By Diana Saenger
The chilly morning at the La Jolla Playhouse’s outdoor event on Jan. 11 was warmed by an exciting announcement about its inaugural Without Walls (WoW) Festival, set for venues throughout La Jolla, Oct. 3-6. Funded by the James Irvine Foundation, the one-of-a-kind 12 to 15 site-based works will be created by local, national and international artists who are already hard at work on their projects.
The WoW Festival will be a mix of free and ticket events with a maximum ticket price of $25. Each event will include food trucks, drink venues, and salons featuring artist talks.
“My hope is that this festival puts us at the leading edge of site-specific art in the U.S. and that this festival is one of many,” said Playhouse Artist Director Christopher Ashley.
He pointed out that more than 600 specific-site art festivals take place every year in Europe, but almost none occur in the United States. The Playhouse had good response to last year’s WoW Festival and wanted to expand such productions.
“This is work without official walls that challenges the notions of form and place, and is predicated on the idea that the art is not the walls within which it happens, but created by artists sometimes responding to a place in a fresh way, and an exploration of the unexpected that comes out of location,” Ashley explained.
The WoW Festival projects, in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Arts San Diego (MCASD) and UC San Diego Theatre and Dance, will come from artists returning to work at the Playhouse and others participating for the first time. In some cases, audience members and actors will actually share a meal together.
Here’s what’s planned:
• Tom Dugdale, who earned his M.F.A. degree in directing from UCSD and his B.A. in theatre from Dartmouth College, will direct, “Our Town.” Dugdale’s vision is Thornton Wilder’s classic re-imagined with an intimate backyard gathering featuring live, original music and real-time video assemblage.
• The widely popular “Car Plays: San Diego,” from last year’s festival, returns with new work. Conceived by Paul Stein and produced by Moving Arts (a resident artist company performing in the model of voyeuristic intimacy), the plays will allow only two audience members at a time.
• Based on a Chekhov play, Jay Scheib’s project, “Platonov,” will take place in and out of a unique modular house to create a carnival atmosphere. Scheib is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and a recipient of the Edgerton Award, The Richard Sherwood Award, and the NEA/TCG Program for Directors. He is known for works of daring physicality, genre-defying performances, and a deep integration of new technologies.
• “100% San Diego,” a customized, reality-based piece by the German theater group, Rimini Protokoll, will feature a look at San Diego County’s population as represented by 100 people. Each participant will be chosen according to statistical criteria, which reflects the city’s demographics from U.S. Census data.
• Puppeteer Basil Twist, who recently worked on the Playhouse’s “Yoshimi and the Pink Robots,” envisions his project as creatures coming from the Pacific Ocean onto the shores at La Jolla to profile the magic and vitality of the ocean.
• The Polyglot Company from Australia will produce “We Built This City,” using families and kids to build a city out of cardboard boxes and then tear it down.
• “Kamchàtka,” an improvisation show that deals with the essence of theater in public space, will cross the borders between game and reality. It will revolve around eight characters who are lost in a city. They move together, each carrying a suitcase and a souvenir.
• MCASD will present works by visual and performance artists James Luna, Kate Gilmore and Jacolby Satterwhite. In a new work commissioned by MCASD, Luna will take up the iconic image of the American Indian storyteller as a vehicle for his narratives of contemporary Indian life. His fireside stories incorporate multimedia projections and live music, interweaving past and present, autobiography and cultural identity, and poignancy and humor.
The projects by Gilmore and Satterwhite will be announced shortly.
• MCASD will also present a version of its signature TNT event (Thursday Night Thing) at La Jolla Playhouse on Thursday, Oct. 3. TNTs are held about three times a year at MCASD’s downtown location with artist talks, performances, hands-on activities and live music and cocktails — all inspired by the exhibitions on view.
“We at the museum like that the WoW Festival really aligns with how we view ourselves, commissioning artists to make new work and giving them the opportunity to expand their artistic horizons. (WoW allows us) to meet our artists in a different way,” said Hugh M. Davies, executive director of MCASD.