I have recently returned from an inspiring week at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. What I saw and engaged with at this Festival included plenty of great shows, workshops and panel discussions. This being my first time at Mag North, I didn’t quite know what to expect, although I suppose many don’t quite know what to expect as it exists in a different city from year to year. My god the logistics of planning a Festival that travels across Canada must be mind blowing, but hats off to them. I took a lot in over the time I was there, maybe even too much. I don’t think I got more then 4 hours of sleep per night, especially upon the lovely Waterloo residence beds we were put up in… but that’s beside the point.
This Festival really pulls together members of the theatre industry from across Canada to sit together and discuss what is currently impacting the state of theatre. The Industry Series was a great learning experience for me from the discussions to the pitch sessions. The pitch sessions included several exciting works such as Nina Arsenault’s Silicone Diaries in association with Buddies in Bad Times and Yichud (Seclusion) by Convergence Theatre in association with Theatre Passe Muraille. Definitely a Toronto-centric group of artists and companies on hand, which might be simply due to our proximity to Kitchener/Waterloo. I should note that you can catch Nina Arsenault in I was Barbie at this year’s SummerWorks. If you haven’t seen a work by Nina before then you need to catch this show! I was really amazed at how theatrical the pitches were, they included staged excerpts and creative presentations, all very entertaining and effective. Whether each is successful at picking up a tour out of this, I haven’t a clue, but they deserve credit for the amount of work put in.
Overall the Festival had a great vibe, from the theatres to the bar. Many artists, young and old seemed to find a way to connect. I really appreciated the openness of some more veteran artists to take the time to chat. I was also intrigued by the way this Festival made use of the resources on hand in Kitchener and Waterloo. My producer brain saw how everything from local business sponsorship to subsidized food service and the utilization of volunteers helped this Festival succeed.
To name a few, some shows to keep your eyes out for are definitely The Greatest Cities in the World by Theatre Replacement, The Last 15 Seconds by The MT Space & Dedicated to the Revolutions by Small Wooden Shoe.
My description of the experience barely paints the full picture, but I hope this gives you a sense of what you can expect if you choose to go in 2011. It’ll be back in Ottawa, so maybe that’s an excuse to go!