Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre was founded by Joyce Lam, who was the first and former Artistic Director of VACT. She has produced over 40 productions for VACT over 13 years and produced comedy segments for AZN Lifestyles TV on CityTV. Her proudest achievement is the creation of an Asian Canadian community in theatre and VACT's signature event, Comedy Night
Company History (2001 – 2012): VACT was founded and incorporated as a non-profit society in 2001. From our inception to 2011, VACT was a community-theatre organization that provided opportunities for emerging Asian theatre artists to gain experience both onstage and behind the scenes. Notable productions included Sex in Vancouver: Episode 1-4 (2003-2006), Cowboy vs. Samurai (2007), Flower Drum Song (2009), and the first-ever Asian-Canadian musical Red Letters (2011). These productions proved to be wildly popular with Lower Mainland audiences, with 2,490 people attending Flower Drum Song and 1,900 people attending Red Letters. 2012 marked the year Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre’s mandate took a small but important pivot. Following the commissioning, world-premiere and tour of Red Letters, it was recognized that the future of Asian-Canadian theatre lay in cultivating the next generation of Asian-Canadian playwrights by developing their plays.
The MSG Theatre Lab was launched in 2012 to develop a continuous stream of new Asian-Canadian plays, with the long-term goal of establishing an Asian-Canadian theatre canon. The stellar reputations of the artists participating in these programs are a testament to VACT’s increasing ability to attract high caliber talent. Recent participants have included Governor General Award-nominated writer JJ Lee, Gateway Theatre Artistic Director Jovanni Sy, Pi Theatre Artistic Director Richard Wolfe, and established actor and emerging playwright, Minh Ly. Two of the three MSG Theatre Lab staged readings played to sold-out audiences, and the feedback we collected at these events expressed a widespread desire to see more new, original work by Asian-Canadian playwrights.
Company History (2013 – Present): In 2013, with the appointment of Donna Yamamoto as the company’s first new Artistic Director since it’s founding, VACT continued its rapid transformation from a community theatre into a dynamic professional organization. Donna implemented four initiatives: a) to continuously develop and stage original work by Asian Canadian playwrights; b) to function as the nexus of the Asian-Canadian theatre community by hosting readings, fundraisers, showcases, and other opportunities for social and professional networking; c) to produce professional mainstage productions featuring Equity artists; and d) to take bold artistic risks in both its programming and choice of artists.
The first initiative is being achieved through the ongoing MSG Theatre Lab, which continues to pair emerging Asian-Canadian playwrights with established directors, dramaturges, and professional actors. One example of the second initiative is our monthly play reading series. Notable among these was a reading of Lady Sunrise by Cao Yu, which featured a historic gathering of dozens of professional Asian-Canadian actors.
The third initiative has recently been fulfilled by Ga Ting, VACT’s March 2014 mainstage production. As the first play to emerge from our MSG Theatre Lab — workshopped for two years — our selection of Ga Ting as our 2014 mainstage production represents our commitment to developing the next generation of Asian-Canadian playwrights. As our first fully professional production, Ga Ting represents our commitment to produce work of ever-higher professional standards.
The final initiative is being achieved through the development of Tetsuro Shigematsu’s Empire of the Son, VACT’s most artistically ambitious production to date, slated for an October 2015 run. With the producing team’s passionate commitment, combined with the ardent excitement of some of the finest theatre artists in the country, Empire of the Son marks an evolutionary leap forward for our company.