Greetings from Louisville and the Motherlodge Live Arts Exchange
Hi, I’m Sherri Kronfeld, and this week I’m reporting from the Motherlodge Live Arts Exchange, an cross-disciplinary performance festival which occurs annually in Louisville and New York City.
Founded in 2009 by Ray Rizzo, a genial and multi-talented musician and actor with roots in the Louisville music scene who has performed in plays by Adam Rapp and as a drummer with too many bands to list here, the festival was initially created as a contemporary performance offshoot to the annual Humana Festival of New American Plays.
In just a few short years, Motherlodge has become quite a wild and wooly beast, an inclusive event which has embraced Taylor Mac and Lady Rizo, the live-drawn performance of Ethan Lipton and Michael Arthur, mashups of short plays and rock music by major artists, first looks at new theater and music pieces in development, a curated pop-up art gallery, improv comedy, and even cooking events with an intellectual slant. In the Louisville branch of the festival, shows range from free to $10, and participants include a healthy mix of Louisville locals, art-makers, as well as a smattering of participants from the Humana Festival.
In a conversation about his goals for the festival, Rizzo noted that Motherlodge can be nimble and flexible with its programming, since, as he put it “we are not trying to sustain one particular audience” with a long run of one kind of work. Each show will typically have one to three performances across the weeklong festival, and the shows play to packed houses at non-traditional venues, who come from a variety of backgrounds and attend with the awareness that any night they are likely to catch something completely unique and unannounced- especially as another of Rizzo’s stated goals is to feature artists performing in ways audiences do not normally know them for. Will Oscar-winner Michael Shannon play with a Steely Dan cover band for one-night only? A rumor is spreading..
This year’s festival has grown, moving from one venue- the venerable Rudyard Kipling– to three, live streaming the majority of its events, and expanding its already-catholic embrace to include: an “improvised film scoring explosion and hootenanny”, several Long Table discussions in the style created by Lois Weaver- including one focused around the work of cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, a “Live Lunch” radio performance for a live audience presented in partnership with local radio station WFPK, and, in a tip of the hat to this college-basketball crazed town, a screening of the NCAA final presented as a performance/happening that will take place during the breaks of game play, with comedians and musicians scoring the course of the game.
This is contemporary performance for the masses, surely. Locals are encouraged to step right in and get involved, including as actors in the most ambitious piece of Motherlodge’s pie this year. “Crawling Between Heaven and Earth” is a roots music-infused re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as it might have played out in a rural American river town in the 1920′s. Shakespearian actor, educator, (and former Power Ranger) Jason Narvy, and New York playwright Eric John Meyer, will workshop their show this week, with a cast drawn from several New York actors along with Louisvillians who auditioned just today.
The music for the show, including new arrangements of 20’s tunes, will be performed by The Slow Charleston and Bonnie Prince Billy. How did the ‘prince’ of indie rock come to take part in the festival? Rizzo bumped into him just a few weeks ago at a music festival, where both were playing, and asked him, of course – just the kind of happy accident/surprising collaboration that makes this festival a joyful playground for artists and audiences. Stay tuned for further dispatches from Louisville later this week!