Interlaced with equal measures of pain and humour, Satellite(s) is set to hit the Vancouver stage on November 16, 2017. Produced by Solo Collective Theatre, the play is inspired by Caroline Adderson’s book on Vancouver’s ever-shifting housing landscape, Vancouver Vanishes. An existential exploration of relationships and real estate, Satellite(s) is directed by the award-winning Bill Dow.
Effortlessly blending the ecstasy and agony of relationships with real estate, the play is about betrayal and loneliness in a city that has started to lose its identity. Existential in mood, it exposes the city as a place where people orbit each other looking for elusive human connections.
I chatted with the writer and one of the actors about the timely production.
Aaron Bushkowsky – writer
What inspired you to write this?
I was inspired to write this play because I’m old, have a decent job, am married to someone who also has a decent job and we can’t buy in Vancouver. Also, one Halloween when dozens of kids came to my house for trick or treat, many of them from the Dunbar area, I asked why my rental house on Fraser Street. I was told by the kids the houses in the Dunbar area were often empty, nobody actually lived there; it was a ghost town. I was stunned.
Tell us a little about the process of writing a script and was this one any different? Drafts / consultations etc.
I was first taken on a tour of deserted houses near Dunbar by acclaimed author Caroline Adderson, whose book “Vancouver Vanishes” inspired me. I then sat down with Caroline and told her about my idea of “Satellites”… then, many drafts later, I submitted the script to director Bill Dow for his feedback. The script went through 23 drafts and two workshops on its way to the stage. Even my agent got involved and sent me notes. I’m a big believer in collaboration and this process has been exactly that.
When rehearsal start is the scripted ‘locked’ or did it continue to evolve?
Scripts constantly evolve. I don’t believe in locked scripts. An actor I often use, Andrew McNee, would improvise a lot during rehearsals and I told him it was better than what I wrote, but I was still getting credit for it because my name was on the script. So, I said, be as funny as you want. Even my published scripts need updating. Everything is in flux. I don’t mind slight changes in the script on any given night — as long as it works and is improved. We’re all trying to create art and we’re all trying to get along. I’m not a fan of the immovable writer, particularly those who think every word is golden. Life is change. Change is good.
What do you want the audience to experience?
I want the audience to connect. To feel. To commune with us as artists and they should walk from a show thinking about how we were all brought together and experienced something unique and maybe inspiring. As far as Vancouver’s Housing Crisis goes… the show doesn’t provide easy answers. But — hopefully — it will allow us to orbit each other with more intensity and light. After all, we are all just satellites.
Mason Temple – actor
Do you approach a script in development different than you would
a published play?
Not really…? Or at least don’t think so, although the
playwright is often in the room for a script in development so
its always nice when I’m kerfuffled to be able to check in and ask what they meant. What’s really funny is when they don’t know either.
What has been the funnest part of the rehearsal process?
Learning knew things. For example, I have a bong in one of the scenes, but I don’t personally partake, so I blew into it. That’s not how a bong works apparently. Which makes sense, but it was too late when I figured that out because the water flew onto my crotch and I had to spend the rest of rehearsal with an uncomfortable moist feeling.
What has been perhaps surprisingly challenging about preparing your character?
Li, the character I’m playing, is not fluent in English and I’ve never done any work in a particular accent. I figured it would be difficult, but I didn’t expect it to change the way I memorize lines. It’s like memorizing a different play. The accent itself is also very difficult, but that I did expect. I’m half Taiwanese and that’s what Mandarin and a Mandarin speaker speaking English sounds like to me, you know? I just hear my mom, but this character I’m playing is from mainland China, where people not only speak Mandarin differently in different places, but the way people from each region approach English is also different. Someone from Taiwan has trouble with certain parts of English that perhaps someone from Beijing wouldn’t and vice versa.
What do you think the audience is going to remember about this show?
Well something I certainly hope the audience will take away from this piece is that what is foreign or “other” has a story too. We’re all trying to live the best life we can. To survive. Issues like this are far more complicated than pointing your finger at someone who doesn’t look like you and getting angry. Whether it’s foreign workers or the housing crisis, the blame is usually if not always put onto the people that look different from the majority instead of the system or individuals that allow exploitation of said system. People instinctively treat these issues as cultural differences as opposed to systematic or class issues. If these “foreign buyers” were mainly white (or hell let’s say they’re not foreign and instead all Canadians of European heritage) there would still be a bubble, house prices would still be going up, and we would still all be angry, because that’s how our system works. Our system does not treat a home or basic shelter as a right, but as “an investment”, something that has a value, unattached to anything involving morality. Money. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who’s money it is. It’s money and the more you have, on paper, the easier life is. It doesn’t matter if you’re Chinese or Canadian or whatever. It doesn’t matter who the “other” person is. Everyone is trying to survive and live the best life they can, but we’ve accepted a society where we allow value, specifically money, to dictate our survival.
Playwright Aaron Bushkowsky is taking the helm as producer of his dark comedy. The acclaimed writer recently received an honourable mention for Satellite(s) in the prestigious Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition. Christine Reinfort is associate producer. The award-winning Bill Dow directs and Yvan Morissette’s inspired designs adorn the set. Sound design is by Malcolm Dow, while lighting design is by Gerald King. Costumes are designed by Cheyenne Mabberly and Melissa McCowell is stage manager. Studio 58 student Theo Bell serves as assistant stage manager and assistant lighting person.
Performance details are as follows:
• Satellite(s) runs November 16 to November 26 at Performance Works on Granville Island, 1218 Cartwright St, Vancouver
• Preview: November 16 at 8pm
- Opening Night: November 17 at 8pm
- Matinees performances are at 2pm November 25 and 26
- Evening performances are at 8pm November 16 to 25
- To book tickets, call the Performance Works box office on 604-687-3020 or purchase online.
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David C Jones