Theatre Conspiracy Wins Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award for Extraction


Theatre Conspiracy was presented with the annual Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award on March 13 at The Cultch in Vancouver. The $60,000 prize will support Theatre Conspiracy’s production of Extraction, which will be presented March 5-9, 2013 as part of The Cultch’s 2012/2013 season.

Through the biographies of four performers, the bilingual, documentary-style play looks at lives transformed by the rapid growth of Beijing and Ft. McMurray, Chinese investment in Alberta’s tar sands and the evolution of Canada/China relations.

“The award means that Theatre Conspiracy can be much more ambitious in the research for the play than would otherwise have been possible,” said company artistic producer Tim Carlson, who leads the creation of Extraction. “It also means we can afford more workshop and rehearsal time and have an excellent venue as well as marketing and technical support from The Cultch.”

Extraction will be directed by Amiel Gladstone, with original music by Ron Samworth, video and projection design by Flick Harrison, production and research dramaturgy by Jeremy Waller and stage management by Benjamin Cheung. The concept for the play follows on Carlson, Gladstone, Samworth and Cheung’s work with Berlin’s Rimini Protokoll on Best Before (Cultch/PuSh Festival 2010) and 100% Vancouver (Theatre Replacement/PuSh Festival 2011).

The Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award has supported the creation of a new theatre, dance and music works presented at The Cultch since 2000.

“Rio Tinto Alcan has made an immense contribution to the performing arts in our province with this award,” said Carlson. “It’s beyond compare in this community and offers a fine model for supporting culture that we’d like to see other corporations emulate.”

The performers in Extraction are not actors but people with distinct life experiences who play themselves: A former Canadian diplomat and journalist who spent most of the past 20 years in China; a freelance interpreter from Beijing who has worked for diverse clients in cultural, corporate and government spheres including Steven Spielberg and Tony Blair; a mechanical engineering student who was trapped in the legendary 10-day 2010 traffic jam in Beijing while en route to the small farm where he grew up; and a tar sands labourer who came to Ft. McMurray as a temporary “guest worker.”

“We have cast two performers from Beijing, one from Vancouver and we are still looking to cast someone from Ft. McMurray, where we’ll be spending a lot of time this spring,” said Carlson. “Ideally, this would be someone of Chinese descent who came to Ft. Mac as a guest worker or as an industry or conservation professional.”

Extraction is a bilingual show (Mandarin and English), that will integrate theatrical use of audio and visual translation / interpretation techniques — illustrating the difficulties and solutions the performers encounter living in a foreign place and echoing the way we interpret the radically shifting political, social, environmental and cultural planes influenced by the oil extraction industry.

“My family’s history is very much tied to the oil industry in Alberta,” said Carlson. “My grandfather, father, uncles, cousins have all dug-in in various capacities since the 1940s. So this is a subject I’ve always wanted to explore in the theatre and this seems like the perfect time to do it.”

“Also, two years ago one of my best friends, Jimmy Mitchell, moved back to Vancouver after the better part of 20 years in China and Taiwan as a teacher, traveller, student of Chinese history, journalist, and diplomat. Extraction is very much influenced by his experience and insight and I’m pleased that he will be performing in the show.”

Theatre Conspiracy was founded in 1995 and is mandated to produce and interpret work with an international perspective. Highlights include the translation and coproduction of Heiner Müller’s Macbeth: nach Shakespeare with GasHeart Theatre (2011), award-winning productions of David Harrower’s Blackbird, Joe Penhall’s Blue / Orange and Tim Carlson’s Omniscience, and the annual coproduction of Club PuSh at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.

For more information on Extraction visit or the Theatre Conspiracy fan page on Facebook.

Media enquiries: Belinda Bruce, Theatre Conspiracy communications manager,

Casting enquiries: Jeremy Waller, Extraction dramaturge,