- Words by Angela Cowan Photography by Don Denton
When David Warburton took on the role of executive director at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre, it was both an exciting new opportunity and a step onto familiar ground, literally.
David, who grew up in Vancouver, came to Nanaimo regularly as his family travelled to their summer home on Gabriola Island, and he’s now been back in the city since last summer.
Having spent the previous nine years with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, David was intimately familiar with the Port Theatre, and was excited to bring his own spin to the programming side of things.
“I have the opportunity to support the artists and works that speak to me and align with our strategic mission,” he says.
He adds that it’s been wonderful to work in a collaborative role to help bring attention to historically underserved and underrepresented voices in the local and global communities. The theatre’s Discovery Series—which launched during the thick of the pandemic shutdown—showcases emerging and innovative talent, and the program has evolved to include production support and assistance in building artists’ profiles.
“We want to be an important stepping stone in their career,” says David. “It’s a program I would love to see grow and become much more meaningful. We’re trying to take care of the building and the people inside of it.”
The 7 Sins
Whose shoes would you like to walk in?
Hayao Miyazaki, who created beloved films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle. I was introduced to his films as a child, and while attending film school I grew to better appreciate his mastery of storytelling, captivating imagery and obsession with detail. Bilbo Baggins is a close second.
What is the food you could eat over and over again?
Italian pasta, any time, any day. I’ve always had favourite foods, but there was something about being introduced to rustic Italian cooking that awakened my senses and appreciation for food and the art of cooking. In some ways, my love for travel is much like my love for food, in that through exploring it I am constantly searching to discover something new about myself.
You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?
I would spend it on experiences until the money ran out. Trips with any friends and family willing to go on an adventure. An expedition to Antarctica, a boating trip to Easter Island, a trek to Iguazu Falls in Argentina, a Michelin-star meal with friends—the list goes on.
Non-apologies are the worst! “I’m sorry you feel that way” completely misses the point of an apology, which is ultimately to accept responsibility for a wrongdoing and seek to repair and remedy the situation through acknowledgment and forgiveness. Without that, it becomes hollow and might even make the situation worse.
Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?
I would sit among the orange and olive groves overlooking the Mediterranean in Deià, a small town on the island of Mallorca. It’s perhaps best known as the place where English poet Robert Graves lived after the First World War, serving as the setting for many of his works. I lived there very briefly as a child and returned often throughout my childhood. It’s certainly one of the places I long for and think about often.
What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?
Not many know, but in 2015—while I was reconnecting with my Korean roots and searching for my birth family—I co-created a show with my sister that was largely based on my experiences and those of other Korean adoptees I met while on that journey. The production won the Korean national theatre award and has since been remounted and toured in Canada and Korea multiple times. I’ve often felt the work needed to speak for itself. It was a deeply personal project, and I am incredibly proud of the show, of those involved in creating it, and of the impact it had in raising awareness around adoption, which is still a highly controversial and secretive subject in Korea.
What makes your heart beat faster?
I’ve often felt the most alive when faced with adversity. I can’t say it’s always been pleasant—usually it’s quite stressful!—but those moments when it feels like my heart is in my throat always stay with me. Being stung by a jellyfish while swimming off the coast of Mallorca; I still have visible scars some 25 years later. Or, as tour manager for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, flying over the Atlantic, learning our connecting flight had been cancelled and having to rebook the entire company through other countries mid-flight. Or, as an adult, walking through the gates of a rural Korean orphanage to meet the social worker who once cared for me. That was a surreal experience.