When David Skelton discusses the upcoming Pivot Festival, he keeps coming back to the example of Joseph Tisiga.
The young Yukon First Nations artist is ready to burst out and Skelton likes to think his Nakai Theatre helped him along the way.
That is, after all, the purpose behind Nakai Theatre.
“We develop local artists,” says Artistic Director Skelton of Nakai’s mandate. There are other mandates, but this is the one he keeps coming back to.
“We inspire local artists to do things differently.
“I think last year people were inspired to create performances that were affected by the different kinds of performances they saw at the Pivot Festival.”
Tisiga created Un(en)titled for Nakai’s Homegrown Festival last year and it has now developed into a more-polished production of Late Night With Grey Owl.
Late Night will show Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Jan. 28 and 29, at The Old Fire Hall, to kick off the second annual Pivot Festival.
Skelton says Tisiga then takes the show on the road to a First Nations festival in Toronto and, maybe, to the Talking Stick Festival in Vancouver.
When he returns, Skelton hopes the show will continue to progress into a full production for Nakai.
Part of Tisiga’s development could be meeting his guest of the Thursday show, Taylor Mac, the New York performance artist/drag queen/self-described fool. (See his story on this page.)
“I think Joseph will be affected by Taylor Mac,” says Skelton. “It will open him up even more.
“He hasn’t had a lot of experience and he’s going to be changed.”
Mac will benefit from his guest appearance, too, as it will boost word-of-mouth advertising for his own show at the Yukon Arts Centre Friday night, Jan. 30.
“There is already word-of-mouth advertising,” says Skelton. “I know lots of people who have seen the poster [featuring Mac’s dramatically made-up face] and said, ‘Wow! I gotta see that!’.”
Even though Mac is a world-renowned and respected performance artist, he doesn’t have much of a profile in the Yukon.
“The audience needs to take a leap of faith,” says Skelton. “To go somewhere they’ve never been before.
“But, guaranteed, people who see it will be excited.”
For the Pivot Festival to be successful, Skelton says its alternative programming requires audiences to try something new.
Last year, the Pivot Festival only sold 400 tickets. Organizers were hoping for double that number.
Skelton takes the blame for that, saying he should have been slower in making the break from the waning interest in stand-up comedy.
This year, Don Burnstick has been invited to offer a show Saturday night, Jan. 31, at the Yukon Arts Centre.
The Cree performer from the Alexander First Nation has a lot of fun with First Nations likes and dislikes in his show, You Might Be a Redskin — Healing Through Native Humour.
Skelton is expecting a sold-out room for this show.
The next day, Burnstick will appear again at the Nakai For Kids Festival at the Yukon Arts Centre. This show will be at 11 a.m.
Then, on Sunday at 1 p.m., Fred Penner will headline the Pandemonium Party! at Whitehorse Elementary School. It is a location that Skelton says is suitable for the drinks and snacks and face painting that will go on. (See the story on the opposite page.)
Because Nakai Theatre believes any festival should include a development component, Penner will join a panel discussion on “Why do you perform?” and “What inspires you?”
Skelton, who will be part of the forum, says the conversation starts there, but could go anywhere.
The public is invited to this event Saturday, Jan. 31, at Baked Café, at 6 p.m.
There is no charge, but those who want to attend are encouraged to RSVP at 393-6044.
Also on the panel will be Tisiga, local artist Owen Williams and Fides Krucker.
Krucker is known to Yukon audiences from her CP Salon show at last year’s Pivot.
“Her voice is heavenly,” says Skelton of the internationally renowned vocalist of contemporary opera.
At this year’s Pivot, she will appear before Taylor Mac’s performance Friday night.
“She’ll be an interesting contrast to Taylor,” says Skelton. “Taylor Mac is cabaret and Fides is operatic.”
She will also offer workshops.
“She had a workshop last year and people came out of it so moved and so in touch with their voice.”
Tickets for all of the performances are available at the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office and Arts Underground.