It was Star Wars that got Mark Henderson hooked on myths. As a 10-year-old, he and his buddies cheered on Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in their universe-crossing fight to defeat the dark side.
“It was a spiritual quest as much as a military quest,” Henderson says. “That led me to things like Tolkien and Shakespeare, which is essentially mythic. So much comes directly from mythology. If myths weren’t relevant, Star Wars would have bombed.”
Henderson grew up to be the artistic director of Theatre Prospero and the director of the Thousand Faces Festival, the celebration of multicultural myths and legends from Edmonton’s many world cultures, which is now in its third year. The streets of Alberta Avenue will swell with stories as theatre and art from Cree, Spanish, East Indian, Caribbean, Japanese, Chinese, Greek and African myth blend into a tapestry of culture.
The six-day celebration features both family friendly fare and more adult-focused art. For the kids, there’s First Nations hoop dancing and workshops, mythic tales from around the world from master storytellers, a Mayan epic and interacting with a talking dragon. For the 18-plus set there’s flamenco dancing, South Asian dancing, (free) food and (not-free) drinks and a fiery night battle with a dragon: “a huge outdoor spectacle,” Henderson notes.
Besides gifting us Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings, why else should we be embracing myths in 2015? Henderson says steeping ourselves in the stories and legends of other cultures opens our hearts to them.
“There’s more to heaven and earth than what we’ve dreamed in philosophy—I keep finding that out by going back to roots of stories and roots of roots of stories,” he says. “There’s something very deep and very human in those roots. It cuts through the illusion of separation. You can’t write those people off anymore. You can’t just call them Jews or terrorists or whatever.”
Wed, May 20 – Tue, May 26
Alberta Avenue, various venues