PuSh Blog

PuSh 2010 Curatorial Statement: Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut

December 14, 2009

by PuSh Festival Executive Director Norman Armour

So why present a piece that has already been in the Festival? It’s not something that is normally done, though we have made it somewhat of a tradition at PuSh. Usually, this involves bringing back a local work whose audience interest warrants a reprise presentation in a larger venue and longer run. Not the case here with Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut.

As the BC governments proposed cuts to arts funding and the changes made to the disbursement of Gaming funds continue to take their toll—and believe me they are—the casualties are significant. Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut is on tour this January in the Western region, and the production was to travel to Victoria’s Intrepid Theatre. Intrepid and its artistic director, Janet Munsil, are long-time presenting partners with PuSh. Janet is one of country’s finest curators and an award-winning playwright to boot. Janet has been forced to cancel much of her presenting program. On the other side of the coin, this production involves many artists and two organizations with whom I personally (and indeed this organization) has many deep and committed relationships.

Common wisdom…in times like this, you got to stick to together.

But there are other reasons just as meaningful and just as consequential. Follow me here for just a sec. Artists who struggle many hard years to establish their credibility run a risk. At the very time that they have gained a modicum of public funding support, received a degree of accolades from the media and colleagues, who have grown a loyal and dedicated audience…this is the very time that one might be inclined to fear the worst: That one might lose all the ‘spoils’ of ones hard labour.

Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut is for me one of, if not the most, rigorous theatrical work to come out of this city in the past several years. And by rigorous, I don’t mean completely successful, or that it is for everyone’s taste. (For me it is extremely successful and very much to my inclinations.) What I mean is that the artists involved turned to face the stage and the work at hand, again and again. Wrestling with questions of content, aesthetics, ethics, and yes legalities. (I don’t have inside information on this. Anyone can gather this from simply taking in the show.) And low and behold, they turned around and there was critical acclaim; there were audiences (and lots of them); and respect among their peers and public funders did not suffer.

“Liking a work” certainly plays a role in any curatorial decision. But I would offer something more fundamental. Respect. (Just like the song!) And I got loads and loads of respect for this piece, and for what Rumble Productions and Theatre Replacement took on. Sure there is video projections, a rabbit suit, research into and artifacts from the life of real person, a devised, non-narrative dramaturgical structure; these are certainly ingredients for groundbreaking work. But I’d argue that there is nothing that hasn’t been used and done a hundred times before by artists far and a field. Yet here the elements are used in very specific ways; they have the mark of very individual artistic choices, specific to the piece and the questions at hand. As an idea or artistic proposition this production screams danger, watch out for potential failure just ahead. Clark and I Somewhere in Conneticut is “risk” at its purest, or at its riskiest if you prefer.

I hope I have caught you attention. But don’t take my word for it. See this show. It will catch you again, again and again. That’s what rigour does.

Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut is part of the 2010 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. January 28-30 at 9pm, Performance Works. Click here for full details.