Category Archives: 2021-2022 Season

Message From The Center: Breathing Fire

Welcome to the second year of L.A. Omnibus, a forum for writers, thinkers, artists, and activists to share ideas, pose questions and explore solutions. Deriving inspiration from the Latin meaning of omnibus, “for all,” these conversations explore how our city is shifting, settling, and re-making itself. L.A. is not only about where we live, but how we live, how we fit together in a dynamic California landscape that is often at odds with its human inhabitants.

As I write this, on an early October morning in L.A., it is cool and dry, the sky a faultless blue. But California is burning. Today, the wind is picking up, red flag warnings are in effect and there are reports of possible “proactive” power shutoffs throughout the state. On Cal Fire’s interactive map, there are more than fifteen active “fires of interest,” and over 50% have been burning for more than two months. Millions of acres are scorched, the loss of habitat, livelihood and life is disastrous, and yet… The smoke will eventually thin out, the evacuation orders will be lifted, the crews will move on, and the sky will return to that devastating blue. In a matter of days, or weeks or months it will start all over again, in another community, in another forest, in another canyon – we shift and re-settle and re-build, but we are at odds with what we are making. The tallest living tree in the world, standing unbowed for almost 3,000 years in the middle of the Sequoia National Forest is wrapped in a kind of flame-retardant aluminum foil, guarded by front-line firefighters against the surrounding blaze. How will this end?

The women and men fighting California’s fires undergo unimaginable hardship. They must fight against the instinct that tells them to run from fire, and they instead, run towards. Since World War II, California has relied heavily on inmate fire crews, who can make up about 30% of the force.  Like “regular” firefighters, they work twenty-four-hour shifts, often sleeping in the scrub that they clear, covered by dirt and ash and the all-pervasive smoke. Unlike “regular” firefighters, they are paid $1 an hour.

This summer, on a hot, dry day in the beginning of August, I heard Jaime Lowe on NPR, talking about her book, Breathing Fire: Female Inmates on the Front Lines of California’s Wildfires.

I bought the book and read it nonstop; fascinated, moved, surprised by what I didn’t know. I read about women who run towards fire, women running towards redemption, towards a shot at a second chance; running towards a different life. I reached out to Jaime, to ask if she would be a part of this program, to be in conversation with other women who have literally pulled themselves from the fire and are working every day in our community to help others get a shot.

Many thanks to Jaime, Michelle, Elizabeth, and Wendy for being willing to talk about their lives, their work, their perspective. They have been through it, and they stand for possibility and solutions. They remind me of the hundreds of Sequoia, standing together in solidarity across thousands of years, amidst fire and drought and wind and us. They too, have been through it. If we listen, they can show us the way to the other side.

—Meryl Friedman,
Director of Education & Special Initiatives
UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance

Introducing CAP UCLA’s Interim Leadership: Meryl Friedman and Fred Frumberg

As Kristy Edmunds embarks on her new role with MASS MoCA and as Creative Advisor for the UCLA Nimoy Theater, Fred Frumberg and Meryl Friedman, both of whom have extensive experience in managing CAP UCLA’s operations, have assumed interim leadership of CAP UCLA. Together, they will oversee management, programs, artist relations and all other aspects of leading a major cultural organization in close coordination with the school and campus. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to work in a theater my entire adult life, and I know how much possibility lives in that room especially when students meet a new artist or discover the performing arts for the first time,” says Friedman. “I’ve had the joy of experiencing the power of that potential every day for the past 13 years as Director of Education and Special Initiatives, with Kristy and all our incredible team. Every day we get to create a new story, and I’m honored to help write this next chapter.”

“I met Kristy in 2005 when I was running a company in Cambodia,” Frumberg explains. “She took a risk by inviting one of our theater pieces to the Melbourne Arts Festival. It’s that uncompromising commitment to the power of arts that enticed me to join CAP UCLA as deputy director five years ago and that empowers me to take on this interim role. I’m humbled to join the entire staff as we navigate this exciting transition together.”

Meryl and Fred are eagerly coordinating with artists to meet you all in the theater for a vibrant spring season and an enthusiastic return to live performance. 

An Announcement from Kristy Edmunds

I’m writing to share the news that after 10 tremendous years at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, I have accepted the position as the next Director of MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. I am honored and excited to join this incredible organization while full of emotion as I transition my role from the Center and UCLA which has been my professional home for over a decade.

