These tricks aren’t just for kids

People often associate
certain times of year with certain events. While May in Calgary typically signals a slightly diminished risk of snow and the student migration from campus to the workforce, it also marks the dawn of the festival season with the Calgary International Children’s Festival.

A staple of Calgary’s cultural landscape, the Children’s Festival has educated and entertained children of all ages, from the tiniest tot to the most curmudgeony oldtimer, since its inception two decades ago. Artistic director Kate Newby has the daunting task of putting together the 76-act festival, as acts have to meet a wide range of criteria to be included in the event.

“It’s a multi-disciplinary festival,” shares Newby. “There’s music, dance, theatre, puppetry [and] object theatre. It’s important that I plan and have those elements within the festival each year. Quality and art excellence is really what I’m looking for:
the performance piece has to be exceptional in terms of its artistic quality, have a wonderful story and the aesthetic of it—the music, the lighting, the sound—all play
into it.”

The festival has had a long tradition of celebrating diversity, both ethnic and linguistic. It’s not surprising that this year’s festival continues the trend, encompassing acts from around the globe as well as performances in English, French, Spanish and German.

“It really comes down to the performances I bring in,” says Newby. “If they can perform in a variety of different languages, I like to
present that at the festival. We’re obviously a multicultural country and the more that I can include multilingual programming, the
better it is for our youth. There’s
lots of kids in bilingual
schools—they may be Spanish- or German-bilingual—so I want to be able to provide as many performances as possible in different languages.”
While the curtain may be going up on the 2007 edition of the festival, Newby’s work isn’t over. She now faces the task of assembling next
year’s festival, a feat that takes a sizable amount of time to accomplish.

“It’s an enormous festival,” reflects Newby. “I’m programming 2008 right now. I’m almost done that. I’m sort of a year ahead. It takes about a year, sometimes two years to get a company across the Atlantic or the Pacific.”

Newby’s job isn’t a chore,
though, as it allows her to travel around the globe to seek out new and interesting acts. She explores other festivals and figures out
which acts would work best within the confines of Calgary’s
demographics and venues, but also within the high standards that the Calgary International Children’s Festival has established over the past 20 years.

“I want to be impressed,” notes Newby. “I want to find something that appeals to kids, but also appeals to the parents that take their children, and to people that don’t necessarily have children but really want to see
excellent theatre.”

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