Neworld Theatre

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Neworld Theatre is an award-winning non-profit theatre company based in Vancouver, BC. Its offices are in Progress Lab 1422 in East Vancouver. The company produces plays and theatrical experiences based around experiences of difference and ‘other-ness’. Neworld Theatre is run by Artistic Director Marcus Youssef, Managing Producer Matthew Moreau, and Associate Artistic Director Chelsea Haberlin. Neworld is a member of the Professional Alliance of Canadian Theatres, and operates under the Canadian Theatre Agreement section of Canadian Actor’s Equity Association.


Neworld Theatre’s stated mandate is to research, develop, produce, and sometimes tour new and found works for the theatre and other media; to create that work through a spirit of community and interdisciplinary collaboration; and to initiate and produce events that foster communication, co-operation, and exchange between artists of all disciplines locally, nationally and internationally.


Early Years

Neworld Theatre was founded in 1994 by Camyar Chai, and until the late 90’s produced original shows based on Persian folktales. In 1999, the company expanded its mandate to include more contemporary, cabaret-influenced work; work also rooted in diversity and multiculturalism, a relatively new phenomenon within the professional theatre community at the time. In the early 2000’s, Camyar invited artists (including Marcus Youssef) to consider Neworld a home for their original works. This period was also marked by three milestone Neworld projects: The Leaky Heaven Circus (now its own company), Crime and Punishment (with James Fagan Tait) and Ali & Ali and the aXes of Evil. In 2005, Camyar left the company and Marcus was hired as Artistic Director; he was soon joined by Artistic Producer Adrienne Wong. Along with Managing Director Kirsty Munro, the company has tripled its annual activities and budget, and become deeply engaged in cultural advocacy, particularly at the municipal and provincial levels. Neworld Theatre receives operating funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver.

2005 – Present

Since 2005 Neworld has turned its focus to creative partnerships with artists, companies and presenters, which broadens the scope of our audience and aesthetic. The company continued its partnership with the PuSH International Performing Arts Festival[4] and James Fagan Tait with The Idiot, also in partnership with Theatre at UBC and Vancouver Moving Theatre. Adrienne Wong reached out to Vancouver’s multitudinous and diverse historical communities with PodPlays, audio-storytelling taking place on real city streets; the Podplay form has since been adapted and dispersed through Canada. Embracing the tradition of “playing well with others,” Neworld joined 10 other theatre companies to create HIVE, an immersive, installation-based performance experience. Following Wong’s relocation to Ottawa, Youssef assumed the role of Neworld’s sole Artistic Director.

Most recently, Neworld has expanded its reach from the local to the global. Munro’s shift in leadership to Managing Director and Tour Producer signifies Neworld’s growing focus on national and international collaboration and touring. To date, local, national and international festival presenters of Neworld include: Magnetic North Theatre Festival (3 times), PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (5 times), On The Boards Seattle (twice), Vancouver 125 Summer LIVE, The Cultural Olympiad, Dancing on the Edge, Out Games, the Brighton Festival (UK), Noorderzon Festival (NL), Festival TransAmériques (QC), Terni Festival (IT), LOKAL (IL), Dublin International Theatre Festival (IE). Neworld Theatre’s awards include 19 Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards (from 64 nominations) [1], Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award (2007) the Vancouver Sun Innovation Award (2004, 2008, 2011 & 2013), the Seattle Times Footlight Award (2008), and the Canada Council TYA Award (2004).

Neworld’s informal slogan is ‘plays well with others’ and this is exemplified by its significant list of collaborators: National Artistic Partners have included the National Arts Centre, Cahoots Theatre Projects, Secret Theatre, Intrepid Theatre, Factory Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, Teesri Duniya, Canadian Stage, Crow’s Theatre, Concrete Theatre, the University of Alberta, the Inclusive Design Research Institute, and many others. Local collaborators include the Arts Club Theatre Company, Gateway Theatre, Rumble Theatre, Pacific Theatre, Pound of Flesh Theatre, Alley Theatre, and ITSAZOO Productions.

Notable Productions

The Adventures of Ali and Ali and the Axes of Evil

In February of 2004, Neworld Theatre began a national tour of The Adventures of Ali and Ali and the Axes of Evil. This project was first developed with the assistance of the city's Diversity Initiatives program. A co-production with Cahoots Theatre in Toronto, The Adventures of Ali and Ali and the Axes of Evil was first presented at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. Created and performed by Camyar Chai and Marcus Youssef, Ali and Ali chronicles the adventures of Ali Hakim and Ali Ababwa, refugees from the fictional Middle Eastern country "Agraba". The play is an irreverent and often challenging attack on the political vernacular and ideology of the "War on Terror" and its neo-colonial implications for the United States of America. This production toured to Montreal, Toronto, and Edmonton as well as Seattle, WA (On The Boards). Neworld followed up the success of the first Ali and Ali show with Ali and Ali: The Deportation Series in 2007.

