All posts by Meryl

Message from the Center: Samin Nosrat In Conversation with Lindy West

A few years ago I was wandering around at a farmers market and came across a table of cookbooks. The one that immediately caught my eye (and which I had to have) had a title that made me laugh out loud: I Am Almost Always Hungry.

Who isn’t?

And not just in the stomach-growling, feed-me-now kind of way, but in the larger, hungry-for-everything kind of way. We are always hungry — for a piece of the pie, for a seat at the table, for a change of scenery, for more, for better, for different. In our abundant, overflowing culture we are all almost always hungry.

The two writers on stage tonight, Lindy West and Samin Nosrat, both address this notion of hunger; for equity and acceptance, for humor, for access, for difference, for joy and comfort, for the right to just let your freak flag fly. One of the things I love so much about both of them, is that they refuse to ignore this hunger, they refuse to apologize, to fit in, to lower their voice. Instead, they are delightfully ravenous, they ask questions, and they demand that we too, ask questions, that we not dismiss our own hunger, that we take notice. There is a reason we are all, almost always hungry. It forces us to pay attention, to not ignore or deny the gnawing little voice deep inside that demands we feed ourselves and others.

The late, great M.F.K Fisher, in her introduction to The Gastronomical Me, writes this about hunger:

“Like most humans, I am hungry…our three basic needs, for food and
security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it…and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…and it is all one. We must eat. If in the face of that…we can find other nourishment and tolerance and compassion, we’ll be no less full of human dignity.”

Thanks for joining us for our first Words & Ideas program of the new
season, it’s an honor to share this glorious hall with Samin and Lindy, and as always, with you.

Meryl Friedman
Director of Education & Special Initiatives

Message from the Center: MOUTHPIECE

The great poet Mary Oliver passed away on January 17th. We were lucky enough to have had her on stage at Royce Hall in 2010, reading her poems in her signature style. This is one of her more well-known pieces, and it has a particular resonance to tonight’s performance of MOUTHPIECE. It is a celebration of knowing, of listening, of discovery, of the freedom to pursue the path. It is a declaration of independence. Here’s to Mary, to the artists of Quote Unquote Collective, and to all women who continue to speak up and speak out.

The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life that you could save.
—Mary Oliver

Meryl Friedman
Director of Education & Special Initiatives

Message from the Center: David Sedaris

This year is the 20th Anniversary of David Sedaris being a part of our season. In 1998 he inaugurated a new series of writers and speakers at Royce Hall, which was then called Word of Mouth. Twenty years later we are still inviting writers to share their ideas on our stages, and the series is now called Words & Ideas.

Ten years ago, when I first started here, I had an idea to sponsor a humor-writing contest for students, as a kind of celebration of David. We spread the word on campus, three winners got their stories published in the Daily Bruin and displayed in our lobby prior to David’s talk; as well as a signed book and tickets to the reading. That first year, before the show, I remember asking David to sign these students’ books, as they had won the writing contest. He was so tickled by this that he asked if the students would like to introduce him. He met them all backstage, three breathless, shocked and wide-eyed students, who had no idea what to say, but bravely walked on stage in front of 1800 people and gave the most charming, heartfelt intro — the audience loved them. Backstage, David was grinning from ear to ear, and so delighted. This is the thing about David; he delights in supporting others. Every year, he recommends an author and a book that he loves, so we’ve gone back through the archives and listed all of those authors here. We hope that you find some of your favorites, as well as new discoveries.

We are all in this crazy stew together, and the best of us know that we are stronger when we support each other. Happy Anniversary, David. Here’s to twenty more.

