Bringing In My Day to Fruition
A premiere is like the birth of a baby. I think a theatre critic said that once, and as a parent who spent five years trying to make our child I can say his words ring in my head as truth. It’s hard and long and can be excruciating , sometimes there are heartbreaks and miscarriage along the way. However at the point of writing this we’re in the third trimester for In My Day. All the resources that this child will need have been painstakingly found. The full birthing team is in place. The birth plan is being developed and will undoubtedly go out of the window in the days leading up to this newest child’s arrival. The nursery is being designed. The drawers are being filled with clothes and essentials. For the first time ever I’m not one of the creative parents directing the play but rather a co-producer – a grandparent maybe? My metaphor is starting to unravel but the point I’m meandering to is it takes a village to create and nurture a child and the same can be said for a play.
And in this instance the village is very large. True to most artists, the playwright’s goal for this is to ensure people see the play and as such he is one of the producing team. He very wisely took this project to the godfather of theatre-producing in Vancouver, Norman Armour, whose skills and experience as an arts leader and “public funding whisperer” has been the core reason we’ve been able to move forward with this pregnancy (yes I’m back to the metaphor – I’m an artist what do you expect). Norman approached me in March of 2021 to discuss coming on as a producer backed by my organization whose mandate and history felt connected to the story.
Zee Zee Theatre believes in individual stories that provoke and inspire us, and that foster common understanding and empathy across our diverse human experiences. For the last fourteen years we have been devoted to telling diverse stories and amplifying the voices of those on the margins with a focus on LGBTQ2SI+ communities.
Zee Zee acts as the bridge between a younger queer audience and our remaining “gay grandpas”. We speak as the first generation to come of age with HIV always in our consciousness. We are the first generation to feel the absence of thousands of men who should have been our artistic mentors and our friends. Much of our work focuses on intergenerational relationships, and the benefits of them to all age groups.
After our initial conversations in early 2021, Rick and Norman, both white, cis, heterosexual men, very wisely enlisted the support of Dr. John Paul (JP) Catungal, who works in Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice and the Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies program at UBC, who convened and chairs our Committee for Anti-Racism and Equity (CARE). CARE is stewarding the project’s commitments to cultural competency, anti-racism, inclusion and equity, and ensuring that these principles are integrated into the project and its implementation across all stages.
As a survivor himself and one of the interviewees of HIV In My Day, the original research project initiated at University of Victoria, Rick brings a nuanced understanding of the work’s themes as well as a very genuine desire to honour an extremely difficult time in many people’s lives and to thank those who, in his own words, “saved his life”.
He understands firsthand that HIV is still considered a public health threat. He knows that it still affects many young people’s lives. In 2020 a study revealed Canada experienced its fourth consecutive year of increasing infection rates.
With our deep need to honour and preserve our local history as well as our dedication to equity and inclusion, partnering with Rick and Norman with the full support of CARE behind us on this expansive show was a no-brainer.
This has been one of the more complicated productions I’ve worked on, with three producers, additional line producing support from director Shawn Macdonald and the full CARE team supporting the script development as well as the production, not to mention the researchers, community organizers, caregivers and community members who comprise the HIV In My Day research team. But I think this is what “they” mean when “they” say that we need to decentralize old power structures. I think this is what we are striving for as far as working from an anti-racist perspective. We are finding ways to breathe life into the phrase “no stories about us without us”.
Some say the work of a director is to cast well, and then everything else falls into place. And I would add that as a producer putting together the full team of designers, director and production staff has the same effect. At this point the show is barreling forward towards its inevitable premiere and if we as producers have done our job well in assembling this team – and I’d add I think our team is outstanding – then it will be a successful one.