Hello my name is… Nena Pierre: (Volunteer) Volunteer Coordinator and Usher

‘Hello My Name Is…’ is a new profile series on The Cultch blog.  Each month we’ll feature a staff member, volunteer, subscriber, or community mover and shaker. Stay tuned for upcoming photos and interviews and drop us a line at ricky@thecultch.com if you have a burning question for one of our staff members or volunteers!

Last year, 114 volunteers contributed over 4492 hours to The Cultch in both our theatres and admin office! Many of these amazing people have been with the theatre for years, including Nena Pierre who’s been volunteering at The Cultch for the past four years.

Nena Pierre (Volunteer Usher and Admin Assistant)

Q: Well hello there. Who are you and what do you do at The Cultch?

Hi, I’m Nena and I volunteer here as an usher and at the reception desk!

Q: What inspires you?

Anyone doing their thing with sincerity and passion.

Q: Why do you volunteer at The Cultch?

It’s part of my neighborhood, and community.  I love the closeness and immediacy of live theatre – what the performers and audience bring to any show.  Volunteering here gives me a chance to witness this all the time.  I’ve seen so many great shows here and I have loved feeling even just a small part of it all.

Nena inside the Historic Theatre

Q: Favourite show you’ve ever seen at The Cultch?

A:  So hard to pick just one… I love puppetry and feel really excited when Old Trout Puppet Workshop or Ronnie Burkett are bringing a show to The Cultch. This year I saw Loon at the Fringe, then Grim and Fischer at The Cultch by WONDERHEADS Theatre and now I’m a big fan of them too.

Q: Favourite place to eat on the Drive?

A:  Once again sooo hard to say just one place – coffee is my sustenance!  I get all my beans from Continental and like to stop in at Turks now and again.  Turks stovetop is heavenly….

Q: What’s a typical day like volunteering at the front desk?

A:  Do I dare say quiet and calm and sometimes fun…?  Jenn G ( Head FOH Manager) and Ricky ( Marketing Coordinator) will make sure I keep busy!

Nena has been volunteering at The Cultch for the past 4 years

Q: What’s a typical night like ushering at The Cultch?

A:  Depending on how many shows are going on that night it can be anywhere from fun to slightly mad!  The other volunteers are great to get to know and work with.  Then there’s always a bit of excitement getting everyone settled into the show.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about the theatre scene in Vancouver?

A:  There are so many great theatre festivals all year long and the Vancouver theatre scene is anything but dull.  There is always something to suit anyone’s tastes or sense of curiosity and adventure!

Looking to gain valuable work experience in a Historic Theatre? We’re always looking for a friendly and organized arts-loving person to manage our front desk! Click here for position details and how to apply.

Cultch Staff Picks: Favourite shows from the 12/13 season (part 1)

 

The Cultch’s 12/13 Season closed on June 2 with a sold-out run of Mump & Smoot in Something, bringing to an end another spectacular season of theatre, dance, and music.

At this time, we would like to extend a huge thank you to our donors, sponsors, and continued subscribers. Your support allows The Cultch to consistently deliver the best the contemporary arts have to offer!

To celebrate the end of our 39th season, we decided to ask a few Cultch staff members to share some of their favourite shows from the past season! Here’s part 1 of our 2 part feature.

 

By far the most memorable show for me this season at The Cultch was Blind Date.  An improvised blind date with Mimi the sexy French clown and a different unsuspecting audience member each night!  Rebecca’s courage, comedic talent, and quick wit were really put to the test and she pulled it off every time.  As the venue technician for the run of this show, I had the special privilege to see it every night for three weeks.  I’ve seen more shows than I can count in my career, and this one truly kept me fully engaged, literally on the edge of my seat, at every moment.  Everyone has eavesdropped on the couple having their first date at the table next to you at a restaurant, but I had the voyeuristic pleasure to see the whole date unfold 18 times.  Many times, Mimi said that her goal was to help the guy be “the romantic hero”, and she always did, even though it sometimes seemed impossible.  The dates were awkward, outgoing, reluctant, charming, shy, funny, quiet, drunk (!), open, nervous, older, younger (his real first kiss on stage at The Cultch!); such a variety of wonderful, real, characters.  It would have been so easy to just make fun of these men, but instead Rebecca (and co-stars Bruce and Jamie and sound improviser Sean) coaxed nervous volunteers into endearing dates, and brought us along for the ride.  I would love to see this show another 18 times!

