Tag Archives: theater

Notes from Kristy: Looking Forward at Summer’s End

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 T 1st. 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.

Our lovely rescued trees will soon flank a brand-new ramp on the backstage loading dock.

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.

Have a spectacular August!

Kristy

“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.

The Art of Intention

As a presenter of ephemeral art, we talk a lot about “purposeful intent,” and how it is the engine that drives our mission.

We started 2013 with that mission in full effect and have also been fortunate to spend this New Year surrounded by the purposeful intent of some truly astonishing artists.

Cheek by Jowl’s early-January performances of a 400-year-old and yet still utterly shocking work of English drama illuminated just how powerful intention can be. It is companies like Cheek by Jowl who keep ancient words and thoughts and language very much alive and give them shape and form. Classic theater texts like John Ford’s would not live on the way they do without the purposeful intent of artists like the performers, directors and crew of companies like Cheek by Jowl and we were honored to host the final performances of the ever-controversial “‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.”

Avant-pop violinist Amadeus Leopold brought us a fascinatingly purposeful look at his own highly theatrical approach to classical music. In an oddly compelling blend of bondage gear and blood capsules, he confessed to “the murder of Hahn-Bin,” rising anew as the one-and-only Amadeus Leopold and treated us to a recital that straddled virtuosic skill and highly intentional imagery.Just two weeks ago, a tiny but by no means diminutive, force of nature blew through our lives as Meredith Monk and her acclaimed vocal ensemble prepared for the world premiere of her “On Behalf of Nature.” As the name implies, this deep, profound and meditative piece was incredibly purpose-driven. It is not in Monk’s nature to outright preach or create a work of abject activism. But there was a wistful sadness, and an elegiac longing in the intricately staged theatrical moments of “On Behalf of Nature,” deftly woven into the beautiful vocal and instrumental compositions. We were meant to leave that space ruminating on our own interpretation of our place in nature, our power as humans to either destroy or preserve it, our responsibility to it and to ourselves.

Leading up to the performances, Meredith re-visited the work she began with students last spring as CAP UCLA’s first resident artist, working with them to craft a subtle and highly-individualized pre-show installation that those students (and a few art-loving non-students!) performed in the courtyard of the Freud Playhouse prior to every showing of “On Behalf of Nature.” It was simultaneously conspicuous and understated in a way only Meredith could create and it set an incredibly appropriate tone for the audience before they even entered the theater.

Watching these students interact with Meredith Monk in those days before the performances, it was clear that part of her purpose as an artist is to pass along elements of her craft to a new generation, and it is clearly something that will echo long into their futures. These students and members of our campus community quite literally, as they rehearsed in uncharacteristically frigid Los Angeles temperatures, warmed to Meredith like moths to a flame.

I watched her sit within a circle of them as they rehearsed a brief vocal refrain, turning her head from one to another, smiling with approval and almost, it seemed to me, in blessing.

Meredith Monk performing “On Behalf of Nature” Freud Playhouse Jan. 18-20

It was a beautiful moment to witness and a beautiful one for the students involved to experience. But you don’t have to take it from me. Read first-hand from one student-participant’s perspective.

Just last weekend we were incredibly proud to be a home-away-from-home for Australia’s Back to Back Theatre, in the company’s first visit to Los Angeles. Their truly compelling and uniquely crafted original work “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich” was moving and stimulating as it challenged us to consider who has the right to tell a story and how.

These tireless storytellers approach the world from a different point of view. As performers with intellectual disabilities, their worldview often comes from a place of marginalization, and almost always from a sense of “otherness.” The actors and creators here last week were incredibly generous with our audience and our community, sharing their work and insight into their creative process with high school students from across Los Angeles, with students on this campus, and with our own audience Saturday night in a candid Q&A session. We were enthralled company’s bold creativity and intentional mission to set askew our own notions of power, stories and art itself.

It serves us to be intentionally set off our axis once in a while, I think. And many of our visiting artists did that in varied ways this month.

I will wind this long-windedness up with a closing thought about this Friday night, and a bit of a challenge.

Coming up Feb 1, is a concert from “the Hendrix of the Sahara,” Vieux Farka Touré who will perform in tribute to his legendary father Ali Farka Touré. LA’s own afrobeat collective Fool’s Gold opens the show.

Typically this would be just another amazing Royce Hall music moment from another amazing musician.
But, this Friday night serves another purpose–to shine a spotlight on the heartbreaking situation in Ali and Vieux’s homeland of Mali, where the rich culture of music and art came under attack by Islamic fundamentalists.

It’s an unfathomable situation, and one that has only recently started to improve, slowly. Still, it remains somewhat under the radar in U.S. media coverage and general public attention. But Mali matters.

Mali and its rich musical history matters to Fools Gold. The group has been greatly inspired by the artists and music from this part of the world, and is looking to help affected people in the area. They have partnered with an organization called African Sky, which sends humanitarian aid to Mali.

Come to Royce Hall Friday night, hear some amazing music both directly from and inspired by Mali, and check out the limited-edition T-shirts designed by the mission-driven design collective
Upperatus, which will be on sale at the Fool’s Gold merch table. Proceeds from the sale of these T-shirts will go to African Sky.

Many thanks to all of you who joined us for a January filled with artistic riches. And there is so much more to come. We hope to see you soon!