Making Art in 2017: Barry Rowell on Floydada
Name: Barry Rowell
Company: Peculiar Works Project
Show in 2017 Festival: Floydada
Role: Co-Founder, Co-Artistic Director
Past Festival shows: This is our first time bringing a show here—but we’ve been coming to see the festival since 2000. One year, we managed to see 10 shows in 3 days . . . but we were younger then.
FringeArts: Tell us about your show.
Barry Rowell: I was driving in West Texas about 25 years ago and saw the road sign for Floydada—yes, it’s a real town—and I told my wife, Catherine Porter, that I should write a Dada play set there. The idea changed a lot over the years but eventually it became a play about two estranged sisters opening a Dada cabaret in 1927 rural Texas. We also explore the creative impulse: I think everyone has it and most of us find some way to channel it. Finally, it’s about two middle aged women—one with a lifetime of stifled desires, another who can no longer follow hers—and the joy they find in creating art that frees them both.
FringeArts: How have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?
Barry Rowell: Peculiar Works is constantly exploring new ways to create our work. We’ve recently begun to focus on creating more physical performance—our partner, Ralph Lewis, is using his circus training for his next project; Catherine is developing a solo piece inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando to take on traditional gender roles. We’re also looking at the audience/actor relationship. I’ve been working on a site-specific play for bars that would incorporate the audience, allow actors to interact with them one-on-one, and incorporate them into multiple narratives woven through the evening. We’ve done a lot of promenade performance, where audience follow actors through a show venue, and we’re always honing that: what worked last time and what didn’t, when we can make the audience’s experience more theatrical or heightened and when it should be more intimate and naturalistic, how we can craft surprises and excitement into their journey to give them a unique adventure.
FringeArts: Tell us about an instance from 2017 when your interaction with art provided some much needed solace or refuge from outside troubles.
Barry Rowell: It’s surprising—only because we live in New York and see a lot of theater there—that my answer as an audience member is Lightning Rod Special and Strange Attractor’s Sans Everything at FringeArts this past February. We were doing site research for the festival and always try to see a play or dance piece when we’re in Philadelphia. The artists’ approach to the entirety of human existence (in under 90 minutes, no less) was so light-hearted and playful and yet the ending was so utterly devastating in a very beautiful and touching way. The production inspired me on a number of levels. As a creator, I haven’t yet achieved that this year . . . but I’m optimistic that it will happen in the Fringe Festival!
Peculiar Works Project
$20 / 90 minutes
Sept 13-16 @ The Fifth Side at the Maas Building, 1320 N. 5th Street