Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Who’s Afraid Of The STRAIGHT WHITE MEN?

LA has a theater problem. That should come as no surprise: LA is primarily a music and visual arts city, and it’s hard to compete with the plethora of beautiful museums and concert halls scattered across the map. Anthony Byrnes goes into greater detail about LA’s theater problem in his article for KCRW, but also into possible solutions. He highlights our recent co-presentation of Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company as an example of reaching across the void to connect the city’s theaters. We are co-presenting Lee’s play Straight White Men in collaboration with Center Theatre Group, who also co-commissioned the work.  Our director Kristy Edmunds was recently featured alongside Lee on a podcast from Center Theatre Group, with the discussion led by CTG’s associate artistic director Diane Rodriguez. If three intelligent, driven women discussing avant-garde theater, collaborative power, and exchanging silly stories sounds like something you’re into, click here to listen online.

Lee recently spoke to the LA Times about the production, describing her creative process and the birth of this production. There is always a subversive element to Lee’s work, and she continues that trajectory by tackling the responsibilities of straight white men as an Asian-American woman.

“It’s the question of, ‘What do we want straight white men to do that they’re not doing? And what happens when they do that?'” Lee told the LA Times . “It’s a very current question. Because being a straight white man is a relatively new thing, historically. For years, they got to be the default human. And now, suddenly, they’re being slapped with labels, and they hate it. So it’s sort of approaching a timeless question from a slightly different perspective.”

We were thrilled to collaborate with CTG and Young Jean Lee on co-presenting Straight White Men, and not simply because we are always happy to have our name associated with an exciting and provocative event. It’s not the first time we’ve worked with Young Jean Lee—you may remember her cabaret performance WE’RE GONNA DIE in our 2013-2014 season. Lee is doing brave, outspoken work on gender politics and personal identity, and we are proud to support it. But our true excitement stems from working alongside Lee and CTG to bring awareness of the production to an audience that might be unfamiliar with the company. LA’s theater problem isn’t insurmountable. We just all have to be willing to put the strength of the community above the desire to be number one.

Straight White Men runs at the Kirk Douglas Theater until December 20th.

To read more about our collaborations, visit http://cap.ucla.edu/artinaction/special_initatives/15_16_program_collaborations

Ruminations on L.A. by Gabriel Kahane

As Gabriel Kahane prepares to bring his sonic treatise The Ambassador home to Los Angeles, he shared some thoughts on the city that inspired an album, a theatrical stage show, and a state of mind. 

GK4PhotoCreditJoshGoleman

If you turn onto Vernon Avenue just east of Lincoln Road, you’ll find neat rows of modest bungalows which once announced themselves cheerfully with paint jobs in vivid reds and greens and blues, but which after decades of neglect and exposure to sun have been left mottled and fading. And so it is that these houses have been passed over in the otherwise inexorable spread of gentrification in the Venice area. I am complicit, if only as a window shopper, in this fancification that has largely replaced the seedy character of Free Love-era Venice Beach with a wealth typified by bespoke shops doling out luxury coffee, four-figure caparisons, and faux-Dutch bikes, to a newly transplanted demographic that can handily afford them.

This observation is intended without any kind of territorial griping; my claims on the neighborhood are thin at best. I was born, in 1981, in one of those bungalows, either at 648 Vernon Ave. or maybe 652, but we moved East in 1983. Of those first two years, I have only a pair of (interrelated) memories: first, that the walls may have been a pale yellow; and second, that I had a fever at some point and in its subtropical grip I looked out through the white slats of my crib with burning eyes and beheld those yellow walls, and that’s what I remember.

Though on its surface The Ambassador is a piece about Los Angeles through the lens of film, fiction, and architecture, I think it’s actually a piece about memory, and how memory dances infinitely with physical space. From what I can surmise, Los Angeles started to have a sense of its own history, of collective memory, in the early aughts, around the time of the preservation battle over the Ambassador Hotel, a three-way affair that pitted the LA Unified School District and the Kennedy Family against the L.A. Conservancy. Though the campaign to preserve the hotel failed, and in its place an architecturally vacuous complex of schools (admittedly serving a community much in need) built— about which Christopher Hawthorne has written incisively and eloquently—the process of trying to save the hotel nevertheless reified in many Angelenos a sense of pride in history.

