“Kick & Push” Your Way to this Summer Festival

By Michelle McShane

Imagine standing in the bar/reception area of The Grand Theatre waiting for the show to begin.
 
But instead of being shown to your seat by one of the volunteer ushers, you are approached by one of the actors. You are then led around The Grand Theatre as you dig into the mysterious disappearance of millionaire Ambrose Small, who was the owner of the theatre (and many others) back in the early 1900’s.  The production Ambrose is a return from last years inaugural festival, and promises to keep you out of your seat and exploring The Grand Theatre in a way you never have before!
 
It is this kind of innovative theatre that makes the Kick and Push Festival unique – and just the thing that the summer theatre scene in Kingston needed. Last year saw 120 performances over the 30 day festival with over 4000 tickets sold; I guess that Kingstonians and visitors alike love summer theatre!  The event was born out of a need for summer programming at The Grand and brings seven different local production companies together to do what they do best: put on great, unique productions for their for their audience.
 

Beneath Our Feet, Photo by Stoo Metz
Beneath Our Feet, Photo by Stoo Metz

Mike Sheppard, the General Manager for the K&P festival tells me that aside from audience immersion in some of the performances, the other thing that makes the festival unique is the use of performance space.
 

“We also are working in some new spaces we haven’t before, and starting to give our audience a bit more variety of performing arts. We have a show at Murney Tower, a historic landmark in Kingston that a lot of people haven’t even seen inside of. This show is Stubborn Stone, being produced by The Cellar Door Project, an emerging group of artists who all graduated from Queen’s Drama. We’re transforming the Baby Grand Theatre into a Jazz Bar for the musical Chicago, we’re using the back alley of The Grand for Overlooked and we’re dropping a classic Shakespeare production in Market Square. So I think there is quite a bit that audiences have not experienced before.”

 

From 2015's AutoShow in Market Square.
From 2015’s AutoShow in Market Square.

 
New this year, and to kick start the K&P Festival is the addition of the Storefront Festival (a festival inside a festival!) which will see 13 shows running in 4 different empty stores downtown. Running from July 15-23, audiences will have the chance to see $8 shows, including one store that will have shows geared towards kids and families.
 
“This is a “fringe” type festival, they have these sorts of things across Ontario, it is a great chance to see new work in development and experience a wide range of theatre in a short period of time for a very affordable price. We did a call out to theatre producers, artists, showrunners, writers, and anyone we could think of to get submissions to the Storefront Festival. This is not curated, it was selected by a lottery system, so you really never know what you’re going to get and the variety of shows is quite high!” Sheppard tells me.
 
From the 2015 production of Shipwrecked, Photo by Mark Bergin.
From the 2015 production of Shipwrecked, Photo by
Mark Bergin.

From Overlooked, Photo by Refraction Theatre,
From Overlooked, Photo by Refraction Theatre,

 
I admit I am not much of a theatre-goer. Not for lack of desire or interest – any show I have ever attended I have thoroughly enjoyed. I guess I’ve never gotten excited about a particular show before. But now that I understand more of what the K&P festival is all about, as I pull out my summer calendar there are a few new additions to it this year. Beneath Our Feet will allow me to actually be on stage at The Grand Theatre (I secretly love being on stage!). I loved the movie Chicago, seeing it live I’m sure will be a vastly different experience. I work downtown, and am looking forward to checking out how some of the empty stores around me get transformed.
 
So, grab YOUR calendar, open the production schedule and book seats for the performances running from July 20 through until August 13, and explore theatre like you never have before!