Categories: Entertainment

SkirtsAfire Festival – a nod to women’s work in the arts

The SkirtsAfire Festival running March 8 to 11 at Edmonton's Alberta Avenue Community calls attention to differences and diversity.

SkirtsAfire Festival
March 8 to 11
Alberta Avenue Community
Between 91 St. and 94 St. on 118 Ave.
Admission: Free

About six years ago – way before the #MeToo global movement was started by activist Tarana Burke – a group of local women artists sat around a table discussing the staggering under representation of women in theatre.

Led by actor-director Annette Loiselle, a versatile and dynamic presence offstage as well as under the lights, the group launched the SkirtsAfire Festival.

The inspiration for the festival was a study published by the Playwrights Guild of Canada stating that women filled only 35 per cent of jobs in theatre.

Since the majority of Canadian actors were women and the bulk of audiences were women, the irony was not lost on Loiselle.

Not only were women fighting to be heard in boardrooms, politics, business and even in their own homes. They were battling to have their voices heard in theatre.

“For us this festival is a celebration of women. But it’s more about finding work for women and having their voices heard in a way that hasn’t been done before. This festival is a way to bring women to the forefront,” Loiselle said.

While the first edition was small by today’s standards, it provided a solid base to highlight the scope of work that has grown exponentially.

The 6th annual SkirtsAfire Festival returns March 8 to 11 at Edmonton’s Alberta Avenue Community Centre.

This year more than 100 individual artists are involved in the four-day event – 200 if you include choirs.

The festival is bolstered by a mixed bag of disciplines varying from three plays, art exhibits and choral concerts to a skirt design gallery, variety shows and short film screenings. Other activities that resonate include a singer-songwriter series, prose readings, a belly dance workshop and relaxation yoga.

The festival also shines a spotlight on Indigenous artists through a visual art exhibit at the Nina Haggerty Gallery. In addition, the gallery hosts Unwoven, a multi-disciplinary performing arts show of African and Indigenous femmes.

Unwoven has spoken word, dance, performance, music, singers. There’s a real coming together of different disciplines. Even though it’s different cultures and backgrounds, they’re so woven into each other. It’s what I love about the festival.”

Close to Loiselle’s heart is playwright Trina Davis’ The Romeo Initiative, a half romantic comedy, half spy thriller with a tantalizing twist. In a way, The Romeo Initiative symbolizes the festival’s mission. It is a play written by a woman, produced by women, directed by a woman and acted mainly by women.

Loiselle also launches Silenced, an honest and humorous account about depression.

“Morgan Nadeau comes in as a clown. She’s written a personal story about anxiety, depression and she plays it through the clown character. It’s beautiful, funny, sad and socially important especially since you see more and more of it in schools. Depression is a topic that needs to be talked about.”

Another festival highlight is the Women’s Choral Festival at St. Faith’s Church blending Excentrica Women’s Chamber Chorus and Edmonton Metropolitan Choir. Their featured partners are Bella Voce Choir, Maria Dunn, Shannon (McDade) Johnston and Jeremiah McDade.

“Maria did our first festival and I was very excited she submitted again for this one,” Loiselle said. Dunn and the McDade siblings are slated to perform with the choirs and as a trio after the choral presentation.

Loiselle encourages visitors to see as many events as possible from the A-Line fashion show to the Friday-Saturday night cabarets.

“You’ll have fun and you’ll see some amazing entertainment packed in less than a week. It will inspire you. It will move you, and you may discover you love it.”

For more information visit http://www.skirtsafire.com

Anna Borowiecki :Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.