BRUCE! The Musical celebrates a Vancouver activist

I now have more details about the exciting musical project I’m in, “Bruce – The Musical”. An original two-act musical drama, Bruce – The Musical recreates key events in the life of Bruce Eriksen, the late founder of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA), and the individual most responsible for transforming the image of Vancouver’s lowest-income neighbourhood from Skid Road to residential community. It is a story of tragedy and triumphs, told with humour, action, human drama and song. The play is a blend of historical characters (Eriksen, Harry Rankin, Libby Davies, Jean Swanson) and representative characters (older single men and working people trying to survive and maintain their dignity, Chinese elders in a strange new land, politicians grappling with difficult issues – and you can expect a couple of SRO hotel cockroaches too). The play chronicles events in the period 1973-76, when Eriksen overcame his addiction to alcohol, went on to become an ironworker on the Knight Street Bridge project and then fought successfully to make the beer parlors and hotels of the Downtown Eastside safer for the old loggers and other retired resource workers who lived there. And where, you may ask, am I in all this? I actually have multiple roles in this extravaganza. I’m Danny, a retired logger/millworker who is enjoying his golden years living in the Downtown Eastside, accompanied by his longtime friend and coworker Marty. Later on, I’m none other than Harry Rankin, the tough, gruff and determined city councillor who joined in many of the same battles as Eriksen. But the most unusual appearance must be the one I make during a recreation of the publicity-grabbing “cockroach races” Eriksen organized to dramatize the living conditions in the firetrap hotels of the Downtown Eastside. Let’s just say that I really get to “bug out” in this role! Bruce was written by past Sun Newspaper Reporter Bob Sarti, with lyrics by Sarti and music by Bill Sample (recipient of the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame award) and Earle Peach. It features a professional and semi-professional cast of nine, under the direction of Jay Hamburger, artistic director of Theatre In the Raw Society, a professional company which has a long history of commitment and work within the east side of Vancouver and to social justice issues – “Giving Exposure to Voices Seldom Heard” since 1994.


Bruce – The Musical will run for ten performances from Nov. 6 – 16, 2008. For the thrifty, I’ve indicated discounted performances in green.
Wed Nov 5 Pay-What-You-Can PREVIEW NIGHT 8 pm 7:30 pm
Thurs Nov 6 OPENING NIGHT 8 pm 7:30 pm
Fri Nov 7 Regular Evening Performance 8 pm 7:30 pm
Sat Nov 8 Regular Evening Performance 8 pm 7:30 pm
Sun Nov 9 2-for-1 Matinee Afternoon Show 2 pm 1:30 pm
Wed Nov 12 Pay-What-You-Can Night 8 pm 7:30 pm
Thurs Nov 13 Regular Evening Performance 8 pm 7:30 pm
Fri Nov 14 Regular Evening Performance 8 pm 7:30 pm
Sat Nov 15 Regular Evening Performance 8 pm 7:30 pm
Sun Nov 16 Regular Evening FINAL Performance 8 pm 7:30 pm


It’s at The Russian Hall, 600 Campbell Avenue, in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood. It’s midway between Hastings and Prior. Here’s a map. View Larger Map


Tickets are available online on the Theatre in the Raw website’s tickets page. They’re also available at Urban Empire, 1108 Commercial Drive. For more info, contact Theatre In the Raw at (604) 708-5448 or, or visit the Theatre in the Raw website. Also, please visit and join Theatre In the Raw’s Tribute to Bruce Eriksen on FaceBook.

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