The new Tremors Festival: Interview with Artistic Director Stephen Drover

Dec 19 2017, 8:40 pm

In 2007, Rumble created the Tremors Festival, originally a 2-week run of plays created by emerging companies. The new evolution of Tremors focuses on providing mentorship to individual emerging artists rather than emerging companies, and throwing a great party.

Each night, three shows (TrainspottingThis is War, and The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide) are performed simultaneously in different spaces in the Russian Hall. When the shows are over, everyone sticks around for a big after-show party with the artists which will include (depending on the night) slam poetry, a drag show, burlesque or live music. It’s the Fringe meets HIVE – with a twist, and three bars.

In this interview, the Artistic Director of Rumble, Stephen Drover takes us through the conception and evolution of the Tremors Festival.

How has Tremors evolved since its inception?

In the early 2000s, Rumble had an annual series called The Young and the Restless: every year, one emerging company would be given a slot in Rumble’s season to show a play they had developed or produced. In 2007, then Artistic Producer Craig Hall founded Tremors. At first it was an annual event but soon became biennial (every 2 years). It kinda expanded on The Young and the Restless series with a 2 or 3-week festival that presented the work of promising young companies such as Atomic Vaudeville, Main Street Theatre and The Chop. At this stage, Rumble was the presenter: we provided a venue, marketing, advice and a fee to young companies who had either a previously-produced work or were developing a new production. Now, with a new Tremors, we’ve evolved a commitment to emerging talent by focusing on individual artists and providing them with discipline-specific mentorship.

Why the focus on individual emerging artists rather than emerging companies?

So now Rumble chooses the plays, assembles the creative teams and provides the production resources. We’re not showing the work of other companies, but rather selecting scripts that reflect Rumble’s vision of gritty, contemporary, narrative-driven dramas.

I suppose we’re doing this for a few reasons:

  • it’s an effective way to foster artists’ development in that they are relieved of the burden of producing. Young artists do not have to worry about raising money for sets or assembling artistic teams – they can focus on honing their crafts. So young artists do not have to form a theatre company in order to make some theatre.
  • We can help cross-pollinate (and thus develop) the theatre community by assembling creative teams that otherwise might not work together. A promising graduate from a training program would not have to spend years getting to know the community, making colleagues, forming a company and building some work in order to practice. We can place them in an exciting theatre process with like-minded new peers and offer them mentorship with professional theatre artist
  • There are at least six post-secondary institutions offering specialized theatre training in the Greater Vancouver Area, annually releasing dozens of new theatre artists into the community. This regular groundswell of talent presents some exciting theatrical possibilities for a company and for young artists who need somewhere to focus their new skills.
  • It’s an investment in the future of our work. We are effectively building early relationships with burgeoning professionals, the future talent pool of our community. It is my dream that Rumble will eventually hire as professionals the artists we once mentored as emerging. (We’ve actually already started to do that). Also, by fostering meaningful one-on-one interactions between emerging and established artists, the focus is not only on making a cool show, but – just as much – on investing in them as artists.

How will the professional mentors work with the emerging artists?

In many ways, it’s up to the mentor and the protégé to decide how the mentorship will work. We are just the match-maker. Mentorship should not be a process but a relationship. It’s a special friendship that is contrived to guide the protégé through their work, connect the mentor with young artists who will someday be their colleagues and provide inspiration to both. Thus far, in some cases, mentors are coming to rehearsals, having coffee dates with the young artists, offering one-on-one coaching sessions and introducing them to other professionals.

Originally the event ran for two weeks in a more standard format, how will the four-day run work this time around?

We are looking at the event as a 4-day theatre party: one that includes three exciting plays framed with a community-oriented party atmosphere, like a cross between HIVE and the Fringe festival. Each night will include a single performance of each of the three shows on our docket. The shows will start at different times but all finish at the same time. For instance, Trainspotting will start at 8pm in the basement of the Russian Hall, This is War will start at 8:30pm in the upstairs studio and The 4th Graders present an Unnamed Love-Suicide will start at 9pm in the main hall. You get to see one show each night (like going to a cinema: there are a bunch of movies playing, but you generally go to see one per night) so repeat visits will allow you to see the full line-up. All three shows finish around 10pm. At that time, audiences gather in the main hall for after-party events featuring emerging artists from other performing arts in the community: on Wednesday there will be a burlesque show, on Thursday a poetry slam, on Friday a drag show, on Saturday afternoon a tea party and on Saturday night live music. It’s a great way to get fans of different arts together for a fun time. There will be food trucks outside and a bar in each performance venue for drinks before, during and after the shows.

Why should people attend Tremors?

Everyone loves a party and this one has it all: productions of three biting, edgy scripts that have never been done in Vancouver; a sneak peak at some of the most exciting talent to soon hit Vancouver stages; burlesque dancers, drag queens, musicians, slam poets, food trucks and plenty of beer. Why wouldn’t you come??

Anything else to add?

Tickets are cheap! Each show costs only $15 per ticket. Each after-show party is only 5 bucks (but is free if you saw a show that night). And passes are $45 for 4 tickets. Best deal in town, if you ask me.

Tremors runs from November 12-15, 2014 at 8:00pm at The Russian Hall (600 Campbell Avenue). Tickets can be purchased at

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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