Richmond theatre director’s parting shot poses business and pleasure yoga dilemma

Theatre help unite people in the rapidly changing Richmond: Jovanni Sy

Jovanni Sy, the artistic director of Gateway Theatre, will be directing his last show next month before stepping down from his position on Feb. 15.

His replacement is as yet unknown, but newly-hired interim producer Barbara Tomasic will oversee the roll-out of Gateway's artistic programming when Sy leaves. 

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“It was a very hard (decision to leave),” Sy told the Richmond News on the main stage of Gateway Theatre on Tuesday.

“I enjoyed this theatre, I like the people I work with. Given that it was a lot of fun, I just knew it was time to try new artistic challenges.”

Sy, who has been director for seven years, will spend more time on playwriting and acting – passions he found challenging to find time for during the dedicated full-time role he’s leaving behind.

In fact, as soon as he steps down, he will go right into rehearsals, directing a show at the Vancouver Arts Club Theatre Company.

After that, he will act in shows at the aforementioned club and Theatre Under The Stars.

“So it’s good. I’m going to definitely be keeping very busy,” said Sy.

Sy is very proud of the award-winning productions he and his team have presented for a diverse audience in Richmond, including a 2014 musical Crazy For You and last year’s Nine Dragons.

He also introduced the annual Pacific Festival in 2014, which showcases Chinese-language professional theatre with English subtitles.

“We try to be a real connecting force in the Richmond community to reflect both Richmond’s past, it’s future and the many different people that make up today’s Richmond,” he said.

Moving here from Toronto for the position, Sy said it has been a “real privilege” to live in Richmond, a "growing community that’s changing very rapidly.”

“There are many questions to ask. What’s the correct way to grow? How many acres of farmland can you afford to develop, or should you not develop any?”

Sy believes theatre, an art form from Ancient Greece, has a “magic ability to unite people and make them see things through another person’s life.”

“I love theatre because it can start different dialogues; it can bridge gaps between peoples and cultures, and can represent different people's voices.

“And the beautiful thing is, you literally have to be in the same space with other people to enjoy it.”

Sy is now focused on his last show as director at Gateway, Yoga Play, a comedy looking at the “awkward marriage” between yoga, which is steeped in Indian spirituality, and big businesses.

“Our play is a very funny look at that and how the search for self has become corrupted in a business model. I can’t wait to share it with everyone,” he said.

Yoga Play will hit Gateway Feb. 7 and runs until Feb.16. For more information, check

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