Tag Archives: theater

Robert Wilson, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Willem Dafoe: ‘The Old Woman’ Nov. 14-15, 2014

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes. 

Over the last year or so, Los Angeles audiences have been rich in opportunities to experience the iconic and unique creative vision of Robert Wilson, one of the most revered directors in American contemporary theater.

The triumphant and long-awaited performances of Einstein on the Beach, Wilson’s seminal collaboration with Philip Glass and Lucinda Childs happened last October and were met with sold-out performances populated by engaged and enthusiastic crowds of audience goers that shattered known demographics of opera audiences. We were proud to partner with the LA Opera to bring this work to the Los Angeles stage. And we held on to Robert Wilson after the curtain fell on Einstein, bringing him to Royce Hall for John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing, a challenging piece performed by Wilson himself and which was met with awe and appreciation.

Over the last two seasons we have been committed to showcasing his exceptional artistry as one of the Center’s inaugural Artist Fellows and we’re proud to once again bring a Robert Wilson work to the Royce Hall stage with The Old Woman.

There’s been a great deal of excitement and buzz around this particular piece, thanks in part to the two incredible performers—Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe— who have collaborated so closely with Wilson to bring this unknown work of absurdist Russian literature to vivid life and thereby cementing Daniil Kharms, an often-forgotten writer of Russian absurdist literature into American theater canon. It is a work of passion that would not be possible without the complete creative investment of many artistic visionaries, those who you will witness on the Royce Hall stage tonight, and those behind the scenes.

Robert Wilson is a profoundly important theater maker. He also is a profoundly generous “permission giver” when it comes to artistic possibility. He creates a fertile and intricately crafted field of study that is unnatural and often bizarre. But in the bizarreness, in Wilson’s exactingly manufactured specifications of movement, sound, style and color, there is also a freedom—a freedom to explore the concept of absurdity, of perception, of reality and unreality.

The medium of theater, the ephemeral nature of the art form, lends itself to framing a safe space for us all to explore the unknowable, the gloriously unnatural. It is an invitation and an exclamation simultaneously. No one harnesses those sensibilities better than Robert Wilson.

We thank him for this work, we thank the performers and crew and staff who work tirelessly to build it for us, for just a moment in time.

We thank you for being here to share it.

Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes: The Daisy Theatre Nov. 11-15

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes. 

Ronnie Burkett is one of those artists who knew very early on what shape his life would take. Or, at least, after watching The Sound of Music “Lonely Goatherd” puppet show segment as a kid he had a powerful image of what he would like to do for the rest of his life.

And we lucky creatures are the beneficiaries of Ronnie’s earliest artistic impulses in puppetry and his ongoing commitment to his craft. Our director, Kristy Edmunds, has often stated a deep desire to make Ronnie a household name in the U.S. theater community. He’s incredibly renowned among puppeteers around the world, but these performances of The Daisy Theatre mark only his second appearance in Los Angeles.

Last season, the Center presented his evening length narrative work Penny Plain, a very darkly comic apocalyptic tale that riveted audiences. This time around is a bit more whimsical and a lot more improvisational.

No two performances of The Daisy Theatre are alike and even if you just catch one, you’re experiencing something quite special. Ronnie is fresh off a sold out run of The Daisy Theatre in Edmonton, Canada and last year had a sold-out run in Vancouver.

These six nights here at the Actor’s Gang theater are the only U.S. performances of The Daisy Theatre. Count yourself lucky.

Ronnie is an exceptional performer, and also an exceptional craftsman. If you don’t already follow him on Facebook, you should. In the casual confines of social media he often provides a very unique glimpse into his work, documenting his process through photos and updates that detail the extremely technical craft that goes into the manifestation of a puppet.

“I love jointing marionettes,” he said recently, posting photos of a character-in-progress. Those intricately created joints, so tiny, and so intelligently designed and manipulated with such love and care by the man holding the strings are what help bring these works of sculptural art to vivid performance life and incredible movement.