I have countless memories from hundreds of performances, artists, and the Center’s indefatigable staff over these years of our shared efforts (that stunningly and often against all odds have made many an ‘art miracle’ happen, with many more to come). I could fill volumes recounting these wildly rewarding, challenging, and indelible experiences, and perhaps one day I will try to catalogue the weave of my time at the helm of CAP UCLA.

Doing so now would be premature because as I transition into the big shoes at MASS MoCA, I will continue my involvement with the Center as Creative Advisor for the much-anticipated UCLA Nimoy Theater (formerly The Crest). With renovations soon to begin there will be exciting news about “the Nimoy” on the near-term horizon.

At this moment though, I want to express gratitude for the positive impact that you have all had on my tenure at UCLA. Every director of an arts organization has the multi-faceted responsibilities that come with the job, and here that encompasses the myriad detail involved in presenting and sustaining live performances and the artists who create their worlds for us to encounter on stage. I have had the pleasure to collaborate with an astonishing staff, patron leadership from our Executive Producer Council, the School of the Arts and Architecture and moreover, all of you that make up the community that we have the joy of working with and for.

I have been regularly motivated by you as audience members and supporters who are such an enormous part of what has compelled me to get up every morning and stay late into the evenings. You care about what we do here and show up time and again. At a professional and personal level, your presence and consistency over these many years means that we know each other by name, by face, and through our many exchanges together. This rapport and relationship is the backbone of the Center itself.

You have made a lasting mark on my professional life in extraordinary ways. These come in the form of a simple kindness, a high-five or an embrace, or sharing a profound observation about the production or a burst of ebullience in the lobby. You’ve offered helpful advice on improvements (notably the wine selection or parking, a squeaking seat, font sizes, the importance of harp players and more). You’ve sent emails to me after reflecting on a show or an event; a masterclass by a visiting artist, or a toast backstage. There have been times when you re-upped your membership to support CAP UCLA, and done so not for the benefits associated, but for the cause. Some of you have made transformative gifts to one of the support funds or program endowments that keep the lights on and enable the work to continue.

You are as much a part of the inspiration behind my job as the artists and the people I work with each day.

I know this is as true for the CAP UCLA team as it is for me.

As I begin as the Director of MASS MoCA and shift into an advisory role to support the transition ahead, I am elated to announce that Fred Frumberg, Deputy Director and Program Manager and Meryl Friedman, Director of Education and Special Initiatives who have extensive experience in managing CAP UCLA’s operations, will together assume the interim leadership for CAP UCLA. I know you will join me in supporting them and everyone on the Center’s team as we move into a brilliant future.

Thank you for being the community that has made my life’s work here so fulfilling, and here’s to the circle expanding in transformative ways for all of us.

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

Behind the Curtain of Sun & Sea: What Does It Take To Create an Indoor Beach?

The first task was sourcing 10 tons of local sand to create the beach that audience members look down onto from a square shaped balcony. Following three days of performances and 15 showtimes, the sand will be donated to local elementary schools for use in sandboxes.

The next step was creating a realistic scene. While performing the libretto, translated from Lithuanian to English, the cast will act like it’s any other day at the beach — relaxing on towels, slathering on sunscreen and playing badminton. They’ll even nibble on snacks sourced daily from neighboring eateries in Little Tokyo. Beach noise playing over speakers in the space will add a layer to the live singing; there will even be a dog or two to add to the ambience.

There is also a distinct color palette of pastels to create a sense of nostalgia. The costumes and props will all be muted tones. We even crowdsourced a light colored bike from a member of CAP UCLA’s staff as a prop.

This peek behind the curtain only just begins to reveal the scale of the transformation needed to execute this artistic vision.

The 2019 Venice Biennale winner Sun & Sea, presented by CAP UCLA, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the Hammer Museum and featuring the L.A.-based Tonality choir, will make its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Contemporary on October 14th. Tickets on sale September 17th at 10 AM PDT. 

Announcing CAP UCLA’s Fall 2021 Season

Sun and Sea imageWe are thrilled to share our 2021-22: Fall programming with you! Whether a plastic bag store, a soundscape mapped to L.A. terrain or dance created for 2D, they’re all presented to you, our audience, from a cooperative practice.

This fall we worked with our neighboring colleagues the Hammer Museum and The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) to offer viewing cycles of Sun & Sea, the climate-crisis opera that won the Venice Biennale’s coveted Golden Lion. Tickets on sale September 17th. 

