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SkirtsAfire herArts Festival

February 17th, 2017

Humble Beginnings

As many great ideas do, it began with a night of red wine, popcorn and three very good friends. All three of us were actors wanting to make a change in our community where women are severely underrepresented. According to a recent study done through a national organization called Equity in Theatre, there is less than 35% representation of women working in theatre across Canada. The irony of course is that the majority of people coming out of training programs are women and the majority in our audiences are women. So how can this be? Old traditions are hard to break, even in forward thinking creative industries like the arts. We decided we needed to create something in Edmonton that could put a dent in these dismal statistics, create an event that puts women in key positions such as directors, writers, choreographers and designers. We knew that developing the work of female playwrights was key. If women make up the majority in our audiences, then they should see an equal amount of plays on the stage written by women as by men; they should be able to experience more of their own stories. It then has a trickle-down effect since the female voice will inherently lend itself to female directors, actors, designers and on and on. 

As the wine flowed, we decided we needed a festival! A festival filled not only with theatre, but visual art, spoken word, music, dance, film and comedy. We knew that if we wanted to provide a platform for female artists, we also needed to have a large audience for their work. By including multiple disciplines, not only is it more interesting and celebratory, but it brings together different communities of audience from each art form. It encourages people to step outside of their box and see something they may not normally choose. We began a grassroots gathering of support amongst all artistic disciplines and people from Edmonton’s business, political and professional communities. We connected with many different agencies and programs who work with women. Today, we continue to bring artists and audience together from a large diverse community; an audience hungry for a female perspective in the arts where their own lives can be reflected, presented, dissected and celebrated. 

The World Premiere of The Mommy Monologues

So here we are entering into our 5th anniversary festival with our first commissioned play, The Mommy Monologues. In June of 2015, SkirtsAfire commissioned ten playwrights and one singer-songwriter to write about motherhood. It was presented as a wide-open topic. It could be a child’s perspective (young or adult), a mother’s perspective, a father’s perspective, a grandmother, a woman unable to have children, a woman who chooses not to have children, a child having a child, a prostitute who is pregnant, a foster family, a woman in labour, an LGBTQ mother, and on and on – so many possibilities. Out of this, ten monologues and one song were created with a plethora of ages, ethnicities and life experience. Some are funny, some tragic, some personal, one in the horror genre, all insightful, moving and entertaining.  The writers have delved deep into the subject matter and created pieces that will surprise the audience and have them think about and feel motherhood in a whole new light. It is not a play only for mothers -it is a play for anyone who has a mother, a father, a grandparent, is considering becoming a mother or choosing not to. We spent the fall and winter workshopping and it had its first public read on March 6, 2016, co-presented by the Alberta Playwrights Network with an audience of over 80 enthusiastic supporters. It is currently in rehearsals readying it for the world premiere at SkirtsAfire herArts Festival, March 2 - 12, 2017. The Mommy Monologues is written by Beth Graham, Andrea House, Katherine Koller, Annette Loiselle, Conni Massing, Nicole Moeller, Mieko Ouchi, Dana Rayment, Glenda Stirling, Michele Vance Hehir and Cat Walsh. It’s directed by Glenda Stirling, designed by Tessa Stamp with sound design by Paul Morgan Donald and features Coralie Cairns, Chantelle Han and Mary Hulbert. The Mommy Monologues plays in the Cabaret Theatre in the Alberta Avenue Community League.

Family Events

Theatre:
For the past three festivals, we’ve been proud to present a family show. This year, we are premiering another play written and produced by Edmonton’s own Ellen Chorley and Promise Productions. The Remarkably True, Real Life Adventures of Callie Montgomery: Renaissance Girl, Ghost Ally and Modern Day Marvel is the entertaining story about a young girl named Callie Montgomery, a good kid living with Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Callie knows everything about the Renaissance. She bought a haunted doll off the internet. She has barricaded herself into her basement. Callie Montgomery tries to be good, but sometimes it's really, really hard. Although the play is written for kids aged 7-12, it’s really for all ages. It runs on March 11 at 1:30 pm and March 12 at noon in the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts Gallery. 

