Chicago artists in Door Kinetic Arts Festival in Wisconsin

Chicago artists in Door Kinetic Arts Festival in Wisconsin

A nnumber of Chicago artists will head to Door County, Wisc., this summer for the Door Kinetic Arts Festival.

Eric Simonson, Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member and founder of the festival, has announced the lineup of creative artists and projects for the second fest, featuring world-premiere projects. 

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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Pot's boiling on next edition of area festival

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Pot's boiling on next edition of area festival

BAILEYS HARBOR, Wis - Door Kinetic Arts Festival returns this week to encourage creativity among established artists of stage, screen and the visual arts.

Cutting to the quick of an interview with founder Eric Simonson answering this: For the artists in the festival, what’s in it for them?

Simonson: “What we’re giving them is a space to focus on a particular work that they are working on. You could argue the point that they get that anyway – all they have to do is make that space. But, as any artist will tell you, many times that just doesn’t happen. Things get in the way. Life gets in the way. We give them a designated time and a designated place, which is, I think, a very inspirational place to create. We give them the opportunity.

“We bring their artists – the artists they want to collaborate with – all together in one space where everyone’s mind is set on one particular project. What we want to do is take that project one step further, one big step further to fruition. They get to see it in front of an audience, perhaps for the first time, which gives them invaluable feedback. We also give them a time when they can meet other artists, perhaps in different mediums, and exchange different ideas. And that may influence what they’re working on, but it also may influence them on future projects.”

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Door Kinetic Arts Festival Held in Baileys Harbor

Door Kinetic Arts Festival Held in Baileys Harbor

Oscar-winning Lombardi playwright Eric Simonson has assembled an exciting new lineup of creative artists and projects for the second Door Kinetic Arts Festival (DKAF) at the Björklunden campus of Lawrence University. The week-long festival, June 13-18, entertains Door County residents and visitors with world premieres of innovative new short films, play readings, stunning dance performances, a red carpet, and public workshops on the creative processes behind stage combat and the development of new dance, theatre and musical theatre works.

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Local connections deepen for Door Kinetic Arts Fest

Local connections deepen for Door Kinetic Arts Fest

The Door Kinetic Arts Festival returns for its second year, and the success and connections built the first time around have allowed us to connect more deeply with the Door County community this year.

One example — our new Wisconsin block of short films attracted several quality films with local ties that made the cut.

DKAF was founded last year by Oscar-winning filmmaker Eric Simonson, a part-time Fish Creek resident, after numerous conversations he and I had about how Door County is an ideal place for artistic retreat, contemplation, collaboration and invention. Natural beauty, a supportive community of intellectually curious people and a rich population of creative individuals combine to inspire artists to reach new frontiers.

We decided to harness that unique combination of assets. Simonson was among the first Lawrence University student summer employees when Björklunden first hosted classes more than 35 years ago. Throughout his impressive career (Academy Award, Tony Award nomination, Princess Grace Award, developer of major new works in film, television, theatre and opera), Simonson has returned to Door County and Björklunden for quiet contemplation and inspiration.

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Jeffrey Hatcher’s Strongman Ghost Will Be Part of Door Kinetic Arts Festival

Jeffrey Hatcher’s Strongman Ghost Will Be Part of Door Kinetic Arts Festival

The Mentalist's Jeffrey Hatcher, who wrote the book for the Broadway musical Never Gonna Dance, will be represented at the Door Kinetic Arts Festival with a reading of his new play Strongman's Ghost.

Directed by Oscar-winning playwright Eric Simonson, the play concerns a strongman military dictator—under threat of a coup, an invasion, and a publishing deadline—who chooses to kidnap a writer.

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Co-Creators, Julia Rhoads of Lucky Plush and Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, Bring "Rooming House" to Door Kinetic 2017

Co-Creators, Julia Rhoads of Lucky Plush and Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, Bring "Rooming House" to Door Kinetic 2017

Rooming House opens with lights and sound coming up slowly, allowing audiences’ eyes and ears to adjust to the familiarity of the relationships and the immediacy of the conversation, which easily slips between English and Spanish. After a few personal anecdotes about everyday people who do life-endangering acts, the example of Orpheus looking back at Eurydice is raised and variously interpreted. The ensuing game of whodunit (inspired by the board game Clue) turns the myth into a live-action game in which the ensemble considers individual culpability and psychological states within the stages—or “rooms”— of decision-making. 

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The Door Kinetic Arts Festival Returns, Interview with Eric Simonson on Wisconsin Public Radio

Eric Simonson, dkaf founder 

Eric Simonson, dkaf founder 

Saturday, May 27, 2017, 2:05pm

By Norman Gilliland

The Door Kinetic Arts festival returns from June 11 through 18. Norman Gilliland asked DKAF founder Eric Simonson what to expect from this year's festival:

NG:  You’ve produced an Oscar-winning documentary film about radio playwright Norman Corwin, a Broadway show based on the life of Vince Lombardi, and you’re now writing for the third season of Amazon’s series The Man in the High Castle. What prompted you to launch the Door Kinetic Arts Festival?

