Firehall Fact #30: Congratulations Donna!

Donna Spencer, our Artistic Producer, has been with the Firehall Arts Centre since the beginning thirty years ago, and has been honoured for her work in theatre as well as her commitment for community over the years.

She won Jessie Richardson Outstanding Direction Award for both Urinetown The Musical and Reading Hebron as well as a Jessie Richardson Award for Multicultural Innovation in the Theatre. Donna received the City of Vancouver’s 1999 Cultural Harmony Award and was honored with YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the Arts And Culture category.  She was previously awarded the 2003 ExplorAsian Heritage Award for Community Building and the 2003 Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance Career Achievement Award. Donna was also inducted into BC Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2009.

We are thrilled to announce that Donna Spencer has been recognized this year for her dedication to community building through the arts and will be one of the recipients of the BC Community Achievement Award!

Congratulations Donna and to the other award recipients for their work to make BC a stronger province through community engagement!

Today is the final day of our $30 for 30 Campaign, and the last day Capital One Canada will donate an extra $10 when you donate through Canada Helps and take their quick 5 question survey! If you’d like to donate through our website, click here!

Firehall Fact #29: Ours Shows

There have been thousands of shows performed at the Firehall Arts Centre. As of this post, we have had +/- 7000 performances here – that’s around 230 a year!

Each production has been special, but there are certain ones that strike a special chord with audiences and keep them coming back for more.  Some of our most popular shows have included:

  • The Stone Angel, based on the novel by Margaret Laurence during the 1993-94 Season
  • The  1995-96 Season play by Edmonton playwright Marty Chan based on his experiences:Mom, Dad, I’m Living with a White Girl, which delved into culture and inter-racial relationships
  • Urinetown, The Musical, produced in the 2005-06 Season
  • Banana Boys by Terry Woo told the story of five Chinese Canadian young men as they struggle with identity and and living within two cultures during the Firehall’s 2007-08 Season
  • Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth by Drew Hayden Taylor was first on the Firehall stage during the 1997-98 Season, and came back by popular demand the following year
  • J.J. McColl’s Menopositive was first produced in the 1997-98 Season, but was so popular it has come back four times!
  • Chelsea Hotel sold out houses this year, and will be remounted next season!

People connect with the work done at the Firehall Arts Centre. The shows we present or produce are relate-able in some way; whether it’s a play about finding your place and identity, or a musical about growing older, the Firehall chooses work that shares a truth the audience can feel a part of.

We can’t do the work we do without your help. If you donate through Canada Helps before March 31 and take their quick 5 question survey, Capital One Canada will donate another $10 on top of your donation!

If you’d like to donate to our $30 for 30 Campaign through our website, click here!

Firehall Fact #28: Kudos & Cocktails

May 9th the Firehall will be hosting our second annual Kudos and Cocktails tribute event.

Kudos and Cocktails raises funds for the Firehall Arts Centre and was created to offer tribute to community members, artists, supporters and some of our city’s major movers and shakers that have made an impact on the Vancouver’s cultural landscape.  The event, offered at a by-donation cost to ensure accessibility for everyone, features performances celebrating the honourees and an accompanying silent auction.

This year’s honourees include:

Patron Category: Marlie Oden and Bonnie Allen of Bridge Communications
Theatre Category: Barbara Clayden, Costume Designer
Dance Category: Chris Randle, Photographer
Community/Volunteer Category: Sid Tan, social justice, environmental and human rights activist

Stay tuned for our announcement of the performers for that evening!

*Disclaimer* There is a 99.99% chance that Yanni is NOT once of the performers, but hey, a girl can dream.

Remember, if you donate through Canada Helps before March 31 and take their quick 5 question survey, Capital One Canada will donate another $10 on top of your donation!

If you’d like to donate to our $30 for 30 Campaign through our website, click here!


Firehall Fact #27: Rentals

The Firehall produces many shows during the year, but there are times when the company is dark, and during those periods, the theatre is often rented out.

Currently, we have St. Patrick’s Regional Secondary getting ready for their production of Our Town, taking place March 29 to 31.

Although people are aware that the Firehall rents out its theatre, there are a number of other rental services the Firehall provides.

The Firehall’s studio is often used as a rehearsal space or performance venue, and the lobby and courtyard are made available for events and parties as well. We also make our props, sets and costumes available to people and companies (there is a giant fish costume I’ve been considering wearing. Just to liven up a Thursday).

The Firehall also provides box office services like ticket sales and printing, which Osimous Theatre is utilizing for their production of Hedda Gabler at the Rhoedde House.

If you have a production you are interested in having in our theatre, need some rehearsal space or are planning an event and are interested in having it take place in our courtyard, email us at

There are only a few days left for our $30 for 30 Campaign, so remember to donate! Do it through our website, give us a call or visit Canada Helps to donate there!


Lion fish from the Animal Species blog

World Theatre Day

Theatre can be beautiful, ugly, frightening, funny and everything in between. What it always does is create dialogue.  Whether you enjoyed the last piece you saw or hated it, you were part of that moment.

To celebrate World Theatre Day, go out and support theatre by seeing one of the amazing plays on in Vancouver now:

So much theatre in this city! Go out, explore and enjoy!


Hats with feathers will be mandatory in any play I write


Firehall Fact #26: Staff Favourites

Donna Spencer is the Artistic Producer here at the Firehall, and has been with the company since its inception thirty years ago.  She has directed, advised, produced and even been in a show or two over the years. She is also a certified yoga instructor and loves quantum physics. That stuff will blow your mind. (Preceding statement applies to both yoga AND quantum physics)

Donna in an article about the opening of the Firehall in 1982

My favorite things about the Firehall? 

