For someone who is highly active in the arts and culture community in Vancouver, slowing down is foreign to Scotland-born Joan Bryans. The longstanding West Point Grey resident – since 1978 – is the current president and publicist of the United Players of Vancouver theatre company. She has also acted in, produced, directed and written plays. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, Joan found a slightly new rhythm to life. She was kind enough to share with us how she’s keeping busy, and a bit about her involvement in community theatre.
What has been the most challenging part of the COVID-19 pandemic for you?
This pandemic reminds me of the polio scare that I experienced as a child in the late 1940s to early 1950s when we couldn’t go to the movies, and could only play with one or two other children at a time.
The most challenging part of the COVID-19 pandemic has been being on my own and not able hug my daughter and grandchildren. But I can do that now because they’re in my bubble. The last time my 12-year-old granddaughter was over she was my pedicurist. Now I have the most beautiful toes! And I tend to get into lots of interesting discussions with my 14-year-old grandson.
What is your normal exercise routine?
My garden. It has never been so beautiful and well-attended. My roses and peonies are out right now, as well as my raspberries. Usually it’s a lick and a promise. And I make sure that I walk regularly.
What drew you to community theatre?
It has given me a community. I’m connected with so many people. When you’re in a play, you form a bond with the cast and crew. After the play ends and you don’t see each other for months or years, when you meet again, you still know each other so well. You can almost just pick up where you left off. So that is wonderful. Also, I would say that my acting, directing and writing is an active, creative pursuit that fulfills something in me that nothing else can.
What kinds of plays do you write?
I seem to write plays about feisty women overcoming obstacles and succeeding in the end. I have an affinity for telling women’s stories. Most of my plays are about real people who have done real things, but who may have been forgotten or their stories are not told much. And there are so many stories about women that need to be told.
How else do you unwind and keep busy?
I have become very proficient at cryptic crosswords. I also enjoy sewing and reading. A small group of friends gets together to read plays each week. During the pandemic we read over video conference, and now we are meeting at a social distance in my garden. The last play we read was The Tenth Muse by Tanya Saracho. It is a Mexican play about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a 17th Century writer whose work was mostly destroyed by the inquisition, but a few scraps managed to survive. It was so fun to read.