Ivan Coyote is a frequent visitor to Surrey, and this year is no different.
The acclaimed, well-travelled writer/storyteller returns here on Thursday, June 27 with Chest Air, the final show of the 2018-19 Surrey Spectacular season produced by Surrey Civic Theatres. Show time is 7:30 p.m. at Centre Stage, the city hall theatre that doubles as council chambers.
The event is a co-production with Surrey Pride, two nights prior to the organization’s 20th-anniversary party/festival, set for Saturday, June 29 at Central City Plaza.
Coyote’s Surrey show date will be a fly-in, fly-out one for the performer, who has moved from East Vancouver back to their old stomping grounds in the Yukon – for the summer, at the very least.
“My family is here still, and I’m turning 50 this summer and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want the next 10 years of my life to look like,” Coyote told the Now-Leader in a phone interview last week.
“I’ve been on the road pretty hardcore for the past 25 years, and pretty non-stop for the past 10 years, and I think it’s grinding me down a little bit. I want to stop the gerbil wheel a little bit, and I asked myself in what community would I be most effective, where I have the most to contribute and put back, and the Yukon feels like a place where I can do that.”
So, the award-winning author will spend the summer “off the grid, pretty much,” helping their father fix up his rural property, do some painting and fishing and also scouting the land for a site to a build a little cabin – all while trying to avoid some black bears recently spotted in the area. “They’ve been a problem – but I suppose we’re the problem, right,” Coyote noted. “They’re roaming around but I have bear spray, no problem.”
Coyote has written 11 books (with a 12th on the way), has created four short films and released three albums that combine storytelling with music.
A bio on Coyote’s website (ivancoyote.com) says the artist “often grapples with the complex and intensely personal issues of gender identity in their work, as well as topics such as family, class, social justice and queer liberation, but always with a generous heart, a quick wit, and the nuanced and finely-honed timing of a gifted raconteur.”
In Surrey, the Chest Air show will riff on many of the subjects covered in Coyote’s latest book, ReBent Sinner, to be published by Vancouver-based Arsenal Pulp Press this fall.
“There will be some new stuff, maybe a couple of oldies, so we’ll see how it goes,” Coyote explained. “I know for sure some of the pieces I’ll do, but I’m kind of building a special show for that night, and I haven’t fully nailed down the set list, still crafting it. Just yesterday I sent off the edits off for the book, the second major round of edits, so I’m not one of those artists who finish something and then shellac it and frame it and hang it on the wall, I’m always tweaking and changing, making room for a change and polishing it. I like to try new things and see if they work.”
For the new book, Coyote experimented with writing very short stories.
“I call them Literary Doritos, although I can’t technically call them that because I don’t want to be sued by an international, billion-dollar snack company,” Coyote said with a laugh. “But they’re really fun, they’re quick. It’s like building a stone fence out of gravel. I can really take the listener, or reader, on a journey with short little bits, so they’re fun performance-wise, because I can change them up and mix them up and go from a funny bit to a sad bit to a hard-hitting bit and back again, in a relatively short period of time.”
Coyote’s TED talk, one called “Why we need gender-neutral bathrooms,” has been viewed more than 1.6 million times online.
Also, Coyote has toured public schools around the world with an anti-bullying message, including a recent run of engagements at high schools in Surrey, in January and February.
“It was a series of 38 shows in 21 or 22 different schools, with a show specially made for that age group,” Coyote explained. “I used to do more of a general anti-bullying show but over the past couple years I’ve had more and more requests from schools to tackle and address trans issues, queer and non-binary issues at schools, so I tweaked the show and wrote some new stuff and made it more topical to address those issues head-on.
“I think I spoke to nearly 20,000 students in Surrey with that show,” Coyote added. “It sounds like a lot but it adds up quickly when you’re talking to 800 at a time, doing three shows a day at schools.”
Tickets for Coyote’s performance of Chest Air in Surrey range in price from $25 to $35 at tickets.surrey.ca, or call 604-501-5566. The show comes with an audience advisory for strong language. The venue is located at 13450 104th Ave.