PuSh 2010 line-up announced

The Edward Curtis Project

Vancouver’s very own PuSh International Performing Arts Festival drops next year on January 20, running to February 6. The official site has just released the shows that will be on display for your consideration and discussion.

Here’s a grab bag of copy from the listings section:

An enormous scale model of Auschwitz fills the stage, with thousands of tiny handmade puppets representing the prisoners and their executioners.


Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut is one of the most notorious theatre pieces to come out of Vancouver in recent memory.

Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut

Filled with absurd, inspired, bizarre and often touching “events,” it is part dream, part chaos and part variety show…

White Cabin

Intimate one moment and operatic the next, these seemingly mundane gestures build to a surprising conclusion that is delightfully unhampered by its performers’ complete lack of formal dance training.

Poetics: A ballet brut

Fascination, humour, madness and sheer terror are melded in his puppet show recreations of the gruesome, sexually charged murders.


For eight continuous hours, 50+ performers use the compositions and improvisational languages developed by Braxton to create a living sound world.

Sonic Genome

A simulated city evolves as each of 200 spectators add their personal touch, game controller in hand.

Best Before (working title)

…a fantastical rendering of the Gothic dreamscape of Poe’s life.


Performed on an assortment of instruments, most of which the performers are required to build themselves using materials from giant pipes and tea cups to flower pots…

So Percussion

…Vancouver-based composer Stefan Smulovitz has written a luminous score to accompany Carl Dreyer’s 1928 silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc.

The Passion of Joan of Arc

A transformative and dynamic sculpture takes form as the hanging canvases grab hold of the fleeting, flickering images.

The Passion Project

…a delightfully subversive game of anticipation and expectation that blurs the line between spectator and spectacle.

The Show Must Go On

In her journey to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, she finds herself face-to-face with the controversial photographer who was obsessed with capturing the Indian way of life he thought was dying out.

The Edward Curtis Project

Australian-born photographer-storyteller William Yang shares a deeply beautiful account of his personal pilgrimage to China…



What would Daisey do?


I’ve believe I am now going to look upon Mike Daisey as a source of inspiration. When I have decisions to make regarding moving myself forward as an artist and my company forward as a business, I will heretofore take at least a minute to consider how Mike might handle the situation. I am not herein committing myself to acting in accord with what I think that direction might be, but I will undertake to take it under advisement before making a move. There’s just something about the man that’s…well, brassy. And I think indie theatre needs some more brass.

I’d seen the clip, and I’d read the essay, and I’d witnessed the battle. And now, at last, I’ve seen the work. Mike was sourced for the recent PuSh International Performing Arts Festival here in Vancouver by Norman Armour, the Exec Director of the Fest himself, who offered Mike and his monologue to us the night of his show as “a treat”. And the show we were treated to that night lived up to my anticipation with some room to spare. As an activist presence here on the theatrosphere he’s smart, scrappy and high-minded, and he’s armed with a considered set of ideals that he wants to get up in the face of anyone who will lend him an ear. On stage, in the work, he’s undoubtedly mesmorizing, and I totally get why his exclusive style of theatre is the monologue. He’s just…big. He’s got a big voice that straightens your spine in your chair when he dials it up, he speaks of big ideas that wander in and around each other as he sits there; centre stage in a big chair behind a big desk on a small stage talking to a small crowd, for one and a half hours pausing only to, both literally and as a punctuation mark, turn the page. Rare is the true storyteller that can hold an audience with language alone and have it hailed as successful theatre. It takes balls. Big ones. He is, to quote Tom Loughlin on A Poor Player, a force for change in how theatre is created, and since being inducted as a Mike Daisey audience member I have been fixating on the power of simplicity and directness coupled with confidence.  An American confidence, for want of an identifier, that landed right on top of this polite Canadian crowd at the PuSh Club, sprinkled as it was with some of our brightest theatre specimens.

MONOPOLY! was the title of show that Mike brought up to Rain City, a solid choice for a Canuck crowd, dealing in tales of Microsoft, Wal Mart, the battle between the progenitors of Direct and Alternating Current and the true story behind the success of the titular board game. It’s a deft storyteller who considers his audience, and of the 14 monologues at his disposal this was a well-chosen piece for us. We could identify and relate to all of the monologue’s components despite the fact that its author was on foreign soil. And that’s a great lesson right there: the consideration of your audience when it comes to choice of material. Would we as easily have been able to identify with one of Mike’s many essays on the state of affairs of our downstairs neighbours? Perhaps, but certainly more passively. And passivity is a state not sought after in the enclave of the theatrical form.

I’m not saying that I agree with everything that Mike Daisey trumpets. I do however think that he embodies a certain set of ideals that we in independent theatre need to gravitate towards a little more if we’re going to erupt as an industry. A Daisey performance contains no unnecessary flourishes or set pieces, no extraneous fluff. He creates a space to inhabit while he works that contains a set of rules that are determined by his art. And everything on the set and in his material has a purpose, and behind that purpose there is obvious consideration. It’s clear to me that Daisey has a goal for his work, and for the industry in which he plies it. And to reach that goal he is prepared to tackle the obstacles head on, and quite prepared to be loud about it.

Thanks for coming up for a visit Mike, consider some of your energy transferred.

I’m a little disappointed you didn’t light up a huge Tesla Coil for a finale, though. I was sure that was waiting in the wings…

PuSh off to a flying start


I missed the premier of Skydive here in 2007 to my utter chagrin, the story of its conception sounded fantastic: two old theatre school buddies were jamming on ideas over beers one day and one of them said “hey, how cool would it be to stage a play entirely in mid-air?”. And boom, Skydive was born. It was a long and amazingly technical process to birth it, mind you, but they put together a corker of a story and they made two actors fly for 90 minutes. What’s even more amazing is that one of them happens to be usually wheelchair-bound. He also created a theatre company for his project, which is off to an auspicious start. To say the least.

