Though its focus on myths and mythic tales has been steadfast across its five years of existence, the way that Thousand Faces Festival has presented its chosen focus has shifted to better blend its audiences. In its early days, artistic director Mark Henderson notes, he would let each night claim a particular focus—which he then noticed meant the audiences weren’t as diversified as he’d hoped.
“We’d do a Shakespeare, and then the Shakespeare crowd would come to that,” Henderson says. “And we’d do an indigenous circus-piece hero’s journey thing, and a lot of indigenous people would come out to that, and a few other people would come out to that.”
For a festival dedicated to highlighting the links between different cultures’ legends and stories, that lack of audience crossover was an issue. But after a festival fundraiser proved immensely successful—wherein various kinds of myth converged in the same night, bumping up against each other for delighted audiences—Henderson realized that offering up a more mixed palette would better serve the festival’s MO.
“So that the same group of people—and a diverse group of people—on the same night, would hear the mythic resonances between East-Indian dance and Shakespeare,” he says. “They’d see similarities between a raven story from one culture, a raven story from another.”
Which is what, in its fifth year, the Thousand Faces Festival is offering. Over three nights, two mythic programs—one aimed at families, the other at adults—will play out. There’s a version of The Iliad, “seen through the experience of the Women of Troy as the war unfolds.” Christine Frederick will preview a part of a forthcoming, indigenous version of MacBeth, to be fully presented by Alberta Aboriginal Arts and Theatre Prospero in 2017. An excerpt of a Zulu epic, Mazisi Kunene’s Anthem of the Decades, will be performed by Tololwa Mollel and Jennifer Spencer—and many more acts from a wide reach of cultures.
The festival is, as always, by donation: there’s a full, free feast too, its food drawn from the rich spread of restaurants along Alberta Avenue.
“It’s interesting, all of these mythic things, which sometimes people think of [as] being rarefied—in the moment of experiencing them, they’re not,” Henderson notes. “They’re about passion, they’re about nature, they’re about imagery that connects us to a level that, if the artist is any good at all—which all of them are—is so much more alive than it will be on the page.”
Fri, Jun 17 – Sun, Jun 19
Alberta Avenue Community Centre, by donation
Schedule at thousandfaces.ca