While the word “pivot” may have risen to the most over-used one in the English language in 2021, there is one Yukon theatre company that was using it well before everyone else. Nakai Theatre’s Pivot Festival is celebrating its 14th year of bringing the unexpected and the future-forward to Whitehorse.
The festival will run from Jan. 11 to 22, bringing a much-needed infusion of comedy and laughs. “For a festival in January I’ve always thought including laughter was very important and that only increases during the pandemic,” said Jacob Zimmer, artistic director of the festival. “I also believe that comedy can be a great way to reflect and respond to big and important issues. There are hard things in the world that we’re all dealing with and we can do that better if we can also laugh with each other.”
Ramshackle Theatre’s Brian Fiddler will perform his Death, Jesus, and Friends, a deeply silly puppet show featuring (you guessed it) Death and Jesus along with a charming and loveable set of characters including Jesus’ brother, and Bob and Doug McKenzie. The Edmonton improv duo of Folk Lordz will bring local guests onstage for its in-person performances. And hailing from Vancouver, comedy artist Candice Roberts will explore the absurdity of gender roles and the binary with her hit show LARRY. LARRY is a fearlessly funny portrait of the small-town Canadian hoser on a path of self-discovery. Through the piece, Roberts will take the audience on a journey of looking at gender stereotypes, masculinity and the experience of growing up as a woman in a rural town.
For those looking for a mid-winter escape to the beach, no travel is necessary. The Pivot Festival will once again fill the Old Fire Hall with enough wattage to rival a trip to the sun itself with its Sun Room space. Audiences are welcome to visit the pop-up summer park to read a book, scroll on social media, take a break from the cold, or have a picnic and visit with friends.
For those who wish to enjoy theatre in the great outdoors, this year’s Pivot Festival ensures there is in fact something for everyone. The Pivot Poetry Crawl will take small groups along the riverfront path to meet and hear from poets along the way. Cold weather lovers and passerbys grabbing a morning coffee at Baked can also stop to watch a projected video and audio installation on the windows of the Old Fire Hall. The piece will feature renowned tap dancer Travis Knights and Toronto choreographer Brandy Leary as they explore the connection of tap and Black bodies. Through dance and storytelling, Knights will reflect on and honour the communities and cultures that have shaped tap dance over time.
Beyond the performances, this year’s festival will also be sharing ideas and sparking discussion about the far future and the magic it might bring. Christine Genier will bring to the festival a talk on Indigenous Futurism. What does it look like at the intersection of walking with the land and living in a landscape of high-tech and AI? As we move full-steam ahead into a future led and run by technology, while simultaneously many are embracing nature and the benefit it brings to our lives, how will these two futures look as they continue to collide? In her presentation, Genier will explore these ideas connecting to the works of other Indigenous artists.
There is much to be excited about for this year’s festival. Zimmer shared some of the festival elements he is most looking forward to.
“First, just to have audiences at all! I’m really looking forward to walking the river with poetry and seeing Ephemeral Artifacts light up the Front Street and the trail. I’m also really looking forward to hearing what Christine Genier’s been doing on Indigenous Futurisms and science fiction from Yukon First Nations’ perspective.”
The Pivot Festival will run in Whitehorse Jan. 11 to 22, 2022. For more information about the 2022 Pivot Festival, visit nakaitheatre.com.