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Riverwest Artists Contribute to Performance Art Showcase

by Pegi Taylor

In January of this year, John Loscuito, associate producer for the third annual Performance Art Showcase, was initiating discussions with a diverse group of artists. For its first two years, the showcase consisted of a series of acts. Loscuito felt that since the showcase was held inside a theater space, Vogel Hall at the Marcus Center, it should take advantage of the venue and become a cohesive theatrical event.

Loscuito had no clue just what that show might be about until he talked to Riverwest artist and musician Brent Allyn Budsberg. Loscuito mentioned that one of the other key participants would be James Barany, a video artist who also sings with the Florentine Opera Company. All of a sudden, an idea that Budsberg had kept simmering on his creative back burner for four years came to mind. He told Loscuito how he had this dream of doing an opera about a fly waking up on a windowsill in the spring. This concept will come to full boil on November 18th in “FLY,” featuring dance, video, opera, and experimental theater.

Budsberg and Shana McCaw, spouses and often collaborators, are building the eight-foot-wide windowsill where the fly will come back to life in their studio on Keefe and Fratney. McCaw, who currently teaches at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, is designing a “garbage city” set for “FLY.” McCaw is enjoying the challenge of seeing “how sculpture, or in this case, stage settings, can interact with human movement, voices and lighting.” Budsberg is constructing a number of the props, including a gramophone. He even crafted wooden gears so a handle can crank the turntable.

Budsberg and McCaw had to halt their work on “FLY” for a recent performance art/installation with another Riverwest resident, Mark Escribano. The three are members of theWhiteBoxPainters, a collaborative Budsberg founded in 2001 to explore interactive art projects in public spaces. These events always include at least one white box, “as a symbol of the whitewall gallery and as the basic unit upon which our cities were built.” In “Sisyphus,” the three artists documented ten days they spent escorting a giant white cube from Milwaukee to The New Gallery in Calgary, Alberta.

Collaboration has been a key component of “FLY.” Performance art is often defined using terms like “interdisciplinary” and “multimedia,” so this is natural. John Schneider, former artistic director of Theatre X and Marquette University theater instructor, is the key writer and director. Schneider suggested using Jean Paul Sartre’s play, “The Flies,” as a reference for characters and content. For the first time he is sharing directing with University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee dance instructor Ed Burgess. Ten of Burgess’ students will perform in the show. Marc Tasman, who coordinates a Digital Arts and Culture program at UWM, has written monologues that are woven into the show. In addition, he is the central male performer and is contributing to sound and video.

For those who haven’t seen performance art before, the Performance Art Showcase is Milwaukee’s most accessible event for experiencing the medium. This year’s show has a universal theme of violence begetting violence and people looking to gods and leaders for solutions. Riverwest residents have been supportive of the first two years of the showcase. Loscuito bets repeat attendees will find the extravaganza quality of the show well worth the $10 tickets. He believes everyone will be enthralled by “Bararny in a tuxedo wearing a fly head singing nursery songs as they’ve never been sung before.”

If You Go:
Third Annual Performance Art Showcase: “FLY”
ONE NIGHT ONLY, Saturday, November 18, 8 pm
Vogel Hall of the Marcus Center
Tickets: $10 Call 414-273-7206 order online at www.MarcusCenter.org, or in person at 929 N. Water St.

Riverwest Currents online edition – October, 2006