France Perras, WST’s lovely Associate Artist, will be part of this year’s Brief Encounters, an event which pairs together ten artists of different disciplines, and gives them two weeks to come up with…well, anything. Call it an original presentation. A performance piece. A work of art. A play. A concert. An operetta. Shadow puppetry of the revolution. Actually, no one knows what it will be. But I can guarantee that it will be fascinating.
Brief Encounters began in 2005. The founders of the Tomorrow Collective (and the company that produces BE), Mara Branscombe, Katy Harris-McLeod, and Jennifer McLeish-Lewis, were all dancers looking for opportunities to create inter-disciplinary work. Finding little opportunity in Vancouver at the time for this type of thing, they did what many Vancouver artists do: they created the opportunity themselves.
The first Brief Encounters took place in a small studio in Gastown. In this “creation under the gun” process, each pair of artists had two weeks to come up with a five to fifteen minute performance or presentation of some kind. There was no guiding theme, no inspiration package: just two artists who didn’t know each other, working together, creating something.
Initially thinking it would be just be something that they would simply share with friends, the event became so popular that it quickly outgrew the studio. After a few years based out of the Anza Club, the event was moved to Performance Works on Granville Island in 2009.
Recently, the Tomorrow Collective has brought in guest programmers to curate the participating artists. This year’s guest programmer is none other than writer and comedienne Riel Hahn, herself a veteran of two BE’s. She explains that part of the appeal of BE is that it “creates a fascinating intersection of artists and audience. Spectators get to experience so many different kinds of art and get to be in on the process.”
An important part of BE is the pairing of the artists—who gets to work with whom. This is a large part of Riel’s job as Guest Programmer. When sitting down with TC’s General Manager Kristina Lemieux to create the pairs, they looked to build matches out of artists from very different fields: “I wanted someone text-based with someone more visual, or someone who might be a bit shy about the process with someone who would have a lot of positive energy about it.” The hope is that the contrast in disciplines, and hopefully personal chemistry, will create a completely unique experience for both the artists, and for the audiences. In Riel’s words, BE is “a show, a party, a conversation.”
France, a bilingual actress, has been paired with painter and butoh dancer Thomas Anfield, and describes him as someone “who’s never stopped being creative his whole life.” I spoke to her when the two were in their first week of the process. To get started, France said they asked themselves, “What have we always wanted to do? What are we terrified of doing?”
So far, it sounds like things are going along well for the pair, although not without challenges: “We vascillate between, ‘Oh, my god, this is really cool,’ to ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ I’m flabbergasted and in awe at the same time.”
Brief Encounters is an unique event in Vancouver—and an unique event to Vancouver. It’s exciting to have an event here that you can’t find anywhere else. Brief Encounters runs from Thursday, May 9 to Saturday, May 11 at Performance Works on Granville Island. Show starts at 8:00pm.
For a complete list of the artists involved and ticket information, visit the Brief Encounters website here, and come join the party.
*Just so you know, Brief Encounters will also be part of this year’s Revolver Festival. Two previous (and newly expanded) Encounters will be included in the Festival’s line up, to be presented at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre later this May. For more information on the Revolver Festival, click here.