Maelstrom Collaborative Arts Highlights New Location, New Season With “Saturnalia” Event

Photo by Mo Mzik

Sat 12/1 @ 7-10PM

Once a ninja, always a ninja. That said, earlier this year the time was right for the unique Theatre Ninjas to enter into its next chapter. Now only was a name change in order to Maelstrom Collaborative Arts but the longtime nomadic company found a permanent home at 5403 Detroit Ave. in Cleveland.

Next comes Maelstrom Collaborative Arts’ season announcement party “Saturnalia,” which features a feast of pop-up performances and interactive art throughout the night takes place Sat 12/1 @ 7-10pm at their new home.

CoolCleveland talked to Maelstrom Collaborative Arts Artistic Director Jeremy Paul about the company’s Theatre Ninja past, its new home and exciting future.

CoolCleveland: Regarding the name change, why was the time right?

Jeremy Paul: As a company, we’ve shifted a lot. We’re working with a lot of interdisciplinary artists. We’ve been incorporating a lot of music and dance and visual arts and video work into our events. So we’ve been really trying to expand the type of performing artists that we’re working with, and we wanted our name to reflect that. We wanted something that had that kind of storm-like energy. It’s sort of like the swirling current of a whirlpool, but at the same time it’s also anything that gets near that whirlpool can get sucked in, so you have all of these different elements that are getting pulled together into this one core thing.

CC: So is the name change a reflection on the company’s Theatre Ninjas past?

JP: We were really proud of a lot of the work we created at Theatre Ninjas, but we just wanted to make a really clear break from the kind of things we were producing. Up until the name change, we were doing a lot of events where people would go, “Why are you calling yourself Theatre Ninja? It doesn’t seem like this event is theater.” Or, it’s not theater in ways that most people expect it to be. We didn’t want people to see our name and think plays, because a lot of what we do really crosses a lot of borders. Definitely, performance is our wheelhouse, but we’ve been experimenting with things. We’ve been working with a lot of visual artists — illustrators and sculptors — pairing them up with performing artists, so they have a bit of entry into that sort of live time-based kind of artwork. People we’ve had include turntablists, video artists, DJs, dancers, theater artists. Just almost any kind of performing artist you can think of we’ve worked with.

CC: What role did the company finding a permanent location have in the name change?

JP: The space was a huge factor. We moved into our space about a year and a half ago, and we did that for a lot of reasons. As a nomadic company, we were looking at all of the kinds of work we were doing and the things we wanted to experiment with and try. Being nomadic wasn’t serving that in the same way that it used to, so when we moved into our new space that’s when it presented us with this huge opportunity of getting to do new things. We started thinking, alright, typically when you’re working in a theater idiom, you’re rehearsing a play for maybe six weeks, you’re doing a three-week run and then there’s a lot of downtime. Is that the best way to use this new location? That’s when we really started moving to a monthly performance model. Especially for next year, we used that to set a lot of our programming choices for 2019. We’ll be doing shows or major events just about every month. A lot of that is because we have this incredible resource we want to make use of.

CC: This year marks the debut of “Saturnalia.” What is the event?

JP: This is Maelstrom Collaborative Arts’ season announcement party. We’ve done a lot of work this year, so it’s kind of to celebrate all the work we’ve done and to announce all of the work we’ve got coming up.

CC: Finally, it just feels like it’s an exciting time for Maelstrom Collaborative Arts.

JP: This last year has been one of the most exciting years in the entire company’s history. And a lot of it is we’re getting to work with all of these incredible artists that have injected so much life into what we do. When you work inside of a single discipline like theater, you get used to the way things are going to go. Your expectations of what is going to happen rarely changes. By bringing in all of these new ideas, new voices, new people, it’s completely changed our idea about what is possible and what are the shows we want to make. It’s just been a really incredibly talented group of people as well, and that’s been hugely inspirational. It just feels like this has been such a great shift for the company.

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