ES: I’ve wanted to start a festival in Door County for a long time. I’d been vacationing there with my family since I was a boy, spent summers there working at the Bjorklunden property (owned by my alma mate Lawrence University), and now I own a home there. In the past I found inspiration in Door County. I wrote my play LOMBARDI there, among other things. And I’ve always been interested in all the arts, particularly the moving ones. My career has led me to all sorts of adventures in different mediums, and I wanted to create a place where artists could come together and not only share ideas, but their different disciplines. This is a thinking-outside-the-box festival.

NG: You accepted submissions for plays, film, and dance. How many submissions did you receive and how did you decide which to include?

ES: The plays and dance part of the festival are curated, as are some of the films. I do a lot of research, and go out and see work by artists. I rely on suggestions by other collegues and other artistic directors. Some collaborations are a result of my past artist relationships. Jeffrey Hatcher (playwright of DKAF premiere STRONGMAN’S GHOST) is a longtime friend and collaborator. Some people/groups, like dance company Lucky Plush, are completely new to me. We go over a hundred submissions for films this year, which is a little low, but we’re a young company — this is only our second year and our first accepting submissions. We expect that number to grow. What I found interesting in looking over this years submissions is that filmmakers really targeted our festival for what it is. We got quite a few films which dealt with art and dance. Other films I drew from Academy Award nomination screenings. Short subject films don’t get seen by the general public often, and these are some of the world’s best.

NG: This is the second year of the festival. Any changes from last year?

ES: Lots more outreach. Lucky Plush is doing several workshops in the Door County area. We’re reaching out to the local arts organizations to come and join in the festival. We have a cadre of interns this year who will not only help with the festival, but participate in the Bjorklunden seminar I’m teaching (called THE GREAT SYNTHESIS). There are lots more events and parties this year. We have the New York Times Spirits Critic coming out to do a series of presentations on cocktails. Yum. We’re really leaning on the “festival” part of DKAF this year. Every year we commission and premiere a new short film. This year’s is by Harry Lennix (actor from THE BLACK LIST). A commissioned film is a highlight of the festival, and Harry will be around to present. Mark Clements, Artistic Director of Milwaukee Rep, is developing a play this year. This is a relationship we hope will continue. 

NG: It’s taking place at Björklunden, a Lawrence University facility. What’s the connection with Lawrence?

ES: I’m a Lawrence University grad and I spent college summers working at Bjorklunden. More recently I taught seminars there. Bjorklunden, owned by L.U., partly inspired me to create this festival. They’ve been an awesome partner and we couldn’t do this without them.

NG: What are the plays like?

ES: ONE HOUSE OVER, by Catherine Trieschmann, is a play that deals with a lot of issues like immigration, community and what it means to be living in today’s world. It’s got a lot of humor, but mostly it’s just a very real snapshot of the world today and what people need to do just to get by and hold on to their identity. Jeffrey Hatcher’s play, STRONGMAN’S GHOST is a dark comedy about a writer who gets kidnapped by totalitarian ruler. The Writer is forced to write the Leader’s next potboiler, and fact and fiction become intermingled a matter of life and death. Jeffrey wrote the play a year ago but it has never been produced. But we’re going to change that.

NG: Most of the films are documentaries. Does the short format work better for documentaries than it does for faction?

ES: Actually, we have a pretty even split of narrative and documentary. I like both forms and I think they can serve a similar purpose: to effect change people and make them feel and think differently than they had before.
 

NG: What kind of workshops will you have this year?

ES: We’ll have a fight choreography workshop with actor/direct Joe Faust (seen regularly at Peninsula Players); there will be a playwrights workshop with our invited writers. A couple other workshops are yet to be set and may include a dance program, a musical theatrr workshop and a discussion with harry Lennix. 
 

NG: What’s the Grand Synthesis Seminar?

ES: That’s something I started last year. I teach it as part of Bjorklunden’s education seminars. The class stands out as something unique to the festival. Day to day its schedule aligns with film, dance and theatrr presentations, so students experience all aspects of the festival week. The class touches on the history of arts medium mash-ups. It starts with Richard Wagner and goes all the way up to present day artists Robert Wilson and Robert LePage. I taught this last year. We had a lot of fun. This year will be even better.
 

NG: What sort of dance component does DKAF have?

ES: That’s Lucky Plush from Chicago, an extraordinarily innovative dance troupe that has a very specific kind of theatricality. They’re young and up and coming; a jewel in the crown of Chicago arts. They’re interesting, witty, brave and, yes, kinetic!
 

NG: How does putting on a festival like DKAF help you with your other work?

