The CAMINOS Festival kicks off next week at Aluna Theatre in conjunction with Native Earth Performing Arts. The festival showcases works-in-progress by local artists who work to push the boundaries of dance, theatre, and performance art. Each night of Caminos Festival offers something new for its spectators. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
We had the opportunity to chat with Aluna Theatre’s Artist Director, Bea Pizano about what to expect with this year’s lineup.
Kimberley Drapack: How is everything going at the moment?
Beatriz Pizano: It’s busy but you do accumulate knowledge during festivals. We’re in a better place than ever. We have a great list of artists that are showing their work so I am really excited.
We open on October 4th and we’ve been seeing a lot of artists because part of what we offer, because they are works in progress, is rehearsal space. We see them coming into our studio. Also, if they need any dramaturgical support, any consultation on direction, or design, we’re available for them. We want to make sure these pieces don’t die after a presentation.
This is just the second Caminos festival for the works in progress. We started in 2015 and back then, I invited some artists to present. This year, I put a call out and we got over 40 applications. This year is quite curated because what I saw in the first festival was a great forum for the work. Six or seven of the artists managed to get a grant based on the work that they presented. We provide them with a totally professional videotape of the work that they present. We don’t present readings, we do full performances for 20 minutes with design elements so they look really good.
One of the things that I find with people who are trying to enter the grant system, it’s really hard to have a body of work if you are just beginning. Most of them don’t have a really good record of anything they have done. Just the fact that you’re presenting in a curated festival makes it better, but if you can present 20 minutes of really great work, the possibilities open up.
K: It must be hard going through the application process.
BP: We try to keep it small, but it’s really hard to say no. Although we live in a time where more grants are given, there are a lot of artists. I really focus on people that I believe are going to take the work to the next stage. After many years helping, because we have put so much investment into artists, it’s OK. Some people try it and they decide that it’s not for them.
At this point, we’re at an important phase in our community that is really exploding. I am putting all the support into people that I know are going beyond. That’s what guided me this year. Those are the artists I’m fascinated to be around. I don’t like the word “hungry”, but they really believe in what they are doing.
We take care of their publicity and marketing to give them the chance to concentrate on the presentation. We take the heavy load.
We’re trying the same format that we tried last year. We present about three pieces per night. This year, we found that with this festival, that the Cabaret is a really important part of our festival. It starts at 9:30 on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and they are free. We discovered that it was important to have things that we can offer that are of no cost. We present stand up, short pieces and burlesque, and people who are experimenting and of course, we have to dance. We have really fantastic DJ’s and live music.
We have very affordable liquor thanks to our sponsors, so I’m trying to keep everything as afford as possible. You pay for one ticket for the entire evening, but if you only want to come to the cabaret you don’t have to pay for anything.
K: CAMINOS 2017 will also feature an international conference on Performance and Human Rights titled, ‘Unsettling the Americas: Radical Hospitalities and Intimate Geographies.’ Can you tell us what to expect from the conference?
BP: The conference is about how art talks to the outside world and to the community in which we live and to the world community. These conversations about performance and human rights have always been really important to us. This year, the graduate drama department at York University came to us and told us about a gathering they do with academics, registered students from all over the Americas every year, and it takes place in a different country. This year, they’re doing it in Toronto and they said they would love to partner with us.
We’re partnering with them, and the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics in New York. 150 graduate students are coming from all over the Americas and the conversations begin at 2:30 in the afternoon. They are free to the public on Thursday and Friday. They are bringing amazing panelists from all over the countries and will bring really good discussions about things.
This year we are talking a lot about the Latinx community. The Spanish language has a gender, things are either masculine or feminine, so this movement that has been gathering a lot of strength in the states and now in Canada, where they put an ‘x’ at the word ‘Latin’ so you don’t have to define your gender. I’m very excited about their proposals. We have one night that we are calling the ‘Latinx’ night, on the Thursday.
K: What else should we expect at the festival?
BP: We’re very lucky to have Lido Pimienta presenting her one-woman show, We’re in a Non-Relationship Relationship. She just won the Polaris Prize. She has played in all her festivals and this week she just received the most prestigious prize in music in this country, but she’s going to be acting. She’s hilarious. Lido is fearless. Every time I see her on stage I think she has so much guts.
We are also presenting part of our new work which is going to be produced next year at the theatre centers. Everybody has a little bit of everything which is really cool. Most of the pieces are from 20-25 minutes so that we can present many pieces during the night.
I also got a call from a dancer from Mexico, and I thought, this isn’t an international festival, but she sent me a tape and her work is really good so I am having her as a special guest.
I am also bringing a company from Montréal. As we grow, we want to keep grow this idea of Pan-Americanism and Canada is part of Pan-America. We are all part of it, we produce Indigenous, Latin, Latinx, and Canadian artists.
We are trying to expand these perspectives little by little.
K: It seems very inclusive.
BP: When I say that my Pan-Americanism includes Canada, it also applies that Canada includes the world. We’re all a Pan-American community. It’s really exciting. After I saw that we had over 40 applications, I understood that we were on the right track. Our sponsors have responded really well again and we’re starting to gain support.
Everything we do and all the support goes to the artists. That’s what it is for. The jump from being able to produce is the hardest, you may have a great idea but the production side is really hard, especially those who don’t have a body of work yet.
A festival of works-in-progress is a very beautiful place to present because audiences are very engaged. They really feel that they are part of the creation process. They’re crucial. In the exercise of presenting 20 minutes, you really have to distill what the piece is about. It really helps you to understand what you are doing with a piece.
K: It’s also a great beginning for an artist. You’re giving them the opportunity to develop an idea, one they may not have had the opportunity to fully develop into something yet.
BP: In a very professional manner. The competition out there is getting really tough. We have so many great artists in Toronto. You can apply for a grant and there are a lot of other people doing so. With younger artists who are starting out, sometimes they don’t look as good because they haven’t been able to develop their production value yet.
We try to emphasize that we try to bring as much professional support to the artists as we can. Everything isn’t just in the writing in theatre, it’s in the magic of all the elements coming together. I want everyone to feel very supported when they go on the stage because they deserve it.
K: How did Caminos first begin and what have you learned in the past few years of the festival?
BP: In 2014 we realized that our community of artists were not producing work because Aluna is about the only Latin-Canadian company that produces work. Aluna is a small company that can only produce about two shows a year, and I wondered what we could do with all these great artists that need to help to produce their work?
We thought it was important to maintain the presence of a festival, but how do we keep this momentum going? The first Caminos was so much fun. I didn’t expect to have such a great time, it was short and manageable and a lot of great new audiences came. It was a community.
We saw a mixed-audience. Contrary to belief, our audiences have been mostly Canadian. The last six years we have worked to build the Latin American audiences. This is the same with the artists.
My dream one day is to not have to speak about diversity anymore but that we all see each other’s work and we all work together. The divisions are necessary at the beginning, but for me, Canada is an exciting place.
The conversations that I see the conversations taking place in Toronto aren’t happening everywhere, but we are speaking a lot about diversity of perspectives and inclusivity. You never know how this opens doors for an artist.
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