Club PuSh brings cabaret feel to arts festival

PuSh International Performing Arts Festival organizers are billing the new Club PuSh as “a festival within the Festival”, but for executive director Norman Armour, it’s also a social-networking experiment on a fairly serious scale.

“How much networking and business goes on in bars?” he says with a laugh, reached on his cellphone. “So why not have it right here?”

“Here” is Performance Works, where Club PuSh will run Tuesday through Sunday from January 27 through February 7. The idea is to feature relatively low-tech presentations—whether musical, theatrical, performance art–oriented, or comedic—in a cabaret-style setting. But Armour also sees the 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. sessions as a way for artists to interact with other artists, as well as with their audience.

“We’ve always been looking for some idea of a social space; a bit of a hub,” he explains. “For me, trying to do a social club should be an expression of some aspect of the festival—the spirit of the festival. So the idea is a place that mixes disciplines, that allows for a kind of pared-down presentation, that’s intimate, that’s kind of intense—it’s what I imagine a jazz club in New York in the ’50s might have been like.”

Beboppers never encountered anything like Club PuSh’s Twenty-Minute Musicals, however. These short spectacles include accordion agitator Geoff Berner’s tribute to Steve Fonyo, a prison-themed soap opera from No Kids bandleader Nick Krgovich, and a cantata-style celebration of Craigslist from Veda Hille and Bill Richardson.

Armour is also jazzed about Trampoline Hall, an offshoot of the wildly popular Toronto lecture series; singer-songwriter Holcombe Waller; and monologist Mike Daisey’s Monopoly!.