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Ivan E Coyote makes a pit stop in Montreal

Storyteller keeps things fresh, show after show

Credit: James Loewen photo, ivanecoyote.com

Renowned Canadian author and performer, Ivan E Coyote makes a highly anticipated pit stop in Montreal for an evening of storytelling on Tue, Oct 20. As Coyote’s first solo show in the city since 2008, Montrealers will be treated to a unique incarnation of Chest Air that is tailored for a predominantly queer audience.

“A good storyteller always thinks about who their audience is going to be” says Coyote. “A good storyteller is a good listener too, ironically. You’re listening to the audience and it goes back to picking out the right piece for the right place.”

Often called a “natural-born storyteller” with hundreds of performances under her belt, the self-proclaimed “road dog of Canada” is continuously improving and perfecting her craft.

“I did 232 live performances in the year 2008 and I learned something from every single one of them. I never once did a perfect show and there was always something that I could have done better… [Storytelling] comes natural to a point, but in order to make it something that you do professionally it’s just like any other job… To get it to look like it comes naturally is actually a lot of hard work just like any practice.”

Though Coyote has performed Chest Air in other Canadian cities, Montreal audiences will experience the evening of storytelling for the first time on Tuesday. While some storytellers perform the same set list city after city, “I always try to incorporate new material into my shows as much as possible,” says Coyote. “It’s not like when you go see a band and you want them to play the song you’ve been playing on repeat over and over again in your car for the last six months. They don’t want that from storytellers. They always want something new.”

Unabashedly addressing issues of class, family and gender roles in her writing, Coyote’s effortless delivery of her “kitchen table stories” resonates universally with audiences across borders of age, culture, sexuality and gender.

“Ultimately, I still look like what I look like. I still am who I am and I don’t pull any punches with my work,” she says. “I’m not out to alienate anybody and I’m an artist who kind of has a privileged position in that I get to speak as a queer performer to quite a range of audiences now, so I take that seriously. Because in some way, I’m sort of an ambassador.”

As her audiences get bigger and bigger, Coyote notes “the straighter everything gets.” While she is perfectly content with her growing popularity, performing for full-on queer audiences allows her to “totally let ‘er rip. I don’t have to worry about things like: ‘Oh no, I said the word dildo.’

“But [with] that said, the other thing I love about what I get to do is that I get to tell conventional stories to a bunch of little old ladies about my grandma and they think it’s so cute… so nice… and then it’s like, ‘Okay ladies, now you’re on my side, now try this one.'”

Ivan E Coyote: Chest Air.
Tue, Oct 20, 8pm.
Leacock Building, room 219, 855 Sherbrooke St W.

Admission is free. For more information, call (514) 398-2176.

Read Ivan E Coyote’s monthly column on Xtra.ca.