LEO – It was succinct, entertaining, moving and embraced the digital change (or at least experimentation) in theatre. It incorporated multi media, physicality and music to bring the audience into a different reality. I found it pretty emotional as well, which I’m not sure was the intention, but it spoke to me on the themes of new beginnings, fear, and the excitement of the unknown. 

White Rabbit Red Rabbit – This show had a really weird premise which I thought was going to be self indulgent and boring, but I was totally surprised. I felt incredibly engaged and curious throughout the performance. I still don’t know if I “got it” in the sense of the intellectual ramifications it poses about society and isolation. But I was left with a feeling of empowerment that all barriers to assuage the turmoil of the human experience can be traversed through art.

The 2013/14 season begins this September with Rumble Theatre’s production of Penelope. Don’t forget to subscribe to our 2013/14 season and stay tuned for part 2 of The Cultch staff’s 12/13 season highlights!

Letter from Heather: We need your support!

Dear friend of The Cultch,

We need your support!

This December, The Cultch will open the newly renovated York Theatre. The theatre will be an invaluable community resource that will revitalize the north corridor of Commercial Drive between Venables and Hasting Streets and bring live performance to the Commerical Drive neighbourhood.

A shot from the new York Theatre. Photo taken on May 29, 2013

Following in the tradition of the naming of other heritage buildings such as the “Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage,” The Cultch would like to name the stage of the York Theatre and put signage on the exterior of the building that includes the name of its sponsor. The significant funds raised from this naming are essential in ensuring The York and The Cultch are financially healthy, stable, and sustainable both now and in the future.

About the signage:

  • Low-tech and unobtrusive
  • Will progressively dim as it gets darker; by evening the sign will only be at 30% of its brightness
  • No flash; the projecting sign will scroll and will be text
  • Controlled and monitored by The Cultch
  • On the fascia sign, the lighting will come from below the sign and point upward
  • Both signs will be turned off at 11 pm each day

We’re inviting Cultch supporters, neighbours, and artists to join us in showing your support for The Cultch, the York Theatre, and the sustainability of arts in this community!

COMMUNITY OPEN HOUSE

When: Wednesday, June 19 from 5 pm – 8 pm

Where: The Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab (1895 Venables Street)

What: An open house held by the City of Vancouver to review our signage proposal and receive community feedback.There will be pictures of the proposed signs and Cultch representatives and City staff available to answer your questions. There will also be an opportunity to fill out a survey. Please feel free to stop by any time during the course of the open house.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at 604.251.1766 or heather@thecultch.com, if you have any questions or would like to chat further.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support of The Cultch and the new York Theatre!

Heather Redfern

Executive Director

IGNITE! Design Mentorship Goes Goth

IGNITE! Youth Mentorship Participant Nina Sky Robertson in 'Garbage Girl'

This week we’d like to spotlight one of the mentees from The Cultch’s

IGNITE! Mentorship Program — Nina Sky Robertson. Robertson was selected for a mentorship in Stage Design and has been learning the ropes from accomplished artist/designer, Alice Mansell. This brand new mentorship program in costume and set design is intended for aspiring young stage designers wishing to pursue a career in the arts. In the inaugural year of this program the assignment was to transform The Cultch lobby into a veritable Victorian gothic funeral parlor,  for the world premiere of Tara Cheyenne Friendenberg’s Highgate (exciting, no?)

With the show opening this week, we managed to do a little Q&A with Robertson and her experience in working on the set of Highgate.

A: Can you tell us a bit about your design background?

N: I am a life long ‘odd’ schooler. I have attended an assortment of public programs and schools ranging from a democratic free-school to an academically driven philosophy and english program. The most relevant educational experience to this mentorship has been a series of apprenticeships with world renowned artists from Vancouver, Toronto, and Mexico. I truly believe in life-long learning.

