An Invitation to Experience the Thrill and the Grit

The mix of open-flowing creativity, with a dash of fear, makes for a high that’s addictive for 

theatre performers — and especially for playwrights who perform their own plays.

Usually the audience goes home with ideas swimming around, but we’re not buzzing the same way.

Next week we can come close.

The Pivot Theatre Festival, taking place Jan. 23 to 26, is like an invitation to the same party as the theatre people; there are many opportunities for audience members to dial into the creative process.

One of the main opportunities to get involved is during the events called Talk-Backs, which are discussion sessions immediately following a performance. The audience stays in place, and the performers join them to throw around ideas.

David Skelton, co-curator of the Pivot Theatre Festival, encourages people to come and rub shoulders.

“Everyone is encouraged to go,” he says. “It’s building a community of people who are excited by the shows, excited by each other, excited by the arts.”

The festival is hosting a pre-show Icebreaker at Baked Café at 5 p.m. on opening night, Jan. 23. On Saturday, Jan. 24 there is a dance party after the shows at Burnt Toast.

On Jan. 25, Anita Rochon, co-creator of How to Disappear Completely, is hosting a free playwriting workshop at the Yukon Arts Centre.

On Jan. 26 there will be a reading of Whitehorse playwright Hazel Venzon’s new show,+1, about the journey of becoming a doula to help deliver babies; it’s an opportunity to see creativity transition from the mind to the stage.

There won’t be costumes, there won’t be a set. Yet, this kind of presentation can be powerful if the script is good, says Skelton.

Presenting developmental plays during the festival is part of Nakai Theatre’s goal of bringing fresh plays to Yukon audiences, and nurturing local playwrights. And, it invites us, as an audience, into that gritty place where creativity lives.

“By (presenting plays in the works) it gives you an idea of where these national, touring plays have come from,” Skelton says.

In addition to presenting two works in progress by Whitehorse playwrights — +1 by Hazel Venzon and Leave a Message (après le bip) by Genevieve Doyon and Aislinn Cornett — the festival features three polished plays making waves across Canada.

“These shows are crafted by extraordinary theatre creators,” Skelton says. “So this is an opportunity for the audience to see some of the best theatre in Canada.”

Huff is written and performed by Montreal-based artist Cliff Cardinal.

“It’s about two First Nation brothers trying to deal with the death of their mother,” Skelton says. “There’s all different kinds of ways they do that, and huffing gasoline is one of them.”

How to Disappear Completely is written and performed by Vancouver-based artist Itai Erdal.

“It’s an autobiographical show about Itai finding out his mother is dying of cancer in Israel, and him going over and documenting the last three years of that process,” Skelton says.

Blue Box is written and performed by Vancouver-based artist Carmen Aguirre, about her involvement in the Chilean revolt.

Nakai Theatre’s Pivot Festival, co-produced with the Yukon Arts Centre, takes place Jan. 23 to 26.

Life, Death, and Love

Whitehorse resident Genevieve Doyon will be presenting her first play, still in development, during the Pivot Theatre Festival.

Leave a Message (après le bip) explores our relationship with death. Despite being inevitable, we generally don’t want to deal with it.

But the play’s not gloomy, Doyon says.

“It’s not tragic, it’s reality,” she says. “And it’s very linked to life.”

Doyon plays Claire, a woman who ventures North from a big southern city for one last trip before she ends her life. Here she meets Zack, a guy born and raised in the North; A guy who’s grounded and relaxed — the opposite of her.

“Zack takes things as they come, whereas Claire questions everything,” Doyon says. “That’s something I found refreshing when I moved here, is that people don’t question everything and look for the meaning in everything.”

Doyon, originally from Montreal, co-wrote the play with fellow Open Pit Theatre Company director Aislinn Cornett, and the dialogue is in French and English.

“It’s 90 per cent English and 10 per cent French,” Doyon says. “This is the first play I’ve written… and I didn’t want to pretend I’m Anglophone, but I wanted to make it accessible.”

She finds the mind’s ability of to fill in gaps fascinating, and she trusts Anglophone will get it.

“When you’re at a dinner party, chances are you won’t catch all of the jokes – but will you have bad night? No,” she says.

The workshop production of Leave a Message (après le bip) takes place on Jan. 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. at The Old Fire Hall.

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