Curatorial Statement – Club PuSh
January 24, 2011
Why would Theatre Conspiracy want to be involved in the curation and production of Club PuSh?
Basically, we can’t help ourselves. It’s in our blood. And it’s worked out rather well.
Theatre Conspiracy, and my own career in the theatre, began in clubs with events featuring a lot of politician abuse, comedy sketches, boozy conversation and musical acts such as Joe Shithead, Destroyer, Pink Mountaintops and No Luck Club.
Shaking up a cocktail of short genre-defying performance, comedy, monologue, magic and music acts for an animated, thirsty, flirty and conversational crowd is a sacred thing.
Some of my most memorable theatre experiences have happened in a club:
• Daniel Barrow, Club PuSh 2009: This Winnipeg artist’s singular talent for storytelling and live animation on overhead projector is beautiful, heartfelt, mind blowing. I’m on a mission to make his return to the Club one of the most popular shows at PuSh this year.
• Mike Daisey, Club PuSh 2009: We introduced the top-flight New York monologist to Vancouver audiences with Monopoly and PuSh brought him back in September with a new show, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. He now has a lot of fans around here.
• Colin Smith, A General Election Conspiracy, Anza Club, 1996: Colin pulled on a Brian Mulroney mask and a fat suit and we sold audience members an egg for a buck. Sublime. Achieved a remarkable level of audience / artist interactivity. Caused a few bruises. Revenues of $24 before expenses.
The club as an environment for innovative performance has a long history — the Dada events at Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire beginning 1916 are an obvious example. But Club PuSh curators Norman Armour, Veda Hille and myself believe it also has a glorious future and will we continue to commission new work specifically suited to informal atmospheres. Are we trying to make genre-defiant a genre? Well, here’s what we commissioned this year in addition to new work by Daniel Barrow:
• Volker Gerling, Portraits in Motion: The German artist’s medium is the black & white portrait animated via flipbook. After a few days of walking around Vancouver, Gerling will present a new portrait of our city at 125. It’s fascinating to see artists like Gerling and Barrow adopting old-school media for their performances at a time when video is as common as carbon monoxide. The night will hosted by writer Michael Turner and Victoria’s Meatdraw (“one of the finest carnival exorcism bands in the world”) rounds out the night of local / regional / international talent.
• Nervous System System, Close at Hand: Vancouver’s vibrant comedy-based improv scene is loaded with talent. If you’re a fan, Nervous System System has a fresh new direction to share. With improvs on the themes of death metal, Samuel Beckett and Hall & Oates, Nervous System System performers Tanya Marquardt, Tanya Podlozniuk, Caroline Liffman and Billy Marchenski, aim for rhythm, sustained momentum and a profound examination of mortality — as well as comedy. Hosted by writer / comedian Sarah Bynoe and also featuring magician Bro Gilbert and the smashing rock band The British Columbians, this night will have energy to burn.
• Happy Birthday Teenage City: Veda Hille had a hit at the Club in 2009 with the Craigslist Cantata that she wrote with Bill Richardson. This time out she takes the civic temperature by leading the Vancouver Complaints Choir with songs of complaint, confession and congrats, and invites further comment from writer and comedian Charles Demers, artist Geoffrey Farmer, and singer/songwriters Meryn Cadell and Geoff Berner. And, to get the audience up on the stage — Weekend Leisure Karaoke.
• The Meal by The Lost Gospel Ensemble: Following a set by his band The Beige that wowed the crowd at Club PuSh in 2009, we asked songwriter Rick Maddocks to create something a little special for our stage in 2011. Part of what we talk about when commissioning new work for the club is how we can support artists to keep pushing their work into new territories — something that I’ve always heard in Rick’s music. He proposed an ambitious cycle of songs ranging from funk to gospel to rock and folk that would be theatrical, post-modern take on the Gnostic Gospels, inspired somewhat by Buñuel’s film The Exterminating Angel, and diving deeper into spiritual themes that have evolved throughout his repertoire.
I think we’ve been reasonably wide-ranging in our choices and that this year’s talent will inspire next year’s offerings.
Looking forward to calling Club PuSh home from Jan. 26 to Feb. 5 …
— Tim Carlson, artistic producer, Theatre Conspiracy