After 15 years, Uno performers may be alone —but they’re never lonely.
Okay, let’s burst this solo performance bubble right off the top: while Intrepid Theatre’s acclaimed Uno Fest has been highlighting the power of one for 15 years now, it’s not like these performers are truly alone on stage. Sure, there may just be a single actor or dancer up there in the spotlight, but behind them are a powerful team of allies—from writers and choreographers to directors and designers, all of whom work together to create the illusion of solo performance. Then there’s the audience, who completes the equation.
Of course, regardless of how many people they’ve worked with to get there, the beauty of solo performance is watching that one person bring an entire production to life—as anyone who has ever seen Julia Mackey’s stellar turn in Jake’s Gift well knows. Currently celebrating its fifth anniversary, Jake’s Gift is definitely an Uno success story, having premiered here back in 2007. And there’s some other returning favourites this year too—like last year’s Fringe hits Canterbury Cocktails, The Birdmann, God is a Scottish Drag Queen and Photo Booth—plus some of the exciting new shows that are currently heating up Canadian stages, like Carmine Aguirre’s Blue Box.
Running May 23 to June 3 at both Metro Studio and the Intrepid Theatre Club, this year’s Uno features 11 mainstage shows plus three workshop productions and the debut of the new Press> Play project, as well as events like the ever-popular Monobrow Solo Slam V & VI (this year benefiting Intrepid operations manager Megan Newton), and three different hands-on workshops by Uno performers.
CVV’s team of reviewers—myself, E.G. Anderson and Amanda Farrell-Low—will be covering all of the shows as they debut, so check back often to see how things are going. We also have a quartet of quickie previews for the workshop productions (Cougar Annie, I be Caribou, Where’s My Flying Car? and The God That Comes), as most of them only show once. Be sure to visit Intrepid’s Uno Fest site for all the essential details.
Whether you go solo or in tandem, don’t miss out on your chance to see just how exciting a single performer can be.
We will be adding reviews as they come in throughout the festival so check back often! Reviews are listed alphabetically by show title.
Songs From the Garden
Singer/songwriter Kat Kadoski will bring her one-woman show Cougar Annie Tales to Uno Fest. Kat has spent years researching the life of BC’s legendary settler Cougar Annie named for her cougar-hunting abilities and even spent three years taking care of Cougar Annie’s garden here on Vancouver Island. She brings her wealth of knowledge about this unique piece of our history to life through songs and stories.
CVV: You’ve done a lot of research into Cougar Annie’s life for this show. What are some of the most surprising things you’ve learned about her?
Kat Kadoski: At first it was the obvious shockers: she outlived four husbands, gave birth to 11 children (lost three as infants and outlived three others), opened a remote post office, ran a mail-order nursery and, of course, the whole cougar hunting thing . . . she is reported to have shot over 70 cougars during her tenure at Boat Basin from 1915-83. The money received on the hides and bounty would go straight back into the running of the very isolated farm. She would also at times chase cougars away from her chicken coop with a two-by-four.
As I got deeper into the story the subtle ironies were making themselves known. One that struck me in particular was of the many men named George in her life. Ada “Cougar” Annie’s father George Jordan was 60 years old when he married her to her first husband, Willie Rae-Arthur, who died in 1936. After placing a classified ad for a husband in 1938, Annie chose to marry George Campbell, who was 60 years old. Her fourth husband was named George Lawson and also 60 years old when they married. Her third husband was E’sau Arnold and it’s said he was best to her by far. Perhaps not being a 60 year old George helped? Another irony was that she was very civilized when she came to tame the wild. It seemed the tamer the wild was getting, the wilder she was becoming.
CVV: How does Cougar Annie fit into BC’s history as a whole?
KK: There are hundreds of pioneer-settler stories out there, told and retold . . . . This piece looks at the rugged west coast over the last 100 years through the life story of a wily, courageous and sometimes stubborn woman whose objective was to survive, despite very difficult circumstances. It also speaks a bit about the human struggles and the oppression of the time.
CVV: What makes her such a compelling character for you?
KK: I think her story is so captivating; it’s irresistible for storytellers to share. One piece that really strikes me is that while she was a product of her oppressive era, women like her were trained to be demure yet manipulative in lieu of being empowered with a sense of equal rights (as many women enjoy having today). Yet, through it all she struggled to make world of her own and ended up surpassing the limitations of her culture.
CVV: How factual is your show? Would you call it educational?
KK: I would say it’s educational. The songs reference actual events and the excerpts of letters are from the real senders. The story as a whole displays a real settlers life on the west coast at the time it was happening. I’ve used authentic references, such as the letters and photos; the actual stories from people who knew her were the template for creating the songs and narrative.
