BWW Interview: UNDER THE RADAR's Meiyin Wang Reveals What's New at the 2014 Festival!
The Public Theater will present the 10th Anniversary of the world-renowned UNDER THE RADAR FESTIVAL, running January 8-19, 2014. A highly-anticipated program of The Public Theater's winter season, the 2014 UNDER THE RADAR FESTIVAL will include artists from across the U.S. and around the world, including 600 HIGHWAYMEN, Lola Arias, Edgar Oliver, tg STAN, SKaGeN, Andrew Ondrejcak, John Hodgman, Sekou Sundiata, Roger Guenveur Smith, and Toshi Reagon. The late-night Festival Lounge will also include an eclectic mix of adventurous music and cabaret performances, including Champagne Jerry, DJ AndrewAndrew, Invincible, Ethan Lipton, Nick Hallett, Holcombe Waller, and Middle Church Jeriesse Johnson Gospel Choir.
It was announced in November that UTR Co-Director Meiyin Wang was named Director of The Public's Devised Theater Initiative (DTI), a new year-round program that will invite exceptionally talented theater-makers at all stages of their careers to make their artistic home at The Public. DTI expands The Public and UTR's commitment to the diversity of artists, perspectives, and the artistic forms in which they reveal themselves. The initiative provides resources to artists and ensembles for the commissioning, development, production, presentation, and touring of new work.
Wang took the time to chat with BroadwayWorld about what's in store for the 2014 Festival, and you can check out what she had to say below!
For those that aren't familiar with the Under the Radar Festival, how would you describe it in a nutshell?
Under the Radar is A Contemporary Theatre festival that has international and US acts, and the artists ask: "What is it like to do theatre now?" So they really work on The Edges of technology, space, presence, and performance.
This is the 10th year of the event, and you've been involved for most of its existence, correct?
The festival itself started in 2005 at St. Ann's Warehouse and in 2006, Oskar Eustis, who had just started at The Public Theater, and Mark Russell, who is the founder of the festival, decided to bring the whole thing to the Public. What's amazing is that with the Public, we're really able to utilize the beautiful theaters and the amazing infrastructure of the theatre, and really build the festival to last.
I came in 2007, basically as Mark's assistant, and that was the first year that it came in a two-week format. It was basically a week in 2005 and 2006, and then we extended the festival. It became two weeks, and I remember that we had maybe 12 productions. I thought that was a lot! Now we've been doing 12-21 every year. It varies but we have this amazing foundation with the Public and we also work with a lot of partner venues- so this year it's Japan Society, La MaMa, and St. Ann's Warehouse.
The festivities begin next week- what kinds of preparations are left to make before opening night?
The production team has been hard at work loading in for the new year. Right now, the local companies are in tech. And then this weekend is when the international people arrive. So there is a lot happening!
You are the Co-director of the festival but you're also the Director of The Public's new Devised Theater Initiative. Has this now role affected how you've tackled this year's festival at all?
Well I started as Mark's assistant and throughout the years have formed this great partnership. Now I'm co-director of the festival with him. And I'm also the director of the Devised Theatre Initiative.
The whole thing has been sort of in the works for a couple of years. It's basically the unofficial name of what we're doing when we are not producing the festival. A lot of the work that we do, we invite artists with their shows that are already made. Then we invite them and we give them a platform to find an audience in New York. What the DTI aims to do is work with artists to help them develop their work- whether it is finding resources or to find partners...eventually we want to commission and create residencies for them. It's still in the beginning, but the idea is that we go further and further to be partners with the artists past their making the work.
There are 16 featured shows this year- are there any that you're most excited about?
One of the shows that I'm very excited about is a piece called RODNEY KING. It's by an artist named Roger Guenveur Smith, who has been at the Public before. He does these electric, solo performances. He has taken the story of a narrative for the myth of Rodney King and he is working against all of the clichés and trying to channel him in a way. He gives an AMAZING performance. This guy is incredible. It's a very, very special performance.
There's another show called El Año en Que Nací, that translates to 'The Year I was Born." That is from an Argentinean director named Lola Arias, and she works with 11 Chileans who are performers and non-performers. They are all of the younger generation, so they were all born or grew up during the dictatorship in Chile. In this they tell their full story, and really the stories of their parents. Some of their parents were at the very left of the political spectrum as Guerillas, and someone was the lawyer of the dictator, so on the very right. She brings them all together and has them tell this very wide-ranging story of what happened from their perspective. It's very creative and very funny but also deeply moving.
We also have the festival Lounge, that's January 9-19. We have a DJ and performers every night. So there are 16 shows and a lot of music performances as well. I'm pretty excited about that because what makes a festival is people being able to gather together and be able to experience the craziness of the two weeks. And that they are able to watch the shows and be able to meet the artist or talk to a fellow audience member in a relaxed setting- that is what I think makes a pop-up community. That, to me, is very, very special.
That certainly makes it unique, along with the super-affordable tickets...
We really believe in that. The idea would be for people to see more than one show. We have a pack where you can see five shows for $75. That's unheard of. You can't even get 5 pizzas for $75!
What is that process of choosing the acts like?
Mark and I go to a lot of international festivals and that is where we see a lot of the international work. Mark of course has a long history with a lot of the artists. We're always seeing a lot of new work in New York and around the country also, so it's a lot of scouting and a lot of watching. A lot of it happens through the process of triangulation as well- so a lot of our colleagues of friends will tell us of something they think might be good for the festival.
There's no submission process or anything like that. We just try to get to know the artists and catch up on their work. We really want to support the artists and not just the work they are doing.
Under the Radar has featured 144 companies from 37 countries over the years. What has it been like for you seeing it grow?
It's been pretty crazy- we've gotten to take stock of all of this because it's our 10th year. And technically those numbers don't even include this year! It's more like 160 now! Because I've been doing this since 2007, I've seen the change incrementally. But looking back on the last 10 years is really incredible because I feel like the audiences have found the festival. Theater has been an enthusiasm for the festival in January and for this sort of work. There is an appetite for this and we are able to be a part of showing that to New York. That has been the best part.
Single tickets to all UTR shows at The Public are only $20 and on sale now. Member tickets priced at $15 are also on sale now. Tickets for partner venue events at La MaMa, Japan Society, St. Ann's Warehouse, and The Freeman Space can be purchased directly from the venues. Single tickets for shows at The Public Theater may be purchased at The Taub Box Office at The Public at 425 Lafayette Street; online at www.undertheradarfestival.com or by phone at 212-967-7555. The Library at The Public will also be open nightly for food and drink, beginning at 5:30 p.m., and Joe's Pub will continue to offer some of the best music in the city.
Now on sale, the "UTR Pack" is back by popular demand, granting admission to any five shows at The Public plus El Año en Que Nací at La MaMa (**except Sacred Stories and the INCOMING! Series) for only $75.
For a full line-up of music programming, visit www.undertheradarfestival.com.
Photo Credit: Eric Ting