By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Prepare to be surprised.
Starting today in Old Strathcona, two groups of five emerging artists from the whole spectrum of disciplines — playwrights, choreographers, visual artists, filmmakers, actors, musicians — will gather. Together they’ll spend the next 11 days at Nextfest creating … something new. And 30 hours of “rehearsal” later, on the last night of Nextfest (June 10), audiences will get to see that something: a presentation perhaps? an installation, a performance, an exhibition, a production?
There’s really no foretelling what will come out of The Collaboration Project, an innovation in this year’s edition of Nextfest, the ground-breaking multi-disciplinary emerging artist festival that was dreamed up 23 Junes ago by Theatre Network’s Bradley Moss.
Which cuts to the chase. Nextfest is the festival that happens when you lob the question “so, what’s new?” into a crowd of up-and-comers.
It was designed to support and showcase the multi-faceted creativity of the emerging generation of artists. Theatre, music, dance, poetry, visual art, film design, comedy … it’s a community of potential game-changers, 500 strong and counting. And the answer to the question “so, what’s new?” is, “well, everything. Every year.”
That comes from Ellen Chorley on the eve of her second Nextfest as festival director. Hand it to an authority: Chorley grew up at Nextfest. When she says “I’ve spent half my life at Nextfest,” she’s not kidding: at 16 Chorley and her theatre school pals took a collaborative show to the festival. And an amazingly multi-angled career as a playwright/ actor/ director/ artistic director/ producer/ teacher/ mentor/ curator was born. “I would not be the artist I am without Nextfest!” Chorley says feelingly. “A lot of art partnerships have started here….” Which is why The Collaboration Project, in which the participants are mentored by Bradley Moss and Ainsley Hillyard of Good Women Dance, is an initiative that is quintessentially Nextfest.
Another addition to the 2018 festival is a free daily workshop series, led by pros and designed, says Chorley, “to bridge the gap between post-secondary (art) schools and a career in the arts.” The thrust is practical: how write a grant application, how to pitch projects to theatres or dance companies, how to promote yourself. “There are big mountains to climb; you don’t necessarily know how to take the first step,” says Chorley. “Even if you aren’t a Nextfest artist, you become one when you show up.” And there’s a bonus: you get a festival pass to see everything at Nextfest for free.
Nextfest has its traditions, too, reinvented with each annual edition. There are the Nextfest Niteclubs for example, late-night multi-disciplinary “performance parties,” each with a curator, a theme, a distinct flavour in the way it matchmaker artists and audiences. Friday’s party, Conduit: A Means To Move, is all about movement and dance. Shadow State (June 7) focuses on visual arts and film. Welcome to Hellsmut (June 8) reimagines the festival’s annual smut party as a kind of Victorian funeral. Queers on Queerz (June 9) coincides with Edmonton’s Pride festivities.
New? Theatre Network’s Roxy, Fringe Theatre’s Backstage Theatre, and the Yardbird Suite are the principal performance spaces this year. And along with an assortment of visual arts venues — including the Strathcona Library, The Paint Spot, Roots, the Next Act — all are within walking distance this time out. Which feels, as fringe-goers know, more festive.
New? The MainStage theatre lineup is a quartet of dramatically diverse theatrical experiences, from a jazzy period musical to a darkly comic dinner party/ relationship play. You’ll meet the playwright/creators in future 12thnight.ca posts.
Theatre: The Nextfest Arts Co.
Where: Roxy on Gateway, The Backstage Theatre, Yardbird Suite, and an assortment of “galleries,” including the Backstage and Fringe Theatre Adventure lobbies, the Next Act, Roots on Whyte, Strathcona Library, The Paint Spot
Running: Thursday through June 10, full schedule and show descriptions at nextfest.ca
Tickets: in person at the Roxy (8529 Gateway Blvd), by phone at 780-453-2440, or online at nextfest.ca