East Van Panto: Wizard of Oz
November 30 – January 6
Tickets and subscriptions available at thecultch.com
Playwright: Marcus Youssef
Director: Stephen Drover
Music, Lyrics & Musical Direction : Veda Hille
Poor Dorothy! When a pipeline bursts, Dorothy and Toto are flung to the magical Land of Oz, aka Nanaimo and Hastings. There, Dorothy is pursued by a Wicked Witch, meets a trio of new friends, and embarks on a magical journey to the World’s Greenest City in search of brains, heart, courage … and Yoga Pants!
Remember: there’s no place like Poco, there’s no place like Poco!
A NOTE FROM PLAYWRIGHT, MARCUS YOUSSEF
Oh, boy. I’ve been an East Van Panto fan since the very first, in 2012. And I’ve always secretly hoped I would get asked to write one. Hm, maybe not so secretly. Ok, it’s true – I hired a lobbying firm. It worked!
American author L. Frank Baum’s novel the Wizard of Oz is fundamentally about home. And late in my writing process, my good friend, long-time East-Vanite and University of Alberta theatre professor Selena Couture contacted me. She specializes in history, Indigenous theatre and settler performances of whiteness. Always diplomatic, Selena wrote, “Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, (1856-1919) was a powerful writer who created strong female heroines in the late 19th century. His radical, progressive views, particularly about women’s rights, led to one of the best loved U.S. children’s books of all time. However, Baum was also a vocal supporter of the settler invasion of Dakota territories in the late 19th century and publicly advocated for extreme violence against the people of the Sioux Nation.”
This freaked me out a little. Well, a lot. This is a time when many of us are trying to take meaningful responsibility for the fact that our beloved homes were built on land forcibly stolen from the families of our Indigenous friends and neighbours. By the time Selena contacted me I had already written most of the script, but even so – why would we choose to retell a story conceived by a man who held such views here, in this place?
My subsequent research confirmed for me that what Baum wrote about the Sioux people was unjustifiable, even by the standards of North American settlers in the late 19th century – and that’s saying something. However, I also discovered that L. Frank Baum’s descendants have made significant and moving efforts towards restitution to the Sioux people, which the Sioux Nation formally accepted. These include asking people who retell the Wizard of Oz story to share this aspect of L. Frank Baum’s history with their audiences.
And so I do. As we embark on 90 minutes of silliness and song about our beloved East Van, we acknowledge that its history, like the history of Baum, the Dakotas and the Sioux Nation, has been and continues to be indelibly affected by colonization. If you’d like to know more about any of this, we’ve curated some links below.
Thank you so much for coming. We feel humbled and grateful to call East Vancouver home.
Photos by Emily Cooper
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