Photo credit: Marc J Chalifoux

You probably remember Steve Pirot at Dirt Buffet Cabarets #9 and #28 under the stage moniker SPIROT. In February 2019, Steve, also known as Unkl Stiv, will be curating and hosting the interdisciplinary variety show. In advance of  Steve’s show, Dirt Buffet Cabaret founder Ben Gorodetsky talked to him over email about what we can expect on February 7.

Ben Gorodetsky: What kind of mood are you hoping to cultivate for the Feb 7 DBC you are curating? Will folks leave feeling different then when they walked in?

Steve Pirot: I dunno!!! Let’s find out! Mood? I dunno! I have intentions with regard to structure, theme, and flow, and to spotlight particular iHuman artists within a narrative of my own history with iHuman… what kind of mood is that? Contemplative? Maybe. Reflective? Maybe. Celebratory? I dunno. The artists I’m curating will have their own intentions and spirit which might run counter to my intentions. I think I know what they’re going to do, but… I dunno what they’re going to do until they do it. They don’t know what they’re going to to do until they do it. And then there’s the audience… who even are they? I dunno what the audience will be bringing into the room. I dunno the mood of the audience until they become the audience… will they feel different when it’s all over? I dunno! How did they feel before? I dunno? I dunno what the weather forecast will be much less the actual weather. Blizzard? Chinook? I dunno. I dunno! I dunno…. which is a pretty good summation of my approach to putting shows together: “I dunno…” followed by “…let’s find out”. TL:DR An I-dunno-let’s-find-out mood.

BG: Can you recall a time you felt genuine fear in a performance context? (inspired by a performer, or audience, or anything else)

SP: No. I’ve never been in a theatre that was literally on fire. I have been in a theatre where I have been asked to make believe that the theatre was on fire. Not the same thing. I had a moment where I was doing a one-man show and on opening night I got lost, and I was ‘afraid’ I’d have to stop the show to recalibrate. Oh no! Heaven forfend that the audience might be reminded that this is all make believe. I’ve sat in audiences and witnessed fearful emotions displayed by actors which have generated sympathetic rhythms of terror in myself. I’ve screamed at jump scares, and my heart rate has been elevated. I’ve been ‘afraid’ that the actors may have heard me snoring before my friend elbowed me back awake. There have been times that I have been very very very concerned – even to the point of genuine worry – that an audience member or performer might transgress the boundaries of accepted theatrical convention… but genuine fear? Nope. Any ‘fear’ I have felt has been an approximation mitigated by the safety net of fiction. I have never been involved in a performance that compares to those episodes of panic & paralysis when the threat to my physical person or mental sanity was real and unpredictable. I’ve bled on stage, I’ve puked on stage, I’ve been naked in national controversy, but am I to equate those uncomfortable experiences with the helplessness of an infant separated from its parents, the terror of paranoid psychosis, or the trauma of being caught in the midst of armed military conflict? Hell, no. Unless we are genuine sadists or genuine masochists, we should not strive to create or find moments of genuine fear as artists or audiences. Trauma is terrible. This is why we have trigger warnings; because genuine fear is fucking awful.  If either the performers or the audience feel genuine fear, then something has gone very wrong, and I have been fortunate to have never experienced performance that has gone that far off the rails.

BG: Through your work with iHuman and NextFest you have mentored many generations of young artists. Who is a mentor who made an impact on your journey?

SP: The most notable of my mentors (especially in the context of my work with younger artists) has been Tom Peacock. Tom Peacock is a leader in post-secondary actor training in this country, and I was fortunate enough to be a member of one of the last classes during his leadership of the U of A’s BFA Acting program.  Pretty much every choice I have made as a creator, facilitator, and presenter is influenced by his principled teachings. Some of those teachings were directly received while I was formally his student, and they relate to my interactions with younger artists. Some of those teachings were based on my appreciation of the choices he made in shaping his career, and have had significant impact on how I have modelled my own journey.

BG: What do you think Edmonton needs in 2019?

SP: Freely available, plentiful, comprehensive public transit.

BG: If you could curate anyone (living or dead, local or global) for a DBC, who would it be?

SP: Bjork. No, wait… David Byrne. No, wait… Tanya Tagaq. No, wait… Reggie Watts. No wait… Olena Podluzhnaya? Joshua Abraham Norton? Cicero? Nina Simone? Claude Francois? Mae West?

Dirt Buffet Cabaret with guest host/curator Steve Pirot
Thursday, February 7 @ 8 PM
$10 at the door