Visitors to historic Steveston Village can step back in time to 1917 and meet a gaggle of fascinating local characters this June and July, with the highly anticipated return of the Steveston Alive! Walking Tour Vignettes.

The entertaining program—launched to sold out performances last year—features a costumed guide leading a 60-minute stroll around the waterfront community’s heritage streets. En route, they encounter five pop-up mini-plays performed by period-attired student actors from the drama department of Richmond’s Hugh McRoberts Secondary School.

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Bringing the past to life

“These fun and engaging characters reimagine what life and work was like here over a century ago,” explains Sarah Glen, executive director of Steveston Historical Society, co-presenter of the program along with Steveston Museum and the City of Richmond.

Their stories, she adds, really resonate with audiences. “How will Frank, a romantic down-on-his-luck young man, deal with unemployment when there’s no salmon after 1914’s Hells Gate landslide? What impacts will the First World War draft have on women in the close-knit community?”

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These highly authentic characters—co-created by playwright Andrew Wade, costume designer Shelby Page and an expert local heritage advisor—were a major factor in the success of last year’s run. But, adds Glen, the “talent and professionalism of the student actors and their ability to breathe life into the characters” is also vital.

Behind the scenes

Actor Caroline Tang is back in character after thoroughly enjoying her 2017 Vignettes run. “I play worrywart Mika, who is paranoid and anxious that Steveston might succumb to disasters like floods or fires,” she says. “She’s very fearful of hypothetical situations, but I admire her initiative and willingness to take it upon herself to monitor the town's safety.”

Steveston Walking Tour VignettesStudent actors Caroline Tang and Vince Bernales are performing again at this year's Vignettes. | Photo: Sarah Glen

For Tang, learning about Steveston’s storied, sometimes-gritty past has been a fascinating aspect of the project. “There’s an extremely colourful and vivid history here with it's own quirks and shocking tidbits—and most people don't realize it when they just stroll around.”

Fellow actor Vince Bernales agrees, adding that the variety of locals living in the area over a century ago also surprised him. “It’s been interesting learning about how people from all around the world came to Steveston and helped make it the amazing place it is today—there was such a wide diversity of people living here back then.”

His character, he adds, is also fun to play. “Ollie is witty and knows a lot about what’s happening in Steveston. He often has trouble keeping his sister in check but I like that he continues to look out for her and care for her no matter what happens.”

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Modern-day message

For Glen, bringing the region’s history to life for audiences in such a deeply immersive way is a major motivation behind the Vignettes project. But, she adds, the program isn’t solely about illuminating an unfamiliar past.

“Steveston’s history tells a bigger Canadian story of multicultural communities persevering through hardship and pride in their accomplishments. The Vignettes reflect this but they also show that issues from a century ago are still relevant today. We hope our audiences are encouraged into a deeper understanding of our past—and also discover a new appreciation for what influenced the community we live in.”

Book now!

Steveston Alive! Walking Tour Vignettes runs every Saturday at 1:00pm and 3:00pm throughout June and July, departing from the Steveston Museum and Visitor Centre on Moncton Street. Tickets cost $10 (accompanied children under 12 are free up to a maximum of two per adult). The number of spaces on each tour is limited, so booking ahead is vital.

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