Alright, we’re past the mid-point of winter and the next seven days are supposed to be around that -30 point – it seems like we could all use a little fire… no? Lucky for us, skirtsAfire, “Edmonton’s multi-disciplinary arts festival featuring women” is here to keep us warm March 6 – 9.
I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the founders of skirtsAfire, Annette Loiselle for some more information on the festival, which is now in its second year. “It’s been brewing in my own head for lots of years. It started with theatre and I saw the need for a women’s theatre company in Edmonton. We’ve got The Maggie Tree and they’re doing great work, but I… wanted to create something that’s developing women in theatre that everyone knows about… Finally, one day with my two girlfriends Nadien Chu and Sharla Matkin who I figured would both be into it, we got together over red wine and popcorn and thought, ‘What could this be?’ Festivals are a really great way of broadening and getting a larger audience, which is what I was talking about. If it’s a festival we’re bringing in new audiences.”
The first year of the festival was a great success, with almost 600 people attending the festival over the four days. This year, with the festival expanding into new venues and opening up to new artistic disciplines, I asked Annette what the long-term goal of the festival is. “Our goal is to be an incubator for new development of plays written by women… We see it as three stages of development. Last year and this year we’ve had the first two stages. Last year and this year we have the Peep Show – we partnered with Alberta Playwright’s Network and put out a call for submissions for new plays by women. We picked four and they get to work with a dramaturge and a director and some actors and on the Sunday of the festival we get a 10-15 minute snippet of the play read by the actors… Stage two is when these plays then get developed [into] a staged reading… This year, what’s nice is one of the plays that was in the Peep Show last year is now getting a staged reading this year. Next year we’re doing a full production of a play, so the next stage is to do a full production of one of the plays we’ve been developing. The play we’ve chosen hasn’t been moving along with skirtsAfire, it’s had all of its development done at the Citadel, it’s Nicole Moeller’s play called The Mothers. It will open with the festival, but it will have a full ten day run that extends beyond the festival.”
From film, to dance, to music, to yoga, to visual arts, to (of course) theatre, there’s a little bit of everything at the skirtsAfire festival. Annette says all of these performances across a multitude of disciplines are held together by the fact that they are all created to tell women’s stories, no matter the medium. Probably the toughest question of our conversation though, is when I ask Annette what she’s most excited about at the festival. She says, “I’m really pumped about the film night [on Thursday, presenting the films She Speaks and Who Cares with music performed between shows by Lindsey Walker and a panel discussion to follow]. I think Saturday night – Rebel Skirts – is going to be awesome. I think it will be a fun, fun night of dance and just hanging out and having fun… I’m super excited about the yoga [Saturday morning]. I see yoga as an art, so I love the fact that we’re starting International Women’s Day with these three sessions of yoga in an art gallery! Right after the yoga is the Key of She, so after you’re done you’re yoga, go to The Carrot and grab a coffee and take in some music! Friday night we’ve got Words Unzipped which is, to me, the epitome of our cross-disciplinary arts festival. Carolyn Gingrich is… going to be at her pottery wheel and performing poetry – she calls it performance pottery. She’s got six other poets and the Good Women Dance Collective who are going to be at the show performing along with the musician Vicky Berg who is writing music for the event. It’s all these different disciplines coming together, that’s very exciting.”
As for me, I’ll be going to these shows (all descriptions taken from the skirtsAfire website):
- Hey Ladies! – Friday, March 7 @ 8:00 pm at the Alberta Avenue Community League
Hey Ladies! is the comedy, info-tainment, game-show, interview, crafty, booze-tinged magazine show, comedy high-jinx extravaganza starring Miss Leona Brausen, Miss Davina Stewart, Miss Cathleen Rootsaert and Mr. Noel Taylor.
- Yoga in the Art – Saturday, March 8, 9:45 am – 12:30 pm (three sessions) at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts
Breathe deeply with live music as you share your practice with yogis of all levels. Stay for one, two or all three sessions, each featuring a different style of yoga with a new instructor to lead you in your practice.
- The Easy Road by Kristen Finlay (chosen from the Peep Show snippets last year) – Saturday, March 8 @ 7:00 pm at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts
The Easy Road explores the idea of turning points and regret, and looks at how decisions push us to different places in our lives. This reading is directed and dramaturged by Tracy Carroll.
I also highly recommend checking out Anatolia Speaks, which ” follows a new Canadian working at Superstore as she recounts her past in Bosnia to her ESL class.” – I saw this performance with the same actress during 2013 Fringe and was really moved by the show.
SkirtsAfire runs March 6-9 on Alberta Avenue (118 avenue) in venues between 90 – 94 street. Check out skirtsafire.wordpress.com for more information about the festival and a full schedule of events. Admission to all shows is by donation.