Nakai Yukon’s Pivot Festival 2020 shares a diverse calendar of events and performances from Jan. 14 to 25

If you feel a strong connection to the Yukon and you like variety and fun in your entertainment, or if you’d just like a good excuse to hire a baby-sitter and get together with friends on a cold January evening, you could check out Nakai Theatre’s Pivot Festival 2020. This will be the 12th iteration of the festival. Whitehorse-based Nakai Theatre is dedicated to contributing to a thriving Yukon Territory through remarkable theatre and uncommon events.  As the centrepiece public event for Nakai, Pivot Festival 2020 builds on that theme with its broad variety of events.

Jacob Zimmer has been the artistic director at Nakai Theatre for more than two years. What brought Zimmer to Whitehorse is exemplified by the different events presented at the Pivot Festival.

“I was working in Toronto for over 15 years and I wanted a change, something rooted in the community, where the arts matter in the community, something where the process and the end product is very local.

“Yes, it has come true for me here, in ways I could not have imagined. Being able to meet people and feel the rhythms is exciting. I wanted to focus on what can only be done here.”

The name Pivot Festival has been around longer than Zimmer has been artistic director, but he was able to provide both a historical context and a contemporary perspective.

“The artistic director, David Skelton, changed it from the Comedy Festival to Pivot Festival in 2008 when it became a more contemporary theatre festival. I like the title because the festival is the first event of the new year, a pivot from all the obligations and activities of the holiday season to all that the new year could be.”

Zimmer expanded on the changes that have occurred over the years.

“The festival has done just about everything. The focus shifted from comedy to more of a presenting model, where it was more linked to a network of festivals. I have shifted that a little bit. We have shows in Dawson and Haines Junction. It feels a little bit like the early days with the travel and there is more outside work. We have the best stage in the world.  What kind of show has someone on the top of the cliff?” Zimmer said as he looked out the window across the Yukon River.

“In my experience, it is that kind of work that can tour, where someone in Iceland, for example, sees it and says ‘wow, that is really Yukon? I want to bring it here.’”

Performances in Pivot Festival 2020 include:

Tales of an Urban Indian Take a bus ride with Simon Douglas, an Indigenous man, as he navigates his memories of life in Vancouver and rural B.C. The story spans 22 years in Simon’s struggle for survival, belonging and hope, with the same actor playing over 40 characters, all as seen through Simon’s eyes. Tales of an Urban Indian will travel across Whitehorse, visiting locations that mirror those in the play.

Stories from the Mango Stump – A Dinner with Antoinette A food-filled evening of storytelling with Antoinette Greenoliph. Antoinette will provide a five-course meal, with each course marking a moment in Antoinette’s journeys from the Caribbean to the North, from desk job monotony to successfully running her own business, and from coming out as queer at the age of 40 to finding belonging and love.

In addition to performances, Pivot Festival offers workshops and gatherings.

Party Like it’s 1979 – Nakai’s 40th Season Celebration Nakai is planning a fun evening themed around its founding year. There will be 1970s-themed playlists, costumes, dancing, lip sync battles, a photo booth and a collection of old Nakai memorabilia.

Pivotal Conversations – A Dialogue on Arts and Media Space in Whitehorse Yearly forum for local artists and arts leaders to focus on creative exchange and conversations beyond the scope of day-to-day interactions. In 2020, the conversation will be focused on cultural spaces and the potential for a cultural hub.

Becky and Taz – Three nights of Improv and Two Workshops With their combined credits, Becky and Taz are experts in improv theatre and will be treating Pivot-goers to three nights of diverse and heartfelt longform improvisation.  Becky and Taz are also conducting two improv workshops during the festival.

Asked to characterize or provide a theme for this year’s Pivot Festival, Zimmer’s words captured the relationship between the venues, the performers and the people attending.

“All of our events are downtown this year. Intimacy, people getting together, and human warmth are a big part of it. We are looking at what we can do in terms of connection with these smaller, unusual venues. It should be a good excuse to go out for an evening and smile with your friends.”

Pivot Festival 2020 happens Jan. 14 to 25. Tickets are available at NakaiTheatre.com.

Do you remember when January was always cold?