The theatres are empty, the tents are down, and the bars are swept. In The Soil has come a close after another packed weekend of music, theatre, and visual art. Here’s what our four Dartcritics had to say about the festival.

Hayley Malouin writes: 

The name In The Soil is important. It implies that the artistry and creative exploration that is so integral to the festival is always present. It’s underground; it’s potential; it’s always there. The festival acts like a special kind of gardener, who sees these pockets of potential and encourages them to sprout.

In the soil feature

In The Soil. Well, of course there are the obvious connotations: homegrown, independent, rural, art amidst the agriculture. But there is more than this. In The Soil means a state of constant evolution. It’s changing, morphing into better and newer versions of itself. I see such evidence of this process over the last two years, even within Suitcase in Point themselves (congratulations of the amazing new digs, folks!).

What makes In The Soil so special is its commitment to community. Last year DARTCritics was still fairly new – no one seemed very sure who we were or what we were doing; honestly, most of the time neither did we. This year, I felt that not only were our voices an integral part of the critical dialogue so desperately needed in St. Catharines, but that we were a part of the festival itself. We are all a community: artist, audience member, and critic. Herein lies another nod to our agricultural surroundings: we too are becoming self-sufficient, providing our own artists with the critical feedback needed to grow.

Coming back this past weekend to see the festival so rooted (oh yes, pun intended) was something really special; I felt as though I was witnessing a kind of artistic summoning. The festival just exploded out of James Street, like a conjuring of talent, passion and love. It wasn’t an addition to the cityscape; it was always there, underground, and we were lucky enough to see it bloom.

Alex Jackson Writes: 

Seeing all the local artists come together on James Street made me proud to be a Dramatic Arts student in the St. Catharines community. Among the local artists and headlining performers, St. Catharines was booming with a variety of craft and skill. In the Soil’s diverse set list allowed the festival to be a great success.

Every resident had their own personal experience with local art being created right here in the heart of downtown St. Catharines. The atmosphere over the weekend was contagious from the talented musicians, organized by musical director Joe Lapinski, to the interactive Rhizomes installation. They left a fabulous first impression on this DARTCritic. Each and every volunteer, managed by Anah Shabbar, should be thanked for their dedication, time, and effort that made the festival a success.

In the Soil ended with a dirty bang thanks to Suitcase in Point’s fourth annual Dirty Cabaret. Festival organizers Jones, Wilson, and fellow actors unwound, leaving friends of the festival laughing and a little sad to see the bittersweet end. In the Soil 2015 was a huge success for the St. Catharines arts community, bringing the attention artists deserve and need in this booming arts community.

Elizabeth Amos writes:

This year was my first experience at In the Soil and I could not be happier to have been a part of it.  The variety of theatre, performances, and exhibits was extensive and opened my eyes to the talent and passion that St. Catharines has to offer. There is a place for everyone of every skill level at In the Soil, and I believe it is important that performers and artists both established and emerging are able to find an audience here.

The Dartcritics enjoy Radio Radio: (from left to right) Elizabeth Amos, Hayley Malouin, Alex Jackson, and Nick Leno.

The Dartcritics enjoy Radio Radio: (from left to right) Elizabeth Amos, Hayley Malouin, Alex Jackson, and Nick Leno.

The diversity of the performances this year was vast.  From Zuppa Theatre’s incorporation of food for a complete sensory experience, to an intimate and intricate Pinter play, to a pair of ridiculously hilarious clowns, entertainment for every brand of spectator was offered.  Exhibitions like the Rhizomes also offer a completely unique format for atypical and mixed media performance art.  I believe the festival can help to invigorate the arts community in the region and, as its name suggests, cultivate home-grown talent by providing a platform for it to blossom.

Beyond contributing to the arts culture in St. Catharines, the festival also enables local businesses to see more foot traffic and is a way to improve the downtown core, bringing the community together with plenty of free and accessible musical performances and attractions, and opportunities for local artisans at the vendor fair.

I will be certain to attend In the Soil next year, and I hope that the energy and appetite for art that I felt from the community downtown this weekend remains until then.

Nick Leno Writes:

As an audience and media member, In The Soil always happens so fast. Tents pop up, décor and food trucks appear, bands and shows load in, performance after performance takes place, drinks and cheers are made, and before we know it Suitcase In Point has hundreds of us crowded around for their send-off Cabaret. While this seamlessness is the mark of any successful festival, over the last two years I have witnessed a community whose support for homegrown talent sprouts a festival to remember right down to the last dirty joke. I promise, for the sake of everyone’s mental health, that is my one and only soil pun.

Seriously, congratulations to Annie Wilson, Deanna Jones and the whole team of organizers on another successful festival. Running a festival of this size takes a small army of volunteers; the massive number of smiling faces wearing pink shirts was another indication of a community happy to serve the growing artistic hub of St. Catharines.

I aim to do my service by writing about work at In The Soil to ensure a dialogue is created between artists and the community. A big thank you to all our blog readers and Twitter followers; it is my hope that the coverage provided by DARTCritics enhanced your experience of the festival.

What was my favourite part of this year’s festival? Aside from the entire mainstage tent jumping up and down for Radio Radio, I’d have to say the Rhizomes. Not only did I experience many unique forms of media, I experienced a community. From dancers, to visual artists, to drunken teens, everyone was out celebrating the creations of friends and strangers alike in what was a cohesive expression of St. Catharines found within the abandoned offices of Corbloc. Well done all.

It does not stop here folks! DARTCritics wants to know what your favourite part of the festival was. Please dialogue with us, either below or on Twitter. We always want to hear what dirt you dug up on the festival. Looks like I lied about the puns after all. See you next year everyone!


About the Author


Leave a Reply