Prenatal & Baby Yoga:

A strong theme of ‘motherhood’ runs throughout our entire festival, including our popular event, Yoga in the Art. Three 45 minute sessions are offered on Saturday morning beginning at 9:45 am. Each session is appropriate for all abilities and experience including newcomers. For the first time, we’ll be offering a session for prenatal and Mom and Baby yoga from 10:45am to 11:30 am. Those who are not pregnant or attending with their baby are also welcome.e All  sessions will be accompanied by a live cellist making for an inspiring way to start your day. 

Singer-Songwriters:

After Yoga in the Art, a coffee or tea is definitely in order! Just down the street at The Carrot Community Coffeehouse, we present The Key of She, where singer-songwriters will serenade you as you indulge in some cafe treats. On Saturday afternoon from 1:00 to 3:00 PM, Maria Phillipos, Nadine Kellman and Ariana Brophy  will take the stage. Then on Sunday after seeing the family show, catch Karimah, Jessica Heine and Kate Blechinger. Jessica Heine and Karimah can also be seen at Otto Food and Drink on Friday and Saturday evenings respectively, from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Otto is one of the newest additions to the fabulous food and drink establishments in the Alberta Avenue Community. They have an amazing selection of craft beer and an eclectic menu that starts with gourmet local sausage and includes comfort staples like mac and cheese with a homegrown twist. Get there early because it is hugely popular and often lined up. 

Venues

The Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts Gallery:

This beautiful venue not only hosts Yoga in the Art and our family show, Callie Montgomery, but a striking and engaging visual art installation for the festival. It’s called In/Hospitable Women and it showcases the work of six unique and very talented artists. It’s not to be missed. Other performances in this venue include Peep Show!, which are staged readings of two plays; Matari by Conni Massing and Unsuspicious by Maria Colonescu. Friday night at 7:30 pm, Words Unzipped brings poetry to life through spoken word, music and art. Edmonton’s Youth Poet Laureate, Nasra Adem, is curating this event which she has titled Black Girl Magic. Our Opening Ceremonies and VIP Event are also in the Nina catered by Otto Food and Drink and Sabor, featuring our VIP Skirt Cutting ceremony with this year’s Honorary Skirt, Linda Duncan plus music by The Jivin' Belles and The Leah Harman Jazz Trio. Also be sure to check out A Place for Prose, a literary salon which engages in lively discussion after writers read from their work and one of the featured visual artists presents their pieces. 

The Cabaret Theatre Space:

This is SkirtsAfire’s main venue which hosts The Mommy Monologues, and then transforms into a cabaret for some comedy and bands to take in while you have a drink over post theatre discussions. Friday night features stand-up comedy by Lisa Baker followed by the rockin’ King of Foxes. On Saturday, Audrey and the Crashers will have everyone up on their feet and dancing and not to be missed is the A-Line Variety Show which opens the festival on Thursday, March 9 with an eclectic mixture of music, dance, spoken word, comedy, drumming and so much more! Between shows or as you walk between venues, you can warm up by the fire pit outside the Cabaret Theatre on the west side to roast marshmallows and watch the short film, Fair Phyllis

The Carrot Community Coffee House:

The Carrot is home to our singer-songwriter series, The Key of She, on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. On offer is a variety of warm and cold beverages, soups, sandwiches and baking. Plus, the walls are filled with artwork, and artisans have their wares for sale and on display. 

St. Faith’s and Bedouin Beats:

St. Faith’s, situated behind the Nina Gallery, plays host to a Women’s Choir Festival on Saturday night, March 11. Three spectacular women’s choirs fill the beautiful church sanctuary with spine tingling harmonies and vocal clarity. The event finishes with all choirs coming together for a final song that brings tears to your eyes as it stirs you to the core.

More information can be found at www.skirtsafire.com. We hope to see you there!

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