—Meryl Friedman
Director of Education & Special Initiatives

2018: Less, Andrew Sean Greer and Homesick for Another World, Ottessa Moshfegh
2017: The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy and Strangers Drowning, Larissa MacFarquhar
2016: Eileen: A Novel, Ottessa Moshfegh and Ghettoside, Jill Leovy
2015: Family Life, Akhil Sharma and The Splendid Things We Planned, Blake Bailey
2014: This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
2013: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, Barbara Demick
2012: The Bill From My Father, Bernard Cooper and The Book of Deadly Animals, Gordon Grice
2011: River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, Peter Hessler and The Barracks Thief, Tobias Wolf
2010: Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, Wells Tower and Irish Girl, Tim Johnston
2009: Our Dumb World, The Onion
2008: The Braindead Megaphone, George Saunders

Prior to 2008:
Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules: An Anthology of Outstanding Stories
Blue Angel: A Novel, Francine Prose
The Columnist, Jeffrey Frank
Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Truth Serum, Bernard Cooper
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware
Among the Thugs, Bill Buford
Birds of America, Lorrie Moore
An Obedient Father, Akhil Sharma
Jenny & the Jaws of Life, Jincy Willett
Take the Cannoli, Sarah Vowell
Guess Again, Bernard Cooper
Fraud, David Rakoff
Easter Parade, Richard Yates

Message from the Center: Rebecca Solnit & Jon Christensen

I write this at the end of a bizarre, disturbing and utterly depressing two weeks, as a new Justice of the Supreme Court is being sworn in. The media — both professional and social— continues to hash and re-hash what did or did not happen, what might have happened, what might have been. I’ve tried not to listen to the news for a few days, but today this caught my attention: “Taylor Swift breaks political silence, will it destroy her career?”

Predictably, there are the haters:
— “Just shut up and sing.”
— “Does every pop star have to voice their political opinions to the world?”

And the supporters:
— “Taylor Swift just posted an extremely political post on Instagram & I’m so happy she’s using her huge platform to speak out!”

Putting aside what Taylor Swift believes, why is there controversy over her right to express it? Artists live in the world, are a part of the world, make art in response to the world—why would they be apolitical? Why do we want them to be? James Baldwin, Ai Wei Wei, The Dixie Chicks, Ted Nugent, Maya Angelou, Susan Sarandon, Patti Smith, Kanye West, Leni Riefenstahl, Lillian Hellman,  and hundreds more over hundreds of years — artists stand and have stood on both sides of whatever divide they happen to be on. Why the disbelief over Taylor Swift and her opinions? Are the rules different for twenty-eight-year-old female pop-stars?

Just shut up and sing.”

Apparently they are. When I first heard this “breaking news event” voiced by the talking head with the arched eyebrow and the smug tone posing as a journalist, it struck me that at the end of an unbelievable week about the silencing of women, we were still at it. The talking head wondered who had advised her to speak out. Really? Maybe she decided for herself.

In a recent postscript to an updated edition of the essay, Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit writes:

The point of the essay was never to suggest that I think I am notably oppressed. It was to take these conventions as the narrow end of the wedge that opens up space for men and closes it off for women, space to speak, to be heard, to have rights, to participate, to be respected, to be a full and free human being. This is one way that, in polite discourse, power is expressed—the same power  that in impolite discourse and in physical acts of intimidation and violence, and very often in how  the world is organized—silences and erases and annihilates women, as equals, as participants, as human beings with rights, and far too often as living beings…Having the right to show up and speak are basic to survival, to dignity, and to liberty.

So, Taylor Swift has shown up and spoken out. Here’s hoping more young women do the same thing. To use Taylor’s own words, I think we’re Ready for It.

—Meryl Friedman
Director of Education & Special Initiatives

Message from the Center: Fran Lebowitz

This summer when my husband was visiting family in Kansas, I got a text from him with this picture.

“Look,” he wrote, “Fran Lebowitz in Kansas!”

“Wow,” I wrote back, “Where are you?”

“I’m in a cool bookstore, and they have good iced coffee!”

My brain had never put the words, “Fran Lebowitz,” “Kansas” and “good iced coffee” in the same sentence. I looked more closely at the picture.

