CLOVERDALE – When William Jans travels, he brings a camera, an impressive sense of adventure and, ultimately, a desire to share his stories with others.
For 25 years, he’s built a loyal following locally with entertaining live shows based on his journeys around the globe.
His eighth multimedia production, dubbed "A Man, A Plan, Japan!," debuts in Squamish this week and is brought to the Clova theatre next Thursday (April 23) as part of a three-date tour of the region.
"It’s a still a work in progress," Jans admitted in a phone interview from his Vancouver home on April 9. "It’s exhausting, but if I waited until the show was finished before I announced dates, it would never happen because it’s so hard," he added. "I’m doing 17 hours a day right now, easy…. It takes a year to build one of my shows. My head spins, but I think people appreciate the amount of work that goes into it."
Jans’ shows are "virtually interactive," with costumes, photos, videos, stories and other elements in play.
At the Clova, audience members will be charged more than $20 for taking in his latest production, to focus on an "outrageous" road in China, an abandoned amusement park, a trip through something called "Buddha’s nostrils," a sumo-wrestling experience, fake food, radiation and more.
"It all has an absurd sort of bent," he said, "but I’m glad it’s culturally responsible and I really do my research, but I key on things that are a bit different than what most people might like to do (when travelling).
"From way back when I started to do this, I was never the stand-back-and-observe kind of guy, I’m the jump-in-and-try-this guy – with permission. And I find that most places overseas, people are willing to allow
someone to jump right in, which makes it great fun for me. And if I do my job right, it’s not me up there in the photos, it’s you, the audience, doing and experiencing these things."
In Japan, one adventure had Jans mixing in with the time-warped rockabilly dancers at Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park. It was his intention to bust some moves with the pompadour’d guys and poodle skirt-wearing women, but he opted out after breaking his foot while out jogging (not "rescuing a camel from the river," as he tells some people).
"I had to make the decision whether to bail on the trip," Jans recalled. "I decided to keep going, with some cautious decisions, but it made dancing a no-go. But with those guys, if you try that, they’ll push you out of the way because it’s like, ‘Hey, this is our show, man.’ They’re really nice guys who
shared some beers with me, and I don’t drink, so I’m there on a Sunday afternoon almost a bit hammered with these guys, who are drinking a lot of beer. They just do it for fun – no hat out for money or anything – but there’s a bit of ego and glory involved, too, and if they open it up to everybody, it just becomes a dance party, and they’re not into that. It’s them showing off. It’s probably best I didn’t jump in, otherwise it probably wouldn’t have gone well."
Jans’ "A Man, A Plan, Japan!" show plays Squamish on Thursday, April 16, John Oliver Secondary in Vancouver on Friday, April 17 and the Clova in Surrey on Thursday, April 23 (show time 8 p.m., tickets $20.99 online, via Wrjphoto.com/tickets, and $22.99 at the door).