Charles Netto delivers an ambitious and exciting program for this year’s IGNITE! Festival of Emerging Artists

Sage Theatre’s 2018 IGNITE! Festival of Emerging Artists is back with a full-to-overflowing roster of thought-provoking, insightful and multidisciplinary performances which will not only showcase up and coming artists, but challenge audiences to experience performances such as theatre, dance and improv together, exposing them to a variety of disciplines at once.

“I think that’s what exciting,” explains Charles Netto, festival director. “You can go see the Performance Series this year, you can go see one dance piece, one interdisciplinary, one improv and really feel like there’s a variety, get an appetizer plate of art.”

Into his third year curating for IGNITE!, Netto has grown this year’s festival into the largest, most ambitious yet. “I don’t meant to keep growing it!” he laughs. “There’s just so much so exciting art that we want to put in it! The thing that excites me about the festival being this big, but still being a small art festival, is it’s a really intimate chance for the artists to see each other’s work, and you as an audience member can really interact with the artists … they are all there, they are seeing each other’s work and so you’re a part of that.”

Netto sees IGNITE! as an important platform for presenting new and provocative works by artists that deserve to be seen: “I think the festival is an incredibly important stepping stone for artists who are on their way professionally. It’s creating those relationships and those paths that we can have the voices that have often been marginalized, giving them a space and voice to operate in a way that they haven’t in the past.”

Netto also believes that letting the artists be as creative as possible is key. “Just giving them the right level of mentorship support, but also let them have the autonomy to take control and do their thing.”

And in turn, Netto also programs the festival with an eye towards what might be lacking in the arts community “You’re always reacting to the community, what the community needs and wants too, it’s a bit of a balance, it’s an ongoing kind of relationship to see what the community needs, so what we can provide.”

This year’s festival will also be operating in a new way – featuring different series of multidisciplinary productions: theatre, performance, and provocation. “It’s really for artists who may find that they don’t fit in all of the other boxes of the festival,” says Netto of the Provocation Series. “It’s the chance to explore and create in a different setting, often not in theatres although a couple of projects are in theatres, and the chance to ask hard questions and just provoke audiences.”

The series looks at difficult issues in untraditional ways, according to Netto, including insight into the experience of a Syrian refugee by Sleman Aldib, a look at environmentalism and global warming as presented in a dumpster by garbage puppets in a piece called Wasteland, and many others.

“It’s artists who really want to ask questions that might provoke a little bit more, that might engage serious questions and it’s a chance for them to explore and at the same time to get the resources to take that journey.”

In addition to the performances, the festival also features Ignite Clubs. “It’s an art party,” explains Netto, “it’s a chance to experience art but at a party, so you don’t have to sit and watch something, you can get up, you can walk around, you can have a one-on-one experience, you can go see an installation you can go be taken into a back alley to paint a picture … We really try to cultivate an open and safe environment for everyone.”

The IGNITE! Festival of Emerging Artists runs until June 9 at the West Village Theatre and Pumphouse Theatres.

Photo Credit: Chantell Arbic

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE and her event listings page, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at