Category Archives: 2019-20 Season

Message from the Artists: Bill Morrison & Alex Somers

Bill Morrison

In June of 1978, hundreds of ancient film reels were discovered in a construction site in the remote Canadian town of Dawson City. Over 500 film reels were eventually restored, the only surviving copies of these films. I first heard of the Dawson City Film Find as an art student in the late 1980s. It seemed to be a fitting addendum to the more famous local history — the story of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-1898, when the town of Dawson City went from being a seasonal First Nation fishing camp to  a city of 40,000 gold-crazed stampeders within a matter of months. The Dawson City that the Gold Rush stampeders imagined they were going to find was quite different from the one they finally arrived at in 1898.

That town, without a history or organic growing period of its own, was in some ways a re-imagining of other frontier towns, with their traditions of glamour and excess. Dawson City and the Klondike Gold Rush became the subject of some of the first news films ever shot, feeding a curious public through the new medium of cinema. What actually went on there and what was reported and repeated was constantly embellished and caricaturized so that the town at times resembled a stage show of larger than life characters, real and imagined. The characters who actually passed through Dawson City are like something out of a Hollywood Frontier theme park: Chief Isaac, Jack London, Fred Trump, Sid Grauman, Tex Rickard, Klondike Kate, Alexander Pantages, Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, Fatty Arbuckle, Daniel and Solomon Guggenheim, Robert Service, William Desmond Taylor. By the 1920s, stories and images of Dawson City had inspired major Hollywood movies, most notably The Gold Rush which was Charlie Chaplin’s first feature released by United Artists, and had its world premiere in this very building on July 18, 1925. Dawson always was a place situated between dreams and memories. There always has been a blurry distinction between the two, and that has also always been the domain of cinema. I tried to make a film that behaved the same way.

I was looking for a quietly epic soundtrack to help me tell this far-reaching story of silent film buried in the Northern tundra. I was led to Alex Somers from his work with the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. I showed Alex some of the films and within a few weeks he produced 25 minutes of music that became the inspiration for my first rough cut of the film. Over the course of many subsequent edits, Alex composed and produced the astounding score from his studio in Reykjavik. He brought in his brother John Somers to create the remarkable sound design, and later the composer Ricardo Romaniero to arrange and orchestrate the score so that it could be performed live. I am thrilled that Chris Rountree could be here to conduct Wild Up and Tonality tonight. And I am grateful to Kristy Edmunds and her devoted staff at CAP UCLA for letting us unearth this treasure at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel – the former United Artists theater.

— Bill Morrison

Dawson City: Frozen Time is a special film to me. A gesture of patience and surrealism in how it bends time through the ages and folds memory in on itself. Analog film is the medium: lost, then found… Music and sound design color the memories and the stories on screen collaged together to form an entirely new story. I first started making this music in the spring of 2014 and worked on it on and off for two years. When I first met Bill Morrison and he told me about the film he was making, a film made only from very old films accidentally discovered frozen in the ground in northern Canada, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. This was basically my dream project… To bring life to something so ripe with metaphor and so inherently flawed was really creatively exciting for me. So much of the music I make is about imperfection. Finding imperfection and letting it bleed out and turning that imperfection into something far more controlled and owned. It was a dream collaboration and I’m so happy to be able to perform this music for you all tonight here, together with the lovely ensemble Wild Up. Thanks for coming tonight! And thank you for listening…

— Alex Somers

Message from the Artist: Bill Frisell

…………….Bill Frisell & Julian Lage Duo

I’m not sure what to say. I can’t tell you what Julian and I will play. I don’t know and I don’t want to know. I’m not comfortable trying to put into words what goes on in the music. The last thing I want to do is pin it down. I don’t want to pick it apart. The place I want to be, where the music is REALLY happening, is that place where I DON’T know what’s happening. Mystery. I’m hoping for that. Joy. I think joy is a good word. When you listen to Julian there is joy. There is joy and light coming off of him. When we play together there is joy. There is trust. We can take chances. Help each other. He allows me to go out on a limb and find something new. I hope I can do that for him as well.

The world has gone nuts. I feel so lucky we get to go all over the place and play music. Music saves me. Everything makes sense when we’re in the music. My hope is that people listening can come along with us, get in on it, and it will become contagious. We’ve got to stick together and listen to one another. Everything is going to be ok.

— Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell: a Half Century of Genius

Pictured above: Frisell and Williams at Royce in 2015

Bill Frisell. An iconic name, and even more iconic mind.

Having guest appeared alongside Lucinda Williams (2015-16 Season), with Charles Lloyd and with Lucinda again (2016-17 Season), and performing his original score for Bill Morrison’s film “The Great Flood” (2012-13 Season) it’s safe to say this Friday, December 5th will not be Frisell’s first rodeo with us.

