A thousand new faces to see

Edmonton cultural festival partners with FringeLiveStream

Malavika Venkatsubbaiah will perform with the Natyam Dance Ensemble as part of Edmonton's Thousand Faces Festival, which is available online to Winnipeggers.

Supplied photo

The Thousand Faces Festival has gone digital this year. The annual multidisciplinary arts festival in Edmonton was originally planned for May of this year, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In partnership with FringeLiveStream, a theatre arts collective that streams live performances, often from Fringe Festival performers, they have planned to stream performances every Saturday in November instead.

This is a first for the festival, which was founded in 2012 by Mark Henderson, artistic director of Theatre Prospero, to celebrate and nurture Edmonton and Canada’s richly diverse cultural scene through mythic art and food.  

The festival usually runs over one weekend every spring at their Alberta Avenue neighbourhood venue, with a series of cabaret performances. Each performance is accompanied by a feast provided by one of the neighbourhood’s restaurants. 

The festival also runs programs for schools. They are continuing this year online. They have livestream performances with talkbacks, interactive features and virtual workshops.

“The whole mandate of the Thousand Faces Festival is to connect us all at the root. This is inspired by all of the roots, all the cultures and the diversity (in the neighbourhood),” executive director Andrea Handal Rivera says. “It is like our own gift back to the community: accessible, multicultural, mythic programming.”

Audiences from all over the world have the opportunity to partake in the festival this year through the November series of live performances. 

In the first two weeks of the month, Thousand Faces presented live-streamed performances. Mohini: The Enchantress, a newly choreographed Indian folk dance, was performed by Shivamanohari School of Performing Arts on Nov. 7, and Urashima Taro, a theatrical adaptation of a Japanese folk tale, was presented on Nov. 14.

On Nov. 21, they will livestream an evening of song, dance and spoken word from Sebastian Barrera and Sissy Thiessen. On Nov. 28, they will livestream A Virtual String of Mythic Pearls, which will feature a reading by Helen Belay from Anthem of the Decades: a Zulu Epic by Mazisi Kunene, as well as a performance from Malavika Venkatsubbaiah and the Natyam Ensemble, who perform in the traditional Indian dance discipline Bharatanatyam. 

Venkatsubbaiah, founder of three dance schools and two dance troupes in Alberta, has been performing with the festival since 2012 and says, “Thousand Faces is one of the few festivals who encourage culturally diverse art the way that it is. They bring culturally diverse (art to) the same platform as any other mainstream art.”

Their performance in A Virtual String of Mythic Pearls is a collection of tales about Krishna from the perspective of the Kadamba tree, which stands “as the sole testimony to the timeless tales of true love and devotion, the sole witness to all excitement and enchantment,” Venkatsubbaiah says. 

She is excited to be able to present to a larger audience, as part of a festival that adequately represents the broad cultural diversity of Edmonton. 

“Through such portals, we are able to trot out our mythological stories. We are able to communicate that (the dance form) is very relevant today. It continues to evolve, to adapt to any day and age,” Venkatsubbaiah says.

Like the live, in-person performances they normally offer, these performances and the school programming are accessible for free or by donation. To donate, buy a ticket through Eventbrite. Performances will be streamed directly to the FringeLiveStream Facebook page at facebook.com/fringelivestream

Published in Volume 75, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 19, 2020)

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