The Impact of The Plastic Bag Store in LA

When CAP UCLA commissioned and screened Plastic Bag Store: The Film in April, we had no way of knowing that it would inspire people to come together to bring the full installation to Los Angeles. But it did! More than 3,000 people attended The Plastic Bag Store installation and immersive experience during its two-week run in the downtown arts district. The feedback from all has been tremendous and affirming:

Environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. hailed it as “One of the most original and thought-provoking art installations I have ever witnessed.”

Patron Milo Runkle described it as “Compelling, stunning, interesting, creative, humorous, fun, and provocative.”

The first of many challenges facing the project was raising funds to get it to Los Angeles from Australia and find a suitable venue in less than three months’ time. A downtown warehouse in the Arts District, donated by Yuval Bar-Zemer, proved to be the perfect physical space. The generous assistance of Bar-Zemer and his team, in coordination with our production staff and Pomegranate Arts, helped transform the venue from an empty warehouse into a unique grocery store within a couple of weeks.

While the installation was the centerpiece of the project, CAP UCLA partnered with several local cultural organizations to host ancillary programs and events. Institute of Contemporary Art, LAArt At The Rendon and the Skirball Cultural Center presented short films, installations and special workshops that helped build public awareness about the environmental impact of single use plastics. Kicking off the effort was a screening of Plastic Bag Store: The Film at the recently reopened Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, who hosted a discussion afterward with Aquarium CEO Peter Karevia, artist Robin Frohardt and environmental activist and lifeguard Devon Beebe.

CAP UCLA also sought the assistance of leading environmental powerhouses Plastic Pollution CoalitionFriends of the LA RiverUCLA’s Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) and UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability (IoES) to help to bring this project to the attention of the environmental community. They were also invaluable in raising awareness of the plastic pollution crisis and encouraging visitors to become more involved in conservation efforts.

Many of these organizations also participated in the Plastic Pollution Awareness Night we co-presented with UCLA’s IoES, Government and Community Relations and Sustainable L.A. Grand Challenge. Speakers included L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz; Director of Energy, Water & Waste at the Office of Mayor Garcetti Rebecca Rasmussen; LENS’ Ursula Heise; Daniel Coffee of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation; UCLA Chief Sustainability officer Nurit Katz as the moderator; artist Robin Frohardt; and environmental activists Emily Parker of Heal the Bay and Plastic Pollution Coalition co-founder Dianna Cohen.

“Robin Frohardt’s Plastic Bag Store accomplishes what only art can do,” said Cohen. “Reach into our minds, our hearts, our guts and make us feel, think and question our use of ‘plastic.’ What is the true cost of our ‘single-use throwaway culture’ and marketed ‘convenience’? And is this the legacy that we wish to hand down to future generations?’”

After months of lockdown, students from the Fernando Pullman Community Arts Center were able to attend one of the immersive experiences. “We finally welcomed students in-person!” said Meryl Friedman, Director of Education and Special Initiatives. “Many thanks for being the first. You were such a great audience and your curiosity and enthusiasm were a ray of sunshine after months of clouds.” CAP UCLA also hosted students from Roosevelt and Hernandez High School, who are interning with the Natural History Museum, courtesy of contributing patron Vera Campbell, who also supported the exhibition.

“Bringing this project to Los Angeles with creative producers Pomegranate Arts has taken years of advocacy and effort, said CAP UCLA Executive and Artistic Director Kristy Edmunds. “There were multiple challenges to overcome and everyone at CAP UCLA came together at every single turn to ensure that we would succeed. The Plastic Bag Store is not only a tremendous creative achievement by the artist and her team, but in L.A. it is also an enduring example of the collaborative impact a creative community can have by linking arms in order to make something extraordinary happen. I think this exact approach can counter the ‘foreverness of plastic,’ and generate a wave of essential change – spur a recovery, and keep us connected to what is most essential. In the seemingly short span of just twelve days – Robin’s work has left an indelible mark on L.A.”

After all of the above, we’re going to take a breather. We’ll be back with more updates on August 15th. Here’s our Environmental Toolkit to help you finish Plastic Free July strong!

