Whether it’s a ludicrous farce or a classic tragedy, from the beginning of civilization, theater has embodied our fears and dreams, joys and struggles. At its best, it makes the world a better place. Through many and varied performances, Kathy Randels and her company, ArtSpot Productions, stand as a testament to the positive power of theater.
Randels, the company’s founder and artistic director, has written, performed in and directed numerous original solo and ensemble works throughout the world. She’s received OBIE, Big Easy and Storer Boone awards, as well as a National Endowment for the Arts theater fellowship.
ArtSpot Productions’ mission is to practice social justice, and it is dedicated to the creation and promotion of original work that strives to incite positive change in the community.
“This is our 20th anniversary,” Randels says. “Twenty is big; 20 is important. It’s hard enough to do this work, so we believe it is important to pause and celebrate what we’ve achieved.”
Starting last month and running through the summer of 2016, ArtSpot is presenting a chronological review of its performance history. On or about the 20th of each month, ArtSpot will present an intensive look at a formerly performed piece.
Performances will be at different venues. For a schedule, go to artspotproductions.org or call (504) 826-7783. Admission to the three-hour experience is free.
This celebration began with “Rage Within/Without,” a 75-minute solo performance piece that explored anger, aggression and violence in women.
“Rage Within/Without,” one of Randels’ first endeavors, asks deeply disturbing questions about violent women and the violence purported on women.
This month’s event will focus on “How To Be a Man in the 21st Century.”
“We are not remounting the show,” Randels says. “The company is remembering what was special about each production. In the first hour, the members of the ensemble will share what they remember about the performance — it could be a form movement we used or a song, dance or an object.”
The next part of the evening the audience is invited to do some “on-your-feet” workshopping of principles discovered in the making of the work and engaging in the same kind of exercises the company used to create the work. The evening wraps up with a shared conversation.
Upcoming “rememberings” include “Lower 9 Stories” and “Loup Garou,” works that were built on the company’s working and interacting with the community in some way.
A particularly poignant example of this community involvement was “Cry You One,” a site-specific performance that included a 1.5-mile procession atop the Lake Borgne levee system.
“Cry You One” was a collaboration between ArtSpot and Mondo Bizarro, another local theater company, that explored the loss of coastal wetlands in Southeast Louisiana.
In the process of developing the work, the artists reached out to community organizers and government officials on a city and statewide level.
“Working with ArtSpot Productions for the last 10 years has allowed me to collaborate with dedicated and passionate artists, scientists, community organizers, politicians, and activists who are committed to effecting positive change in our communities,” said Jeff Becker, ArtSpot ensemble member.
Twenty years ago, Randels began a career in theater, and through all of her performances, she was dedicated to exploring the strengths and frailties of the human condition.
These monthly events will give us an earnest look at how far she’s come and offer us a chance to continue the discussion of how we can make the world a better place for all.
“This art form, which is my calling and my gift, is also about finding a way to make a difference in the world and about being a participant in the conversation about justice on multiple levels and the healing,” she said. “Since becoming a mother, I’ve changed some. I still feel social justice and activism is important, but I’ve begun to realize ‘healing’ is a better word to talk about what I think my art can do. My work is a type of healing that only live performance can provide; it’s a communal healing.”