“Think before you speak. Read before you think.”
—Fran Lebowitz

The words were hand painted on what looked like old newsprint, the edges were curling, it was torn, but somebody had cared enough to frame it, and hang it on a wall. Being a native New Yorker (something I share with Fran), I will admit to having a few preconceived notions about what I think people are reading and thinking in other parts of the country. So, this was a bit of a surprise. It looked like the kind of thing you would see in San Francisco, or in downtown New York, but not in a small town in the middle of Kansas.

I texted back, “Who, in Kansas, even knows who Fran Lebowitz is?” Ooops. My cultural bias was raging. Think before you speak. Read before you think.

The woman who said these words has over 10,000 books in her apartment, and has read many more. For 60 plus years Fran Lebowitz has been thinking and reading. She has been called a literary icon, a social critic, a New York snob, a big mouth, a wit, a curmudgeon, a genius, a satirist and the heir to Dorothy Parker. She is all of these things, and none of these things. But she is a reader. She believes in books, printed on paper. The kind with pages that you turn, and fold, and write in the margins, and spill iced coffee on, and give to a friend, or pile in stacks or cram into crowded bookshelves, desks, nightstands. In the essay, Fran Lebowitz On Reading, she writes:

I would rather read than have any kind of real life, like working, or being responsible. Reading prepares you for other reading, and possibly for writing…All the things that I never did because I was reading, so what? If someone said to me, how did you spend your life? I’d have to say, lying on the sofa reading.

Books are our crucial connectors — whether in libraries, archives, classrooms, or small, scruffy bookstores in the middle of Kansas. I failed to imagine that someone in a tiny town could love what I love, value what I value, or—gasp—read what I read. Think before you speak. Read before you think. Sometimes we need our great readers to remind us to think differently.

—Meryl Friedman
Director of Education & Special Initiatives

Composing the Body:
Portrait of a Score

Deborah Hay, photo Sarah Granholm
Deborah Hay, photo by Sarah Granholm

In March of 2010, Deborah Hay performed her first solo in six years at Dancespace Project in New York City. This piece, No Time To Fly, became the foundation of a number of subsequent works. In early 2011, Bill Forsythe’s Motion Bank invited the performers Jeanine Durning, Juliette Mapp and Ros Warby to adapt this score — first as an individual solo and then into a new trio. This new piece, now called As Holy Sites Go was performed in 2012 at Motion Bank’s Frankfurt Lab.

Jeanine Durning and Ros Warby
Jeanine Durning and Ros Warby, As Holy Sites Go / duet

The trio adaptation of As Holy Sites Go, has been adapted yet again, but now as a duet, by two of the original performers, Ros and Jeanine. The digital score of the Motion Bank process, was set by Deborah on the twenty-one dancers of Cullberg Ballet in a new iteration called Figure A Sea. Both of these new works make up this weekend’s program.

Cullberg Ballet
Cullberg Ballet, Figure a Sea, photo by Urban Jörén

The process of this series of adaptations (which encompassed both live performance and digital transcription/performance), is documented on the Motion Bank website, and two of the resulting films are being shown on the large screens in front of the courtyard.

The evolution of this score, from the printed word though many modalities of performance and point of view is a sublime portrait of how bodies compose themselves. The written score of No Time To Fly reads like a prose poem, with interjections of notes, drawings, footnotes, instructions. It is a way of capturing space, and then presenting that space for others to capture, or re-capture, depending on your point of view. Deborah’s works have been described as being “more like rituals than concerts,” her scores give dancers an individual agency that is not as prevalent in more traditional choreography.

From No Time To Fly:
Note: My head is free to look down or away or to turn. It is not fixed.
Note: There is no repetition in live performance.
Note: I neither hurry nor linger.

Deborah’s scores are frequently framed in the form of “What if” questions, many of which are on display in the courtyard. Deborah wrote in 2014, “For as long as I can remember I struggled with whether the questions that are applied in the performance of my work be included in the program notes. My dances would not exist without them. The conflict about identifying the question in the program is that I do not want audiences to be looking for what might either satisfy or not satisfy their beliefs about what they are seeing.”

