Mary-Louise Albert is in her ninth year as the Artistic Managing Director the Chutzpah! Festival and the Norman Rothstein Theatre. Mary-Louise joined me for lunch recently at Vancouver FanClub. Mary-Louise has danced professionally for over 17 years and has worked with the Judith Marcuse Dance Company, the Karen Jamieson Dance Company and the Anna Wyman Dance Theatre, among other companies and also enjoyed an impressive independent and solo career. Through the DTRC, she received a full retraining grant to attend Capilano College’s Advanced Arts and Entertainment Management Program, and the Eric Bruhn Memorial Award to study Technology in Business Administration at the British Columbia Institute of Technology’.

The Chutzpah! Festival is a dynamic, multi-disciplinary performing arts festival which takes place every February in Vancouver over a four-week period. Embracing a broad spectrum of high-caliber programming in dance, theatre and music, the festival strives to foster artistic growth and provide a platform on which artists and their work can flourish.

How did you end up becoming the Artistic Director of the Chutzpah Festival?

I danced professionally then went to business school. I performed at the 1stChutzpah Festival as a dancer, and I wanted to stay in the arts after leaving dance. The previous Director was leaving, and the position was advertised, I applied and I got it.

I understand you danced professionally for over 17 years, tell us about your love for dance and how it has become a large component in the Chutzpah Festival today

It’s truly because I was a working professional dancer. I love the art form and the Norman Rothstein Theatre is perfect for dance. From 2008 onwards the presence of dance in the program has grown.

What drives you to succeed leading such an esteemed cultural performance arts festival in Vancouver?

I have a strong work ethic, I think the training and background as a dancer and I tend to put my whole self into it. The world is competitive and there should be a level of excellence to be able to stay in the game. I am driven.

What challenges a festival such as yours today in Vancouver?

The excellence of the competition around me, such as good theatre, dance and music in Vancouver. It makes January, February and March a time for people to get out and see shows.

How far in advance do you plan your productions?

Sometimes a couple of years ahead, also planning the next theatre event for 2014 with our partner Touchstone.

What do you look for when programming artists/entertainers into this Chutzpah Festival?

Combination of what fits our mission, level of artistic and technical ability. Mixing of cultures. What is an interesting mix to bring to Vancouver and what will the city support. The artistic level, may not be known by people outside of their home country.

What are your favourite foods?

  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Middle Eastern

What are your favourite restaurants in Vancouver ?

  • Take Sushi
  • Horizons on Burnaby Mountain

What do you do in your off time?

  • Searching for pieces of second hand wooden furniture, I then paint them all sorts of colours and arrange them in my living spaces.
  • Watching movies
  • Workout on the treadmill
  • Family life

Where was your most recent productions trip?

New York, Toronto and Israel to find new artists.

Does Chutzpah Festival in Vancouver attract any artists that perform in the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto?

Eric Stein who is the Director of the Ashkenaz Festival is a friend and colleague of mine, I go to his festival frequently and we have coordinated artist tours together. I heard Klezmerata Fiorentina at Ashkenaz before I brought them to Vancouver and they are coming back to join us again at this years festival .

If you weren’t working in the arts, what would you be doing?

Something in business

Tell our readers about Family Day at this year’s Chutzpah Festival

It is knew this year, February 11th is the new public holiday and we have programmed around it. In connection with the JCC we are presenting Children’s entertainer Will Stroet.

Tell our readers about the 2013 Chutzpah Festival, what are some of the highlights that we should know?

  • All 3 dance performances: Lesley Telford and Itzik Galili, AMP Sidra Bell Dance New York & LEVYdance, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company at the Norman Rothstein Theatre
  • Yemen Blues at Venue
  • The Idan Raichel Project at the Vogue Theatre
  • Itamar Borochov Quartet at Cory Weeds Cellar Jazz Club
  • Haunted – with our partner Touchstone Theatre at the Norman Rothstein Theatre

What do you want to accomplish with the Chutzpah Festival over the next few years?

  • To carry on with the same level of excellence.
  • Our residency program
  • Support artists and new work