(Eds. Note: Interstitial March continues as IAF member, singer and writer Ellen Denham provides us with this report on Indy Convergence, an interstitial art gathering in Indianapolis.)
I’ve been fortunate to be a participant for the past three years in the Indy Convergence, a unique gathering of performing artists taking place annually in Indianapolis since 2008. The Convergence is difficult to describe, as it doesn’t fit neatly in one genre or artistic discipline, which means—you guessed it—it is interstitial. I sometimes describe it as a “make-a-wish foundation for artists.” If you have a dream for a project, however crazy it may sound, the Convergence can be a place for you to try it out, complete with the space, collaborators, and materials you need to make it happen. Projects presented at the Convergence have included experimental theatre, dance works, dramatization of poetry, a short opera, and workshopping of new plays. Everyone participates, regardless of his or her artistic niche: dancers act, singers dance, and all participants share in the creation and strike of the set and in an “Umbrella Project” created around a particular topic. Two years ago, we explored the poetry of Kenneth Patchen through movement, music, and dramatization. This year’s project is called MYTHistory, an exploration of the relationship between mythology and history and how they intersect.
The Indy Convergence was founded by Caitlin Swihart, a professional dancer who has spent five years with Indianapolis’s modern dance company, Dance Kaleidoscope, and Robert Negron, an actor who has performed at theaters including South Coast Repertory, the Old Globe Theatre, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They are currently gearing up for the 2011 Convergence, which runs March 9-19 culminating in an open laboratory performance on March 19. I talked with Robert and Caitlin recently about their inspiration for the Convergence and their dreams for its future.
ED: What inspired you to start the Indy Convergence?
RN: We worked together at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival when Dance Kaleidoscope spent the summers in residence there. Because we had lots of open space and free time, several of us started doing workshops teaching what we knew to each other. Then we produced a play. That led to brainstorming ways to create this environment somewhere else.
ED: In what ways is the Convergence interstitial?
CS: We select artists who can share their knowledge with everyone in a workshop, so that all of us can learn from others who are at the top of their profession. The aim is to get people out of their “box” and have them look at things through a different lens.
RN: We make an effort to bring a wide variety of performers, for example, not just actors or dancers.
ED: How has the Convergence and your vision evolved since the first year?
CS: The first year was a fun experiment to get artists together and see what happens.
RN: It started as a way for those of us who met in Oregon to keep in touch as artists.
CS: Now it has developed into a business. We are a great incubator for new work.
RN: We’ve increased our marketing, which affects the artists we are able to bring. We house the artists and provide some meals, but this year we’ve been able to pay for transportation for some artists who otherwise would not have been able to attend.
ED: What would you like to see for the Convergence in the future?
RN: I’d like to see the Convergence happen multiple times during the year in other parts of the country, and to be able to pay the artists who attend. A dream of mine is to have an entity that could produce work done at the Convergence and have it performed elsewhere, or a touring showcase of work done at the Convergence.
ED: What has been the response from audiences at the laboratory performance?
CS: Audience members have commented that the open lab performance was very inspiring and moving, and asked how they could participate or donate. We’ve also been asked many times why we only do the performance once.
RN: The hard part is reminding people that it’s not a show—the audience is just one more tool we’re providing for the benefit of the artists. Doing a three-week run would defeat the purpose of an open lab performance.
ED: How can people get involved?
RN: Potential participants can visit our web site at http://www.indyconvergence.org and fill out an application once we have them up for next year, or send us an email. Other ways to help for Indianapolis residents include housing artists, designing posters, helping with set construction, cooking meals, providing rides, and so forth.
CS: We are a 501(c)3 non-profit and you can make a tax-deductible contribution via our web site.
RN: Our web site also functions as a video blog, so stop by once the Convergence has opened on March 9 to see clips from workshops and rehearsals.
Ellen Denham is a singer, voice teacher, and writer who lives in Indianapolis. The works she’s written and directed at the Convergence include Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, a one-act chamber opera co-composed with Meredith Gilna described as “a wickedly funny look at poverty, infertility, and infidelity,” and The Singing Dog, a comic sketch for two actors and one soprano.
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