A sneek peek at The Cultch lobby for Highgate. Photo courtesy of Christine Quintana

A: Why The Cultch Mentorship Program?

N: I came to the mentorship through a conversation with Robert (Youth Program Manager). I had mentioned wanting to expand my textile arts practice into theatre design and two days later an incredibly lovely email arrived from him mentioning the program and asking me to apply.

A: Tell us a little bit about what the mentorship has entailed.

N: It has entailed – at least for Highgate and with Alice – a considerable amount of draping (predominantly Gothic, Victorian objects) some pattern drafting, not to mention the chance to create a relationship with Alice and gain insight into her process and history.

Highgate creator Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg (Dance/Choreography) and Alice Mansell (Stage Design)

A: What are your plans for the future?

N: I intend to continue to expand my textile arts practice, hopefully moving further into the theatre community in the next few years and continue with a broad smattering of other arts, travel and academic projects.

If you want to see Robertson and Mansell’s creation firsthand, you’ll have to swing by The Cultch and get your tickets to Highgate which runs May 1 –  4 and invites you for ‘a morbid romp through Victorian funerary culture. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t love a good morbid romp?

A conversation with Isa Szeto, Web and Design coordinator for The Cultch

Isa Szeto, Design and Web Coordinator for The Cultch, on top of Cypress Mountain

The bicycle serves not only as inspiration but also as instrument in our new show  SPIN running until

April 20. Through a series of songs played live on a vintage bicycle, SPIN recounts a theatrical cycle of stories about women, cycling, and liberation.

In honour of Evalyn Parry’s SPIN, we feature one of our very own, Isa Szeto from The Cultch’s marketing team!  We were delighted to catch up with Isa – an avid bike enthusiast – to discuss her love for biking and to find out a little bit more about the Cultch’s talented designer.

Do you bike to work every day?  Rain or shine?

Yes, I bike every day, 27 kilometres roundtrip to and from work every day. The Cultch has showers and lockers for which I’m very thankful for. I ride in the rain or shine or snow (-8°c is my record).  I guess you might wonder why I would bike in such terrible conditions.  Personally, there is something appealing about prevailing against the odds and arriving at the end destination with your blood pumping in your veins. Getting to work by bus or by car is just not the same.

How did you get into biking?

I grew up in the suburbs and while in high school, I did a lot of standing around, waiting for the bus.  It dawned on me one day that the actual distance travelled was very short. So I saved up and bought myself a yellow Norco 10 speed and just started self-propelling myself to high school in Grade 11.  I was hooked: the feeling of exhilaration and self-sufficiency has never left me. I ended up trying a few cycling clubs in Vancouver to learn how to ride in a pack and now ride with Glotman Simpson. I even rode when I was eight months pregnant. My husband Michael was quite wigged out by that!

How does biking make you feel?

Biking makes me feel strong and alive! It is a part of my life. This month, Michael and I will cycle up Mount Haleakalā Maui, a 10,000 foot ascent which is one of the few paved 10,000 foot ascents that you can safely cycle up in the world.  Again, there is something about prevailing against the odds that’s very appealing to me. Biking has opened up so many worlds for me, geographically, socially, physically and mentally. I recently got the Strava app on my phone. Reading the tallies of the calculations of speed, distance, elevation gain, etc. after each ride (and my friends’ rides) is fascinating! Highly recommended for any person on two wheels.

SPIN runs at The Cultch until April 20. Tickets are available online at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at 1895 Venables St.

Part 2: Choreographer Victor Quijada shares the story behind his unique style of dance

This week we bring you the second part of our exclusive two-part interview with the award winning choreographer and creative director of RUBBERBANDance Group, Victor Quijada. His work, which examines human relationships through a seamless marriage of classical, contemporary, and urban aesthetics, is performed internationally.

In part two, Quijada shares with us the process of choreographing Gravity of Center ( opening at The Cultch Feb 19) as well as the process of adapting the stage production to film.

