If you’re in the market for a mixed bag of literary treats, Nakai Theatre’s Pivot Festival has you covered.
That’s how Peter Jickling, curator of the festival’s Story Crawl, taking place on Jan. 15, describes the evening, which moves between downtown bars, offering a live reading at each.
There will be some poetry, some fiction, and some non-fiction, Jickling told the News on a Thursday night at, appropriately enough, a bar.
It’s not the typical venue for a reading, but Jickling said that’s part of the charm. It makes for a different literary experience, and participants end up talking to people they might not otherwise chat with if they were at a library or bookstore reading.
“I think a little bit of alcohol goes a long way in helping people that maybe aren’t best friends, but maybe like acquaintances, or people you’ve seen around town, in order to kind of create a cohesive unit of however many people are on this bar crawl,” he said. “Beer doesn’t hurt to draw people together.”
Having participated in the 2018 crawl, he said the event tends to attract a different crowd than would a traditional reading.
“I think readings in libraries are great and wonderful, but tend to have a bit of formal feeling to them,” he said. “Whereas readings in bars tend to be a little bit looser and there’s an expectation that you’re going to have a fun time and so you’re kind of balancing the literary aspect of it with a bit of a party atmosphere. Whereas libraries or even bookstores might not have the same sort of celebratory spirit I guess.”
The free evening begins at Woodcutter’s Blanket at 7 p.m. with a reading from Lily Gontard, author of Beyond Mile Zero: The Vanishing Alaska Highway Lodge Community.
Jickling said each reading will run five to 10 minutes, and the crawl will spend about 45 minutes in each bar before moving on to its next stop.
Antoinette’s is stop number two, at 8 p.m., with a reading from local artist Nicole Bauberger, and then there’s a reading from writer Megan Dueling at 9 p.m. at the Town and Mountain.
Jickling said he chose Bauberger and Dueling because he’s seen them perform in the past and knows they have great stage presence.
“Which I think is pretty important if you’re going to try to do readings in a bar where who knows what the hell is going on,” he said.
Jickling will read at 10 p.m. at the Gold Pan Saloon. He recently finished a poetry collection that will be released in the spring (Downtown Flirt is being published by Toronto’s Guernica Editions), but said his reading that night will focus on newer pieces he’s been writing.
Gontard will also read from new work. She’s currently writing a fiction trilogy. She said the challenge in deciding what to read has been that her story is so big, she’s trying to narrow down a passage that has enough action to be interesting, but not so much that audiences lose track of the characters involved and what’s going on.
She said she finds readings useful to gauge audience reaction to her work, and while she’s never done a bar-crawl-based reading like this one, she likes the sense of the unexpected.
“It’s a different way to share stories,” she said. When you read in a pub or a cafe, people who were there before the reading might stay for the reading, they might leave, they might buy a book, they might talk back to you.
“I like that idea of live theatre,” she said, likening it to a Shakespearean play, where audiences interacted with the performers. It’s not like that anymore, she said. With the exception of stand-up comedy, audiences sit and keep quiet for plays and readings.
She likes having to wonder what she would do if someone talked back to her.
“It connects the speaker with the audience more.”
The free crawl begins at the Woodcutter’s Blanket at 7 p.m. on Jan. 15.
The Pivot Festival runs from Jan. 10 to 26, and includes a number of performances at venues across the city. Visit nakaitheatre.com for more information.
Contact Amy Kenny at email@example.com