On The Road with Angela Kariotis

by Tara Bracco

in Interviews

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In the November issue of American Theatre, Eliza Bent’s article On The Road Again profiles the work of the National Performance Network  (NPN) and how the organization benefits touring artists.

This month, my friend and colleague Angela Kariotis premieres her one-woman show Stretch Marks in New York City with the support of NPN’s Creation Fund. Stretch Marks is a show about “giving birth and being born,” inspired by Kariotis’s journey into motherhood. It represents Kariotis’s third one-woman show, following Reminiscence of the Ghetto & Other Things That Raized Me and Say Logos Say Word.

As a follow-up to Bent’s article, I thought it would be interesting to take a personal look at how the National Performance Network is benefiting one artist. Below Kariotis shares her experiences working with the network and talks about how NPN’s Creation Fund is furthering her work.

How did you become a part of National Performance Network?

I was first introduced to the National Performance Network by Paul Bonin-Rodriguez, a nationally acclaimed performance artist who is now a professor at The University of Texas at Austin. When I was a student at UT-Austin, Paul was a fellow classmate. Paul directed my first solo show, Reminiscence of the Ghetto & Other Things That Raized. He was heavily involved with NPN as an artist and as member of a performance company that is an NPN affiliate, Jump-Start Performance Company in San Antonio. Paul’s influence continues to permeate my life as an artist because his mentoring helped me foster a viable arts career. My first National Performance Network residency was in 2004 with Women & Their Work , an NPN affiliate in Austin. This residency world premiered Reminiscence of the Ghetto in Austin. The show was co-presented by Madge Darlington and her company The Rude Mechanicals at The Off Center. It was a great way to start.

Can you tell me more about the network and how it’s been valuable to you?

The NPN annual conference is really important for meeting fellow artists and career development. At the conference, I gained valuable insight in grant writing, branding, building press kits, and also voicing my needs as an artist. The network also has a set and fair pay scale so when I’m working on a show through NPN, I don’t have to negotiate the artists fees with the presenters. The pay scale serves as a model for me too, so if I’m traveling and performing a show that isn’t affiliated with NPN, I know how much to pay the director and other artists.

NPN provided you with a $9,000 commissioning grant through its Creation Fund. How does the Creation Fund work?

Two commissioners offer initial support to develop new work and then NPN matches that. At least one of the commissioning organizations needs to be an NPN affiliate. Along with the National Performance Network, the other two commissioners for me were the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and Legion Arts in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. These are the folks whose support helped me create Stretch Marks, my newest and most important solo show. My working relationship with Legion Arts, an NPN affiliate, began in 2004 when I sent them a cold submission. I pitched my first show and the relationship grew from there. This is now my third time working with Legion Arts.

Artists who receive support through the Creation Fund have three years to work on their projects. How long did it take you to complete Stretch Marks?

I had three years. Initially I collected data for the first two. The final year I reserved for creating the work, finishing drafts, editing, staging, and performance. The actual creating of the work took me very little time. It was a quick labor! However, a lot had to happen, gentle gestation, before I was able to get to that birthing moment.

How did the Creation Fund allow you to develop your one-woman show?

I was able to pay for child care so I could write, hire a director, travel, rent rehearsal space, and buy secondary materials. Those things are huge. Also, I had very specific deadlines because I knew part of the deal is to perform the work at the two commissioning organizations—at UT-Austin and at Legion Arts. I was not only creating the work but I also had committed engagements to present the work. These are real tangible goals.

Stretch Marks premieres in New York City this month. Touring is an important component of NPN. Where else will Stretch Marks be performed?

I already performed the show at UT-Austin in November 2009 and at Legion Arts in March 2010. One of the things I really like about NPN is that they are process orientated, instead of product oriented. This gives me a lot of freedom to revise and change the show between performances. I’d like to bring Stretch Marks to several cities I’ve never performed in like Atlanta, Houston, or Seattle. But I think more than ever, I’d like to find ways to stay closer to New York City.

I know you’ve received several commissions from different funders over the years for your work. What’s different about working with NPN?

I’ve received other fellowships but the relationship ended with the granting of the award. But with NPN, I knew I had career development opportunities and performance dates. I have a relationship with NPN, especially with the commissioners of Stretch Marks. These folks know the entire trajectory of my career and have seen me to this point. John Herbert and Mel Adringa of Legion Arts have showed me massive support without which I couldn’t have arrived to where I am now. I performed all three of my solo shows at their center and have worked within that community. It is the nature of NPN and subsequently the NPN affiliates to invest in artists for the long term. It’s about relationships.

For artists interested in working with NPN, what steps should they take to become a part of the network?

Contact the affiliates in your immediate area. You can find all the info you need on the National Performance Network’s website at npnweb.org.

For more information about Angela Kariotis visit www.angelakariotis.com.