In its first 50 years, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded more than $5 billion in grants to recipients in every state and U.S. jurisdiction, the only arts funder in the nation to do so. Today, the NEA announced awards totaling more than $27.6 million in its first funding round of fiscal year 2016, including an Art Works award of $20,000 to Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA to present Phantom Limb’s Memory Rings.
The Art Works category supports the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing work, lifelong learning in the arts, and public engagement with the arts through 13 arts disciplines or fields.
NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like the one from CAP UCLA offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”
Memory Rings is a multi-disciplinary theatrical presentation that tackles nearly 5,000 years of human and environmental change from the perspective of the Methuselah tree, the world’s oldest known living tree. This performance is a part of a greater trilogy that examines ecological and environmental threads of narrative and research. Defying categorization, the ensemble uses dance, puppetry, mask, installation, music, projections, and costume to transport the audience. Phantom Limb is known for its work with marionette-puppetry and focus on collaborative, multi-media theatrical production and design. Co-founded in 2007 by installation artist, painter and set designer Jessica Grindstaff and composer and puppet maker Erik Sanko, Phantom Limb has been lauded for its unconventional approach to this venerable format.
To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEAFall15. For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, go to arts.gov
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.
The last few weeks of artists and programs that have entered our sphere have made me think about dreams and tightropes.
Mike Daisey, in a solo performance that was somehow softer, more-nostalgic and more inherently loving than I had originally anticipated, talked about not only the dreamscapes he inserted himself into– as a participating observer of Burning Man, his family’s obsession with Disney World and the passionate fervor of the people who originated the Occupy Wall—but also of his own sense of dreaming, the import that holds on his practice and career and they ways in which we can daily invent and reinvent the world together.
A few days later, as I watched decades-old footage of British miners, their faces—some grizzled, some wide-eyed and fresh—turned to the camera as they crawled into tiny box cars that led them beneath the earth. Listening to Johan Johannsson’s elegiac music of the Miner’s Hymnsadded to my sensation of wonder. I wondered what those men’s dreams were? And did those dreams include a life spent largely beneath the earth? What were their days above like? Were they happy? What would they think about being immortalized so many years later as part of a dreamscape created by music and film artists?
This weekend brings yet another dreamscape, an entre into a secret inner world of a percussionist. Schick Machine isn’t just a theater performance. It isn’t just a music performance. It is a shared moment of invention, a celebration of the tinkerer, the mad scientist, the creative explorer in us all.
I’ve also been thinking of tightropes. Theater legend Peter Brookuses the concept of the tightrope as a rehearsal technique, which he allowed his son Simon to document in a new film called (appropriately) The Tightrope. He takes a seemingly simple idea—move with freedom, abandon and cleverness all while adhering to the idea that you are suspended above air on a two-inch surface.
The most important requirement is that they convey a sense of reality, as if they were genuinely suspended in the air, their feet hugging a thin cord. After a while, it becomes clear that the tightrope is also a metaphor, standing for the existential risk inherent in every serious instance of playing.
All art, invented by dreaming, through imagination and exploration, exists on a tightrope, a precipice of risk. Creators create in a landscape of unknown outcome.
We as an organization gladly and gratefully also walk this tightrope with every performance, every year as we carefully shape a season of what we believe will be deeply nourishing and meaningful experiences that will in turn instigate more dreaming, more reasons to step on a sliver of reality and look at the world, ourselves, our art, our relationship to art and artists from a new perspective.
Recently, our artistic and executive director Kristy Edmunds was named the first visiting scholar of the venerable Pew Center for Arts and Heritage in Philadelphia.
They very quickly realized what they had on their hands was more than a simple observer or caretaker, but also a person who will work tirelessly to understand a community and to affect change in it, all with a persistent focus and drive toward serving the art and artmakers whose sense of dreaming can remake the world.
She’s to be their “catalyst in residence” and we can’t think of a better term to describe her. She’s already made her first trip to the city of brotherly love in a fact-finding mission to begin to absorb the unique challenges and opportunities that exist there and that they share with our own organization and the overarching arts national and international arts community.
We’re proud that our boss will be the first to tackle this role for the Pew Center. Read more about Kristy’s ideas, her focus, her goals for this endeavor with this esteemed foundation, and how it will continue to inform our work in our own community.
With a full year under our belt as Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, and a new season of performances soon to be upon us, I thought it was high time for me to start contributing various missives to our web site and monthly eNews. As we go along, some will invariably be generated from airports, others from my desk, likely others from backstage here or elsewhere–but since I am always thinking about something (at least when I am awake)–I am keen to share it with those of you involved in what we do over here at the Center.