CVV: You’re also a singer/songwriter – how much of the show is music?
KK: Initially it was all songs presented as a kerosene lamp or fireside concert to guests at the retreat center at Cougar Annie’s. I was very inspired to write the songs when I lived and worked there for three years. The show has now evolved to include the letters, dramatic narrative, and projected photos. Just over half of the story is presented through songs.
CVV: Do you see any similarities between you and Annie?
KK: I suppose we share a love of flowers and the determination to go against the grain. I can relate to the understanding that sometimes you do what you’ve got to do, but I can’t say you’d ever catch me hunting cougars in the middle of the night with a kerosine lamp and a Winchester .30.30!
— E.G. Anderson
Cougar Annie Tales
6pm Friday, May 25
Intrepid Theatre Club
After Unofest, Cougar Annie Tales will be presented at Metchosin Hall on June 10, with partial proceeds going to help maintain Cougar Annie’s Garden. The show will also run at the Victoria Fringe Festival.
Seven reasons to catch Hawksley Workman’s ode to an ancient god
One of the most anticipated pieces at this year’s Uno fest is The God That Comes, a work-in-progress collaboration between Canadian art rocker Hawksley Workman and Christian Barry, artistic co-director of Halifax’s acclaimed 2b theatre company. Described as “a concept album for the stage” featuring music and performance by the Juno-winning Workman, The God That Comes takes Euripides’ theatrical classic The Bacchae as a jumping off point for this story of the Greco-Roman god of wine Bacchus, also known as Dionysus. No stranger to the rock scene, Dionysus got a lot of press back in the late ’60s when The Doors frontman Jim Morrison began evoking his presence on stage and fusing his signature ritualistic performances with some classically Dionysian (and ultimately self-destructive) revelry.
The full mounting of this production is set to debut at the Alberta Theatre Project in March 2013, but Uno audiences are fortunate indeed to get an advance look at what promises to be a very exciting, and very edgy, production. In 2b’s words, “The God that Comes is a tonic for a society that has lost its sense of balance, and for a people that have lost touch with their animal instincts. It is an invitation to raise a glass together, hear a story, and get lost in the music.”
With that in mind, here are 10 great reasons to not miss The God That Comes at Uno fest.
1) Arguably Canada’s most flamboyant rocker and a legitimate heir to Freddie Mercury’s showman crown, Hawksley Workman’s wide-ranging musical explorations are always surprising and consistently satisfying. His albums—including the likes of 2001’s epic (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves, 2003’s aggressive Lover/Fighter, the heartfelt simplicity of 2006’s Treeful of Starling, and 2010’s powerful two-album set Milk and Meat—continue to bear audiophonic fruit, even after years of repeated listening.
2) Uno has a long history of presenting musical artists in a theatrical setting, with remarkable results. From the likes of spooky cabaret chanteuse Jill Tracy to 2011 Uno fave Bob Wiseman’s video-based song stylings, any singer on stage at Uno is bound to give more than just a concert.
3) Dionesyean revelry has been a staple in popular culture since the days of the ancient Greeks themselves. From Euripides and Jim Morrison, to appearances in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, the second season of True Blood and notable episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess, to name a few—The God That Comes is merely the latest invocation of this lusty god.
4) Director Christian Barry’s work with 2b has always been outstanding. Ever since 2b co-founders Barry and Anthony Black stepped up as artistic co-directors in 2004 and revamped the company, they have presented 15 productions, including 11 world premieres, and have been nominated for and won a heap of awards, both in Canada and Europe. Local audiences fortunate enough to have seen their round-the-table production Revisited in 2007 will not soon forget it, nor anyone who saw their notable Invisible Atom way back in Uno 2005 or Hannah Moscovitch’s compelling The Russian Play.
5) This is a great chance to get your theatrical gloat on. It’s safe to say there’s going to be a lot of buzz about this show when the final production gets staged at Alberta Theatre Project next year, so if you see it now then you’ll be able to Facebook all your friends and say, “Oh yeah, I saw it already.”
6) The God That Comes is described as a concept album for the stage—and who doesn’t love a good concept album? From Jesus Christ Superstar and War of the Worlds (not the radio drama but the Jeff Wayne musical version) to The Wall and American Idiot, concept albums make great foundations for stirring stage productions. And many of Workman’s albums already have that bigger concept feel to them, so this should be an ideal pairing.
