Right now what's on Lukas Schooler's mind is stilts. Yes, the giant wooden circus legs are one of the many things preoccupying his thoughts these days. Mostly because they are very representative of where he plans to take No Exit.
Schooler was recently named the executive director of No Exit, replacing Georgeanna Wade Smith, who held the role from 2009 through 2015. Smith will be jumping across town to be an associate artistic director at Young Actors Theater but will still regularly be working with No Exit.
"Through Georgeanna's leadership, we were able to establish ourselves as the premier site-responsive performance company in Indianapolis," says Schooler in a press release.
Schooler began with No Exit in January of 2012 after he saw one of their performances.
"For a while I have had this desire to work collaboratively with other artists of various mediums," says Schooler. "I really saw No Exit as an audience member before I even joined. Their work is highly visual ... They are really trying to be well rounded and represent all of the arts instead of just representing theater."
His personal artwork is typically site specific using anything from AstroTurf from the old RCA dome to Monopoly pieces.
After graduating from DePauw, Woodruff Place was was the first location that Schooler lived when he moved to Indianapolis.
"I found that place immediately fascinating," says Schooler. "The streets were unlike any other place."
It was this fascination that set him off to create several pieces that focus around specific neighborhoods.
"I am really interested in historical narratives and space," says Schooler. "That's where No Exit has really tied into the work that I make."
He hopes to take No Exit further into the communities around Indy. Right now he has his eyes locked on The House Life Project, a space that is run by a group of artists to see how they can get communities to see blight and their neighborhoods differently.
He hopes to bring artists from No Exit to Saint Claire Place and give the kids in the neighborhood the tools they need to make a performance piece.
"Something that I am really interested in for No Exit and for myself is working at a civic level to engage our community and our artisans in the city to think about new ways of performing and new ways of creating art," says Schooler. "And how we as No Exit can support that. That is kind of where I find myself."
No Exit also has plans to create pop-up shows in Fountain Square with iMOCA and redevelop the 2013 Hunger Games collaboration with Young Actors Theatre; ideally in a way that helps the youth involved think critically about things like hunger, urban gardening and sustainability.
"Through this process of the Hunger Games is cultivating self-esteem and what it means to be a good leader in this city," says Schooler.
Schooler also hopes to do a lot of experimental performances. One of which is yes, a group of artists all doing that performance while on stilts.
The company has traditionally followed a theater season. Soon, Schooler says, that will change. He went onto say that if you ask any member of No Exit they are a performance company, not a theater company.
"Within our company we have choreographers, we have people who mime, we have clowns," says Schooler. "We have people who are beautiful actors as well. Operating as a performance company and being seen as a performance company by our city allows us to break out of this formulaic method of what it means to be a theater company. So moving forward we are breaking from this mold."
A former member of No Exit recently said, "let's say that No Exit is quitting theater," recalls Schooler. He laughs and explains that it's not quitting it's expanding what Indy sees as performance.
"We want to be understood as performing beyond theater."