I am sure I am not alone in this, but today is my elevated recognition that it is A U G U S T1st. I have been busily looking forward to summer all summer it seems, and now it’s August 1st ! From my desk that means that we are six weeks away from the arrival of the first artists on our season.
After the announcement of the 2013-2014 season in the spring, I was in Tel Aviv, Moscow and St. Petersburg with colleague artistic directors—seeing a great deal of performance and visual art, meeting with artists and practitioners and developing plans for projects to become part of our future programming at the Center (stay tuned). I was also able to participate in the LA Dance Summit, which generated a great deal of spirited exchange about the dance ecology in Los Angeles. Still being relatively new to the city, I appreciated being able to listen to the challenges and opportunities of dance artists and organizations over the years, and to ponder what strategies might be developed for increased visibility and growth over time.
Similarly, I was fortunate to have a chance this summer to really sit down and meet with theater artists and colleague presenter/producers of theater. There is a spectacular amount of energy and wisdom to draw from and I am always motivated by the possibilities of building different bridges that can lift the capacities of great artists and connect their work and ideas to places and people where they will find resonant embrace.
I want to talk a bit about two projects for which we are in rigorous and detailed preparation: Shun-kin by Complicite under the direction of Simon McBurney, and Weather, by Australian choreographer Lucy Guerin. Shun-kin just completed a highly successful engagement in New York with the Lincoln Center Festival, and then the technical director popped across to visit us here and look at the Freud Theater, where the company will set up in a few short weeks.
Much to his delight, the venue is going to be ‘perfect’ and we have made adjustments that will accommodate the subtitle positioning quite well (this is always a somewhat vexing undertaking, so I am very happy to report this news). Still, there is ample time for those of you coming to see an unforgettable work of theater, to read the Junichiro Tanazaki text that inspired it. There’s also a brilliant L.A. connection to this work, an essay on architecture by former UCLA professor Charles Moore which stands as design inspiration to the production, and also serves as a forward to the printed edition of In Praise of Shadows. While we will be printing the synopsis of this intense and challenging piece of theater in the program notes–and making those available in advance–it would be great for those of you inclined to read the original material.
If you can come to the opening-night benefit, please do so. It is going to be unforgettable, and it will help us continue to present exceptional theater that would otherwise not make it to Los Angeles. There is so much to do, and knowing we have your support makes the difficulty of getting it done utterly worth it.
Lucy’s piece deals with weather patterns and systems in change and sets the choreography into a world of weather in dynamic change – the scenography and score are equally dynamic, and we will be updating you in the lead up. I am so happy to be able to welcome Lucy and her dancers to Los Angeles. For those Aussie expats now based in L.A., we will make sure to have a gathering while they are in town.
Thinking of Australia for a moment – when you do return to Royce this September you will discover four newly planted, gorgeous eucalyptus trees adjacent to the back entrance of Royce near the stairs that lead down to our offices. These came to us when a gentleman working at Campus Facilities saved them from the chipper at a construction site elsewhere. I wonder how on Earth he did it – these are not saplings – and wanted to say thanks.
While most of us on staff here spend the summer months actively detailing the complex preparation for visiting productions and concerts from the upcoming season, I am also finalizing the major works that will become the backbone of the 2014-2015 season. I am happy to say that it is now largely in place (artistically speaking), and the long march of ensuring that we can resource the scope and dimension of the program is now at hand.
I am thinking about a lot of other stuff as well, but will save that for future missives.
This weekend marks the final performance of the 2012-2013, with LACO’s Concerto Finale. It’s been a great year and now is a great time for us to settle down and reflect a bit, before the joyous frenzy of bringing you the amazing array of 2013-2014 artists begins in earnest.
I thought I’d take some time to acknowledge and sincerely thank the many students and other members of our vibrant campus community who generously applied considerable heart and talent toward enhancing and contextualizing performances of our past season. There’s a whole wonderful lot of them!
Our on-campus group, Student Committee for the Arts (SCA) this year launched a new programming track for the Royce Hall terrace. Aptly dubbed “The Terrace Series,” SCA sought out performers (most of them also UCLA students) to create free concerts open to all UCLA students prior to our main stage presentations. A happy (and not entirely unexpected) byproduct of having these talented young performers sharing their work outside the hall before the artists on our season took the stage, was the energetic tone they set as audiences arrived.
