Thursday, October 15, 2009

Previewing Ars Nova's ANT Festival

Ars Nova's ANT Festival, which runs from October 20 - November 22 at the Midtown venue, is tough for a website like to cover. All of the programs are one-night-only, and many are works-in-progress, not really suitable for review. How can we get people excited about this festival, and give them the info they need to decide whether they want to go to it, and if so, which shows they want to sample?

We are solving this dilemma with a two-pronged attack on the festival! By tomorrow, our preview podcast for the 2009 Festival will be online at and available for download. This podcast is one of the most fun ones we've ever made. We got artists from 18 out of the 32 shows participating in ANT and we gave each of them 90 seconds at the microphone. The result is a collage of every kind of contemporary performance you can imagine! Cudzoo and the Fagettes sing an a cappella ditty about a-b-o-r-t-i-o-n, Soce the Elemental Wizard performs a 30-second rap, Jesica Delfino plays on her v-shaped ukulele, Elsie Jay's Improv Girl Smash tantalize us with a chat about what sort of hookers they will play at their show, and The Mighty Third Rail give listeners a sample of their beatboxing accompanied by a mean fiddle player.

And there's much more! Check out our podcast and get a real taste of the ANT Festival. Then check out Ars Nova's website for the details about showtimes, ticketing, etc.

Now for the second prong: I asked Emily Shooltz, one of the curators of the festival, to answer a few questions about this event. Here's our cyber-conversation:

ME: How do you go about finding the artists who will participate in the festival?

EMILY: We accept open submissions for ANT FEST each summer. We put out the call to emerging artists in theater, music, comedy and everything in between to send us their original shows, and this year we were lucky to have an embarrassment of riches--we received hundreds of applications from a truly phenomenal range of talent. We could have programmed the festival twice over from the materials we received, so choosing just thirty nights was a challenge! Our goal is to find the next wave of emerging artists, those who see the future of live entertainment and need a chance to show off their skills. Over the five weeks of the festival this year, more than 200 artists will use ANT FEST as a way to showcase their talents.

ME: What can audiences expect at Ars Nova during the festival?

EMILY: Every night a new group of performers takes the stage and the festival is designed to be eclectic, so you definitely won't see the same thing twice! Expect to see emerging artists pushing the boundaries, and a lot of hot new talent exploding preconceived notions of what a concert, or a play, or a crypto-zoology-horror show can be. Our hope is that audiences will take a chance on a few different shows to get a taste of the wide range the festival has to offer. We definitely have concerts for music lovers, great improv and sketch for comedy fans, but also magic, vaudeville, a play or two, and even an interpretive dance squad to wrap things up. Plus we've added late-night variety shows called Showgasm on Thursdays during the festival--they're free and a great way to hang out with festival artists and sample what's coming up in ANT FEST.

ME: What's it like to attend one of the performances?

EMILY: It's an awesome, fun, night out! Because each performance is for one night only, the crowd is pumped to be there and there's a great vibe around the whole event. All of the ANT FEST artists are very supportive of each others' shows, and it's not uncommon for the party to continue at a bar around the corner when the curtain comes down.

ME: Can people get drinks and/or food?

EMILY: We have a full bar in the theater (be warned--the drinks are strong!) and snacks like chocolate and Pirate's Booty. People are welcome to take drinks to their seats, but we have no drink minimum, so no pressure!

ME: Do the artists hang out?

EMILY: Absolutely. ANT FEST artists can see any of each others' shows for free (space permitting), so they are around for performances, and the Showgasms are a way for everyone to come together and have a beer and watch some hilarity each week. Plus, our festival bars, Bar Nine and The Ritz, are offering ANT FEST artists and audience members a free drink with their program after the shows, so why would anyone go home?

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