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staged by 15 theater and dance groups in rooms and hallways throughout the floor. In all, the organizers estimate that 100 artists will take part in the event. THEATER As producers and de facto stage man- agers for the event, Lewis, Porter and Rowell June 17-24, 2004 certainly have their work cut out for them. Space cases Prior to the show’s opening, a visit to the eerie, deserted office-floor performance found the three actors, writers and directors sitting amid The scrappy and site-specific a riot of chairs, curtains, video monitors, light- ing equipment, and innumerable unidentifi- Peculiar Works Project loves able props that artists had lugged to the space making scenes in public By David Cote to set up their stages and installations. Come opening night, the office (formerly housing the Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York) will be filled with dancers, actors and puppeteers, each contributing a fraction of the Quixote story to the evening. Participants include professionals like Michael John Garcés (Light Raise the Roof) and hot new director Alexandra Aron (Three Seconds in the Key), in addition to rising writers such as the award-winning fringe playwright Alec Duffy. Some rooms have been filled knee-deep in shredded paper; another is strewn with hay and Oriental carpets; yet another space con- tains schoolroom desk chairs and McDonald’s wrappers (the title of this rather freely adapted LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Lewis, Porter, and Rowell, from left, get comfy segment is “The Tale of Our Hero’s Visit to a in their (temporary) 30,000-square-foot theater in a Tribeca office building. McDonald’s Restaurant with His Trusty Squire, Sancho…”). A dance piece, augment- M ost Off-Off Broadway groups Peculiar Works doesn’t have a monopoly ed with puppetry, dramatizes the Don’s wind- would kill to have their own on site-specific theater, whose roots go back to mill jousts. space. Some, like GAle GAtes in 1960s happenings and the paratheatrical Given the diversity of styles, will the Dumbo and Chashama on 42nd experiments of Jerzy Grotowski. More recent- Quixote plot—supposedly the unifying thread Street, luick out with donated real estate, but ly, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the group En Garde in all this—become lost? Rowell, a playwright both those locales were eventually sold to Arts staged works by Reza Abdou and himself, says that they still want to tell a story. commercial interests, and the groups either Jonathan Larson in the Meatpacking District “There’s enough narrative to take you from disbanded or relocated. The three artists and Wall Street, respectively. And last year, piece to piece, but some of it is more abstract,” behind Peculiar Works Project, however, don’t Lincoln Center presented Deborah Warner’s he admits. “We try to keep it balanced. If you want the financial burden of a venue. “It The Angel Project, a city-wide spectacle that like traditional performance, you’ll have would have to be free,” group member Ralph guided audience members through an aston- something that you can hang your hat on; if Lewis says. “If it meant having to pony up rent every month, I’d much rather be a vagabond.” “If it meant having to pony up rent every month, Nomadism has become the modus operandi for Peculiar Works founders Lewis, I’d much rather be a vagabond,” Lewis says. Catherine Porter and Barry Rowell, who, for ishing series of indoor and outdoor tableaux you like it more abstract, you’ll have that as years, have been finding nontraditional per- from Roosevelt Island to Times Square, end- well.” formance spaces and mounting site-specific ing in the Chrysler Building. Clearly, Peculiar Mostly, though, the artists of Peculiar theatrical events involving scores of artists. Works operates on a fraction of Lincoln Works just don’t want to be fenced in by the “We know other companies who own space Center’s budget, but it shares the same typical 99-seat theater. “I hate black boxes!” and spend so much time trying to rent it out,” impulse: to make theatergoing an adventure. Lewis cries with mock horror. “These shows says Porter. “They become landlords, not The 11-year-old group’s latest venture is are a way to not be trapped in a black box, and artists. But also, aesthetically, we’re interested In Praise of Folly: the Don Quixote Project, just go wild.” in “waking up” a space, turning it into some- located on the sprawling 13th floor of a thing you never would have guessed it could Tribeca office building at 40 Worth Street. In Praise of Folly: the Don Quixote be. You step off the elevator and you’re into a Miguel de Cervantes’ early-1600s novel has Project is playing at 40 Worth Street. surreal landscape.” been broken up into 15-minute episodes See Off-Off Broadway.
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