Actor Deborah Williams, seen here in an Arts Club Theatre Company production of “Mom’s the Word: Nest ½ Empty,” is a co-founder and presenter of “The Flame” storytelling series, presented online by Surrey Civic Theatres this spring. (File photo: Arts Club/Emily Cooper)

‘The Flame’ continues to burn on Surrey’s Digital Stage with spring stories

Online performance starts Friday, March 26, and shows for five weeks

The spark for The Flame was created during a wine-and-cheese party in Deborah Williams’ living room in Vancouver. As a co-host of the gathering, the actor/playwright told guests to bring one thing: A story.

“People were terrified, but they came, and once they told their story they said, ‘Oh my God, we’ve got to do this again!’. It was just so amazing,” said Williams, who organized that first event with her husband, Bruce, and good friend Joel Wirkkunen.

And so, a storytelling event was born.

“The whole range of humanity was there, and people were listening to stories, and laughing and crying and sharing, and at the end of the night, everyone felt like they had left with a huge group of friends, even though they didn’t know each other before,” Williams recalled.

Once you’ve heard someone tell a personal, lived experience, you can never go back to being strangers, she figures.

“You can never not appreciate that person as another human being and as an equal. I think storytelling would save the world if everybody would just tell the truth about their story.”

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Now in its 12th season, The Flame is a stage for storytelling events and workshops at venues across B.C., including Surrey.

Last October, a “scary stories edition” of the event was held virtually on Surrey’s Digital Stage, in celebration of Halloween, and now a “Hope Springs Eternal Edition” is featured online, starting Friday, March 26, at 7 p.m. The performance can be viewed for free until May 11 on Surrey Civic Theatres’ Facebook page, the Digital Stage event page and the City of Surrey’s YouTube channel.

The inaugural broadcast includes a post-show live chat with Williams and other storytellers.

This time around, seven storytellers are featured during the Surrey-hosted event, including Alysha Collie, Dave Deveau, Michelle Fleming, Caitlin McCarthy, Tequila Mockingbird, Yanting Qiu a.k.a. Beichuan and Norma Pelkie.

Featured are stories about a coming-of-age as an Indigenous woman, a quest for the flavours of spring, one family’s divorce ritual, the death of a friend and the birth of a first child (and how they might be connected), bringing a senior mother home, the art of how to give and receive a compliment, and a journey from high-school jock to wearing sassy frocks.

The storytellers have pre-recorded their stories for the hour-long event, including some on the Main Stage at Surrey Arts Centre, as part of Surrey’s series of Digital Stage shows, a pandemic-era initiative designed to help people staying home to connect with the performing arts.

• RELATED STORY: Video recording sessions available at Surrey Arts Centre, with fees and rules attached.

“Tune in for a night of stories from B.C.’s storytelling powerhouse, The Flame,” says an event advisory from Surrey Civic Theatres. “Showcasing a variety of storytellers from across the Lower Mainland and beyond, this event will be hosted by Deb Williams and will be a night of engaging stories championing human resilience in the face of life’s struggles and challenges.”

Williams recently won the Gordon Armstrong Playwright’s Rent Award for her work with The Flame. The multi award-winning actress, producer and writer is probably best known for co-creating the Mom’s the Word plays, about the joys and challenges of motherhood.

Online this spring, Surrey is hosting The Flame storytelling workshop for adults, on May 22-23 at a cost of $145.80. To register, look for details at

Looking ahead, Surrey’s next Digital Stage presentation this spring is Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre’s 1 Hour Photo, “a moving portrait of one man’s quest to find beauty in the depths of a savage century,” written and performed by Tetsuro Shigematsu. Tickets for the April 23-24 online broadcast are “Pay What You Want,” with a suggested price of $15.

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