Japjit Kaur gives a hauntingly beautiful performance as Jyoti Singh Pandey in Yaël Farber’s Nirbhaya.
Japjit Kaur as Jyoti Singh Pandey in The Cultch presentation of Yaël Farber’s Nirbhaya

Vancouver’s recent conversation on diversity in theatre got a huge boost today with a $130,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation for The Cultch’s Democratizing our Stages Project.

“I truly believe this is a game-changer. The confidence the Vancouver Foundation has shown in our ability to make significant change is heartening and meaningful not only to The Cultch but to the community partners we will work with on this project over the next three years,” says The Cultch’s executive director Heather Redfern.

According to a press release, the three year grant will allow The Cultch to continue its work in challenging the status quo by prioritizing community development and presentation with groups and communities that have not yet engaged with the arts centre.

The Project began last year with a partnership with Diwali Fest, Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW), and Amnesty International to present and engage in community dialogue around Nirbhaya, the play inspired by the 2012 rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi. Other partners include Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre, Dancers of Damelahamid, Neworld Theatre, the frank theatre company, and Urban Ink. The Cultch has plans to bring others on board in the future.

“There is increasing diversity in professional arts practices in Canada, however there are still very few venues that present this work in a main stage context throughout a season of programming,” says Redfern.

Through its Democratizing our Stages Project, The Cultch hopes to engage with people who are not coming to the venue by partnering with organizations from the community to diversity its audiences, and finding innovative ways to provide access to communities.

“Social exclusion is systemic and can only be reversed by conscious and proactive efforts,” continues Redfern. “The democratization of our stages will happen when cross-cultural communication takes place between artists and communities over and over again, until we reach the point that it feels ordinary, as though it’s always been that way.”