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Gateway Theatre's Chinese outreach gets funding boost

Theatre needs to foster more dialogue with Chinese community to expand customer base: Mayor Brodie
Pacific Festival
Gateway Theatre director Jovanni Sy and Pacific Festival producer Esther Ho welcome people to the theatre. The festival will feature Cantonese plays with English surtitles.

Richmond city council has agreed to fund a new outreach program for Gateway Theatre that aims to better understand its Chinese audience.

The $30,000, taken from an excess gaming revenues reserve account, dubbed the Council Community Initiatives Account (CCIA), will fund new “dialogue mechanisms” with Richmond residents.

“Gateway recognizes that two-way dialogue with their audience, both English and Chinese-speaking, is key to ongoing success,” notes a City of Richmond report.

The intent of the outreach program is to better understand the desires of the theatre community on the whole. Richmond Gateway Theatre Society would maintain and develop the new strategies for dialogue.

Last year, Gateway’s director Jovanni Sy expanded the Pacific Festival, which then featured four Cantonese plays with Mandarin and English surtitles.

With Richmond’s high Chinese immigrant population, Sy is wanting to bring the various theatre cultures together, beneath one roof. 

Last year he noted the festival aimed to attract new Chinese immigrants, who may not know about the theatre.

In turn, bringing them in will make them more familiar with the theatre’s mainstream productions. 

At issue is a declining base of English-speaking theatre goers in Richmond and a gap in filling the seats with new Chinese-speaking patrons.

“We have a changing demographic in Richmond, which is accelerating. Ethnicity, multiculturalism and language differences are all at the centre of it,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie, a past member of Gateway’s board of directors in the 1990s.

“What [Richmond Gateway Theatre Society] is asking for is absolutely central to the future success of Gateway Theatre,” added Brodie.

CCIA was created in July, 2015, with $3 million of unallocated of gaming revenues. 

It is used at council’s discretion and now has a balance of $713,500. As a policy, each year, two per cent of gaming revenues will be added to the account; $362,000 will be added in 2017.

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