|Eric Moschopedis, the driving force behind Bubonic Tourist, gives a shit.
From their first production, Nude (in) Fusion, presented at the now closed Daniel Sponagles Center of Contemporary Art & Mischief, to their last festival, Hoot Hoot Hoot: A Festival of the Operaesque held at Motel (a space they co-opened with One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre and the Epcor Centre), its been quite a ride. With their recent success as a young company (festivals in Calgary and Whitehorse, a company residency in the Epcor Centre, opening the performance space Birds and Stone, etc.) one must ask why would Bubonic Tourist shut down now?
"The easiest answer is that we are shutting down because I am going back to school in the fall," says artistic director Eric Moschopedis. "It was really unexpected, but is also really great for me."
Moschopedis, who has always resisted pigeonholing the various artistic disciplines, had been looking for a suitable university masters of arts program for a number of years.
"It just so happened that the perfect program opened up in my home town," he says. "It is interdisciplinary which is hugely important to me
I think that I'll have an opportunity to reconcile my conceptual understanding of performance and the world with the practical application of it in the industry."
After the company and its board of directors conversed about possible options without Moschopedis, they decided that Bubonic Tourist going dormant would be the best choice.
"Although many people have played vital roles in Bubonic Tourist over the past six years, Eric has always been the driving force behind the company," says company member and president Ethan Cole, noting they are keeping their registered non-profit status. "Although it is sad for us to be closing shop, we're very proud of the legacy we leave behind. It's been a real privilege to have played an important part in this community, and we all look forward to continuing to do so, in new and diverse ways."
"It might be absurd to say, but I think this is a really great thing actually, shutting down so quickly, I mean. Bubonic Tourist did some really amazing work in a very short period of time and really sparked, nurtured and invigorated a community of innovative and emerging artists," Moschopedis says. "We programmed nearly 550 artists in six years, and 99 per cent of that was innovative, original and ground-breaking work. That said, we were definitely becoming a commodity, and that wasn't what Bubonic Tourist was ever about. So for us to be ending on such a high note with so many accomplishments and momentum seems a bit radical."
Moschopedis notes that the work Bubonic Tourist did including successful festivals such as the Mutton Busting Performing and Visual Arts Festival, PIPE (Performance in Peculiar Environments), and Plink Plink Plink Festival of 120 Second Dance was valuable for the arts community locally and nationally. However, he believes Bubonic Tourist ran the danger of losing its original intention.
"My plan now as an individual is to head deeper underground for a number of years. I want to present work and create work that isn't dependent on funding, or audience or any of the economics involved in Bubonic Tourist's work. I can think of a number of artists in Calgary who are already doing this and it is inspiring. This is what Calgary needs now," he says, adding hell look to use free spaces that arent theatres: living rooms, basements, backyards and the like.
The number of artists affected by the tireless efforts of Bubonic Tourist is a testament to their legacy.
"It is sad to see them leave, but sometimes going away is necessary in all stages of an artist's development," says Maple Salsa Theatres artistic director Javier Vilalta. "If Eric believed that going back to school was the right decision, it will probably reflect in the future. He has always been one of the most ambitious individuals in Calgary's arts community, and this absence should be looked at as growth
Their company members enthusiasm and passion has always provided encouragement and inspiration, not only to us, but to dozens of aspiring creators of many disciplines."
"Eric was fearless in his programming. He put a lot of confidence in the artist and trusted that the performers and the performance would take care of itself," says performer and Broken Spoke Theatres creator Brad Payne. "Maybe that says more about his esthetic, but I can't think of a more encouraging philosophy than trust your artist."
"Bubonic Tourist and the tireless Eric Moschopedis in particular were very much a source of support and inspiration to myself and to the Calgary arts scene," says native Calgarian and Vancouver poet Nikki Reimer. "The Mutton Busting Festival allowed the emerging arts community to come together to create, explore and play in a dynamic environment rarely found in Calgary's oft-corporatized atmosphere."
"Bubonic Tourist brought multi-disciplinary works into the spotlight," adds local artist Ella Simon. "As an emerging artist, I have been able to put up several shows with the help of Bubonic Tourist, which I know I would not have been able to otherwise. They not only provided me with space, but also encouraged me to produce more works. This is definitely a rarity in any city. I also know of other theatre companies and artists that got their start due to the help of Bubonic Tourist. It isn't that I think that they would not have ever gotten off the ground, however, Bubonic Tourist certainly made it easier for us to get our foot in the door."
"You know, I can think of a lot of artists we've worked with that will really change the world, that is the most wonderful and beautiful feeling," says Moschopedis. "What a giant honour to work with artists like Chris Dadge, Kristine Nutting, Chad VanGaalen or Genevieve Castrée and so many more. You know what these people have in common? A good heart and passion. They give a shit about people and that is a rare thing these days."
Eric credits company members Ethan Cole and Samuel Garrigo Meza (who quit last March) with making Bubonic Tourist successful. With all their shows and festivals, Moschopedis pinpoints opening their first performance space as a marker of their achievements.
"I think the greatest thing Bubonic Tourist ever did was opening Birds and Stone. It is a really beautiful little venue," he says of the space located in the basement of the Unitarian Church of Calgary (1703 1st Street N.W.). "Going to Birds and Stone was like a flight to Montreal or New York. You left the city for a time.
"Ending Bubonic Tourist is like a suicide," he adds. "So much of my identity was Bubonic Tourist and ending it all so suddenly is a bit of a death of what I did and who I am. Its funny, though we get to watch the funeral! It is like sitting on a couch next to your former self and mourning it! It is really strange to say, I used to.
From those of us who were fortunate enough to witness its evolution, goodnight Bubonic Tourist.