“A pivot,” David Skelton, artistic director of Nakai Theatre explains, “is the point around which action and movement occurs.”

From Jan. 22 – 27 in Whitehorse, the fifth annual Pivot Festival promises to be the centre point of boundary-expanding theatre works featuring local and national talent.

With an eye toward bringing new works to Yukon audiences and showcasing theatre relevant to northerners, Skelton is enthusiastic about this year’s thought-provoking and diverse line-up.

Skelton curates Pivot, in part, to create opportunities for local theatre artists. “I want to make sure that local works have the opportunity to rub shoulders with performers from Outside to create possible collaborations and inspiration – and to open up artists’ inventory of what’s possible,” he says.

For example, the musical Dogtown, which follows Trevor the Dog “through his life of depravation, international celebrity and ultimate salvation,” has been shown previously in part at Nakai’s Homegrown Theatre Festival. But in Pivot this year, the work by Yukoners Roy Ness and Grant Simpson will develop even further in collaboration with Vancouver director Britt Small (Atomic Vaudeville director of Legoland.)

Four more exciting works comprise the Pivot roster. The play Bubkus, which means “nothing” in Yiddish, by acclaimed Ottawa clown Jesse Buck has toured as far away as Nanjing, China and as close as Victoria, BC.

Bubkus tells the story of a “lone clown who wakes to discover an audience in his bedroom,” and like many clown performances it challenges assumptions about language and fantasy.

Skelton feels northern audiences will connect with the “almost-classic Whitehorse story” of The Busker and The Barista: A Rock Opera by local playwright Barry “Jack” Jenkins. In the play, a busker in Whitehorse for the summer falls for the man who serves her coffee and she considers moving to the Yukon. With music performed by post-punk band Speed Control, Skelton muses that he needs to check the maximum decibel level of the play’s venue. “The cops came to the Guild twice during previous performances of this musical,” he recalls.

Besides pushing sonic boundaries, Pivot pushes the limits of what kinds of stories we tell. Agokwe by Anishinaabe playwright and actor Waawaate Fobister from Grassy Narrows First Nation, Ontario[AR1] joins the festival this year. The heart of Agokwe (meaning “two-spirited” in Anishinaabe) is an unrequited love story between two young Aboriginal men from separate reserves who meet playing hockey for opposing teams. Co-presented by the Yukon Arts Centre, the play delves into social isolation, lost traditions and community.

Perhaps the most challenging play in this year’s Pivot line-up is a reading of a controversial new work, Kill Me Now, bycritically acclaimed playwright Brad Fraser[AR2] (born in Edmonton, Alberta) This naturalistic family drama explores how,amid their own sexual and health struggles, a single father, family and friends of a teen with XXXY Syndrome (Klinefelter’s Syndrome) are pushed well beyond social norms in their efforts to support one another through difficult times.

Exploring such issues as social attitudes towards disabled sex and euthanasia, Kill Me Now is funny, tender and vivid. Skelton is planning a post-show discussion in partnership with Yukon Association for Community Living to give audiences a chance to talk together about the complex issues in the play.

Pivot festival venues are Yukon Arts Centre and the Old Fire Hall. Find out more about the festival at: www.nakaitheatre.com.