By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
What’s happened to the laws of gravity when the world seems upside down?
Grave? SNAFU, now officially a verb, has gone TARFUN. Yes, Things Are Really Fucked Up Now. And Monday night at the Westbury Theatre, you can see what artists make of the hottest political issues of our times.
Gravity, the “cabaret of art and politics” that arrived on the scene three years ago, bristling with opinionated artists and their responses to the state of the world, is back for another one-night stand.
Gravity’s debut incarnation was poised between the NDP win here in the spring of 2015 and the Liberals’ federal win that fall. But Orange Crush was superseded by Orange Hair. Since last year’s “Trump Edition,” the red-hot issues of the day haven’t exactly vanished into thin air, as you may have noticed. As Theatre Yes assistant artistic producer Brooke Leifso explains, that’s what Gravity is for.
It’s an invitation, uncensored and uncurated, to “a diverse set of artists to present their thoughts on a diversity of topics, about where the world is at today!”
Everything from “gun violence to legalized marijuana” as Leifso puts it, is under scrutiny by the provocateurs who made submissions. “Toxic masculinity, colonialism, climate change…”: if you can get outraged about it, chances are there’s something at Gravity for you.
“We tried to include everyone who wanted to be part of it,” says Leifso of the evening hosted by Kristi Hansen, currently starring in The Silver Arrow: The Untold Story of Robin Hood at the Citadel. And there was outreach to “equity-seeking artists” in a variety of communities, including the deaf (Gravity has ASL interpretation). The only parameter for the cabaret was that the contributions be “10 minutes, artist-made artist-derived work, on a hot-button issue of the day.”
Submissions have increased, along with the multi-disciplinary content, from spoken word to dance, since Gravity’s debut edition, Leifso says.
Playwrights of various stripe have stepped up. From Michele Vance Hehir is a piece on missing Indigenous women. Savanna Harvey (Shadowlands) is offering a sneak peek at her new performance piece, Wastelands, about waste and the plastics accumulating in the ocean. The Frente Theatre Collective (Swallow, The Catalogue of Bones) is represented. So is the Ninety Bear arts collective.
Environmental issues are big at this year’s edition, Leifso reports. Niuboi (performance artist Julie Ferguson) arrives from space with a warning in Plastic, for example. In their modern dance piece Help, CRIPSiE, an integrated dance company, challenges “and shambles a bit the dominant narrative of how we view disability.”
Pray is our first exposure to a new work by performer/playwright Chris Dodd, founder and artistic director of Sound Off, the country’s only deaf arts festival. There’s sketch comedy, spoken word, bouffon clown (Emily Howard and Philip Geller). There’s music: French/English singer-songwriter Karimah presents Why This Is The End and Love and Hate.
The info (and fake-info) overload available for our consumption is vast. Gravity is a chance for artists to air “things they care about, insights into lived experience,” says Leifso. “The idea is to get people to think, to get people to laugh…. It should be an entertaining evening!”
Gravity: A Cabaret Of Art And Politics
Theatre: Theatre Yes, Alberta Public Interest Research Group (APIRG), Greenpeace
Hosted by: Kristi Hansen
Where: Westbury Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barns, 10330 84 Ave.
Running: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: by donation, cash only at the door