SC: Gravity of Center is the ninth work you’ve choreographed with RUBBERBANDance and many say that it’s perhaps your greatest work yet. What do you think sets this piece apart from your other works?

VQ: I think that it comes down to the fact that I simply had more experience when I created it, and a lot more practice. I had already tried out so many of my ideas, and all of those experiments with those old ideas (successful or not) were informing this new, bigger challenge. This piece really was a much bigger challenge that I had placed in front of me. However I was also more prepared and ready to take on this challenge.

Also, I had a great cast. Plus, my past experiences had taught me so much about casting and directing. Overall, I was a better director and a better choreographer during this creation. Also, I must say that having a great cast, and a great team of collaborators helped make this piece one of the best we’ve had.

This is the most narrative work I’ve ever made and I was surprised at how challenging it was to actually accomplish this. In the end, I’m very proud of it.

SC: Gravity of Center explores the idea that everyone is both at the center of the world and orbiting around others. Can you elaborate on this idea?

VQ: ,Simply put: At times we are followers, at other times we lead. There are moments when we take care of others, and moments when we are taken care of. We all want to be independent, but the truth is that we need each other. I believe this is true in the micro, as well as in the macro.

SC: How do you explore this idea through movement?

VQ: I was interested in behavioural phenomena that were found in both animals and in humans: herd and pack mentality, migratory and nomadic tendancies, and social hierarchy, specifically looking at dominant and submissive roles within a group.

SC: What was your inspiration when choreographing Gravity of Center?

VQ: I was inspired by my dancers, by composer Jasper Gahunia; my conversations with lighting designer Yan Lee Chan. I was also inspired by films and the craft of screenwriting.

SC: Can you talk about the process of adapting Gravity of Center from a stage performance to film? What were some of the challenges and considerations?

VQ: The biggest challenge was scaling down the 75 minute journey into a much smaller time frame. On the other hand I was very excited to work with Thibaut Duverneix as a co-director and with cinematographer Christophe Collette. I was confident that we would be able to achieve the contrasting sense of grandeur and subtlety in this film.

SC: How do you hope to inspire or transform Vancouver audiences when performing Gravity of Center on The Cultch stage?

VQ: I hope audiences get that feeling I get sometimes after seeing a great film that is so rich and so complete that I keep thinking about for days, weeks afterward. There are some films that keep me aware of my breathing, they keep me aware of my surroundings. They keep me on the lookout for something amazing to happen, or to take a chance to try something new, or to be ready for an adventure.

It’s as if in my brain I am saying, “Well, it happened in the film, and there was a writer that thought it up, and there was a director that brought it to life, and there were these talented actors that made me believe, so… VICTOR, DO SOMETHING!!”

Gravity of Centre runs at The Cultch February 19 – 23, 2013. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.

Part 1: Choreographer Victor Quijada shares the story behind his unique style of dance

Choreographer Victor Quijada. Photo by Roland Lorente.

Are you the type of person who likes to rock out in your bedroom to your favourite song? Or, would you rather tap your foot to a good groove?. There’s something about moving to music that just feels good.

Victor Quijada, Montreal choreographer and artistic director of RUBBERBANDance group, knows what we’re talking about. In fact, Victor’s regarded as a pioneer in the world of dance—not only has he created beautiful and inspiring dance pieces, he’s created an entirely original movement vocabulary as well! We caught up with Victor to hear more about his original style of movement and his thoughts on bringing his newest dance piece Gravity of Center, to The Cultch.

SC: Your choreography is recognized for being a fusion of hip hop, contemporary and classical styles. In your own words, how do you describe your movement vocabulary?

VQ: Actually, that description is probably the most basic, most rudimentary way to describe the movement vocabulary I use with RBDG. Why it doesn’t really work as a good description, is because it asks you to imagine these three styles—hip hop, contemporary, classical—and it forces you to think of the stereotypes that help these genres keep their labels.  Then, it demands that you imagine a fusion of these stereotypical aspects in some kind of a choreographic context.

