Under the Radar 2012

1.3.2012

By Jerry Portwood

Mark Russell on the Public Theater’s annual festival of groundbreaking new theater

The Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival takes place January 4-15 in New York City and offers a survey of some of the world’s most unusual, provocative, and edgy performance pieces—all without having to travel to some grubby basement theater. Mark Russell, the festival’s producer for its eight years, shepherds the experimental work to the stages, and has been one of the most pivotal people in the presentation of groundbreaking theater for three decades now, having previously been the executive artistic director of P.S. 122  (from 1983-2004).

“We wouldn’t be doing our job if we weren’t freaking the audiences out a little bit, but I think most of it is really approachable,” he says. That is one of my criteria: Is this going to reach an audience? If it’s going to be just about the art, I’m not so interested.”

Everything from Taylor Mac’s glittery ukulele playing to Elevator Repair Service’s GATZ has been part of Under the Radar, so we asked Russell what makes this year different and five of the shows not to miss.

Five to Look Out For:

Goodbar

(Running Time: 75 minutes), Created by Bambï and Waterwell

“There’s several things in the festival that are sort of glam punk-concert-theater piece,” Russell explains. And this is a amped up riff on the ’70s book, Looking for Mr. Goodbar manages to take the racy material of a sexual awakening and integrates video performances by Ira Glass, Moby, Bobby Cannavale, and others.

At the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., 212-967-7555, www.publictheater.org

LICK BUT DON’T SWALLOW!

January 4-15 (Running Time: 75 minutes)

Co-presented by The Public’s Under The Radar Festival and La MaMa

About an angel who finds herself in on earth in the body of a porn star, this is a hybrid comedy that was only performed once in Istanbul due to fundamentalist protests. “They can’t perform it in their own country or they’ll get beat up by Islamic gangs.”

La MaMa: 66 East 4th Street, lamama.org or 212-475-7710, $20

Super Night Shot

January 5-8 (Running Time: 60 minutes)
Don’t be late for this one: “It’s going to be a blast,” says Russell.” The Gob Squad Collective tapes on the streets of New York an hour before the show starts, then mixes what they captured live onstage to create a four-channel widescreen film.

This is Gob Squad’s second consecutive appearance at the fest, and they will return immediately following Under the Radar for a three-week run January 19-February 5, 2012 at The Public, with Kitchen (You’ve Never Had it So Good), a take on Andy Warhol’s ’60s films.

At the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., 212-967-7555, www.publictheater.org

Alexis. A Greek Tragedy

January 4-14 (Running Time: 70 minutes)
Co-presented by The Public’s Under The Radar Festival and La MaMa
One of Italy’s most adventurous companies, Italy’s Motus presents a new spin on a Greek tragedy. “It’s sort of like Antigone, the Next Chapter,” says Russell.

La MaMa: 66 East 4th Street, lamama.org or 212-475-7710, $20

In the Solitude of Cotton Fields
January 5-14 (Running Time: 75 minutes)
Co-presented by The Public’s Under The Radar Festival and La MaMa
Performed in Polish with English supertitles.

Backed by live music from the Polish cult band Natural Born Chillers, this is another play that brings music to the stage, this time as an interpretation of an imagined encounter between a Dealer and a Client with the swagger of an Eastern European punk-rock concert.

La MaMa: 66 East 4th Street, lamama.org or 212-475-7710, $20

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