Prepare to Be WoWed

Inaugural, innovative “Without Walls” performance festival features new, site-specific works

Polyglot’s We Built This City will be part of the Without Walls Festival. Photo by Wendy Kimpton

UC San Diego artists will show new site-specific works at the inaugural WoW (Without Walls) Festival to be held Oct. 3 through 6. Centered in and around the La Jolla Playhouse/UC San Diego Theatre District, productions will radiate out from this “Festival Village” core–which also includes artist talks, food trucks, a beer garden and live music–to several unusual spots on campus and other locations in San Diego.

A partnership of the La Jolla Playhouse with UC San Diego, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the New Children’s Museum, WoW blurs artistic boundaries and features new works by university arts graduate students alongside projects by prominent local, national and international artists. It is hoped that the 2013 festival is the first of what will become a biennial event.

Many of WoW’s site-specific works take place in non-traditional locales instead of conventional performance venues. These range from La Jolla Shores Beach to the “Fallen Star” sculpture atop the Jacobs School of Engineering to an elevator in Potiker Theatre.

UC San Diego MFA candidates Sarah Wansley (playwright) and David Jacobi (director) are collaborating on “Cornerstone,” in which audience members assume the roles of engineers at the campus’s Central Utilities Plant. They have the arduous task of powering the campus while diverted by a lunch hour discussing topics that range from metaphysics to sandwich construction.

Kristin Idaszak

“I find that as artists, our instincts are often to create beautiful, magical worlds, and site-specific theater is not immune from that trend,” Wansley said. “From the thundering green water that cools the plant, to the pile of discarded magenta and azure valve wheels rusting ever so artistically, to the strange geometry of ladders and handrails, we were startled by the plant’s unintentional beauty. So we ditched our original idea of a gritty play about labor politics and embraced the quirky humor of the plant and its engineers.”

Flutist Rachel Beetz has her own take on Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino’s “Le perfezione di uno spirito sottile.” Sciarrino specifies that his operetta be performed outdoors, and Beetz will be joined by her fellow UC San Diego graduate students Stephanie Aston (soprano) and Dustin Donahue (percussion) in a performance at artist William Wegman’s “La Jolla Vista View.” Wegman’s sculpture is part of UC San Diego’s Stuart Collection of public art. Beetz liked the juxtaposition between this scenic outlook in a eucalyptus grove and surrounding “not very beautiful” neighborhood of busy streets, condos, shopping centers and office buildings–made all the more visible by Wegman’s inclusion of a telescope.

Playwright Kristin Idaszak said that her new play–“A Willow Grows Aslant: An Ophelia Story”“deconstructs Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ through the lens of Ophelia as she navigates her father’s political ambitions, her boyfriend’s revenge fantasies, and her own private dream of becoming a dancer.” Collaborating with theatre and dance alumna Lindsay Shield (choreographer) and MFA candidates Kate Jopson (director) and Natalie Khuen (scenic design), Idaszak has transformed the basement of the theatre department’s Galbraith Hall with more than 200 live plants and yards of Astroturf. The audience participates in a work that Idaszak said is “part play, part dance theatre, part installation art, part audience-driven experience.”

“The creative process for ‘Willow’ defies traditional roles,” Idaszak said. “The muscles we are developing–an enhanced creative voice, broader understanding of other elements of the artistic process, and experience in generating devised and site-specific work–will make each of us better prepared to enter the changing professional world.”

WoW events presented by UC San Diego are:

Renowned Puppeteer, Basil Twist, will perform Sea Foam Sleepwalk at the upcoming Without Walls Festival.

  • “Cornerstone”
    Director Sarah Wansley, playwright David Jacobi.
  • “Hedda’ing”
    Performer/choreographer Sam Mitchell.
  • “La Perfezione di uno spirit sottile”
    Soprano Stephanie Aston, flutist Rachel Beetz, percussionist Dustin Donahue.
  • “The Myth Project: Altar”
    Created by Patricia Rincon, professor of theatre and dance.
  • “Our Star Will Die Alone”
    Created by Project Planetaria: UC San Diego faculty Michael Trigilio (visual arts), Tara Knight (theatre and dance), Adam Burgasser (physics).
  • “A Willow Grows Aslant”
    Playwright Kristin Idaszak, director Kate Jopson, scenic designer Natalie Khuen, choreographer Lindsay Shield.

UC San Diego faculty, student and alumni artists are also participating in a number of the other WoW events, notably a new version of “Our Town,” directed by Tom Dugdale, a 2010 UC San Diego MFA graduate and 2012 winner of the Princess Grace Award. This re-imagining of Thornton Wilder’s classic, in which a group of 20-somethings invites the audience over for a party under the stars, includes live, original music and all the free soda-pop you can drink.

For a full schedule of events and ticket prices, visit the WoW Festival website.

More information on a special UCSD Alumni opening night of “Our Town” is here.

The festival is funded by grants from The James Irvine Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the County of San Diego, as well as corporate support provided by DonorNation.

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