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Found Festival uses city as a stage

Common Ground Arts Society travels the city to present shows

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 25, 2014 06:00 am

Common Ground Arts Society has hit it big with the Found Festival. Left to right are  Oscar Derx (Peter Pan), Stephanie Wigmore (Wendy Darling), Jake Oleksiw (Michael Darling) and Aidan Burke (John Darling)
Common Ground Arts Society has hit it big with the Found Festival. Left to right are Oscar Derx (Peter Pan), Stephanie Wigmore (Wendy Darling), Jake Oleksiw (Michael Darling) and Aidan Burke (John Darling)
NYSSA BEAIRSTO/Supplied photo

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Found Festival
Common Ground Arts Society
June 26 to 29
Old Strathcona
Tickets: $10/single; $40/festival passes. Available during the festival at the McIntyre ‘Gazebo’ Park, 104 Street and 83 Ave.

Edmonton’s Found Festival is about to enter its third year on the market. But to many theatregoers it’s still a brand new project.

With so many festivals sprouting up in the region, it’s difficult to keep track of all. However, Found Festival’s focus is to forgo traditional theatre venues in favour of back alleys, a grocery store, the river valley, the High Level Bridge, a market, and a gazebo park to name a few.

This year the Common Ground Arts Society, the host agency, has organized a variety of free and ticketed events encompassing 12 shows, 80-plus up-and-coming artists and a flash mob.

And it all takes place around Edmonton’s Old Strathcona community from June 26 to 29. Command centre is McIntyre “Gazebo” Park on 104 St. and 83 Ave.

Throughout the four-day event, dance shows, theatrical productions, art installations, makeshift galleries and a musical pool party are part of the diversity.

“The Found Festival is something that is close to my heart. The stuff that’s done is very exciting. With all the feeder groups starting up, it’s harder to find space. I think it’s really cool to present something in an alley or a coffee shop,” says Ellen Chorley, artistic director of Promise Productions.

Promise Productions first broke into the theatre scene at Edmonton’s Fringe Festival with fairytale spoofs such as Cinderella the Wizard, The Too Tall Princess and The Tortoise and the Hare.

Under Chorley’ steadfast hand, the company grew from producing short Fringe productions to main stage shows. Eventually it took a leap and developed the Snow Globe Festival.

Once again Promise Productions is hosting the world premiere of Never, Never based on the well-known children’s story Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie on June 28 and 29 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“It’s a reimagining of J.M. Barrie’s Neverland. It picks up where Wendy tells Peter she wants to go home. But Peter creates the magic, and he doesn’t want her to leave. He’s just a little boy that doesn’t want to lose his toys,” Chorley says.

What is unusual in Chorley’s treatment is that the 19 cast members and audience will meet at Duggan Bridge. The cast then tells their alfresco tale by walking with audience in tow along the railroad tracks and finishing at the High Level Bridge.

“It’s a sound space piece. It’s like being inside a movie. It’s a journey. You get to journey with them.”

Festival producer Elena Belyea and festival director Andrew Ritchie developed the concept after discovering that traditional venues for emerging theatre companies were almost impossible to rent.

“At the time we started it up, we were graduates from university. We were emerging artists and had no money. You can’t get better without putting your work out, but you can’t get a venue without money,” Belyea explains.

Once owners and managers of non-traditional venues bought into the concept, artists submitted some very creative ideas.

Heartbreak Hotel, for instance, is an interactive installation of donated items for broken relationships. All objects can be touched, smelled, read and stolen. By the end of the festival, visitors are encouraged to gather and help destroy them.

Enthusiasts for a not-so-secret dancing flash mob can download rehearsal choreography for the Friday, June 27 show on Whyte Avenue whereas Herbert is the story of an 11-year-old boy trapped in a grocery store, who can’t get out without the audience’s help.

“If you like to go out and take risks and be interactive with the piece, this festival is totally for you. People will interact with you, not in a creepy way, but in a fun way. And I believe the audience will get more out of it if they have the option not to fall asleep.”


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