Bullying goes to the opera
August 18th, 2014
Vancouver spoken word virtuoso Shane Koyczan is the undisputed local hero of the Vancouver poetry scene, easily eclipsing the old guard in international exposure and popularity. Now he’s got a new opera and a new book.
His novel in verse, Stickboy, portrays the lonely struggles of a bullied child, full of rage, and the ultimate healing power of love. It is based on Koyczan’s own childhood experiences and has been used for the basis of a contemporary opera, Stickboy, to be staged at the Vancouver Playhouse, October 23 to November 7th, 2014, music composed by Neil Weisensel, libretto by Shane Koyczan.
The Vancouver Writers Festival will present an evening with Koyczan, in discussion with James Wright, the General Director of Vancouver Opera, at Frederic Wood Theatre, UBC, on Tuesday, October 7 at 7:30 pm. The evening will also feature Conductor Leslie Dala and libretto dramaturge and Director Rachel Peake. The evening called ‘Stickboy: From Page to Stage’ will also feature two members of the ensemble performing a selection from the opera.’
“These aren’t pages in a book,” says Koyczan, “these are pages of my life.”
Shane Koyczan became known around the world on February 12, 2010, when he performed segments of his previously recorded poetic dissertation on the nature of Canada, ‘We Are More’, towards the end of the lavish and inventive opening ceremonies for the 2010 Olympics at BC Place Stadium. The event also included Donald Sutherland’s voice reading brief segments of writing by Alberta novelist W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen The Wind? as well excerpts of verse from Pauline Johnson [see separate entry] and some phrases reputedly written by Chief Dan George [see separate entry]; plus renditions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah—as sung by K.D. Laing—and Joni Mitchell’s Clouds, two of the most successful, ‘literary’ pop songs Canada has ever produced.
Winner of a CBC National Poetry Face Off, Koyczan has performed with such notables as Maya Angelou, Quincy Troupe and Utah Phillips, and has been an opening act for Ani DiFranco, Spearhead and Saul Williams. He has performed at the Edinburgh Book Festival, the Vancouver International Writers Festival, the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the 2007 Canada Day Celebrations in Ottawa, as well as venues in New York, Los Angeles and Sydney. Koyczan has now won both the US Slam Poetry Championship and the Canadian Spoken Word Olympics. He has consistently placed near the top of those competitions in other years in which he competed.
His first poetry collection, Visiting Hours (Vancouver: Mother Press Media, 2005), was launched at the Anza Club in Vancouver on November 10, 2005. It was included by both The Guardian and the Globe & Mail in their Book of the Year lists, the only poetry title to appear in both, and later represented by House of Parlance Publishing. By 2014 it was into its third edition. It includes ‘We Are More’.
Shane Koyczan’s anti-bullying dissertation for the ‘To This Day Project’ video reportedly went viral in early 2013, with over 13 million views and counting. Now there’s a book-length version, To This Day (Annick $19.95) with illustrations by thirty international artists.
The poetry collection Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty (2012) also features ‘To This Day.’ Since its video release, Shane has presented at TED Talks, where the audience leapt to their feet in applause. Sir Ken Robinson has listed that talk as one of his top ten talks on education. It led to Koyczan’s collaboration with TED Education to create a classroom tool that provides teachers a way to discuss anti-bullying with students.
Koyczan’s ‘talk rock’ band Short Story Long is a quartet that plays folk, funk, rock and ambient music. It received a “Best New Artist” award at the BC Interior Music Awards in 2009, as well as Best Spoken Word Album and Best Spoken Word Piece in 2012 for CDBaby’s Just Plain Folk Awards. His video ‘Instructions for a Bad Day’ was shown at the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival.
Born in Yellowknife, Shane Koyczan attended the Creative Writing Program at Okanagan University College and became the first poet from outside of the U.S. to win the U.S. National slam poetry competition in 2000.
To This Day: 978-155451-639-1