While CAP UCLA is committed to presenting performances with community impact, they require significant resources to produce. Support advocacy driven performing arts with a gift to CAP UCLA today!

Message From The Center: Dorothea

Art, like love, is a sort of rupture in our subjective situations, something dis/reorienting that demands we move beyond previous conceptions of our selves and our worlds. Ted Hearne embodies this principle in his work, challenging notions of stable coherent identity and highlighting the gaps and contradictions between the worlds of the private and the public, the personal and the political, the inside and the outside.

Hearne says that what intrigued him about Dorothea Lasky’s poetry was that it articulated the tension between our imagined conceptions of ourselves and how we are recognized by others. These themes resonate with much of Hearne’s work. Hearne is drawn to setting his own identity as composer against the words of others, complicating questions of authorial intent — his 2014 oratorio The Source featured autotuned audience-embedded vocalists singing the transcripts of Chelsea Manning’s instant messages and the text of wikileaked government documents; the uncanny valley surrealism of the vocal filters kaleidoscopically reflecting the disorienting natures of both modern information warfare and gender dysphoria.

This new band Dorothea continues Hearne’s decentering of the self, , a collective aesthetic developed with musician Eliza Bagg and visual artist Rachel Perry,  spotlighting the words of poet Dorothea Lasky. Dorothea as a collective project embodies the blurring of identities of Hearne champions, functioning as a creative assemblage which the artists’ individual aesthetics flow together to produce something unexpected, a new multiplicitous form of subjectivity that the artists lose themselves in. You are hereby invited to lose yourself in it, too.

—Andrew Hartwell
On behalf of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance

Dorothea premieres Sat, May 15, 2021 at 7PM PDT
Available On Demand
Mon, May 17, 2021 at 7PM PDT
Through June 30, 2021

A note from our Executive and Artistic Director Kristy Edmunds

At UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, we tend to mark each season gone by with a set of programs that we have supported, commissioned, produced and presented. It is safe to say that this past season has been unlike any other in our history. As we near its conclusion, this tends to also be when we announce the incoming projects ahead, seek membership renewals, celebrate the plethora of new productions and enlist subscriptions from our stalwart audiences.

This year, we are not going to announce the 2021-22 Season as per tradition. Instead, we will be announcing our upcoming programs quarterly. This feels wise and true given what the last year has wrought. Our financial ability to make long term advance commitments is also much more precarious than before. I am proud and amazed by what the staff and the artists have pulled together over a season spent largely in distanced quarantine, change and uncertainty. It is a testament to an incredible drive to share some pretty awesome lemonade made out of a boatload of LEMONS.

As we begin to see things opening up in Los Angeles, throughout the U.S. and internationally, it is cause for ebullient hopefulness. In hearing from so many of you and the artists themselves, there is a growing sense of relief at being able to do some of our most meaningful activities together again.

As Los Angeles reopens, CAP UCLA will continue to adjust our approach. For the first time in CAP UCLA’s history, we will bring an ambitious and wildly creative installation project to L.A. in July (stay tuned). This fall, we will celebrate the ten-year history of the Center for the Art of Performance! We are bringing back the Tune In Festival which is being filmed throughout the summer and we will continue to populate the CAP UCLA Online channel that has become a beacon for over 55,000 people from literally all over the world.

In fact, 74% of you who joined us in the digital realm this past year were first time attendees to CAP UCLA programs. Not only did you conjoin with the Los Angeles family of supporters, you also sent us contributions and words of such eloquent appreciation that truly kept us going. As did the support from our Executive Producer Council, members and donors and from some vital foundation grants. It probably goes without saying that absorbing a year with no ticket revenue takes a hefty amount of creative maneuvering. I know many assume that UCLA funds the Center’s work, and while that is true in part, it is by no means the lion’s share of our operation, which actually comes from ticket revenue and charitable donations.

Where 2021 will continue to yield little or no earned income, I cannot express our gratitude for your support more emphatically, and now we need your support more than ever. By now you all know that every dollar counts and will continue to as we move forward, so please give what you can.

