Kick and Push Festival offers immersive summer theatre experience in Kingston

La bulle runs August 10 to 13, 2023 in MacDonald Park as part of the 2023 Kick and Push Festival. Photo via Kick and Push Festival.

Beginning Tuesday, Jul. 25, 2023, Kingstonians will have access to almost a month’s worth of immersive and innovative theatre, as the annual Kick and Push Festival returns to the Limestone City. Running at various venues throughout downtown Kingston, the festival’s ninth edition promises new and exciting productions for a wide range of audiences.

“There is an effort with Kick and Push to be an epicentre for innovation within live performance,” explained Artistic Producer Liam Karry. “Our mandate allows us to have video games, galleries, interactive graphic novels… [It’s all about] that pursuit of innovation and [supporting] what the artists want to do.”

Karry added, “At the Kick and Push, we’re always looking for art that feels important. We’re always looking for things that are remarkable and magical and make people feel alive. And we’re always looking for new ways to [facilitate] those experiences.”

Unlike other Kingston-based productions and festivals, which often focus on local amateur artists, the Kick and Push festival has a mandate to create opportunities for professional and paid artists from Kingston and afar.

“We’re trying to do [everything] in a way that provides the workers and artists with a living wage… We want to pay artists and arts workers in the community. There’s nothing wrong with doing theatre for free… but that’s one thing that’s lacking in the city, from our perspective,” Karry said of the festival’s mandate to pay the artists for their work.

The 2023 Kick and Push Festival offers a wide variety of innovative theatrical productions, giving audiences experiences they likely wouldn’t have anywhere else. Organizers have lined up six different “season productions,” or works that run for multiple days at various venues throughout the downtown core. 

“I’m really excited for this year’s festival,” Karry said. “It’s our biggest to date, because [there’s] a huge cross-section of content… We’ve got a lot of shows that we’re producing in venues that aren’t necessarily theatre venues, so we’ve got more partnerships with downtown businesses than we’ve ever had.”

Taking place at Kingston Gaming Nexus, Doc Wuthergloom’s Here There Be Monsters  is a “comedic horror anthology play” featuring one actor and many different puppets. The performance, produced by Eldridge Theatre, is loosely based on the travelling medicine shows of the 1800s. It runs from July 27 to August 6. 

Meanwhile, La bulle is an immersive “mime, text, dance, and drawing” performance, featuring a “one-of-a-kind bubble tent” which will be set up in MacDonald Park. Within the tent is a character named Pierrot, who lives in symbiosis with the bubble while trying to connect with audiences in the outside world. La bulle was created by Toronto’s CORPUS Dance Projects and runs from August 10 to 13. 

Another immersive piece included in this year’s festival is Pandora in the Box, an interactive maze based on surreal comic art. Showing at the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning, Pandora in the Box guides audiences through a maze while offering up a retelling of the well-known myth of Pandora. Along the way, participants are encouraged to think about the nature of hope. Pandora in the Box runs July 25 to 30 at the Tett Centre; admission is by donation. 

For audiences who prefer more traditional sit-down performances, this year’s Kick and Push offers exciting new productions. Running August 9-12 at the Grand Theatre is A Perfect Bowl of Pho. This is an all-new original musical about the Vietnamese-Canadian experience, with an emphasis on food, “particularly the world-famous noodle soup pho.” 

Karry noted, “This is an original musical by an up-and-coming artist… We haven’t done a musical in a while, so that’s exciting, and this is a new one by someone who’s under 30 and is Vietnamese; this is definitely something to be excited about.” A Perfect Bowl of Pho was written and composed by Nam Nguyen and received high praise from critics last summer during the 2022 Toronto Fringe Festival. 

Returning for another edition of the Kick and Push Festival in 2023 is Picton’s Driftwood Theatre, which will be presenting its latest performance, Living With Shakespeare, to audiences in Springer Market Square on August 5 and 6. The performance is a “love letter” of sorts to the life and work of William Shakespeare. 

Besides the season productions, the 2023 Kick and Push Festival also includes a number of artist residences and additional events. After four successful years, the Cedar Island Residency returns for 2023, thanks to an ongoing partnership between the festival and Parks Canada. This year’s residency includes artists Brian Solomon and Jesse Wabegijig. 

One of the most popular productions in Kick and Push history, Ambrose, returns for 2023 in a brand new form. What started out as an interactive and immersive tour through the Grand Theatre has now been turned into a new digital experience, allowing audiences to explore the mystery “behind the curtains” on their own, through the aid of a mobile app. 

Additional events during this year’s festival include Theatre Flicks Picks, a series of theatre-based films selected by local theatre artists. Screenings take place on Mondays at 6 p.m. at The Screening Room. The Kick and Push Festival is also one of the presenting companies behind the 2023 TK Fringe, in partnership with Theatre Kingston. This year’s Fringe festival runs from August 3-13 in downtown Kingston

“That’s something I’m very proud of, and it’s very important, because the Fringe Festival is very important to the local community, and that’s why we support it,” Karry said of the financial support provided to TK Fringe by Kick and Push. 

A complete list of Kick and Push productions, as well as ticketing information for each, can be found on the festival’s website. The festival officially gets underway on Tuesday, Jul. 25, 2023, with the launch of Pandora in the Box, and programming runs until Friday, Aug.18, 2023.

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