Artrageous, which describes itself as both “a troupe of misfits” and “Blue Man Group meets Picasso,” brings its unique show to the Wilkins Theatre at Kean University in Union, Oct. 20, and the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Oct. 22. (see video below to get a taste of what the show is like)
“Artrageous is really all about the arts,” says Lauri Francis, who performs in the show, and also works on its costume design and choreography. “We try to throw as many different arts as possible on one stage. So if you come to an Artrageous show, you’re going to see live painting, music, singing, dancing, comedy and audience interaction, and the (visual) artists are always collaborating with the musicians, to try to complete their portraits in the amount of time it takes to do the songs.
“It’s always just like a rush to the finish — every note is being taken up with creating a masterpiece.”
Originally formed in Vancouver in the 1980s — doing children’s shows, street theater and puppetry — and now based in New Mexico, Artrageous has presented more than 2,000 events all over the world. Troupe members don’t have the narrowly defined roles that are typical of most arts organizations.
“We’re all of the parts of the show,” said Francis. “We are the creators of the show, we’re the performers, we’re the marketing people, we’re everything.”
Original co-founders Dan Moyer and Deborah Noble don’t tour anymore “but they hold down the fort at home,” said Francis, who is one of three people who took over the production aspects of Artrageous and also are part of the touring team.
There are 11 people in the touring team. “Each performer has so many different roles, and that’s how we can get it all done,” said Francis. “Maybe will drummer will take off … he plays a mobile drum set, which he wears … he might take off his drums and pick up a paint brush. Or the bass player is one of the comedians. That kind of thing: Everybody has to play so many different roles.”
Francis is one of the painters. Are there times, I asked, when a live painting doesn’t come out well, or work out the way she had hoped? Or when inspiration just doesn’t strike?
“Sometimes mistakes happen,” she said. “And these are giant (paintings). They’re like six-by-six (feet). Sometimes your paint drips, or you put your brush in the wrong spot, and you kind of just have to turn it into something else (laughs). So, yeah, that does happen.
“In terms of not being inspired … When I’m onstage, and I think I can speak for everybody in the troupe, I really don’t find that I don’t get inspired. It’s more … it can be hard when you’re not onstage, to find the inspiration to keep going. But when you’re onstage, in front of an audience who’s really, like, digging the arts … you’re being of service to them, in a way. That, in itself, is so inspiring, and the reason we do what we do.”
At most shows, one painting is typically given away to an audience member, while the others are donated to the theater, which may auction them off or give them to sponsors.
“I’m not sure what (the Jersey theaters are) going to do, but those are the likely scenarios we run across,” said Francis. “It’s pretty exciting to be able to give a painting away onstage, because some of our paintings have sold for more than $15,000. So it’s a pretty great gift that you might get to win, if you come to the show.”
Artrageous will be presented at the Wilkins Theatre at Kean University, Oct. 20 at 3 p.m., as part of the Kean Stage series, and at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
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