The first Terrace Series concert featured hip-hop and experimental DJ Co. Fee and experimental soul/jazz singer and UCLA student Moses Sumney who set the stage for an evening of boundary-defying jazz and soul artists with the Robert Glasper Experiment plus special guests José James, Taylor McFerrin and Austin Peralta, a program CAP UCLA co-presented with SCA.
The second Terrace Series got groovy inside the Royce Hall west lobby (thanks to rain). UCLA student acts Ace Mack and Free Food started things off just right as later that night Charles Bradley and Menahan Street Band brought the Royce Hall crowd to its feet in a truly soul-stirring performance.
Most recently, SCA teamed up with noted UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival to create a head-to-head competition between two student groups—The Wes Coast and The Street Hearts— who battled it out on the Royce Terrace before our presentation of avant-groove jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood. Winners The Street Hearts will be the opening act at Jazz-Reggae Fest on campus next weekend—an amazing opportunity for young musicians. We’re proud to say we knew them when!
Our student advocates at SCA also helped us perpetuate poetry this past season, presenting an incredibly inspiring open-mic poetry slam, hosted by author and poet Carl Hancock Rux, as part of his appearance on our season.
Speaking of poetry, in conjunction with SCA, we created a live poetry bureau on the steps and terrace of Royce Hall the evening of David Sedaris’ performance. Audience-goers from the literarily inclined crowd made great use of a dozen waiting student writers by filling out a small questionnaire and in return, getting an on-the-spot personalized poem.
Student writers Megan Lent, Denise Lin, Meagan Hogan, Wendy Du, Katie Neipris, Brendan Hornbostel, Catherine Kang, Anthony Cerrato, Lena Muratova, Ashley Simmone, Eric Lim, Jeanette Zhu, Makayla Bailey dutifully (and gleefully) clacked away on old-school typewriters and created a very special sense of occasion for our final spoken word event. Check out our full photo gallery and some poetry samples on Flickr.
The winners of our annual humor-writing competition, UCLA students Ida Cutler, Jenna Westover and Patrick Nolan, not only poured their hearts into some truly poignant pieces of writing, but also bravely faced a sold-out Royce Hall audience to do an impromptu live introduction of David Sedaris. They took on the task of informing the rapt crowd that Sedaris’ most recent book had just hit No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. “I’m so embarrassed they mentioned the bestseller,” Sedaris teased when he took the podium a moment later. “I was afraid I was going to have to do it myself.”
There’s something automatically energizing about having UCLA student performers and artists on site. The extremely talented young instrumentalists of We the Folk joined us several times this year—leading audience-goers (who arrived, string instruments in tow) in a “Pick Your Brains Out” jam session on the terrace prior to David Grisman Sextet plus special guest David Lindley and also providing live music in the Freud Playhouse courtyard before several performances of Cheek by Jowl’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. Fellow student musicians Los Tres Compadres also greeted theatergoers during Cheek by Jowl’s run with a the trio’s classical music approach to modern tunes.
Prior to our presentation of fiery Argentinian group Bajofondo, we invited WAC/Dance grad student Sharna Fabiano and partner Isaac Oboka to host a lively mini-milonga and tango lesson on the Royce Terrace, which the audience participated in to full effect.
And, while they’re not technically UCLA students or teachers, we must thank the dance activists of CONTRA-TIEMPO and Latin percussionists from Son of the Drum for a glorious salsa-dancing sunset as part of our “Carmageddon Tailgate Party,” which kicked off the first of 2012-2013 music performances in Latin style on the evening of Bebel Gilberto plus Forro in the Dark.
Our major April program, Trisha Brown Dance Company: The Retrospective Project, would not have happened without the support and efforts of many campus entities, but we were particularly delighted to witness first-hand the transfer of knowledge from Trisha Brown Dance Company to the student performers of Floor of the Forest, which ran in the Hammer Museum Courtyard from April 1-21.
The work was performed by: Courtney Ryan, Rachel Getman, Sarah Jacobs, Elena Yu, Emily Nelson, Ahilya Kaul, Anna Eliza Pastor, Eydie McConnell, Gwyneth Shanks, Myrrhia Rodriguez, Hana Cohn, Cyndi Huang, Samantha Goodman, Alexis Wilkinson, Brynn Shiovitz and Katherine Ann Kaemmerling.
Not only did these talented young artists volunteer for a rigorous rehearsal period and performance schedule, but several of them also made a point to dive into every element of the Trisha Brown programming, attending talks and other Company performances throughout the week.
