The 2020 Chutzpah! Festival will conclude with married comedy duo The El-Salomons broadcasting live from Brooklyn, New York and joined live by local comedians at the Rothstein Theatre in Vancouver. Photo by Colin Boyd Shafer.
The 2020 Chutzpah! Festival will conclude with married comedy duo The El-Salomons broadcasting live from Brooklyn, New York and joined live by local comedians at the Rothstein Theatre in Vancouver. Photo by Colin Boyd Shafer.

This is likely not the way the Chutzpah! Festival’s Jessica Mann Gutteridge had hoped to begin her time as the Festival’s new artistic director. Nor the way they had hoped to celebrate its 20-year milestone. But with the pandemic continuing to play havoc with arts events across the country, you have to adapt.

“As a festival devoted to the excitement of live performing arts, the global pandemic has presented us with new challenges in how we come together to share artistic experiences,” says Gutteridge in a media release.

Gutteridge and her team are meeting those challenges in this unprecedented year with a combination of virtual live streams from locations worldwide and in what organizers are calling “intimate shows” at the Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre.

Going on to call the performing arts more vital than ever for our health and well-being, Gutteridge has assembled a somewhat condensed version of the Festival from what has been offered in previous years with a mix of new artists and those who have performed at the Festival in the past.

Kicking things off is an opening night concert on November 21, featuring Canadian singer-songwriter Ben Caplan performed live from the stage of the Rothstein Theatre and simulcast online. Caplan will perform from his latest album Old Stock, adapted from the critically acclaimed theatrical hybrid Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story inspired by the true story of two Jewish Romanian refugees coming to Canada in 1908.

Live from London on November 22, writer, performer and theatre-maker, Tamara Micner presents her new solo performance piece Old Friends as part of the Festival’s works-in-progress series. Originally from Vancouver, Micner uses Simon & Garfunkel’s 1981 Central Park concert as the inspiration for an exploration of the things we can’t get over and how we actually can.

Connecting to one another despite the distance between us is critical to our health and well-being, not to mention nourishing to our souls. – Jessica Mann Gutteridge

Another show to stream virtually from abroad is Israeli pianist and composer Guy Mintus on November 24, who performs from his studio in Tel Aviv. In a unique twist, ticket purchasers can make requests for Mintus to perform.

On November 25 comes the world premiere of Idan Cohen’s Hourglass, available for in-person audiences and simulcast online. The contemporary dance piece combines a duet with former Ballet BC company dancer Racheal Prince and returning Ballet BC company dancer Brandon Lee Alley. The duo will be accompanied live by pianist Leslie Dala who performs the music of acclaimed minimalist composer Philip Glass.

Award-winning writer, actor, director, producer Iris Bahr will host an interactive comedy show on November 26. As this year’s Chutzpah! host, Bahr will also lead interactive conversations with the artists as part of each presentation through the eight-day Festival.

The Festival closes on November 28 with The El-Salomons, the married Jewish-Palestinian lesbian comedy couple who decided to add yet another challenge to their relationship by becoming a duo act after years of performing solo. Broadcasting live from Brooklyn, The El-Salomons will be joined live by local comedians at the Rothstein Theatre. The comedy show will be available both in-person and via livestream.

The 20th annual Chutzpah! Festival takes place November 21-28 with events online and in-person at the Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre in Vancouver. Visit chutzpahfestival.com for tickets and information.