Merewyn Comeau and Raes Calvert in Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish, which is on the Chutzpah! stage Nov. 18-19. (photo by Javier Sotres)
For the first time, the Chutzpah! Festival, which was launched in 2001, is presenting programming specifically targeted to young people, families and educators. Dan and Claudia Zanes will be live in concert Nov. 13-14 and Joseph A. Dandurand’s Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish will be presented by Axis Theatre Nov. 18-19. Both events take place at the Rothstein Theatre.
“One of my first strategic goals when I joined Chutzpah! was to launch a programming stream for young people and families,” said Jessica Gutteridge, managing artistic director of the festival since 2020. “I have a background in theatre for young audiences, and this is an area of performing arts that I find very rich and interesting…. I think the best way to keep the performing arts vibrant into the future is to share exciting and stimulating arts experiences with young people so that they can grow into the audiences of tomorrow. And finding ways of sharing these experiences across generations makes for wonderful bonding between kids and their parents, grandparents, caregivers and mentors, but also gives the adults in the audience a memorable and enjoyable experience. I’m also a passionate proponent of arts education, so finding opportunities for teachers to bring performing arts into their teaching is meaningful to me.”
Dan Zanes is a Grammy award-winning children’s performer and Claudia Zanes is a music therapist/jazz vocalist. The couple has been “making music with each other since the day they met in the fall of 2016.” Their Nov. 14 performance is for schools and the Nov. 13 show is open for all.
“Dan Zanes, to put it bluntly, was a key reason I survived the music playing in my children’s rooms when I had young kids,” said Gutteridge about her choice of performers for this program. “I think he’s just a spectacular musician and storyteller that all ages can enjoy, and his partnership with Claudia Zanes makes even more gorgeous and meaningful music. I appreciate that Dan and Claudia are committed to making their performances sensory-friendly and accessible, and in sharing messages of love, solidarity and social justice, that are timely and important.”
As with the concert, the Nov. 18 production of Th’owxiya is for schools and the Nov. 19 show welcomes everyone, with the caveat that the ogress might be scary to some young children. The play, recommended for ages 5 and up, recounts a Kwantlen First Nations tale, “the legend of the basket ogress, Th’owxiya, an old hungry spirit that inhabits a feast dish full of bountiful delicious foods, and sly Mouse (Kw’at’el), who is caught stealing cheese from this feast dish. To appease an angry Th’owxiya, Kw’at’el embarks on a journey to find two children for the ogress to eat, or else!” The work features “traditional Coast Salish and Sto:lo music, masks and imagery” and audiences will learn “how Raven (Sqeweqs), Bear (Spa:th) and Sasquatch (Sasq’ets) trick a hungry spirit and save Kw’at’el and their family from becoming the feast.”
Both the concert and the play run about an hour, and all performances take place at 11 a.m.
While the concert and play are two programs specifically aimed at young audiences, Gutteridge said many of the Chutzpah! performances “are appropriate for general audiences, and we hope that youth and teens in particular will join us for some of them. For example, Persian Jewish Cooking with Ayelet Latovich, Music at the Centre of the River, and the Joan Beckow Legacy Project – which will feature youth performers from Perry Ehrlich’s Showstoppers – are all programs that all ages can enjoy together. Programs like Jacqueline Saper’s presentation of her memoir of growing up Jewish in Tehran and the Site: Yizkor project may offer teens engaging ways of learning and contextualizing current events and history.”
In a similar vein, Gutteridge added, “Adults should feel just as welcome as kids to come and enjoy these shows – truly these are experiences that are relevant and enjoyable for all ages. If any families who would wish to join us for these events feel that their financial situation does not permit them to attend, please contact our box office. We have an allocation of tickets set aside so that cost is not a barrier to sharing these experiences with young people.”
For the full Chutzpah! lineup and tickets, visit chutzpahfestival.com.