The first time I heard the word Yippie, I was very little and in a playground somewhere, where other small children like me were being pushed higher and higher on the swingset. However, as I have come to learn over the past few months, here in Vancouver, 14 years prior to my birth, the word Yippie meant something completely different.
According to Bob Sarti, director of the forthcoming musical production Yippies in Love, "Vancouver was the protest capital of Canada, and Yippies were its most colourful and controversial provocateurs." Basically, a bunch of hippies from 4th Ave. had begun to move into Gastown amidst an older, more conservative population who didn't take too kindly to this. The police began harassing the long-haired hooligans and accusing them of selling drugs.
The confrontation heated up and then came to a boiling point in August 1971, when the hippies staged a marijuana smoke-in to assert their rights to live in the neighbourhood. What followed was a series of disturbing events and a riot, which is now commemorated in a 15x9m photographic mural in the front lobby of the new Woodward's buildings, a few blocks from where the riot began almost 40 years ago.
While small plaques and Google searches will yield details of the events for the curious, local director Bob Sarti (Bruce-The musical) aims to depict the events next spring in an original play titled Yippies in Love.
"Yippies... is a play with all-original music and an insider view of the turbulent counter-culture days of Vancouver in the 1960s and '70s, when the modern mass movement for social justice was emerging. The play deals with an important issue for all activists: how to find the right balance between being an advocate for social change, raising a family and living out meaningful ideals amidst disturbing political events that deeply affect peoples' lives."
In preparation for the release, Bob Sarti has also been busy creating a "Twittoir" (Twitter/memoir) in which he is posting great historical "tweets and tidbits" including "The Annals of Andy" -- the fictional story of a surfer boy who meets the Vancouver Yippies -- all in only 140 characters per chapter. You can follow Bob's Twittoir on Twitter @yippiesinlove.
Yippies in Love is scheduled to hit the stage somwhere around March 2011. Fundraising for the production is underway now. To make a donation, call Jay Hamburger at (604) 708-5448.