PuSh Blog

Curatorial Statement: Week 3 at Club PuSh

January 27, 2014

Huff is the most affecting piece of theatre I’ve seen in the last decade.” High praise in a CBC interview with our friend and colleague Eric Epstein, who programmed Cliff Cardinal’s play at the Yukon Arts Centre’s Pivot Festival last month and whose aesthetic is informed by decades of theatre-going experience worldwide.

A critic for Toronto’s Now magazine had this to say after Huff’s run at the Summerworks Festival: “… this captivating tale solidifies Cardinal as one of the most talented and intriguing writers in the country.”

Just two accolades from a long list — suffice it to say I’m sufficiently hyped for Huff.  Performed by the young Cardinal, currently a student at the National Theatre School, this is an intense and hallucinogenic one-man show about three brothers in Resolute Bay, dealing with the suicide of their mother by huffing gasoline, among other things. Dark stuff but story is leavened by humour with elements of standup performance.

As curators, Norman and Veda and myself are dedicated to showcasing new First Nations performance at the Club — in the past two years with wildly successful presentations of The Road Forward and Beat Nation Live — so it’s a distinct pleasure to introduce Cardinal to Vancouver via Club PuSh where Huff runs January 30 and 31 before touring to the National Arts Centre.

The rock-driven performance Duets for One is also a story about overcoming trauma, in this case a 16-year-old runaway from Port Alberni, who goes through the fire and emerges sixteen years later to thrive in New York. The transformative power of art is a central theme. A potentially dangerous situation is defused when the runaway and an older drug dealer discover a mutual interest in literature. In that moment he’s more angel than demon, giving her the gift of a poem that proves grounding in moments of crisis or loneliness.

Duets for One is based partially on Tanya Marquardt’s hard-hitting in-progress memoir, Stray, but also about the mindset of running away again to revisit the past and do the lonely work of writing the book. Co-created by Marquardt, myself and director Mallory Catlett, Duets is a something of a meta-memoir or, using a term that Tanya came up with on the fly, a “montage-alogue.”

Club PuSh was conceived as “a platform for experiment” where every year Theatre Conspiracy and PuSh offer commissions (thank you to the Canada Council for the Arts Inter-Arts office) for new performance that thrives in a bar setting.

Our experiment with Duets involves some challenging questions: How to retrofit the conventions of the one-woman show, the musical, the rock show, the cabaret performance, to create a piece that better speaks to Tanya’s evolving story? I think we’ve come up with some intriguing “montage-alogue” solutions. My hope going forward is that through the Club PuSh opportunity, the audience feedback and ongoing performances, Duets for One will illuminate Tanya’s work on Stray, and the duo will together offer readers and audiences two distinct experiences of a rich story and singular talent.

Duets hits the Club PuSh stage following Los Angeles artist Miwa Matreyek’s Myth & Infrastructure at closing night of Club PuSh on February 1. Miwa’s work, involving projected animation, shadow play and live performance is astoundingly beautiful and poetic: Here’s a little taste on the TED site.

Please stay after the February 1 performances to jump onstage, grab the mike and treat us to your best with Weekend Leisure Karaoke. There’s a reason it’s become a closing night tradition!

Tim Carlson
Co-Curator, Club PuSh & Artistic Producer, Theatre Conspiracy