7) The God That Comes is billed as an “adults only” show—which, in this age when dumbing down stories is all too common and teenage fare often passes for adult entertainment, sounds remarkably refreshing. Plus, you know, Dionysus was all about sex, drugs and the ancient equivalent of rock and roll, so bring it on.
The God That Comes
8pm Sunday, May 27-Tuesday, May 29.
Cooke’s Day On
Acclaimed choreographer Constance Cooke is back at Uno this year with a workshop presentation of her new piece, I be Caribou. A frequent face on the local dance scene, Cooke is the artistic director of the Victoria School of Contemporary Dance, Company Constance Cooke Dance and Fizzik’l, the latter of which recently impressed audiences at the annual Light On Our Feet dance benefit. She is currently working with dancers Alisoun Payne, Robert Halley, Jung-Ah Chung and Cai Glover on a full-length work titled Flightless Aviators and Angels, set to premiere in Victoria. Cooke has been the recipient of numerous awards, scholarships and grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, the Manitoba Arts Council and the Vancouver Foundation and Dance Victoria. Her work has been presented in Europe and across Canada, including the recent piece Rein Rein, a new work for Toronto’s Cadence Contemporary Ballet and On Trials with Ballet Victoria.
We caught up with the busy Cooke recently and asked her about her newest piece, I be Caribou, which is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the BC Arts Council, and debuts at Uno alongside the other mainstage dance offerings, Four Quartets (by Montreal’s Trial & Eros) and The Atomic Weight of Happiness (by Toronto’s Stand Up Dance).
CVV: The program description teases I be Caribou as exploring the interplay between isolation, instinct and transformation. What’s the origin of the piece? Did it actually come out of a sense of isolation?
Constance Cooke: Usually I give a great deal of thought about what my next creations will be about—in this case, though, I would have to say I was called to create it. Yup, kind of like hearing voices.
CVV: Even though the Uno fest is billed as a “solo performance festival,” a lot of people come expecting to see theatre. Does this provide you with a good opportunity to present contemporary dance to a different audience?
CC: This is the second time I have presented in Uno, and it is a fantastic opportunity to create for a solo artist. I Be Caribou is dance, but also plays with multi-media with projections and has a perfomative arts feeling to it.
CVV: As a solo performance festival, many of the other Uno shows may have been directed by someone else, but tend to be written and performed by the same person. The relationship between choreographer and dancer, however, strikes me as being far more intimate, and possibly more collaborative—is it more like the relationship between and actor & director, a writer & actor, or is it unique unto itself?
CC: I agree lots of the work in this festival is self-created. Alisoun Payne and I worked for three phases to create I be Caribou. The first was an open exploration where we found movement that we would like to explore and concepts like the relationship of the hunter to the hunted and how this is being disrupted by technology and what we humans might call progress—[like the] Enbridge pipeline.
CVV: How did you choose Alisoun Payne to perform this piece? Does she bring something to the performance that no one else can?
CC: When I heard the Caribou call, it told me that I had to use Alisoun. Really, that is how it happened. At first we had no funding, but we both believed everything would fall into place and we just needed to begin.
CVV: It’s listed as a 20-minute piece. Is the intention to workshop this and then expand it into something larger down the road?
CC: I might make the work longer—it has a sister piece called After Midnight that I presented part of last year in Romp—and it is my hope to put them on the same programme in the near future. There is a talk-back session built into the time slot we have in this festival, [so] I am curious to hear some feedback and how folks feel, see, understand the work.
CVV: What would you say to someone reading the Uno program who sees the word “performance art” in your show description and thinks, “Performance art? No thanks!”
CC: Um . . . well, be more adventurous, I think. The work is very accessible and quite emotionally stirring.
CVV: I see you’ve got the wonderful Rebekah Johnson doing lighting design for it. How important is lighting in dance performance? And why Rebekah for this one—does her vision match your own?
CC: Rebekah designs the lighting for all of my work. Quite simply, I think she is fabulous and, being that she is a working artist herself, she has a deep understanding of my work and becomes a real member of the creative team.
I be Caribou
Intrepid Theatre Club
8pm Monday, May 28
8pm Tuesday, May 29
Pay What You Can, tickets at door only
Have Silver Jumpsuit, Will Travel
Following up on her 2010 Fringe hit (and 2011 Uno rerun), Public Confessions of a Public Servant, supreme spoken word majesty Missie Peters is back in action at this year’s Uno with a reading of her latest show, Where’s My Flying Car? But since this one is a workshop production and we’re not technically supposed to review workshops, we thought we’d give you a sneak peek of Flying Car by way of a quickie preview instead.