There is going to be a great deal of exciting programming and inspiration to discover in the upcoming year and we are going to share it with you in the months ahead. For now, we are steady on and full of gratitude for all that you have done and continue to do on our behalf and for the incredible imaginative impact and resilience of artists the world over.

Best regards,

—Kristy Edmunds,
Executive and Artistic Director
UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance

Show your support for CAP UCLA: Give Today

Reimagine the Arts

Several of the performances presented this past season were not how they were originally intended to be experienced. Without the pandemic we might not have had the chance to encounter these new creative works. In February 2020, we were already reviewing tour dossiers and preparing for what the 2020-21 season would be. The rest of the story is familiar: March 13, 2020 came and we filed the assets gathered for later use, including A Gospel According to James Baldwin from ten-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello.

Inspired by the writing of James Baldwin, Ndegeocello collaborated with director Charlotte Brathwaite to reimagine her live performance. What emerged was just as immersive and experiential as her intended tour — but a virtual experience. Rather than a live interaction between artists and audiences, they communicated monthly by phone, online and by mail. “This is a different experience,” Ndegeocello said, “so I hope you have an open mind, or at least an open heart.” Those who experienced the project in fall 2020, described by the artist as “a 21st-century ritual tool kit for justice,” engaged in an urgent and critical investigation of race, religion, sexual orientation and the American status quo through the lens of Baldwin’s ideas and legacy expressed in music.

For Brooklyn Youth Chorus, it was evident that bringing 600 choristers from New York to Los Angeles would not be plausible. Instead, CAP UCLA executive and artistic director Kristy Edmunds asked, “Can you reimagine this for a virtual audience?” The answer was both yes and no. As a compromise, the project, She Is Called, a collaboration with four celebrated composers to create original works for the chorus, became multiple phases. The first phase, She Is Called: Dear Stranger, a media-rich web-based experience, launched last Saturday, April 24th. Visitors to the site can scroll down and hear original works composed by Nathalie Joachim, David Lang, Alev Lenz and Shara Nova or click the header images and hear the choristers read letters to their past and future selves.

Composer Ted Hearne, on the other hand, felt performing his work sans audience would help bring the project to the stage when live performance could return. He was still developing the piece, then entitled In Your Mouth, in February 2020 when it had a work-in-progress showing at the Walker Center in Minneapolis. After discussions with Edmunds about how to reshape and create the work for the digital stage, he renamed it Dorothea, in honor of poet Dorothea Laskey, whose poems are at the heart of the piece. “[CAP UCLA Online] is a perfect space for its current form,” said Hearne. “The film will allow me to bring it to other centers.”

Luckily for us, many of the artists whose works we would have presented live on stage this past season have been excited about rethinking the format and delivery of their work rather than facing cancelation. To continue this much needed process of recovery to maintain our presence and place in the performing arts culture of L.A., we’ll need your help.

Today launches our spring fundraising campaign in which we ask you to reimagine a future with us — one with a vibrant arts ecosystem and exciting presentations from performing artists around the globe. Supporting us with a gift today makes you an instant member of our community of dedicated arts patrons committed to the vitality of contemporary performance and to expanding our understanding of the world we live in now.

All of us at CAP UCLA hope you will take a few moments and make a gift today.

Message From The Artist | Robin Frohardt on Plastic Bag Store: The Film

 

Dear Most Valued Customers:

It’s almost impossible for me to try to explain what it is you are about to watch and the journey it took to get here. I started working on The Plastic Bag Store in 2015 after watching someone bag and double bag all my groceries that were already bags inside of bags inside of boxes. I wanted to highlight the absurd amount of packaging we are using and throwing away by making something even more absurd, a grocery store that only sold packaging. Over time the project evolved into an elaborate immersive puppet play with transforming sets and hidden rooms. For several years, my amazing team and I slowly pieced together this epic beast of a project. Sometimes that meant working with the support of prestigious residencies at architectural firms and fellowships at Universities. But more often it meant grueling rehearsals, endless schlepping and hours spent sifting through NYC garbage.

With all the pieces finally in place and a venue to die for, The Plastic Bag Store was set to open in the heart of Times Square on March 18, 2020…ya know… the day the whole world shut down? We did one amazing dress rehearsal and locked the doors and walked away.

