Circle Game revisits iconic Joni Mitchell tunes


Circle Game: Reimagining the Music of Joni Mitchell, Firehall Arts Center, April 29 to May 20 (premieres until May 3). The cast of the set includes Kimmy Choi, David Z. Cohen, Rowen Kahn, Scott Perrie, Adriana Ravalli and Sara Vickruck. Tickets available from

The words of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell cross the generations in the musical performance Circle Game.

The messages in his lyrics helped define an era in the late ’60s and’ 70s and are now placed in a modern context through a reimagining of his music.

Until recently, Mitchell’s songs existed for her only as part of her parents’ playlist, says co-conspirator and production manager Anna Kuman.

In 2013, the year of Mitchell’s 70th birthday, Kuman and Andrew Cohen, collaborator and spouse, were intrigued by the renewed press around the legendary musician.

“That’s when we started to immerse ourselves in his lyrics and his music. At that time, we were truly overwhelmed by the poignantness of his words and the way that, even though they were written 40 years ago, they really spoke to us today, ”she says.

Mitchell’s early successes placed her in a time of change and turbulence for youth and young adults, with the emergence of modern feminism and the impact of the Vietnam War reflected in her music.

In 1970, Mitchell headlined a concert at the Pacific Coliseum that launched Greenpeace and funded their protests against nuclear weapons testing.

His activism through art is what drew Kuman and Cohen to his message as they began to realize the intense parallels between the issues of his youth and those facing millennials today.

In Kuman’s production, she focused on the political, environmental and economic commentary present in the lyrics of songs like “The Fiddle and the Drum”, “Big Yellow Taxi” and “All I Want”.

“Our experience now is to have these songs interpreted again in a modern way through the mouths of young people. “
Kuman says that through exploring Mitchell’s music, they refined a message of a sense of unmooring and a desire to find a connection in the community.

“We came back from a millennial perspective and we asked ourselves, with all this technology, does it help us to be more closely connected or does it make us feel more separated and more distant from each other? ? ” she says.

The idea of ​​community has changed considerably from when Mitchell performed in Toronto bars and New York cafes, but the issue of human relations and peer support remains relevant as young people and young people alike. artists create media to represent their generation.

With six interdisciplinary performers and 18 instruments, the group will create modern variations on Mitchell’s catalog.

The artists’ physical performance on stage will describe the story Mitchell’s lyrics describe, Kuman says.

“We didn’t add anything except his own words. In many of Joni’s lyrics she paints very vivid images of characters and circumstances, so we really tried to stick with that.

Kuman had three weeks to prepare for the production in 2014 with the help of Gillian Barber at Capilano University as the inaugural performance of the theater incubator project.

“At that time, we only had about 20 songs and we did a workshop presentation just to get everything together and see what we had.

They performed at the Arbutus Theater with three students enrolled in the same theater program Kuman graduated from in 2005.

“We really got to explore and experience the arrangements,” she says.

Now, with 28 songs on their setlist, audiences can expect “moments of intimacy along with moments of big, big, huge vocal and instrumental riffs” coupled with the passionate and timeless message Mitchell’s lyrics deliver.

The six-artist group carries on the legendary lyrics of the Canadian artist and will attempt to bridge a generational gap by breathing new life into Mitchell’s music.

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