There may not be anything borrowed or blue as Pacific Theatre re-opens its doors after its months-long pandemic closure, but it does return with a new artistic director and a remount of Maki Yi’s Suitcase Stories.
“Maki Yi is one of my favourite theatre artists, and I’m ecstatic that she is going to be the one re-opening Pacific Theatre,” says Pacific Theatre’s newly installed artistic director Kaitlin Williams in a media release.
Williams succeeds Pacific Theatre’s founding artistic director Ron Reed who stepped down last month.
Reed, who co-founded the company in 1984, helped shape the company from a small collective of artists to a major force in Vancouver’s theatrical landscape. Under Reed’s 36-year tenure, the company produced over 150 professional productions, provided opportunities for hundreds of emerging artists, and developed and premiered dozens of new Canadian plays.
“Kaitlin has a long history with our company and knows its ethos and mandate in her bones, as well as having her own ideas about how we need to move into the next chapter of the theatre’s history,” says Reed who takes the title of artistic director emeritus and will stay on this season in an advisory capacity to assist in the transition.
No stranger to Pacific Theatre herself, Williams began her career in 2009 as an apprentice with the company and has since become a familiar face on both the Pacific Theatre stage and in the broader Vancouver theatre community as an actor and director.
“My vision for Pacific Theatre is that we are known for a culture of equity, inclusion and broad community engagement, all while continuing to tell stories that rigorously explore the mysteries of life with artistic excellence,” says Williams.
Williams’ first project, and the return to performance for the company, is a remount of Maki Yi’s one-person show Suitcase Stories.
First presented as a group of ten-minute plays in Pacific Theatre’s lobby during its 2013-2014 season, it was re-imagined as a full-length play during Yi’s apprenticeship at Pacific Theatre in 2016.
Suitcase Stories traces Maki’s journey from South Korea to Canada in her twenties and her experiences forging an identity in a new culture and career. For Maki, the opportunity to explore her identity as both performer and person within the realities of Canada’s institutional racism, poverty, and homesickness has meant her very survival.
“When I faced the wall of the visible/audible minority issue, creating my own work opened up another way to continue what I love to do,” she says. “I hope my story could encourage someone who faces rejection.”
The themes explored in Suitcase Stories lay the groundwork for Williams’ vision for Pacific Theatre, which included creating an anti-racism working group this past summer and establishing an action plan to address the company’s continuing work in the areas of justice and inclusion. “Anti-racism work is immense, ongoing and needs to be woven into the fabric of our company,” says Williams.
Suitcase Stories re-opens Pacific Theatre on October 15 and continues through October 25. In adherence to current COVID-19 health and safety protocols, houses will be limited to thirty-five patrons a night. The company has also implemented a new sliding scale ticketing model to help encourage audiences to return. For those not yet ready to return to the theatre in person, Yi will record an audio-play version of the show to be made available after the live run. Visit pacifictheatre.org for more information.