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment premiered in January 2005 at the Roundhouse Community Center. The show was a co-production with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in association with Vancouver Moving Theatre. This production marked a significant collaboration between PuSh, Neworld, and Vancouver Moving Theatre with an artistic team led by director James Fagan Tait and composer Joelysa Pankanea. The production was critically acclaimed, prompting the Georgia Straight's Colin Thomas to remark that "James Fagan Tait's theatrical realization of Feodor Dostoyevsky's novel Crime and Punishment is elegiac: profound in its themes, huge in its spectacle, and restrained in its aesthetic."[2] Neworld Theatre recreated these artistic collaborations for 2011's The Idiot, in partnership with Theatre at UBC.

PodPlays Series

Created by Adrienne Wong, Neworld Theatre's PodPlays used digital media to expand possibilities of theatrical space. Audience members load audio-only plays onto portable media players and walk a specific route where the plays become the soundtrack to life on the streets. In line with Neworld Theatre's commitment to honoring diversity, Wong intentionally commissioned artists from a broad range of backgrounds – including First Nations, Queer, and Afro-Canadian communities – as writers, composers and performers. Starting in 2010, Neworld commissioned 11 original podplays from professional artists. The plays were disseminated via podcast during various festivals and celebrations, mostly coinciding with Vancouver's 125th anniversary celebrations.

Peter Panties

Originally presented at The Cultch in February of 2011, Peter Panties is co-written by Marcus Youssef and Leaky Heaven artist Niall McNeil. Niall is an accomplished actor whose life experience includes Down’s Syndrome. Adapting Peter Pan is something he's been working on for many years, at times with many of his friends. Marcus is an accomplished playwright whose life experience includes a lot of collaboration. Marcus and Niall have been meeting to jam and write for more than a year. The entire process is videotaped. Marcus then transcribes/edits the scenes and prepares questions/suggestions for further exploration, which he reads to Niall. The results are presented every two months to the directing team and actors, who enact what Niall and Marcus have written.

Winners and Losers

With valued collaborators at Theatre Replacement, Neworld created Winners and Losers, a heated exploration of class and competition, which the Globe and Mail’s Kelly Nestruck hailed as “broke the two taboos that still seem to exist in Western society"[3]. Winners marks Neworld’s debut into the international touring market, with appearances in Iceland, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, and the UK. Most recently, the show enjoyed an off-Broadway run at New York's Soho Rep, and a run at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre.

Progress Lab 1422

Neworld Theatre is a tenant at Progress Lab 1422 (PL1422), a 5882 sq ft shared performing arts production facility. PL1422 is managed by Vancouver Creative Space Society (C-SPACE), a not-for-profit society that is mandated to develop and manage cultural properties in Metro Vancouver. PL1422 and C-SPACE are partnered initiatives from Vancouver’s leading theatre creation companies: Neworld Theatre, Boca del Lupo, Rumble Theatre, and Electric Company, which all reside at PL1422 under a C-SPACE-managed lease. These organizations share a co-operative joint venture agreement, and sublet from C-SPACE in an arrangement that gives the tenants maximum flexibility. C-SPACE’s role is to support the cultural community by housing mission-driven arts organizations. As C-SPACE has grown and stabilized over the last four years, Neworld is actively seeking new opportunities that would lead to more creation studio spaces, as well as the purchase of an East Vancouver venue to create the "Centre of Performance Innovation."

Resident Producer Program

Neworld continues to invest in future leaders of Canadian theatre through its Resident Producer Program, which engages emerging artists with similar aesthetics and values in a full-time working mentorship program under the direction of the Artistic Director and Managing Director. Previous participants include Chris Gatchalian (now Artistic Director of The Frank Theatre Company), Stephen Drover (now Artistic Director of Rumble Theatre), Marisa Smith (founding Artistic Director of Alley Theatre, and Resident Artistic Producer of Solo Collective) and Chelsea Haberlin (founding co-Artistic Director of ITSAZOO Productions). The current Resident Producer is Genevieve Fleming of Hardline Productions.

Community Engagement

Neworld Theatre is known for its community engagement projects. Past collaborators have included the Purple Thistle Center, No One Is Illegal, MOSAIC Immigrant Services, Vancouver Sufi Center, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada Palestine Association, WISH and PACE. In 2014, Neworld will embark on a two-year pilot program to engage new Canadians, activists, and community members in the Vancouver theatre scene.

External Links

Official Website


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