IGNITE! 2020: Emerging Arts Journalist

Journalism within the arts is key in fostering a progressive arts community as new media continues to evolve. Contemporary arts journalism provides interactive, digital environments in which emerging artists can collectively grow by working together and reviewing new forms of art or by discussing the past. Additionally, arts journalism provides opportunities for artists to network regardless of background, engaging within web 2.0 spaces: user generated content within the internet. Arts journalism has expanded to explore new forms of expression by allowing everyday individuals to express their subjective tastes, simultaneously creating a space for artists to analyze their own work in a broader public context than was offered with traditional media. Arts journalists serve as cultural mediators within the community by connecting art to its deeply rooted meanings in accessible ways that the general public (beyond the walls of academia) can understand. 

As an extension of its mission to support development and presentation opportunities for emerging artists, the IGNITE! Festival is pleased to be piloting the Emerging Arts Journalist program. We are dedicated to fostering the next generation of writers in new media by giving them opportunities to gain experience in their field, while supporting the other up-and-coming artists in the festival by writing about their work. We look forward to expanding this program over the coming years and are excited to introduce our first in-house journalist, Layla Dart!

Layla Dart - Emerging Arts Journalist

Layla Dart is a passionate writer, and is this year’s first in-house journalist for the festival. She’s been studying at MacEwan University for the last four years, and will be finished her degree in 2021. Layla’s passion lies in the arts, so she is beyond excited to be involved with the IGNITE! Festival. She’s been a writer and an artist herself for her whole life, so a festival like this is right up her alley. She’s covered plenty of topics, but is excited to be covering a festival where art is the focus.

LiveWire Calgary Articles

IGNITE! Embers

Welcome to IGNITE! Embers. Layla's blog space for everything IGNITE! Layla has spent time with our artists and interviewed them so that you can get to know a little bit about them as well as their projects!

Production: Anonymous

Project Lead: Chantel Dixon


Genre: Serious Drama

Topics: Emotional Abuse, Addiction, Support Groups, Intergenerational Trauma

Length: Each episode is about 10-15 minutes long, with a total of three episodes.

When to Watch: Please check the IGNITE! Festival Schedule for episode times! They will air on June 10th, 12th, and 13th.

How to Experience: These are online video links! Check the festival schedule for their specific times. Get cozy, and get watching!

Idea & Inspiration: Chantel Dixon drew from her history of growing up with addicts to inspire this piece. Dixon has seen family members go through different ways of coping with addictions – including Alcoholics Anonymous – and wanted to explore themes related to this and the intergenerational trauma it often causes. To adapt to the festival, Dixon changed the piece from a stage play to a web series. She also weaves in themes of what going through a support group may look like in the current climate- with filmed video calls and isolated characters.

Why Experience it?: This series is offers a peak into the struggles of mental health and addiction in the context of social distancing and isolation. The actors are communicating with each other over a video platform, but they’re still stuck at home, and they’re still struggling. It’s a raw and sometimes ugly depiction of people being human, making human mistakes, and learning how to deal with them.

Unique Feature: These episodes are rated R for a reason. No punches are held, as deep and intimate themes are explored. There’s adult language, abuse, and substance use, suicidal themes, and overdoses all wrapped up in a journey to recovery. It is inspired by the 12-step program often taken with AA like groups, and the non-linear path to sobriety – all on top of dealing with a global pandemic.

From the Artist: “What I’m trying to do is create a sense of empathy and knowing, and the knowingness that even though COVID-19 is happening and it’s really tough and people are going through individual mental health needs, that it’s important that we unite together and support one another in these times” – Chantel Dixon


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Production: Psychotic Bitch

Project Lead: Maezy Dennie

Rating: PG-13 (Mild swearing, Trigger warning)

Genre: Drama, Psychological

Topics: Mental Health, Psychosis, Insecurities, Fear, Trauma

Length: About 15 minutes.

When to Watch: A dedicated website will be available at the beginning of the festival with live links. A direct download link will be available on the IGNITE website June 12 at 6:45pm.

How to Experience: This is an auditory experience. There is a recording available, and you may choose to listen in a few different ways. Dennie invites you to download the audio and go for a walk through your neighbourhood while listening. This may be a difficult experience, so you are also free to listen in the safety of your home – it is your choice.

Idea & Inspiration: This piece is centered around mental health – specifically psychosis. Dennie was inspired by her own struggles, as well as the extreme stigma surrounding mental health. This auditory piece is meant to simulate what a psychotic episode could be like in an auditory form – though no two experiences are the same in reality. With this experience, Dennie hopes to shine a light on what can go on inside her head, foster understanding of, and help reduce stigma. 

Why Experience it?: This piece takes you through an auditory psychotic episode. It combines Dennie’s personal experiences, worries, and fears, as well as those from the voice actors. It is an insider look in how other people may see / the world.

