Found Festival journeys through Old Strathcona, river valley, downtown

“I think one of the best parts of the festival is the adventure element of it.”

That’s Andrew Ritchie, Festival Director of the Found Festival, running June 25 – 28, talking about how this year’s festival is the biggest, widest-reaching one yet. Found Festival, now in its fourth incarnation, is back for another year of multidisciplinary, site-specific arts performances in found spaces around and near Old Strathcona.

Quite a few things have changed with the festival in its short history. First, there’s more artists, from a vast array of companies – even artists from outside of Edmonton and outside of Canada. At last count, there are 176 artists involved in this year’s festival, up from under 100 last year, including established arts companies like Mile Zero Dance and Rapid Fire theatre. Andrew says, “Common Ground Arts Society, who produces the festival, is all about Edmonton emerging artists – that’s its mandate. The festival also involves artists that are not necessarily Edmonton-based and are all levels of emerging. Some of them are even established… It’s cool that people want to partner with us or know that Found Festival is a medium that can help support doing site-specific work. Mile Zero has had a long history of doing work like that. It’s really cool that they’re like, ‘Oh, we can do a piece in the Found Festival.’ They know how to produce site-specific work, but they’re also willing to collaborate with the festival.”

Another thing you’ll notice about how the festival has evolved from its early days is that the line-up features a balanced array of many artistic disciplines. Andrew says, “This year there is a more equal distribution [among types of art] which was definitely a goal. Film-wise, this is the biggest year we’ve had with film. We’ve only ever showed a film or two and I hope to try to keep being more innovative in bringing in different art forms.”

But what hasn’t changed is the focus on found spaces and new, innovative site-specific work unlike what’s been seen in Edmonton before. Andrew says in programming the festival, what’s important to him is, “Trying to find something that I think speaks to found space. Something that I read it and immediately I get excited about it, even if I don’t understand it. It’s like, ‘What? How are they going to do that?’ Or, ‘That’s a really exciting environment.’ We want to try to use different spaces every year… [This year] We have one show downtown and we have a show at the Cloverdale Bridge as well in Louise McKinney Park.”

As for why the focus on found space, Andrew says, “For the artists, it’s so important because we really try not to pay for any of these venues. We try to have them donated or given for free and it’s harder every year as we get bigger. But I think it’s an important message… I think people have this preconception of what theatre is and what art is so there is so much movement about site-specific work and found space work and in some ways I think it’s the future of theatre in Edmonton… I think it’s a shift in mentality of how things are – it’s been going on in Canada and North America and everywhere for so long and it continues to grow more and more there’s so many more groups in Edmonton that are starting to do it. I think that’s where stuff is going. People want that intimacy. At first it was out of necessity but now it’s like, people want that experience… There’s something about being there in the moment and you have to engage, you’re like, you lock in you can escape from it in a way that people find enjoyable. It’s like people binge watching stuff on NetFlix or reality TV because it feels closer to home. It’s a shift from watching something to being inside of it.”

To start off your 2015 Found Festival experience, begin at the Festival Main Grounds – Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park (Gazebo Park – 83 avenue & 104 street), where there will be a kick-off dance party on June 25, an evolving art installation throughout the festival, a site-specific performance workshop (June 28), and beer gardens. Then, check out the shows that are part of this year’s line-up (for dates, times, and tickets, check out Common Ground’s website):

  • Found film showcase presented at dusk at the Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park – June 25 and 26 from 9:30 – 11:00 p.m.
  • Forever Never Always Here – three performances in three different locations, each telling the story of the room.
  • Streaming – presented by Mile Zero Dance and connected to the Save Edmonton’s Downtown Footbridge campaign. The show is an exploration of Edmonton’s river valley and the Cloverdale footbridge. Andrew says, “It’s going to be crazy because there’s not one way to do it – there are many different ways you can go through it. There’s a bit of an exploratory element to it: you can follow one person or another person. There’s a visual art element, there’s an interactive element. There’s going to be a canoe with an opera singer… It’s such a unique little place – you’re in the river valley and it’s very natural, but then you see all of downtown so it’s a really unique viewpoint of Edmonton that I don’t think a lot of people get to see.”
  • Air – Takes place in a residential house in Old Strathcona and focuses on two people pulled into criminal activities they never expected or wanted to be involved with. Air has previously been produced in a traditional theatre in Calgary, but Andrew says the Major Matt Mason Collective approached Found festival saying they wanted to produce it as a site-specific performance. “I think it’s going to be a very claustrophobic performance and that will amplify the uncomfortableness of the content. I think you’re going to feel a little more implicated in what’s happening in front of you. I don’t think it’s for the light of heart necessarily, but it feels a little dangerous.”
  • Ain’t No Picnic – A show about dating and how, despite the technology we have today, dating has always been like this as evidenced by retelling personal dating stories spanning 60 years.
  • Skylines – A sunset poetry reading by the Edmonton Poetry Brothel, joined by our Poet Laureate, Mary Pinkoski, on the High Level Bridge Streetcar.
  • 900 seconds – An intimate, one-on-one performance (that’s right, just one audience member and actress Christine Lesiak) lasting 900 seconds.
  • iHuman Alleyway Art Showcase – the back alley behind Gravity Pope is turned into a place to showcase the visual art, dance, and fashion of the iHuman Youth Artists.
  • A Live, Non-Stop Reading of the Released, Unclassified CIA Report on Torture – Tim Mikula’s endurance art reading of the CIA’s 525 page report on torture. Tim will begin reading the report at 5:00 a.m. June 27 and he estimates the reading will take 24 hours. The reading will be at Print Machine, with Tim being enclosed in a specially-constructed performance area. Andrew says, “He wanted to be in a space where you could only look at him kind of like he was in a prison cell. So you’re only going to be able to look at him one at a time through an eye slot and he’ll be led out to go to the washroom and he’ll be given food through a little slot.”
  • Cabinets of Curiosities – C’est Sera’s storefront window is transformed into an art installation evolving out of video and images submitted by the audience.
  • Swallow-a-Bicycle Site-Specific Performance – Capping off a day-long site-specific performance workshop will be a brand-new show that the workshop participants created that day!

The 2015 Found Festival runs June 25 – 28 in various venues in and near Old Strathcona. For more information about the festival, check out Common Ground Arts Society’s website. Tickets are available in advance online or at the festival headquarters at Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park (83 avenue and 104 street). An iOS and Android app for the Found Festival will be available imminently.

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