Tag Archives: art

In Residence: Heidi Rodewald and Collaborators Dive into ‘The Good Swimmer’

‘In Residence’ will be a periodic feature of this blog as we check in on the activities of our residency artists throughout the season. For more information on the complete list of artists who will be working on projects at UCLA thanks to space and time residencies with CAP UCLA visit: cap.ucla.edu./artinaction/residencies

Heidi Rodewald, who you may know as an essential creative half of LA.’s own “afrobaroque” rock band Stew and the Negro Problem, is branching into an exciting new creative direction that we are incredibly proud to be a part of. It’s always intriguing to get a glimpse into an artist’s process, and last night Heidi and her partners Donna Di Novelli and Kevin Newbury shared some of that with a handful of high profile CAP UCLA donors and staff, offering insight into her new musical project and playing a few recently recorded demo tracks from the work-in-progress.

The three have been closeted together here at UCLA for the last week, living in the dorms and working on their upcoming stage project, “The Good Swimmer,” an ambitious, melancholic and thought-provoking pop requiem that explores kinship, heroism and grief as told through the experiences and sorrows facing a family of lifeguards in the early days of the Vietnam war. The storytelling is based on “found texts” including The American Red Cross Livesaving Manual, the story of Antigone, The Army Guide to the Culture of Vietnam, and quotations from ancient Vietnamese warriors The Trung Sisters.

Di Novelli has been extracting song lyrics from the texts and Rodewald is setting them to her distinctive brand of pop-rock. When paired with Rodewald’s haunting and riffy compositions, the initial randomness of the varied texts alchemizes into a kind of erasure poetry that, even when heard in a sparse room with just our imaginations as a guide, created a compelling visual of what this unique stage work will look and feel like when it comes to life as early as next year.

Rodewald is no stranger to applying her substantial rock sensibilities to the stage. She has embarked upon this new project with obvious relish and the seeming effortlessness that comes from being simply a quintessentially cool L.A. chick. She said she especially liked the challenge of working with found texts.

“I like homework assignments,” she joked. “I’m from rock bands and it is so interesting to work with something like this. I give myself the assignment of ‘I’m gonna make this sound like a pop song.’”

Di Novelli first encountered Rodewald’s work when she saw the Tony-award winning “Passing Strange”(which Heidi wrote and performed with her longtime musical partner Stew) on stage at the Public in New York in 2007.

“I thought, ‘I have to work with this woman,” she said.

Kevin Newbury, erstwhile “Good Swimmer” director said he jumped at the chance to get involved.
“It’s a unique piece that has something to say, in a way I haven’t seen before.”

Newbury said the staging will be simple and versatile, letting the dialogue inspired by the found texts, the unique lyrics and constant original music that will underscore the entire piece drive the theatricality of the work.

Next the team is planning to do an intensive workshop with actors—they are intrigued by the prospect of seeking out performers who are the same age as the 17 through 19-year-old four main characters of the piece, knowing the natural vulnerability those performers might bring to this deeply nuanced libretto. (There will also also be a small greek chorus of female lifeguards clad in the iconic red bathing suits of the ‘40s and ‘50s).

Heidi, Donna and Kevin said it was an invaluable experience to have the time and space carved out at UCLA to simply be together as a team, try things out, shed ideas that aren’t working, investigate new directions—all with no pressure to produce anything beyond their own investment in the creative process.

That’s what our residency program is all about, giving safe harbor to new or risky ideas, investing in the possibilities and aspirations of an artist, and manifesting new ones.

Keep your eyes and ears pealed for more from this team as “The Good Swimmer” continues to take shape.

We thank Heidi & Co. for giving us a glimpse at their work in an exciting and nascent stage and look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

“I Love Everything About Young Jean Lee”

That’s what music legend Lou Reed says in this delightfully gushy testimonial about the incredible New York theater artist we are proud to be bringing to Los Angeles for the first time this November.

Reed’s not the only Young Jean Lee lover in the artistic world. On August 6, Young Jean Lee and Future Wife release their first album WE’RE GONNA DIE, with original tracks from the theatrical production performed by Young Jean and featuring a truly eclectic mix of modern recording artists including Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson, Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt of experimental electronic duo Matmos and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, and The Julie Ruin.

Just this past Monday, Young Jean and Future Wife performed tracks from the forthcoming album at New York City’s Chez Andre at The Standard for a special Annie-O Music Series Performance.

Check out the album single at Soundcloud and get a taste of what’s in store when Young Jean Lee Theater Company hits LA in November (Single tickets for all five performances at the Actor’s Gang Theater in Culver City go on sale July 11, by the way).

We’re eagerly anticipating Young Jean Lee and Future Wife’s Los Angeles invasion. Until then you’re most welcome to join us in keeping tabs on this truly unique artist who is changing the theater landscape in very exciting ways. Checking out the album when it hits. Get a dose of the Young Jean style by reading a few of her plays in print.

Join us for WE’RE GONNA DIE. Let’s get exhilarated and depressed together.

Summer Dreaming

We celebrated the solstice last night with our friends at the Fowler Museum in a special summer bash.

It was a lovely setting on the Fowler’s treetop terrace, watching the sun make a kaleidoscope out of the foliage and shadows that enclosed us in a setting of wonderful food from some of our favorite Westwood eateries (MANY thanks to the Glendon, Palomino and West) and great companionship. The turning of the season (such as it is in our gloriously temperate climate) allowed us to collectively to count some of our many blessings–namely the art and artists that we and the Fowler Museum are so proud to support and perpetuate and the generous donors who allow us to do so.

Kristy Edmunds introduces 3 Leg Torso, gets the party started.

The evening was set to the lively gypsy-like sounds of Portland’s 3 Leg Torso. If you’ve never heard of this group, I encourage you to check them out. The pure joy and celebratory nature of their instrumental tunes would make a perfect backdrop for many a summer bash.

We spend a lot of time over the course of the season with the most passionate members of our audience, those individuals who choose to support our programming through not just monetary giving but the giving of their time and energy, both in the sense that they pound the pavement to being even more resources to bear for our endeavors and as they attend performances, leaning forward to make the artists we believe in feel welcomed and understood.

During the summer, when our performances are on hiatus, and as we eagerly prepare for the coming season, we miss those in-person moments with our donors and audience members. We love hearing their thoughts, reactions and yes even critiques to the programming on the stage.

Art should instigate dialogue, connection, communion and reflection that lives on beyond a moment on the stage or a thoughtful pass through an inspiring installation. Live performance especially always instigates a shared moment, a shared experience. And then, as Kristy Edmunds so often reminds us, we as the audience, the promoter, the supporter, we get to walk away with that experience, whatever it may have wrought inside, and we become the permanent collection of an ephemeral piece of art.

We’re all walking galleries with a beautiful responsibility to share things that have inspired us with one another. It was great to take a moment last night to remember that.

I was reminiscing with one of our board members about the Trisha Brown Retrospective and the impact that massive production had on both my personal life as an art lover (not to mention my sleeping patterns as a worker here).

She shook her head thoughtfully and said: “That week. You know, that week changed my life.”
Yeah, I know. And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

Here’s to a summer chock-full of life-changing moments. This city is so vibrant in the summer. There are so many ways to experience music and live performance, from free concerts at Grand Performances or Leavitt Pavilion, or right here in our neighborhood at the Hammer Museum.

We hope you seek them out. We will be.

And we hope you seek us out in September when our new batch of programming begins.