Ga Ting, play exploring homophobia, cultural conflicts reaches wider audience

Ga Ting, which is showing at the Cultch until March 19, tells the story of grieving Chinese-Canadian parents trying to understand the life of their gay son who passed away.

Play at the Cultch tells story of immigrant parents trying to learn more about gay son who died

(Left to right:) Alannah Ong, B.C. Lee and Brian J. Sutton star in Ga Ting, playing at The Cultch until March 19. (Raymond Shun)

A play exploring cultural tensions and taboos around sexuality in the Chinese community, is coming back to the Lower Mainland after its initial run at the Richmond Cultural Centre in 2014.

Ga Ting, which means "family " in Cantonese, tells the story of a grieving Chinese-Canadian immigrant couple who invite their late son's Caucasian boyfriend over for dinner, in an attempt to learn more about their son's life which quickly devolves into a cultural and generational clash.

A revised version of the play is now showing at The Cultch theatre until March 19.

Minh Ly, the Toronto-based actor who wrote the play, said the play's message remains relevant today — there is still a lot of stigma around being gay in Chinese culture, he said.

Minh Ly is a Toronto-based playwright. (Denise Grant)

"It's still very taboo. You don't talk about it … there isn't even a word for gay, really," said Ly, who added that being gay is often thought to be "wrong" or a "phase" and something that can be changed.

Ga Ting draws from elements of Ly's own life (he said his own parents are "fairly conservative) but is "definitely not autobiographical."

The idea for the play actually began with Ly wanting to create a piece that showcased older Asian actors.

"I had this image of … a middle-aged Asian man and a middle-aged Asian woman with a younger Caucasian man on stage," Ly said.

"I thought would be intriguing if the show started off that way, and it evolved into the story it is now."

However, the play did help Ly communicate his feelings when he came out to his own mother, when she flew to Vancouver to see the play.

"In a way the production two years ago spoke what I needed to say, and said what I wanted to say."

Revised show

Ly said it's "very exciting" for Ga Ting to be playing at The Cultch, and said the revised show goes deeper into exploring the characters and their conflicts.

"I'm very curious how a new audience will respond," he said.

The production is presented in both English and Cantonese through the use of subtitles, in which translated dialogue is projected for the audience to read.

The role of the two Chinese parents are played by Hong Kong film star Alannah Ong and former Vancouver city councillor B.C. Lee.

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: Ga Ting, play exploring homophobia, cultural gaps returns for a wider audience


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