Pictured above: Alexandra Bassiakou Shaw (foreground), Panda Landa, Kelsey Oliver and Kirk Lynn in rehearsal for Rude Mechs’ Not Every Mountain at the Off Center in Austin/Photo: Bret Brookshire
Festival curator and Pivot Arts co-founder, Julieanne Ehre, describes the Pivot Arts festival as “a total celebration of genre-defying works” with performances that are nontraditional and often non-narrative.
This year’s festival includes theater, dance, puppetry, multidisciplinary works, site-specific performances, performances for youth, discussions and showings of new works-in-progress from the Pivot Arts Incubator program.
Ehre, who earned her MFA in Directing at Northwestern University, said she founded Pivot Arts to fill a void in the city.
“Pivot Arts provides a pivot point for the arts: not only connecting artists but also bringing the community together,” Ehre said. “A lot of artists are doing work that’s not kitchen-sink realistic performances. We wanted to support these artists and also have an impact on Chicago’s cultural scene.”
According to Ehre, Pivot Arts is dedicated to bringing people to the neighborhood to support a local region. When it began six years ago, the festival was attracting residents in the Edgewater and Andersonville neighborhoods, but now 80% of attendees are from outside this community.
Performances occur largely in the Edgewater neighborhood at Senn Park, Loyola College and elsewhere, including local bars and restaurants.
“Part of the idea of the festival is that people come to get to know each other,” Ehre said. “We want you to be a festival-goer, not coming only for one event. We put this together asking ourselves, how can we use the arts to bring people together?”
When choosing artists for the festival, Ehre is interested in performers that have their own stamp on their work.
“I also ask myself, what kind of experiences do audiences want to have?”
She discovered this year’s featured artist, Rude Mechs, after receiving a professional development grant from the city of Chicago to visit the Fusebox festival in Austin, Texas.
Austin-based Rude Mechs, the 2018 Pivot Arts featured performance group, presents a genre-averse slate of original theatrical productions peppered with big ideas, cheap laughs, and dizzying spectacle. What these works hold in common is the use of play to make a performance, the use of theaters as meeting places for audiences and artists and the use of humor as a tool for intellectual investigation.
Rude Mechs will debut their new work, Not Every Mountain, a performance that reflects on change, permanence and our place in the natural world. Using pulleys, cranks, magnets and string, Rude Mechs simulates the life cycle of mountains on stage–an invocation of tectonic force and geological time.
Rude Mechs playwright Kirk Lynn will join Natural Resources Defense Council and Chicago Community Climate Partners before the final performance on June 9 for a discussion about art, climate change and environmental activism. The discussion will be moderated by Rachel Bronson, President and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and will take place in Loyola’s new LEED certified, sustainable building.
Not Every Mountain is a presentation of the life cycle of mountains and the processes by which they are born and eventually laid to rest. Performers dance and recite poetry while connecting magnetic cardboard triangles to build mountains, which are then destroyed as part of the spectacle.
A nationally-renowned theater collective like Rude Mechs is typical of the spectacular performances associated with Pivot Arts.
“Part of our core values is building community through our events,” Ehre said. “But our commitment is, first and foremost, the type of art that we’re creating.”
The Pivot Arts festival begins on June 1. Rude Mechs will perform their show Not Every Mountain on June 8 and June 9, 7:30 PM, at Loyola University’s Mundelein Center, 1020 West Sheridan Road. Tickets: $30/$20 with student ID ($35 for both Not Every Mountain and The Unicorn Hour). More information is available at pivotarts.org/festival.