In human physiology, joints connect bone to bone and are what allow our bodies to articulate movement. Artists like Ronnie serve as a kind of metaphorical joint as well, one that connects human creatures to ideas, delights, and to each other in elaborately conceived ways that serve to articulate movement within our culture at large.

We’re proud to bring Ronnie back, proud to be a cocommissioner
of his revival of The Daisy Theatre, which he first debuted 25 years ago, as he began making his name in the art world.

Welcome to The Daisy Theatre.

BASETRACK Live! Friday Oct. 10, 2014

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes

How do you serve?
A hero is…
When do you feel protected?
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
What does peace look like?

As we prepared to bring to the stage the innovative work of theater you will experience tonight, these and many other questions, thoughts and themes permeated our consciousness.

And in the week leading up to this performance we asked the UCLA community to share their thoughts and answers to these questions, by interacting with our Peace & Quiet station just outside Royce Hall.

There is a powerful overarching sense of purpose that runs through Basetrack Live–one that instigates query, provokes thoughtfulness and inspires advocacy. Being a part of an institution of research, inquiry and progress, it was important to us to set in motion the opportunity to extend the concept and conversation, to provide a physical place for such dialogue to occur. A space that would do its part to serve the impetus and deep thought that went into the creation of an exceptional blending of music, media and narrative performance.

Like many moments in the art of performance, the literal coming together of creators and audiences inherently sets the stage for a dialogue. For some works of art this is even  more integral, more natural, and this piece is a thoughtful example of that.
The stories you will witness on this stage  tonight are based on true moments in the lives of men and women who serve, who witness heroism, who protect others, who exhibit bravery and who wonder what peace looks like. Part of being here to bear witness to their stories is allowing ourselves to enter into a dialogue about conflict, and the human toll of conflict. This is not always an easy thing to do. But it is a worthwhile thing to do, we believe, and it is an idea that is well served when viewed through an artistic lens.

We welcome you to linger after the performance and hear more
about its creation from the artists in a Q&A session here in the hall. We invite you to interact with them and us and to visit the temporary installation outside. Share your thoughts, share an answer to one of the questions above, write a letter to a member of active military, share a conversation with someone you’ve never met or even share a moment of silence and remembrance.

Make the most of this moment in time as we all take pause to consider the questions and stories brought to life by tonight’s
performers and creators.

Thank you for being with us.

‘Bastrack’ Artists Inspire Student Curiosity

“First, I would like to say…thank you for your service.”

In a UCLA class of 400 students, young women and men raised their hands and stood to ask a question of Tyler LaMarr: Marine, actor and lead performer in Basetrack Live.  Before every question, each student expressed their gratitude. “My brother is a Marine and I want to say thank you.”

Tyler LaMarr, star of Basetrack, talks about the project in UCLA Professor Robert Winter's class.
Tyler LaMarr, star of Basetrack, talks about the project in UCLA Professor Robert Winter’s class.

“Can you tell us, do you ever feel angry about how some people say negative things about the military?”

“How do you feel when actors who have never been in service portray Marines or soldiers in combat?”

“Do you think the government is telling the truth about what goes on over there?”

The questions flowed for two hours, evolving organically into a conversation: thoughts, opinions, fears, hopes. Tyler’s path since graduating from high school was markedly different from the majority of the students he now faced, but any one of them could have been him — they were more similar than different.

“Can you talk about the stress you felt when you came home?”

“I want to ask you about sexual assault in the military – how bad is it, and what can we do?”

“Did you always want to be an actor?  How does a Marine get to be an actor?

The room was filled with laughter, hushed silence, intense listening.  You could feel the listening.  At the end of class, instead of the usual rush of students pushing to leave, hurrying to the next class, hurrying to lunch, hurrying somewhere, they pushed to the front of the room to shake hands with the young man who proudly talked about his choices.  One young woman said, “If you had to do it all again, if you could make any choice, would you do anything different?”

“No,” said Tyler.  No, I would do it all the same.”

Hundreds of handshakes. Thank you for your service.

