Arts & Culture

Pull Festival full of 10-minute plays

By Lorraine Graves

Published 5:18 PDT, Mon March 25, 2019

Kayvon Khoshkam is a busy fellow. He set down the power drill long enough to chat with The Richmond Sentinel about SpeakEasy Theatre’s upcoming offering, the Pull Festival of 10-minute plays.

He was striking the set at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre for the company’s production of “Gross Misconduct.”

As a professional in local theatre, Khoshkam takes on many roles. For the recent near sell-out production at Gateway, “Gross Misconduct,” he chose the work, directed the play and designed the sound.

At Bard on the Beach, Western Canada’s foremost Shakespeare festival, every year he has taken on significant, and often comedic, roles in each of two plays throughout the summer, often while teaching children and teens each day at Bard’s Young Shakespearians summer camps.

This coming season, he will be taking on the assistant director role for one of the plays, “Shakespeare in Love.”

Through it all, Khoshkam continues to read plays, work with emerging performers, and discover new behind-the-scenes talent for the upcoming Pull Festival that he originated in 2011.

Asked about the Pull Festival’s name, he says it came about because the first year he was surprised to discover the concurrent but quite different arts festival called PuSh. Using humour to distinguish the two, Khoshkan came up with the name Pull for SpeakEasy’s offering.

“The name was going to be a one-off, a fun little joke for the year,” he says. The name stuck.

Every evening, the Pull Festival offers six 10-minute gems, complete works that vividly draw the audience into the stories and characters, instantly setting the scene.

“The short play is like a short story compared to a novel. It’s still its own piece. It’s very challenging. We are brave and try things that fuller plays don’t.”

“They are quite vivid because they are so short. You’re just thrown into a world without a prologue. It’s quite a roller coaster then, before you know it, it’s over,” Khoshkam says.

“A 10-minute play is a very unique and exciting form which I wanted to explore in the first place. They are complete plays not samples of larger plays. They are their own individual pieces—six different entire worlds in an evening, a sample tray of worlds.”

This year’s festival offers something new, according to Khoshkam: “We are evolving beyond our grassroots, 100-mile rule. We have made the transition to welcoming national playwrights this year.

The Canada-wide winner of a spot in the program, “Bug Zapper,” is from Toronto.

“It’s a story of a man who, while looking for a job, receives a strange offer from a politician,” Khoshkam says.

In doing so, Khoshkam says SpeakEasy is thinking about how to become a national entity based in the Lower Mainland, rather than just a venue for local theatre creators.

The festival works on respect for everyone’s work and job. Each person in the crew of 25 to 30 people pitches in. Everyone shares in the work and money made from the modest ticket price, their only source of revenue. While most theatre companies have donors and grants to offset their prices, everything that comes in is returned to those working on the productions. Patrons know that every penny of their $25 ticket goes directly to the people working on the production.

Khoshkam, realistic about today, is looking to the future, hoping for donors and grants. “In this, the ticket sales sustain the festival but does not provide the opportunity for growth for expansion,” he says.

“At its core, the reasons I started it was to engage and give opportunities to individuals not getting opportunities in the mainstream theatre. It’s very much geared to new directors, emerging actors, and emerging writers,” he says.

More often than not these are voices never heard before. These are people often new to playwriting.

And, it’s not just new theatre workers the Pull Festival welcomes. Khosham’s creation draws in new audiences too: “Our energy is that of an informal audience. Like an engaging party, we engage people who never go to the theatre,” he says.

In fact, one of the things Khoshkam often hears is, “I never go to the theatre. I had the best time.”

Describing the feeling at the festival’s performances, Khoshkam quotes a previous production manager: “It feels like Mom and Dad went away and left us the keys to the theatre. Mischief is a very good word for what we try to do each year.”

Each evening, featuring the same six 10-minute plays, introduces the plays, production staff, and actors to a whole new audience of theatre-goers.

It’s affordable fun in funky Havana Theatre on Commercial Drive where, before or after the show, you can go to the front-of-house Havana Restaurant, which Khoshkam describes as, “A Cuban-themed restaurant, recently taken over by Postmark Brewing. It’s a lovely place. Great food.”

The relaxed atmosphere of the Havana continues to the theatre, where the festival has its concession: “We have our own bar in the back so you can buy your drink and take it in with you.”

The Pull Festival 8 runs March 27 to 30, with a matinee performance included on the Saturday, at the Havana Theatre, 1214 Commercial Dr, Vancouver.

Click for tickets.

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