Victor Quijada working with Company dancers. Photo by Lindsay Thomas

To be more accurate, I would say that as a choreographer, my voice and vision have been shaped by my history. At one end of the spectrum, this starts with growing up in the freestyle hip hop dance ciphers of Los Angeles, and on the other end it includes a professional career of working with postmodern, contemporary, and neo-classical choreographers in the ranks of high caliber dance companies.

I think this paragraph from my bio says it well:

A wide range of early performance experiences, from the hip hop clubs of his native Los Angeles to a performance career with internationally-acclaimed postmodern and ballet dance companies such as THARP!, Ballet Tech and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, led Victor Quijada to Montreal, a city he now calls home. By age 26, Victor had gained a rare perspective on a large spectrum of dance, possessing knowledge and experience that spanned from the street corner to the concert hall.

But even before you imagine motion or gestures or choreography, the RBDG movement vocabulary begins with the manner in which the dancer acknowledges the space and their own physical reaction to inhabiting it. RBDG movement vocabulary is actuated by the manner of muscularity the dancer adopts at the contact points with the environment. Furthermore, the RBDG movement vocabulary gains its aesthetic through the manner in which the dancer perceives his or her experience.

SC: How did you come to develop this movement style and quality?

VC: It was thanks to the different experiences I had, the different spheres I was exposed to, and to the fact that I was determined to become the best I could be in the different milieus that I found myself in. The “developing the style” part came through many years of practice, but the seeds were planted when I was still very young.

Jessica Tong, right, with Quijada in rehearsal. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

I remember that from a very young age, I already proclaimed, “I am a hip-hop artist,” except that I really didn’t know what “art” was.

But as a student at the L.A. Arts High School, I remember learning about “art” and coming upon the notion that through “art” it was possible to change the world. As a teenager, hip hop was my life, and art would change my life. I started to expand my ideas about my hip-hop. The knowledge and formal dance training I was receiving at that arts high school would mutate my relationship with hip hop forever.

And of course the professional experience that I would acquire over the next decade would further transform me. It’s not just my physical capabilities that would grow, but my mind was also growing. I was watching, learning, changing.

Once the style had developed in my body, the real challenge came in the transmission of the movement to new dancers—how to get them to understand and recreate the specific qualities I was asking for. That’s why identifying the style and developing a technique was important and necessary. And that took time. Lots of time. Lots of sweat. Lots of writing, testing, experimenting, practicing, and teaching. Lots of trial and error.

But finally, the method is all there, compact and airtight. And now we can pass the knowledge on very well, very clearly. No guesswork. Simply. Directly.

Gravity of Center runs at The Cultch February 19 – 23, 2013. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.

Tim Crouch shines a light on bullying in I, Malvolio

On January 30, as part of the 2013 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, UK playwright and performer Tim Crouch brings his latest production, I, Malvolio, to The Cultch. A celebrated international performer, Crouch has developed a large following here in Vancouver, thanks to past visits performing My Arm and An Oak Tree in 2007, and ENGLAND in 2009.

I, Malvolio opens at The Cultch Jan 30

For I, Malvolio, Crouch uses humour as a means of exposing the harm caused in bullying and practical jokes in a re-imagined version of Shakespeare’s famous play Twelfth Night. In this version of the classic tale, the story is told through the eyes of the pompous steward Malvolio, a perspective rarely seen and explored in theatre.

Tim Crouch re-imagines Twelfth Night in a brilliant one-man show that unlocks Shakespeare’s play for new audiences

In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Malvolio is bullied and picked on by the other characters, ultimately winding up as the crux of a hurtful joke. In the end, poor Malvolio meets a pitiful demise when he’s written off as insane, and locked away in a dark chamber. In his final words he pledges revenge on the other characters for treating him so poorly.

I, Malvolio is a charged, hilarious and sometimes unsettling rant from a man adrift in front of a cruel audience

In this version of the play, Crouch’s clever script gives audiences a unique position from which to view the issue of bullying – from the eyes of the bully. As Crouch explains in the video below, “It’s a very funny piece. He is a clown and we often enjoy laughing at people who are going through terrible situations and circumstances. Malvolio is really at the bottom of the pile and he encourages you laughing at him, and then he challenges you for laughing at him.”