 CAP UCLA presents “Basetrack Live” tomorrow night in Royce Hall. And our “Peace & Quiet” station on the Royce Quad, will remain up until after the performance. Join us to experience this unique theater work and join the conversation by visiting “Peace & Quiet” or contributing to our Tumblr

Tyler visiting the "Peace & Quiet" installation outside Royce Hall.
Tyler visiting the “Peace & Quiet” installation outside Royce Hall.

In the Machine

This weekend we got a rare experience to get up close and personal with the art we present. Folks who attended the Paul Dresher Ensemble Schick Machine performances  were invited to cap off the show by taking a hands-on tour of the eponymous machine from the production.

And I mean hands-on. The creators refer to this moment as “The Petting Zoo.” They not only allow, but encourage eager hands to pick up mallets and bang on implements in this crazy sonic laboratory. Dresher and Schick and members of their crew were on hand to offer suggestions and instructions of how to make sounds and to explain how all the pieces work.

I attended the Sunday matinee with my significant other, who is something of a sonic tinkerer himself, (mostly in a playground called Abelton), I could sense his wonder and desire to crawl inside this glorious concoction on the stage (which kind of is what I imagine the inside of his brain looks like).

We immediately lined up, eager to get our chance inside the machine, along with about a third of the audience from the performance, many of whom were young children who excitedly chattered with their parents about their favorite parts of the machine and how they might build their own.

Steven Schick himself came out and chatted with a few of the kids for a minute, asking “Are you ready to go in and bang on some stuff!?”

The answer was a resounding “yes.” We all were ready, and we were not disappointed. Up close, the Schick Machine was cleverly ingenious and delightful to experience as a group of curious amateurs collectively provided a soundtrack of dissonance that was somehow just as engaging as Schick’s charming and meticulous theatrical stage performance.

Of course, few of us were able to extract the same quality and precision of sound as the mastermind himself, but that is as it should be.

Paul Dresher, composer of the piece was staked out on the stage to help answer questions and guide interested audience-goers through the elaborate inner workings of the device and how it all comes together in live performance.

It was a moment of incredible generosity from a group of passionate artists that I have no doubt left a powerful impression on the imaginations of all those who got a chance to experience it with us.

If you were one of those people, thank you so much for leaving your own stamp on the machine and helping invent this performance for CAP UCLA.

On Dreams and Tightropes

The last few weeks of artists and programs that have entered our sphere have made me think about dreams and tightropes.

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr @Creative Commons
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr @Creative Commons

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.

He ended his performance on the steps in front of Royce Hall, his booming voice echoing against the portico, the foggy drizzle of raindrops functioning as punctuation to his testament of the power of dreams, and hopes and imagination.

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 Hymns added 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 Brook uses 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.

According to a New York Times review of the film:

 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.

Here’s to dreams and tightropes.

Cedric on Cedric

Cedric Andrieux takes the stage tomorrow night in the eponymous solo work created by Jerome Bel. We asked him a few questions about this very intimate and revealing piece of dance theater.

CAP UCLA:You worked very closely with Jerome Bel on the creation of this work and in it you speak very candidly about your early inspiration and your work with Merce Cunningham. What part of the piece was the most difficult or challenging to synthesize into a brief period on the stage?

CEDRIC: I think we struggled a bit more on the Merce Cunningham section. The rest of the script follows a chronological order, but we couldn’t do that for the middle part, the Cunningham part. We then had to find a different way of organizing ideas and thoughts.

CAP UCLA:Do you have a favorite part and if so, what is it?

CEDRIC: I am very happy that we found a way to render onto the stage the creation process that Merce used to create new dances. I also love performing one of the scenes of “The Show Must Go On.” It is one thing to perform it in the context of the whole piece, but it changes completely when I do it in the solo.

CAP UCLA:Was it challenging or nerve-wracking to be solo on stage and speaking directly to the audience throughout? As a dancer in a company, I assume it’s rather rare to have spoken moments. Was that something you had to work on as a performer or did you already have some experience with that?

