Clarice Partnership Turns Theater Into Incubator
By Lauren Brown
Gene Carl Feldman
Don’t just take in the latest show from up-and-coming performing artists and troupes. Take part in it.
That’s the idea behind NextLOOK, a partnership between the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and a local community dance center, welcoming audiences to see new works in the research and development phase, and to help shape them.
The second year of the series, kicking off in September, will feature five ensembles and individuals, including a clown cabaret, “organic” electronica musician and aerial dance company. During their week of residency at Joe’s Movement Emporium in Mt. Rainier, Md., all will interact with the audience.
Martin Wollesen, executive director of The Clarice, says this is part of its larger initiative to expand access to the arts. That also includes opening “art house,” a proposed performing arts venue and restaurant in downtown College Park, while Common Tone begins its second season of music performances at Busboys and Poets in nearby Hyattsville.
“The typical model for access to the arts is somebody buys a ticket and comes to our facility,” he says. “I’m interested in how we come to our audiences. I’m also interested in how we can nurture the local arts ecology.”
Last year, The Clarice and Joe’s selected three promising groups to participate. This year, a panel considered more than 50 applicants from across the region.
“It’s a real gift to our artists to give them time, space and dollars to just work on work,” says Brooke Kidd, artistic and executive director at Joe’s. “It’s very difficult for many of our performing artists to have the luxury to pay people for rehearsals, so it’s been exciting to see kind of the depth of the work that they get to do.”
She and Clarice officials will talk to the emerging artists about marketing, fundraising and sustaining an audience, and each of them is asked to welcome the public inside as the creative process unfolds. The audience, through its feedback, becomes part of that process.
“We want to go beyond the typical post-performance discussion and engage with audiences in more active, participatory ways,” Wollesen says.
Pointless Theatre Co. (above), a group founded by Terps to break boundaries between puppetry and traditional theater, participated in last year’s NextLOOK. Members showed snippets of two possible new productions, then asked for the audience’s preferences, opinions and even suggestions about marketing through drawings.
“It was a really great chance for us to try out some new artistic ideas in a low-risk environment,” says Matt Reckeweg ’10, co-artistic director.
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