5 Questions I’ve Never Been Asked: Erez Ziv

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If you have empty slots on your calendar during the next seven days, get thyself over to the Frigid Festival, which has become in the eyes of most downtown-theater lovers a destination spot during the winter months.

Basically, Frigid is a Fringe — shows are not vetted or adjudicated, but picked by lottery. And they are almost always interesting. This year’s crop includes Chris Craddock’s pornStar (“small town librarian Esther never thought she would become a porn star…”), John Murdock’s Ramblings of a Gentleman Scumbag (“…a straight man in a gay world, a feminist in the sex industry, a ridiculous man in a ridiculous world”), Theatre Reverb’s Bonne Nuit Poo Poo (“…action-packed comic-erotic end times fantasy”), Leslie Goshko’s Vodka Shoes (“…Leslie’s alcoholic father would buy her shoes, drag race the lawnmower, and burn the neighbor’s bills…”) and Alison Lynne Ward’s 1/4 Life Crisis (“an energetic journey of a young professional…”). And that’s just one-sixth of the total offerings.

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The Frigid Festival runs in three different theaters: the Kraine and the Red Room (both at 85 E. 4th St.) and Under St. Marks (94 St. Marks Pl.), all in the East Village, and all operated by Erez Ziv, whose Horse Trade Theater Group is one of the most entrepreneurial in the city, given that it’s not a nonprofit. Yes, that’s right, kids: commercial. Commercial theater downtown. It can be done.

How, though, does Ziv do it? We figured we’d enlist him for 5 questions and find out. (And, for full disclosure, Ziv is my fellow board member at the League of Independent Theater.)

A bit of business: the fourth annual Frigid Festival runs through March 7; there are 30 productions in total, giving 150 performances. Tickets can be purchased at www.frigidnewyork.info or by calling 212-868-4444.

And now, 5 questions Erez Ziv has never been asked — and a bonus question.

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1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Why on earth do you do this? Answer: at this point I can’t imagine doing anything else that would be as rewarding and exciting and fun to come to work for.

2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
After coming to the lottery drawing party and hanging out for a couple of hours, one of the night’s performers actually asked me, when the hat came out, “Are you really drawing names out of a hat?”

3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
After doing this for almost 12 years, I no longer trust my weirdometer.

4) Horse Trade has really turned the Frigid Festival into must-see winter theater. What could Horse Trade do, however, that it isn’t already doing? What’s your dream scheme?
If we had enough money to properly advertise the festival to the non-regular indie audience, I think we could increase our audience numbers by a lot and introduce new audiences to our collective market. But advertising in this city is very expensive and it will take many more years of fundraising to get a marketing budget big enough to reach outside our current circles.

5) This year’s festival has 30 shows offering 150+ performances over 12 days. Other than critics, who offers the most critical eye on these shows? What types of feedback do they really need most? Do they get it? Could the feedback process be improved?
The audience is always a great source of insight. Every year we let the audience pick their favorite shows for an audience choice award and in the process we get some very interesting and insightful comments about the shows.

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Performers can always use any feedback they can get their hands on, not that they always do. Some get it and those are the ones we want to see back.

Some don’t get it at all and see any kind of feedback as criticism. That is unfortunate and at the risk of offending, it is the sign of an artist that has stopped growing.

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This year, the audience comments will appear in the form of blog comments at the bottom of each show page so they will be updating constantly. I hope this proves to be an improvement.

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Bonus Question:

6) What is the most frustrating aspect of producing the Frigid Festival? If any one thing could make you say “the heck with it,” what would it be? Conversely, what is the single most specifically rewarding moment you’ve had producing the festival?
Honestly, the most frustrating thing is how hard we have to work to get simple marketing materials from the participants to help us market their shows and just create a simple Web page.

I am sure if there was something that could make me say “the hell with it,” I would have run into it by now.

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Every year there is a show that I didn’t expect anything from that just blows me away. Last year it was Freedom 85 and On Second Thought. This is exactly what this festival is all about for me. Random chance says you have to give this show a slot, the mind warns this does not look like it is going to be any good, and then experiencing a brilliant hour of theater says chance has done it again. Random chance is how life started, it’s how some of the most important discoveries in human history came about and it makes me very happy to know that I can provide random chance with a way of helping us discover great new work here in New York City. Come to Frigid this year and give chance a chance.