But long before Diane Keaton spoke at the wake for the Ambassador Hotel, there was a trove of cultural artifacts that served, consciously or not, as a historical record of the city. I’m thinking now of the novels of Joan Didion and Nathanael West and James M. Cain, the films of Howard Hawks and Michael Mann and William Friedkin, the criticism of Esther McCoy and Reyner Banham and Mike Davis, and the houses—oh the houses— of Rudolph Schindler and John Lautner and Lloyd Wright. It’s this archive that was my way into making The Ambassador, which as a body of work is more a reflection of what interested me instinctively than an attempt to be comprehensive vis a vis Los Angeles. For how can one map an unmappable city? To paraphrase Christopher Hawthorne, L.A. is not great at sitting still for portraits.

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There is one portrait of Los Angeles that became familiar to me as I worked on The Ambassador, much of which was written in a postage-stamp of a studio apartment perched at the southern end of Griffith Park, an apartment whose original function was as the servant’s quarters of the connected house that Rudolph Schindler remodeled in the early 1920’s. There’s a door on the eastern side of the studio that opens onto a small wooden roof deck, canted nails jutting up and out threateningly. (During one visit, I ended up sitting in the pharmacy at the creepy Walgreen’s at Sunset and Western, waiting to get a tetanus shot before driving home rattled in that singular way one does under the combined influence of foreign chemicals and native adrenaline, one of the nails having had its way with the heel of my left foot.) Stepping outside, if I turn to face south on this little parallelogram of decklet high above the city, it’s all hypnotic views of the L.A. basin. Nights: coyotes skirling just beyond the window, their cries sharp and dry and anechoic, an uneasy counterpoint to the silent play of hundreds of thousands of lights throbbing in the basin below. Mornings: steam rising off of coffee to meet the fog; the ritual of assessing air quality by visibility— can you see Palos Verdes?

Thom Andersen, in his film Los Angeles Plays Itself, says early on that L.A., as a city, is not photogenic, that its edges are blurry, smudged, imprecise. (Another way of articulating Hawthorne’s quip about Los Angeles not taking to portraiture.) That may well be the case, but through human eyes—or at least through my eyes— to behold the city at dawn before the fog has burned off, and to read it as a quick pastel sketch of a metropolis on the brink of bustling activity, commands great emotional precision, even if the image isn’t in focus. And that emotional precision was the thing I wanted to capture in The Ambassador. For as I began to visit Los Angeles more often in my late twenties and early thirties, there was an accretion to the emotional weight of the city. Driving through East Hollywood, Inglewood, Westchester, Marina Del Rey. Walking Vermont Ave. in Koreatown, chatting up the proprietor of a piano shop that seems as uncomfortable in its skin as its owner; she’s still rattled twenty-some-odd years later. The pilgrimage to the San Gabriel Valley for soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung and the reluctant camaraderie that accompanies the lines that stand between you and xiao long bao. Or this: standing under a gunmetal grey sky and gaping at the modest majesty of the Watts Towers and the improbable fact of one man’s vision and persistence.

I wanted to know why the city made me feel so much.

Bringing The Ambassador back to Los Angeles is terrifying. I want to do right by the city that I abandoned so soon after it bore me. I want those who might be prone to reflexive defense of their city to know that if there’s tough love in the piece, it is the object and not the modifier that’s key. But ultimately, I cannot and should not offer preemptive defenses— all I have is to invite you to join me at the Freud Playhouse on February 27 and 28, and to have a look for yourself.

Poetic Thought for a New Season

We’ve been obsessed with poetry around here lately, on a mission to incorporate it into our lives more fully. As part of this ongoing exploration, last year we met Mary Ruefle, a master of erasure poetry who taught us this simple but profound practice of taking written words, marking some of them out and unveiling something wholly new.

There is a lot of poetry to be found in the upcoming season. Explore the 2014-2015 calendar up today on our website. And there will be much more to come from us in the next few months– a new website, and the official season brochure hits mailboxes in the next couple of days, keep an eye out.

We took a pause from the frenzy to sit down with some of that information and in the name of poetry, erase it.  If you’ve ever encountered our artistic and executive director Kristy Edmunds, you know how eloquent and inspiring her words can be. Figuring they would make for prime poetic fodder, several staffers here took Kristy’s welcome letter from our season program guide, and turned it into an erasure project.

