CAP UCLA’s Work on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Continues

Early on in the pandemic, as the world roiled from protests against racism and police violence, CAP UCLA, like many traditionally white-dominated cultural organizations, did some serious soul-searching. Members of CAP UCLA’s staff, in collaboration with colleagues from UCLA’s Theater Management Services, formed an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee to challenge complacency and focus on issues of structural power. They’ve met regularly ever since, working on making CAP UCLA and TMS more inclusive and equitable experiences for both staff and audiences.

As the value statement the EDI committee drafted puts it, “We must empower the historically underrepresented. We must uplift excluded voices. We must resist structural racism. We will commit fiercely to our responsibility to observe, absorb, consider, contemplate, endure, share and engage in this change.”

Much of this change happens backstage, long before the audience enters a theater. But we hope that CAP UCLA’s commitment to this important work is on display in our newly announced Fall/Winter programming. For example, the trouble of even defining “we” is tackled in the new Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company choreographic piece What Problem?, which explores the work of collective redemption and the tensions of belonging. Our programming also includes a diverse array of musicians, such as Grammy Award-winning artists Antonio Sánchez and Cécile McLorin Salvant. We are dedicated to presenting artistic performance that reflects the global, evolving nature of our city.

In a few days it will be Juneteenth, a celebration of the legal emancipation of enslaved Black Americans at the end of the Civil War. But that victory was only a partial one, and the lingering incompleteness of Reconstruction still haunts American politics and society. CAP UCLA hopes that the programs we present and the work that we do can contribute, in some small way, to this long overdue process of social healing.

A Sampling of CAP UCLA’s Upcoming Season

Now that CAP UCLA has returned to in-person programming, in our coming season we’ll be celebrating live performance with new work by some of the most dynamic artists of our time. Below is a sampling of our Fall/Winter season, which will be announced in full on June 8.

Dance aficionados won’t want to miss the U.S. premiere of Mellizo Doble by experimental flamenco artist Israel Galván, a collaboration with singer/guitarist Niño de Elche.  Galván recodifies the physical language of flamenco, incorporating a multiplicity of influences in order to break out of the accumulated sediment of tradition. He will be familiar to longtime CAP UCLA audiences from our streaming channel — we’re excited to have him join us in person! 

Of course, there will be plenty of music in our new season, including three-time Grammy winner and MacArthur Fellowship Award recipient Cécile McLorin Salvant, a composer, singer and visual artist who unearths the connections between vaudeville, blues, theater, jazz, and baroque music. Additionally, we’ll be honoring Royce Hall’s long history of hosting iconic jazz musicians when our stage is graced by the Branford Marsalis Quartet.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to several other Fall/Winter performances, we’re opening a new venue, the UCLA Nimoy Theater, early next year, and will be presenting a large slate of amazing shows, including Kronos Quartet performing the music from their mammoth 50 for the Future project in its entirety. The Nimoy will open with 32 Sounds, an immersive documentary and profound sensory experience from filmmaker Sam Green, which explores the elemental phenomenon of sound. This special screening will feature live narration by Green and original music performed live by JD Samson of Le Tigre.

Public tickets will go on sale on June 21. Subscribers to our enews will get early access to tickets, on June 17. If you’d like access even earlier, consider becoming a member

There’s never been a more exciting time to be a part of CAP UCLA’s future. In whatever capacity you are able, we hope you’ll join us in the season to come.

Thank You For Reminding Us Why We Do This

On March 7, 2020, UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance presented Toshi Reagon’s rock opera adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable Of The Sower, a science fiction examination of an overconfident society on the brink of disaster. The work proved prescient when the world shut down days later.

After quickly pivoting into two years of presenting free performances online, we were thrilled to welcome audiences back to in-person performance this March with choreographer Ronald K. Brown’s The Equality of Night and Day: First Glimpse, which reflected on the tumult of the preceding years in challenging popular assumptions of balance, equity, and fairness. The new work received a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.

Although we only had a handful of in-person performances this season, each drew an enthusiastic crowd. Toshi Reagon returned to perform an evening of uplifting music with her band, BIGLovely. The Oscar-winning Argentine composer Gustavo Santaolalla played songs from across his illustrious career. Violinist Jennifer Koh & bass-baritone Davóne Tines shared their deeply moving exploration of the minority experience, Everything Rises. Pianist Anthony de Mare performed re-imagined versions of the music of Stephen Sondheim. Writer David Sedaris returned to Royce Hall, a stage that he has graced regularly since 1998. Most powerfully, the Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha performed a heartrending show at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, with images of the destruction in their homeland accompanying their “ethno-chaotic” take on their folk traditions.

