If there’s one thing to note about Vancouver theatre, it’s that this city absolutely treasures it. When arts funding began to get slashed, local bloggers and theatre-goers rallied to support the city’s theatres. Why? Because theatre is a major lifeline for Vancouver arts and culture. We have them in every size, shape and form, whether it’s a small-time indie venue or an internally recognized behemoth. Throw it on the list as one of Vancouver’s quintessential experiences, right up there with touring Downtown or hiking Grouse Mountain. So if you’re looking for a night on the town, this theatre guide’s for you.
This arts centre represents much of what Vancouver’s theatre scene is about: supporting Canadian artists by pushing artistic boundaries. Firehall Arts Centre, named because of its former use as a firehall, promotes community through the arts. More experimental in nature, shows here are juiced with creativity and drama.
This nonprofit theatre company dedicates itself to giving Vancouver top-notch shows every season, which usually comprises an eclectic blend of new works and theatre classics. Originally founded as a club of artists, the company first hit the stage in 1964. Since then, it’s been delivering powerful performances and innovative renditions of shows like “Comedy of Errors” and “Angry Housewives.”
No conversation about Vancouver theatre is possible without mentioning the granddaddy of them all. The Queen Elizabeth Theatre is home to the Vancouver Opera and Ballet British Columbia, two powerhouses in the arts and culture scene here. Don’t expect budget productions here. Performances at Queen Elizabeth Theatre are all-out masterpieces and guaranteed unforgettable experiences.
Otherwise known as the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, The Cultch has a story to back up its legendary status. Built in 1909, the venue was first a church boasting a large congregation. After numbers dwindled during the post-WWI era, the city turned the building into a theatre and created a cultural gem. The active theatre community produces an enormous number of shows -- always entertaining, never boring.
This is by far one of Vancouver’s biggest and greatest (we like superlatives). Each summer, Shakespeare comes alive right on the waterfront of Vanier Park with massive tents and brilliant acting. Spectacular backdrops aside, Bard on the Beach features Shakespeare at its best, with featured classics such as “Much Ado about Nothing” and “Othello.”
Welcome to the fringe, Vancouver’s gateway into the underground theatre scene. Over the years, this festival has picked up major steam, and now it features more than 500 performances. The unique aspect of the festival is its venues -- many are hosted in atypical spaces such as coffee shops or even parking lots. It’s no small event, and readers of Vancouver’s local culture mag Georgia Straight have voted it the city’s best arts festival for five years in a row.
Shhh, you didn’t hear this one from us. This now burgeoning theatre genre began in the 1990s as an underground scene. In 2006, popularity for bawdy humor and parody sparked the first Vancouver International Burlesque Festival. If entertainment is what you want and you’re in Vancouver during the spring, plan to stop in during the festival’s 10-day run.
The good thing about Vancouver’s theatre scene is that it’s affordable. If you are on a tight budget, stop by the Tickets Tonight kiosk at the Visitor Centre (Plaza Level, 200 Burrard St.) for half-price, same-day tickets.
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