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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Out Vigil is helping to shape the next generation of Canadian theatre makers

Vancouver theatre maker Julie McIsaac is not only back in town with a Master’s in Theatre from the University of York in hand, she is also getting ready for the world premiere of her play, The Out Vigil, at The Firehall Arts Centre.

Last seen on a Vancouver stage during workshop performances in 2014, The Out Vigil is a reworked version of her uniquely Canadian play that combines a love story with a modern fable steeped in maritime lore. Among the changes from the version audiences saw two years ago has been the incorporation of additional live music.

“The music was something that we really enjoyed and brought out the characters and the themes, and something I wanted to delve into further,” says McIsaac. “There are two musicians now along with having the actors singing and playing music as well.  We’ve been thinking through rehearsals what the role of the music is and how it shapes and relates to the events in the play, and have been exploring how we amplify the music throughout.”

Moving to the larger Firehall Arts Centre venue, from the tiny Havana Theatre that was the site for the 2014 workshop, gives McIsaac and the production team other opportunities as well.

“We’re able to take the design and build so much more on it with more height and depth, and hopefully reach more people with ten days of performances,” she says.

In addition to the workshop production, the play also found itself on stage in London’s West End, in a staged reading as part of the New American Voices Play Reading Series.

Playwright Julie McIsaac
Playwright Julie McIsaac’s The Out Vigil is a love story steeped in maritime lore

“While I was studying at York there was a call for scripts from the association of North American actors that live and work in London, and I submitted The Out Vigil,” says McIsaac. “It was such a great opportunity to get it exposed to the theatre industry. Who knows whether it will actually amount to anything, but it certainly helped in building connections for the future.”

Despite the West End reading though, McIsaac has always known the world premiere of The Out Vigil would be in Vancouver.

“Sabrina Evertt and Twenty Something Theatre have been so integral in the development of The Out Vigil that Vancouver was the only logical place for the show to premiere,” she says.

Now ten years since she had the original idea for The Out Vigil, MacIsaac says there is a beautiful symmetry to seeing it back in Vancouver.

“I feel like it is really representative of a phase in my life,” she says. “I can really step back and look at it and say it really encompasses who I was an artist in my twenties, the things that I was interested in. It is an end of a chapter, but in a really beautiful way.”

But while one chapter closes another opens as McIsaac looks to her next projects including Smear, a full-length play about a political smear campaign and cyberbullying that she wrote as part of her university training.

“I’m interested in creating and shaping theatre now, and Canadian theatre especially” she says. “I want to be part of the next generation of Canadian theatre makers and if it is up to us to differentiate ourselves from British and U.S. theatre, I want to be creating and not just interpreting.”

The Out Vigil plays the Firehall Arts Centre (280 East Cordova St, Vancouver) March 16-26. Visit for tickets and information.

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