Fusebox Festival 2017—A field report by Joyce Rosario
April 26, 2017
In April, Norman Armour, the Artistic Director of the PuSh Festival, and I had the very rare opportunity to travel together, to Austin, capital of Texas, for the inimitable Fusebox Festival.
We joke that Norman is the head of the Canadian chapter of the Ron Berry Fan Club, and I am most definitely a card-carrying member. Ron Berry is the artistic director of Fusebox and you’ve probably seen him around the PuSh Festival sporting a trademark (dare I say, iconic) Fusebox trucker hat. Maybe you were part of the crowd that caught his rollicking keynote talk at the 2016 PuSh Assembly.
Whether it’s the vibe of Ron and the Fusebox team, or something in the air of the city itself, they’ve created something that is at once unassuming and visionary. As curators and colleagues, Fusebox offers a case study in what a festival of contemporary performing arts can be, how it can occupy and shape a city.
Taking place over five days in venues across Austin, Fusebox holds a special space for art to create dialogue among Austinites. Fusebox tackles and thoughtfully situates itself within key civic issues with verve, and presents and instigates work that reflects its specific place and time in the world. Its short timeframe allows one to become fully immersed and experience the festival in its entirety. And, for the fifth year running, they’ve offered a full program for free!
One of my highlights was attending Waffle Chats each morning, a series of conversations with festival artists over waffles and coffee. On the first day, Ron talked about the adventure of seeing work at the festival with local audiences. It’s a process of discovery that happens together, and that’s when one really figures out a work.
As a performance curator, I definitely relate to that idea. Although Norman and I have already seen much of the work that you see at PuSh, it’s usually in a different city with its own audience and specific context. A work takes on new relevance when it meets you, when it’s here. Seeing the work, again for the first time, in your own city with your fellow citizens is an absolute thrill.
So, what did we take away from Fusebox that might be coming down the pipeline at the PuSh Festival? Let’s just say that I’m very excited about this. And, cross your fingers for this one, it had both Norman and I giddy with excitement.
Following Fusebox in Austin, I travelled on to CounterCurrent Festival in Houston. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Texas field report, to be posted in the coming weeks on the PuSh blog.