Ignite! is one festival that promises to never get old, despite entering its eight year.
“Every piece of work you see — be it visual art, be it music, dance or theatre — it’s all created and executed by emerging artists,” says Kelly Reay, Sage Theatre’s artistic director. “For theatre, for example, the plays are written by emerging artists, but they’re also directed by emerging directors, emerging actors are performing, designed by emerging theatre designers, all our technical people and stage management are also [emerging].”
The largest component of the festival is the six one-act plays (the longest clocks in at an hour), selected from about 70 submissions from across the country, playing at the Pumphouse Theatre. The plays range from serious and socially aware to delightfully absurd.
Tyler Longmire’s Everything is Awful is a wild, multi-character, multi-setting theatrical romp, whereas The Possible Lives of Dolores Garcia Rodriguez by Jordan Hall and Zoe Green deals with the touchy matter of abortion and women’s rights in Nicaragua. Mike Czuba’s Satellites is more of an interdisciplinary production, with choreography and newly composed music, and is about the idea of technology interrupting how we connect as humans. Hideout, by Andrew Torry, is an engrossing one-man play about a 15-year-old boy who has run away from home. Kara Sturk’s IC is about two ex-friends meeting once again in the afterlife in a bleak, No Exit-type setting. Finally, Jeremy Park’s Kona Sirs is a funny, absurd tale set in a coffee shop that, according to Reay, “goes nowhere you think it’s going to go.”
Music will also be echoing through the halls and unlikely corners of the Pumphouse, thanks to Ignite. “We’re trying to have a different sort of engagement with our audience through the music series this year,” says Reay. “We’re going to feature local musicians around the Pumphouse Theatre... and people will roam to go to these locations in the building that they might not otherwise have had access to.”
While the music curator, Christopher Duthie, is still finalizing plans for the specific locations of the musical acts, some spots include the great pump well and the “cry booth” at the back of the Victor Mitchell Theatre, designed as a place that parents could take their squalling babies.
New to the festival this year is a partnership with Endeavor Arts, featuring five emerging visual artists, curated by Kathryn Blair under the apt title Bridges. Back at the Pumphouse, you can also get an eclectic mix of performances at the dance series, curated by Tina Guthrie.
Having a great time at one of the festival’s shows is just part of the picture. Ignite! not only provides a space in which new artists can stretch their wings, but also nurtures their craft by having professional mentors on hand to act as resources and sounding boards. After all, it’s only by investing time and energy in newcomers that we can all reap the benefits of a robust, professional arts scene. “Now that we’re in the eighth year of the festival, we’ve had hundreds of artists over the years participate in Ignite!, [it’s cool] to really see where these artists have gone, and the careers that they’ve carved out for themselves,” says Reay. “We like to think that Ignite! played a small part in getting them to where they got to.”