Red Eye's Works-in-Progress series celebrates 30 years

Billy Mullaney and Emily Gastineau

Billy Mullaney and Emily Gastineau

As part of its 30th season, Red Eye Theater's New Works 4 Weeks, an annual festival celebrating experimental and multidisciplinary performance, kicks off this weekend with five short shows that have been developed in the theater's intensive Works-in-Progress program, which provides support and mentoring for emerging artists. Featuring new work by Eben Kowler, Emily Gastineau and Billy Mullaney, Kym Longhi, Sharon Picasso, and Joe Waechter, the Works-in-Progress show runs through a gamut of styles as the artists push themselves to discover new ways of creating performance. 

Works-in-Progress started in Red Eye's first year, back in the early 1980s. While it was initially a performance-art program, by the mid-'90s it had evolved to include dance. Around that time, Red Eye also added its Isolated Acts program, which now makes up the last three weeks of the New Work 4 Weeks Festival. The Isolated Acts program gives emerging and mid-career artists an opportunity to perform an evening-length work or a half-evening length work.

Other changes to the WIP program over the years include extending the process from a six-week program to a six-month journey, allowing the pieces to incubate and develop through feedback sessions that Red Eye offers, which have also been fine-tuned over time. The list of high-caliber artists who have benefitted from the WIP and Isolated Acts program includes Lisa D'Amour, Hijack, Joel Sass, and Karen Sherman, among many other local and nationally known artists. 

This weekend, Red Eye brings an assortment of performances from its current WIP artists. First, there's Emily Gastineau and Billy Mullaney, a duo going under the name Fire Drill, who have strung together 150 six-second pieces. Then there's Eben Kowler, who is working with a group of dancers who have all come out of the University of Minnesota Dance Program. "It's a piece that could only be created by artists of their age and their experience," says Miriam Must, Red Eye co-founder.

Peter Heeringa 

Peter Heeringa 

Kym Longhi draws inspiration from Charles Perrault's Bluebeard and Ibsen's Dollhouse in a feminist work that looks at the power of secrets. "There are lots of baby dolls as props," Must says. Sharon Picasso, meanwhile has created a solo piece using a sound tape from an interview she did with her father before he died. 

Lastly, Joe Waechter uses three different performers every night who will listen to instructions over headphones that indicate what to do and what words to say when they are onstage. 

Emily Gastineau, one of this year's WIP artists, says the program has been great for developing work. "It's been good to have access to their resources," she says, which includes feedback from Red Eye staff and the other artists involved. "What's been especially helpful is that there's such a mix of disciplinary backgrounds," she says, "with a variety of perspectives from people of different disciplines." The amount of time given has also allowed the artists to really dig into the their work. 

In June, New Works 4 Weeks continues with Isolated Acts, featuring evening-length performances by Andrew Lee Dolan and Peter Heeringa (June 6-8), Hannah Kramer and Chris Yon (June 12-15), and Theo Goodell and Rachel Jendrzejewski (June 20-22). 



8 p.m. Thursday, May 29-31; 7 p.m. Sunday, June 1

Works-In-Progress performances cost $8; Isolated Acts tickets are $15 ($8 students) Fridays and Saturdays, and $12 ($8 students) Sundays. (The first night of each weekend of the festival is pay-as-able.)

Reservations are recommended. Tickets are available for purchase online or by calling Red Eye's voicemail box office at 612-870-0309.