FREE FALL a festival of experience performance presented by the Theatre Centre. Opens today (Thursday, April 1) and runs through April 11 at various Queen West locations. $10-$20, some free events, festival pass $25. 416-538-0988.
tired of sitting in a theatre seat watching actors talk? Then take a tumble into Free Fall to check out a different kind of live performance. The second festival of experimental performance - again programmed by David Duclos and Stephen O'Connell - brings together dance, theatre and music artists from across the country, all of them intent on stretching the bounds of their craft.
O'Connell understands that performance art can be a turn-off. Some culture consumers find it just way too abstract.
"Sometimes people are intimidated by experimental or site-specific works, thinking they might be alienated or not understand what they're seeing," says O'Connell, who co-created and performed in bluemouth inc.'s site-specific trilogy Something About A River. "With the eclectic, wonderful mix that's Free Fall, set in theatrical venues and less traditional spaces, there's a little something for everyone.
"David and I talk about it as new and hybrid performance," O'Connell goes on. "The new aspect isn't the final result, but rather using new ways to direct the creative process, often collaboratively."
The first Free Fall in 2002 brought together performers from Toronto and other Canadian cities. This time the organizers are adding to the mix Newfoundland artist Lori Clarke, who's bringing a video installation/performance that draws upon images from the history of medicine. It's part of a cycle that Clarke calls Somalore, or stories of the body.
Montreal guests include dancer/choreographer Martin Bélanger, who's working with sound collaborator Jean-Sebastien Durocher on Spoken Word/ Body, and Louis Hudon and Marcelle Hudon's Par Bonheur/Il Y A, a blend of puppets, video and shadow theatre.
After premiering locally in 2002 with their fascinating Box2, set in a diner, Vancouver's Radix Theatre returns with Half A Tank, which takes place in a parking lot. Audience members sit in their cars (walk-ups are accommodated by car-pooling), watching and listening to the central character, a 71 Monaco.
Local artists - Turbo Bonz Dance (Jenn Goodwin, Justine Chambers, Sarah Doucet and Darryl Tracy), comic Glenn Christie and the OOmph Group, offering their first commissioned piece - round out the participants.
During the past two years, O'Connell's been working with people across the country to set up a network of support and a series of performance festivals for creators who don't fall into traditional categories. There's now a Fringe-like chain of such festivals that includes Montreal's Vasistas, Quebec City's Mois Multi, Calgary's High Performance Rodeo, Vancouver's Push Fest and Free Fall.
Other artistic shoots from this hybrid: the Rodeo's Michael Green has set up Performance Creation Canada for dialogue among artists across the country who might feel isolated in their work. Radix, bluemouth inc. and Productions Nathalie Derome have set up a Web site (popstart.ca) and plan to host a pan-Canadian event.
Skilled at this sort of cutting-edge creation, O'Connell admits that his interest is what he calls interdisciplinary work.
"People think it's the same as multidisciplinary, but it's not. Interdisciplinary work integrates one practice with another. The Canada Council now recognizes this kind of creativity with its Interarts Program, and Free Fall is another way of acknowledging this community of artists."
In addition to the performances - presented at the Drake and Gladstone hotels, the Katharine Mulherin Gallery, the Theatre Centre and the Great Hall, all within a few blocks of each other on Queen West - you can catch a free round-table discussion of the art form, with an address by New Yorker RoseLee Goldberg, whose book Performance: Live Art 1909 To The Present chronicles new and hybrid works.
If you want a more informal discussion, there are a pair of Sunday breakfasts with participating artists at the Beaver Café.