American Realness wrap-up
The American Realness festival managed to hit a number of sweet spots. I was glad to have the chance to see productions that I had missed earlier in the season by not being in New York, works that are currently in development, and work in between these two spots on the spectrum. Likewise, I appreciated the blend of artists that I had seen before, performers I was familiar with but hadn’t gotten to see live, and those who were unknown to me. The format of the festival was satisfying as well, with the work having longer than 20 minutes to sink into the soul, but never any marathon sessions that induced brain or booty numbness.
But the real success was the festival’s explicit promotion of risk as a virtue. Let’s make dance with two trash cans and see what happens when we throw them really high, as John Jasperse and James McGinn did. Let’s put on festivals of interesting home-grown work because no one else is doing it, or festivals of the far-flung because the home-grown in our particular hamlet is stale and insular. Let’s take some real risks and see what happens and talk about it—and when we fall on our faces, let’s try something else instead of doing the same thing again. Let’s stick a pin in some of the pretentious bubbles swirling around us. Let’s be vulnerable together. That’s what I heard whispered from the walls of the Abrons Arts Center in between all of the performances of the festival’s run, and they were welcome whisperings indeed.