Today, the Student Committee for the Arts at UCLA in association with CAP UCLA launch Ellen Reid SOUNDWALK: UCLA Campus, a compliment to the full scale soundwalk at Griffith Park. As a gift to the returning students, faculty and staff, Ellen Reid hopes “it brings the same sense of reflection, adventure, and endless possibility to the UCLA campus. I welcome listeners to observe how sound can alter the perception of a place, beckoning them to explore new areas and to experience the familiar with a fresh perspective.” Download the app now and make sure to turn on your location.   

The Tune In FestivalThis November 4-7, The Tune In Festival returns! Curated by J. Ivy and Lisa Kaplan in close collaboration with Executive and Artistic Director Kristy Edmunds to create a lineup that brings joy and hope for a post-pandemic future. A full day-by-day schedule is coming soon.

Learn more about our Fall 2021 programs here.

Announcing Associate Curators for The Tune In Festival 2021

Award-winning performance poet J. Ivy and pianist Lisa Kaplan
Award-winning performance poet J. Ivy and pianist Lisa Kaplan.

With The Plastic Bag Store and several other CAP UCLA presentations we’ve illustrated how collaboration makes us better. Award-winning performance poet J. Ivy and pianist Lisa Kaplan will continue to carry that energy through the fall as associate curators of the 2021 Tune In Festival. Ivy and Kaplan, along with Executive and Artistic Director Kristy Edmunds, have put together an incredible lineup which will be announced September 1st.

In addition to performance poet, J. Ivy is a recording artist, songwriter, author and actor. Over the years his work has earned him a Peabody, Clio, Telly and NAACP Image Award. He is widely known as the poet featured on Kanye West’s Grammy-winning album The College Dropout on the classic song Never Let Me Down, along with Hip-Hop icon Jay-Z.

Early in his career Ivy was featured on three seasons of HBO’s Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry. From there, he did everything from performing at conferences for Deepak Chopra to penning a poem for the NBA Hall of Fame legend Michael Jordan. J. Ivy has used his unique style of poetry to navigate the art form to arenas of all facets.

In 2015, directors Coodie & Chike commissioned J. Ivy to poetically narrate, act, and star in the award winning B.E.T. documentary, Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champ. The trio later followed up with the NAACP Nominated documentary, Martin: The Legacy of a King. Both films paid homage to two of the world’s most iconic voices. The author of three books, his latest, Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain, has inspired many to pick up the pen and write their own Dear Father Letter in hopes of promoting the Power of Forgiveness.

A fun fact for many, J. Ivy is the man who gave EGOT-winning singer, songwriter, actor and activist John Stephens the stage name John Legend, as told by John himself on Oprah’s Next Chapter. In 2019 J. Ivy became the first Spoken Word Artist to hold a Chapter President’s seat (Chicago Chapter) in the history of the Recording Academy (The Grammy’s).

Lisa Kaplan is the founding pianist and Executive Director of the four-time Grammy Award-winning sextet Eighth Blackbird. She has won numerous awards, performed all over the country and has premiered new pieces by hundreds of composers, including Andy Akiho, Jennifer Higdon, Amy Beth Kirsten, David Lang, Missy Mazzoli, Nico Muhly, George Perle and Pamela Z.

As of late, Kaplan has also greatly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to do both composing and arranging for Eighth Blackbird as well as some producing. In 2019, Kaplan co-produced her first record, When We Are Inhuman, with Bryce Dessner.

Throughout her career, Lisa Kaplan has had the great pleasure to collaborate and make music with an eclectic array of incredibly talented people including Laurie Anderson, Jeremy Denk, Bryce Dessner, Philip Glass, Bon Iver, J. Ivy, Glenn Kotche, Shara Nova, Will Oldham, Natalie Portman, Gustavo Santaolalla, Robert Spano, Tarrey Torae, Dawn Upshaw and Michael Ward-Bergeman to name a few.

As a proud single-mama-by-choice, Kaplan has been having an incredible time raising and learning from her happy-go-lucky four-year-old, Frida. Kaplan is a true foodie, gourmet cook, avid reader, crossword and Scrabble addict, enjoys baking ridiculously complicated pastry and loves outdoor adventures. She has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, braved the Australian outback, stared an enormous elephant in the face in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater and survived close encounters with grizzly bears in the Brooks Range of Alaska.

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!