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Victory on East Hastings blurs lines between film and performance

Vancouver multidisciplinary artist C.R. Avery brings unique show to Whistler's The Point Artist-Run Centre on Nov. 19
C.R. Avery is bringing his Victory on East Hastings tour to Whistler to The Point Artist-Run Centre on Nov. 19.

It was a tough blow for musicians like C.R. Avery when CD sales at concerts started to tank.

But, taking a page from director Quentin Tarantino’s book, the Vancouver- based multidisciplinary musician and artist is not complaining about new technology displacing old. Rather, he’s adjusting.

“I saw [an interview] where Tarantino was talking ... about streaming services,” Avery says. “Tarantino was like, ‘Stop complaining. That’s how the world is and you’ve got to give people the excuse and reason to see [movies] on the big screen.’”

So that’s exactly what Avery did with his new feature film/live show mash-up.

Victory on East Hastings begins with a ballet company based in Galway, Ireland in the ’80s performing a politically charged piece. When authorities try to shut down the performance, riots break out, killing two theatre ushers in the process, and causing the show to get banned.

Fast-forward to present-day East Vancouver. A burlesque group receives an anonymous package pitching that same show, complete with notes on choreography and cast. Taking the enclosed note of encouragement to heart, they decide to mount the performance, even though they’re not a ballet company. During the show, the ghosts of the ushers appear and help them through.

But that’s just the on-screen plot. The show itself cuts seamlessly between the screen and live performances, including parts of the score.

“Sometimes the movie stops and there’s a poof of smoke and it’s starting again. Then it’s two minutes live and two minutes on film,” Avery says.

He spent the last two years putting the production together and, initially, staged it in Vancouver and Winnipeg with a live orchestra.

'This is the reason I’m going to kick streaming’s ass, because you have to see the show live'

“It was amazing,” he says of those first shows. “But I was like, COVID is over, let’s go.” He parsed down the talent for the tour and, ultimately, chose four cast members to hit the road, stopping in small-but- picturesque places like Lasqueti Island, Cumberland, and, on Nov. 19, Whistler.

“In some ways, some things worked better slightly smaller and other things didn’t,” he says. “By the time I get to Whistler I’ll have done six shows. Each one, you tighten the screws up a bit and move things around.”

In the end, the show is meant to serve as Avery’s love letter to East Vancouver, which, pre-COVID, he thought he might leave.

“East Van was my neighbourhood and where I got inspired and where I raised a family,” he says. “When I didn’t have that chain anymore, I thought, ‘Maybe it’s time to go to one of those cities I love that I visit on tour’—the island or Berlin or Brooklyn ... I wanted to say I love you before I left.”

The move was meant to happen after Victory on East Hastings’ year-long tour, but then the lockdown hit and the future, of course, remains to be seen.

One thing, though, is certain: Avery has heeded Tarantino’s advice and created the film you can’t simply see from your couch.

“I’m just like, ‘This is the reason I’m going to kick streaming’s ass, because you have to see the show live,” Avery says. “When is the movie coming to [your] town? When I come!”

Check it out at The Point Artist-Run Centre on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available to purchase here