Artists Al Fresco
Another new outdoor festival is coming to town. For nine days this summer, from July 13 to 21, some 200 performers, among them musicians, acrobats, and puppeteers, will perform for free on Boston Common and City Hall Plaza. Called Outside the Box, the festival is the brainchild of the philanthropist Ted Cutler, who hopes it will help invigorate the outdoor arts scene in the city, just as the Boston Calling rock festival did this past May. Pulling Outside the Box together will involve challenges beyond just the performances themselves, so we asked some of the people involved to tell us what’s on their mind as they get ready.
Many of the acts have complicated backdrops that have to be reworked to accommodate the outdoor venue. “It’s sort of a chicken-egg situation,” says Benjamin Phillips, the production manager and technical director for the Boston Ballet. “Sometimes you have to build the stage to accommodate the production, and sometimes you have to adjust the production to accommodate the stage.”
The extra microphones required for outdoor performances inevitably pick up the ambient noises, too. “It’s a little bit harder outside, because you have a lot of microphones that pick up things that you wouldn’t want to be picked up,” says Gabriel Peguero, the executive producer of Rhythm of the Universe, “be it for the actual live show or for the recording.”
The local climate can make preparation for an outdoor concert a bit of a guessing game. “None of us can control the weather,” says the Grammy-winning bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs. “We talk a lot about it, but none of us can do anything about it.”
The people who flock to outdoor performances bring a different level of excitement, but they also bring dogs, Frisbees, and countless other distractions. “They can easily leave if they don’t enjoy the performance, so it’s a little more of a challenge to keep them entertained,” says Jean-Sébastien Dallaire, cofounder of BAM Percussion, an ensemble that will be performing at the festival.