Tag Archives: Setagaya Public Theater

Notes from Kristy: Come On In, The Water’s Fine

The other night we heard the resulting song cycles and creative framework of a new work by Heidi Rodewald and her collaborators Donna Di Novelli and Kevin Newbury, who just completed their residency here at the Center. While their time in residence was concentrated, they generated some truly remarkable material in pursuit of collaborative ideas.

And if my reaction to what they shared is any gauge of the future life for this work, it is going to strike some very resonant chords. The project is called “The Good Swimmer” and is based in part upon the found text of a lifeguard training manual from the 1940s (when women had to assume traditional male job roles as they were all off to war).

There was a particular conceptual through line in it that I cannot get out of my mind. A central thread from the instruction manual for lifeguard training: “The Lifeguard knows what she must be most alert to, and most concerned over, which is the good swimmer. The good swimmer knows how to take care of themselves when they swim out beyond where most would venture. The danger for the lifeguard is that those less capable will follow. The good swimmer therefore poses the greatest hazard to the lifeguard’s duty of care.”

I love it when an unexpected and pristine clarity knocks me sideways.

We are about to play host to a whole season of pristine clarity coming out of the artists that are soon to arrive as we open the 2013-2014 program. I thought it might be good to mention a few of the firsts – The Moth kicks off the Spoken Word series, LACO returns for their illustrious program at Royce Hall as our Resident Orchestra, Deer Tick sets UCLA’s Welcome Week off with an alt-country twist to our Roots/Folk series, and Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock – while marking 30 years of amazing music together – kick off our Jazz offerings.

Crossing over from both the Atlantic and the Pacific we welcome the mega-theater work, “Shun-kin” by Complicite in collaboration with Setagaya Public Theater — putting a momentous start to the Theater season, with a work that is quite simply not to be missed. Our Dance series opens the following week with the North American premiere of Lucy Guerin’s most recent choreography, “Weather.”

To put this into some statistical perspective, that’s about 100 independent artists over three weeks, hailing from cities and countries far and wide converging in Los Angeles this September. We are going to be heaving with the generosity of brilliant artists taking the stage to send up their finest for our ebullient audiences, and I for one am BEYOND READY.

One of the aspects to bringing that much creative mastery into a place like this, is what happens on campus, in Westwood Village, and in the venues themselves when unanticipated and astonishing moments in art between impassioned people come together in unique exchange…well, it makes the fight against the traffic and I-405 closures and daily irritations melt away and we get to be joyously AWAKE together. For the artists– the equivalency is that it makes the airport delays, visa approval processes and all of the rehearsals well and truly worth it.

This is a big and important season for the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. It marks the deepening presence of our mission and purpose, and a heightened relationship to our supporters and audiences, along with these extraordinary artists. For those of you already reading this, it means that you are interested in the Center sustaining the work of our purpose. Know that I consider one and all of you to be the exact people it will take for us to continue to develop and evolve regardless of the ever-vexing pressures that can work against a great public promise. In short, you are the good swimmers, and here’s hoping that by watching you swim out into the great beyond, others will indeed follow.


Connecting to Complicite

We’re spending the next several weeks immersed in the final details of many of our upcoming programs, but especially for our presentation of Complicite and Setagaya Public Theater for Shun-kin, which kicks off our ambitious 2013-2014 slate of theater programming.

It’s an enormous logistical undertaking to bring an international theater company and all its crew, physical materials and performers to the U.S. And, essentially our presentation of Shun-kin entails the wrangling of two companies with performers and producers from London’s Complicite and a cast from Setagaya Public Theater of Japan. It is the kind of undertaking that can only happen when there is an extreme amount of ideological will, passion, and of course physical resource.

It is, for all its Herculean qualities, also quite a joyful effort and one we consider well worthwhile. This is only second time Complicite has appeared at UCLA. The last time was more than a decade ago in the 2002-2003 UCLA Live season when Simon McBurney brought his company to the program along with The Emerson String Quartet for the West Coast premiere of “The Noise of Time,” an eclectic multimedia production based on the haunted life of the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

Our upcoming presentation of Shun-kin is also a West Coast premiere, and one of only three U.S. stops on a very exclusive tour–last month the troupe performed at New York’s Lincoln Center and travels to the University of Michigan shortly before its UCLA engagement.

We’re so grateful for the excitement and support we’ve already experienced around this incredible work, and more keeps ramping up every day. We were very proud to collaborate with REDCAT’s Radar L.A. Festival and make Complicite part of the third-annual celebration of contemporary international theater. The full Radar L.A. program and schedule has officially been announced and it is full of artists from around the world, as well as acclaimed local companies.

Speaking of fellow theater folks, we’re also delighted that celebrated film actor and local theater booster/creator Tim Robbins has graciously joined the host committee for our opening-night benefit celebration. Tim joins a group of passionate and engaged CAP UCLA supporters as we welcome this extraordinary company back to Los Angeles, and as we raise funds in an effort to ensure the future inclusion of these challenging and important works and companies.

If you think our local arts culture becomes greater by having such art and artists bring their energy to it on a regular basis, we encourage you to join us for the Shun-kin opening-night benefit September 26. It will be a very special evening of a Japanese street fair to be held on the charming Coral Tree Walk, which borders Macgowan Hall and Freud Playhouse. You can support this opening-night revelry and our overarching international theater imperative at two different levels. If you have the means, we can guarantee an evening to remember and a great deal of gratitude from our organization and the artists we present.

One of those artists, Simon McBurney, founder of Complicite and director of Shun-kin has made his mark on the stage and film and on fellow artists. We also recently discovered that one of McBurney’s own mentors, French theater and clown master Philippe Gaulier will be in Los Angeles for the first time in the weeks prior to our presentation of Shun-kin.

From August 26-September 6 The Clown School is offering an exclusive chance for local artists to learn under this master in an intensive workshop. As of this writing, there were just six spots left. If you’re intrigued by the art of clown, this is a rare opportunity to learn from a master. There are also a limited number of $20 tickets to observe Gaulier’s final workshop with his local students on Sept. 6.

McBurney was a student at École Philippe Gaulier, a theatre workshop that influenced the founding and ongoing approach of Complicite.

David Bridel, who runs The Clown School (and is also Associate Dean in the School of Dramatic Arts at USC, but we don’t hold that against him), gave us a heads-up about Philippe’s first-time master class work in our city and offered a great impromptu testimonial for the appearance of Complicite on our season.

“Along with Philippe, Complicite are responsible for rearranging my theatrical imagination entirely with their seminal works of the last 25 years,” Brindel said.

That, my friends, is kind of what we’re after. We’re after those moments, and we want to continue to bring the people and works of art that can bring that rearrangement to our lives.

It was also energizing to discover (long after the program was set) that UCLA has a unique aesthetic tie to Shun-kin and the writing that inspired its creation. I mentioned in a previous blog entry that former UCLA professor Charles Moore wrote the forward to Junichiro Tanazaki’s “In Praise of Shadows.” Shun-kin is based in part on this and other writings from the celebrated Japanese author and it was a thrill to uncover that inherent link to the gestalt of this place of learning and advancement.

These encounters are delightful, especially in the sense that they are not exactly rare. It is not a surprise to discover the versatile, personal and far-reaching influence of artists and their work, but it is definitely rewarding and encourages us to redouble our efforts to bring that vision and influence to the greatest possible audience with the greatest possible impact.

Join us as we connect with Complicite next month.