Skirtsafire, taking place from Feb 29 to March 10

Skirtsafire, taking place from Feb 29 to March 10

The 11-day festival celebrating work by women in theatre and multidisciplinary arts also incorporates Sound Off, Canada’s national festival of Deaf performing arts

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According to incoming artistic director Amanda Goldberg, this year’s SkirtsAfire Festival can be simply boiled down to the art of storytelling.

“It’s like a big mixing pot of different kinds of stories,” says Goldberg, who curated this year’s festival with input from outgoing artistic director Annette Loiselle. “There are artists who are in different places, not only in their career but in the stage of creation. It’s also very multidisciplinary.”

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It is indeed. The 12th edition of the festival, which celebrates work by women, women-identifying and non-binary artists in theatre and multidisciplinary arts covers a lot of ground in its 11 days. The opening night A-Line Variety Show at the Walterdale Theatre is self-explanatory, while The Shoe Project, which plays March 2-3 at Walterdale, tells the stories of Canadian immigrant and refugee women through a pair of shoes they’ve worn.

Nehiyaw Nikamowina, which runs March 5-6 at Walterdale, utilizes Cree song, dance, art and design in a concert featuring the Juno-nominated Cikwes and her mother Cheyenne Rain LeGrande. The Skirts and Found Poetry Interactive Installation can be found throughout the festival in such Whyte Avenue locations as Chiantis, Lewis Mayhem, the Old Strathcona Business Association and Village Goods. If it’s laughs you’re after, comedy is on offer at Théâtre Servus Credit Union on March 9. That same night, Songs in the Sanctuary gathers together musicians Kate Blechinger, Lindsey Walker, Jenni Roberts and Giselle Parker for a loosely Lilith Fair-themed evening that also features Chandra Tala Choir, Ariose, and Nottingham Women’s Choir. It takes place at Holy Trinity Church March 9.

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This year’s mainstage show, running through the entirety of the festival at the Gateway Theatre, is Mermaid Legs from 2015 Governor General Award finalist Beth Graham. The production, described as a “surreal theatre dance fantasia about the bonds of sisterhood and the stigma of mental illness” is directed by Loiselle. Goldberg is excited about the piece, which she notes will be a first in the festival’s history because it was commissioned by SkirtsAfire.

“Annette approached the festival probably about two years ago with just an idea, and that project has been in development through workshops at the festival since the beginning,” Goldberg says. “So I really love that process, and I’d really love to continue supporting that process as kind of a yearly initiative. Whether we call it a playwright-in-residence, or through continuing new work development processes through the festival, whichever. I guess you’d say that’s my passion project that I’m hoping will eventually make it into the formula of the festival.”

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Goldberg also highlights a program the festival has called Off the Page, which gathers a collection of artists who are getting their work off the page and on the stage. Taking place at the Théâtre Servus Credit Union at La Cité Francophone on March 7, the evening features readings from Alexandra Contreras, Lita Pater, Amanda Samuelson, April MacDonald Killins and others.

Embodyment, a movement piece that runs March 8-9 at Théâtre Servus Credit Union, is a collection of diverse movement performances.

“We have a collection of artists whose movement pieces go from a very traditional, Eurocentric kind of ballet to very traditional Southeast Asian dancing, to aerial performers,” Goldberg says. “It’s pretty wide-ranging. This year we also have a circus performer.”

It’s a struggle to mount a festival in economically-challenging times, but SkirtsAfire has managed. According to Goldberg, the number of artists they’ve supported with work has gone up every year. In 2024, she’s counted close to 150, and while Goldberg recognizes it’s going to continue to be a difficult task to keep the festival afloat, she’s feeling positive even as she steps out on her own without Loiselle helping with the curation.

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“This year I like to say is an amalgamation of both of our curation work,” she says. “It was very much a collaboration because some things had already been set in motion, and then other things. I was allowed to completely take the lead on next year, however, a net won’t be there and we’re looking at stepping into kind of a new chapter of the festival. That involves a lot of different things. Like, I’m hoping to develop more mentorship initiatives. We always have young, emerging performers performing but I would love to give that demographic more agency and more responsibility in creating some of the work that gets highlighted in the festival. I would like to nurture relationships with local women playwrights. There’s just so much I’m excited about in the coming years.”

Sound Off: A Deaf Theatre Festival

Nestled within SkirtsAfire is Sound Off: A Deaf Theatre Festival, Canada’s national festival dedicated to the Deaf performing arts, which runs March 5-10 at the Fringe Arts Barns. Speaking Vibrations, one of the festival’s main productions running at the Westbury Theatre March 6-7, is told through ASL song and poetry, using percussive dance, movement, spoken word and song, with captions, vibrotactile devices, and audio description.

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“It was really kind of serendipitous that we had this show called Speaking Vibrations coming from Ontario,” says Goldberg. “It’s a very accessible show deaf audiences, hard of hearing audiences, hearing audiences, blind audiences, deaf and blind audiences, just anyone. Sound Off seemed like it would be the perfect pairing. I hope to have more of these collaborations down the road because we’re all kind of the small festivals so the more we can share our resources and support each other through combining efforts to bring really exciting projects to Edmonton, the better.”

Sound Off, which is curated by local actor, playwright and advocate Chris Dodd, will be pulling in more than 20 artists from across the country for the eigth iteration of the festival. In addition to Speaking Vibrations, the festival will be presenting five other mainstage shows: The Red Rose Bleeds — the story of a Deaf serial killer, Disorder — a hearing and Deaf dance collaboration from Montreal, But the Truth Is … — a large cast comedy and drama, Lumina, which features 5 Deaf clowns from Montreal, and Theatresports: Sound Off Edition featuring both Deaf and hearing improvisers with no language allowed. Tickets for the festival range from free entry to pay what you can, available at



Where Various venues listed at

When Feb 29 to March 10

Tickets Ranging from free entry to an all-access pass for $159 at

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