Mark Russell, Curator of the Under the Radar Festival, On This Year's Crazier Highlights

Tom Murrin
The Under the Radar Festival is upon us, and this is the eighth year of this 12-day, eye-opening look at what's out there in experimental theater. Curator Mark Russell travels the world to bring new shows to the Public Theater and other downtown partner venues as part of the festival. Nine countries, including Japan, Poland and Argentina, are represented this year, along with local troupes. I recently spoke with Russell.


TOM MURRIN: Hi Mark. What are some of your Festival picks from foreign shores that you can share with Papermag readers?

MARK RUSSELL: I know the Papermag readers are pretty hip people, and I think they can take it, but for you especially, Tom, you need to see Lick, But Don't Swallow, from Turkey. It involves an angel who comes down from heaven to re-up; to get her card stamped, so she can spend another 100 years in heaven. But she ends up on a porn set, as a porn star. It involves a lot of political rants, about injustice in the world; and, at the same time, there are some sex acts. But nothing too graphic.

TM:  That sounds interesting.

MR: I don't think we need to tell them what happens. The concept is challenging, especially with the angel's particular political agenda.  When they did this show in Turkey, the Islamic newspapers and gangs wouldn't let them do it. They've been threatened if they try to do it there.

TM:  What else should people check out?

MR: They should see Alexis. A Greek Tragedy, from Italy. This one is about resistance revolution. It takes off from the death of a 15-year-old boy in Greece, by the police; and the riots that came after that, in 2008. But that's combined with the story of Antigone. And it features the actor Silvia Calderoni , who is the most dangerous actor in Europe.

TM:  Dangerous?

MR: If Lisbeth Salander, the character in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was an actress, she would be Silvia. She's totally amazing.

Another one is Hot Pepper, Air Conditioning and the Farewell Speech, by Toshiki Okada.

TM:   I saw his Enjoy in 2010 and liked it.

MR: Wait till you see how he does it with his own company. He's a genius with theater. He's the closest thing Japan has to Richard Maxwell. There are nine people in the show. It all takes place in a break room at a company, three different scenes. These are the kids of the 2000's who have nowhere to go, and are stuck in jobs in Tokyo. It's funny, poignant and beautiful, all at the same time.

My last recommendation for you is In The Solitude of Cotton Fields, by a young Polish director. We're doing it at the Club at La Mama. If you had seen theater at the Cavern Club when the Beatles were performing there, this is what it would have been like. There's a live band on stage, The Natural Born Killers, and also two of my favorite Polish actors. It's pretty sexy.

TM: I understand there's another rock concert theater piece from a New York group.

MR: Goodbar, a punk glam version of the '70's movie, Looking For Mr. Goodbar, done by a group called Waterwell, with the glam punk band, Bambi. It's really pretty fun; there's a lot of video that includes people like Ira Glass, Moby and Bobby Cannavale. It's a full-on multi-media experience, but coming out of a glam-rock musical

The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., (212)967-7555. Jan. 4th - 15th, $20/$15. 

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