Slant Culture Theatre Festival Returns With Uncommon Works

Last year, five Louisville theater companies came together to put on what they call a festival of “uncommon works.”

Theatre [502], Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble, Savage Rose Classical Theatre, the Louisville Improvisors and Walden Theatre are teaming up again this year for the second annual Slant Culture Theatre Festival, which opens Thursday with a launch party at Walden Theatre featuring performances by Billy Goat Strut Revue, Sandpaper Dolls and Justin Paul Lewis, food by Grind Burger truck and assorted short theatrical performances. The festival runs through November 24. 

“Last year, we were so excited about all the possibilities. You know, when you start a brand-new thing you have that nervous energy, and you hope that your hopes and dreams and plans all work out. And we ended up meeting all of our goals for income, audience, all of that,” says festival producer Alison Huff. “And one of the things we were most proud of is that we succeeded in creating that energy we wanted, buzzing around Walden Theatre – the sense of community and sharing of theatre and art.”

The festival works like this: each of the five producing partners stages a full-length show, with several performances throughout the festival, which is headquartered at Walden Theatre on Payne Street. There are often two shows running concurrently, on the main Nancy Niles Sexton stage and the “alt-space,” a much smaller black box set-up with limited seating. Guest artists and companies were selected to perform in the festival by an independent jury. For folks interested in learning more about selected topics, there are lectures. Between shows, there’s entertainment from local singer-songwriters and artists in the lobby (and a bar) with food trucks parked outside. 

(Disclosure: I am hosting a special edition of The Moth StorySlam, which is sponsored in part by WFPL, for the festival.)

It’s an ambitious undertaking for a group of artists who, aside from the Walden Theatre team, don’t have permanent offices, stages or full-time paid staff. By working together, they’ve seen more than an annual festival emerge – company members are crossing over to work on each others’ productions, too. 

“It was really important to us to work together and share resources and cross-pollinate our existing audiences to create something bigger than what any one of our small or mid-sized companies could do on our own,” says Huff. “It does take all year to plan this, so there is that constant conversation, and it has led to opportunities to work together all year, not just in the festival.”

That collaborative conversation led to an increase in submissions for guest artist spots this year. Huff says one of the more “slanted” performances will likely come from the new experimental troupe Babyhorse Theatre Group, who will stage John Ford’s 17th century classic “‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore” (Nov. 16-23).

“The only lighting for the show is going to be audience flashlights, so it’s a bizarre sort of audience participation thing, you get to come in and be the lighting designer, choose where the focus is going,” says Huff.

Also among the guest artists is Marrow Street Theatre, the new company focused on bite-sized plays. Marrow Street will revive its first offering, Rachel White’s robot memory play “The Gardeners” (Nov. 15-23), which premiered at Tim Faulkner Gallery over the summer. 

“That had a great buzz around it right as it was closing, so they’re really excited to bring that to a wider audience,” says Huff. 

And Pandora Productions will stage Silas House’s “This Is My Heart for You,” a play about a small Appalachian community divided over an incident of anti-gay discrimination (Nov. 17-23). 

Here’s a look at the producing partner productions. A full calendar with ticket package options is available on the festival website.

Walden Theatre

“In the Pony Palace / Football” – a musical about football culture with an all-female cast. Directed by Alec Volz, featuring Walden Theatre students. Nov. 16-23.

Theatre [502]

“Thom Paine (based on nothing)” – Will Eno’s one-man show was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for drama. Directed by Mike Brooks, starring Gil Reyes. Nov. 16-24.

Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble

“On the Circuit” – Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison are forced to perform a Vaudeville double act together. Conceived, written, composed, choreographed, directed and performed by Gregory Maupin and Tony Dingman.  Nov. 16-24

Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company

“The Final Kiss / Tics, or Doing the Deed” – Two classics from Theatre du Grande-Guignol, the Paris home for early-20th century “brutally naturalistic” horror plays and sex comedies. Directed by Tony Prince. Nov. 16-23.

Louisville Improvisors

“Werking” – Work and private lives collide. Performed on the spot by Louisville Improvisors. Nov. 15-23.

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