Interact Theater brings back Uniquinox festival

Scotty Reynolds and Taous Khazem lead Interact Center’s third Uniquinox project, combining dance parties, visual art and theater in a quest for community.

Performing artist AnnaMaria Koutsostamatis rehearses for the street festival and mask pageant, Uniquinox, on Tuesday afternoon at North Loop Playground in Minneapolis. Interact Center is known for its inclusivity for artists of all types of backgrounds.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Performing artist AnnaMaria Koutsostamatis rehearses for the street festival and mask pageant, Uniquinox, on Tuesday afternoon at North Loop Playground in Minneapolis. Interact Center is known for its inclusivity for artists of all types of backgrounds.

Joe Kellen

Joli Grostephan-Brancato attached orange streamers to a hula hoop.

“It’s a ring of fire,” she said.

Grostephan-Brancato, an art instructor at Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, has been working on objects like these for months in preparation for the third annual production of “Uniquinox,” Interact’s street festival.

“It’ll all be very dramatic, hopefully the good kind,” she said, taping down a cluster of red paper.

Interact is designed to support the work of artists with disabilities. Since they started in 1996, the ensemble has grown to more than 125 people. A majority have contributed to preparing for the street festival.

“Uniquinox: A Street Festival of the Imagination” is the end result of months of work in Interact’s art studio and theater workshop. The outdoor bash at 3rd Avenue North between Washington Avenue and 2nd Street will include food trucks, circus acts, live music and a dance party.

Then there’s the main attraction: the mask and puppet pageant. Directors Scotty Reynolds and Taous Khazem collaborated with Interact’s team of visual and performing artists, a group that includes artists with and without disabilities.

After being with Interact for nine years, Reynolds said he’s excited about how the work challenges perceptions of disabilities.

“We have so many different body types. When we put the masks on, it transforms them and adds this larger-than-life quality,” he said. “Watching that pop for them has been really nice.”

That transformative power is clear in the pageant’s scope — it covers the journeys of three fictional candidates for Minneapolis mayor.

Their campaign trail takes them to countless places through space and time, including an underwater cavern, a sideshow strongman display and a dog competition.

“It’s mostly as a gag,” Reynolds said. “We wanted to focus on a spirit of inclusiveness, which makes sense with the group we’re working with.”

Whether it’s designing a mask or adding ideas to create the narrative of the pageant, one of Uniquinox’s main goals is to represent the wide variety of art created by the company.

 “I think that what we do at Interact is surprising to audiences because we try to tell stories in a context that people aren’t used to seeing,” Reynolds said.

The silly and inviting nature of the festival reflects the style the group works in. With so many different people coming together to create one piece, Reynolds said they work best when everyone lets go and plays with one another.

All in all, that play is what they have to rely on once they take the project outdoors. Reynolds and Khazem realize that there’s only so much they can control — it’s the nature of street theater.

“There’s always a little terror to be experienced,” Reynolds said.

Challenges aside, Interact puts the most focus on having fun and causing a ruckus in the North Loop of downtown Minneapolis.

“There’s a humanity and authenticity to it that cannot be recreated with any other group of people,” Reynolds said.

 

What: “Uniquinox: A Street Festival of the Imagination”
When: 1-4 p.m., Saturday 
Where: Third Ave N. between Washington Ave and Second Street, Minneapolis
Cost: Free