Without Walls Festival Showcases 22 Site-Specific Works
La Jolla Playhouse brings WOW to Arts District Liberty Station
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Credit: Photo by Monika Kozlowska / Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse
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La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls, or WOW, Festival takes place at Arts District Liberty Station Thursday through Sunday. The site-specific performances are put on by both local and international companies.
Aired: October 17, 2019 | Transcript+ Subscribe to this podcast
La Jolla Playhouse kicks off another Without Walls, or WOW, festival Thursday.
It showcases 22 site-specific works at Arts District Liberty Station through Sunday. The performances are put on by both local and international companies. As with the San Diego International Fringe Festival that happens in the summer, WOW is a wildly exciting opportunity for audiences to sample a diverse range of creative styles, stories, genres and perspectives. Additionally, these are theatrical experiences in which the sites and the audience interact with the performers to make each show unique.
San Diego theater company Blindspot Collective is presenting "Hall Pass" at the festival. It's an immersive musical that's set at High Tech High, which is located next to Liberty Station. Audience members will choose their own "class schedule" that determines the plays or musicals they will see. Each piece has to do with high school and what high school in 2019 is like.
"Part of our goal with the show is really to potentially engage an audience that otherwise might not attend traditional theater," said Blake McCarty, director of artistic development for Blindspot Collective. "Theater generally has a lot of rules. You sit in a dark room, you turn your phones off. You don't talk, you clap when it's over and with immersive theater and site-responsive theater, a lot of those rules get thrown out the window."
New York-based artists, Sammi Cannold and Emily Maltby, are presenting "Allegory" at the festival. It will take place, outdoors in front of the Women’s Museum of California at Liberty Station. "Allegory" is a recreation of a 20th-century women's suffrage pageant.
"It was about representing the cause of women's suffrage through the form of spectacle and propaganda as a way of trying to push forward the challenge of getting women the right to vote," Cannold said.
Both artists have done site-specific work before in New York, including a staging of "Ragtime" at Ellis Island.
Maltby said that because the performance is outdoors and free, people can watch part of the performance and not feel required to stay for the whole thing.
"I mean we hope you stay for the whole thing, but our piece is in sort of little episodes, so you can kind of sample it and stay for as much of it speaks to you. And so it really asks the audience to engage in a way that when you purchase a ticket and sit in a dark theater, the sort of transaction has already occurred, whereas in this piece the transaction is happening throughout the piece," she said.
David Israel Reynoso is the founder of Optika Moderna that is presenting "Las Quinceañeras," a show that is performed for just two people at a time. Reynosa is an artist in residence at Liberty Station.
"It's an immersive show in which audience members are assessed and outfitted with some sort of optical gear and you enter into what I kind of like to call an analog virtual reality in which you do enter kind of a new dimension if you will and much in the same way that you do when you enter and put on sort of VR goggles. But what you're seeing is something that's completely analog in the sense that there's nothing manufactured digitally," Reynoso explained.
Site-specific work inspires Reynoso because he has to take into consideration "what are the sights and sounds and the texture that's already alive and well within the space. What are some of the ghosts, if you will, that are already in space and what is it that that does, to then bring a filter or sort of a lens for this experience. It's sort of this other character within the story that is very, very crucial."
The outdoor site under the airport flight path inspired Tom Pearson, co-artistic director of New York's Third Rail Projects, to tackle a story of flight called "Ikaros." So the sounds of the planes are less a distraction and more an additional audio element to the experience.
"The site that we're in is a desert walking path on the grounds of Liberty Station," Pearson said. "It's a great space for us in terms of its location across from the San Diego airport. And the story that we're sort of mixing together, a tandem tale a little bit inspired by Amelia Earhart and the myth of Icarus. And looking at ideas of flight and failure and all these different concepts around it through spoken word and poetry, mixed with a soundscape by Sean Haggerty, and sort of framing that as an audio tour for the audience, with headsets and these individual playback devices."
WOW offers San Diego audiences a thrilling opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and experience one-of-a-kind performances from right here in San Diego and around the world.
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