Peter Jickling performs during Pivot opening night on Jan. 24. The the festival will continue at various locations until Feb. 3. (Erik Pinkerton/Submitted)

Whitehorse theatre festival plays with some new concepts

11th annual festival runs until Feb. 3

The Pivot Theatre Festival is worth braving the cold for, says Jacob Zimmer.

“I think it’s the time of year where having delightful excuses to get out of the house is helpful,” says Nakai Theatre’s artistic director of Pivot, which opened with a pub crawl on Jan. 24.

The festival, now in its 11th year, runs to Feb. 3. Programming includes a mix of plays, musical performances, spoken word, social gatherings and more. The festival is being presented by Nakai Theatre and the Yukon Arts Centre.

Zimmer knows there are plenty of reasons to stay inside this time of year, but he says Pivot is important in terms of connection, collaboration, and developing local talent.

“Theatre and performance is hard,” he says. “It’s not Netflix. It doesn’t stream to your house, so to bring things in that are exciting and inspiring is an important thing to bring in for audiences.”

He says he’s excited about this year’s offerings, including the already sold-out Trader Time, being performed at the Old Firehall Jan. 26 and 27 at 7 p.m.

The work is a collaboration between Yukon author Ivan Coyote and Swedish-born Yukon songwriter Sarah MacDougall.

Coyote says Trader Time isn’t your typical play.

“I’m not an actor, I’m a storyteller,” Coyote says, calling Trader Time a story cycle about life, death, family, small town and intergenerational stories.

Those stories are complemented by MacDougall’s music.

MacDougall says she and Coyote worked individually (sharing completed work and occasionally going back to tweak their own contributions) and together (including a hymn in the show) to get Trader Time to where it is now.

“They’re kind of interconnected stories,” Coyote says. “It might be something just as small as a little image, but to me, as the writer, they all belong in the same family of stories.”

Coyote says the seeds of those stories have been in them for a long time.

“I’ve been obsessed with Trader Time (the radio show on CKRW) since I was a kid,” they say. “I just always loved that little window into someone else’s life. To me it was like a little viewfinder, a little snapshot to someone’s life.”

Trader Time, the Pivot piece, mimics that in that it’s based on interviews and archival research conducted in the Yukon by Coyote.

Coyote says they hope the show reminds audiences of the importance of oral and archival histories.

“Sometimes those are different things and they’re both really valid and important and they both make up true history more than each on its own.”

In addition to Trader Time, shows include 3Penny Radio Revue (Jan. 26 and 27 at the Old Firehall at 9 p.m.) and Onegin (Feb. 1 to 3 at 8 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre).

Tickets are available through the Yukon Arts Centre online, in person, or over the phone.

Other programming includes Pivotal Conversations, something Zimmer says is new this year.

A free event at the Old Firehall (Jan. 28 from 1 to 4 p.m.), Zimmer says its goal is to get people together to forge new connections and talk about theatre in different ways.

There are predetermined topics of conversation (what kind of support do Yukon theatres need and how can resources be shared?), but Zimmer is also taking suggestions.

So far, people have asked if the event can include discussions about how organizations across the territory can collaborate more, and how the theatre community can talk about the impact of the #MeToo movement, which raises awareness about sexual assault and harassment, in theatre work environments.

Zimmer’s hope is that it brings together emerging artists who have just arrived in the Yukon, as well as long-time residents who have been working in the arts for years.

Visit nakaitheatre.com for more information.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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