What a year it's been for Roxanne Duncan. After moving The Theatre Centre into its new $6.2-million home in Toronto last March, she was named managing director of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in Vancouver. In her new position, she has been instrumental in overseeing PuSh's move, along with three other cultural organizations, into a new collective space in the CBC building. Now, she's about to launch her first PuSh Festival.
The Globe and Mail met with Ms. Duncan this week in the new office, where she seemed remarkably calm.
Your first PuSh Festival opens next week. How are you feeling?
I'm feeling great. I'm very pleasantly surprised at how unchaotic the office actually feels.
Not only do you have a new job but you've had this move into a new space, and now you're launching the festival. How are you managing?
It's been a busy six months. To come into two huge things at once was a pretty steep adjustment. I'm already trying to acclimatize physically to Vancouver and the rent and the weather. I think if anything [the move] made the time it took to really wrap my head around PuSh operations probably a little bit longer, but it was actually fantastic because it was a great opportunity for me to make pretty serious connections with other leaders and partners in the community. That might have taken a lot longer had we not been doing this. So to be kind of thrown into that gave me a chance to really plug in to the community and the city itself and the relationship between the city and culture.
What sort of observations have you made about how the Vancouver cultural scene differs from Toronto?
I don't want to be baited into Toronto versus Vancouver; the only time I really get into that dialogue is around 12:30 at night when I'm trying to hail a taxi, those are the moments where I'm really like, Toronto for the win on taxi-cab service. But everything else has been really fantastic. Vancouverites are lovely people and the cultural community here is a little bit smaller, but there's just as many interesting, amazing things happening and the good work is as good. I think there's a stronger sense of community, probably because it's a little bit smaller – and because it's a region that has a feast-and-famine kind of relationship with its public funding in particular, and it's a lot harder to get private support because head offices [are often located elsewhere]. But again the flipside of that is because it's such a tough go of it sometimes, I think it's created this incredibly supportive, really well-integrated cultural scene.
Why did you want to work for PuSh?
I had my eye on PuSh for a long time actually. I sort of cut my teeth producing in Edinburgh, and when I first came back to Toronto I was working with a company called Volcano Theatre and one of the first things I did was produce the tour of The Four Horsemen Project to the PuSh Festival and that really put it on my radar. I was excited to see that a lot of the work I had seen when I was in the international festival context was happening at PuSh. That seemed to be the place in Canada where that kind of work was being programmed. I was consistently, every year, really impressed with the work that was happening there but actually, full disclosure, I had not come to Vancouver to participate in the PuSh Festival.
So this is going to be the first time you're attending?
Yes. I finally get to go to the PuSh Festival.
This interview has been condensed and edited. The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival runs Jan. 20-Feb. 8.