Category Archives: 2021-2022 Season

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.

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.

A Testament to the Power of Performance

As the year ends and we prepare to return to live performance in the spring, we asked some of our patrons to help us look back on our last live presentation at Royce Hall, Toshi Reagon’s Parable Of The Sower. Thank you to all who filled out the survey!

Based on Octavia Butler’s popular novel, the much-anticipated concert opera piece that Reagon worked on as an artist in residence with CAP UCLA during 2018-19 was presented to a sold out crowd on March 7, 2020. The survey respondents said they were excited and there was an ‘exhilarating great energy’ in the hall.

CAP UCLA at Royce Hall presenting Parable Of The Sower Photo by Reed Hutchinson

The show, a testament to the power of performance, has been referenced positively by several Angelenos as the last live show they saw before the pandemic shutdown. And the Los Angeles Times declared it a ‘lavish, powerful work’ and that ‘there is a genuine power to the Reagons’ “Sower.”’

Our patrons said:

“I love live performance, and Ms. Reagon’s work that night was no exception. And then – poof – the pandemic hit and we haven’t been to a live performance since.”

“I’m glad that my last live show was such a good one.”

“Incredibly happy to remember this as ‘the last public gathering I attended before [the pandemic began].’”

Now we’ll ask you, what is your favorite part of being in a theater? Share your memories with us on social by using #CAPUCLA. And save the date for our spring announcement on January 11th.

Message From The Center: Picturing Mexican America

Welcome to 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 programs 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.

This morning before writing this, I went on one of my usual weekend walks. Each weekend, I try to pick a place I haven’t been to, someplace to really look at, the kind of looking you can only do because you’re on foot, and not in a car on the way to somewhere else. Today, I did a big loop in Encino, roughly between Petit and Encino Aves on the east and west, and the L.A. river and Ventura Blvd on the north and south. Sitting in the middle of this large, flat Valley rectangle is Los Encinos State Historic Park, originally Tongva land before being colonized by the Spanish expedition of Gaspar de Portolá. Over the next couple hundred years, this tract of land, plus the surrounding miles upon miles of land in every direction, underwent a complicated tangle of questionable private and municipal land acquisitions. This part of the Valley was home to an enormous cattle industry, then sheep, then agriculture, then housing subdivisions. This small State Historic Park, with its restored adobe structures, fenced in duck pond (which was the site of the original natural springs so crucial to the area), and centuries-old oak trees (los encinos) is one of those odd markers of “old California,” which used to be Mexico, or Alta (Upper) California. Sitting hidden in the middle of a residential neighborhood, the fading historical marker inside the park doesn’t quite tell the whole story. One of the frustrating yet fascinating things about California is that there is always more than one story. This is a big, complicated place, and like the fault lines that periodically shift the landscape, we periodically need to shift our way of seeing and understanding.

Recently, on one of my L.A. walks, I did a deep dive into something I encountered, and in the internet rabbit-hole of one link leading to another, I found the project Picturing Mexican America. I was surprised that I didn’t know about the project, and that it was founded by UCLA professor, Marissa López. UCLA is not unlike California — it’s a big, complicated place – frustrating that you can’t keep track of everything that’s happening, but so gratifying when you stumble on a fascinating story. I love learning about L.A., there is so much I don’t know, or thought I knew but didn’t. I love having my assumptions overturned. The amazing thing about this project is how it so generously disrupts assumptions, how it expands our lens: revealing who we are, where we come from, and how we might get to the next place.  I’m so excited to dig deep with Marissa and Ani Boyadijian, Research & Special Collections Manager at the Los Angeles Public Library (who is a partner on the project), as we uncover archives, maps, photos, and stories – shaking loose some assumptions about the Los Angeles we think we know, and how we got here.

­—Meryl Friedman, Director of Education & Special Initiatives

The entire Tune In Festival is on demand now!

Visionary poet Sunni Patterson said it best when she introduced her set at The Tune In Festival on November 5th, “I’m grateful everyday.” We are grateful for you all. We’re grateful to bring you artists of different backgrounds, places and experiences and to always be discovering something — or someone — new.

If you watched The Tune In Festival this year on CAP UCLA Online, thank you. If you want another chance to catch it, the full festival is available to stream now through Wednesday, December 15. After December 15, excerpts from the festival lineup will be available periodically on our Channel.

It’s the perfect season to invite friends and family over to turn on and tune into this year’s Tune In Festival. For the most enjoyment, helpful tips on watching from your TV are available through the search on our channel. Tenor Karim Sulayman said, “what’s so wonderful about creating a digital piece is that I can connect with an audience all over.” Help us expand the circle for Karim, Sunni and the dozens of other participating artists.

Thank you to all the supporters who raised their voices and supported the arts during the live run of the festival and those who choose to give during the on demand period. We are always grateful for you.