Each presentation was enhanced with relevant contributions from CAP UCLA’s Education Department and the Student Committee for the Arts, with highlights including live poetry writing, student humorists, a public piano, and a tango class. But what truly made each night of live performance memorable was the passion of you, our audience.

After two years away, being able to watch exceptional artists in spaces shared with hundreds of other people was a reminder of why we do this, a reminder of how these works were intended to be experienced. In each case, the dynamic exchange of energy between performers and audiences was electrifying. For that we want to thank each and every one of you who ventured out to join us. Thanks to you, we’re more excited than ever about our upcoming season, which will be announced next month, and about next year’s grand opening of the intimate UCLA Nimoy Theater.

We couldn’t do this without you, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from all this, it’s that we wouldn’t want to.

Crafting an Audiovisual Song Cycle from Red Cross Guidebooks

Heidi Rodewald is the Tony Award-nominated and Obie Award-winning co-composer of the 2008 Broadway musical Passing Strange. Her newest project, A Lifesaving Manual, samples words and phrases from Red Cross Lifesaving Manuals published over the last century and composes them into an audiovisual meditation on aid, safety and care.

The multi-layered music elegantly fuses Rodewald’s pop and rock sensibilities. A Lifesaving Manual contemplates how caring for each other and our world is also caring for ourselves.

Describing the development of the work, Rodewald says that, “It means everything to me to have this piece presented by CAP UCLA. It feels like home. [Former CAP UCLA Artistic and Executive Director] Kristy Edmunds is the one who just came out and asked me what I wanted to make, and I let her in on the very early stages of this piece. And as an artist in residence there, the origins of the piece were created.”

Although the seeds of this work predate the pandemic, it takes on new resonances in light of recent events. “Being able to work on this piece over these past two years has kept me hopeful,” Rodewald says. “I was able to focus on the beauty of how people help other people, animals and the environment. And on how we all try to do our best to make big, necessary changes in the world to make it a safer place for every living thing.”

“The language of lifesaving in the book is universal and poetic,” Rodewald explains. “The instructions, the words themselves are beautiful and heartbreaking and sometimes funny. The piece gives guidance for doing the right thing, the inclination to help when someone is in need, and brings out the best in our human nature. And, most importantly, how to not drown while keeping someone else from drowning.”

In times of crisis and uncertainty, art can remind us of the importance of taking care on both a personal and social level. As one Red Cross water safety guide puts it, “The problem of saving a person’s life does not end when the rescue is completed and the victim brought to shore. Indeed, it is frequently merely the beginning.”

A Lifesaving Manual premieres on CAP UCLA’s free online channel Saturday, May 7 at 6PM. It will then be viewable on demand for two months beginning Monday, May 9 at 6PM.

Ukrainian Band Rages Against Putin’s Machine with Global Sounds

 

photo of the members of DakhaBrakha

DakhaBrakha means “give/take,” a fitting name given the Ukrainian band’s self-proclaimed “ethno-chaotic” approach of breaking down styles and adapting foreign timbres into their own national vernacular. 

When Russia launched their attack in late February, DakhaBrakha were on tour within Ukraine, with international dates scheduled. While they had to cancel their Ukrainian shows, the decision was made that, as unofficial ambassadors for Ukrainian culture on the global stage, it was important that the world tour go forward. We are so pleased to be able to welcome them back to the Theatre at Ace Hotel on April 24 to share their unique take on Ukraine’s musical and theatrical folk traditions.

DakhaBrakha’s art points beyond the seeming deadlock between cultural pride and internationalism, beyond the dichotomy of traditionalism and cosmopolitanism. Experimenting with instrumentation from Indian, Arabic, African and even Russian music, they reterritorialize the world’s sounds into a distinctly Ukrainian vernacular. At a time when Ukrainian culture itself is under attack, with theaters, libraries and museums targeted by the Russian military, DakhaBrakha embody a large-hearted, aspirational openness both to their own traditions and to the shared cultural goods of humanity, reminding us that when a museum or a historic building or other cultural site is destroyed in Ukraine, or anywhere else, the whole world is poorer for it.

Giving and taking, the feedback loop between audience and artists, is what live performance is all about. Even with their country under attack and their loved ones in danger, the dedicated artists in DakhaBrakha continue to give us their own synthesis of folk traditions, inspiring us to take away a sense of international solidarity. Their “ethno-chaos” is a reminder that all cultures and all peoples have the potential to grow and connect and to find surprising resonances without regard for the barriers that separate us. This openness to the outside, to valuing what we share over what divides us, is what will, in the end, defeat the machinery of domination that threatens to tear us apart. 