When I first visited the Firehall as an introduction to the new job, I was taken on a tour and awed by the two fire poles but overwhelmed and amazed by the number of doors there are within the building. Everywhere we went there was a new door that took you to a different world.  For the first while I was on the job, I would get lost – I had no sense of direction within the building.

Since then I have grown to love all of the doors, the brick, the history, the energy within the building and the people that I have met here.  And while I no longer get lost in the building, I do sometimes feel a loss of direction, and strangely enough, the strength of the building and the spirit that resides within help me get back on track.  

Yes indeed, the Firehall is a pretty special place, opening doors to stories both new and old; to performances that provoke contemplation and discussion; to experiences that generate a greater love for the value of the arts in society; and to good times with good friends and great people.  

At the Firehall, we love looking for new doors and the treasures hidden within.  As Ann Mortifee wrote in her song for the play Reflections of Crooked Walking:

Every door is a secret door
hiding something
Every door is a magic door
leading somewhere
Somewhere you’ve never been ever before
To open the door just lift the latch
But once you go in
you might never come back|
For that is the way of the spell.

And that spell is the Firehall.   


Our $30 for 30 Campaign is nearing the end, but you still have time to donate! Do it through our website, give us a call or visit Canada Helps to donate there!



Lyrics to Every Door is a Magic Door from Ann Mortifee’s website.

Firehall Fact #25: The Infamous Black Box

If you’ve come to the Firehall to see a performance, you’ve noticed the theatre is what we in the bizness like to call a “black box”.  A black box theatre, according to Wikipedia, is an “unadorned performance space, usually a large square room with black walls and a flat floor. It is a relatively recent innovation in theatre.

Yep, that’s what the Firehall theatre looks like, and it’s been pretty much that way since 1982, which in the grand scheme of things, is fairly recent.

Now, the great thing about having a black box is how malleable and versatile the space is.  Sets are generally simpler than at larger theatres, but because of the technical specifications of the space, can be extremely unique and interesting. Lighting can also play a grander role in a performance in a black box theatre because there is no place for lighting leaks or for it to be diffused.  The theatre itself can also be configured specifically for each new show, a feature impossible in larger, static spaces.


This year alone, we have had the theatre capacity go from our regular 136 to 155 and 162 as well as taking it from the regular arrangement of seats in the picture above and reconfiguring it into an L shape for VIMY and a thrust stage for Goodness.

This versatility provides the opportunity to present work to the public in the most interesting way, allowing the audience to interact in the best possible way with the work.

That’s pretty cool.

If you’ve been thinking about donating to our $30 for 30 Campaign but haven’t yet, you still have time! Do it now through our website, give us a call or visit Canada Helps to donate there!



Firehall Fact #24: Staff Make-up

Prepare yourself, I’m bringing out a cliche:

A functioning organization is like a well-oiled machine – you need all the parts to work well together to make things happen.  The Firehall is like a well-oiled machine…no, a functioning organization. However, it’s kind of amazing that we are able to produce the terrific work we do with our limited resources.

The complex system of levers and pulleys we like to call the "Firehall staff"

For example:

Did you know that the Firehall only has three full-time staff members? It’s true! When you think about the fact that this year alone we produced and presented six shows (and have a couple more to go!) in addition to hosting a speaker series, events and running an art gallery, that ain’t much. The rest of the staff is contracted part-time, devoting part of the year to other projects like the Dancing on the Edge Festival and other events around Vancouver.

We work hard to continue the tradition of presenting thoughtful, engaging pieces and with your help, we can do it!

To donate to our $30 for 30 Campaign on our website,click here! To donate via Canada Helps, visit them here.


Machine image from  Stellar Path

Firehall Fact #23: Staff Favourites

Internet, meet Michele Hope, the Firehall’s Bar Manager. Michele is an avid traveler. I know people say that a lot, but it’s doubly true for Michele.

I love it when people discover what a friendly and relaxed theatre we are and how welcome they are made to feel. First time patrons to the Firehall always say what a nice place this is and then wander out onto the deck and gasp at our lovely blooming cherry blossom tree, preferably with a beverage from the bar. 

I also receive a lot of comments about what a good Scotch selection we have.

To donate to our $30 for 30 Campaign on our website,click here! To donate via Canada Helps, visit them here.

Firehall Fact #22: Dance!

From Portraits and Scenes of Female Creatures, December 2011 at the Firehall. Photo by Chris Randle

The Firehall has always been keen on dance, presenting exciting works by local, national and international choreographers throughout its 30 years. We liked it so much that we started a dance festival! The Dancing on the Edge Festival came out of the dance community’s need for presentation support, and even though the Edge has been incorporated as its own society since 1998, that hasn’t stopped us from continuing our support and love of dance!

The Firehall presents a number of dance shows each season and provides residency support to local artists, by providing  rehearsal space, technical support, input and encouragement. Past residents have included Amber Funk Barton of the response. as well as The Contingency Plan.

BC Buds, the Spring Arts Fair, has been one method the Firehall has had for presenting new work and finding local artists to work with in residencies. The Contingency Plan was the recipient of the 2010 BC Buds Silver Development Award, which provided the opportunity of a Firehall residency, and led to the development of their piece Adhere, seen as part of The TCP Show in January of this year.

To donate to our $30 for 30 Campaign on our website,click here! To donate via Canada Helps, visit them here.

From The TCP Show, at the Firehall January 2012. Photo by Jane Osborne