The artists single-handedly baring their souls on stage at the third Solo-icious Theatre Festival might seem like a testament to the cult of the individual, but paradoxically, for festival curator Keelin Jack, they're actually proof of the power of community.
Curating a festival of solo performances has encouraged her to see that there's strength in numbers, she says, and in the aftermath of a liberal budget that's left the arts community in the province under a cloud, she wants other people to think so, too. "Investigating cool people who live in Halifax and are doing interesting things has been really personally invigorating," she says, "and that's the sense that I want the festival to have: this is cool stuff that's happening in Halifax, you can do it too, everybody talk to each other."
The festival, running July 3 and 4 at the Bus Stop, will feature solo performances designed to subvert expectations about what unaccompanied artists can do. Although there will be familiar faces in the lineup, Jack says it was important to seek out new talent.
"I wanted to get people who you're not seeing," she says. "I really wanted to find people and say, 'Look what this person can do.'"
By providing a venue for short work–with a line-up of 15-minute acts by 15 artists—ranging from theatre stalwarts such as Bill Wood to newly discovered musicians and everything in between–Jack hopes both artists and audience members will get the chance to sample something new.
Courtney Moore is a keyboardist and composer, one of these newly discovered. Performing new work is an intimidating prospect even for seasoned soloists, and Moore says playing without a band challenges her to produce works that can stand by themselves.
While having to stand up by yourself may be terrifying, it's also liberating, says Ann Denny. Denny will be performing in the festival as her comedic alter-ego, blending her training as a classical singer with comical elements to deliver an eclectic, abstract performance. Playing on her own means she doesn't need to worry about keeping a co-star up to speed with a fast-paced, partly improvisational show, resulting in a direct connection between herself and those in the crowd.
The festival "allows for that freedom to follow my own inner bliss in the moment to connect with the audience," says Denny.
While the festival represents an important opportunity for emerging artists, it's an equally valuable experience for more seasoned performers like Denny. A festival of short solo shows provides a testing ground for artists to develop new work, she says, including ephemeral compositions that couldn't be seen anywhere else.
Jack says it can be frustrating to see people's eyes glaze over at their perception of what theatre can be. She hopes that by challenging that perception, the festival will encourage people to be excited about the manifold potential of performative art and that positive energy will flow from the individuals onstage to the community of which they are a part.
"My hope is that people will have an increased awareness of artistry in many forms," she says, "and like me, to have a little bit of a reinvigorated faith in the city."
Solo-icious Theatre Festival
Friday July 3 and Saturday July 4, 8-11pm
The Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen Street