Don’t miss DakhaBrakha’s performance at the Theatre at Ace Hotel Sunday, April 24th.

Contemporary Composers Re-Imagine Sondheim Classics

Pianist Anthony de Mare’s Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano features reworkings of the music of Stephen Sondheim by composers from across the sonic spectrum. After over a decade of work on the project, the final set of commissions was originally to premiere in March of 2020, in celebration of Sondheim’s 90th birthday. A week before their scheduled premiere, the world shut down. We are thrilled to at last be able to present these updated classics in performance here at Royce Hall on Sunday, April 10.

De Mare commissioned these pieces to contribute to Sondheim’s legacy, helping it spread into new directions. The commissioned composers explored alternate ways of looking at Sondheim’s classic songbook, giving their own spins on the songs. For example, Steve Reich’s two piano version of “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George has been given what Reich calls “a rhythmic character more in line with my own music and, hopefully, another perspective with which to appreciate Sondheim’s brilliant original.”

Meredith Monk, in her take on “Poems” from Pacific Overtures, “began by reversing the figure/ground relationship of the original, and used the rhythmic contours of the song’s accompanying patterns to create new melodic variations.”

Wynton Marsalis’s re-imagining of the Follies outtake “That Old Piano Roll” evokes classic jazz pianists: “The basic stride style of James P. Johnson is answered by the jagged, obtuse style of Thelonious Monk. Both find resolution in the ragtime-swing style of New Orleans pianist Jelly Roll Morton.”

Andy Akiho’s version of the prologue to Into The Woods aims “to orchestrate each character’s personality with the use of prepared piano—for example, dimes on the strings for the cow scenes, poster tack on the strings for door knocks and narrated phrases, and credit card string-clusters for the wicked witch… to portray each character’s story and mystical journey using exotic piano timbres in place of text.”

Each of these pieces, along with the dozens of others, does the important work of defamiliarizing old favorites, of allowing us to hear classic melodies as if for the first time. The depth and breadth of Liaisons boldly makes the case for Sondheim as one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. Get your tickets now.

CAP UCLA Partners With LACO to Bring Local Students’ Ideas to Life

This spring, CAP UCLA’s free K-12 arts education program, Design for Sharing, is thrilled to reprise our partnership with Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s Classroom Composers project. This two-prong program involves students in the creative process of developing a musical composition for a chamber ensemble, and lets them hear their work performed by professional musicians from LACO.

Last month, more than one hundred 5th and 6th graders from Toluca Lake Elementary and Nimitz Middle School participated in LACO Composer Fellow workshops via Zoom. Each of the three composers used a different method to engage students. Sakari Vanderveer led students in creating a “menu” of sounds—some improvised in the classroom and others played on her viola—and assembling their selections into patterns. Brenna Dickson shared clips of existing animation and asked the group to choose musical elements to accompany it. Christian Cruz invited the students to do some creative world-building for an imagined video game, and describe a suitable score for the ice-bound, alien-invaded adventure they dreamed up.

Though each class had a different experience, they all explored how to describe the atmosphere they were trying to create, and how to achieve that effect with instrumentation and dynamics. Now, it falls to the Composer Fellows to create a short new work for each classroom using those building blocks. 

All four new pieces will premiere in April at a special concert featuring ten LACO musicians, streamed live from the Royce Hall Rehearsal Room into participating classrooms. The program also features other chamber works, curated and led by LACO Educator and Artistic Advisor, composer Derrick Skye (who you might recognize from our Notes on Napkins series).

We can’t wait for students to hear their own ideas brought to life, and to share their reactions with the musicians and composers.

Residency Spotlight: Boney Manilli, a new play by Edgar Arceneaux

 

From February 7-16, 2022, the artist Edgar Arceneaux and the creative team behind his current project, Boney Manilli, were in a residency period supported by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance. This was the second time CAP UCLA has provided these artists with the creative time and space to develop this work: a previous residency in May of 2021 played a crucial role for Arceneaux in rewriting and revising the play’s script. 

Boney Manilli tells a story about Sunny, a troubled playwright, who is trying to direct a play about the infamous pop group duo Milli Vanilli, while struggling to take care of his mother who is slowly dying from dementia. With the revised script in hand, the creative team used their time in the Royce Hall Rehearsal Room to rehearse and develop the visual and spatial elements of the production. 

Residencies are a major component of how we engage behind the scenes to facilitate artistic development. For Arceneaux’s project, CAP UCLA received the prestigious Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts’ Artist Project Grant. It is because of dedicated arts supporters that the Center is able to provide production resources and space to help emerging and established artists realize their work. 