I think part of me wanted to give up after that. When the opportunity presented itself to create a filmed version of the project, I was relieved that there would be some record of what we created (we didn’t film that rehearsal). I never imagined how beautiful the film would turn out, and how perfectly it would capture the story as I see it in my head. We then found a way to integrate the film into the installation for a live experience which we ultimately got to show in Times Square and take to Australia! So, creating the film has made The Plastic Bag Store viable and tourable in this time in a way that other projects haven’t been. For that, I cannot be more grateful.

Plastic Bag Store: The Film is a labor of love from many hands. The film is in no way a substitute for seeing the complete installation live, but it tells a story that I have been dying to tell you for a very long time.

—Robin Frohardt

Plastic Bag Store: The Film will be available on demand for a week starting Saturday, April 24 at 7PM.

A Moment With Artists-in-Residence

“Performance doesn’t just magically appear on a stage. Behind every work, there are years of creative development, months of rehearsal and a continual pursuit of support.” — Kristy Edmunds, CAP UCLA’s Executive and Artistic Director

Each year since 2012, CAP UCLA has welcomed a new cohort of six to 12 artist residents and offered resources, connections and more to support their process of bringing an idea to the stage. No two residencies look the same, in part, due to mentorship and guidance by our Executive and Artistic Director Kristy Edmunds. The CAP UCLA staff works to meet the artists where they are, often providing creative time and necessary space for the development of new work.

Some residencies last from conception to production, where we are along for the full ride. The White Album by Joan Didion created by Lars Jan/Early Morning Opera, presented in April of 2019, was such a project. For this, CAP UCLA partnered with Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a Research and Development lab for the arts, to provide a month-long residency in 2018 to develop the work in an intensive and uninterrupted environment. About the residency, Jan said, “removed from the patterns of our daily lives, our group of artists was able to draw nourishment from the stunning beauty of the natural landscape and grounds, as well as the generous ethic of incubation guiding the program and staff there, to connect with a creative and personal intensity unparalleled in other settings.”

Other artists, like choreographer Ann Carlson, had ideas for years, but lacked the time and space to bring them to fruition. The interruption to our daily schedules created by the pandemic provided Carlson with the time and CAP UCLA provided the space. Describing her time in the Royce Hall Rehearsal Room, she said, “for me, a residency can be a setting aside of body, mind, space and time for working, for waiting, for opening to the next idea, or to give room (literally) for ideas to emerge, to take shape, to shift from a gentle haunting towards a concrete thing in the world.” Unlike The White Album, Carlson’s intended solo may become something else or take more time, but it was “a chance to reach into those barely there impressions, those shy or bold things that tend to prefer more private pockets.”

Even during the global pandemic when the majority of the performing arts have been restricted to the digital stage, artists need a space to create, to make sure their work is ready when live performance is able to return. Carlson added, “in the context of the virtual spaces that are part of life now, a brick-and-mortar residency feels rare, a place to savor, both the place itself, the comings and goings to it, and what happens as a result of residing in it.”

This is also true for multidisciplinary artist Annie Saunders, who is in the rehearsal room this week working on a multiformat piece entitled Rest! Saunders says, “space and time are so valuable in the creative process, just the time to let the ideas breathe and come into themselves. The space in the rehearsal room especially lets us air things out, imagine them in large rooms, large stages, encourage them to unfurl and become the most of themselves they can be. It’s a gift. And we are in the gift giving business.”

Artists are not the only ones who benefit from the CAP UCLA residencies. They also allow you, our audiences, to follow a project from when it is just a blip in an artist’s mind to the moment when you are sitting in the audience enjoying the fully produced work. Many of the works that result from these residencies appear in future CAP UCLA seasons. It is not an easy task to decide who will be invited to participate in the program. As part of the selection criteria Edmunds “considers the work L.A. needs to see right now, [and] which artists are on the brink of something brilliant.”

The creative process takes time, a resource we all could use more of. We know you can’t give us time, but you can show your support by making a donation. Please give what you can to ensure that CAP UCLA can continue our commitment to artists and the development of new work that can be presented on our stages in the near future.

