Serendipity: An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. (Dictionary.com)
Before I go on a trip, I do some research (Trip Advisor, Afar, online searches) so I have a sense of what to see and do. That's normal, right? You don't want to go to a place you've never been before and then find out later that THE most marvelous thing was right on the next block and you totally missed it. But I have had wonderful experiences that came to me by accident, by serendipity. So much so, that it makes you go, hmmmm..... how did that happen? What is the Universe trying to tell me?
Case in point. I knew that since I had limited time in Vancouver, I had to narrow down my choices to what was unmissable. Since I love shopping in cute, artsy-craftsy stores, and am a foodie, I knew I had to go to Granville Island, the Vancouver foodie/artsy mecca. After getting to the Granville Station via the Skytrain, figuring out where the bus stop was that I needed to be at, missing the first one that passed by because I wasn't paying attention, a sign at the bus stop caught me eye. It was advertising for Word Vancouver: A Free Festival of Reading and Writing. It would be happening that Sunday, my last day in Vancouver, a day I had not yet committed to anything. I thought it was very cool to be in a city in which such a festival existed. I don't have any stats, but just considering the enormity of the public library system, the frequency of literary events, the abundance of book stores, I think you can conclude that Vancouver is a very literate city.
When I got in that evening, I went online for more information about this event, and found out that it was a weeklong festival, with events occurring throughout the week. One, scheduled for the next night, was this: "... enjoy insights on producing theatre at Historic Joy Kogawa House," with the Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre.
Of course this resonated with me. Playwriting has been a passion and endeavor of mine since college. I am the opposite of prolific, but I never seem to quit trying. And I am Asian. So yeah, I had to go.
Getting there was not easy - 2 sky trains, 2 buses, and a block walk (with a couple of wrong turns) - but I made it there on time. The Historic Joy Kogawa House is the house where this celebrated author lived as a child before her family was forced to relocate as a result of wartime racism and hysteria. The House hosts school field trips, events such as the one that I attended, and also has a writer-in-residence program for Canadian writers.
We sat in a circle, about 20 attendees and the 3 panelists from the theatre, Donna Yamamoto, artistic director, Andrea Yu, artistic associate, and Tetsuro Shigematsu, artist-in-residence. It was a little more formal than a conversation, but still intimate. Though the theatre has been around for a while, apparently their last play, a huge success, was their first equity play, which means everyone got paid union wages. The play, Ga Ting, by Minh Ly, sounded powerful - "An older Chinese couple meet the lover of their deceased son, a white guy." The conversation was about what it took to produce this play (passion!) and how the process compares to their current project, "Empire of the Son," which was in "workshop" at the time. The playwright, one of the panel members, Tetsuro, was so spell-bindingly articulate as he shared how his personal story intertwines with the play about a father-son relationship.
It was exciting to be in the same breathing-listening-talking space as people who are doing such creative, relevant, dynamic work. Did I have a bit of Canada-envy? Yes, but I know that similar things are happening all over my own country, my own state. Did it take going to another country to make me want to be more a part of that creative life in my own world? Definitely reinforced these creative urges I've been having.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.