June 24, 2021

By Jack Parkinsonjpbottles

To most people, a night shift is a time to work. But once a year in Kitchener, the night shift becomes a time of art and recreation.

Night\Shift 2014 came to downtown Kitchener Nov. 1. Festival organizers had two goals: to provide thought-provoking art experiences for the average citizen, and expose local artists to a wider audience than normal.

Night\Shift is organized and hosted by the Alternatives Journal, an environmental publication which has been operating since 1971.

There were 40 one-night-only attractions spread out across downtown Kitchener. The air was chilly but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from attending the event, which included interpretive dance, a montage of short films projected on the side of a building, a game of Pong with tire-sized controllers, flash mobs and live music performances, to name a few.

It was a perfect fit for Matt White, whose play entitled Andy Warhol presents: Valerie appeared at Night\Shift, with several showings that ended past midnight.

The play is a fictionalized account of the titular artist’s relationship with Valerie Solanas, the extremist feminist who ultimately shot Warhol. White’s intentions with the play are to be “entertaining, but hopefully while we entertain you, we challenge something,” he said in an interview.

White is originally from Kitchener, where his career in theatre started, but he moved to Toronto because that is where there are more opportunities.

“When I was starting out there really wasn’t enough work to sustain a career,” he said.
“Toronto felt like New York at the time.”

White spent many years in Toronto, but returned to Waterloo Region in August 2013 because he said there was much more happening in the area by then.

Andy Warhol presents: Valerie was first performed in July the following year and met with a very positive initial reception. The same was true for Night\Shift.

“What I saw with Night\Shift was a whole new radical audience,” said White, and he looks forward to bringing more invigorating theatre to the region.

But there was more at the festival than just art – many restaurants, cafes and food services were at the event, with staff making sure everyone had the option to appreciate the art on a full stomach and to stay warm on that chilly November night.

Victoria Kent, owner of the Yeti Cafe, spoke highly of the event. Kent and her employees were part of the hot drink passport offered at the event, which allowed attendees to pay $9 in exchange for several hot beverages at a variety of booths. Regular service was also available – as regular as things get at the Yeti, anyway. The cafe’s passport drink was “dirty yeti milk,” a mixture of cinnamon coffee, almond and coconut milk, and raw honey.

Keeping with the theme, one of Kent’s employees was wearing a yeti costume she had found in her boyfriend’s father’s basement. Something clicked, because Kent and her staff ended up serving more than 500 cups of coffee that night.

“It was a scramble to keep up,” she said.

And that is what Night\Shift is all about – a mad scramble to keep up with all the insightful art happening in Kitchener’s downtown.

For more information about Night\Shift, contact the Alternatives Journal or go to www.nightshiftwr.ca.

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