Message from the Center: On DakhaBrakha’s Ethno-Chaos

Thu, Apr 15, 2021 at 7PM PDT

What is “ethno-chaos”? That’s how DakhaBrakha describes their aesthetic. The term is provocative, bringing to mind the anarchic attitude of punk rock, but chaos is not merely destructive: it can be essential for new creation, the explosive combustion powering an engine of renewal.

DakhaBrakha means “give/take,” and that’s what their brand of ethno-chaos is all about. Philosophically, their music embodies a poststructuralist approach, breaking down styles, reterritorializing foreign timbres into their own vernacular, freely taking from the old and giving something new. They are experimental cartographers remixing the map of world music, spreading Ukrainian folklore while absorbing and metabolizing new ideas, asserting the uniqueness of their traditional culture while championing progressive ideals, boldly exploring primal rhythms and cosmic drones.

We know a thing or two about ethno-chaos here in Los Angeles, the postmodern metropolis that gave the world Korean tacos, the place where the French Dip sandwich was invented in Chinatown. This perpetual swirling deconstruction and recombination of cultures and styles is a source of vitality for our city, just as it is for DakhaBrakha’s music.

By joining us for this performance, you have become a part of this symbiotic process of giving and taking. That’s what the art of performance is all about: the energy shared between artists and audience. The creativity of DakhaBrakha should serve as a reminder that humanity always has the potential to grow in unexpected ways, giving and taking, forming new networks without regard for the barriers that separate us.

Maybe we could use a little more ethno-chaos in our world.

Enjoy the show.

—Andrew Hartwell, on behalf of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance

Message From The Center: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black MambazoOn March 26, 2020, CAP UCLA presented its first online program. Little did we know that this would become a “new normal” for us, not only during the pandemic, but for the foreseeable future.

In an effort to keep our commitment to present perennial favorites Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who were en route from South Africa to Los Angeles when the Safer at Home order was announced, the CAP UCLA production team conceived of an alternative to a live performance — a filmed version that would be broadcast online and on air in partnership with local public radio station KCRW.

The filming itself, in the cavernous and empty Royce Hall, was extremely poignant. The performance was dedicated to Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s founder Joseph Shabalala, who had recently passed away. It was also a tribute that prefigured the all-too-frequent tributes that would follow to those we would lose to the pandemic. And the clear absence of an audience underscored the fact that the performing arts were entering an entirely new chapter.

The resulting film, however, was also a gift in many ways. It brought a moment of joy to many audience members reeling from the threat of COVID-19 and relegated to hunkering down at home. For CAP UCLA it was an opportunity to rethink how we support artists, and in the ensuing months, we would go on to provide financial support to some 300 artists devastated by the loss of their livelihoods.

We are extremely grateful to all of you who have been with us on this journey through a period of tremendous disruption. As a way of saying thank you, we have decided to bring back the Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert – the one that started it all. We hope you will join us on Sunday, March 21 at 5PM PDT on CAP UCLA Online to experience again, or for the very first time, this historic moment in CAP UCLA’s history. It’s free and all are welcome! All you have to do is sign up here.

Interview With Israel Galván on Maestro de Barra

On Saturday, March 6th at 7PM PST CAP UCLA presents Maestro de Barra (Bar Master), a new work commissioned from flamenco master Israel Galván. Filmed just last week in Spain, Israel shares about the creative process and why he wanted to choreograph a piece about bar* culture.

I like to dance in places that are not meant for dance. Since I don’t usually use scenery, this changes my way of dancing. The place transforms into something else, and the place forces me to dance in a different way. Besides, I like the presence of the people in the bar. The noise of the machines, the objects and the waiters. I learn a lot from the gestures of the waiters, it is a whole choreography. For instance, the kitchen of a McDonald’s is one of the most frantic choreographies I know. Here in Sevilla for example there is a bar managed by a family of deaf-mute and it is a bar of quiet and silence. This is how culture enters in relation to bars.

