called “Red Beards”.

Remembrance Day in Chinatown 2010

2010_Nov11_Chinatown 001
Louis is an aboriginal veteran, and he always comes to stand with his friends in Pacific Unit 280, for the Chinatown Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Canadian Chinese Pioneer Monument at Keefer Triangle.

2010_Nov11_Chinatown 005
Albert Woo lines up the wreaths in order of presentation.

2010_Nov11_Chinatown 012
The numbers of smaller each year for the members of Pacific Unit 280 each year.

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Little Beavers attend the ceremony, but were too small to see anything going on, as the crowds were large and tightly compressed around the monument.

2010_Nov11_Chinatown 028
Alec Louie, the main subject of the NFB documentary Unwanted Soldiers, directed by his daughter Jari Osbourne.  On his left side is Robert Kent.

2010_Nov11_Chinatown 034

Larry Wong, curator for Chinese Canadian Military Museum.  Larry has been a friend for many years, as we were both on the inaugural One Book One Vancouver committee for his friend Wayson Choy's “The Jade Peony”.  Larry is also a playwright, writer and served on many organizations including Chinese Canadian Historical Soceity, Vancouver Historical Society, and now our Friends of Foo's Ho Ho Committee.

2010_Nov11_Chinatown 070
Here I am, laying the wreath for Rev. Chan Legacy.  I am the 5th generation, the great-great grandson of Rev. Chan Yu Tan, who came to Canada in 1896.

2010_Nov11_Chinatown 069
Wreath for the Rev. Chan Legacy…. Four grandsons of Rev. Chan Yu Tan went to war during WW2.  Three sons of his daughter Kate – Daniel, Howard and Leonard Lee, of Vancouver + Victor Wong of Victoria, by his daughter Rose.  Unfortunately Daniel passed away earlier this January.  He always played major organizing roles for both Victory Square and Chinatown services.  Victor leads the Chinese Canadian Veterans Association in Victoria.  Leonard lives in Toronto.  Howard passed on during the '70's.

2010_Nov11_Chinatown 051
Wreath being laid for City of Vancouver, by Mayor Gregor Robertson and Councilor Ellen Woodsworth.

2010_Nov11_Chinatown 078
Ed Lee and Don Davies, MP for Vancouver Kingsway.  Ed is telling stories to Don, for each of his medals.

VAFF closes out with a Big Hapa feeling!

Jeff Chiba Stearns (far right) gives fist bumps to Todd Wong, Jason Karman and Julia Kwan.  Jeff's film “One Big Hapa Family” closed out the 14th Annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival

Film maker Angelina Cantado (centre) attended the screening of her film Sikat on Friday Night's program “Promised Lands“, which featured Phillipine-North American films. “Sikat” is a tender story about a Filipina domestic worker, who looks after the two children and does the laundry of a middle class Canadian family.  It is

Chinese Canadian WW2 veterans came on Sunday afternoon for the screening of Redress Remixed.  Left to right: Frank Wong, Tommy Wong, ??, Lesley Chan, Alec Louie, Todd Wong.  Frank Wong is interviewed in the movie, directed by Lesley Chan


Lt. Watada is a film about an US soldier who refused to go to deploy to Iraq, because he felt that
the war is illegal and a violation of his constitutional oath. “Watada described the war as illegal
and immoral and founded on deception. and offered twice to go to Afghanistan – a war he considered
legitimate – but his commanders said that granting such a request would
mean there was something wrong with the war in Iraq.” – This film screened on Saturday.

The buzz was big for the fully-packed theatre closing night screening of One Big Hapa Family, preceded by a short film titled
Ode to a Post-It Note, celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the 3M invention.

VAFF 2010: Ode To A Post-It NoteFollowing One Big

Friday Night at VAFF with Angelina Cantado and Mabel Elmore

Friday Night at VAFF – with local film maker Angelina Cantado and Mabel Elmore MLA

It's always great to attend a community event and see Mable Elmore MLA for Vancouver Kensington. But Friday Night at Tinseltown Cinemas was special because it was about her partner Angelina Cantado. Cantado's short film SIKAT was part of a program of Phillipine-North American made movies.

Here are the pictures – (sorry I can't display them, off this computer that isn't allowing me the rich text editor)


Vancouver Asian Film Festival Friday Night – a set on Flickr

“One Big Hapa Family” – new film by Jeff Chiba Stearns to close out VAFF

Hope you can come to VAFF for the 7pm show
Jeff Chiba Stearn's short
animated film “What Are You Anyways” was featured at the 2006 Gung
Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.

Order your
tickets in advance – as it should be a sell-out!


4 | Program 15

Closing Night: One Big Hapa Family

Sun. Nov. 7th, 7:00 PM

Festival favourite Jeff Chiba
Stearns, an independent documentary and animation filmmaker born in
Kelowna, BC of both Japanese and European descent, explores the
complexity of family and heritage in this program. Stearns’ latest
feature film ONE BIG
themes of race and identity which are expressed through his unique
style of mixing traditional documentary footage with animation and
humour. Preceding ONE
Stearns’ whimsical short ODE
in which a
Post-it Note decides on Father’s Day to search for its roots.

