Theatre fans are gearing up to laugh, cry, and even travel through a black hole as one of the region’s most popular performance spaces steps into the spotlight for its 2019/2020 season.

Launching a brilliantly diverse line-up of six intriguing productions from mid-October onwards, the roster of upcoming shows at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre—each of which is directed by a woman this year—covers everything from dramas and thrillers to comedy and a hugely popular musical.

Jennifer Tong stars in China Doll
Jennifer Tong stars in China Doll. | Photo: David Cooper​

“This new season will take our audience on a tour from contemporary North America to turn-of-the-century China, early nineteenth-century Newfoundland, and as far back as biblical times,” says Gateway’s interim producer Barbara Tomasic. “We are particularly delighted that our season features all women directors and continues our commitment to diversity both onstage and through our playwrights and creative teams.” 

Historical tales

The season launches on October 17 with the Western Canada premiere of China Doll, written and directed by Marjorie Chan. Set in early 20th-century Shanghai, Su-Ling is growing up at a time when foot binding is a common practice and young women are required to marry and bring prosperity to their families. But when she learns to read, Su-Ling’s attempts to honour her grandmother’s traditions are challenged by a fledgling intellectual independence. An emotional coming-of-age story exploring the enduring tensions between cultural norms and changing values, this powerful season opener (running October 17 – 26, 2019) is followed by a gripping historical thriller.

Opening on November 14 in Gateway’s intimate Studio B performance space, The Double Axe Murders by Berni Stapleton takes place on a long, haunting night in a frozen, storm-battered Newfoundland cabin. With the snow swirling in the forest and the wind wailing like a banshee outside, how will Sarah, Payne, and Pelly get through the night—or will they? Based on true events, this spine-tingling psychological thriller is steeped in rich East Coast folklore. Catch a performance from November 14 – 23, 2019 (though you might never want to sleep in a cabin again).

The Double Axe Murders
The Double Axe Murders runs in November. | Photo: ​Kayla Isomura

Lifted spirits

You can stop hiding behind your seat for the next two productions—starting with the December 12 opening of what promises to be one of Metro Vancouver’s most popular family-friendly holiday shows this year. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has been warming the hearts of theatregoers since it first took to the stage all those years ago. A beloved Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice blockbuster, this soaring musical is packed with great songs from Close Every Door to Any Dream Will Do. The production runs from December 12 – 31, 2019.

The smiles continue for Gateway’s first show of 2020, the Canadian premiere of Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee. It’s an up-to-the-minute satirical comedy that promises to be “an explosive evening of male bonding.” In the story, three brothers return home for a visit, quickly regressing to their childhood sibling roles of pranks and trash-talking. But in their absence, the family has changed­­, which means each of them have to re-examine their former ideas about masculinity and try to transform—or not. The show runs from February 6 – 15, 2020.

Oliver Castillo and Timothy Liu star in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Oliver Castillo and Timothy Liu star in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. | Photo: David Cooper​

Inspiring dramas

The second Studio B production of the new season, Skyborn launches on March 19. Written and preformed by celebrated Musqueam storyteller Quelemia Sparrow, this intriguing multimedia adventure starts when a woman falls through a black hole in her small home on the reserve. There, she discovers a wolf who turns out to be her Granny Rose and who guides her on a canoe journey to the land of the dead. Suffused with magic, beauty, and power, this unique production (running March 19 – 28, 2020) promises to be an epic one-woman odyssey of spiritual reclamation.

Concluding the 2019/2020 Gateway Theatre season and opening on the MainStage on April 16, From Alaska by Sébastien Harrisson (translated by Leanna Brodie) sees a troubled teenager breaking into the home of an elderly woman. But the seemingly mismatched pair somehow develops a bond as they share their personal feelings of love, loss, and grief. Fusing street-smart humour with deeply felt expressions of heartbreaking candour, this soul-stirring Canadian drama navigates the connections between the generations and explores the limits and commonality of how we can change ourselves and others. The production runs April 16 – 25, 2020.

If you go

Tickets for Gateway Theatre's upcoming productions are priced from $29 and can be purchased here. Subscription packages are also available if you’re keen to catch a series of shows.

Most productions have additional special events during their runs, including post-show Talkbacks with the cast; Tea Matinees with cake and refreshments; Wine Wednesday evening tastings; or Pizza Preview nights with a free slice. These date-specific extras are included with your ticket purchase—check ahead via each production’s dedicated page to see when these events are scheduled.