AREA members of ALTERNATE R.O.O.T.S. (the Regional Organization of Theatres South) will present a combination showcase and patchwork celebration of their organization Friday, with a series of free performances at Pershing Park in the afternoon and a paid concert at the Market 5 Gallery in the evening.
"This is our first showcase in Washington," says Martin Petersilia of the Greg Reynolds' Dance Quintet. "ALTERNATE R.O.O.T.S. is a coalition of some individuals, but mostly organizations of community-based performing arts groups. It runs geographically from Washington to Baltimore, the Virginias, Carolinas, Tennessee and Georgia and all the way out to Texas. It involves people as diverse as jazz ensembles, professional minor dance companies like my own, or a group like Everyday Theatre," which Petersilia describes as "alternate dramatic theater."
The organization even includes professional circus performers and the New Orleans-based Free Southern Theatre, a professional black theater group that was involved in the civil rights movement of the '60s. There are five regional groupings, including one comprising Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and the District. "We have had meetings on and off for about two years, but this is the first time that, as a subregion, we have had a mini-performing festival," Petersilia says. "Once every year the entire organization holds a membership workshop seminar for about a week, usually in Tennessee; once every two years, we hold a regional performing festival the last one was in October 1982 in Atlanta in five or six alternate spaces. That's catching on regionally and is now supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Southern Arts Federation and various private organizations.
"This is our first time to try something like this in our region and obviously the first time in Washington. We thought we would start kind of small and put both events on the same day, but we also wanted to spread it out a little bit, so we took two different locations and two different times of day."
Featured performers Friday will be West Virginia's New World Theatre, which will do "Hot and Cold Running Circus" in the afternoon and "A Day in the Life of Justin Illusion" in the evening; Maryland's Theatre du Jour, repertory pieces in the afternoon and a new play, "Everything, Plus," in the evening; the Reynolds' Dance Quintet, repertory in the afternoon and "Handel Dances: Part I" in the evening, and the Washington-based Everyday Theatre, with repertory pieces in the afternoon and "Pirate Jenny" in the evening.
Also appearing on the afternoon program will be "Harmonica" Phil Wiggins. The evening program will be filled out by performance artists Henry Hubben doing "Coyote's Dream" and Isabel-Lee Malone in "Lola's Piece." "We are a little heavier on theater than on music or dance," Petersilia concedes. "Originally, R.O.O.T.S. was a dramatic theater organization, but some of us--in this area particularly--have tried to make it more inclusive of other performing arts forms."
He adds that another aim of the organization is "trying to get people to broaden their concept of what 'southern' theater is, so that it's not just recognized as something that has a regional scene based in the south--the corncob and straw hat image. It's similar to how Greg and I believe that anything that a black artist does is black art, rather than just certain things. It would be nice to think that we can broaden the concept to anything that has a basis in the southern experience."
The free concert will be from noon to 2 p.m. at Pershing Park (Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th streets). The evening performances at the Market 5 Gallery Seventh and North Carolina Avenue SE) begin at 8 p.m. For further information, call 724-2180.