AUGUST 2023 | Volume 230


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Empire of the Son
by Tetsuro Shigematsu
Pacific Theatre
Sept. 28-Oct. 21

Tetsuro Shigematsu's Empire of the Son returns to Vancouver, reimagined for PacificTheatre's intimate stage.

"My father died on September 18. And I failed not once but twice."

As Pacific Theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary season, it is with great honour that we welcome home Tetsuro Shigematsu's globally renowned, Empire of the Son, reimagined for our cherished stage. Of this new presentation, Shigematsu says, "This upcoming production at Pacific Theatre represents the show in its rawest form. I've never had a presented production be so 'a cappella,' so stripped down to its barest essence. This new version, reimagined by a new group of artists led by Kaitlin Williams, feels like an old soul being reborn into a new body." 

Empire Of The Son's rich autobiographical tale unfolds as Shigematsu endeavours to understand his ailing father, leading audiences through the intricacies of familial love, grief, and joy. In this collaboration, Pacific Theatre's very own Kaitlin Williams joins forces with Shigematsu. With a focus on the heart and raw emotion, they breathe new life into this Canadian theatre classic, allowing Shigematsu, even after nearly 300 performances, to "experience the story as if for the very first time."

Premiering in 2015, Empire of the Son has been Shigematsu's passport to global acclaim. Described by Colin Thomas as, "one of the best shows ever to come out of Vancouver. Ever," it has played in 18 cities to over 20,000 people. Having once required an elaborate set involving a truck for transport, this iteration strips back the show to the essentials, revealing the potent core of the narrative. "The most powerful dimension of the show is the text,"Shigematsu shares, reflecting on the evolution of his creation. "This production represents the show in its rawest form - stripped down to its barest essence."

As Pacific Theatre steps into its monumental 40th year, this rendition of the six-time Jessie award-nominated Empire of the Son is a perfect fit with the company's mandate - to tell stories that express the real, messy, and complicated nature of being human. "Tetsuro's Empire of the Son struck a chord with Vancouver audiences when it was first performed in 2015," says Kaitlin Willams, Pacific Theatre's artistic director, "Since then, he has toured the world with the show and considers our upcoming Pacific Theatre production a homecoming. It is an honour to host Tetsuro at Pacific Theatre and to launch our 40th anniversary season with this reimagined version of his seminal work."  

Empire Of The Son opens Friday, September 29th, and runs until October 21st at Pacific Theatre. Pay-what-you-can preview Thurs, September 28th at 7:30 pm.


Understated perfection." — Cecila Lu, Vancity Buzz

"Grief stripped raw in all its beauty." — Erika Thorkelson, Vancouver Sun

"Gorgeous storytelling." — Mark Robins, Vancouver Presents

"A profound piece of theatrical, technical, and literary mastery." —Olivia Law, The Ubyssey

"A celebration of the extraordinary in the ordinary" — OTTAWA CITIZEN


Written and performed by Tetsuro Shigematsu. Created in collaboration with Kaitlin Williams. Stage Managed by Susan Miyagishima. Original Sound Design by Steve Charles. Lighting Design by Jonathan Kim
For special events, including talkbacks and our theatre club featuring guest speakers, visit

This show contains strong language and is suitable for ages 13+. For more information, please visit or call 604-731-5518. We hope to see you at the theatre!

About Pacific Theatre: Founded in 1984 on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the xwməθkwəyəm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səlílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations Pacific Theatre aspires to delight, provoke and stimulate dialogue by producing theatre that rigorously explores the spiritual aspects of human experience. With over 150 productions ranging from established classics to original premieres, our theatre engages top talents from Vancouver and beyond, aiming to inspire dialogue and reflection. Behind the scenes, Pacific Theatre's reach stretches far beyond the plays we produce. We are also committed to nurturing emerging artists and cultivating new works, providing a creative haven for novices and seasoned practitioners. Through our apprenticeship program, young theatre talents receive training, shadow professionals, and contribute to mainstage events, often springboarding them to successful careers.



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Vancouver's arts and culture website providing theatre news, previews and reviews