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

BY WARREN GERDS

JUNE 11, 2017

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.”

In a nutshell

Door Kinetic Arts Festival is in its second year. Activities and events take place at Bjorklunden, a 400-acre estate owned by major supporter Lawrence University of Appleton.

The festival runs Tuesday to Sunday, June 13-18, in Bjorklunden lodge. Events are open to the public – $5 (free for students and artists).

The focus is on new short films, play readings, dance performances, a red carpet and public workshops on the creative processes behind stage combat and the development of new dance, theater and musical theater works.

The festival features a staged reading of the new play “One House Over,” written by Catherine Trieschmann and directed by Milwaukee Rep artistic Director Mark Clements; the world premiere of a Door Kinetic Arts Festival-commissioned short film “The Gleaner,” directed by “The Black List” actor Harry Lennix; a reading of “Strongman’s Ghost” by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher (CBS’s “The Mentalist”), directed by Simonson (Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle”); a performance from award-winning Chicago-based dance-theater ensemble Lucky Plush Productions; screenings of short films, including the award-winning and timely “Frame 394,” and “The New Orleans Sazerac” followed by a talk with The New York Times’ Robert Simonson. Highlighting the “festival” part of Door Kinetic Arts Festival, Robert Simonson will serve drinks and give talks on the history of Wisconsin cocktails over the course of most festival evenings and multiple events.

That last bit

That’s a different take on the arts.

Eric Simonson: “My brother (Robert Simonson) used to write a lot about theater and gradually moved over to spirits and liquor, and he’s made a pretty good living sort of writing books and articles on cocktails. I thought that with Door Kinetic Arts Festival we want to make it a place where people want to come and have fun and have a good time. If they wanted it – they didn’t have to – include alcohol. For all I care, it could be a cooking show.

“It’s just about somebody creating something from nothing and being artistic about it. We’re trying to at the festival think outside the box in a lot of different ways. I thought it would be a lot of fun. He’s my brother, and he’s perfectly willing to do it. There’s a Wisconsin theme to everything that he’s doing.”

A bit of bio

Eric Simonson is a native of southeastern Wisconsin with lifelong ties to Door County. Among his many works is the Broadway play “Lombardi,” based on the legendary Green Bay Packers coach. Simonson partnered with Door County arts consultant and actor Alan Kopischke to launch and produce the creative incubator.

This is what the festival has in it for him: “I’m always looking because an artist’s life is peripatetic, and it’s temporal – going from one job to another. I think many of us in whatever fields we’re talking about – whether it’s theater or opera or film – are looking for an artistic home. So I feel like what I’m doing is I’m building the foundation of a home and every year is another step in completing that home. That’s what’s in it for me. I’ve spent my entire life vacationing up in Door County. I have a home there now. The only thing that’s missing for me is a workshop. I don’t expect to always be working on my own work, but I love being the host to other artists who are working on their things and being a part of their creation.”