CEDRIC: I think it is part of the project, to have on stage a performer who is in a situation that he knows, the stage, but having to use a tool that he doesn’t necessarily control, in my case, voice. But since it is not about pretending to be comfortable, or trying to hide the discomfort, the challenge becomes more about being in the moment and letting go of the image of oneself that one wants or is used to portray on stage. It is about allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

CAP UCLA: Toward the end of the piece you say that working on the creation of this solo made you realize you had never spent that much time thinking of what you had done and why you had done it. Are you still learning, still discovering more about yourself and what drives you? If so, what continues to surprise you?

CEDRIC: Since the solo, I would say that the flood gates are open! What continues to actually surprise me is the realization that you always end up banging your head against the same issues. They take different forms, but it always come back to the same, even though you constantly feel that you’re resolving those issues, or that you finally have enough distance….

CAP UCLA:You have performed this work extensively in France and toured the world, most recently even a stretch of performances in Africa. How does your performance translate when you are visiting audiences of other cultures? Do you get different reactions at different moments? Is there a particular kind of audience who “gets it” the most quickly or deeply?

CEDRIC: That is another interesting and challenging aspect of the solo for me, the fact that from one audience to the next, even in the same city, even in the same theater, the response might entirely be different. There is an aspect of Jerome’s work that plays with the codes of theater, and theater goers, what are we doing here, what are our expectations, and the deconstruction or the highlighting of those codes, that can get lost with people that may not have as much experience or awareness with those actual codes. But the solo was made to be comprehended by everyone, not just the elite of theater goers, not just dancers, so whatever the context is, I always feel like the information that the solo exposes comes across….

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.

Field Notes: September and October Performances

Our first month of performances has gone by in a colorful and inspiring blur and it has me waxing a bit philosophical (and verbose).

We started the theater season off with a powerful bang from London’s Complicite. “Shun-kin,” with its quietly intricate beauty, surprising and subtle wit left me with an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude. It’s probably one of my favorite performances from my tenure here at CAP UCLA.

After one of the performances, director Simon McBurney participated in a thought-provoking Q&A session with the audience. One moment in particular has stuck with me. He talked about the use of puppetry in the work and the way the puppet Shun-kin evolved into a human character and how that progression mirrored her devoted servant/lover’s (and our own) relationship to and perspective of the character. She is, in the beginning, very remote, an imperious and demanding child, untouchable, unknowable in certain ways. But as she exhibits more humanity, more connection to the man who loves her, she becomes more humanlike and finally, in a fit of jealous rage, when she is most in tune with her raw emotions, the actress who has been oh-so-deftly portraying the voice of the puppet seamlessly takes total control of the character.

For me, it serves as a larger metaphor about what we do here. For more than a year before these incredible performers took the stage, “Shun-kin” held some part of our consciousness. As we planned and prepped and as the pages of the calendar turned, the work became closer, more real, until finally it was here and we could revel in our tangible connection to the company, their great talent and generosity and the profound emotions and sensations elicited by this intricate work, which will never be performed by these people and in this way again.

This whole relationship to the art we present– first rather remote and then progressively more intense, morphing into a truly hands-on experience– is common, especially when planning to bring major works of theater and dance to our community, which are often herculean-like efforts and which we take great pride in undertaking. We talk a lot about the ephemeral nature of the performing arts, of theater, of dance, and how we, as the audience, the community who experiences, witnesses and invests some of ourselves in each performance, then becomes the walking “installation” of that ephemeral work.

With Shun-kin in particular, we were incredibly humbled and awed by the outpouring of support from the Japanese community. Lovers of Japanese folk music pounded the pavement to ensure everyone was aware that revered Shamisen player Honjoh Hidetaro was part of the piece.

A member of our own UCLA Community, recent Ethnomusicology grad Kevin Willoughby joined us to add a beautiful layer to our presentation of the work. Kevin was on site throughout the show’s run to assist his teacher, Honjoh Hidetaro. He also graciously agreed to share several charming shamisen performances in the verdant courtyard of Freud Playhouse prior to several nights of Shun-kin, setting a reverent tone for the evenings and allowing the audience to marvel at the skill it takes to play this challenging instrument. Here’s a snippet of Kevin rehearsing in the Freud courtyard.

