This weekend marks the kickoff of the Port Theatre’s 2019-20 Spotlight series, a year-long curated program which aims to offer audiences “a journey without leaving town.”
“The series is founded around that idea that we are going to bring shows and seek funding to bring shows to Nanaimo that wouldn’t be here if we didn’t present them under this banner,” said Port Theatre Society general manager Bruce Halliday, who selects the acts to include in the series.
Halliday said each year he attends 30 or 40 showcases put on by groups like the B.C. Touring Council and the Canadian Arts Presenting Association to seek out new performers to bring to the Port Theatre.
“Sometimes you might see 50 acts in a weekend,” he said.
Halliday said he makes his selections with the goal of creating a series that, from his perspective, showcases “What it is to be Canadian.” He said diversity is key.
“We try for artistic diversity, cultural diversity, geographic diversity, gender diversity,” Halliday said. “For me, it’s an exploration of what it is to fit into the mosaic of Canadian culture and be more than that. Be more than just diversity. We hope it’s relevant.”
This year’s series begins on Sunday with renowned Canadian cellist Ofra Harnoy, followed by American country singer Rosanne Cash on Oct. 1.
Other musical performers include Montreal classical ensemble Les Voix Humaines Consort of Viols and Ukrainian “punk cabaret” Dakh Daughters. Returning this year is a Christmas concert by B.C. ensemble Winter Harp and International Guitar night is back with a new lineup, as well as the Port’s Offstage Jazz Series and Classical Coffee Concert Series.
There are also dance performances by Ballet Victoria and the drag ballet group Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.
Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre is presenting two comedies: Bed and Breakfast, about a gay couple who open such an establishment in a small town, and Kim’s Convenience, a play about a Korean shopkeeper which inspired the eponymous TV show.
The series also features a pair of multimedia productions: Unikkaaqtuat, an exploration of Inuit mythology by circus artists from Montreal and Nunavut, and Chicago performance troupe Manual Cinema’s adaptation of Frankenstein.
Halliday said he describes this year’s season as “exceptional and accessible.” He said live performance is all about bringing people together and “creating those few minutes of magic, that when it really happens, there’s nothing like it.”
“You can sit at home and listen to your nice stereo and that’ll be perfect. You can listen to your CDs and everything will be exactly the same every night. That’s not connection,” he said. “So this, getting out and sitting in a theatre, sharing an experience with 800 people and the artist, this is how we build community.”