A leading jazz guitarist since the 80’s, Frisell hasn’t limited himself to one genre or wave of music. As part of the early downtown New York music scene with Naked City bandmates John Zorn, Fred Frith,Wayne Horvitz and Joey Baron, a composer of film scores for documentarian Bill Morrison and silent films of Buster Keaton and his forays into Americana and country music, Frisell has revolutionized what it means to be interdisciplinary. 

But I pause here to bring up the concept of “collaboration.”

A seemingly common trend among those in the arts world, collaboration is important for creative growth and networking. But Frisell takes collaboration to a whole new level. Having worked with extraordinary artists in duos, trios, quartets, and quintets, Frisell opens doors into a groundbreaking concept that is not traditionally seen: diverse and cross-genre work. 

Allow me to delve deeper: the Bill Frisell Trio is renowned for their spontaneous performances of music derived from Frisell’s entire musical repertoire on the fly, while other niche collaborations push Frisell into specific, ethereal corners of music and art. Frisell’s work on The Great Flood, alongside Bill Morrison, depicts the tragedy of the 1927 Mississippi River Flood that displaced multitudes of sharecroppers to northern cities. This work was conducted in a thoughtful manner, supplemented by a completely original score created by Frisell in place of dialogue.

The two pieces described above merely scrape the top of the deep and vast world of collaboration and focus in which Frisell has led his work in the past. Driven by improvisation and a sense of play, Frisell’s 40 years of experience adds fresh new flare to all the music he creates. 

Rock or jazz, country or blues? Which will he explore next? We are thrilled to bring back Bill Frisell to play alongside Julian Lage on the Royce Stage on Friday, December 5th!

Until then, let the wise words of Frisell inspire you in your approach art and creativity:

“ I hate labels; the problem is that if you say you’re one thing, it’s hard for people to imagine you as something else. Music is way more complicated than that. In so many ways, it feels the same now when I play as the very first time I picked up the instrument.”

Avery*Sunshine: A Name with a Story

Downtown Los Angeles. A bustling urban center where the classic rolling hills and palm trees of LA halt to make way for skyscrapers, fire escapes, and vintage theaters. One such vintage venue, The Theatre at Ace Hotel, shimmers with light in the evening dusk and the name “Avery*Sunshine” glows above the entrance, suggesting the presence of the pop/soul icon who will take on the stage this Saturday, November 23rd.

I pause to think of all the times I’ve read the names on vintage theater marquees throughout my time in L.A. On every street corner there is seemingly another niche band or artist performing “TONIGHT ONLY. SOLD OUT”… and in that moment a name I had never recognized becomes my most recent search on Spotify or Apple Music.  A new world of art opening before me.

But, the name Avery*Sunshine. Now those are 5 syllables that changed things.

Avery*Sunshine is the stage name of Denise Nicole White, a Philadelphia-born singer and performer. According to Sunshine, her parents named her after Denise Nicholas, a famous black actress. When Avery*Sunshine’s Spelman College sister got cast in The Color Purple on Broadway, leaving Sunshine to finish their record alone, her manager and writing partner Dana scored the opportunity for Sunshine to travel to Japan to promote her new song, “Stalk You.”

At that moment, Dana muttered words that would pivot the trajectory of Sunshine’s career: “You have an opportunity here, what do you want your name to be?”

Without even a moment of hesitation, “Avery Sunshine” was muttered — a combination of two of Sunshine’s true loves and favorite characters, Shug Avery from The Color Purple and Sunshine from Harlem Nights.

Just like that, Avery*Sunshine was born and her career has sky-rocketed ever since.

So when you step foot before The Theatre at Ace Hotel this Saturday evening and see the glowing letters of her name above you, I challenge you to take a moment to think about what your stage name might be. How does your stage name disclose your niche preferences and qualities?

Once you’ve done that, scurry on into the historic theater and enjoy the show!

See you there.

Message from the Artist: Andrew Dawson

I am very pleased to return to CAP UCLA with Space Panorama and Spirit of the Ring. It has been 30 years since Space Panorama was first performed in London’s West End in the aptly named Apollo Theatre, and it is wonderful to be performing this piece in the 50th Anniversary year of the actual Apollo 11 moon landing.

Spirit of the Ring, in contrast, is the full 16 hrs of Wagners epic story of greed, passion, love and death. Both performance pieces are recreations of epic stories — one of fact and the other fiction — both reach into the human soul and imagination.

A force de croire en ses rêves, l’homme en fait une réalité (By believing in his dreams, a man turns them into reality). —Hergé (author of TinTin)

Andrew Dawson

Message from the Artist: Michael Keegan-Dolan


Every winter, as the days grow short and the nights grow long and dark, thousands of migrating swans appear on the many lakes that surround the house where I used to live. Over time the presence of these swans and that darkness began to merge in my imagination with the love story and tragedy that is Swan Lake. Much of Christian culture has been reduced to a simple notion that God is good, has a white beard and lives in the light, and the devil is bad and sits in the dark. This reductive view of the nature of things can be the root of much suffering and confusion.

