If you’re a venue named The Wild Project and you’re located smack center in the East Village, you need to deliver or else there will be no shortage of “wild” folks, pretentious or otherwise, ready to claim the moniker and the mantle.
Fortunately, since its 2007 founding, The Wild Project has come as close as any multidisciplinary performance-and-art-and-film-and-gallery-and-anything-else venue could in our cynical era to to exemplifying and exceeding the promise of the name. It’s an eco-friendly theater, and that doesn’t mean “please reuse the tissues”; the eco-friendliness often gets embedded in the art itself. Plus, The Wild Project is home to two resident companies, the modernist-geared Partial Comfort Productions and the classically geared Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, either of which can easily apply “wild” to their work with legitimacy. The likes of Amber Martin, Bridget Everett, Rob Roth, Angela DiCarlo, Vangeline Theater, Kinetic Architecture, Hucklefaery, New York School of Burlesque and Darlinda Just Darlinda have all flounced, fluttered and flown in and out, sometimes simultaneously.
Currently at TWP (no one we know calls it TWP but it does seem fun) is Ten, an evening of (guess how many?) short plays by Samuel D. Hunter, Thomas Bradshaw, Robert O’Hara, Laura Marks, Chad Beckim, Ross Maxwell, Edith Freni, Jonathan Caren, Greg Keller and Sam Marks, running through Sept. 29 and mounted by the aforementioned Partial Comfort-ers. And upcoming is willfully wild work: Unfollow, written and performed by Jill Pangallo and directed by Mike Albo, performing on Oct. 1-2; Nameless and Awake, eight poems with text by John William Carroll, music composed by Reuben Butchart and performed by The Millworkers, performing Oct. 3; and The Mad World of Miss Hathaway: Episode 7: “This is Your Mid-life Crisis…on Drugs!”, written by Angela Di Carlo with musical accompaniment by Kyle Forester, performing Oct. 4-6. (Oh, and if you missed the six earlier installments, this is a musical parody of Mad Men, and doesn’t that strike you as not only wild, potentially, but a parody of a satire of an homage of nostalgia?) And after all of that, let’s not forget Homo the Musical, written and directed by Lola Rock-N-Rolla; music and lyrics by Gina Volpe, choreographed by Aliane Baquerot and performing Thursdays through Sundays at 8pm from Oct. 12 through Nov. 3. (We love some of the descriptive ad copy attached to this show: “Alien invasions! Gay wrestling! Raucous church choirs! Cheerleader blood baths! Live rock’n’roll and horny suburban housewives all set to song and dance!” We don’t know if that’s wild, but it does describe our wet dreams.)
Sitting atop The Wild Project pyramid, meanwhile, is Ana Mari de Quesada, general manager of The Wild Project and part of the team that continues to make the venue as wild will allow.
And now, 5 questions Ana Mari de Quesada has never been asked:
1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
This is a tough question since people do not really get the scope of my position. The most perceptive comment I have heard time and time again is from people who don’t even know that the theater is an eco-friendly space, noting how they love the energy of the space.
2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
We have been asked multiple times by drunk patrons if we are hiring. A tip to those looking for work: don’t inquire when you’re drunk!
3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
I received a phone call from a man explaining to me how he is a nudist and asking if it would be ok for him to come in nude to see the Alfred Kinsey photo exhibit we had on loan from the Kinsey Institute. Sure enough, an hour later a man in a trench coat showed up, took it off and looked at the show in the nude.
4) What is the biggest hurdle that most artists face when thinking of how to combine their work with the imperative to go green? To what degree do you aim to inspire these artists directly and, if so, how do you go about doing it?
Scenic and lighting design are the biggest challenges to an Off-Off-Broadway artist. The process of finding new homes for expensive scenic elements or lumber scraps after the run of a show is not always easy or as eco-friendly as we’d like, but organizations like Materials for the Arts, and events like FAB’s semi annual “LoadOUT!,” offer artists opportunities to donate or sell their scenic elements and we hope that more eco-friendly alternative resources and opportunities like these become available in the future. Theater lighting requires a lot of electricity and while some companies find ways to incorporate LED lights (which use less electricity), they don’t have the same design capacity as regular source lights. Technology is still improving, though, and hopefully more energy-efficient lighting options will become more accessible soon. I find that artists who work in our venue have been exposed to how everyone can be green in our everyday lives, from regular recycling to using products made with recycled materials to turning off the lights when leaving a room to encouraging other businesses and theaters to adopt more eco-friendly practices.
5) So much work in so many genres and subgenres has been seen at The Wild Project. How do you deal with seeing a piece you personally dislike? How do you deal with seeing a piece you personally adore but fear will have no afterlife?
Part of the mission of The Wild Project is to support emerging artists and we are often blown away by the talent, creativity and skills featured at our theater in every genre. It has actually been really important to me as a curator to offer very diverse programming, from new, racy plays to classic theater; film festivals and screenings; all kinds of dance, including modern, burlesque, “boylesque,” and tap; poetry, concerts and new musical comedies-and I know that even if there is a piece that I personally dislike, that doesn’t mean the piece or the artists involved don’t play an important role or offer a value to our community and to continuing artistic discourse. There are exciting things happening in our theater that we feel privileged to be able to support.
Off-Off-Broadway runs are difficult. I have had several shows here that are excellent, but just when they begin to get noticed they have to close due to the Equity Showcase code and the shows simply don’t have the money to continue on their own. Witnessing this several times had me thinking: How can we help these companies out more? How do we get people to come see their production in the first two weeks rather than the last? In response, we’ve been developing an outreach effort to build a larger regular audience who enjoy the diverse quality programming featured at our theater. And these efforts have been successful — as will be seen this October with the return of Lola Rock-N-Rolla and Gina Volpe’s Homo: The Musical, which ran to sold-out audiences earlier this year!
6) As the gentrification of the East Village has cranked up into turbo-speed, what worries you most about running The Wild Project at its present site? In the East Village or downtown of 2012, what constitutes “wild”?
The East Village has certainly changed in the last few years. Nothing worries me about running The Wild Project at our current site. In fact, it is just the opposite; it reaffirms that the community needs us to continue to do what we are doing here, especially for the artists who have fallen in love with us (and us with them), and especially for queer downtown performers. We are a new home for them. When classic venues are closing, we are just beginning to flourish.
The ‘wild’ in The Wild Project refers to our original nature — our honest, “wild” selves and our environment. The Wild Project as a building, and as the art that is developed within it, is exploring the “wild” nature of who we are, with the inspiration of natural energy gathered by our solar panels, working under the plants on our green roof, connecting the artists performing within to the greater natural “wild” world.