When it comes to theatre, David Skelton says he believes Whitehorse audiences are “brave and sophisticated”.
As Nakai Theatre’s artistic director, Skelton admits that last year’s Pivot Festival came with a small dose of controversy. However, he’s ready for another go this January when the avant-garde performance event hits the stage for its second run.
Skelton says the essence of the festival is to present works that haven’t been seen in town before. And while the new roster sticks to that model, he says it will strike a pleasing balance.
“The major thing when I was doing the programming was to ensure that we don’t go too far, too fast. That we don’t present people with too much that is … I guess the word would be ‘alien’,” he explains.
“The shows that we have, I think, are a good mixture of things that are accessible and that people have seen. And also some things that nobody has seen.”
Four main acts make up the Pivot schedule this year, including one by local artist Joseph Tisiga. This is the first piece that Skelton elaborates on, saying he’s “over the moon” about presenting the young artist’s work.
Tisiga’s performance will revisit his presentation from Nakai’s Homegrown Festival earlier this year. For Pivot, Skelton says Tisiga’s Cola Cola Creation Stories has been further developed from its initial presentation.
The “headliner” of Pivot is New York-based performer Taylor Mac. Skelton throws out a slew of words to describe his work – visual artist, director, writer and songwriter.
“In the broadest sense, Taylor’s a drag queen, but the manner in which he dresses is not of a classic drag queen,” Skelton explains. “He’s not pursuing a glamourous or caricatured icon of femininity. He is sort of a rough and decayed image.”
According to Skelton, pastiche, or imitation, is a key concept utilized in Taylor Mac’s performances and persona, for that matter.
Another act in Pivot actually draws a direct connection to last year’s festival. Fides Krucker returns to Whitehorse – she co-wrote and directed the production of CP Salon last January.
Krucker is known as one of Canada’s leading performers of contemporary vocal music and this time she returns to perform and lead a festival workshop. Skelton says the workshop is offered in partnership with the Yukon Association for Community Living.
“The professional singer, the professional actor or the person who just has always wanted to sing outside the shower – they’re all invited to this,” he says.
Last, but certainly not least, First Nation comedian Don Burnstick rounds out the Pivot line up. Burnstick’s union of humour and healing has earned him critical acclaim. And Skelton says his message of heritage, addictions and humanity is a welcome addition to the festival.
Furthermore, Skelton adds that other performers could be joining in closer to the festival’s run, as Nakai is also making room for pieces from the Brave New Works performance show in January.
Nakai’s Pivot Festival runs Jan. 28 to 31. Performances will be at the Yukon Arts Centre and The Old Fire Hall. Tickets are available at Arts Underground and the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office.