A Vancouver Guldasta focuses on the Dhaliwals—a Punjabi family in Vancouver in the early 1980s—as they navigate through the experience of trauma and violence occurring in Punjab, and their daughter’s complicated friendship with Andy, a Vietnamese refugee teen who lives in their basement. The story takes place during the Indian government’s armed invasion of the “Golden Temple”—the holiest shrine of the Sikhs—in the epicentre of the Sikh diaspora, South Vancouver, BC, Canada. A Vancouver Guldasta is an examination of common experience, identifying home, and processing trauma.
A Vancouver Guldasta has been mounted twice in Vancouver. It opened with a sold-out two week run as a site-specific show inside of a Vancouver Special home in South Vancouver as a part of the programming of SACHA’s “Canada at 150+: Trauma, Memory, and the Story of Canada” multidisciplinary art exhibition. It was co-presented in October 2018 by Diwali in BC and The Cultch at the Vancity Culture Lab and garnered positive reviews from many critics. A Vancouver Guldasta was selected as an honourable mention in “The Best of Theatre in Vancouver in 2018” by Vancouver Presents.
The digital copyscript can be purchased through the Canadian Play Outlet.
“One of the strengths of Singh’s script is that it refuses to take sides. Instead, it offers a compassionate meditation on politics, identity, and practicality...it was like meeting real people. And they took me places I’d never been...snuggled into Skye Dyken and Lauren Jamie Homeniuk’s period-perfect set, this mounting in The Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab achieves a palpable sense of intimacy.” - Colin Thomas, Fresh Sheet
“The play’s motivating spirit is one of generosity: every performance is followed by a talkback. I’m grateful for this uniquely intimate glimpse of Vancouver history...Singh directs a strong cast, all of whom find a convincing naturalism.” - Kathleen Oliver, The Georgia Straight
“Singh’s play was able to call out the webbings of collective audience-hood because he weaved his characters together across conceptions of home, trauma, and sacrifice...there was something uncanny about my past being historicized via the set of Singh’s play - the living room was a character in itself, convincing and uncaricatured.” - Kiran Sunar & Kristi Carey, Ricepaper Magazine
“The cast is outrageously talented. There was not a moment of disbelief as they wrapped us in a spellbound journey to another time and into the hearts and minds of complex characters. I became attached to each character as they dived into emotions we can all relate to - the fear of loss, negotiating identity, and the love for family.” Maira Hassan, The Vancouver Arts Review
“The play is grounded in detailed realism.” - Jerry Wasserman, Vancouver Plays
“You feel like you are a fly on the wall in the living room of the Dhaliwal family in the 1980s.” - ILiveInEastVan.com
Cast & Production
Playwright & Director
Rohit Chokhani (2017)
Set and Costume Design
Adelaide Wilder (2017)
Skye Dyken & Lauren Jamie Homeniuk (2018)
Chengyan Boon (2018)
A Vancouver Guldasta was born almost a decade ago – I inherited a VHS tape from a friend, which had recordings of numerous local Vancouver newscasts from the days following the Indian Government’s armed invasion of the Golden Temple in 1984. The attack, codenamed “Operation Bluestar,” deeply shook Sikhs around the world, as well as much of the Indian diaspora.
Two things really struck me about these tapes: the raw and extreme emotions of the community in Vancouver, as well as the lack of nuance in the coverage by the broadcasters. Quickly, people were pitted against one another as a result of being forced to identify with generalized labels. Individuals and groups vilified one another. As the insurgency in Punjab continued over the next decade, sides became even further polarized.
We are in a time when the political sphere feels more personal than it has ever been, allegations of “politicizing trauma” are commonplace. This play examines the relationship between politics and the personal process of trauma. To what extent is “politicizing trauma” a means to find answers?
Personal experience is at the heart of much of my work, so I invite you into the experience of this production. Experience the tension, the rage, the love, the family, the process. Experience an 80’s Punjabi home. Experience the community. Experience a Vancouver Special, the Punjabi Market, and Ross Street Gurdwara – three characters the story couldn’t be told without. Experience the perspectives and baggage of each character.
Experience, reflect, empathize.