We also struggled with how much to reveal of the questions and the score before the lights dim and the dance begins. In the end, our wonder and fascination with the score and all it offers won the day. We couldn’t help but share some of it with you: not so that it would provide you with answers, but so that it might encourage you to consider your own questions.

this empty space
a song
an ocean
a figure moves
an ocean
the figure a sea
weaving her destiny
repeatedly
dh, 2012

Taylor Mac: Identity in Motion

Identity. I am. You are.

We search for likeness, we examine for difference. We make assumptions.  The outward markers of identity, specifically gender (although there are others), lead us to expect certain things.  On the playground, in the classroom, at home, in the workplace. These expectations both subtle and obvious, are everywhere.  How girls are supposed to act. How boys are supposed to act.  This past weekend, in collaboration with our partners WeHo Arts/One City One Pride, Los Angeles LGBT Center, and ONE Archives, we celebrated Drag Angeles at the West Hollywood Library.  It was a joyful  cornucopia of identity in motion.  Big Hair. Big Heels. Big Hearts.

IMG_1708     IMG_1709

Earlier this year, the Center had a conversation with the writer, Ursula K. Le Guin, who many years ago wrote a groundbreaking novel about the fluidity of gender.  She imagined a society where gender was not fixed but malleable—organically fluid. The book was considered science fiction, and in the early 1960’s when it was written, it was inconceivable that it could have been anything else.

Taylor Mac, who brings his ambitious new production to the Center this weekend,  explores the fluidity of gender in ways that are pointedly intentional, impish, and outrageous.  In Taylor’s world, the message is delivered by a man/woman bedecked and bejeweled, feathered and fantastic.  Taylor’s identity is in constant motion, and it is a wild ride.  He demands that we look at him.  And we do—we cannot look anywhere else.    tm1He is both a reflection of us and a vision of what we might be.  He unsettles our basic assumptions.  He affirms our hidden inclinations.  Drawing from traditions of musical theater, vaudeville, music hall and drag, he becomes our partner in delicious subversion.  Disruption is de rigeur.

For many in my generation, an encounter with delicious gender disruption arrived in the form of a cheaply made, campy movie about a sweet transvestite from Transylvania.  It’s not a coincidence that this was also pegged as science fiction.  I remember my first encounter with this experience, I was very young and it unsettled all of my assumptions—so much so that I saw it once a week, every week, for eight weeks, during one hot, hot, humid summer.  The movie and the play it is based on, has its roots in the same traditions that Taylor explores.  The messenger is in heels and glitter, the hero is also the heroine, two sides of the same coin, one and both, joyfully disrupting our assumptions.  They each dare to ask, why not.  

To quote the one from Transylvania: Don’t just dream it. Be it.

Don’t miss Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music this Sat, Mar 12 at Royce Hall.

Ruminations on Creative Coding Lab

Linearity plus Travel Intensity plus Center of Mass plus Gaze equals…

Motion.

Movement.
Specifically…
bodies
in
motion.
in solo improvisation
enacting a written score
responding to visual prompts
navigating an aural landscape
mirroring another body
translating ordinary movements into 3D sculptures.

The final day of our Choreographic Coding Lab: CCL 5 was in many ways about capturing motion.

Motion.  /ˈmōSH(ə)n/ noun. The action or process of moving or being moved.

On Saturday afternoon, about 60 colleagues, friends, and observers moved through the EDA gallery space in the UCLA Broad Arts Center in an informal showing of projects, ideas, hypotheses, investigations and whimsy.  How does the body move – how does the structure of motion capture the intent of the one who is moving?   How does an audience or observer, interpret that intent?  In this final day of the CCL, movement was projected on screens, walls and floors, bodies caught by a thermal camera, a digital paint brush, or a series of lines and dots transmitted via sensors.  MōSH(ə)n.  We are captivated by it. We can’t look away.

