SkirtsAfire growing and challenging

Arts of every skirt // Mat Simpson
Arts of every skirt // Mat Simpson

The Skirts have entered a new phase: producing a full 10-day production of a new play.

“This was one of the goals right from the start of SkirtsAfire, and that’s been a really huge leap forward this year,” says Annette Loiselle, who has headed the multidisciplinary, female-focused festival since its beginning three years ago. This year she’s donned another hat (or skirt, as it were): in addition to programming the entire festival, she’s also performing in a 10-day production of Nicole Moeller’s one-woman show, The Mothers.

“It is kind of a funny position to be in,” Loiselle notes over the phone, about a week before the festival. “I was of two minds, because there was a part of me that really wanted to do the show, and there was another part of me that was like, ‘Are you crazy? Do you know how busy it’s going to be to produce the festival and be in the show?’ But it’s been going OK!”

SkirtsAfire is still very much a baby festival. Its audience has stayed about the same for the first two years of its life, so this year Loiselle worked on marketing as well as streamlining the flow of performances. The main stage production of The Mothers—located in a new black box theatre in the Alberta Avenue Community League, created specifically for SkirtsAfire—is the central feature around which everything else is organized.

The number of artists has been steadily increasing each year, from 70 in the first year to 127 this year. The festival features workshops and staged readings of new plays, comedy and live music shows on the Friday and Saturday nights after the performance of The Mothers, visual art galleries, spoken word performances, storytelling and a music jamming workshop with Asani, a trio of aboriginal women who will guide participants through finding one’s inner song through percussion, melody and rhythm.

Though it’s still figuring out its form, SkirtsAfire’s mandate has remained the same since inception.

“It’s artists and audiences coming together in a unique collaboration, and sharing these stories that are passionate and insightful, provoking, and just very moving,” Loiselle says. “My goal with whatever material we choose is I want people to be moved in some way, whether it’s to laughter or to tears or to reflect on their own life. They should be walking away changed, somehow.”

Thu, Mar 5 – Sun, Mar 8
Various venues on 118 Avenue
Admission by donation
Full schedule available at

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