Unique Feature: This is an unscripted, completely collaborative piece. Along with creating a website, Dennie mixed the audio. But the full piece it is made up of clips contributed from young voice actors around the city. Psychotic Bitch truly embodies the festival-at-a-distance model.

From the Artist: “The more that people talk about [mental illness], the less stigmas are built up around it.” – Maezy Dennie.

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Production: SoulSwap

Project Lead: Oliver Bailey

Rating: PG-13 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Romance, Drama

Topics: Gender exploration, Transgender Identities, Memories, Trauma

Length: About 50 – 60 minutes

When to watch: There will be a video link available Thursday June 11 at 8:00pm

How to Experience: This is a video experience! Find yourself a comfy spot, maybe some snacks, and then sit back and enjoy the show.

Idea & Inspiration: SoulSwap is inspired by Oliver Bailey’s own journey with his gender. As a transgendered man, he drew from experiences and feelings he’s had over the years to inspire this piece. The characters are both in early transition stages, and are given the opportunity to swap bodies – combining Bailey’s love for sci-fi with the intimacy of this kind of exploration and experience.

Why Experience it?:  This is a sci-fi piece, and explores a number of themes related to transgender identities. Bailey has taken the concept of body-swapping, and used it to explain these themes in a unique way. It deals with memories both good and band that take on a very physical form for the characters.

Unique Feature: This is not a full production, but rather a staged reading. The actors will be on script, and there will be some partially staged scenes – but most of the show will be a simple read. Use your imagination, and enjoy this intimate performance

From the Artist: “This is a really exciting exploration of the trans experience. I think [this piece] acknowledges that no two trans people are going to have the same experience with gender because it is so personal” – Oliver Bailey 

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Production: The Silence

Project Lead: Charlotte Hurdman 

Rating: PG-13 (Trigger warning: mild blood and gore)

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Horror, Drama

Topics: Processing Trauma, Family, Relationships, Guilt

Length: About 15 minutes

When to watch: There will be a link available Friday June 12 at 8:15pm.

How to Experience: This is a short film! Tune in, tuck in, sit back and enjoy!

Idea & Inspiration: A suddenly cold shower inspired Charlotte Hurdman to write this piece. When her hot water shut off, the jarring experience gave her an idea.  What started as a monologue morphed into a 40-page script – which was later cut much shorter to adapt to changes in the festival. The audience follows Gabriella through her childhood memories, but will she drown in the sea of her guilt? Or will she be able to stay afloat and face the present, and possibly forgiveness?

Why Experience it?: This is a unique journey through the process of coping with trauma. The main character is both metaphorically and literally stuck in the past, sinking into her memories of horrible things. As she wades through what happened, and how she feels, she is confined to her bathroom. 

Unique Feature: This piece takes place solely in a bathtub! To represent how difficult it can be to free yourself from your past, Hurdman takes the metaphor to a literal level. As most of Gabriella’s trauma took place in the bathroom, Hurdman has trapped the main character in her bathtub, visualizing the metaphor of being stuck in traumatic situations and memories.

From the Artist: “This film is kind of like a journey to moving past trauma. So you’re not the things that have happened to you, you are how you deal with those things” – Charlotte Hurdman

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Production: The Banana Conundrum

Project Lead: Devin Kotani

Rating: PG

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Live performance

Topics: Race, Casting, Racial identities

Length: About 50 minutes

When to watch: There will be live links available June 10th and 11th. Check the IGNITE! Festival schedule.

How to Experience: This is a LIVE experience! Devin Kotani stars in this one-man show (besides those behind the scenes) and it involves some audience interaction! Tune into the live stream for this unique experience, as Kotani combines different theatrical styles, research, and personal experience into this unique experience. 

Idea & Inspiration: As a half-Japanese/half-Scottish (and fully Canadian) actor, Kotani has played a number of different races, besides his own. This piece draws from the conundrum that this has caused him. He is unsure of what roles it is acceptable for him to play, as he can ‘pass’ for multiple races visually – and has done so in the past. But is that okay for him to do? Should he be able to take roles as fully Asian characters when he is only half-Japanese? Can he play a fully Scottish character? Should he only play Canadian characters, or only half-Japanese/half-Scottish characters? Where is the line?

Why Experience it?: In the live stream, the audience will be able to interact with Kotani as he struggles to answer these questions. Kotani draws from personal experience and historically documented accounts of actors playing characters outside their own race. He combines theatre, performing, and engagement in this one of a kind performance.

Unique Feature: This is a one man show! Kotani will be the only person on stage, accompanied only by the audience tuned into the stream, and his director (from a safe distance). He discusses personal experiences, creating an intimate experience as you get to know his journey as a mixed-race Canadian actor.