One of the participants, also a gymnast, attached some simple Go-Pros and sensor devices to her ankles and wrists.  Jumping on a trampoline, her splits, scissors, rolls and tumbles were rendered digitally on a screen – capturing her flight though space.  We watched a complex web of dots and lines in constant motion, and it was totally clear what she had been doing, how she had been moving.  Her intent was to capture the memory of her movement, so that when she can no longer move that way, a record exists.  “I wanted proof,” she said, “proof that I could do it.  I wanted to see what my body feels.”

Motion. The action or process of moving or being moved.

It was such a thrilling experience to be a part of this week, to watch ideas take shape, change, and assume a different shape. It felt like things were being made, sparks were definitely flying.  As the day came to an end and the projectors were turned off, and the laptops were closed and the extension chords were rolled and the ladders were struck, the EDA space – our home base for the week – regained its old shape. Empty and quiet, but ready for the next wave of motion.

FullSizeRender IMG_9878 IMG_9891 IMG_9900

‘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 emergence of Sildenafil triggered a number of clinical studies in this area. The term “impotence” has been replaced by the concept of “erectile dysfunction,” which implies the potential correction of existing disorders in the sexual sphere. Read more about Viagra indications at http://ourhealthyway.com/viagra-generic/. Clinical studies of Viagra have led to the development of new diaries and questionnaires to assess the state of the sexual function of men. An analysis of the demographic indicators of participants in large-scale clinical trials revealed the risk factors for ED, which in turn contributed to an understanding of the mechanisms of its development.

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.

Bringing ‘Peace & Quiet’ to Campus

I am a civilian. 

I am a veteran.

Two stacks of small, white note-cards, each printed with the above words.  On each card, underneath the printed words are handwritten responses:

I am a civilian, and I want to ask…what did you witness?

I am a veteran, and I wish the world worked in a way that no one needed an army.

civilian

These cards were part of a public installation called Peace and Quiet. Conceptualized and designed by Matter Architecture Practice, the original Peace & Quiet was installed in Times Square in 2012 as a temporary dialogue station where veterans and civilians, two groups whose paths increasingly do not cross – could engage in conversation, leave a note, share a story, or just shake hands.  When the Center committed to presenting the Los Angeles premiere of Basetrack, a live performance piece featuring the real-life stories of servicemen and women; I began doing research into art projects that explored the veteran/civilian experience in new ways, and after much searching, I found Peace & Quiet.  Luckily, Sandra and Alfred, Matter’s Co-Directors were willing and eager to revisit the project, so Peace & Quiet will have a new life: re-designed and installed on the UCLA Quad, between the iconic Royce Hall and Powell Library.  The quad, one of UCLA’s great public spaces, provides an ideal circumstance to host a dialogue station, to initiate and inform an exchange of ideas, and to offer a highly visible hub highlighting the many programs UCLA offers the veteran community.

Last month, before a meeting with the team from Matter, I stood at the northern edge of the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where Matter has their studio.  The sky was impossibly clear and blue for an August day in New York, a vibrant backdrop for the Yard’s 200-year-old buildings, which stood their ground next to new construction. Established by President John Adams in 1801, the Yard’s first naval ship was built and launched to suppress the slave trade off the coast of Africa.

navyyard2

 

I am a civilian. 

I am a veteran.

Our country’s relationship to conflict is deep and complicated.  At the tip of the Naval Yard, surrounded by the bridges that connect Brooklyn to Manhattan, I hoped that our version of Peace & Quiet will be its own bridge: connecting stories, revealing history, closing the gap.

For more information on the upcoming Peace & Quiet installation click here.

For more information and tickets to our presentation of Basetrack Live, click here.

Help get the dialogue going by participating in our Peace & Quiet tumblr. We’re starting with the concept of service. Share a thought or a quote or a video or photo that answers the question “How do you serve?”