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 shows like Devil Box Cabaret. This was original work that attempted to fuse elements of multicultural history and experience with performance-styles derived from both classical and avant-garde Euro-North American traditions. This hybridized style was a relatively new phenomenon within the Vancouver professional theatre community at the time. Always motivated by the idea that a company should serve many visions and perspectives, in the early 2000’s, Camyar invited artists Marcus Youssef, Steven Hill and James Fagan Tait to consider Neworld a home for their original works. This period was also marked by three milestone Neworld projects: Leaky Heaven Circus (conceived by Steven, now its own company), James’ Crime and Punishment and Ali & Ali and the aXes of Evil (conceived by Marcus). In 2005, Camyar left the company and asked Marcus to take over as Artistic Director. Marcus then asked Adrienne to join the company as Artistic Producer. Notable projects of that period included the West Coast premiere of My Name is Rachel Corrie, the multiple company collaborative creations HIVE, HIVE II and HIVE III and Everyone, and Alcan Award winner and Magnetic North Festival commission, Adrift.
The company’s first real manager, Kirsty Munro, was hired in 2008. Since then Neworld has tripled its annual activities and budget, worked with our long-time friends to open a new administrative and producing studio, PL 1422, and become deeply engaged in cultural advocacy, particularly at the municipal and provincial levels. Neworld develops and/or produces 2-3 shows a year, tours nationally and internationally, and offers community engagement programs. We are now able to pursue multiple threads in our creative work. Technology-driven installations like Podplays and Landline butt up against the reality-debate style of Winners and Losers butts up against the overt politics of Leftovers and Ali and Ali. We also offer ongoing support and mentorship to younger companies/artists who we believe in, and regularly lead community programs. Equally important is our dedication to the idea of a collaborative aesthetic and process. Recent highlights include bringing our work to festivals and theatres in a dozen countries over the last two years, co-founding PL1422, our off-Broadway premiere in January, 2015, multiple local, national and international awards, and 19 years of creating work that includes a wide range of artists and collaborators.
We develop and produce widely varied styles of live performance. What unites it: every Neworld project must in some way have the courage to grapple with some aspect of morality or ethics. It must be rooted in a presumption that in all of our lives, the choices we all make are meaningful and have real consequences. We also like to make people laugh.
Over the last decade we have become one of Vancouver’s leading and best-known independent theatre/performance companies, and an integral part of a highly collaborative community that has evolved in the Vancouver theatre scene since the mid-2000’s. We work in a newly renovated 6000 s.f. shared production hub and studio, PL1422, in the Commercial Drive area of East Vancouver. Developed with our roommate-pal-partners the Electric Company, Rumble, and Boca Del Lupo, PL1422 has become a kind of home for the Vancouver theatre community, particularly younger folks trying to figure out how they’re going to survive in our absurdly expensive “world-class” city. It is a model for collaboratively-run spaces across the country, and we’ve spoken about it lots of places.
Most recently, Neworld has put energy into developing international partnerships. With valued collaborators at Theatre Replacement, we have taken Winners and Losers to Iceland, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, the UK, US, Germany and more to come. This is leading to new opportunities, and so we’re also thinking a lot about maintaining our connection to Vancouver, that beguiling teenage city we call home. As always in our work, we look for connections between the giant (ever-shrinking?) global, and the tiny (always-expanding?) local. No matter what, though we believe that it is not the voices of the big or powerful or corporate that ultimately matter; it’s the stories of the people around us, in our multiple communities and neighbourhoods, however we might define them.