Caili Steel is full of good news when we meet at Klondike Kate’s for coffee and a chat during that restaurant’s opening afternoon.
“I just found out today that I got funding from the ArtsFund.”
Steel has been busily organizing this year’s version of Dawson’s spring drama festival and has been working pretty much without a support group or a budget. Not that she hasn’t had a lot of assistance and encouragement from folks at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture here, and from Nakai Theatre in Whitehorse, but it is a lot of work for one person.
“I had planned it to be able to work out anyway,” she says, “but it’s now enhanced as I can offer a small commission for the artists to pay some travel costs, do some advertising and pay someone to be my head technician for the weekend.”
The second annual attempt to revive the tradition of spring drama festivals in Dawson will take place May 21 to 23, the same weekend as the Gold Show.
It’s a week later than last year’s Spring Theatre Night, which was organized by Joanna Mazanti and Jessica Hickman, but it’s organized in the same spirit, even if the details are a bit different.
And this year’s name, the Break-Up Theatre Festival, has historic roots.
More than two decades ago, there was a Break-up Drama Festival in Dawson that ran for many years, and drew the attention of amateur thespians from all over the Yukon.
As often happens with locally driven events everywhere, some of the players burned out and some of the key ones moved on and the event disappeared.
The Dawson City Arts Society had some members interested in drama before its focus narrowed down to the visual and plastic arts, and several local plays have been mounted in the Odd Fellows Hall, but most of the drama over the last 25 years has been staged at the Robert Service School.
Steel began work on the project during the few months when Colin Funk, then the executive director of the KIAC School of Visual Arts, initiated a series of weekly improv theatre sessions in the hall’s ballroom with a view to creating the momentum for this year’s festival by playing and planning at drama.
The intent, which was continued by Steel after he moved on, was to create a Dawson Theatre Network. That hasn’t quite worked out, but the festival is happening.
To assist in preparing, workshops were held in April. Elliot Hamilton-Boucher put on a technical workshop and Debbie Winston presented a talk on the importance of costuming.
This year’s festival will be a bit different than last year’s in all of the events will take place over two days in the ballroom.
It will also differ in that most of the acts will be from out of town. Whitehorse and Carcross players involved in Nakai’s Homegrown Theatre Festival – Nicole Bauberger, Garnette Marshall, George Maratos, Sharone Maldaver, Harmeny Daniel and Sarah Moore – have taken this event to heart and will be bringing their plays to Dawson.
In addition, Steel herself and SOVA student Jessica Viens will be performing.
On Saturday, there will also be a radio drama, The Challenge of the Yukon, staged out of CFYT-fm’s studio and there will be a listening party in the ballroom.
Saturday afternoon will also feature something Steel is calling a “creation lab”, a chance for anyone interested to quickly prepare a five-minute piece to perform that evening.
In addition, Julie Leclerc of Kültürz is organizing a clowning workshop to be held in the Ancillary Room at the Robert Service School.
Steel hopes that a successful weekend will help plant the seeds for the birth of an actual drama association, hopes that the Dawson Theatre Network may actually become a reality.