“Without an audience, performance doesn’t exist.” SesayArts in conversation with Bea Pizano

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.

Beatriz Pizano, Artistic Director, Aluna Theatre

I’ve at last got an opportunity to speak with Beatriz Pizano, and wouldn’t you know, it’s both the best of times . . . and the worst of times. It is mere days until CAMINOS 2017: performing intersections, the second edition of the festival of new multidisciplinary works-in-progress by Pan-American, Indigenous and Latinx artists. CAMINOS premiered in 2015, and is presented by Aluna Theatre –of which Ms Pizano is Artistic Director –in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts.

Running October 4-8, CAMINOS 2017 presents three major attractions:

  • multidisciplinary performances of works-in-progress all five nights. These works encompass theatre, dance, performance art, music, visual arts, installation, and film – and  explore issues of diversity, inclusion, gender, and trans-lingualism.
  • late-night cabaret programming on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 9:30 pm, which has the bonus of being free of charge and open to all audiences.
  • an international conference on Performance and Human Rights: Unsettling the Americas: Radical Hospitalities and Intimate Geographies.The conference showcases three days of conversations reflecting on histories of settlement, displacement, and resettlement. As these afternoon conference sessions are also open to the public and free of charge, the conversations should be free-flowing and include a range of viewpoints.

On the opening night, Ms Pizano herself will be performing Líneas divisorias, “a multi-lingual dialog between modern and ancestral relationships to living and dying”  that she has also written. And while browsing  the CAMINOS offerings, I stumble on a description of La Maleta (The Suitcase), her play for young people that Roseneath Theatre will tour in the 2018-2019 season. With all Ms Pizano’s groundbreaking work at Aluna (which has to date earned a whopping 26 Dora Award nominations and 11 wins), plus her writing, performing, curating, mentoring and more, it’s abundantly clear that she is not content to sit around. She simply makes things happen.

Though I realize that she is ultra-busy in these crucial few days leading up to the festival, I latch onto the saying “if you want something done, give it to a busy person” . . .  and take the opportunity to speak with her about CAMINOS 2017. It comes as no surprise that an artist so generous in offering rich opportunities to the arts community is equally forthcoming in her detailed responses to me.

AG: I read in your blog  entry “bea pizano welcomes you to caminos” a statement that immediately stood out to me, both as a participant of the arts and a mother of 3 children: “We encourage presenting artists to risk, to be bold, to forget about reviews, or who might be the “top shows/artists to watch’…” In our society, it is more difficult than ever to feel immune to the opinions and judgments of others. What advice do you have for young people (whether artists or not) to help them to build resilience and emotional stamina? 

BP: Resilience and emotional stamina are constant challenges in our lives. However, when you believe in what you are doing, and at the end of the day you can say to yourself “I have done everything I can possibly do at this moment in my life to make this happen” then that will give you the courage to confront anything.

Of course, when you get rejected, get a bad review or someone says that your work is not good…it hurts…it really hurts. But when you believe in it, you get angry, cry and then get up the next day with the energy to make it even better.  Criticism can give you perspective. A great friend told me recently that he listens to all criticism because it helps him learn. Stamina comes from believing in your dream.  But stamina also allows for the times when you feel like giving up. That is honest, real, human. That is part of the process…as long as we get back on the horse.

Beatriz Pizano in Líneas divisorias; photo: Trevor Schwellnus

AG: What were some significant learnings from the 2015 CAMINOS festival that affected the way you approached and curated this year’s? Is there something about this year’s festival that you would especially like us to know?

BP: After six years of doing festivals, RUTAS panamericanas and CAMINOS (the newer festival), we are learning to do things better. We have built a team of amazing artists and production personnel. The team is the secret.

Artistically, I’m very excited about the strong presence of the new generation of artists. They are fresh, daring and aim high.  I feel this festival is allowing us to expand our perspective about the Americas.  Canada is part of this Pan-American vision. The diverse voices present in this continent, makes this festival unique. I want you to know that our Pan-America includes Canada.  And Canada includes the world. CAMINOS is about inclusion and expansion. It is about making great art and supporting it through all its stages of development.

AG: What would you like us to know about Native Earth Performing Arts and your enduring partnership?

BP: Partnerships take a long time. Native Earth is important to me because they bring Indigenous art to the forefront. I learn from them every day. We share and exchange. They make me aware of the many things I need to understand about Turtle Island; about this land. And they are also interested in learning about us. Partnerships can only exist in an environment of equality, shared beliefs and values. Both companies work hard to support and build our communities. I think it’s like a marriage–it takes years of wanting to be able to really listen and understand what each other’s needs and wants are.

AG: What would you like to add that I haven’t asked?

BP: Audiences are very important in the early stages of a new work. Most new works only get in front of an audience at the time of production – but audiences affect performers and react in surprising ways that can tell you a lot. We often forget that and think we should present only when the work is ready. But I feel we are robbing the audience of the opportunity to be part of the creative process. Without an audience, performance doesn’t exist. I love the audiences of CAMINOS. They understand they are watching something in the making, and they give all their love and attention to the what is happening on stage.

News You Can Use

What: CAMINOS 2017: performing intersections – a festival of Pan American performing arts & culture, presented by Aluna Theatre in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts

When: October 4-8, 2017

Where: Aki Studio & Ada Slaight Hall, in the Daniels Spectrum building, 585 Dundas Street East, Toronto, ON

For info and tickets: caminos.ca and 416-531-1402

© 2017 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya

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