A mi me gusta bailar en sitios que no están destinado para bailar. Ya que no tengo escenografía, me hace cambiar la forma de bailar. El sitio se convierte en otra cosa, y a mi el sitio me hace bailar de otra manera. A parte me gustan las presencias de las personas que están en el bar. El ruido de las maquinas, de los objetos y de los camareros, aprendo mucho de los gestos de los camareros, es toda una coreografía. Por ejemplo, la cocina del McDonald’s es una de las coreografías mas frenética que existe. Aquí en Sevilla por ejemplo esta un bar que es de una familia de sordomudos y es de quietud y silencio. Esto es como las culturas se relejan en los bares.

I spent a lot of time in Bar Rodriguez listening to music with headphones and feeling the energy of the bar and little by little I would lose consciousness and begin to dance. The people who work there call me the ‘bailaor (flamenco dancer).’ They are true waiters because they do their work as a liturgy in the way Pablo places the cups in the morning for the coffee or how Pedro sings the ‘tapas’ as if it were a Gregorian chant. I spent a lot of time watching them when I lived in this neighborhood. I also used to watch my soccer team, Betis, here and whenever they scored I was hit by the Stendhal syndrome (a psychosomatic condition involving rapid heartbeat occurring when individuals become exposed to objects, artworks, or phenomena of great beauty).”

Personalmente he pasado mucho tiempo en el Bar Rodriguez escuchando música con los auriculares y viendo la energía que tenia el bar y poco a poco perdía la consciencia y empezaba a bailar. Lo del barrio me llaman el bailaor. Los camareros del Rodriguez son muy de verdad porque se lo toman todo como una liturgia de cómo Pablo pone lo platitos del café por la mañana y Pedro como cantas las tapas con modulación gregoriana, y ver a mi equipo de futbol El Real Betis marcar me llevaba a la éctasis de Stendhal.

[Cafés and bars are] like one’s second home. The bar feels like one’s living room. It is a moment for people to reflect. Although there is a lot of noise, one can encounter silence. It is for me like the continuation of a rehearsal room. In the bars in the morning the neurons are awakened and it is a good start to the day, the birth of many ideas. In the bars one sings better, one plays the guitar better and one ‘baila’ better. A more real and intimate flamenco. The bars are where flamenco (‘bailan’) is for ourselves. Curiously, in the bars of Sevilla, in the past there were signs that said ‘se prohibe terminatamente el cante’ – Singing is strictly forbidden.

Es como la segunda casa de uno. El bar es tu sitio, tu salón. Es un momento para las personas de reflexión. Aun que haya el ruido que hay puede encontrar silencio. Es como una sala de ensayo continua. En los bares por las mañanas están las neuronas muy despiertas y es como un buen comienzo del día y nacimiento de muchas ideas. Y en los bares se canta mejor, se toca mejor la guitara y se baila mejor. Un flamenco mas intimo y mas real. Es donde los flamencos bailamos para nosotros. Curiosamente en los bares de Sevilla antiguamente estaban carteles que decían ‘se prohíbe terminantemente el cante’.

*In Spain, like most Mediterranean cultures, there is no difference between bars and cafés. They are open from early morning until night and serve coffees, breakfasts, snacks, meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

This free performance was commissioned by CAP UCLA and is presented in association with UCSB’s Arts & Lectures, The Joyce Theater and Teatro della Pergola, Firenze, Italy.

In Memoriam: Ed Pearl and Chick Corea

The music world lost two icons in the last week. CAP UCLA joins our music community in mourning the death of Ed Pearl. A legend in the music scene, and a beloved mentor and friend to many, he was truly one of a kind.

The Ash Grove of the ’60s was more than a venue, it was a visionary home for artists in the truest sense of the word. The spirit he captured and fostered carries on to this day, and we are honored to have had the chance to work with him and many of the poets and players of the Ash Grove community.

We offer our condolences to Ed’s family and friends, and celebrate his incredible life and legacy that has given so much to so many.

CAP UCLA also mourns the passing of Chick Corea, groundbreaking composer, bandleader, genre-defying pianist: a true icon in American music history.

We were honored to have Chick as a frequent guest here at UCLA, and has left an indelible legacy that lives in our hall and our hearts.

Rest In Peace, Chick Corea and Ed Pearl.

Thoughts from the staff of CAP UCLA