Noah J Nelson on Wednesday, Jun. 15th
Theatre companies and performance artists from around the world are descending upon Los Angeles this week for RADAR LA, an international festival of contemporary theatre. It’s the sister festival to New York City’s celebrated Under The Radar festival, which has been pulling in audiences since 2005.
“What I ask of all of these theatre pieces in Under The Radar and at RADAR LA,” said festival co-director Mark Russell, “is ‘Why do theatre now? What do you have to say and why in this form now?’”
Russell is the founder of the Under The Radar festival, and is serving alongside Mark Murphy of REDCAT and Diane Rodriguez of the Center Theatre Group as co-director of RADAR LA. The three organizations have come together to produce a festival unprecedented for Los Angeles.
“It focuses on small, independent theatre companies from around the world. These are sometimes called experimental, but its really smaller scale, ground level work that is often developed or devised from an auteur artists or an ensemble.,” said Russell. “This is really how other cultures can talk to each other. Instead of the Bolshoi ballet coming through I’d rather see what a contemporary Russian kid is thinking about and writing about at this moment.”
Just six days long, the festival will pack in over 80 performances of fifteen different productions. While the density of productions, and the ticket prices, might be reminiscent of Fringe festivals around the world (including the concurrent Hollywood Fringe Festival being held just a few miles down the road), the similarities end there.
“Our thing was to take a theatre festival and approach it like a film festival,” said Russell, “We also program it so that you can see more than one thing in a day, and we keep the tickets cheap. That might be similar to what you might experience at the Fringe. But the main thing is that events are chosen and we’re paying fees to the artists. The events aren’t pay to play. So we’re trying to put them in a context, it’s very curated.”
That curation has focused on giving a snapshot of contemporary theatre around the Pacific Rim. Japan, South America and the West Coast of the United States are all heavily represented on the slate.
“I think it will be great,” said Russell, “for Los Angeles audiences to see their artists… maybe the ones they’ve been seeing and tracking like LAPD [Los Angeles Poverty Department] next to some of the masters that are coming out of Chile or Mexico or Japan.
“It’s really about taking a risk and seeing something from another country that you wouldn’t normally.”
RADAR LA runs through June 19th in various venues in Downtown Los Angeles and Culver City.