At the helm of the Chutzpah! Festival for eleven of its fifteen years, Artistic and Managing Director Mary-Louise Albert may have programmed another diverse mix of dance, theatre and music for this year’s anniversary edition, but the bigger consideration for her is always in ensuring the acts presented are world-class.
“Yes it is eclectic, however the entry point for any artist being programmed is being very well trained and excel at what they are doing,” says Albert.
As a multi-disciplinary festival, Albert admits that it can be tricky in balancing the shows within its three main genres of dance, music and theatre.
“It is important to present world premieres in the festival as well and develop artist and audience growth this way,” she says. “For 2015 we have four world premieres by local BC artists: Shay Kuebler, Vanessa Goodman, Paul Armstrong and Serge Bennathan. I’m very proud of this aspect of the festival.”
In fact, Kuebler and his new company are the Festival’s resident dance artists for 2015 and have been working for seven weeks preparing for the world premiere of the full-length work Glory.
And while she works a year and a half out from each Festival to fill the line-up, she is also careful not to over-program, preferring to leave room for spontaneous and last minute programming decisions.
“I do travel with work and personally and try to see as much work as possible,” she says. “The festival has a growing national and international reputation … so many artists send proposals, information and videos of their work. I like to bring some artists back for multiple years to build their artistic growth.”
Much of the reputation the Festival has gained over years also means that Albert is approached by acts to be part of the part of the program each year. “I wish I could have a three month festival,” she says. “[It] would be easy to fill with all the wonderful and talented local, national and international artists.”
Celebrating the 15-year milestone this year, Albert attributes the Festival’s longevity to, among other things, a lot of hard work, and a loyal and growing audience. The Festival has also seen a number of changes over the years including the introduction of the international component and diversification in the venues beyond the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre, which was the Festival hub for many years.
“Over the past five years the festival’s main focus is international and world premieres and also bringing a range of very talented artists from Israel,” says Albert. “We have also expanded with many shows off site. Venues such as the Imperial, Red Room Ultra Bar and Electric Owl and Scotiabank Dance Centre for this year are being used because they truly suit the needs of the artists and audience.”
As for a favourite at this year’s Festival? Albert is, perhaps not surprisingly, diplomatic in her response.
“A reviewer recently said I was like a proud mother who loves all her children equally. I would have to say that is true,” she says. “But having said that … bringing a contemporary type dance show with a live rock band and interactive media from half way around the world to a downtown club, is pretty cool [Maria Kong’s Backstage].”