A Few Seconds of Shamisen from CAP UCLA on Vimeo.

Kevin is the only U.S. student of Honjoh Hidetaro. He has been studying classical shamisen as an apprentice to the master musician in Tokyo for the past four years. In 2010 his teacher has granted him his natori –his professional stage name: Honjoh Hideeiji

Kevin said it was interesting to be back on campus without worrying about classes or textbooks. “It’s also quite different having my teacher here, showing him around rather than following him around Tokyo,” he joked. “He is one of the best shamisen players in Japan, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to study under him. He is a fantastic composer who has done a variety of different and new things with the shamisen.”

Our own donor base rallied around this incredibly intricate and massive work, with an opening-night benefit party celebrating “Shun-kin” and Complicite. Check out some gorgeous photos from that very special event.

Just a week or so later, our first dance work of the season came to us after much travail. Visa issues and travel delays for key members of Lucy Guerin Inc, required us to combine the planned two performances of “Weather” into a one-night-only event celebrating the debut of this astounding Australian company in Los Angeles.

As is metaphorically appropriate, we found ourselves in a mild maelstrom of technical difficulties, but banded together with the company with flexibility and creativity to weather the challenges. We were able to open the doors to the company’s final tech dress rehearsal for donors, students and ticket holders who absolutely couldn’t make it to the rescheduled debut and quite a few people took us up on it, lingering to talk about the work and the company with our director Kristy Edmunds long after the rehearsal performance had ended.

If you saw “Weather,” you saw what an incredible set it was, and how it set the perfect mood for Lucy’s intricate and often surprisingly whimsical choreography and concept, which carries inherent deep undertones about our relationship to our climate. Thousands of plain white plastic bags hung ominously over the stage, the precise lighting design turning these simple everyday products into something totally ethereal.

Having witnessed a bit of the technical precision and exacting nature of getting that deceptively simple-looking ghostly ceiling set up, I had a slightly rueful moment when I thought about all the work and time and human effort that went into ensuring that a 60-minute piece of art had its all-to-brief moment in our lives. But, I guess that’s the idea. It’s all ephemeral. We have to keep it in our hearts and souls to keep it alive.

I felt the same way a few weeks later as I peeked in several times to see the progress of the elaborate and alluringly frenetic sceneography for Robert Wilson’s Lecture on Nothing. So much loving and dedicated effort went in to ensuring that moment will last forever in our memories in vivid relief.

We took a moment to further honor John Cage that night, presenting his notorious work 4’33” on the Royce Terrace.

John Cage’s 4’33” from CAP UCLA on Vimeo.

And Bob Wilson made the most of his time here, staying late into the night after his Lecture performance, gleefully talking with students and fans, clearly on a high after his Royce performance and also the triumphant and long-awaited appearance of Einstein on the Beach at LA Opera the weekend before.

We were all on a bit of a high after that momentous weekend. One of the first Einstein-related activities in Los Angeles was our special presentation of the Einstein chorus to 1,100 middle and high-school students in a special demonstration performance in Royce Hall as part of our Design for Sharing education program.

These accomplished singers each presented a song that resonated with them, from arias to pop songs to self-composed work, to an operatic ode to the ingredients of a Twinkie. They ended the program by singing Philip Glass’s “Knee Play 5,” which entranced the students and instigated a bevy of questions about how these performers approach learning such a piece of music and how they manage to breathe while singing it. (Answer? They take turns and plan it out!)

We collaborated with Pomegranate Arts, producers of “Einstein on the Beach” and the LA Opera to allow more than 300 UCLA students to experience this seminal work for free, bussing them downtown to watch the final dress rehearsal the night before opening. We’re still hearing from students about how this work affected them. Stay tuned for a short documentary about it that we’re producing with the campus TV station.

All this amazing theater and incredible high-concept productions lifted us way up and our first two world music performances of the season took us even higher.

