Local comedian David C Jones’s entire life revolves around making people laugh – it’s something he attributes to being a gay kid growing up in the 1980s.
“I was terrified of being gay; I hid a lot in high school. I was terminally shy, but I had something in me wanting to bust out and express myself,” says the 48-year-old, one of many performers who will be featured at In the House, East Van’s well-hidden gem of a festival, June 7 to 9.
“I was so repressed and so bullied that I found I could disarm people by making them laugh. When I was performing,” Jones says, “I wasn’t necessarily performing as an out gay person, but if I was onstage and I was making them laugh, I felt accepted.”
Jones will perform a 30-minute mÃ©lange of comedy, song and dance during the Cabaret Capers show on opening night. The Bobbers, the queer improv troupe that he founded, will also be onstage Sunday afternoon.
It’s a fun challenge to perform in such a diverse space, he says, in front of an eclectic audience that really reflects the east side.
“It has a queer sensibility without a queer agenda,” he says, adding it’s not often you have a festival that gathers together artists, working professionals, gay folks, families and seniors.
In the House is a community event that encompasses all kinds of people and orientations, agrees organizer Myriam Steinberg. “It’s about building community and doing that through arts and culture that spans so many different genres and people and styles.”
“We try to build that all in a really safe environment and an open, friendly space where things can be shared and any kind of discrimination is not tolerated,” she adds.
“It’s a tipping-point year for us,” she notes, as the festival quietly enters its 10th year.
“People are really starting to see what can be accomplished and realizing that the arts and sense of community reaches beyond the Commercial Drive neighbourhood. I want people to bring that into their everyday life.”
As the festival’s name suggests, shows featuring everything from music, to dance, theatre, magic, puppets and more take place in and around people’s homes, creating an intimate experience that encourages mingling of neighbours, spectators and artists.
It’s the intimacy that draws the Mind of a Snail puppet company back year after year.
Co-creator ChloÃ© Ziner says she and her puppeteering partner, Jessica Gabriel, have performed every year since the festival’s inception because the intimacy and connection the event offers is unlike anything else.
“It’s very welcoming,” Ziner says.
“When we do theatre performances, I would say there’s more of a wall between the audience and us,” she explains. But In the House attendees will be able to join Ziner and Gabriel in Steinberg’s own darkened living room, where everyone gets to participate by cutting out shadow puppets and acting out a musical story complete with instruments.