Who's Theatre for Living?
David Diamond, BFA D.Litt. (Hon.)
David is a 1975 BFA Theatre graduate of the University of Alberta. He was a founding member of Vancouver’s Headlines Theatre (1981) and has been Artistic Director since 1984. In 2013 the theatre company took on a “new” name and started calling itself Theatre for Living.
David has directed over 550 community-specific projects on issues such as racism, civic engagement, violence, addiction, street youth, intergenerational conflict and homelessness. He has worked throughout Canada, the USA and Europe, as well as in Namibia, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Rwanda, Palestine, India and Singapore, and has pioneered the development of live, interactive Forum television and web casting.
He is the originator of Theatre for Living, a merging of Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, and his own life-long interest in systems theory. Theatre for Living recognizes communities are complexly integrated living organisms and invites them to engage in constructive social change, moving from various forms of violence to respectful engagement.
David is the recipient of numerous awards, including the City of Vancouver's Cultural Harmony Award, the Jessie Richardson Award for Innovation in Theatre, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Fraser Valley and the Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre. In 2010 he was honoured to travel with the Governor General of Canada (Michaëlle Jean) as a Canadian Delegate in Africa.
David is also a Visiting Faculty Member at the Master of Arts Program in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation at the UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies, University of Innsbruck, Austria, and Visiting Theatre Director at the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta.
Under David’s Artistic Direction Theatre for Living has been honoured with numerous Jessie Richardson award nominations as well as two awards for “Outstanding Production” and two for “Significant Artistic Achievement”; the Red Cross Power of Humanity Award; the Canadian Healthy Environment Award; MOSAIC’s Human Rights Award; and numerous recognitions for innovation in live, interactive community television broadcasting.
David is the author of Theatre for Living: the art and science of community-based dialogue, which has a foreword by renowned systems theorist, Fritjof Capra and was honored with the American Alliance of Theatre and Education 2008 Distinguished Book Award. The book came out in German under the title Theater Zum Leben in 2012 and is currently being translated into Spanish.
Some key moments in the history of Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre)
It is very challenging to choose “key moments” in 37 years of evolving theatre creation. Every project has it’s own innovations. A full catalogue of the larger projects is here.
Before I launch into writing about the theatre company’s work, I want to acknowledge the many wonderful people who have moved through the theatre company in administrative and Board functions over the years, I can’t even attempt to name them all.
However, the Founding Board of Directors were: Nettie Wild, David Diamond, Kirk Tougas, William Roxborough, Craig Paterson.
And the Board of Directors in 2018 when ‘devolution’ began were: Kevin Millsip, Kirk Tougas, Sarjeet Purewall, Tad Young, William Roxborough, Jagdeep Singh Mangat, Darlene Marzari and Mona Hassanien.
I could never have accomplished what the theatre company accomplished alone. There have been amazing Staff over the years, starting with Doug Cleverley who helped me build the theatre company’s first real office. I can’t possibly name everyone but others of exceptional note are Saeideh Nessar Ali, the first Outreach Co-ordinator. Saeideh really helped launch the workshops in communities and was part of a great group of Jokers ("Joker” is a Theatre of the Oppressed term used to describe the workshop facilitator, theatre director and interactive event facilitator in Forum Theatre. This “wild card” in a deck of cards – that card that can adapt to any situation that presents itself.) that also included Jacqui Brown and Victor Porter; also Jackie Crossland who was an extraordinary General Manager and Dylan Mazur (Office/Production Manager) who, together guided the organization in their very capable hands and let me vanish for a while to write my book.
Also, Staff who were family at the end of the journey and who helped me through the “devolution” transition: Susan Shank (Financial Administrator), David Ng (Outreach Co-ordinator) and Dafne Blanco (Outreach Co-ordinator and then Office and Production Manager/WebMaster).
I would be remiss to leave things here regarding Dafne, who was with Theatre for Living for 15 years and not only made the Company her own, affecting every thread of the fabric of the organization, (also revamping the website and designing many posters) but lovingly and professionally navigated shutting down the office and transitioning me into a home office. I am forever grateful and wish everyone the best on their journeys.
TfL Gang at devolution: David Diamond, Dafne Blanco, Susan Shank and David Ng
Headlines Theatre was founded in 1981 by a collective of politically active artists (Anne Hungerford, Beth Kaplan, David Diamond, Suzie Payne, Jay Samwald and Nettie Wild.) We had no idea we were starting a theatre company, we just wanted to do a socially relevant project. The two “producers” in the collective were Nettie Wild and me (David Diamond). Because all of us in the group had housing issues, we decided to create a play, Buy, Buy Vancouver, on organizing for affordable housing. This agit-prop play had music, was both funny and angry, was re-written every day based on what was happening in the news (hence Headlines Theatre), and performed in a different community venue each night, making it hard to find. It was a jam-packed, cult hit. This took all of us by surprise...
Buy, Buy, Vancouver was followed by the video documentary Right to Fight (1982) that screened in Canada, Cuba, and through squatters’ networks in Berlin and Amsterdam, and then Under the Gun, (1983/84) a play on militarism that toured across Canada in collaboration with Project Ploughshares.
By 1984 the collective had dissolved and I had become the Artistic Director. Headlines’ work had been very successful. I felt though, that something was missing. We had been very good at making theatre for and about people living the issues under scrutiny, but how did one make theatre with people living the issues?
I received invitations to visit John McGrath and Liz MacLennan at 7:84 Theatre Company in Edinburgh, Scotland and Dave Johnston at Theatre Centre in London, UK. My hope was to seek out some answers. Before leaving I happened upon Paulo Freire’s small but monumental book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It helped me start to imagine how to make the transition from for and about to with.