ES: Last year, our first year, I came away inspired and ready to get on with the next creation. I think other participants felt the same. Which is why I’m doing this. I want our audiences to be inspired as well. I want them to experience all the possibilities there are out there in the artistic firmament.  

Interview with Rick Cleveland, DKAF Alum

The Door Kinetic Arts Festival was lucky to have the Emmy winning writer/producer Rick Cleveland, best known for his work on “Six Feet Under” and “The West Wing,” at last summer’s festival as the leader of a writing workshop and as a playwright. “It felt like we were all in a lab environment together,” says Cleveland who found the work of his fellow festival artists to be a great source of inspiration.

Cleveland’s writing workshop was a high point of the week, bringing many of these festival artists together in a creative setting along with some members of the public. The workshop focused on the experience of working in a Writer’s Room, a common set-up for television writing in which a group of writers work together to develop episode ideas, character timelines, and the plan for the season. Cleveland had great fun working with the actors in this environment, “a lot of actors write these days, and I think it's a valuable process for actors to understand.”

Rick Cleveland

In addition to the workshop, Cleveland worked with some of these same actors in a reading of his new play The LA Seven, a superhero courtroom drama that is “more or less an experiment” for Cleveland. “The two single most important parts,” says Cleveland of his writing process, “are hearing the actors read it, and then hearing an audience's reaction to it.

The LA Seven imagines a motley crew of L.A.-based superheroes that are being sued by the citizens of Los Angeles for billions of dollars in accidental damages during their efforts to stop Dr. Mephistopheles and keep L.A. from being sucked into a giant black hole. The play, which is written as a series of courtroom testimonies, goes beyond this colossal clash of superhero-world/legal-world; it explores the epic question of whose life is worth saving and for what cost, and the feeling of discovering fascism in communities you once believed in. “Besides being a political junkie, I'm also an avid comic book and graphic novel reader,” Cleveland muses that this is “probably because it’s such a visual medium.”

THE LA SEVEN

Continuing this fascination with the super, Cleveland is now working on his first “super hero” mini series. Watch out for Marvel’s “The Inhumans,” premiering in IMAX cinemas September 1st, followed by the full 8 episode series on ABC this fall!

 

Interview conducted by Anya Kopischke, Social Media Manager at Door Kinetic Arts Festival

Interview with Eric Simonson, creative director

Check out the great press by Festival Reviews! Eric Simonson, DKAF creative director and founder, did an interview with Matthew Toffolo.

"Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Eric Simonson: Like all film festivals, the most important thing we do is give a filmmaker a platform. We also invite artists to participate in the festival, which also includes art, dance and theatre. The point of DKAF is to encourage cross-polynization of artistic mediums. As the moving arts become more sophisticated, so does the way in which we express ourselves. DKAF offers 9 days in which which artists from all disciplines come together, see one another’s work, and exchange ideas — all in the inspirational environs of Door County, Wisconsin.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

ES: Really innovative and rich storytelling experiences from filmmakers, playwrights, directors, actors, artists, choreographers and dancers. We also host several workshops and seminars — all open to the public — headed by internationally renowned artists."

Interview with Lydia Diamond, DKAF Alumna

Lydia Diamond, writer of TONI STONE, has had two successful workshops of the play since its reading at the Door Kinetic Arts Festival last summer, the most recent being at the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City.
 
“It’s expanded so much,” says Diamond of the development of the play since its reading at DKAF, “it wasn’t even a full first draft, it was ¾’s of the way there. Being able to work with actors in such an intense way really helped me get over that first hurdle.”
 
Some actors from the reading have continued to work with Diamond in the development of the piece. Kenn E. Head, the actor playing Millie at DKAF, was flown out to New York for the reading at the Roundabout. “The role of Millie has really expanded,” Diamond remarks on her continued relationship with Head.
 
Diamond began writing TONI STONE a few years ago when commissioned by Samantha Barrie, Pam MacKinnon, and the Roundabout Theatre Company. After diving into research on Toni Stone’s life and biography, Diamond began to find the arc of what would be TONI STONE. “The characters help me find the story and its structure,” says Diamond of her process.
 
One question that has arisen in workshops is how to cast the show: with an ensemble of men and women or with Toni as the only female.  Diamond has decided upon the latter, “the ensemble tells her story, and then Toni can just be Toni.” After numerous workshops and collaborations, Diamond feels ready for the next step; “it’s in a really good place for a production.”

toni-stone-lydia-diamond-dkaf

Excerpts of TONI STONE will be presented at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard, and Diamond is working on upcoming collaborations involving music in theatre. “I had an amazing time,” says Diamond, reflecting on her experience at the Door Kinetic Arts Festival, “It’s such a gift when someone asks you to come somewhere beautiful and make your art.”

 

Interview conducted by Anya Kopischke, Social Media Manager at Door Kinetic Arts Festival