Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, the Atlas Intersections Festival will bring together hundreds of D.C.-based performers and thousands of theater fans over three weekends to join together in exploring beyond what’s on the stage.
“It’s unique in the cultural landscape of Washington. The whole idea is to engage with audiences in a fuller and innovative way around the shows,” says Mary Hall Surface, artistic director of the festival, who created the event along with Atlas founder Jane Lang in 2010. “We bring in a diverse audience all under the same roof at the same time. It’s a very distinctive gathering of artists.”
At the same time, Intersections is the moment where artists can discuss with each other their processes for production, marketing, and sustaining support from their audience. The Intersection team not only creates space for these important conversations to take place, but they also invite artists to engage in those conversations with their team of experts.
The initial idea was simple: a way to provide common ground among all Washingtonian art lovers. Realizing that no D.C. theatre festival existed that brought together so many different artists and genres under one tent, Surface and Lang succeeded in making this a must-see to theater lovers in the area.
“We feel we have built a real place for the emerging artists here in town to develop,” Surface says. “Our 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.”
Performances will be staged by everyone from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington to ukulele player Victoria Vox to the DC Youth Orchestra Percussion Ensemble. Once again, there will be Family Saturdays featuring events for children and late-night parties and jazz jam sessions, so the festival appeals to a broad range of audiences through a myriad of performers.
The event kicks off with an opening night party on Friday, Feb. 21 with a performance of Little Red and the Renegades, an explosive blend of Zydeco, New Orleans Funk, and World Music flavored by DC Go Go, with Little Red on the Squeeze Box and Piano and Carol Arthur on Steel Pans.
Over the next three weekends, more than 100 different performance groups staging over 125 shows will take place in all five of Atlas’ performance spaces, and the events are spaced out to allow for festival goers to experience a number of productions each day. When performances are over, attendees have the chance to head to the café for some food and enjoy the festival’s Washington Post-sponsored Café Concert series.
“One thing exciting about this year is our new initiative called ArtsEngaged. In addition to conceiving their performances, as part of the proposal process of the artist we asked that they conceive an innovative way to deepen their connection and dialogue with their audiences around their performance,” Surface says. “This could be a post-performance activity or audience interaction or conversation as part of the performance.”
Goldie Deane is producing and performing in Feminine Folklore, a performance that takes a probing look into a diverse group of 30-something women and their experiences around identity, relationships, and expectations.
“Intersections is a unique and imperative opportunity for both community and artist alike,” says Deane, who is a newbie to the festival. “Work produced at Intersections is a beautiful beginning for so many of us; the beginning of the life cycle of the production, the beginning of cultivating relationship with community as audience, and the beginning of a relationship with The Atlas Performing Arts Center.”
The play, which runs on Saturday, March 8 at 8:30 p.m., also stars Jessica Solomon, Anu Yadav, Fatima Quander, and Rachel Haynes.
“I am working with a dynamic group of women. These women are diverse in so many ways. We come from different family structures, work in various fields, have a vast span of experiences and are discovering a beautiful universality in our stories,” Deane says. “My hope is that by sharing our stories, we open the doors to share our audiences with each other and other Intersection artists.”
Gwydion Suilebhan once again teams with Paul Douglas Michnewicz in producing 360º, five newly commissioned works from D.C.-based playwrights all inspired by the intersection of 11th and H Streets NE, read by the playwrights themselves. The readings will take place on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 8:30 p.m.
“The Intersections festival is a unique chance for D.C. audiences to meet the playwrights living and writing in their city and vice versa,” Suilebhan says. “This is the third year we’ve produced 360 in Intersections, and every year it seems to get better.”
Suilebhan is also a part of At the Intersection of Men and Women, being performed by The Welders, which will explore the human intersection between a man and woman in five short pieces written and read by the members of the playwrights’ collective.
On Friday, Feb 28 at 7:00 p.m., Suilebhan and Allyson Currin will be reading the scenes written by themselves, and those of fellow Welders, Bob Bartlett, Renee Calarco and Caleen Sinnette Jennings.
“As a collective of artists resident at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, we felt it was important for us to immerse ourselves in and fully join the larger conversation happening all around us during the festival,” Suilebhan says. “This is our first time performing at Intersections and we hope it won’t be our last.”
The African Continuum Theatre Company will present Blackbird Griots at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 21 and 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 22. Ths show is a series of world premiere short plays about the power of family artifacts, created by dynamic theatre-music-dance collaborators.
“We’ll be using social media, particularly Twitter, to post, exchange, and discuss family artifacts,” says Thembi Duncan, producing artistic director. “Those artifacts will be included in a devised performance piece using actors, dancers, singers, and poetry.”
Over the years, Duncan has been a part of the festival as a playwright, a producer, a director, and an actor—all with different arts organizations.
“The Intersections Festival is such a great place for experimenting with work that cuts across the artistic disciplines,” he says. “As artists, we are supported, nurtured, and encouraged to take risks with our art forms. It’s extremely refreshing. I also love that so many different things are happening, all in one place.”
Intersections will take place at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street, NE, Feb. 21-23, Feb. 28-March 2 and March 7-8. For show times, ticket prices or more information, visit www.intersectionsdc.org.