Here’s what we covered and uncovered.

We ‘re looking forward to everything we may unearth in the coming season.

 

ErasurePoems

Welcome to the 2014-2015 Season

By Jessica Wolf

 An impressive appetite

We love

We thrive

You celebrate and discover

 

Artists

Art Forms

Vision

Turn sound to light

Epic and mind-expanding

 

L.A. itself

A unique world

Synthesizes poetry

Remarkable

And deliriously strange

 

Through masterful hands

Every endeavor

In passion

And an unknown outcome

 

We help the work

Stand as connectors

Diverse, voracious, curious participants

 

Thank you

Artists

Audiences

A virtuous circle

Complex and ebullient

 

Art direct for UCLA

 

 

By Meryl Friedman

 

A City…

L.A.

Standing at the apex

Of delirious endeavor

 

Us

Connectors

Participants

In the complex collaboration!

 

 

By Theresa Willis Peters

 

There is clear evidence…

of routes to one another

 

We thrive, celebrate, discover

We continue

Emerging the vision

Over decades

 

Fans that make the world turn

 

Unseen time

Marks our work

Places and sensations

Poetry

Multifaceted and perfectly scaled

Standing, rediscovered

Deliriously strange

 

Each endeavor

A question

Pursuing an unknown present

Connectors between

A curious common cause

 

Our potential.

 

 

By Phinn Sriplyorung

 

In a city

We LOVE

Center for exploration

Artists

Collaborations

Relationships

Come together

 

Cultural omnivores

Exposed sound

A spotlight celebrates

A resounding, special, mind-expanding

Epic….

Collaboration

 

We are collaborating with L.A.

Our L.A.

An homage to fame

Standing at the apex of the avant-garde

The absurd

And strange

The life of our celebrated modern stage

 

A unique endeavor

In which artists come together in mutual passion

Cause and relevance

 

Entrust us

To be actively present

Us who work as connectors

Artists

Audiences

Supporters

Participants

Enhance the art-filled potential

Of our labor

Desperately Seeking Poetry

We’re kind of obsessed with poetry around here these days. One of the first things our new artistic director Kristy Edmunds started talking about when she arrived was this concept of poetry in our lives…the need for it, the existence of it, the search for it.

We’re interested in nuance. Intrinsic evocative details of life are unearthed through art and through language, but nuance tends to disappear, or become overwhelmed in our modern technological world. We shorten language, we avoid language, we allow language to keep us apart, when we can and should be using it to come together.

The thought evolved into a fairly simple initial question — Who is the Poet in Your life?

Of course, that question (purposely) inspires a host of others. IS there a poet in your life? If not, why not? Do you want one? How do you get one? What is poetry anyway? Where can we find it?

That last question has been floating to the forefront for me of late. I feel like I’ve been finding poetry everywhere, in places big and small, from an amazing Instagram shot a friend took, to a tiny and innocently profound inscription my 10-year-old niece wrote in a scrapbook we are making for my soon-to-be-sister-in-law. (“Your imagination counts. Every single thought counts.”)

I’ve even found some on the streets of Los Angeles. Yes, literally. There is a spot downtown near 7th and Fig. called “Poet’s Walk.” I didn’t know it existed until this summer. It’s a confluence of public art and original poetry, most of it created and installed more than 20 years ago.

I got wrapped up in one piece in particular, called Portals to Poetry. It’s a series of interconnected door-like structures made of steel, bronze and found objects by George Herms articulated with poems written by Charles Simic and set in bas relief on the structures. I love the idea of pairing poetry with doors. Doors open, doors close, there’s a poetry in the idea of opening ourselves up to new experiences and places by walking through a door and also a bittersweet poetic sensibility when we close a door on a part of our lives that has perhaps run its course or isn’t serving us.

It’s kind of amazing the thoughts that bubble up when you start thinking about poetry in your life.

Go ahead, walk through that door with us. Start by sharing a though about a poets or poem that speaks to you on our Poet in Your Life tumblr. We’ll be asking more of you and sharing more with you on this thought as our season progresses.

Portals to Poetry