Atomic Vaudeville celebrates 10 years. Interview with co-founder Britt Small.

Atomic Vaudeville celebrates 10 years. Interview with co-founder Britt Small.

Atomic Vaudeville was founded in Victoria BC in 2004 by Jacob Richmond and Britt Small (who was kind enough to answer a few interview questions).

Atomic Vaudeville celebrates 10 years

This is cabaret 65. Did you ever imagine that you would still be here 10 years later—producing your 65th cabaret?

No, I don’t think we imagined much beyond the first year when we started.  Then it just kept on going.  So many people were involved and everyone wanted it to continue, including the audience.

What has changed in the way you produce now as opposed to then, other than the cycle—in the beginning (and for about 4 years??) you were producing monthly? Now, it’s 4 times a year. But the creative process—has anything changed there?

I suppose the process is streamlined in as much as it can be.  It’s still a very chaotic and high pressure experience.  Over time we’ve learned a kind of shorthand in terms of acting conventions and writing style.  There’s a kind of Vaudeville-way of doing certain things that those who have done the show for while understand, such as playing everything out, no fourth wall.  Over time I suppose what happens is you become more familiar with the panic feelings, stress and are able to process and ride that through with greater agility and confidence.

At one time I read you have had 600 alumni of Atomic Vaudeville. And, I see your DNA in so much of what is happening locally, in BC and across Canada.  What do you see as your lasting legacy?

I don’t think of it as a legacy really but I’m glad that we’ve been able to provide a space where emerging artists can experiment and develop and really just express themselves. From the start, part of the drive to form AV was a kind of make-work project for Jacob and me.  There weren’t a lot of opportunities available to us on the island so we thought we’d just make the work ourselves.  It’s great that spirit has been able to spread beyond ourselves and inspire even more work.  There’s always been tremendous creative energy in Victoria but it’s a very laid back environment.  I think we’ve been able to stimulate some of that energy by working as a group and creating a large network of artist friends across Canada in theatre, music, dance, visual art.

What do you feel is the most significant impact that Atomic Vaudeville has had?

I really don’t know.  Perhaps we’ve built a semi-permanent kind of watering hole for artists in Victoria.  And been at the forefront of a new emergence of a kind of rough theatre.  Peter Brook describes rough theatre as unconventional, light-hearted but fed by rebellion and opposition.

Who makes the ideal Atomic Vaudeville performer?  How would someone apply if they were interested in performing with you?

The process of Atomic Vaudeville is in many ways a self-selecting baptism of fire. If someone expresses an interest in performing, they can jump right in the deep end. The show is the audition. They either crumble or get pressed into diamond.

If someone has NEVER (and I can’t imagine this) been to an Atomic Vaudeville show—why should they come? 

I think a lot of people have never seen a show.  We don’t do a lot of advertising; I think it’s a lot of word of mouth which has been great. There might be a perception that it’s a variety show or a sketch comedy show and it certainly pulls from those worlds.  The form has a lot in common with the Muppet Show, where you see the acts but we also incorporate story lines that are metatheatrical in that they reference the behind the scenes world of creating the show.

People should come because it’s a great night out.  We strive to entertain you, make you laugh, make you think and sometimes confuse you, but most of all we want to be with you, together in a kind of live wicked and holy embrace.  At our best I think we can make you feel like you are at the most interesting party that’s happening anywhere at that particular moment and you will leave sated and enlivened.

About @lacouvee

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