Huffpost Arts
Jody Christopherson Headshot

New Co-Director Meiyin Wang on the 2014 Under the Radar Festival

Posted: Updated:

2014-01-07-unnamed.png

Meiyin Wang Co-Director of the Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival.
Photo by Eric Ting

Congratulations on becoming the Co-Director of the Under the Radar Festival. What are some of the new/additional ways in which you have been working on UTR this year?

I've been with the festival for eight years, and my role has constantly evolved with the festival. I have a great partner and mentor in Mark Russell, who founded the festival, and this is a very exciting time for us. With this being the 10th edition, there has been a lot of looking forward toward the future. We have been looking at how to expand our family of artists and to provide them with more support.

New at Under the Radar this year is a festival lounge at The Public that will be late night base of the January festival season. We are partnering with three other January festivals: COIL, American Realness and Prototype. The music line-up is very bigger than we've ever had - and includes Champagne Jerry, INVINCIBLE, M.A.K.U Soundsystem, Ethan Lipton, Christeene, AndrewAndrew, any many others.

We are also presenting our INCOMING! Series during the festival. The INCOMING! Series is usually presented during the summer in collaboration with Joe's Pub. The series can be seen as a festival within a festival -- a way for artists to experiment with new work with a different audience. This year we have invited three New York artists/companies --ANIMALS, Daniel Fish, Sean Edward Lewis/ Lilac Co -- to show their new works and works-in-progress.

Tell us about Devised Theater Initiative (DTI) a new year round program that begins this year at UTR?

The Devised Theater Initiative is a program that will invite artists to make their artistic home at The Public, and will nurture long-term relationships with theater makers, and provide resources to artists and ensembles for commissioning, development, production, presentation and touring of new work. This has evolved organically and naturally from our work with Under the Radar. The process to create new work and to get it out to the world is a beautiful but long and complicated journey, and we want to be there the whole way.

The year UTR will feature a visual exhibit with memorabilia from years past, any hints as to what might be included? What story this visual exhibit tells?

As part of the 10th edition of the festival, UTR will install a Resource Room in the lobby of The Public during the festival. This interactive visual exhibit presents glimpses into the inspirations and practices behind the work that we have presented the last 10 years.

The Resource Room will also have an on-site and remote-accessible digital stream filled with images, text, video, and audio-behind the scenes digital material, alongside museum cases filled with physical ephemera and a library.

The UTR artists have been incredibly generous with their contributions. The exhibit includes Young Jean Lee's first writing (a journal entry) on Church, there will be the strip of jeans that Nikolai Khalezin/ Belarus Free Theatre handed to the audience in Generation Jeans, behind-the-scenes video from Motus during Alexis. A Greek Tragedy. Just to list a few. It will also feature a 10-year retrospective document that charts the history of the festival, which includes fun facts like the number of miles travelled by UTR artists to UTR from their home city is equivalent to eight round-trips to the moon.
It all comes together for a beautifully complicated definition for "theater."

2014-01-07-20.jpg

A scene from The Record, running January 9-18 at The Public Theater at Astor Place as part of the 10th Anniversary Under the Radar Festival. Photo credit: Maria Baranova

Culturebot has recently become a large part of hosting round tables and panels at UTR. What are some of the topics that are being presented for discussion this year? Speakers?

For the last couple of years, I have been working with Andy Horwitz who runs Culturebot to put together a series of conversations that would be of interest to both programmers, practitioners and audiences. Called "Scanning the Landscape," the topics over the years have run the gamut from the politics of cultural production, the role of the critic, international producing models, and performance trends just to name a few. This year's speakers include panelists from National Performance Network and the National Endowment for the Arts, artists like Paul Lazar and Jackie Sibblies-Drury, and people who have different perspectives on the arts like Joel Slayton (Zero1 Biennial), and Kamal Sinclair (Sundance Festival/New Frontiers).
You can find out more about topics and speakers at the UTR website or at culturebot.org.

What can experimental theater offer that no other type of theater can offer?

The word "experimental" can mean wildly different things to different people. One person's experimental theater could be someone else's traditional theater. I always respond to the work that disrupt ways of looking at the world -- whether their investigation is about technology, presence, artistic practice, movement, community, or audience. It's surprising, it wakes you up.

Which shows stand out as especially unique?

"600 Highwaymen: The Record." The show is at the intersection of theater, dance and a community meeting, and gathers 45 people who meet each other (and move) on stage for the first time at the festival. It celebrates both the intimacy and epic nature of theater, and the simple and complex relationship between the performers and audience. The gathering of all these New Yorkers on one stage is glorious.

"Lola Arias: El Año en que Nací." This was the first show that Mark and I booked for the festival. Lola Arias, is an Argentinian director and rising theater star who is re-imagining the idea of documentary theater. With this piece, she worked with 11 young Chileans born during the Pinochet regime to re-create the stories of their parents' lives during the dictatorship. They came from all walks of life - policemen, lawyers, teachers, guerrilla fighters, exiles; and they represent the full political spectrum from the far right and the far left. In dealing with their parents' past - we see a microcosm of a country coming to terms with their history.

"Roger Guenveur Smith: Rodney King." This is an electric, solo performance by Roger. The piece is a poetic, rhythm infused questioning of Rodney King in the wake of his recent death; piecing together of the Rodney King story from the perspective of us the outsiders - those who remember it, and sifting through the evidence and the legacy of Rodney King. Roger improvises the piece every night, the poetry is smart, and the whole experience packs a mean punch.

2014-01-07-10.jpg

A scene from El Año en Que Nací, running January 8 to 13 at La Mama as part of the 10th Anniversary Under the Radar Festival. Photo Credit: David Alarcón.

Do you have survival suggestions for long days at the theater for producers, curators, theater-goers?

Red Bull during the day. Whiskey at night. Love the artists.

Under the Radar takes place Jan 8-19th. For more information please visit: http://www.undertheradarfestival.com/