When the Public Theater announced in June that it had placed the Under the Radar festival on indefinite hiatus, its founder, Mark Russell, did not know if he would be able to find another home for it. The Public cited financial reasons for the decision; other institutions were facing similar struggles. But today Russell, in association with ArKtype, a production company specializing in new work, announced that Under the Radar, New York’s foremost festival of experimental performance, would return in January.
In contrast to the central hub that the Public provided, this new iteration, which will run Jan. 5-21, will take place at 10 partner venues throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Some, like Japan Society, will present a single show, and others, such as Lincoln Center and La MaMa, will host two or three. The festival will also co-sponsor a symposium dedicated to the challenges facing arts presenters.
To continue the festival, Russell contacted old friends and longtime funders. He approached several theaters and universities in the hopes that they could take it on. But none were able to do so, especially on such short notice. Still, plenty of theaters offered partnerships. Eventually, he and ArKtype settled on this decentralized model, with Russell ceding artistic control to these new collaborators.
“I love my programing, but I’ve had 18 years of that,” he said. “Now I have a dozen curators.” He has given himself a new title, festival director, in place of artistic director. “It’s bigger than me,” he said of the festival, which is supported by grants, private donations and contributions from partners. “So we made something bigger.”
Susan Feldman, the artistic director of St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, is one new partner. St. Ann’s had hosted the first Under the Radar Festival, in 2005, and Feldman hurried to support this new version. She also had a work in mind: Luke Murphy’s “Volcano,” a challenging piece of dance theater, told in four 45-minute segments, that takes place inside a glass box.
“We felt like the festival would be the right place for it,” she said in a recent phone interview.
Julia Mounsey and her collaborator Peter Mills Weiss have presented work at three previous festivals. They were in rehearsals for a new piece last spring when they learned that Under the Radar might not take place. Mounsey had to go for a walk “because I was so upset,” she recalled during a recent phone interview. She said she felt profound relief about the festival’s rebirth. Mabou Mines and Performance Space New York will host Mounsey and Weiss’s new show, “Open Mic Night.”
She will miss the centrality of the Public. “It was great for connecting with people and meeting people,” she said. “But there’s also something exciting about it being spread out.”
Russell hasn’t given up on the idea of a festival hub. “If I could find a nice large bar in the center of all this, that would be great. But right now, it has to be what it has to be,” he said. “People are going to have to run all around the city, but they’ll be able to get the Under the Radar experience.”