Troy Couillard has long wanted to do a theatre festival in the Epcor Centre’s cosy theatre Motel. This year he will. After close to a year of planning the Common Ground Festival has landed with a dozen short plays a dance and poetry piece some comedy and a sound installation all by budding local artists.
“I figured… it would be an amazing way for this city to see a new crop of artists that was coming up” says Couillard the festival’s director. “In this city it’s mind-boggling how [many] artists we have right now.”
The festival kicked off on July 22 and runs until August 2 so there are plenty of shows still to enjoy. In fact the second week of the festival features theme nights which might help you decide which set you want to see. Monday’s “Mano y Mano y Mano y Chica” is a series of solo performances with two one-man plays a dancer and a comedian. Tuesday focuses on drama Wednesday collates the romances for a date night and Thursday goes meta with “pieces that are aware that they’re in a theatre performing for an audience.” Friday is the comedy night and everything wraps up with a jam-packed show on Saturday.
Each night features three or four segments separated by intermissions. “I would compare it to a fringe festival” says Couillard. “When I think of fringe festivals I think of local artists being promoted and that’s definitely what this is all about.”
All of the shows are by local playwrights and most will see their premières at Common Ground although that doesn’t mean the scripts have been cobbled together in a rush. Couillard a University of Calgary drama grad who founded Search Tower Company which is presenting the festival says it was clear many of the scripts have been waiting for the right performance opportunity which is why he’s excited to share them at Common Ground. “What’s really amazing to see is there’s a lot of people getting self-motivated to do their own work” he adds.
You’ll find comedy in TV technicians trying to pull a family-friendly show together in Savings and Values a couple facing their final hours together as a cataclysm approaches in Rocks and two as-yet-unwritten characters vying for attention inside a writer’s mind in Opaque.
While theatre is the backbone of the festival it grew into something more interdisciplinary. Musician Marc Rivest opens several of the nights and comedian Sam Benty has his share of sets too. A poetry and dance piece is mixed in and outside the theatre you’ll be able to don headphones to listen to Aidan Lytton’s sound piece.
“Art isn’t just theatre art isn’t just music art isn’t just doing comedy” says Couillard. “Art is about people getting together for the sake of creating and doing what they love.”
Although Couillard didn’t expect to get submissions from these other disciplines he says it feeds into the festival’s community-building goals. “I think the best way to build on your art is to communicate with other artists. This will give artists a chance to talk to other artists get in touch possibly get together and make new projects.”
Audiences benefit too of course: “It’s also community-building for the city as well to see what they can expect in their art future…. There really are some young artists in this city who are a force to be reckoned with right now.”
Common Ground Festival’s schedule is posted online.