- In Pictures
- Taste of Tribeca
- Under Cover
Fifth edition of undergroundzero is first collective effort
BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Theater companies from all over the world dream of producing their work in Manhattan — while theater companies from the island set their sights on…Brooklyn. Times change, rents rise and venues close — and those who can’t evolve are on the fast track to extinction.
The 11-member cooperative of independent dance, performance and theater artists who are producing this year’s undergroundzero festival have banded together for the purposes of longevity and creativity — and they’ve invited several international theater companies along for the fest’s 2012 reboot.
The 2012 undergroundzero festival
Through July 29, at these four venues:
The Living Theatre
21 Clinton St., btw. Houston & Stanton Sts.
Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center: Flamboyan Theater and Los Kabayitos
107 Suffolk St., at Rivington St.
505 1/2 Waverly Ave., Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
20 Wyckoff Ave., Bushwick, Brooklyn
For tickets ($20-$25), visit undergroundzeronyc.org or call 866-811-4111
Created originally as an annual guest artist festival, undergroundzero has evolved into a resident coalition model for independent companies producing in New York City. Artistic Director Paul Bargetto notes that it was an adapt or die situation. The fest’s first incarnation happened at the Lower East Side’s Collective Unconscious. Don’t look for it — it’s not there anymore. Neither, he points out, is the original Ohio Theater…and with PS122 closed for renovations, undergroundzero turned to a few new LES cultural institutions for this year’s festival — then branched out to Brooklyn (where more than a few Downtown theater companies have moved in search of larger spaces and more reasonable leases).
Bargetto notes that two members of the undergroundzero collective (Hoi Polloi and Dangerous Ground) “are both really committed Downtown artists who are out in Brooklyn now. They’ve made the decision to move outside for financial reasons. So there’s a huge wave of Downtown people who are spreading out to the boroughs. I heard someone saying the other day that the city has gone from a cultural center to a cultural ring, where artists are pushed out from the center and into the perimeter, where real estate is affordable.”
The festival’s NYC core group is also setting its sights beyond Brooklyn by inviting guest artists from around the world. “What we’re looking to do,” says Bargetto of the fest’s long-term exchange program plan, “is leverage something for us as a cooperative, so everybody in the world wants to come and perform in New York. It’s unbelievable the amount of email I get from international artists. This is an opportunity for us to invite people, create relationships and find reciprocal arrangements where the work of the local artists here in New York can find touring opportunities overseas.”
At least one undergroundzero production will be particularly difficult to transfer out of town. Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant’s incredibly site-specific “Little West 12th Night” is a modern-language riff on “Twelfth Night.” Conceived by Rachel Murdy and written by Peter Lettre, the farcical mistaken identity plot remains, with the contemporary spin coming from a cast of characters including former meatpackers, displaced club kids, personal assistants, artists and a wealthy hotel heiress. They’ll be your guides on a tour of local establishments that gives you a little neighborhood history along with your supercharged Shakespeare. For more info, visit avantgarderestaurant.com.