Darkness is the absence of light. Fundamentally it is how we know what light is. Depression, like most illness, can be a consequence of a continued state of imbalance, often connected with unresolved events from our lives. The accumulated sadness eventually immobilizes us and can make us sick. This sickness often requires a fundamental change to move it. Change, no matter how unwelcome, is an inevitable part of life; nature’s forces are constantly moving, seeking to find balance so that life can continue to endlessly unfold. When depression visits us it is asking us to change. Depression, by its nature, forces you to be still long enough to hear what you are trying to tell yourself. In the dark we can see nothing with our actual external eyes. In silence there is nothing to hear with our external ears. When our senses have nothing on which to attach, our internal world wakes up and starts to speak to us quietly. When this happens it is important to listen carefully. The darkness in any story is there to teach us something.

Don’t be afraid of the dark, it is your friend.

—Michael Keegan-Dolan

London, UK. 30.11.2017. Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake/Loch na hEala; Picture shows: Alexander Leonhartsberger, Rachel Poirier. Photo – © Foteini Christofilopoulou.

Swan Lake (Loch na hEala) ft. Michael Keegan-Dolan!

We are excited to bring Ireland’s Teaċ Daṁsa to the Royce Stage to perform Loch na hEala (Swan Lake) under the direction of Michael Keegan-Dolan!

The name Swan Lake alone evokes sentiment among audiences, the classic tale being prolific in literature and entertainment. The ballet is a popular choice among dance companies, providing a complex narrative and character arcs for dancers. Further, many film adaptations have been produced based on Swan Lake, including films from Columbia Pictures, the Barbie franchise, and Japanese writer Hirokazu Fuse.

Given the pathos that audiences may associate with the classic tale and ballet of Swan Lake, those in attendance for Michael Keegan’s adaptation this weekend will be met with a stimulating and thought-provoking interpretation.

Keegan’s Swan Lake takes place in a small town in modern-day Ireland, providing a relatable context for the dark and comedic entities of the story to blossom into fruition. Michael Keegan-Dolan is renowned for his ability to bring Irish wit to life through unique choreography, and coupled with the new score from the Dublin-based band Slow Moving Clouds, the combination of Nordic and Irish traditional music with minimalist and experimental influences is sure to be moving.

Keegan-Dolan’s incredible career has been praised globally, and his ability to touch on political issues through dance continues to move audiences. What a treat this Saturday evening will be to all!


Message from the Center: Aaron Neville Duo

Until now, it’s been easy to separate Aaron Neville’s career into two separate but equal strains: the funky stuff he’s favored when working with his esteemed band of brothers, and the angelic balladry you associate with him when he’s punching his own time card as a solo artist.

Casual fans might admit they don’t know much — to borrow a phrase — about Neville’s musical center, but they’ve perceived a certain split in his career. An education is about to be provided, then, in the form of Apache, a solo album that makes the case for Aaron Neville as the most holistic of soul men. Its hard R&B side matches anything the Neville Brothers ever recorded for true grit, while still allowing plenty of space for a singer who’s arguably the most distinctive vocal stylist on the planet to tell it like it is.

Message from the Artist: Ain Gordon

1972: Dr. John Fryer dons tuxedo and rubber mask to become Dr Henry Anonymous confronting the American Psychiatric Association with these words: “I am a homosexual, I am a psychiatrist.” Dr. Anonymous propelled psychiatry to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness – but who was Dr

All my work interrogates the ruthless editing machine we call “history.”
I write to theatrically annotate our cultural record by spotlighting figures swept (or forced) to the margins of public memory; stories too fragmented for traditional-form historicizing that may remain untold without imagining the factual gaps.

217 Boxes Of Dr. Henry Anonymous began in alliance with the Historical Society Of Pennsylvania (HSP) and two-year funding from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The grant stipulated I use any of HSP’s collections as source material for a new play guid- ed only by the thematic launch: “personal battles for public liberty.” (OK, I authored the prompt to defend myself against requests I prematurely specify further). During my intake tour, the head archivist showed me a double set of drawers. The right set, he said, held “steps toward our ideal democracy”, while the left held “stumbles along the way.” (Great set up, I was hooked.) The “ideal” steps on the right side included drafts of the Constitution, etc (all the Philadelphia narratives most aggressively promulgated to tourists – AKA stories I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.) The “stumbles” on the left side included Drum magazine, a 1960’s Philadelphia-based “gay” publication (quite the counterpoint).

Googling Drum magazine led me to seminal LGBTQ activists Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny, which led me to an image of them seated at a hotel dais next to a man in a rubber mask, which led me to a PDF of a handwritten speech on a yellow legal pad that began “I am a homosexual, I am a psychiatrist.” I realized the PDF identifier said “HSP” – the building in which I sat googling. I went up to the readin -room front desk: “Hi, you have this?” “Oh, yes,” they said, “we have 217 boxes of that.”

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