PuShing our potential

The 5th annual PuSh International Performing Arts Festival opens tomorrow. This, Vancouver, is a very big deal. It’s something you should know about, certainly something you should support, but most importantly something you should talk about, to all those people in your life who may have the slightest bit of interest in seeing this city grow up into a major cultural epicentre.

PuSh isn’t just another theatre festival. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even call itself a theatre festival, rather a ‘performing arts festival’. It’s a striking entity, and the fact that it even exists is worth consideration. Its mandate is not to aggregate some cool performances for us to take in for the sake of our convenience, but rather to offer us a glimpse of what the cultural life of our city could be. It’s right there in the name: PuSh is about expanding those heavy-set boundaries that we all have about where we spend our energies supporting and proliferating our cultural landscape. It’s an opportunity for us to ponder our definitions of what we consider worthwhile art, and whether or not our intake of it is regular or sufficient.

You won’t find any Shakespeare or Shanley or Schubert at PuSh, if it’s not new and innovative it doesn’t make the cut. The true genious behind what Executive Director Norman Armour and his team have got going here is the offering of a microcosm of a truly progressive art scene; a model of a city willing to chuck art at the wall to see if it sticks. The real tragedy of the thing would be to contain it safely within the 20 days of the festival.

Consider Club PuSh, a new addition this year to the fest, wherein a bar has been set up on Granville Island at which you can hang out, connect, drink and have crazy performance art explode around you. Without everyone staidly sitting quietly, all in polite shussed rows engaged in group formalism. Can you imagine a bar like that year round in Vancouver? Can you imagine our city supporting a bar like that? That just sounds like a wonderful fantasy to me. Mr. Armour calls it a “a social-networking experiment on a fairly serious scale”. I call it a place I want to hang out at. Often.

It’s about sharing public experience with our neighbours. PuSh knows you’re there in the piece with the performers, and acknowledges that live performance; whether theatre, music or dance, is merely a rehearsal without an audience. It’s a generous standpoint and we should embrace it, and share it with each other and those around us that will listen. Our future as a city of successful artists depends on it.

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