Some experiences are simply not to be missed, and that includes the long-running Thousand Faces Festival.
According to Mark Henderson, artistic director, the festival is “an explosion of colour, taste, sound, and enchantment: primal elements that are part of all human experience.”
Henderson speaks passionately about the art and performances at this year’s festival. His fascination with mythology began with Star Wars when he was a boy. It has deepened since then to include stories from myriad cultures and artistic expressions. His excitement at sharing these “songs of the universe,” as author Joseph Campbell called them, is palpable.
Henderson explained the festival makes the richness of enduring mythology accessible to everyone through music, dance, art, and theatre. He anticipates fresh, vibrant interpretations of this year’s theme of love and water.
Playwright Josh Languedoc is a central artist this year. He began his career in the Edmonton theatre scene as an actor and earned extensive credits. As a playwright, his play, Starlight Journey, was developed at the 2016 Banff Playwrights Colony. He is the current playwright-in-residence at the Workshop West Playwrights’ Theatre.
Languedoc’s contribution to the festival, Rocko and Nakoda: Tales from the Land, is a play that can stand alone. Adding a new twist for the festival performance, Languedoc adapted his play to create a unifying thread for the evening performance, A String of Mythic Pearls. Languedoc’s play will unfold throughout the evening, interspersed with other artists’ performances as the journey progresses. The hero Nakoda’s tale will intertwine seamlessly with stories from other artists.
Although these mythologies emerge from diverse cultures, their shared expression at the festival will bring the stories, performances, and audience together in a unified experience.
Languedoc recognizes the festival as a big undertaking. He is up for the challenge.
Born of an Anishinaabe father from Saugeen First Nation and a mother of Irish, English, and Cree descent, Languedoc said he was “raised traditionally,” with practices such as smudging and sweats. He has been drawn to the role of storyteller since he was a boy.
He explained, “These stories are very precious to me, and it’s going to be interesting taking them on the road.”
Nakoda, the hero of Languedoc’s play, is an 11-year-old boy learning to tell his people’s stories. The play begins with him choosing his mother’s story for a school competition. As Nakoda works on the project, his103-year-old grandfather, Rocko,happens to visit and take an interest in the project. A storyteller himself and an important elder, Rocko engages the boy in what Languedoc calls “indigenized folktales.”
Languedoc said Rocko “pushes Nakoda into the stories so that he is living them as they’re happening.”
Likewise, Languedoc aims to push the audience into Nakoda’s story, and into the festival’s celebration of mythology.
This year’s festival includes other performances as well as a feast of ethnic food and a family-oriented afternoon that will include opportunities to try stilt walking and to enjoy puppet shows.
THOUSAND FACES FESTIVAL
Alberta Avenue Community Centre
9210 118 Ave
Featured Image: Josh Languedoc is an up-and-coming playwright in the Edmonton area. | Banff Centre for the Arts