News Column

Architects office window becomes stage

August 11, 2014

By Sarah Barr, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Aug. 11--RALEIGH -- Walk along a downtown block of West Hargett Street at midday and you'll catch a glimpse of architects at work in the large street-front window of a firm there.

But for a few nights this month, an entirely different tableau will be on view.

Urban Garden Performing Arts will stage its latest show, "Vogue Men's Fashions: The Window," at Andrew Osterlund, PLLC as part of its ongoing creative community building efforts.

"The Window" continues the group's exploration of a character named John who is trying to connect with others: "John is tired of talking to himself and he needs to talk to you," goes the show's tagline.

During the show, the audience interacts with John, watches the passersby in the window and form their own community of people processing the evening.

"We're activating that space. So now anyone who sees the show has a personal, intimate experience with this little block," said P.J. Maske, the group's artistic director.

By creating a personal experience for audience members that's tied to a place, Maske hopes to inspire an enduring connection.

"It has to do with people taking ownership of their city," she said.

Andy Osterlund, president of the architecture firm, said it was an easy decision to open up the space to Urban Garden. The firm moved in wanting to have an active use on the street front. Opening the space up to a performance is another way to do so.

"It really has been a delight to watch them work in this space," he said.

Audiences met the character of John for the first time last summer, in a show above Foundation, a bar on Fayetteville Street. The show grew out of a collaboration by a group of artists who explored intersecting themes including audience engagement, the roles of architecture and place in staging a performance, and Southern identity.

Urban Garden's mission is to encourage collaboration among artists from different disciplines -- theater and the visual arts for example -- as well as engage audiences that might usually support only one dimension of the arts.

Maske grew up with mother who was a visual artist, trained as a dancer, and then moved into the world of theater and married a musician. Urban Gardens allows her to consider all of those experiences.

"I was really exposed to all of these different worlds and I felt really passionate about blending them," she said.

Other Urban Garden shows have featured art and folk music inspired by the work of writer Thomas Hardy, audience-controlled games, and performances built around the theme of baking and bread.

"The Window" opened July 31 and runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m through Aug. 16 at 7 West Hargett Street. Tickets are available at or by calling 804-601-0636.

Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah


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Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

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