Travel & Culture

An Artistic + Cultural Experience For All Vancouverites To Check Out This Fall

October 24, 2023

IndieFest, a captivating festival from November 17 to 26, 2023, spanning across six venues in Vancouver, blends opera, immersive theatre and indigenous storytelling through classical music and dance. Now in its fourth year, this innovative festival is at the forefront of the performing arts movement. With this year’s theme, Future Mythologies, IndieFest aims to shine a light on overlooked histories while empowering BIPOC artists to breathe life into new narratives. We chatted with founding artistic director, Debi Wong to learn more. —Noa Nichol

Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.

I am an interdisciplinary artist and a creative producer who grew up singing in choirs and playing video games. My career started as a classically trained singer specializing in western European music but partway through my career, I started to wonder what it would be like to create my own shows instead of performing ones that were written hundreds of years ago. I was curious – I am still curious about the unique opportunity live performances provide us all to step into new worlds and to be immersed in new perspectives. I am always moved by the bridge a performer and a performance weaves between past, present and future and how performers can bring together diverse ideas and art forms and communities through their performing and storytelling. I ended up starting my company, re:Naissance Opera, because I wanted to create a place where I and other artists could take creative risks and be free to explore those bridges and what it means to be a performing artist today, in the era of creative technology and virtual worlds.

What is IndieFest? When and where is it happening, and who should attend?

IndieFest is our annual festival that celebrates local artists and innovators and the stories they tell through live performances. The festival happens from Nov. 17 – 26, 2023 and it takes place across all different venues across the city from the star chamber at the HR MacMillan Space Centre to the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens, to the Annex downtown, to the Fox Cabaret and more. We try to activate diverse venues across the city and bring together artists from all different disciplines and walks of life so that IndieFest can be for everyone and also excite new audiences about the amazing performing arts scene we have in Vancouver. 

What does this year’s theme, Future Mythologies, mean? How does the festival aim to empower BIPOC artists?

My co-curator at IndieFest (and co-leader at re:Naissance Opera), Stephanie Wong came up with this idea. Stephanie has such a great way of talking about the work we do and why it is important, often highlighting that the stories we choose to create, share and lift up are going to become the myths of tomorrow. As artists, we are always exploring new possibilities for the future through the stories we are creating, through the processes we test out in our rehearsal rooms and through the performances we inspire our audiences. We are always creating these “future mythologies”. When Stephanie and I and our whole team think about those new possibilities, we imagine interconnected, intercultural, joyful futures and the IBPOC and equity-deserving artists that we lift up are the storytellers who are inspiring us with dreams for the future.

That said, who are among this year’s artists?

There are too many to give them all shoutouts! I am super excited that we are opening the festival with three incredible singers, Mireille Asselin, Marion Newman and Dashon Burton in Sanctuary & Storm, an immersive opera set in the HR MacMillan Space Centre; After a sold-out show last year, Stephanie Wong brings back a new iteration of “The Liminal” which is a free roaming performance that features local dance, theatre, music, drag and multimedia artists, like Maiden China and Tonye. On the program, Future Mythologies, we are featuring new excerpts of the opera-in-development, Chinatown by acclaimed writers, Madeleine Thien and Paul Yee and the composer Alice Ping Yee Ho as well as excerpts from our new Hip Hop musical, Inferno, by Omai Newton and Amy Lee Lavoie. We are even working with Blake Abbie from Bling Empire NYC and the Chinatown Storytelling Centre to launch a new youth-led magazine that reimagines the future of our local Chinatown. Finally, we are working with Morgan-Paige Melbourne who is creating a virtual reality musical album that is meant to be experienced in LOBE studios 4D, immersive sound studio. 

What are you most looking forward to seeing/experiencing at this year’s event?

I’m excited about it all and the best part about the festival is getting to experience the work of all these artists over the course of the week and really understanding how lucky we are in Vancouver to be a part of a community shaped by their collective creativity.


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