The International Children’s Festival of the Arts is about more than excellent artistry. It is a reminder we are part of something bigger and connected in a special way.
Back in May, children’s festival organizers were still on edge about COVID, and were hesitant to plan events. Not wanting to disappoint regular attendees, they switched to two days of online presentations. Although smartly executed, the live connection was missing.
Today vaccines are available, and people are feeling less vulnerable. In a bold move and to bring back that connection between artist and audience, children’s festival organizers are hosting a live show. The Festive Festival PJ Party takes place Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Arden Theatre.
“On the Friday of the festival in May, we had planned a pyjama party. Since it was cancelled in the summer, and there are fewer restrictions now, we decided to add it to our December show. A lot of families buy the same holiday pyjamas for the whole family, so why not be comfortable and show up in pyjamas,” said Andrea Martinuk, professional programming presenter.
Curated by Ron Pearson, an acclaimed Edmonton-based magician, the variety extravaganza features some of Alberta's funniest roving artists and oddball characters this side of the imagination.
As emcee, Pearson will deftly handle the dynamic energies of seven different entertainers in addition to performing his brand of sleight-of-hand magic. The artists include circus performer The Great Balanzo, singer Andrea House, stilt artist Gustavo the Impossibilist, aerialist Lynn Gosselin, magician-juggler Jay Flair, hula hoop dancer Amanda Panda, and Nikolai, one of the festival’s favourite clown characters.
“This is a celebration of what we do best and of the festival itself. We intend to do something completely different and of course the performers are all brilliant in their own way,” said Pearson, who has performed magic for more than 30 years across North America and is a regular roving artist at the festival.
One of the first artists he contacted for the lineup was Aytahn Ross whose alter-ego, The Great Balanzo, is known to thousands of children for his goofy circus stunts, physical comedy, and signature silly elegance.
“He’ll be doing a balancing act and juggling. He’s such a funny character. I look at him and think of commedia dell’arte. He’s such a pompous, high-level clown and kids love him,” Pearson said.
Another circus artist on the bill is Lyne Gosselin from Cirquetastic, known for her acrobatics and aerials.
“Lyne does such a lovely job with her troupe. When the rest of us are on the ground they fly with a freedom that translates so well to the audience.”
Dean Bareham, artistic director and co-founder of Calgary’s Green Fools Theatre, is dropping by with his costume trunk tricked out with paraphernalia for two buffoon style clown characters.
“One is Gustavo the Impossibilist, a loud, pompous, and hilarious character, and audiences love him. The other is Teddy, and he’s the opposite, very kind, timid, and lovely.”
Added to the roster is Jay Flair, a young sleight-of-hand magician and juggler who arrived from Korea about 10 years ago.
“She’s one of my favourite magicians. She won first place at the prestigious PCAM (Pacific Coast Association of Magicians) Magic Convention and appeared virtually at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. You can’t get in without an invitation. It’s the mecca for magicians.”
Several roving artists will be strategically placed in the Arden lobby to welcome guests.
“We want to make the lobby as much of the show as possible. As soon as people walk in the door, they will get to experience the children’s festival.”
Edmonton singer-songwriter-recording artist Andrea House joins lobby entertainers with pyjama party ballads she has specifically composed for the event. Amanda Panda gets everyone butt shaking with hula hoop workshops, and Nikolai will arrive outfitted as one of his fairytale characters ready to perform a bit of everything — juggling, magic, and making sure everyone has a good time.
“This is an opportunity to see some of Alberta’s best performers, artists we haven’t seen in a long time. And there is nothing that can take the place of a live performance. It’s going to be a celebration for the artists and the audience, and the emphasis is on a lot of fun.”
The Saturday show starts at 6:30 p.m. at 5 St. Anne Street. Tickets are $12 per person. Call 780-459-1542 or visit www.stalbert.ca.