Curator of the weird, deviser of hybrid media and Executive Artistic Director of Maelstrom Collaborative Arts, Jeremy Paul, is successfully blurring the boundaries of Cleveland’s creative worlds. MCA has emerged as a reinvention of its former self (the nomadic, theater company, Theater Ninjas, which produced for over a decade). With the shift led by Jeremy and the MCA Cadre over the last two years, “It has really been a massive transformation,” he says. “We built off of the ways we were already changing, but the way the company was structured, who we’re working with, the productions themselves have all shifted.” One of MCA’s most popular productions, Bricolage, pairs artists of completely different disciplines to collaborate and develop a new performative work.
Jeremy finds art compelling when it’s borrowing from different mediums, hence the collaborative spirit of his own work. “Anytime anyone is doing anything innovative, they’re pulling away from the status quo. In order to break free, you have to think, what is a different version of my art?”
As the leader of MCA, much of his work right now is centered on creating the conditions for other artists to make work. Jeremy and the MCA Cadre focus on artists as their main community serve and truly value the relationships they create with them. “Trust is very important to us. It’s is such an overused concept, but rarely executed,” he says. “We trust artists and ask them to trust us. Without that, it’s hard to be silly or dangerous or try something really stupid that’s not going to work at all.” Which at its heart, is what art-making is all about.
1. Briefly describe your work.
I create new work as a director, writer, and deviser of performance. The majority of my work focuses on the relationship between the audience and the performance, including experimenting with audience agency, interactivity and explorable environments.
2. How were you introduced to your craft?
I started out as primarily a theater artist, acting and directing in college, and dabbling in light design. I’ve mostly worked in Cleveland in DIY spaces and that practical experience really shaped both my aesthetic and philosophical approach to work. When you have to recreate the parameters of performance every time you put on a show, you’re forced to really question which ones are necessary for the experience.
3. Do you have any long-standing influences?
My influences are kind of all over the place. Since most of my work is an amalgamation, I’m usually drawn to work that blurs the lines of its specific medium. Interactive media and video games have been influential recently as touchstones for adapting principles to performance. And, of course, The Muppets.
4. Describe your idea of artistic success.
I think everything I do is about putting everyone in the same room. This is harder than it sounds. One of my biggest complaints about performance is when the performers and audience feel like they are having separate experiences. If we are creating live performance, then it needs to be live. It needs to breathe, to adapt, to respond, to take advantage of the fact that it is recreating in present tense. Otherwise, it’s just low-budget Netflix.
5. What is your process for generating new ideas?
I like to work in a collaborative environment and believe the best work comes from sharing ideas and then rigorously testing them. A lot of the rehearsal process involves devising games and exercises to generate content, then montaging or transforming that content into new shapes and structures.