Here are a couple Floor of the Forest dancers getting into the moment during the Company’s performance of Roof Piece at The Getty Museum.
Earlier in the year another amazing group of students (and a few non-students) leaped at the chance to work with Meredith Monk as she returned to CAP UCLA in January to complete her artist residency and debut her new work, On Behalf of Nature. Monk collaborated with this group of artists to create a very unique installation piece that they performed in the Freud Playhouse courtyard before each evening of On Behalf of Nature. The subtle and individualized movement of each artist happened among the foliage and gathered crowd. The performers came together several times to sing a gentle wordless refrain reminiscent of Monk’s newest composition. It set a delightfully pensive tone for the audience as they entered the space to enjoy Monk’s elegiac and meditative work.
The Meredith Monk installation performances featured: Sonya Chávez, Chankethya Chey, Meryl Friedman, Jean Garcia-Gathright, Kaitlyn Huwe, Sarah Jacobs, Mary Neely, Odeya Nini, Hap Palmer, Courtney Ryan, Tommy Schulz, Gwyneth Shanks, Alexandra Shilling, Brynn Shiovitz, Elaine E. Sullivan, Kanwal Sumnani and Laurel Jenkins Tentindo.
Our collaboration with UCLA Library Special Collections and the wealth of cultural history and passion that resides in the documents, images and curators of that department yielded a wealth of events related to our presentation of Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish. Two exhibits on Beat writers and the history of Beat culture in Los Angeles continue through June. Special Collections also graciously welcomed both our Artist Fellows–Laurie Anderson and Robert Wilson–to explore the treasure trove of cultural archives on this campus. Inspiration ensued! (Stay tuned)
This season we also launched a new informal discussion series for our donor audience—“Tonight in the Lounge.” Supporters of our organization at the Sustainer level and above are invited to the private Royce Hall lounge before performances. For “Tonight in the Lounge” we often mined the deep expertise of this campus to create significant moments of insight and inspiration around the artists on our season. These casual talks made an indelible impression on our generous supporters thanks to the great enthusiasm and generosity of many UCLA students and faculty members.
Michael Hackett, Professor and Chair of the Department of theater in UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television helped us welcome international theater back to the 2012-2013 season and gave our donor audience a primer on Eugene Ionesco before performances of the acclaimed playwright’s Rhinoceros from Theatre de la Ville-Paris.
Sahba Shayani, fifth-year graduate student in UCLA’s Program of Iranian Studies/Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, provided thoughtful context around the work of Rumi to performances of Akram Khan Company’s Vertical Road, a compelling dance work inspired in part by words from the beloved Persian poet.
Alex W. Rodriguez, UCLA PhD Student in Ethnomusicology joined us for a lounge talk prior to performance from jazz legend Ron Carter, celebrating the enduring bassist’s stature, legacy and influence in jazz.
James Newton, Distinguished Professor, Ethnomusicology and director of UCLA Charles Mingus Ensemble shared his distinct expertise to set the stage for jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, who performed in several combo configurations and was joined by a personal mentor, saxophonist Steve Coleman.
Oded Erez, second-year doctoral student in the Department of Musicology helped contextualize the passionate music of Israeli band Yemen Blues.
Eric Schmidt, second-year MA/PhD student in the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology joined us to celebrate the work of Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and share thoughts on the legacy of his legendary father Ali Farka Touré. (Eric also did a wonderful interview with Vieux in preparation for his talk with our donors–scroll down to the January 31 issue of our blog.)
Cheryl L. Keyes Professor of Ethnomusicology & Director of Undergraduate Studies, HASOM came out for our Mardi Gras party, talking to our supporters about the colorful culture that surrounds New Orleans music, as we presented Allen Toussaint Band and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in Royce Hall.
At every turn, we discover how fortunate we are to be surrounded by the students, staff and professors who populate this campus. The exchange of ideas, the energy created by embracing an atmosphere that is dedicated to new ideas and experiences is an important part of who we are. And we thank them all.
Many thanks to everyone who joined us last night in Royce Hall before David Sedaris took the stage as Kristy Edmunds unveiled our upcoming season.
It’s a doozy, with plenty of theater and dance, the launch of Tune-In Festival L.A.– a weekend of amazing contemporary music– plus so much more. We welcome you to dive in and discover it all.
Check out our teaser video and peruse our online program guide. And, we sincerely thank you for all the energy you brought to our artists and programs over the last season. Here’s to more amazing times ahead.