Regina, Treaty 4: Jayden Pfeifer

photo by Zoe Schneider, intro by Nichole Huck

photo by Zoe Schneider, intro by Nichole Huck

I once took part in an improv workshop led by Jayden Pfeifer. I learned that in improv the most important thing is to say yes. To accept everything that happens as an offer or gift and we then build off of whatever is given. This is clearly a principle Jayden has adopted in all aspects of his life. He is one of the founding members of the General Fools Improv Theatre group. He helped create and nurture an improv scene in Regina and has stayed active ever since, running improv games, workshops and festivals. While many of the original crews of General Fools have scattered to different parts of North America, Jayden has chosen to stay in Regina. ‘Make your scene better’ is the title of his highly inspiring TEDx Talk. Jayden is passionate about making Regina a better, more interesting place to be.

KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?

I host Red Hot Riot, a semi-monthly variety show featuring comedy, music, special guests, etc. Its akin to a live late night talk show, I play the ringmaster in the middle of it. I run a monthly show at the Regina Public Library Film Theater called Talkies. Basically we watch a bad film, and my co-host Warren and I make fun of it. The audience is welcome to weigh in, and all the proceeds go to the Regina Food Bank. I’m also working on my MFA, with a focus on improvisation. Amidst all this, I’m one half of Dream Agreement, a company that I run with my partner, Johanna Bundon. We do a lot of things, but at the heart of it is a focus on the tenets of improvisation, creative expression, and the city — specifically this city. In my spare time, I’m a Board member of the Queen City Hub, which is a little non-profit trying to activate communities and citizens in Regina to help make us a more dynamic and welcoming place. And there’s a few things simmering in the background somewhere that don’t have names or plans yet.

KC: What’s your day job? What do you like about it? What’s challenging?

My day job is essentially whatever projects I’m involved in, so right now thats primarily working on my Masters and creating and performing in live shows. I teach sessionally at the U of R and run the Canadian Improv Games for Saskatchewan as well. But primarily my job is cobbling together projects I love and trying to forge a living from that. It’s my favourite way to work, there’s a momentum and scrappiness to it that I love.

KC: What’s important to you?

Improvisation, in all things. Being honest about what’s happening right now, even when that’s hard. My son, Amos, who is almost seven and totally on fire these days. My partner, Johanna, who is the wildest and wisest artist and collaborator. Being in active and evolving relationships to the people around me, whether that’s a barista or an audience or a student. I love how possible that is in a smaller centre. Good coffee.

KC: What do you like most/least about Regina?

I don’t think Regina is a place where you can create without keeping the city in mind, and I love that. I want to make things because of my city, not in spite of it. Regina’s arts scene is small and young enough that our disciplines and “scenes” haven’t been defined by institutions, there’s a lot of room to be inventive if you can gut out the solitude. Those can all be seen as negatives about living here too, but I try to see them as opportunities. I like the under-doggedness of it all, at its best it makes us work hard and stay humble. Regina can be an intolerant and insensitive place too, but I see that as a reason to stay here and make things.

KC: What is your impression of Saskatoon?

Saskatoon always seems like a city that celebrates its artists’ achievements - I like that a lot. I think we could do a lot more of that in Regina. I think Saskatoon sees itself as a part of a larger National narrative, whereas Regina (I feel) sometimes identifies itself as a “big small town” which can make it a little tone-deaf as a city. In Saskatoon carrying an umbrella on a rainy day is a totally sensible thing to do, in Regina everyone thinks you are full of yourself for wanting a dry jacket.

KC: How do you survive the winters here?

There is no “here” without winter. I’m always surprised every year when people start complaining about the cold, as though they weren’t expecting it. It teaches you to survive and keep creating even when you just want to hibernate. Maybe its all the freezing nights I spent outside as a skinny kid in a Lycra bodysuit on a speed skating oval, but I love the winter.

KC: (From the Proust Questionnaire) What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

I love talking, its my way of understanding my own thoughts and validating my existence, so “not talking” for any extended period of time can be profound suffering for me. I can be silent for about half a day, but any more than that and I start pacing and muttering and consider throwing myself off a building just to prove that I’m still around. I’m getting better at this, but it’s still pretty real.