I finally got to see this play the other day – my first taste of this year’s PuSh Festival – and boy-oh-boy, was it worth the wait. You can read my full review here.

If anyone has any recommendations (or warnings) about any of the work they have seen at PuSh so far, please feel free to drop them in the comments section. We’d love to hear any thoughts about the festival as it progresses.

PuShing our potential

The 5th annual PuSh International Performing Arts Festival opens tomorrow. This, Vancouver, is a very big deal. It’s something you should know about, certainly something you should support, but most importantly something you should talk about, to all those people in your life who may have the slightest bit of interest in seeing this city grow up into a major cultural epicentre.

PuSh isn’t just another theatre festival. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even call itself a theatre festival, rather a ‘performing arts festival’. It’s a striking entity, and the fact that it even exists is worth consideration. Its mandate is not to aggregate some cool performances for us to take in for the sake of our convenience, but rather to offer us a glimpse of what the cultural life of our city could be. It’s right there in the name: PuSh is about expanding those heavy-set boundaries that we all have about where we spend our energies supporting and proliferating our cultural landscape. It’s an opportunity for us to ponder our definitions of what we consider worthwhile art, and whether or not our intake of it is regular or sufficient.

You won’t find any Shakespeare or Shanley or Schubert at PuSh, if it’s not new and innovative it doesn’t make the cut. The true genious behind what Executive Director Norman Armour and his team have got going here is the offering of a microcosm of a truly progressive art scene; a model of a city willing to chuck art at the wall to see if it sticks. The real tragedy of the thing would be to contain it safely within the 20 days of the festival.

Consider Club PuSh, a new addition this year to the fest, wherein a bar has been set up on Granville Island at which you can hang out, connect, drink and have crazy performance art explode around you. Without everyone staidly sitting quietly, all in polite shussed rows engaged in group formalism. Can you imagine a bar like that year round in Vancouver? Can you imagine our city supporting a bar like that? That just sounds like a wonderful fantasy to me. Mr. Armour calls it a “a social-networking experiment on a fairly serious scale”. I call it a place I want to hang out at. Often.

It’s about sharing public experience with our neighbours. PuSh knows you’re there in the piece with the performers, and acknowledges that live performance; whether theatre, music or dance, is merely a rehearsal without an audience. It’s a generous standpoint and we should embrace it, and share it with each other and those around us that will listen. Our future as a city of successful artists depends on it.

PuSh Festival puts out call for volunteers

Whoa, immersed as I have been in our latest production, I totally forgot that the magnificent PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is coming up fast. Get ready for it, Vancouver.

PuSh is much more than an annual cultural feast for Vancouver: it is a broker of international partnerships, a meeting place for creative minds, a showcase of Canada’s best and an incubator of brilliant new work.

From the official site

This is a signature Vancouver cultural event; theatre, dance, music and hybrid art forms comprise the festival, featuring local, national and international artists. It’s a pretty big deal. Plank Magazine talks about it here.

This year’s PuSh runs from January 20 to February 8, 2009. They have just put the call out for volunteers to help with front of house, hospitality, program distribution, transportation etc…for more information and to access the volunteer registration form, click it here.

Click here to check out the lineup. It looks awesome, as usual. You can dig the festival’s blog here.

Salt-N-Pepa will unfortunately not be performing at the Festival.

This One Goes to Eleven: Katrina Dunn

If you want an example of absolute commitment to our theatre, look no further than Katrina Dunn, who has been on the front lines of the fight to bring great Canadian theatre to Vancouverites for many years. She’s been the Artistic Director of Touchstone Theatre and its all-Canadian mandate since 1997, and was one of the architects of the envelope-expanding PuSh Festival, where she remains as Associate Curator. All this while working consistently as a Director-for-hire. Meet one of the stalwarts of our industry…


1.) In one word, describe your present condition.

If by “condition” you mean the condition of the show, I would say “poised” meaning poised to take off and meet it’s audience.

2.) Describe the condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.


3.) Please describe Touchstone’s criteria for choosing its material.

Our mandate is Canadian work. We pick the the most provocative and exciting new voices creating Canadian work.

4.) Can you tell us a bit about the working process of your Playwright-in-Residence program?

We work with playwrights over a long period – usually 2 to 3 years. The development process includes a series of workshops and hands on dramaturgy with myself and a dramaturg. We carefully usher a show to production and make a significant investment in its premiere.

5.) What advice could you give young companies with regards to structuring themselves towards long-term sustainability?

Diversify your audience and your revenue sources. Plan for things to change, especially when it comes to funding.

6.) How healthy do you feel Vancouver theatre is as a mutually supportive community?

It’s excellent. I think we work together more than any major centre in Canada. Because in the West we’ve been forced to work with less resources, we partner more and share more.

7.) So far, what has been your proudest PuSh Festival moment?

I think it must have been the 07 Festival, when I realize the thing had grown so big that it was impossible for me to take it all in.

8.) If you could offer only one piece of advice to our new directors, what would it be?

Believe in your vision and pursue it despite the nay sayers.

9.) Given a time machine, what one piece of advice would you give yourself as you start out on your career?

Try not to work so hard.

10.) What are your top three theatre reads?

Joseph Chaiken’s The Presence of the Actor

David Mamet’s True and False

John Lahr’s The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan

Tony Kushner’s Thinking about the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness

Four – I know but I couldn’t choose.

11.) What’s next?

Janet Munsil’s new play “Influence” about John Keats, the Elgin Marbles and the nature of artistic inspiration. Touchstone is producing it in November.