‘Rub A Duck’ is a daring, experimental masterstroke

There are few things more exciting than seeing the birth of something truly unique. With just a handful of performances under their belt, Frank Wo/Men Collective has firmly planted their flag into the Austin arts landscape with their bizarre, bold, and brazen experimental performances, and with their latest, they’ve created one of the most audacious performance pieces the city has seen in years. A stunning slide in a waterlogged wonderland, Rub A Duck is an opening salvo, waking audiences up to just what this fledgling company has to offer.

At this point, you may asking, what’s this piece about? Honestly, even if I could tell you, it still wouldn’t capture the dark magic that Frank Wo/Men Collective casts in this wet, wild, and unflinching masterstroke. Taking place in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Rub A Duck transports us into the Transformation House, a home for those seeking a better identity for themselves, as we follow the grueling, moist journey of five participants, each with their own desires, goals, and personalities. What happens within the walls of this place is nothing short of jaw-dropping, as the participants perform in increasingly bizarre tasks, some of them so wild I’m not sure I could write them down without being flagged (one particular sequence involving a speculum may be the most daring act I’ve ever seen on stage). One thing they all have in common is that they present a collection of performers who are as brave as they are brash.

Part dance performance, part musical, part experimental art piece, one thing that’s for certain is that I’ve seen few things like Rub A Duck. Not since Rude Mechanicals’ Dionysus in 69 have a I felt so shaken by a performance, and if I’m comparing a company to the Rude Mechs, you know we’re talking about something special. Every performer is at the top of their game, showing rare bravery and skill, going the extra limit to leave every bit of blood, sweat, and tears on the floor. Of particular note is Kelsey Oliver as Participant 4, whose ferocious fervor kept the audience spellbound, especially as things spun into pure madness in the play’s later moments, showing full control of every inch of her body throughout, contorting them to horrifying levels.

As I left the performance, it hit me that I didn’t quite know how to review this piece. One of my companions left absolutely inspired, waiting with baited breath for the next Frank Wo/Men show; the other left completely traumatized. One thing that’s for sure, everyone left the show a changed person, and isn’t that what we’re all looking for in art? I for one will be first in line for the next production.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Bradford.

Arts in Austin: April 2018

As spring falls upon Austin, the city finds itself packed to the gills with arts events for all tastes. Whether you’re looking to take in a night of theatre, explore foreign cinematic wonders, or dip your toe into the art world, there’s an event for you this month. Here’s a rundown of some of the biggest arts event for the month of April:

Art City Austin

Palmer Event Center

Saturday, April 14, 2018 – Sunday, April 15 from 10 AM – 6 PM

On the weekend of April 14th, Arts Alliance Austin will be transforming the Palmer Pavilion into an artistic wonderland with the 68th Art City Austin event, bringing in over 120 of the most intriguing artists from Austin and around the globe to present art of all styles, from painting to metalwork, and everything in between. Art City has held a special place in the hearts of Austin arts fans for decades, and with tickets only $10, it’s hard to pass this one up.

For more information, visit the Arts Alliance Austin page at artallianceaustin.org.

UT New Theatre Festival

April 12-22, 2018

Oscar G. Brockett Theatre

For years, UTNT has provided Austin audiences an excellent opportunity to take in works of some of the most talented up-and-coming playwrights, and for their 2018 they’ve pulled another talented bunch. Featuring new works from Travis Tate, Drew Paryzer, and Paz Pardo, there’s something for every taste, featuring everything from fledgling witches, feisty poets, to prodigal sons. Some amazing playwrights have gotten their start here, so don’t miss the chance to see these writers, any of whom could become the next big thing in contemporary theatre

For more information, visit theatredance.utexas.edu

Performance Park

March 23-May 12

Vortex Repertory Theatre

Vortex has never been interested in easy categorization, and their latest project, Performance Park looks to blur the lines between art forms ever further. The event includes a boardwalk, a fortune telling spot, performance art, and so much more, creating a multi-headed beast has something new with every turn, where no two nights are the same. Early reviews have been raves, and with several more weeks to attend, you still have plenty of chances to take in what’s being called a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For more information, visit VortexRep.Org.

Exit Wounds

April 6-8

Long Center for the Performance Arts

Ballet Austin’s Stephen Mills is a unique talent, producing personal, passionate works that enrich the mind as much as they ensnare and enrapture the senses. With his latest work, Exit Wounds, he presents a piece in three chapters, each exploring situation in which Mills witnessed acts of true courage, that each changed the way he looked at the world. It’s bound to be an awe-inspiring piece of performance art, and one that dance fans do not want to miss.

For more information, visit BalletAustin.org. 

 

New French Cinema Week

April 25 – April 28

Austin Film Society

Those seeking an escape from the bombast of the blockbusters making their way across Austin cinemas can’t find refuge in Austin Film Society, who will be presenting works from contemporary French filmmakers through their “New French Cinema Week”. With eleven films and events spread over five days, there’s plenty of French wonder to take in, including Oscar-nominee The Red Turtle, festival favorites Custody and Montparnasse Bienvenue, and even a filmmaking class from Camera D’or winnner Julie Roue.

For more information, visit AustinFilm.org

Austin Dance Festival

April 6-8

AustinVentures Studio Theatre

Pulling in artists from around the world, the Austin Dance Festival is three days of pure entertainment, which includes not only performances from over 20 different dance groups, but also classes, film screenings, interviews, and even a silent auction.  You can even enjoy a glimpse of the future of dance with a youth performance on Sunday the 8th, where dancers ages 13-18 will perform their own professional pieces. The dancers involved have been the recipients of several Austin Critics Table Awards, so it’s sure to be a weekend of polished, professional performances from some of the top dancers in town.

For more information, visit kdhdance.com.

Image courtesy of Art Alliance Austin.