Angst, but the show must go on: a digital production

Photo by Chris Stenberg

Shane Koyczan will share his passionate and empathetic observations of humankind in an online performance via the Chan Centre on March 12. Backed by his band during the show, the Penticton-based author and spoken word poet will lead a heartfelt and earnest performance around topics of social isolation, depression, social media and other challenging themes.

“It’s a weird time in the world where, you know, we can’t build without trust and yet it’s become one of the casualties of this entire thing. And a lot of it is because we’re trying so hard to hold on to what we have that it’s crumbling in our grasp. We’re the ones who are destroying it,” says Koyczan. “And so, I don’t have an answer in terms of like, here’s where hope lies for people. But I guess I see it in our potential, what we can be, versus what we are.”

Performing in the pandemic

It has been a strange and difficult year for many, with Koyczan being no exception. And though he may be Canada’s most well-known spoken word artist, Koyczan says the pandemic has proved inarguably stranger and more difficult than usual.

Before the pandemic, Koyczan tells of having two years of shows and performances lined up and ready to go before being dashed by COVID-19 restrictions. Holding a mix of hope and concern, Koyczan wonders what a return of the arts scene will look like following the end of the social distancing measures.

“One of the brilliant things about art is that it evolves, you know, it changes shape with what it has to fit into,” says Koyczan. “[But] will there be spoken word poetry in the future though? I don’t know. And those things sort of keep me up. It keeps evolving and changing and I don’t know what it’s gonna look like at the end of it. I don’t know if there’s going to be like arts festivals. But I certainly hope there is.”

Koyczan also presages a bottleneck of popular artists and performers getting priority to perform at what should inevitably be a decreased number of performance venues. For now, Koyczan, like many other artists, is making the most of the pre-recorded so-called ‘live’ show genre, despite the unfamiliarity with this brand of performance.

“I’m really nervous about this show in particular. Filming it is so different in terms of being in empty spaces and not having people there with you and really showing that isolation and what it’s doing,” says Koyczan. “I’m not even having to walk out on stage and do a show to a live audience. That is an absolutely terrifying thing. I feel more scared about this show than I have for any other.”

Hope and gratitude

Unfamiliar and daunting as this performance is, Koyczan has found some catharsis in his creative outlet, finding it to be a means of escape from an especially isolated living experience in his home in Penticton.

“It’s always good to be working. You get a sense of accomplishment at the end of writing something. That gives you a boost,”
he says.

Koyczan makes it very clear that this is, at times, a sincerely difficult show. As Koyczan has never been a stranger to honestly engaging with both the highs and lows of the human experience, he feels that creating a show that contained ‘the answer’ to fighting the pandemic would be disingenuous.

“I think for me, working through this show in particular, there was so much venom and so much anger and despair that I didn’t know what to cut,”
he explains.

However, Koyczan is far from hopeless. Instead, he says that a key takeaway for people is to continue to actively value and put effort into one of the many important things the pandemic has done so much to strain: friendship.

“I’m grateful for the people that do that heavy lifting of friendship. I don’t want to speak for everybody, but there feels like there’s a disconnect coming where a friendship maybe is not as valuable a commodity as it used to be. And to me it’s kind of everything,” says Koyczan.

For more information on the event, visit

For more info on Koyczan, visit