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Artistic Director's Notes

It has been a year since I assumed the role of Artistic Director at Green Thumb Theatre.

My love for the company, the team, and the work we do notwithstanding, this has easily been the most challenging year of my life. I don’t believe I’m alone in that. At the beginning of my tenure as Artistic Director, I used the word “onwards” to encourage the team with such frequency that General Manager Breanne Harmon had the word printed on mugs for the entire staff.

The ongoing pandemic has demanded so much of all of us, and then, when we were quite sure we were giving all we had, it has demanded just a little bit more. For me as a leader, it has meant always recognizing the humanity in the people I work with above their roles as employees or contractors. It has meant thinking about people’s physical and mental health more than I ever thought I would need to working in the arts. When I look back at the past year, I am most proud of the proactive approaches we took at Green Thumb to prevent COVID transmission between employees and contractors, and to account for and accommodate the incredible mental and emotional strain people have been enduring since the pandemic began. I believe all of us are going about our daily tasks with varying degrees of heartbreak, and I want Green Thumb to be, as much as possible, a safe harbour for those we are lucky enough to work with.  

We also made some art this past year under incredible circumstances, and I am proud of all of it.

We produced two colouring books based on plays What If by Katey Hoffman and Celestial Being by Dave Deveau, featuring the work of emerging illustrator Cecil Ward. We also created a 16-month calendar inspired by past Green Thumb productions featuring the work of different BC-based artists for each month. These calendars were sent to educators across the province to thank them for the incredible work they have done under extreme circumstances throughout the pandemic.

We produced two live-stream adaptations for teen audiences, my play Still•Falling and Michael P. Northey’s Cranked, produced this time with brand new beats and lyrics by the incomparable duo of Kyprios and Chin Injeti. For both productions I believe we really embraced the digital medium and created a digital theatrical hybrid that went beyond something 'we had’ to do because of the pandemic, and became something I was excited to do. This spring we will once again broadcast a livestream of Still•Falling, with two versions available – the original script, featuring Lisa Baran returning to the role of Nina, and a brand-new adaptation for a male actor, featuring emerging artist Matthew Rhodes.

We engaged over a dozen of Vancouver’s most celebrated artists for a Zoom play-reading of the new mystery play for tweens, Misadventure at the Lighthouse by Michele Riml and Michael St. John Smith, produced in partnership with the BC Library Association’s Summer Reading Club, and broadcast live to communities in BC.

We launched the pilot of The Playwrights' Gym, which has been a dream of mine for several seasons. Six emerging and mid-career playwrights engaged in a 4-week paid training program delving into the specifics of writing work intended to tour to schools. For as long as I work in theatre, those four weeks with that initial cohort will remain precious to me. I am delighted to share that The Playwrights' Gym will continue and develop, with the next phase of the program generously funded by the Y.P. Heung Foundation. I look forward to sharing the knowledge that I have with the writers yet to come through the program, and to learning from them in return.

Most unbelievably, we toured live performances of the world premiere of Katey Hoffman’s Like It or Not to elementary schools throughout the Lower Mainland. This show brought to audiences all the elements Green Thumb productions are known for – sharp writing, excellent performances, eye-catching design, and important themes. The only discernable difference to the audience was that our team wore masks throughout the performance, but I have to stress that an incredible amount of planning and execution had to go on behind the scenes to bring this work to students while keeping the entire team safe and healthy.

Speaking of keeping teams safe and healthy, I have to make special mention of the work of Production and Operations Manager Ruth Bruhn, as she has been our COVID captain since the pandemic began. She has thought of issues before they have arisen, adapted on the fly when needed, and done it all with tenacity. It is no surprise to those of us who have the privilege of knowing and working with her, as this is how she approaches everything – proactively, creatively, and with contagious optimism. It is with mixed emotions that I share that after almost five years with Green Thumb, Ruth is stepping down as our Production Manager at the end of January. It is a huge loss for the company, but I am so excited for what is next for her in her career, and so grateful to count her as a colleague and friend.

Now, at the start of a new year, in the height of yet another wave of COVID-19, it can feel difficult to look forward to things. So much remains unknown. What I can say, looking back over the past year, is that it contained more than I ever hoped, and unfolded in a way that I never could have imagined at the start. I have no doubt the upcoming year will reveal itself to us in a similar fashion. I look forward to facing whatever challenges emerge and seizing whatever opportunities present themselves, and count myself lucky to do so working in a sector that I love, backed by an incredibly strong team and community of supporters.


Rachel Aberle

Artistic Director | Green Thumb Theatre


More information about some of the initiatives mentioned above, have a look at our 2020-21 Annual Report and accompanying Accountability Report.

Posted on

January 31, 2022