It’s a performance that makes you wonder: what’s acceptable about laughing at someone who’s been broken down and humiliated? As Crouch puts it in this interview with journalist Mark Fisher, “It [the play] is about how far one is prepared to take pleasure in somebody’s cruelty to other people.”

I, Malvolio is an entertaining production that reinforces valuable lessons along the way. Don’t miss your chance to see this contemporary spin on a classic play!

I, Malvolio runs at The Cultch January 30 – February 10, 2013. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.

The Cultch Gallery: Preview Jan – Mar 2013

By Alana Husband

If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out the gallery at The Cultch yet, get on it.  This spring, we’ve got a full schedule of exhibitions by acclaimed artists for your viewing pleasure. From quirky action figures by Niklas Bergman in Action Figure Expo to the arresting portraits set during the Holocaust by Hinda Avery in The Rozen Sisterr’, to the thought provoking pieces of Transactions of the Eye & Sound Memories by Harold Coego, you won’t want to miss out on experiencing the work of these, and the other talented artists we’ve got lined up. So get out your calendar and take note of the following…

Hinda Avery – Scenes From a Resistanze
January 22 – February 17, 2013
Opening: January 23, 6 – 8pm

“What does it mean to confront an atrocity with a revenge fantasy? I argue that by depicting Holocaust subject matter in an absurd, humorous way, my work becomes satire. However, unlike most satire, my paintings do not solely aim to relieve tension. I aim to unnerve.” – Hinda Avery

Hinda Avery is a Vancouver-born artist and teacher. She attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, and Saint Martins School of Art, in London, England. She holds a BFA, a Teaching Certificate in Art Education, and an MFA. She later gained a PhD in Architecture and Planning Education and has taught Art Education and Women’s Studies for several years. Her paintings integrate political and social issues; the feminist movement of the 1970s giving her work a particular focus – that of portraying women in a non-stereotypical way.

Harold Ceogo – Transaction of the Eye & Sound Memories
January 22 – February 17, 2013
Opening: January 23rd, 6 – 8pm

“I consider myself to be an outsider of a modern panorama…images are representations of ‘reality’ through an abstract cinematographic kaleidoscope. They are visible like music to the eye telling us a story – a twisted photocopy of ourselves, or perhaps more like a dream where something is always out of place.” – Harold Coego

Harold Coego was born in Havana, Cuba in 1973 to an enthusiastic artistic family. Before moving to Vancouver in 2002, he worked as an archaeologist assistant, light designer, and scenographic co-designer at the Obstacle Theatre with Victor Varela (an internationally recognized Cuban theatre director). It was while working with Varela that Coego learned about artistic discipline, dedication, light, and composition but most importantly, about human emotions and the many ways to represent it.

Niklas Bergman – Action Figure Expo
February 19 – March 17, 2013
Opening: February 20th, 6 – 8pm

From Niklas Bergman’s long-running comic book Sproing! comes a handful of its population immortalized in this limited action figure collection by Hepkid Toys. He states, “I find that we meet the same characters no matter where we’re from. And these characters, whether they be friendly, a nuisance, or simply familiar, bring us back to the place we grew up in, places we hated and eventually loved.”

Niklas Bergman is a native of Gredeby, Sweden. His comics have been published by Rollins Comics for over 10 years. He is also the founder of Sensible Studios and other works include Smalltown Ramblings, Hobo Sports, and No, Not There!


Robin Ripley – Book Bytes

February 19 – March 17, 2013
Opening: February 20, 6 – 8pm

“The focus of my art practice has often included the re-examination of mundane objects, as they function as signifiers for sensory information, knowledge and memory. These objects also highlight the interwoven nature of our perception and the interplay between art and life.” – Robin Ripley

Robin Ripley holds a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. During her time working in libraries, she began collecting covers from old books as they were re-bound and has been a keen observer of how technology has informed the way we read – from books to eBooks to QR codes. The language of objects and the way people connect with the common materials that surround them have been recurring themes in her work. Her working processes are often laborious, questioning current economic models of speed and “efficiency” while suggesting that transformation is still possible through small gestures if we make time to notice the details of the world.

