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New theatre festival aims to dismantle conventions
Outskirts Theatre Festival is throwing an opening gala at The Royal on August 20, and audience-members can expect fresh food, live music and a headlining performance from genre-busting circus extraordinaire Cameron Fraser of Break/Contemporary Circus, who will be performing his brand new piece The Heart.
“This is the story of a couple of strangers who fall in love. It analyzes significant moments throughout their relationship that impact them irrevocably,” said Fraser.
He was inspired by the recent death of his uncle Colin.
“He’d just become a grandfather. All my life I’d been terrified of him, but when he had grandkids it totally changed. He was smiling, happy. He shared stories from his childhood. It was that change in him that really piqued my curiosity, and I started to look at how significant events change our lives so drastically,” he said.
Fraser’s process included discussing with friends and family moments that impacted them, and then trying to translate that into physical theatre pieces that could embody the appropriate emotional heft.
“I distilled it all down into choreography and music, then looked for tracks that fit that feeling.”
He originally envisioned the piece as a 12-person ensemble, but it eventually evolved into a two-hander featuring his dance partner Leah Litwack, who will spend a lot of time twirling above his head.
“Leah’s a brilliant dancer. She started her training in circus and we met because we were hand-balancing partners,” he said.
The pair reunited for this show, which recently debuted at the Gabriola Theatre Festival.
“One of the things I try to do in my work is break the box, think outside it. We look at breaking the conventions of how we tell stories, but in a distinctly west coast fashion.”
Fraser was born and raised on the west coast.
“I love using the environment to tell stories. We think differently out here than they do in the rest of Canada. We’re telling stories from a radically different perspective."
One of the most challenging aspects of the show involves Fraser balancing and spinning a four-foot metal cube.
“I manipulate it around my body, bounce it off my face. The biggest challenge is doing it in such a small space, because both Gabriola and Nelson are a little smaller than we’re used to,” he said.
“I have to navigate the audience and the room and myself without dropping it. It weighs about six pounds, with a thin aluminum frame, but once it gets spinning it weighs a lot more and has to be on balance at all times,” he said.
Fraser said he was thrilled to be chosen as the headliner for the brand new Outskirts Festival.
“We’re really hoping to give it a name and knock it out of the park,” he said.
To learn more about Break/Contemporary Circus visit facebook.com/BCCircus
Outskirts gala itinerary
In its inaugural year, Outskirts Theatre Festival presents four plays nightly, in two separate venues, from August 21 to 23. The opening gala on August 20 will feature an appetizer buffet at 6:30 p.m. and music by Julie Johnson-Murray starting at 7 p.m.
All gala guests receive a festival visa, which is required for entry to all festival events.
At 7:30 local funnyman Lucas Myers will introduce this year’s performers, who will all present a short selection from their work.
The festival will include solo performers Lisel Forst and Kevin Armstrong, both of Nelson, and Devon More of Vancouver, as well as Chimeron Theatre Company of Kamloops.
Local favourites Nelson Youth Theatre will preview their Shakespeare play Twelfth Night.
After the gala wraps up, stick around at The Royal for their regular Wednesday night entertainment by Nelson band Sunshine Drive, who will be playing until midnight.
The Royal is a licensed, all ages restaurant. Food and drink service will be available during the gala, in addition to the appetizer buffet provided.
Tickets to the gala are $18 in advance at The Royal or $20 at the door.
A $5 visa is required to attend the festival shows. Each performance is $10 at the door, with all proceeds going to the performers.
For more information about the festival see outskirtstheatre.com.
— Will Johnson