Tag Archives: death

‘Desdemona’ Director Peter Sellars Says It’s OK to Fall Asleep

Well, maybe not exactly asleep, but while experiencing  his theater work Desdemona, if you find yourself slipping into a sort of meditative trance, or feel yourself straddling other unearthly worlds and universes…you’re doing it right.

Peter Sellars visited our offices last week to talk about our upcoming performances of Desdemona, a magical and thoughtful re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Othello, written by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison and the magnificent Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré, who performs in the piece with exceptional stage and film actress Tina Benko and an ensemble of Malian musicians. As he reflected on the attitude of this quiet piece, he laughingly recalled a sentiment often expressed in Japanese Noh Theater—“dozing encouraged.”

One of the things Peter very eloquently conveyed to us was the powerful quietness and absolutely intimate nature of this piece of theater.

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“It is one of the most elusive things I have ever put on the stage,” he said. “You do sort of feel like you are starting to fall asleep and dream…your heart rate slows until you are feeling differently and aware of this flowing space between waking and dreaming, and this beautiful work of theater touches the edges of the dream state.”

The physical staging is purposely simple, designed to evoke the feeling of traditional African mourning altars, he said. We enter into this benevolent graveyard to be greeted by the voices of women—songs from Rokia Traoré that defy translation sung softly, eloquent language from Toni Morrison spoken softly and with deep intent.  The technical sound requirements require precision instruments and exacting attention to detail so that every gesture, every sound, every movement from the stage may nurturingly welcome us deeper and deeper into a sense of otherworldliness, Sellars said.

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The scope and shape of the play itself evolved organically over the course of its creation, Sellars said. There was no initial vision or design that the performers and writers were trying to match. Morrison essentially plucked one line out of the play, one line spoken quietly by Desdemona to the woman her husband was having an affair with, and amplified that one line into an otherworldly experience for us all, one that will change the way we think about the character of Othello, the historically revered man who invented him and the racial and social themes that continue to emanate through our society.

“In this age of big spectacle, what we are doing here is examining how valuable and rich is a single human being, and how many worlds reside within each of us,” Sellars said.

It is ephemerality laced with ephemerality packaged in ephemerality—and these are the trappings of transcendence.

We have a brief shining moment with these words and these exceptional performers. Just four performances in Freud Playhouse, a 500-seat theater. After that, the cast and crew travel to Australia for two festivals and it is not likely the play will be mounted again anytime soon.  Traoré is a rising force in global music and will be focusing on her recording career for the foreseeable future.  She is so integral to the casting, Sellars says she doesn’t see it ever being performed without her.

Be here with us. Let’s take this journey together.

 

More than Words…

This week at CAP UCLA we are proud to present two unique programs that explore compelling landscapes in musical theater and dance through the art of monologue. These creative and authentic artists harness the spoken word form in ways that will stir your soul—with Young Jean Lee’s WE’RE GONNA DIE (starting Wednesday) and Jerome Bel’s Cedric Andrieux (Saturdaynight).

Words have power, I believe. The power to tell stories, reveal truths and inspire true human connection. Thinking about these two shows made me think about an interview I heard not too long ago between Michael Silverblatt and Aleksander Hemon. The Bosnian author was talking about his book, “The Book of My Lives,”which contains a personal and very emotional remembering of the loss of his daughter. In the interview the author talked about how he was confronted by a friend at that time who said: “words fail in these situations.”

No, Hemon said. Being a writer, he has belief in words. Words don’t fail, he said. Platitudes do. Empty phrases that don’t instigate connection or communication fail. But thoughtful, reflective words with meaning behind them, those can heal, those can inspire.

What you’ll find here at CAP UCLA this week and weekend is a fulsome sense of the power of words, within the context of the art of performance. And you’ll be in great hands.

Young Jean Lee is a trailblazing New York theater maker. She comes to Los Angeles for the first time with a profound and acutely realized collection of songs and stories about loneliness, loss and pain, alchemized into a surprisingly uplifting performance that might just leave us more hopeful, more connected, more compassionate and more understanding of our shared human experience.

Young Jean Lee recently told LA Weekly that she conceived this work as sort of self-therapy.

“My father had just died,” she remembers. “I tell the story in the show — he died in such a horrible way that I was so traumatized and felt completely isolated from everybody. And then I was thinking, when you’re in that place, where you’re in so much pain that nobody can reach you, I was like, ‘What can be of comfort then?’”

Saturday night we bring another perspective on the human experience—our inclination to strive for success, for expression, for joy and for creative pursuit.

We bring to the Royce Hall stage an incredibly intimate examination of the inspirations and challenges behind the growth and success of one artist—named for and performed by celebrated French dancer Cédric Andrieux. Part spoken word, part solo dance performance, this work by famed French choreographer Jerome Bel, reveals the experiences that propel and compel an artistic life.

In a nakedly honest moment on the stage, the former Merce Cunningham company dancer Andrieux tells us the stories of his life, his loves and his frustrations. Andrieux and Bel invite the audience to embrace the role of avid and confidential spectator, not just of one immediate evening of performance, but of one artist’s personal evolution.

Typically in dance performance, the movement speaks volumes. But in this penetrating performance, the words carry weight and power to build an aesthetic bridge between artist and audience.
It’s a rare and magical insight into what goes on behind the curtain and inside the heart and mind of an artist.

At one point in the performance Andrieux admits: “This solo, for me, it’s thinking about 20 years of my life, through what I have done in dance. I realized I had never spent that much time thinking of what I had done and why I had done it.”

Working with Jerome on this solo allowed Cedric to do just that–and he quite movingly shares the revelations this process has wrought for him.

So, if you also, often consider why you do the things you do, if you ever wonder how to deal with pain and loss, if you are into the kind of thoughtful, reflective moments that might just help us all remember how much more we belong to one another than not, please do join us for Young Jean Lee and Cedric Andrieux this week.

“I Love Everything About Young Jean Lee”

That’s what music legend Lou Reed says in this delightfully gushy testimonial about the incredible New York theater artist we are proud to be bringing to Los Angeles for the first time this November.

Reed’s not the only Young Jean Lee lover in the artistic world. On August 6, Young Jean Lee and Future Wife release their first album WE’RE GONNA DIE, with original tracks from the theatrical production performed by Young Jean and featuring a truly eclectic mix of modern recording artists including Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson, Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt of experimental electronic duo Matmos and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, and The Julie Ruin.

Just this past Monday, Young Jean and Future Wife performed tracks from the forthcoming album at New York City’s Chez Andre at The Standard for a special Annie-O Music Series Performance.

Check out the album single at Soundcloud and get a taste of what’s in store when Young Jean Lee Theater Company hits LA in November (Single tickets for all five performances at the Actor’s Gang Theater in Culver City go on sale July 11, by the way).

We’re eagerly anticipating Young Jean Lee and Future Wife’s Los Angeles invasion. Until then you’re most welcome to join us in keeping tabs on this truly unique artist who is changing the theater landscape in very exciting ways. Checking out the album when it hits. Get a dose of the Young Jean style by reading a few of her plays in print.

Join us for WE’RE GONNA DIE. Let’s get exhilarated and depressed together.