Kick & Push takes theatre on a tour of the town

Local festival celebrates Kingston’s spaces through immersive theatre

Kick and Push will be at the Grand Theatre until Aug. 11.
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Photo by Tessa Warburton

In its fifth year alone, the Kick and Push theatre festival has taken off, expanding into a month-long celebration of Kingston’s vibrant culture and history.

What began as an attempt to bring more summer theatre to the downtown area has grown to encompass master-class workshops and a two-week-long summer camp.

The festival’s organizers—who seek to bring innovative theatre to the downtown core—are unapologetic about their love for Kingston and want to provide fresh experiences to locals and tourists alike.

Liam Karry, one of the festival’s co-founders and organizers for the 2019 season, is clear that the city itself is the light shining through every production.

“We really do believe in the city,” Karry told The Journal. “Kingston’s downtown is a jewel, architecturally and through arts, culture, and business. We want to take that pride and energy that we know is here, and we want everyone to take part in it.”

“We’re not some place that people drive through,” he said. “We’re a place that people come to.” 

The festival prioritizes unique experiences. By placing nationally renowned performances in a local setting, they give participants the sense that success is attainable.

Performance Out of the Woods brings theatregoers to Cedar Island off the coast of Kingston, which contains little more than a limestone military fortress, while Tales of an Urban Indian places viewers on a city bus to watch the one-man play unfold en route. One of the festival’s most highly anticipated productions, Kitchen Chicken—which is stopping in Kingston before launching a Canada-wide tour—takes place at the Grand Theatre where performers cook a chicken dinner on stage over the course of the play.

“Depending on what happens, you may or may not be served dinner at the end,” Karry noted.

For Karry, bringing innovation to Kingston’s theatre scene is simply in keeping with the dynamism present all across the city in the last decade, in the arts, and in the growing downtown. More than anything, the festival’s celebration of Kingston’s culture reaches out to students and local artists and invites them back to perform in and work on the productions.

Karry believes investing in paid arts positions is the best path toward growing Kingston’s arts and culture sector.

“Everyone involved in the festival has strong connections to Kingston—they went to Queen’s, maybe to St. Lawrence College, maybe they grew up here,” he said. “We’re trying to give artists a reason to come back and share their innovation.”

Investing in local art is also an opportunity to benefit from Kingston’s position in the Canadian landscape. The city’s preserved 19th-century architecture provides an increasingly unique backdrop for performance art. Karry credits Queen’s, the Royal Military College, and St. Lawrence College for enriching Kingston’s cultural footprint.

By bringing people from across Canada and the world to the city, they help to create singular experiences that are the product of their origins, as well as their surroundings.

“People aren’t just looking for static experiences where they observe,” Karry explained. “People want to do what only they can do, they want individual experiences, and that’s something theatre can be better at than film.”

Kick and Push’s platform has been designed to utilize the unique experience of live theatre and expand it through their use of immersive spaces and audience participation.

“[With Kick and Push] we’re trying to match the right experience to the right place so that tourists and Kingstonians alike feel as though they’re in something they’ve never seen before. How can you do that unless you love the city you’re in?”

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