Arts & Culture » Theater

Eclectic performance events

by Jim Gladstone

Deborah Eliezer in "Displaced," part of the Fury Factory Festival. Photo: Wendy Yalom
Deborah Eliezer in "Displaced," part of the Fury Factory Festival. Photo: Wendy Yalom  

"People who thrive in the Bay Area love to take on a bit of a challenge, and love to have their minds blown," says Ben Yalom. "Whether it's going out to an innovative restaurant, or being part of a camp at Burning Man, or starting while it's still dark in order to see sunrise from a summit.

"And that's who Fury Fest is for," explains Yalom, the Executive Director of Fool's Fury, the local theater company that hosts the Fury Factory Festival. Beginning on July 10, this biannual gathering of performer-creators from around the country will take over spaces throughout the Mission District and in Oakland to present an eclectic, boundary-pushing series of theatrical events.

North Carolina-based Pelú Theater's "Pícaro" will present a circus-influenced tale of Latin-American migration full of masks and music.

Mumbai-born Pratik Motwani offers the funny, headspinning "#////#" [sic], which uses live performance to represent online personas, and recorded video to represent real life.

The Swim Club collaborative's "Other Inland Empires" uses movement and storytelling to explore the unlikely relationship of Jewish culture and surf culture.

That's just a few of over two dozen shows, panel discussions and workshops that comprise the 12-day festival. What the Fury Factory's curated events have in common is their creators' commitment to "devised theater," which Co-Artistic Director Debórah Eliezer describes as "not playwright-driven. Not based on a model of producer, director, actors and script.

"These performances," she explains, "are developed by groups of artists - which can include designers, directors, performers, choreographers - working together in a collaborative process to come up with a work to share with the public."

"The group creative process takes place over a much longer period than the rehearsal period for a traditional scripted play," explains Yalom. "Many months are spent building the work." At some mutually-agreed-upon point in the creation process, the development is declared finished. "At which point," stresses Yalom, "a more conventional rehearsal period begins, to polish performances and tighten things up."

"These are not improvisational works," emphasizes Eliezer. "There may have been improvising involved in the process of making them. But the moments that audiences experience are meticulously crafted and intentional." That said, Eliezer notes that crowd participation is often an element of Festival works. "There's a heightened sense of live-ness, a feeling that you're a part of something special happening in that room at that moment."

Yalom says that the while the core of the Fool's Fury and Festival audience understands the hybrid nature of the performances they'll see - dance meets clowning meets rock concert meets performance art meets kitchen sink - he takes enormous pleasure from curious spectators who go in unsure of what to expect.

"It hits them on an emotional, visual, visceral level that just doesn't match what they've come to think of as theater. I was so happy when a guy came up to me after one show and said, 'I thought I didn't like theater, but I loved that!'"

Fury Factory Festival, July 10-22, multiple venues. foolsfury.org/fury/FURYFactory/.

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