From the Artist: “I think it’s a valuable subject matter, especially right now. We had Parasite win [Best Picture], but there was still that who complaint going around that the ‘Oscars [were] so white’ or whatever that was. So, this touches on that – representation; getting more diverse voices out there.” –Devin Kotani

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Production: Good People 

Project Lead: Bryan Sandberg

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Drama

Topics: Homosexuality, Religion, Tragedy, Suicide

Length: Up to two hours, or as long as you need! 

When to Watch: There is no specific ‘watch’ time for this experience. It will be accessible throughout the festival.

How to Experience: There is a dedicated landing page for this piece, with instructions available

Idea & Inspiration: This piece was based on Bryan Sandberg’s personal experiences growing up. He grew up in the Philippines with Pentacostal parents, and realized he was gay at a young age. Searching for comfort and validation, Sandberg took to the internet – looking through blogs, videos, forums, and articles. He wanted to take the audience on a similar journey of discovery, with a much darker twist 

Why Experience it?: This piece follows the story of the suicide of a 14-year-old gay boy, who is refused funeral from his family’s church – which sparks a social uprising. Those on each side of the issue have their justifications, and all believe they’re ‘good people.’ Are they really? How do you tell? 

Unique Feature: This an is online journey of investigation through the digital realm. Sandberg has crafted a series of elements that function like a virtual escape room. All original content, Sandberg has created podcasts, blogs, videos and other online elements to tell this turbulent tale.  The audience is challenged to weave through this twisted narrative to discover the truth of what happened – all while being challenged on what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘right’ or ‘evil.’ 

From the Artist: “LGBTQ people and religion [were] in front of City Council this year. This is a story that really resonates with that. It’s interesting to me because the story itself takes place in 2007 – I chose 2007 because that was the year that I came out to my parents – but like, in 2020 these issues are still happening, these questions and conversations are still coming up.” – Bryan Sandberg

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Production: The Giggles

Project Lead: Christian Daly; Vagabond

Rating: G (Especially for kids!)

Genre: Musical, Comedy, Improv, Family

Topics: That’s up to you! This is improv – anything can happen!

Length: About 15 minutes

When to watch: There are dedicated times in the IGNITE! stream we will be live. Please refer to the festival schedule.

How to Experience: This is a live experience. Join The Giggles on Twitch for a live improv experience. Bring the family! This is a show made for young audiences with improvised scenes. Like in any improv show, there will be audience engagement! Set up Twitch, and have fun!

Idea & Inspiration: Ever heard of The Wiggles? This is the Vagabond version! Those at Vagabond had to learn not only how to produce their first family-targeted show, but also how to adapt to an online platform. The Giggles are a whimsical, family friendly, improvised musical inspired by a popular kids TV show. 

Why Experience it?: This is a family friendly show, and made especially for kids! If you’re looking for something to keep the little ones busy, or brighten up their day with some familiar fun! There will be fun songs, bright colours, and vibrant performers – all putting on an improvised musical. This online format will be a first for all the actors, so join them in figuring out this new process!

Unique Feature: This is improv from afar. Each player will be in their own home, working together to perform an improv show over Twitch. It may be slow paced and awkward at times, but Daly is ready to embrace the mistakes. Learning how to put a show together with individuals over Twitch has been a challenge, but it is one that will produce a truly unique experience.

From the Artist: “[We’re] kind of looking forward to those moments where we ‘mess up’ because that’s really where we have a lot of fun and usually, that we found through shows, that the audience has a lot of fun” – Christian Daly 

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Production: Re:New

Project Lead: Cindy Ansah & Stephanie Jurkova


Genre: Dance, Music, Visual Art, Film

Topics: Renewal, Circle of Life, Nature, Change 

Length: About 15 minutes

When to watch: There will be a link available Saturday June 13 at 6:40pm.

How to Experience: This is a video. Sit back, relax and enjoy!

Idea & Inspiration: The cycle of renewal in nature was a major inspiration for this piece. When everything changed with the pandemic, so did this production. Cindy Ansah, Stephanie Jurkova, and their creative team had to earn how to respond to changes in spacing, practicing, and meeting. They had to find a way to continue dancing without risking their heath. So not only does this piece reflect newness in nature, but it’s also functions a response to new things.

Why Experience it?: Though you’ll be watching from home, this is an ‘outdoor’ experience. It was filmed outside in the sunshine, and combines music and artful videography with movement and emotion. The environment is as integral as the movement, as both reflect the dominant themes of the piece.

Unique Feature: This is a socially distanced dance piece. There are multiple dancers involved, though they all dance alone – kind of. Their ‘partners’ are articles of clothing. Tune in to watch and find out more!

From the Artist: “In the beginning, change is always shocking and uncomfortable. But when you try to embrace it and it’s circumstances, it’s really lovely to see what comes out of that.” – Stephanie Jurkova

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Our festival is free to attend although donations help us with funding and enables us to keep bringing you amazing performances every year! We are also encouraging donations to the Calgary Black Empowerment Fund.