More than 800 established and emerging DC artists, offering the best of the area’s music, dance, theater and spoken word, will converge at the Atlas Theatre over the next three weekends as part of the fourth annual Intersections Festival.
The event is the brainchild of artistic director Mary Hall Surface and Atlas Founder Jane Lang, who in 2010 wanted to find common ground among all Washingtonian art lovers and conceived this unprecedented idea.
“We wanted to create an event that would embody Atlas’ mission in a very vibrant way for the community. We are at a place where people gather to experience adventurous art and ideas,” Surface says. “The hope was to create an intersection of artists and audiences of all ages, races, cultures and art forms so we could expand what it is we share.”
Despite taking place in the height of the recession, Intersections came out thinking big that first year, planning a giant arts event over the course of three weekends, and filling five different performance venues to capacity throughout.
From Family Saturdays featuring events for children to late-night parties and jazz jam sessions, the festival connected a broad range of audiences through a myriad of performers. While 6,000 came out for the inaugural event, that number more than doubled in 2012 and even more are expected to take part this time around.
“We have an even greater emphasis on audience engagement now. We have lots of opportunities for the artists and the audiences to have a variety of interactions, both before performances, after performances, even during with some,” Surface says. “We’re a lot about breaking down boundaries and crossing boundaries between artistic genres.”
This year there are 60 different performance groups doing over 125 performances in all five of Atlas’ performance spaces, and the events are spaced out to allow festival goers to experience a number of productions each day. In between, audience members can head to the café for some food and enjoy the festival’s Washington Post-sponsored Café Concert series.
“We’re engaging people to step into things they never experienced before creatively or culturally. A patron can come on a Saturday and start with an event that begins at 10:30 in the morning and stay until midnight,” Surface says. “People can come to the lobby and enjoy a glass of wine and listen to music and then an hour later, see something else.”
Offerings include world premieres and innovative collaborations among artists of all ages, races, cultures and art forms. Theatre lovers will find plenty to excite them with no less than 14 plays and one-person shows to choose from.
“We like to explore the local culture and this was a project I have been thinking about for a long time. Besides sports, the biggest shared culture we have is our connection to people in the federal government,” says Mary Resing, artistic director of Active Cultures. “We create theatre for work for a multigenerational audience and this was a good opportunity to showcase that for the Intersections audience.”
The show is an hour worth of plays and snippets, including some tap dancing, balloon animals and rock songs, all aimed at poking fun at the federal government.
– Gwydion Suliebhan of the DC Area Playwrights Group is returning to Intersection to produce 360º of America: Force Majeure, a collection of eight diverse DC playwrights who will each premier a 360-second play, scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on March 2. The writers will be performing the pieces themselves.
“These monologues or dialogues will look at the overwhelming deniable forces that sometimes enter our lives, like a hurricane or act of God; the things that make us feel puny or human or small. Sometimes we respond in a tremendous way as a culture,” Suliebhan says. “Everyone who is there will gather for conversation after the work, talking about what transpired and things in our lives in DC that make us feel small and human. We want a 360-degree conversation between curator, the artists and the audience.”
– On Thursday, Feb. 28, for the first time ever, theatre faculty and students from the University of the District of Columbia, American University, Howard University, Catholic University, George Washington University and Georgetown University will unite to put on a group production. The play, NextUS, will explore what awaits this generation as they step up to the plate.
“Getting all these people and universities together has never happened before. This is a real indicator of the need for people to collaborate,” Surface says. “It also expresses what our festival has created in the community, a desire for collaboration in a way never done before.”
– Another great event for theatre enthusiasts is Swapping Stories, led by a Kennedy Center teaching artist and featuring members of the Delta Players, a senior theatre group in the Atlas neighborhood. Participants will be asked to step in the shoes of someone else in fun theatre-style activities. This will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, March 9.
– Solo shows will include Cara Gabriel’s look at being an urban pioneer in a transforming neighborhood, I Am the Gentry; Jjana Valentiner offers a humorous look at a traditional Mormon funeral in Funeral Potatoes; Georgetown performer Allie Villarreal’s InFATuation & Other Bold Acts and Fringe Festival favorite Ron Litman will present his street-theatre style look at DC from the inside out through the eyes of a native son and lone white trash man, titled simply DC Trash.
“Theatregoers will see a number of premieres as a lot of the productions were created specifically for the festival,” Surface says. “Because of the type of festival we are, there’s a lot of theatricality that’s happening in a cross disciplinary way with music and dance as well. We hope people will step a little out of their comfort zone and try something new.”
Intersections will take place at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street, NE, Feb. 22-24, March 1-3 and March 8-10. For show times, ticket prices or more information, visit www.intersectionsdc.org.