What began as a play reading series over two consecutive summers with a talented group of emerging actors, writers and directors, became Peculiar Works Project, an alternative theatre company now in its eighth season. Ralph Lewis, Catherine Porter and Barry Rowell founded PWP because of our shared desire to discover new ways of developing fresh, intelligent material for site-based performance.
Peculiar Works Project generates original, multi-disciplinary performance that is accessible and fun for diverse audiences. We challenge the conventions of medium, structure and process in an alternative theatre context. We encourage collaboration, experimentation and a rebel spirit in emerging artists by providing them with the tools and opportunities necessary to grow throughout the creative process. We perform in non-traditional spaces because we believe unique sites impact our work, that the work in-turn impacts the site, and that audiences then experience both in a completely new way. We have taken our work directly into NYC communities by presenting site-specific productions in landmark buildings, gutted storefronts and other peculiar sites in the Village, Soho, TriBeCa, the Lower East Side and, most recently, cyber-space.
An important goal of Peculiar Works Project is to seek out co-production opportunities with other organizations, to take our work to an even wider audience. We have presented projects in association with the Lincoln Center Theater Director's Lab, The Gertrude Stein Repertory Theatre, HERE, Dixon Place, Judson Memorial Church, Nada, Downtown Arts Festival, CHARAS/El Bohio Cultural and Community Center, Greenwich House Music School and The Culture Project, among others.
To give each piece the time, tools and process that it needs, we develop work on a project-by-project basis. In our search for non-traditional development processes, we have initiated a variety of programs to support new works. Our bi-annual performance marathon, BIG ART IN SMALL PLACES, combines our site-specific interests with our commitment to cross-disciplinary and multi-media artists. We take over a building in NYC for one day and present theatre, dance, music, video/film, digital/multi-media work and installation art simultaneously and repeatedly in a highly theatrical, interactive environment. At our '98 BIG ART, at CHARAS/El Bohio, nearly 700 people saw and enjoyed 39 works featuring over 300 artists presented in the classrooms, gymnasium, auditorium, courtyard, hallways, foyers and stairwells throughout the basement and first three floors of this former public school on the Lower East Side. For the audience, BIG ART is Art Surfingmoving from room to room, they decide what to see and when to see it. For the artists, it's a research and development lab where they can breathe life into their latest creation. For PWP, it's how we find new work to develop and future collaborators from all disciplines.
The next step in our relationship with BIG ART artists comes through our recently-initiated Peculiar WorkSites program. With this program, we commission collaborative teams of artists from across disciplines to create new performance projects. These artists are encouraged to experiment with a variety of ideas and mediums in order to create a new full-length work. PWP guides the artists in their collaboration, provides a unique site for them to work in and gives them the opportunity to find the tools which can best serve the development of their project.
Eager to expand the definition of site-specific work, PWP is moving beyond physical space and into the digital realm. We believe that this is an exciting time of discovery in technology, that the public is waiting to see what technological advances can offer them, and that arts groups should actively be searching for ways to stake their claim before commercial interests completely define new media. As a work dealing with privacy issues in the Information Age, our Privileged & Confidential project is advancing PWP's exploration of cyberspace by using the Internet as both a development and performance venue.
PWP has presented more than 80 projects and performance events, supporting the work of over 100 artists each year. The work of PWP has been singled out in The New York Times, American Theatre, Wired, The Village Voice, Time Out NY, Digital Coast Weekly and Stage Directions; honored with a Back Stage Bistro award and Helen Hayes nomination; and published by Dramatic Publishing Company.
PWP programs have been supported with public funds from New York State Council on the Arts; NYC Department of Cultural Affairs' Cultural Challenge Program; and The Fund for Creative Communities/NYSCA Decentralization program administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council; and with private funds from the Peg Santvoord Foundation; the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts; New York Foundation for the Arts' TechTAP; Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art, supported by Jerome Foundation and NYSCA; The Nancy Quinn Fund for Emerging Theatres; The Katherine Dalglish Foundation; and Heathcote Art Foundation. PWP is a member of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, LiveArt1st, Circum-Arts Foundation, Inc. and the Rat Theatre collective.