CVV: So, in lieu of life inside a governmental cubicle, this year we get a glimpse into the future. What’s the word on your latest show, Where’s My Flying Car?
Missie Peters: This show explores the future through poems and monologues from a series of eclectic futuristic characters: from a grocery-bot to a cyborg dancer to a techno-archaeologist. It also includes a bunch of personal stories about how and why I became such a huge sci-fi geek.
CVV: For someone who started out in poetry circles, you’ve been getting pretty active in the theatre scene lately—the Fringe fest, Uno, the Belfry’s Spark Festival, your work with Speakeasy and the recent This Is Twisted Theatre radio play, Batman’s Great Mystery. Is spoken word to theatrical monologue a logical evolution for you? Is it somewhere you intended to go, or has it just kinda happened?
MP: Hmm, it’s just seemed like a very natural progression for me. While I’ve never had formal theatre training, I’ve been on stage since I was six—and I’ve been heavily involved in Victoria’s improv scene since I moved here five years ago. So it’s been about using the skills I have. For me, I’m always looking for ways to grow and develop as an artist, as a spoken word performer. Theatre opens up so many possibilities—such as poems from the point of view of characters like in Flying Car—that I’m really enjoying working in that context.
CVV: Is your personal vision of the future more Jetsons or Star Trek or . . . ?
MP: Probably more like Bladerunner—more grimy than shiny. But honestly, as I point out in one of the poems, we’re pretty crap at imagining the future accurately. So I don’t think we’ll be dealing with a Logan’s Run situation anytime soon. I actually think it’s interesting that so much of our idea of the future is pinned to consumer goods—like flying cars. I’m more fascinated by how the future will be different socially. Just look at the changes in our social norms over the last 100 years—gender equality, divorce, gay marriage—where will we be in another 100 years?
CVV: What’s the one piece of standard sci-fi technology you’d like to incorporate into your 21st century life? (As someone who’s suffered from motion sickness his whole life, I’d personally go for a teleporter.)
MP: Teleporter is a pretty good one. I think I’d have to go with artificial gravity because that will allow us to move into space. Or full-on Matrix-style downloading of our consciousnesses into a digital reality, just cause that is AWESOME.
CVV: This is your second monologue in a theatrical setting—do you have plans for more work like this in the future?
MP: I actually wrote a whole other piece earlier this year based on the tragic lives of scientists—but the timing wasn’t right for that projectile, so I may revive that this fall. I’ve also got an idea for a piece about my experience playing basketball in high school. (That’s right—I was a once a jock!)
CVV: Do you have any other theatrical ambitions (acting, directing) or are you content to continue conquering the city’s spoken word scene?
MP: Well, right now I’m a cast member with Paper Street Theatre Co.—an improvised theatre company led by Dave Morris—and we’re just finishing our first season here with a show called An Improvised Fairytale at Theatre SKAM’s upcoming Bike Ride [running June 16-17 & 23-24 at Cecilia Ravine Park]. Dave’s already got our next season planned out, so I’m excited to be a part of that. It’s very challenging work—we study source material and then work to improvise in that style—and I think very rewarding for both us and the audience. Our last run sold out!
CVV: If your poetry is about the future this time around, what’s the future of poetry going to look like?
MP: Multi-platform. I think the focus on books-equals-poetry will fade away, because the very concept of books as the pinnacle of knowledge is fading away. So, more playing within mediums—audio, visual, online. For example, I’m hoping to work with an illustrator to create a comic of one of the poems from this show for merch when I’m on tour.
CVV: Best use of a flying car in pop culture?
MP: Definitely Back to the Future. I mean, it ran on garbage! Way ahead of its time. Very eco-friendly. But you know, I think we’re fascinated with the flying car because it represents freedom—the ability to go anywhere at anytime. There’s a built-in optimism about the future that’s very interesting, because I don’t think it would play out that way. Not with seven billion of us.
CVV: What would you say to someone reading the Uno program who sees the word “poetry” in your show description and thinks, “Poetry? No thanks!”
MP: Well, my poetry company is called “Not Your Grandma’s Poetry” for a reason—it’s not what you expect! Spoken word is designed to be heard, so it’s very easy to understand and enjoy. This show especially is funny, quirky, thought-provoking and very challenging. Also, I’ll be wearing a silver jumpsuit, so, awesome.
CVV: Anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?
MP: This is a reading—so I’ll still be holding a script as I bounce around on stage. I’m also really looking for audience feedback, so that I can hone this show before taking it on tour this summer. So please come and tell me what you think!
Where’s My Flying Car?
8:30pm Thursday, May 31
Intrepid Theatre Club
Pay What You Can, tickets at door only