East Van Panto Localizes The Wizard of Oz

“There’s no place like PoCo. There’s no place like PoCo.” Yes, in The Wizard of Oz, as presented by the East Van Panto, Dorothy lives in a tiny house in Port Coquitlam, not Kansas. She isn’t carried away by an act of God, but instead by a certain burst pipeline. And the wizard, well, you’ll have to come and see what local figure he turns out to be.

So, it’s not Judy Garland skipping along the yellow brick road, but I think that’s just fine.

A Re-imagining of a Classic

Dorothy lands at the intersection of Nanaimo and Hastings and in Vancouver, “the world’s greenest city”. She meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, but they don’t look the way you might expect. Scarecrow is the weed-packed Stoned Crow. The Tin Man is Tin Them, an Eastside Culture Crawl sculpture that didn’t sell, oh and is gender-nonbinary. And, the cowardly lion is still cowardly, but now he’s a B.C. Lion player afraid of the ball.

All these re-imagined characters come with a unique soundtrack too, spanning genres and decades. The songs are also universally well-sung, as the East Van Panto cast has some serious pipes. Christine Quintana (Dorothy) is particularly impressive.

The sets also bring various Vancouver neighbourhoods to life, and the giant Wizard face is truly the standout visual in the show.

The East Van Panto Experience

This was my very first panto, and the participatory nature of the experience was more enjoyable than I expected. It was fun to sing along, shout out, and participate in ways frowned upon at a conventional theater performance.

The only thing that gave me pause was that the East Van Panto allows kids five and up to attend these shows. I think the theory is that children won’t get the more controversial stuff, and will simply enjoy the performance on a level different from adults. I’m not sure I completely buy that theory, though. Some kids are perceptive enough to get at least some of the more obvious things. So, if you’re not prepared to have a conversation with your kids about the green stuff inside of Stoned Crow and the chicken factory smell that puts Dorothy to sleep , I’d give this one a miss.

However, adults, you will laugh and smile. You’ll enjoy the jabs at politicians and the price of real estate, because, hey it’s better to laugh than cry, isn’t it?

Note: I won two tickets to this show and a luncheon that preceded it from the SFU alumni association. This was a wonderful treat, and I sincerely thank my alma mater for it. Read about my last win from SFU here.

East Van Panto lunch

We Fell in Love With SFU

On January 1st of this year, we went home. We moved to UniverCity at Simon Fraser University (SFU). The university really is like a home to Ryan and I. Not only are we SFU grads, but we both worked for the university, and most importantly, met one another there.

This connection with the university and our recent move inspired me to submit our story to the “We Fell in Love at SFU” contest launched by the university’s alumni association. In fact, I didn’t actually know there was a contest connected with the call for submissions. I just wanted to share our experience.

My SFU Story

Well, it turns out there was and we won an amazing prize package, which I will describe in detail later. However, the focus of this post is on our love for SFU itself.

I attended SFU from 1994 to 1997. Every time I stepped on campus, I took a deep breath. Anyone who has spent time on top of a mountain knows what I’m talking about. It’s so refreshing, and the view never disappoints. Also, the smallness of the campus always appealed to me. It never took very long to get anywhere and there were always opportunities to meet people outside of your own faculty.

Two Amazing Instructors

My major was English and my minor was political science. I had some great instructors. A couple in particular have always stuck with me. Dr. Sheila Roberts taught Medieval Literature classes. She began her lectures by playing music that had a connection to the works we were studying. In one of her tutorials, she brought in a medieval feast she’d made, and I remember being so impressed that she’d baked authentic medieval bread! Sheila always knew how to create a classroom atmosphere that was conducive to learning and stimulating to the imagination.

Dr. Jerry Zaslove taught a course focused on the works of Franz Kafka and stories inspired by him. In my early 20s, Kafka made a huge impression on me. I don’t think any work of literature influenced me as much as The Trial. What Jerry did when teaching Kafka’s powerful novels and short stories was encourage us to engage in critical thinking, and discuss contentious ideas with one another in a respectful way. To this day, I still keep the “Team Kafka” button he had made for each of us.

I have other fond memories of my time at SFU too. Sitting by the pond, feeling the sun on my face as I studied for exams; going to the pub basement and getting a mammoth vegetarian sandwich for only $2; watching foreign films at Images Theatre with friends. Not surprisingly, the list of reminiscences is long, and sometimes I wish I could relive those years all over again.

Ryan’s SFU Story

SFU Sweatshirt
Ryan Wears His Winning SFU Sweatshirt

Ryan wanted to share some thoughts about his time at SFU too, so I present them here:

SFU was where I met some of my best friends and learned vital skills, and a lot of that happened in the Computing Science Student Society’s (CSSS’) common room. That narrow, cramped space, still in use today, had a video terminal you could check email on, a cheap pop machine, and some of the smartest people I have ever met. The conversations I had there were as educational as most of my courses. In an even odder turn of events, I was briefly the president of the society.

Our SFU Prize Package

SFU alumni prize box
SFU Prize Box

So, it’s time to talk about the fabulous prize package! The $150 box of delights included:

  • Two bags
  • Two sweatshirts
  • One USB
  • One sweatshirt blanket
  • Two glass tumblers
  • One very nice card from the alumni association

Thank you, alumni association, we are loving everything and are so happy to be back at SFU!