"Artrageous" is sure to tantalize all five senses when they come to BIG ARTS' Schein Hall Jan. 20.
The group of performers who live together in the mountains of New Mexico, founded "Artrageous" in 1980 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Many of its members, like John de Wolf, have been with the troupe for over 20 years.
"We've had many different productions and incarnations over the years, but it's all involved live music, painting, life-size puppetry, dance and audience involvement. As tastes change and as the audience's interest change, we've always tried to adapt. Right now, 'Artrageous is the totality of everything we've ever done which makes it interesting because there's never really been a show with as many arts in one place at one time," said de Wolf, who is one of the show's producers.
de Wolf and the other members, who he considers as close friends, found that in their early 20s having a "normal" job wasn't quite for them and turned to the performing arts instead. "Artrageous" was originally founded by Daniel Moyer and Deborah Noble. de Wolf said they met by constantly running into each other.
"None of us were really that employable. We liked each other and respected each other and therefore, we always ran our own business. So, we ended up working very hard but because we're kind of black sheep, it's always made sense that we work for ourselves and of course many business owners know that when you own a business, you end up working much, much harder but it's very rewarding. We have had the benefit of traveling the world, having incredible experiences, meeting thousands and thousands of wonderful people. We've very lucky. We're basically an artistic community and have been since the beginning," de Wolf said.
Since its founding, "Artrageous" has put on over 2,500 shows all over the world. They have performed in all 50 states besides Delaware. Wildfire, who are makers of backlight paint, sponsor them.
When it comes to their living situation, de Wolf likened it to living with your co-workers, day-in and day-out. He said good communication, team work and creating a common culture has become essential when it comes to traveling on the road and living together.
"It really comes down to being emotionally mature, being a good team player and a hard worker; that's part of our DNA, we work extremely hard. If you find enough of those people, it's amazing what you can accomplish," de Wolf said. "If you can find friends and agree to work hard, anything is possible."
Lauri McKelvey-Francis, one of the show's other producers, has been with "Artrageous" for 24 years. She said viewers who come to the performance should be prepared to see all different forms of art.
"People should come with their dancing shoes on and get ready to get involved because that is the most fun part of the show," Francis said.
de Wolf said that unlike many other shows, audience involvement is key, and to him, it's what sets them apart from the rest.
"We've always engaged the audience. The audience is critical to the show. We really mean that. The audience and the performers go on a really neat journey with each other and it's very rewarding. Everybody always walks away really happy. People say they've never seen a show like this and that they didn't know what to expect. One of the things we do as the guests walk in to the theater is we're giving them a couple things for the show and meeting them. We just want to create that instant rapport. Once the show is over, we head right for the lobby and say goodbye to people. It's about the guests and making sure that they know that they are a part of the show," de Wolf said.
The crew of "Artrageous" is set to appear at BIG ARTS' Schein Hall Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, go to bigarts.org or call (239) 395-0900.