Chiba Stearns

Jeff Chiba Stearns is an independent
documentary filmmaker and animator born in Kelowna, BC, of Japanese and
European heritage. After graduating from the Emily Carr Institute of Art
and Design with a Degree in Film Animation in 2001, he founded
Mediating Bunny Studio Inc., specializing in creating animation,
documentary, and experimental films aimed at children and adults that
combine different philosophical and social elements together to create
humorous, inspiring stories. His animated shorts, KIP
(2001), WHAT ARE
hve been the official selection of hundreds of film festivals around
the world, garnerered various awards and accolades, and broadcast on the
CBC, Discovery Latin
Shaw, Sundance
Channel, Movie Central, Air Canada and Movieola.

One Big Hapa Family

VAFF 2010: One 
Big Hapa Family
Director/Writer: Jeff Chiba Stearns | Producer:
Ruth Vincent
Documentary | HDCAM |
Colour |
2010 | 85 min |

After a realization at a family
reunion, half-Japanese Canadian filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns embarks on a
journey of self-discovery to find out why everyone
in his Japanese-Canadian family married interracially after his
grandparents’ generation.

This feature-length live action and
animated documentary explores why almost 100 per cent of
Japanese-Canadians are marrying interracially, the highest of any
ethnicity in Canada, and how their mixed children perceive their unique
multiracial identities.

The stories from four generations of a
Japanese-Canadian family come to life through the use of innovative
animation techniques created by some of Canada’s hottest independent
animators, including Louise Johnson, Ben Meinhardt, Todd Ramsay, Kunal
Sen and Jonathan Ng. ONE
challenges our perceptions of purity and makes us question if we are
approaching the end of multiculturalism as we know it.



OMNI TV (3 part

preceded by:

Ode To A Post-It Note

VAFF 2010: Ode To
 A Post-It Note

Director/Writer/Producer: Jeff Chiba Stearns
Animation | HDCAM |
Colour | 2010 |
5 min |

On a cluttered office desk plastered
with Post-it Note ‘to do’ lists, one little Post-it Note escapes on an
incredible journey of self-discovery to find its ‘father’.


Last Spike goes missing – then is found in PM Stephen Harper's Office

2010_Aug13 075 by Toddish McWong

Here is Todd Wong with the famous picture of the LAST SPIKE 

  1. Opinion: Loss of ceremonial spike
    infuriates relatives of Chinese

    4 Nov
    2010 But Lee, architect of Ties That Bind: Building
    the CPR, Building a Place in When Donald Smith drove the last
    at Craigellachie,…/story.html?…

  2. The search for an historic spike
    comes to a happy end – The Globe

    Nov 2010 ceremony to mark the driving of the last spike
    at Craigellachie, B.C., on Nov. The spike eventually came
    into the possession of historian Pierre Berton, and we got
    the doorstop,” said railway historian Brad Lee, Mr.
    Lee says he checked the room in 2008, but couldn't find the spike.…spike…/article1788218/

2010_Aug13 103 by Toddish McWong

2010_Aug13 101 by Toddish McWong

Re: The search for an historic spike comes to a happy end
   ADRIAN MORROW, Novenmer 6, 2010

2010_Aug13 078Todd Wong in Craigellachie

Dear Editor.

Thank you
and and Adrian Hume for this report. This storied spike
was given by
the late writer, historian and broadoadcast personality
Pierre Berton
in to the Chinese Canadian National Council to assist
its decades
long Chinese head tax and exclusion redress efforts.

The gift
help launched the “Last Spike” campaign that called for an
just and honourable redress. Such a redress would become
the symbolic
 last spike and real closure to a legislated oppressive
(1885-1947) for the Chinese in Canada.

The spike came into my
possession early 2004 and used to organise
the redress movement in
Vancouver. It was returned back east by
Burnaby resident Gim Wong
during his heroic 2005 cross-Canada
motorcycle Ride for Redress. Mr.
Wong, a WWII air force veteran and
then 82-years old, undertook the
ride to call attention to the long
struggle for redress.

in the possession of the CCNC, the “Last Spike” became a symbol
our community's resolve and contribution to nation building. It was
off” at many redress events across the country prior to the
government's unilaterally imposed redress settlement in 2006.

Mr. Berton could be having a chuckle now. According to
anecdotal remarks I've heard, it's possible that he picked it up
Craigellachie B. C., the site of the completion of Canada's
railway. Indeed, when the spike's authenticity was
questioned by an
expert who presumably knew about such things, I
jokingly responded,
“Who are you going to believe – Pierre Berton or
your lying eyes?”

the spike was missing and subsequent location is auspicious and
instructive. The photo ops and vote pandering by the Harper
on an incomplete redress is nearly completed. An inclusive
just and
honourable redress is not.

Yours sincerely,
Sid Chow Tan
Inverness Street
Vancouver, BC  V5V 4W5