Our presentation of the masterful Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Band proved a perfect opportunity to spend some time with our immediate neighbors and our campus community. We hosted a Balkan Dance Party on the Royce Terrace before Bregovic took the stage featuring Free Range Orkestar, Tzvetanka Varimezova and Ivan Varimezov, and the Nevenka Folk Ensemble.

Folks came, they danced, they sang along in a wonderfully joyous sensation that extended into the hall that night. Bregovic rocked the house, performing for well over two hours and the audience linked arms, danced in the aisles and refused to let him go.

Just two days later another joyous frenzy awaited as the sold-out and incredibly impassioned audience for The Idan Raichel Project reveled in the positive vibes and pure artistry of one of modern music’s most life-affirming and collaborative artists and everyone who shared his stage that night.

There’s so much more to come, from the nerd-rock heroics of They Might Be Giants this weekend to much more from Philip Glass this coming spring. Thanks to everyone who has been part of our story thus far and we hope to see much more of you as the season progresses.

Notes from Kristy: Come On In, The Water’s Fine

The other night we heard the resulting song cycles and creative framework of a new work by Heidi Rodewald and her collaborators Donna Di Novelli and Kevin Newbury, who just completed their residency here at the Center. While their time in residence was concentrated, they generated some truly remarkable material in pursuit of collaborative ideas.

And if my reaction to what they shared is any gauge of the future life for this work, it is going to strike some very resonant chords. The project is called “The Good Swimmer” and is based in part upon the found text of a lifeguard training manual from the 1940s (when women had to assume traditional male job roles as they were all off to war).

There was a particular conceptual through line in it that I cannot get out of my mind. A central thread from the instruction manual for lifeguard training: “The Lifeguard knows what she must be most alert to, and most concerned over, which is the good swimmer. The good swimmer knows how to take care of themselves when they swim out beyond where most would venture. The danger for the lifeguard is that those less capable will follow. The good swimmer therefore poses the greatest hazard to the lifeguard’s duty of care.”

I love it when an unexpected and pristine clarity knocks me sideways.

We are about to play host to a whole season of pristine clarity coming out of the artists that are soon to arrive as we open the 2013-2014 program. I thought it might be good to mention a few of the firsts – The Moth kicks off the Spoken Word series, LACO returns for their illustrious program at Royce Hall as our Resident Orchestra, Deer Tick sets UCLA’s Welcome Week off with an alt-country twist to our Roots/Folk series, and Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock – while marking 30 years of amazing music together – kick off our Jazz offerings.

Crossing over from both the Atlantic and the Pacific we welcome the mega-theater work, “Shun-kin” by Complicite in collaboration with Setagaya Public Theater — putting a momentous start to the Theater season, with a work that is quite simply not to be missed. Our Dance series opens the following week with the North American premiere of Lucy Guerin’s most recent choreography, “Weather.”

To put this into some statistical perspective, that’s about 100 independent artists over three weeks, hailing from cities and countries far and wide converging in Los Angeles this September. We are going to be heaving with the generosity of brilliant artists taking the stage to send up their finest for our ebullient audiences, and I for one am BEYOND READY.

One of the aspects to bringing that much creative mastery into a place like this, is what happens on campus, in Westwood Village, and in the venues themselves when unanticipated and astonishing moments in art between impassioned people come together in unique exchange…well, it makes the fight against the traffic and I-405 closures and daily irritations melt away and we get to be joyously AWAKE together. For the artists– the equivalency is that it makes the airport delays, visa approval processes and all of the rehearsals well and truly worth it.

This is a big and important season for the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. It marks the deepening presence of our mission and purpose, and a heightened relationship to our supporters and audiences, along with these extraordinary artists. For those of you already reading this, it means that you are interested in the Center sustaining the work of our purpose. Know that I consider one and all of you to be the exact people it will take for us to continue to develop and evolve regardless of the ever-vexing pressures that can work against a great public promise. In short, you are the good swimmers, and here’s hoping that by watching you swim out into the great beyond, others will indeed follow.

–K