The festival that you discover – in every sense of the word – is upon us! Found Festival 2016 (the fifth year of the festival!) runs June 23 – 26, once again at various unexpected found spaces around Old Strathcona. Found spaces meaning non-traditional theatre spaces like the river valley, a playground, a church, an alley and the side of a building among many others at this year’s festival.
This year Beth Dart, now at the helm of Found Festival as the Festival Director, says she was interested in programming, “work that acknowledges the relationship between audience and performer. As soon as you step out of a traditional venue, all the rules are kind of thrown out of the window and I think it’s important for creators to acknowledge and think about that and the work that they’re creating.”
As no stranger to creating and producing art in found space with Catch the Keys, the intimacy of art created in found space holds a special power for Beth. “In non-traditional space, you lose the fourth wall immediately and… if you ignore the fact that the fourth wall is gone I think you lose an incredible opportunity to make a solid connection with your audience.”
So what is on the agenda for this year’s festival? A wide selection of multidisciplinary art from emerging artists in Edmonton and beyond.
Start your Found Festival experience by downloading the app (for Android or Apple devices) and checking out the program, and then making your way down to the Found Festival Main Grounds at Dr Wilbert McIntyre Park (83 avenue & 104 street). From the programming planned in this space, I don’t blame you if you spend more time at the main grounds than your home over June 23 – 26. Over the course of the festival, you can enjoy music, dance, poetry and visual art all for free at the main grounds. Additionally, this year the Found Festival Beer Gardens have been transformed into an actual garden – full of oversize vegetables and food-inspired games – by Ninety Bears Arts Collective in the installation YEG VEG.
When you’re ready to leave the main ground to go discover some more art, there is definitely plenty more to see. Check out the festival program, website, or the app for the full list of events. Below I’ve highlighted a few events I’m interested in, but the lineup looks fantastic, so it was hard to narrow the events I wanted to highlight to even these six.
Forest in the Desert (start at the Festival Grounds)
Found Festival is bringing back the audio tour with Forest in the Desert – a twenty minute guided audio tour starting at the Found Grounds and wandering through Old Strathcona. During Forest in the Desert, audiences will experience narration and soundscapes that takes them ‘from desert to forest’. Forest in the Desert is based on a book by Miae Lee, which isn’t specific to Edmonton, but Beth says the creators of Forest in the Desert rooted the book in Edmonton by finding the “community spaces that connect the story along this walk.”
If I Had a Horse (Nellie McClung Ravine)
Ben Stevens returns again to Found Festival, this time with his play If I Had a Horse in which Lyle (played by Ben) must fulfill his father’s final wishes by taking his father’s horse to the open ocean. Troubles – including that the horse isn’t actually a horse – ensue.
Beth said Ben’s submission stood out because it addressed masculinity and loss. “I think masculinity’s something that’s very prevalent in things that are happening in the news and it’s very important to speak about right now… I’m so enamoured with Ben as a performer because he has such a rooted honesty in the work that he creates. To have only 15 audience members per show and to be rooted in the river valley, there’s just such an immediacy to it that I was drawn to.”
Dirt Castles (Strathcona Community League Playground)
Taking place on a playground pretty much means this is a must-see, right? And if that’s not enough, Ricochet Theatre (Liam Coady, Lady Vanessa Cardona, and Nasra Adem), the creators of this piece are asking the audience to help their characters – the kings and queens of the playground – ‘conquer their fears, push through their trials, and discover their humanity.’
If you’re familiar with the creator’s work, you’ll know that you can expect a beautiful spoken word show, but Beth elaborates a bit more on what else you can expect from Dirt Castles, “You as an audience are basically broken up into teams and you’re involved with different characters within the piece… I was so intrigued by Liam, Vanessa and Nasra being on a playground and creating a piece together that I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see this work come to life.”
Sugar Bath (Alley between the Fringe Theatre Adventures and Walterdale Theatre)
An alley. ‘Outrageous party people’. Sugar… maybe? That was pretty much my thought process in throwing Sugar Bath on my list of must-sees. Produced by The Orange Girls performance ensemble who Beth describes as, “one of the most exciting up and coming collective in Edmonton,” pretty much seals the deal.
While the available information about Sugar Bath is scant, Beth describes The Orange Girls’ work by saying, “I think they take some really incredible risks and challenge their audience in ways that no else is in Edmonton. They just have such interesting voice and perspective on the work that they’ve done and I think this will be no different. They really challenge your comfort but without ever making you feel unsafe… They’re incredible and create such unique visceral immediate experiences.”
Backstage (Backstage at The Backstage Theatre)
Audiences are getting more and more insight into the behind-the-scenes of theatre productions, but Backstage promises to be unique. Created by Maria Burkinshaw based on a paper she wrote for her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Technical Theatre on harassment and discrimination in the arts industry with a specific focus on women in technical theatre. Beth says, “Maria reached out to a bunch of female technicians and producers in the theatre industry here in Edmonton and did interviews with them. Then, she’s taken those interviews and created an installation performance based on her findings. So, it definitely does shine a light on the darker part of the arts industry, which isn’t every day but it does happen just like it happens walking down the streets and in any other industry.”
The Admit One Series
In a festival of unique experiences, The Admit One Series takes that idea to the extreme. The Admit One Series consists of five shows, each between 5 – 15 minutes, that are performed for an audience of one. The performances in this series are:
- Functional by Louise Casemore: a performance about needing help and not asking for it.
- The Booth by Leif Ingebrigsten: an improvised soundscape performed by Leif based on a word from the audience member that inspires Leif.
- Lunch with Mother by Elisa Benzer (performed by Morgan Yamada): a lunch date that changes everything you thought you knew about your past.
- I Hope You Like Flowers by Elisa Benzer: a woman meeting her biological mother for the first time and her life changes forever.
- Play by Savanna Harvey: a puzzle inspired by the precepts of performance: engage, play, and inspire.
Beth explains the appeal of this series as, “It’s very rare that we spend time by ourselves really reflecting or taking something in especially when it’s live performance. I think it was just a great opportunity to help support that and performance for one pieces kind of change the format in a way that makes performance really exciting again. You can’t experience that watching Netflix, you know, or playing video games. It’s such an intimate, honest exchange.”
Found Festival runs June 23 – 26 in spaces all around Old Strathcona. The Festival Grounds (are at Dr Wilbert McIntyre Park (83 avenue & 104 street). Ticket prices range from free to $15 per show. Festival passes are $75.