Off-Leash Area was founded in Minneapolis in 1999 and creates original interdisciplinary performance work. Named after the public parks where dogs run untethered, OLA’s creative approach is likewise playful, crosses boundaries, and takes risks. The company is led by co-artistic directors Paul Herwig, visual and theater artist, and Jennifer Ilse, director and dance artist.
In its 18 years OLA has created 25 original evening-length performance works, many short-form works, taught classes in Inverted Dance, workshops in Performance & Scenic Design, been commissioned by the Walker Art Center, the O’Shaughnessey, and collaborated with an ever growing community of the Twin Cities’ most exciting performance makers. OLA has four performance programs: presenting its Main-stage Productions in Minneapolis venues, Micro-stage Productions in their own home/studio Our Garage, the Neighborhood Garage Tour which brings performance work directly into neighborhoods, and The Right Here Showcase, an annual mini-festival of independent mid-career Minnesota-based performance makers.
OLA’s organic interdisciplinary approach was born out of the co-artistic directors’ desire to work together, and with each new production the collaboration between dance and theater begins anew. Once the Artistic Directors have developed a visual storyboard, designers are commissioned to contribute to the project, and performers are integral to developing material for the production.
OLA is committed to uphold the transformative power of the live performance experience, trusting in the intelligence and capability of its audience to follow them on each new journey of the imagination.
Our work often centers on a central character who resides in a marginalized place in society – a combat veteran, an immigrant child, a young woman suffering the onset of mental illness – and builds an experiential visual journey around this character that is uniquely presented, and universally recognizable. The focus on the individual in face of societal and life obstacles creates an intensely compressed emotional space between artist and audience. This is a space where artistic creativity is maximized in order to venture into unique performative dimensions where anything is possible, and a naturalistic presentation of everyday reality and the normal passage of time gives way to an out of body experience, which many audiences have described as otherworldly, and even spiritual.
If there is any one theme that runs through all our work it is a belief in the resilience of the individual human spirit as it seeks to achieve growth and fulfillment in the face of personal and societal barriers.