>> Mark Dusseault
Three years ago the Belfry transformed its March programming when it introduced its annual SPARK Festival. Prior to SPARK the company presented three shows in its Studio space over six weeks, and while the work was first-rate, the programming lacked focus and a community feel.
All that changed in 2009 when the Belfry compressed the festival into just two weeks, doubled the number of shows, added dozens of free events and reached out to local artists.
SPARK is broken up into five components: big shows, miniplays, new play readings, professional development workshops and one big party right in the middle of the event.
The festival will kick off on Monday, March 12 with a free new play reading of My Memory’s Not So Good by Matthew Payne from Victoria’s Theatre SKAM. Inspired by the late great arts maven Joan Mans (she was a character), Matthew and a group of Victoria artists recently spent a week in Banff developing the script for a future production.
Cast of Goodness. Photo: John Lauener / Part of SPARK Festival 2012 at the Belfry Theatre (Goodness – March 13 – 18)
The first week’s big shows, Goodness and Kitt & Jane, will start on Tuesday, March 13. Goodness, from Toronto’s Volcano, has played Edinburgh, New York and Rwanda, stunning audiences at each theatre. While the play examines genocide through a series of concentric stories enveloping each other, we are never told where the genocide has occurred, leaving us all to question what we believe. Goodness is about what happens in the gaps between experiencing, telling and hearing. If you are interested in social justice issues, Goodness is sure to challenge and engage you in ways you never thought theatre could.
Ingrid Hansen, co-creator and performer in Kitt & Jane by Ingrid Hansen, Kathleen Greenfield & Rod Peter Jr. Photo: Victor Dolhai / Part of SPARK Festival 2012 at the Belfry (Kitt & Jane – March 14 – 18)
Creators from Victoria’s SNAFU Dance Theatre, Ingrid Hansen, Kathleen Greenfield and Rod Peter Jr. will premiere their latest work, Kitt & Jane. Kitt & Jane is the Belfry’s 2012 Incubator project; every two years we commission local artists to develop and produce a new piece for SPARK.
SNAFU’s work has been described as fresh and daring, provocative and engaging —and, at times, wonderfully silly. Kitt & Jane is an unofficial sequel to Little Orange Man, their sold-out hit at the Vancouver and Victoria International Fringe Festivals this year.
While SNAFU’s work is inspired by a radical collection of ideas. It includes Viewpoints, a creation practice that provides a vocabulary for thinking about and acting upon movement and gesture; Butoh, a Japanese avant garde performance art; as well as found-object puppetry, clown, ritual, fables, politics, children, history, and lore. It is always surprising and delightful.
Each Wednesday through Saturday, prior to these big shows, we’ll present a series of free miniplays. These quirky pieces, performed throughout the Belfry will feature new work from local artists Missie Peters, Dave Morris, Krystal Cook, Theatre Inconnu and, in a unique collaboration with Judd Palmer from Calgary’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop, Puente Theatre.
Miniplays run each night at 7:20 and 7:40 pm. While they are free, attendance is first come, first served. Trust us, you’ll need to be there early as capacity is limited; last year we had a show in a closet with one actor and one audience member. You could see a musical in a washroom, a dance piece on the roof or a comic monologue in an office.
For the past eighteen months, the Belfry has been working on a new play, now titled Home is a Beautiful Word, about homelessness in Victoria. On Monday and Tuesday (March 19 & 20), we’ll give this play its first public reading. Home is a Beautiful Word is a piece of verbatim theatre; the script is created entirely from transcribed interviews that playwright/journalist Joel Bernbaum has had with a wide spectrum of people from Victoria. It’s the community’s voice on stage and the story is fascinating. We would love to have you there to hear what others have said and to hear your thoughts about the play.
Shane Koyczan – When I Was A Kid 2 / Part of SPARK Festival 2012 at the Belfry Theatre (When I Was A Kid – March 21 – 24 – 18)
The big shows in the second week of SPARK are Shane Koyczan’s When I Was A Kid and Fish Eyes by Anita Majumdar. You probably know Shane. He’s best known for the piece “We Are More,” which he performed at the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, but he was an established and well-respected artist long before that.
Accompanied by his band, The Short Story Long, Shane explores what it means to grow up – what we learn, what we forget, what we gain and what we give up. When I Was A Kid is a quest to rediscover our silliness and to embrace our wonder, to let go of our fear and spark our imaginations. You only have to hear Shane Koyczan once to be hooked. He is humane, furious, sexy, political, tragic and so funny you’ll be laughing through your tears.
Anita Majumdar in Fish Eyes / Part of SPARK Festival 2012 at the Belfry Theatre (Fish Eyes – March 21 – 25)
Anita Majumdar will just have you laughing. Her piece, Fish Eyes, complete with Bollywood dance moves, tackles imperialism and cultural misappropriation, with a sly nod as she struggles to find herself and her cultural identity. This comedic “east meets west” story celebrates the joy of youth and heritage.
The second week of SPARK will also feature a new round of free miniplays and Belfry 101 Live. Belfry 101 is our program for local high school students (public, private and home schooled) from around Greater Victoria. Each Spring Break we throw these intrepid students into a rehearsal hall with a huge mission – to write, create, rehearse and mount a new show in just one week. The results are always astounding. We have been running Belfry 101 for over ten years now and it has been very satisfying. We have had graduates tour the country with their own shows and this year former student Rod Peters Jr. has a show, Kitt & Jane, in SPARK.
There will be much more happening at the Belfry during these two wonderful weeks – much of it free. Tickets, on sale now, are $20 for the big shows. If you are a University or College student you get $5 off; if you’re in high school you’ll get $10 off.