After the development residency, a sneak preview of Boney Manilli was presented as a 30 minute work-in-progress at Vielmetter Los Angeles. The private, ticketed event was held on Friday, February 18 and staged at the gallery’s north parking lot as an immersive BBQ party for the audience, catered by QD’s Double Barrel BBQ. The presentation occurred during Frieze LA and concurrently with Arceneaux’s solo exhibition of paintings and sculptures, “Skinning The Mirror” at Vielmetter, on view through March 12, 2022.

Learn more about Boney Manilli by listening to the UCLA Arts podcast interview with Arceneaux.

Choreography Inspired by Radical UCLA Professor

Angela_Davis_enters_Royce_Hall_for_first_lecture_October_7_1969.jpg

On March 5, after a long two years, CAP UCLA will return to presenting at Royce Hall with Ronald K. Brown’s newest work, The Equality of Night and Day: First Glimpse. Along with the score by jazz pianist Jason Moran, an important element of the piece is recorded words from speeches by activist Angela Davis, who, coincidentally, also has a long connection with Royce Hall.

Born in deeply segregated Alabama, when Davis was hired as a philosophy professor by UCLA in 1969 she already had a reputation as a radical focused on oppressions at the intersections of class, race and gender. The UC Board of Regents, under pressure from then-Governor Ronald Reagan, tried to fire her even before she taught a class, on the basis of her politics. When a judge struck down her firing as unconstitutional and she returned to campus, her first lecture back had to be held in Royce Hall due to the overflowing crowd.

The Regents fired Davis again in 1970 for “inflammatory language.” Shortly after being dismissed from UCLA, Davis was hunted down and arrested on charges of accessory to murder and conspiracy. Denounced by President Nixon as a “dangerous terrorist,” Davis was tried and found not guilty, with the case drawing international attention. She is likely the only former UCLA professor ever to be placed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list, or to have inspired a song by the Rolling Stones.

In 2014, Davis was at last welcomed back to Royce Hall to lecture on feminism and prison abolition. Davis’ life and work are an inspiration to those fighting for civil rights, gender equality and academic freedom, so it is unsurprising that she was a muse for Brown in the creation of The Equality of Night and Day: First Glimpse, which grapples with current events and issues of balance and fairness in modern society. At a time of heated debates over social justice and with increasing political pressures on educational institutions to not confront difficult truths, Angela Davis still has much to teach us.

As part of our presentation of Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, we’ll be highlighting the legacy of Angela Davis before the performance and during intermission. Join the conversation and check out our pop-up library, spoken word performances, and a special exhibit with music, books, photos, speeches and archival materials from our partners at UCLA Library Special Collections.

Creating a Space for Marginalized Storytelling

Everything Rises is an original staged musical work about connection, resonance and the creation of a new artistic space. It features violinist Jennifer Koh and bass-baritone Davóne Tines, telling the story of their artistic journeys and family histories through music, projections and interview recordings. As a platform, it also centers the need for artists of color to be seen and heard. Developed over multiple years by an all-BIPOC creative team, the project reclaims Koh and Tines’ narratives about who they are and how they got to where they are now. 

This powerful work was originally to be presented by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance in 2020 before being delayed by COVID. This turned into an opportunity for fine tuning, as we offered the artists a residency, making our rehearsal room available to them, where they were able to further develop the piece. 

As Koh describes it, with the pandemic, the black lives matter movement and increasing violence against Asian Americans, “collaborating became even more meaningful.” As a result, the additional time “really made the piece stronger in a lot of ways, much more personal.” 

For Koh, “One of the things that’s been so meaningful about having CAP UCLA’s support is that I don’t think a story about an Asian-American experience has ever been told on a classical music scale or a classical music stage… so it was especially meaningful to have CAP UCLA’s support, to be able to bring an Asian-American story, a personal story, to life… also a story I think about solidarity, between two musicians that are minorities and working within the space of classical music.”

Tines feels that the increasing commodification of art means it is important to be “more dutiful in making art be about life.” CAP UCLA’s support helped him to be more intentional in developing the piece: “Everything I think is better, or at least in a creative context is better, if it’s given more space and time.” The delays became “a beautiful opportunity for us to continue to spend time with each other in person and digitally. Just getting to know each other and getting to know our other collaborators so that we could figure out what is the truth of the story of each of us.”

At long last, Everything Rises will be performed at Royce Hall on Thursday, April 14, 2022 at 8PM PT.

Thoughts from the staff of CAP UCLA