The 2019 rEvolver Festival shoots some new theatre into the city.
rEvolver Festival 2019: The Changing Stage
When: May 22-June 2, various times
Where: The Cultch
Tickets and info: From $15 at thecultch.com/tickets/
The seventh annual rEvolver Festival features 15 interdisciplinary works made by national and local Canadian artists working both solo and ensemble. The mix is innovative, experimental and benefits from the curation of Upintheair Theatre‘s expertise in providing opportunities to emerging performing artists. Established in 1999 by Daniel Martin and David Mott, Upintheair previously produced the annual Walking Fish Festival (2003-2012) as a way to develop a new-artist community.
Neanderthal Arts followed in 2010. This partnership with Left Right Minds gave work with a national scope a showcase. rEvolver took the best elements of both those earlier festivals and applied it to one format. It’s proven to be a good one.
“Our hope is that we won’t have to launch a fourth festival, as rEvolver has proven to be a pretty perfect format and mandate that are important and vital to the arts ecology of this city,” said Martin. “Working with outsiders, people who aren’t established yet, has always been something we’ve wanted because they often don’t get included at other festivals. This year is the most programming we’ve ever done, with something like 80 different events including readings, free shows, site-specific pieces and performances.”
Over its 12 day-run, there are nine mainstage productions, three site-specific experiences, three companion events and one off-site performance. The works range from Fake Ghost Tours, a zany tour of East Van’s reputedly most-haunted spaces, to the undermining of personal privacy by technology in the present day (Surveil) and even a Contemporary Dance Solo, which recreates viral teen dance routines from YouTube.
“Anybody who is in the contemporary arts gets the question all the time by friends and family about why they don’t go on So You Think You Can Dance, or do an A&W commercial or what have you,” he said. “That’s actually the least meaningful thing you can do in your career, but it’s something that pays well and is high-profile. As a response to that, dance artist Robert Azevedo researched these teen dance shows and the whole solo format they use and now has a show where he does something like 18 of these solos back-to-back-to-back.”
Given that these routines are typically designed for one person to give their all in and then be exhausted, Azevedo’s presentation will be a marvel of physical exertion regardless of the quality of the execution. Martin says he’s really excited about this show. Many present-day topics will be featured in presentations such as 4inXchange (gambling); Other Inland Empires (surf culture/Second World War Jewish diaspora) and Mr. Truth (orgasmic hallucinations). Truly, there is something for everyone to give a shot at in rEvolver.
“From Lester Trips in Toronto, Mr. Truth was one of the very first to clear the curatorial panel unanimously,” said Martin. “It was a big hit at Summerworks Performance Festival last year and OUTstages in Victoria recently. It’s beautifully written with wonderful language and physical action between two friends dealing with one of them appropriating the other’s identity as a way to deal with personal pain.”
For those who feel that it would be good to get a taste of these types of performances before committing to one of the purchased ticket shows, there are non-ticketed performances to take in such as 4inXchange by Toronto’s xLq.
“They bring in $1,000 in cash, put it on the table and have four audience members play games with the money over an hour,” he said. “Not to give it away, but there is a really exceptional twist at the end which explains how the audience winds up paying what they want for the performance. We’re really excited about all the shows.”
Many of the shows in rEvolver had their beginnings in the Fringe circuit and had a successful run. Now they want to grow their show into something that moves beyond that format — everything from staging to venue size and lighting can be a factor — and then could eventually become viable for a stand-alone run at the Cultch or the PuSh Festival.
Owing to the unique position of the works in this developmental path, rEvolver is also a good deal for those who want to take in new theatre and not break the bank. A six-show pass at $96 is unheard of at most local arts festivals.
“It’s a really important thing to make performing arts accessible to keep the community active and viable,” said Martin. “I have a family and a lot of offerings at other venues, even independent solo shows, are priced to high for me to afford. So we want to keep prices somewhere that young people who are just starting out, who might be friends of the artists appearing, can get access to the arts.”
Martin says that one of the reasons that Upintheair has been doing this for so long is the reward in seeing an artist who had played one of their festivals in the past going on to major roles in Canadian theatre in both administrative and creative areas.
“Of course, we’re not responsible for that,” he said. “But we can feel good about having provided a tiny benefit in there somewhere.”
For 2019, Martin says that feeling good is something of an unofficial mandate for rEvolver.
“It’s no secret that the world is in a pretty dark place at the moment and has been for a few years now,” he said. “You see that in the submissions you get and the issues artists are wrestling with, but what we really saw this year was a reassertion of celebration, community and humanity rather than being hopeless in the darkness. Right from the beginning of the submissions, we saw more comedy than ever before and, as a presenter, I’m really happy about that.”
The full program of performances at the 2019 rEvolver Festival is available on the website.
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