Then, in Manchester, England, while attending a Theatre in Education conference, I witnessed a demonstration given by Chris Vine of something called Forum Theatre. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! This theatre was exactly what Freire was writing about! The originator of the work, Augusto Boal, also a Brazilian, was in Paris. Boal had been arrested and tortured for his theatre in Brazil and had left. It turned out he would be giving a 10-day training workshop in two weeks! A group of us from the conference went off to Paris.
The Paris workshop and this first encounter with Boal and the Theatre of the Oppressed changed the direction of my work and life. There was a sense of deep experimentation, of rehearsing for life, of using the theatre for a purpose much more profound than entertainment, or even ringing an issue alarm bell. Boal was very open about some of the techniques he was using at that time not being fully developed and many being experiments that he was doing with us. They were, for the most part, simple ideas – simplicity being achieved by a lot of weeding work to get to the essentials. The simplicity of an image – a human tableaux – and the power of the artistry of that image and the richness of our various, global perspectives on the image was deeply inspiring. The creativity in the room was infectious. I took a lot of notes.
We had a place in our office to post things we said that cracked us all up!
David Diamond, Artistic Director at work
Dafne Blanco, David Ng and Acerina in the fridge
Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) Board of Directors
Kevin’s builds capacity in the progressive social change sector. He is the co-founder and Director of Next Up, a leadership program for young people committed to social and environmental justice. Next Up currently have programs in 5 cities across 4 provinces. He also works as the Sustainability Coordinator for the Vancouver School Board on Food Security and Transportation.
In 1998 Kevin co-founded Check Your Head an organization that has worked with over 40,000 young people to get involved in global justice issues. He served as the Executive Director of Check Your Head until 2009. In 2004 he co-founded Get Your Vote On - a campaign that has registered over 20,000 new voters in BC. He’s dabbled in municipal politics where he served as a Vancouver School Board Trustee where he wrote on Canada’s strongest policies to protect children from advertising in schools.
Kevin serves on several board’s including The Centre for Civic Governance, Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) and the David Suzuki Foundation’s Climate Leadership Council. He is the board chair of The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - BC Office.
With over 250 productions to his credit, Kirk Tougas is one of Canada's foremost documentary cinematographers. Specializing in cultural, social and political themes, he has worked with independent producers, broadcasters, and the National Film Board, and has shot on location in Canada and the Arctic,as well as throughout the world. These film and video productions have received over 100 international festival prizes, including an International Emmy award, and numerous Genie, Gemini and Leo awards and nominations in Canada.
Kirk has also directed and produced several films, is a member of the Canadian Society of Cinematographers, a member of the Academy of Canadian Cinema since, and is the founder of the Pacific Cinémathèque.
Before establishing his own practice Tad Young had a diverse and broad professional background. After graduating from UBC School of Architecture, Thaddeus worked with a number of leading architectural and planning firms in Canada and in the U.S to further his experience in architecture.
Tad also worked on a number of community oriented projects. These projects included: Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, Dawson Creek Community Centre, Britannia Community Centre, Yale Community Centre, a Community School in Deep Cove, a user-directed Housing/Office Development for False Creek South, Development of Indian Reserve No.5 in Highland Valley and a large Affordable Housing Development for the Strathcona Community.
Tad is now the principal of his own firm Thaddeus D. Young Architect Ltd. (TYA).
Sarjeet has been involved as an Outreach Family Counsellor for the Immediate Response Program with Pacific Community Resources Society for 11 years, where she works with youth and their families that are struggling with daily challenges. She also works with the Ministry of Children and Family Development for over 33 years. Sarjeet takes pride in working with Mainstream and South Asian communities, and has been inspirational in establishing 2 programs; the South Asian Parents Together Program, giving parents support when struggling with parent/teen conflict, and particularly she's focused on “Club Utopia” a program specifically for South Asian youth, acknowledging their fears of being safe as they build on self-esteem. Sarjeet has been recognized in the Mehfil Magazine (BC Indo-Canadian publication) as the "Unsung Hero"; and nominated for the prestigious YWCA Vancouver Women of Distinction Award. Sarjeet believes that traditions are a powerful part of individual lives. This allows us to have a clearer understanding of the uniqueness and inspirational values of others.
Sarjeet's "influence of hope", is derived from Mahatma Gandhi’s quote... "Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.
Bill has served on the Headlines/Theatre For Living board since its inception in 1981. During that period he otherwise occupied himself as a photographer, filmmaker and playwright.
He has a special interest in mental health issues, environmental concerns and social justice. His plays include "The Brontë Brothers", "A Grimm Tale" and "The Maenads".
Jagdeep Singh Mangat
Jagdeep Mangat is a long time community activist in the Greater Vancouver area. Though he has a particular interest focused on the rights of low wage workers, he has been involved in numerous social justice campaigns and organizations over the years. Jagdeep is a family and immigration lawyer. When not busy with his duties as a lawyer, Jagdeep maintains his involvement in social justice work.
Jagdeep first became involved with Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre as it was then known) in 2005 when he was a workshop participant and actor in Headlines Theatre's mainstage production, Here and Now.
Mona moved to B.C from Ontario this year in hopes of escaping long winters and connecting to a larger Artivist community. When she discovered Theatre for Living she immediately sought out ways to get involved. In the past she worked at the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant as the Young Women's Counsellor, My Body Belongs to Me Program Coordinator and Team Lead on the Crisis line, a Service Coordinator for Responsible Gaming Resource Centre, and a ESL teacher in Jeju Island South Korea. Mona completed her Yoga teacher training in Kerala India however, it was not until she took a foundation course in Expressive Art Therapy that she comprehended the scope and transformative power of theatre and art in general. Mona is currently establishing herself as an actor in Hollywood North.
To contact any Board Member:
Theatre for Living
31-2137 West 1ST AVE