Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

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.

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.

How do artists effect change?

The Tune In Festival

Ahead of The Tune In Festival we asked the artists, “how do artists effect change?”

“They breathe purpose. They are Healers. For example, the author of We Want Our Bodies Back, jessica Care moore, affectionately known as Detroit Butterfly, is not only an Apollo Legend, whose words are celebrated worldwide, she is a pillar in the poetry community. In her set she shares her latest work of art, Wild Beauty, where she not only gives love a new perspective, but also dances with the tug of war that love often presents,” said J. Ivy, performance poet and co-curator.

“Art takes us where linear thinking cannot. While we all find our own relevance in the experience, none of us is spared from catharsis. Extremes in contrast. We live for the experience of extremes, and assume responsibility for the consequences,” said Matthew Duvall, Eighth Blackbird Percussionist and Artistic Director.

“Artists effect change in so, so many different ways. I feel that artists have the ability to take very complex messages and crystallize them into one piece or one project or one experience that can communicate to people in ways that just words or just research can’t. They can create something and just distill the very essence of a situation or an emotion for an audience member to really be moved by and to change from that experience,” said Anthony R. Greene, composer and musician.

Come celebrate the power of protest and resilience found in music and poetry with all 30 ensembles and poets this Thursday through Sunday at CAP UCLA Online.

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. 

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. 

A Moment With Artists-in-Residence

“Performance doesn’t just magically appear on a stage. Behind every work, there are years of creative development, months of rehearsal and a continual pursuit of support.” — Kristy Edmunds, CAP UCLA’s Executive and Artistic Director

Each year since 2012, CAP UCLA has welcomed a new cohort of six to 12 artist residents and offered resources, connections and more to support their process of bringing an idea to the stage. No two residencies look the same, in part, due to mentorship and guidance by our Executive and Artistic Director Kristy Edmunds. The CAP UCLA staff works to meet the artists where they are, often providing creative time and necessary space for the development of new work.

Some residencies last from conception to production, where we are along for the full ride. The White Album by Joan Didion created by Lars Jan/Early Morning Opera, presented in April of 2019, was such a project. For this, CAP UCLA partnered with Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a Research and Development lab for the arts, to provide a month-long residency in 2018 to develop the work in an intensive and uninterrupted environment. About the residency, Jan said, “removed from the patterns of our daily lives, our group of artists was able to draw nourishment from the stunning beauty of the natural landscape and grounds, as well as the generous ethic of incubation guiding the program and staff there, to connect with a creative and personal intensity unparalleled in other settings.”

Other artists, like choreographer Ann Carlson, had ideas for years, but lacked the time and space to bring them to fruition. The interruption to our daily schedules created by the pandemic provided Carlson with the time and CAP UCLA provided the space. Describing her time in the Royce Hall Rehearsal Room, she said, “for me, a residency can be a setting aside of body, mind, space and time for working, for waiting, for opening to the next idea, or to give room (literally) for ideas to emerge, to take shape, to shift from a gentle haunting towards a concrete thing in the world.” Unlike The White Album, Carlson’s intended solo may become something else or take more time, but it was “a chance to reach into those barely there impressions, those shy or bold things that tend to prefer more private pockets.”

Even during the global pandemic when the majority of the performing arts have been restricted to the digital stage, artists need a space to create, to make sure their work is ready when live performance is able to return. Carlson added, “in the context of the virtual spaces that are part of life now, a brick-and-mortar residency feels rare, a place to savor, both the place itself, the comings and goings to it, and what happens as a result of residing in it.”

This is also true for multidisciplinary artist Annie Saunders, who is in the rehearsal room this week working on a multiformat piece entitled Rest! Saunders says, “space and time are so valuable in the creative process, just the time to let the ideas breathe and come into themselves. The space in the rehearsal room especially lets us air things out, imagine them in large rooms, large stages, encourage them to unfurl and become the most of themselves they can be. It’s a gift. And we are in the gift giving business.”

Artists are not the only ones who benefit from the CAP UCLA residencies. They also allow you, our audiences, to follow a project from when it is just a blip in an artist’s mind to the moment when you are sitting in the audience enjoying the fully produced work. Many of the works that result from these residencies appear in future CAP UCLA seasons. It is not an easy task to decide who will be invited to participate in the program. As part of the selection criteria Edmunds “considers the work L.A. needs to see right now, [and] which artists are on the brink of something brilliant.”

The creative process takes time, a resource we all could use more of. We know you can’t give us time, but you can show your support by making a donation. Please give what you can to ensure that CAP UCLA can continue our commitment to artists and the development of new work that can be presented on our stages in the near future.

Message from the Center: On Philip Glass’s Piano Sonata

When Philip Glass mentioned to me a few years ago that he was working on a piano sonata (his first!), I instinctively sensed that this was going to be a big deal. Not because a new composition by Philip Glass generally is, but because of his exuberance for it: “Hey! Did I tell you I’m working on a piano sonata?!” For all I knew, he committed himself to the idea in that exact instant, or, more likely, he had been working away on it in his mind while we were talking about a range of other topics over our bowls of soup. Whichever the case, he was excited by the journey he was embarking upon.

Phil has written sonatas for other instruments before, but this would be his first for the piano. I imagined how much he would pour into it given that the piano is the instrument he has spent a lifetime playing (at home and on countless tours). However, Phil is not an artist to let the potential of a ‘first’ be tethered to what is known. His exuberance came from writing something that would far surpass what he could play, or be able to entirely hear on the instrument itself beyond imagining it as the composer. There would need to be someone who could bring the music to life and bridge the musical space between themselves, the audience and the composer.

Phil composed his Piano Sonata for Maki Namekawa and Maki collaborated on its shape and dimensionality by adding her tremendous capacity and insight as a pianist. They sent recordings and adjustments back and forth across the Atlantic, and Phil describes her contribution as much more than a facile pianist interpreting the material, but adding to it in order that it can be heard and embodied.

Many will recall an epic week in 2013 when CAP UCLA presented a survey of Philip Glass works at Royce Hall that included La Belle et La Bete, Music in Twelve Parts and his Complete Etudes. The week offered towering elevations, with an audience experiencing countless intakes of breath on so many levels and for me, experiencing Maki play Phil’s Etude #20 is forever lodged in my being. I have little doubt that I was not alone in my astonishment.

As you experience the concert as given by Maki – there is something undeniably present about the current moment we are living in, and an incredible point of connection to the future that arrives in the third movement. There is far more consonance in the music than dissonance, and Philip Glass has put a great deal of faith into our evolving capacity to listen and hear. We recognize the piano, the structure of the sounds and the notes in time – but the speed of change and harmony is almost unimaginable. Hearing what we perhaps could not have been able to until now, is the gift of their work.

We originally scheduled the concert to take place on the Royce Hall stage, which has served as one of Philip Glass’s many ‘creative homes’ over decades. Throughout this pandemic we have had to invent previously unconsidered approaches for fortifying our commitment to artists and audiences in supporting our continuity together. No small feat within a global pandemic, with our borders closed, and our stages dormant. As the US administration stopped all visas, as the devastating heave of the virus expanded, we had to find another way.

I want to thank Maki and my team at CAP UCLA, and especially also Gerfried Stocker, Artistic Director and CEO of Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria for the truly generous collaboration in filming the Piano Sonata just before the new COVID-19 restrictions took hold in Europe.

My gratitude to Philip Glass runs deep and long. For his immense humanity, perspective and music. For me, it is like light finding its way through all of the cracks in the seams and is forever arriving.

Thank you for joining us.

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