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Year in review: Indianapolis performance art in 2015

Indy artists shared stages and streets in 2015

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These 600 or some words can't do the year in stage performance justice. Everyone from playwrights to dancers and stilt walkers transmogrified over the last 12 months in Indy, starting with the organizations themselves.

The Indiana Repertory Theater used 2015 to reach their future patrons — well, those who will be in a few decades. Their programing for 3 to 8-year-olds allows for one play a year on the upstairs stage.

Rumors that the Phoenix Theatre might be moving are still alive and well in the theater community. Having Tom Horan as a playwright-in-residence for the third year in a row continued to be a wise move for the theater. (We are looking forward to Leyenda, by Horan and artistic director Bryan Fonseca, based on Latino folk tales.) Fonseca's ability to expand Indianapolis theater was noted again this year when he was awarded the Transformational Impact Fellowship and $100,000 to create a mobile theater that will work with neighbors around Haughville, Hawthorn, String Town and We Care on the Westside, telling their stories through visual and performance art.

Site-specific experiences took root this year: From Lou Harry's play readings (Sitelines) to No Exit spending more time on expanding the idea of performance art instead of a traditional season. No Exit also plans to partner with The House Life Project — a group of artists who are trying to breathe life into blighted areas — in St. Claire neighborhoods.

Renae Stone, Julie Lyn Barber and Ben Asaykwee.
  • Renae Stone, Julie Lyn Barber and Ben Asaykwee.

Speaking of partnerships, Theatre on the Square inviting Q Artistry to bring the annual Cabaret Poe production to their Mass Ave stage is likely to be the beginning of a sustained connection. Q also worked with The Indianapolis Symphony, providing actors for the Haunted Hilbert Halloween event. The Symphony felt some changes in 2015 when they brought on six new faces — including now their youngest member and a new associate conductor.

Another noteworthy partnership was Indianapolis Opera opening its doors to modern dance collective Motus, which lost its permeant space the year prior. The Motus production of Ruckus showcased some of the most diverse stage collaborations of 2015.

Justin Sears-Watson and company in Ray & Ella. - CROWE'S EYE PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Crowe's Eye Photography
  • Justin Sears-Watson and company in Ray & Ella.

Indianapolis' professional modern dance company was recognized when The Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded Dance Kaleidoscope a $5 million grant, the largest gift in DK's 44-year history. Hopefully we will see more shows like the moving Holocaust Remembrances piece and Ray & Ella.

The standout production of the year may have been La Casa Azul by Gregory Hancock. The show was so successful it moved to a tour, showcasing papel picado artist Beatriz Vasquez in the set design along with the off-Broadway worthy musical.

"The Elephant and the Dove" from La Casa Azul
  • "The Elephant and the Dove" from La Casa Azul

Indianapolis also saw one of the largest (if not the largest) comedy festival to date when Crossroads Comedy took over several Mass Ave locations for three days. With the slew of performers who refused to come to Indy after RFRA, Crossroads knew that the only way to combat the turndown letters would be a diversity showcase — a LGBT comedy night and reaching out to minority dominant troupes made a huge difference. The result was some of the best comedy Indy has ever hosted. Bloomington's Limestone Comedy Festival grew this year, as well. And the Indy comedy world, as a whole, moved beyond state lines when Claire Wilcher took ComedySportz Indianapolis on a world tour by making a stop in every ComedySportz city in the country.

Baltimore Improv's special project group Minority Re'port
  • Baltimore Improv's special project group Minority Re'port

A few changes were afoot with the annual Indy Fringe festival: including several locations. The Phoenix was no longer an associated site; while the new Indy Eleven theater opened its doors as a sister stage to the Basile theater.

The collaborations and new endeavors in Indianapolis performance art are no doubt priming patrons for a year of consequence. We should anticipate and accept nothing less than innovation.

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