Alan Robbins – Making It
February 19 – March 17 2013
Opening: February 20, 6 – 8pm

Alan Robbins firmly believes that his work is better appreciated in book form. He wants viewers to have something on hand to study and manipulate. “It’s better than a gallery setting where people strain to see an image or the computer where it can easily be magnified.” Making It will feature works from across Robbins’ career. Several of his books, talking about his beginnings as an artist to his eventual disappearance from the art scene, will also be on hand for perusal.

Spotlight: Three youths expose their thoughts behind the nine months of hard work organizing the IGNITE! Youth-Driven Arts Festival

By Robert Leveroos

IGNITE! Youth-Driven Arts Festival

A few members of the Youth Panel chillin' out

Next week from May 14th to 19th, The Cultch will be taken over by young people who will lead, coordinate, and perform in the IGNITE! Youth-Driven Arts Festival. The Cultch’s Youth Panel has been working on this festival for nine month and can’t wait for it to start.

But who is the Youth Panel?

The Youth Panel, the core of The Cultch’s Youth Program, is a group of approximately 25 young, artsy people who meet once a week to plan the IGNITE! Festival. During their nine months, they are introduced to all aspects of organizing a festival, from media relations to technical workshops. All the work, effort, and enthusiasm that the youth put into the project ends with one week full of amazing performances by young artists from around the Lower Mainland.

We asked some panel members a few questions about the Youth Panel and the Festival. Emma Atkinson and David Cowling are new Panel Members this year while Delan Elliot is one of our returning veterans. Here’s what they had to say:

What made you want to be a part of The Cultch’s Youth Panel?
David Cowling: I joined the Youth Panel to meet youth excited about the art scene in Vancouver. In high school, I was always deemed “the artsy kid,” which was fine, but I had no other artsy kids to talk arts with! Joining the Youth Panel was a great way to meet fellow active youth and grow friendships and ties with people I might not ever have met otherwise.

Delan Elliot: When I was 14 years old, I was considering attempting to create a live music event centered around youth and youth involvement in the community. At the time, I had neither the resources nor the time to accomplish it. When I was searching to see if anything similar existed, I found the IGNITE! Festival, and it then led me to the Youth Panel… I became more and more excited at the prospect of having a major role in the creation of a festival. I knew that by joining a group of other enthusiastic youth, I would have a better chance of creating something that I was proud of.

Emma Atkinson: My sister, Clare, participated in The Cultch’s theatre summer camp for youth this past summer, and while there, she heard about the Youth Panel. She was intrigued, and asked me to join her at the first meeting of the year. Curious as to how it worked, I tagged along and was sold from day one. The opportunity to be the creative mind behind a festival as neat as IGNITE! was what really got me, and it hasn’t disappointed.

What’s the best part of being on the Youth Panel?
DC: The best part about Youth Panel is getting to come back, once a week, to a place where I can be with friends and collaborate on how to create something as epic and grandiose as an arts festival. It’s like in school when you get paired up with other kids you don’t know to create a project, except your friends with everyone in your group, and your project is the coolest party in town.

EA: The incredible knowledge and experience I have gained in the various facets of curating an event like IGNITE! On a very fundamental level, the maturity I’ve gained as far as communication and teamwork goes has been utterly invaluable, and is something I know without a doubt I’ll take with me to everything I do, professionally and personally. As part of the fundraising committee, learning the ropes of approaching, pitching, and maintaining good professional relationships with sponsors and supporters of our festival is something I didn’t expect to get out of my experience on Youth Panel, and I’ve learned volumes in a very short period of time.

DE: I love the experience of seeing my hard work translate directly into a successful show, and I almost enjoy seeing other people watch the show more than I enjoy watching it myself. The final week deservedly feels like the culmination of nine months’ worth of planning and careful preparation.

Out of all the shows you’ve seen at The Cultch, which one made the biggest impression on you?
EA: Without a doubt, getting to see Nina Arsenault’s performance in The Silicone Diaries was one of the most special experiences of my life. Appreciating the simple but bold set design, as well as her complete openness with her life was a moving experience further emphasized by the chance to speak with Nina on a more personal level at a workshop we did with her, facilitated through The Cultch. Definitely an experience that will stick with me.

