ARTrageous bringing energetic visual spectacle to Farmington Civic Center
Company's performances hinge on audience interaction
FARMINGTON — When arts organizations abandon one locale for another, there are almost always a lot of complicated reasons behind the move — larger season ticket and donor bases, friendlier tax laws, more accommodating venues and other factors related to the bottom line.
But when a company of touring street performers that later came to be known as ARTrageous made the decision to move from Vancouver, British Columbia, to New Mexico many years ago, it was much simpler than that.
"We went on tour, and we ran out of money in Albuquerque," said Lauri Francis, who joined the group shortly after its inception in the 1980s.
The decision by company members to simply stay put where fortune had deposited them was made easier by the surroundings in which they found themselves. After all, the state's striking landscape and mix of cultures has famously inspired world-renowned painters, poets, writers, musicians and other creative types for centuries.
"Once you're in New Mexico, you don't want to leave — it's so beautiful," said Francis, who serves as the outreach coordinator, costume designer, choreographer and cast member for ARTrageous, which will perform this weekend at the Farmington Civic Center.
ARTrageous is based in Tijeras, a suburb of Albuquerque, but performs all over the country. Its 2020 schedule includes trips to the East Coast, the Gulf Coast, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest and the Southwest.
Francis said New Mexico has proven to be a good home for the troupe.
"It's the hub of some really creative people, and I think that really suits us," she said Jan. 23 during a phone interview from Tijeras. "The place itself has a calm and neat energy, especially up here in the mountains."
As its name implies, the 11-member company presents an unusual show — one that is a high-energy mix of live painting, singing, dancing and humor, with audience interaction serving as a crucial ingredient.
"It's pretty much everything to us," Francis said. "We've always been an audience engagement facilitator. Without an audience, our show doesn't matter."
Within reason, audience members largely are encouraged to respond to the ARTrageous spectacle in any way that suits them. That often involves standing and clapping during a good portion of the show, but sometimes it takes other forms, Francis said.
"If you want to come on stage at some point, that's amazing," she said. "We want you to experience the arts as a complete package."
At the conclusion of the show, audience members are encouraged to venture onstage with an item of clothing — something they've brought from home or a piece they've purchased at the ARTrageous merchandise table — and have it splattered with paint by a company member, converting it to a piece of wearable art.
While there is a definite structure to the show, Francis said change is something ARTrageous members embrace.
"It's always evolving," she said of the show. "We never really feel like we're settled. We always want to work on things that somebody has an idea for. We're striving to be the best show we can be."
The energy required to perform the 90-minute show is considerable, Francis said, especially when the company sets off on a lengthy tour and the demands of the schedule begin to mount. In March, for instance, ARTrageous will go through a four-shows-in-four-nights span, each in a different city in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.
"We definitely eat right and try to maintain our energy," Francis said of those physical demands. "We're pretty boring on the other side of performing — we all rise early and go to bed early."
Francis said the reaction of people who see for the show for the first time is the thing she enjoys most about her work. She said she finds it deeply rewarding when someone tells her they have been so inspired by an ARTrageous performance that they are moved to resume their own creative or artistic pursuit after having abandoned it years earlier.
She recalled doing an outreach program after a show in Illinois and having a student there tell her the experience was so important to her it had saved her life.
"That it could reach somebody so deeply, I'll remember that forever," Francis said.
ARTrageous will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. Tickets are $8 and $18. They can be purchased online at fmtn.org/civiccenter, by phone at 505-599-1148 or at the Civic Center box office.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.