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Interview with Mark Russell
Under The Radar Festival


A scene from Being Harold Pinter, running January 5-16 at La MaMa as part of the Under the Radar Festival
Photo: Aleksandr Paskannoi
Mark Russell's Under The Radar Festival is a 12-day celebration taking place at The Public Theater, as well as partner venues in and around New York City. The festival will run from January 5th through January 16th, and will feature new theater from across the United States and around the world. Eleven countries, including Chile, Italy, Belgium, and Mali, will be represented.

Russell has been the producer of the Under The Radar Festival since its inception in 2005, and was the Executive Artistic Director of Performance Space 122 from 1983 to 2004.

Nick Orlando spoke with Russell about the upcoming performances and the festival's history.

Nick Orlando:  How did you become involved with the festival?

Mark Russell:  I helped invent it back in 2005. I just left PS 122 and was looking for something to do. I was given money to do a symposium and made it into a festival.

NO:  What is the goal of Under The Radar?

MR:  There is a professional goal which is to introduce new artists or works that should tour and be exposed to other communities. This is also a festival for New Yorkers. The Public has more space, a wider audience and more resources. The second or third year into this, we opened for two weeks and that was more of a festival for New Yorkers.

NO:  How has UTR changed over the last seven years?

MR:  It became a festival for all of New York. UTR has established itself as a portal for international and national works. It has become an international destination festival. You will be running into people who speak many different languages. The international reach has increased over the last seven years. It fills a need in the city.

NO:  I would like to highlight a few shows and maybe you can tell us more about them or give us some history. Belarus Free Theater's Being Harold Pinter is interesting because this group pushes so many limits.

MR:  The problems occurring in Belarus are not so well known. This group, when they perform and the authorities find out, they come in and arrest the actors and audience. The police detain them for about five hours. The actors who work in this group are also banned from getting other gigs. They perform in their apartments or cottages in their town. It is a beautifully devised piece.


A scene from Ameriville, running January 5-16 at The Public Theater as part of the Under the Radar Festival
Saddi Khali
NO:  Universes' Ameriville explores the current political landscape through jazz, gospel, and hip-hop.

MR:  This production features kids from the Bronx who made their own little voice. This is one of their responses of post-Katrina America.

NO:  Dutch A/V stars Reggie Watts; he and his collaborators seek to represent video that they captured through spyglasses recording a 26-hour adventure in Holland.

MR:  They took these spyglasses that recorded video and sound. You have these three guys who had a wild weekend in Holland. It's pretty wild and kind of silly. Reggie is one of the funniest comedians we have. He opened for Conan O'Brien on his tour.

NO:  Gob Squad's Kitchen (You've Never Had It So Good) is a show in which Gob Squad sets out to reconstruct Andy Warhol's Kitchen in a fusion of film and stage.

MR:  This is here for a short visit. They are English, but based out of Berlin. They took Andy's movie Kitchen and recreated it.

NO:  Which productions are you particularly proud of?

MR:  They are all my children right now. There are some other amazing works that we didn't speak about yet. Gate Theatre is bringing Watt by a young director Tom Creed. We have a group from Italy called Motus doing Too Late! Antigone. It is a very powerful performance. This year, we are working with La MaMa as a venue. We expanded out a bit. We found theaters in La MaMa that they didn't even know they had.

NO:  How do you find these works and new artists?

MR:  I find these artists by going to many festivals each year, seeing work in New York constantly, and looking at DVDs of work that I can't get to live. I have an associate, Meiyin Wang, who helps me cover all the bases. After working in the field for over 30 years, I have a network of culture spies and confidantes that keep me abreast of new developments.

NO:  What will the audience learn from Under The Radar?

MR:  UTR requires people to jump in, take a risk, and see new things. The shows are short. The audience can see what's happening around the world by the pieces from Belarus, the Bronx and Italy. We have The Festival Lounge this year located at the Chinatown Brasserie. After the shows, people can go for a drink and meet the artists. I'm excited about it.


Under The Radar Festival will take place from January 5th through January 16th. Tickets are $15 for shows at The Public, and $15 to $25 for shows at partner venues. For more ticket information and to purchase tickets, visit www.publictheater.org or www.undertheradarfestival.com.




About the author: Nick Orlando, a top performing sales and marketing representative, has more than nine years experience in the healthcare and media industries. Within the media industry, Nick has worked for WE TV, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, WCBS-TV, Cox Radio, "Saturday Night Live," and "Live with Regis and Kelly." Drawing on his diversified experience in radio and television, which ranges from programming to production to reporting, Nick formed NICO Productions in 2006, providing news and reviewer content on various entertainment, Broadway, music, film, and television topics.

Nick was born in Brooklyn and raised in Staten Island, NY, where he completed his studies. He received his B.S. in communications and marketing from St. John's University in 2005, where he was also inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society and Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Nick considers traveling, theater, music and working out his favorite leisure activities. Nick currently devotes some of his personal time to volunteering with One Brick and God's Love We Deliver.


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