DC: The show that has left the biggest impression on me has to be Home Sweet Home, which was put on by Subject to Change last year. It was a very fun community bonding exercise, and something about the happy energy in the room during its exhibition has never left me, and somehow now represents The Cultch for me as well.

What has been your favourite activity so far this year?
DC: As a first year Youth Panel member, auditions were such a treat. I had no idea of the caliber of talent in this city that lies almost hidden in its youth. I had seen almost none of them perform before, but I would pay to see almost all of them perform again. Luckily I don’t have to; I can just go to IGNITE!

EA: As far as sheer pleasure goes, the audition process was phenomenal! It was the first instance when the festival started to feel real, and I got a clear vision of just how special it was going to be!

DE: My favourite activity by far has been hosting auditions. For an entire weekend, members of the Youth Panel all gathered in a rehearsal space and watched approximately 80 different acts perform in a diverse range of disciplines. The feeling you get as you watch a band that you really like perform and think “I would really love to see these guys again on stage” is truly fantastic.

IGNITE! Youth-Driven Arts Festival 2012
Why is this festival important to you?
EA: It’s so important that we give youth a platform from which to promote their art. For me, that is what will make it worth all the blood, sweat, and tears everyone at our wonderful panel has put into making this the best six days it can be. I think it’s also important to give youth thought-provoking and relatable art to view from the other side of the stage, as an audience. We’ve chosen a wide selection of diverse, unique acts with the goal that our audience will appreciate the massive spectrum of stuff that falls under the label “art”.

DC: This festival is important to me because it’s so refreshing to collaborate with a group of individuals who really care about what they are creating, and want to create something great. It’s an experience I know I don’t get enough of, and the Youth Panel is the best way to get a hit of it.

What have you learned about running an arts festival?
EA: It is WAY more work than one might expect! But also that it is so rewarding when things start to pull together and everyone supports it. As previously mentioned, I’ve learned volumes as far as sponsorship and promotion goes, and this is something I know I will take with me and apply to everything else I do.

DC: I’ve learned it takes a lot of work to put on an arts festival. A lot of work. But it’s so worth it. While I haven’t experienced it yet, I can’t wait to sit back and watch the culmination of everything we’ve put together over the past many months come together. It’s going to be a blast.

Which group are you MOST excited about in this year’s festival?
EA: This year’s line up is off the chain, and I’m pretty stoked on seeing the return of a favourite, Man Chat. But I’m also getting super excited about seeing DJ Michael Fraser rock it out with his violin!

DE: The olivia Project, which is a night of interdisciplinary performance. The olivia Project Committee commissions talented young artists in all different mediums to work in small groups of three to four people who then have a month to create a 10 minute piece. It’s a very unique night that’s different every year, and the sheer number of possibilities makes it my most anticipated night.

If there’s ONE thing you want our readers to know about this year’s festival, what would it be?
DC: If there’s one thing you should know, reader (yes, I’m talking to you), it’s that you (yes, YOU!) can join our Youth Panel (granted you’re somewhere between 13-24 years old) and experience all the excitement of putting on a festival, all without any previous experience or fancy resume. Just show up, check-in, and we’ll accept you unconditionally into our wings as another amazing youth putting on a remarkable festival.

DE: I have to pick one thing? Darn. I think I would want our readers to know that this year’s Finale Night is going to be incredible. We have put extra effort in this year to guarantee that the festival goes out with a bang. If you’re gonna come out and only watch one night, this is the one to see!

EA: That no matter what floats your boat, I can guarantee that IGNITE! has something to offer everyone in the way of music, theatre, art, you name it!

For more info:
www.igniteyouthfest.ca for the full schedule
www.facebook.com/IgniteArtsFest

Come join us at The Cultch May 14th-19th and meet the Youth Panel in action. Youth Tickets starting at just $2! To buy tickets, visit tickets.thecultch.com.