The last few weeks of artists and programs that have entered our sphere have made me think about dreams and tightropes.
Mike Daisey, in a solo performance that was somehow softer, more-nostalgic and more inherently loving than I had originally anticipated, talked about not only the dreamscapes he inserted himself into– as a participating observer of Burning Man, his family’s obsession with Disney World and the passionate fervor of the people who originated the Occupy Wall—but also of his own sense of dreaming, the import that holds on his practice and career and they ways in which we can daily invent and reinvent the world together.
He ended his performance on the steps in front of Royce Hall, his booming voice echoing against the portico, the foggy drizzle of raindrops functioning as punctuation to his testament of the power of dreams, and hopes and imagination.
A few days later, as I watched decades-old footage of British miners, their faces—some grizzled, some wide-eyed and fresh—turned to the camera as they crawled into tiny box cars that led them beneath the earth. Listening to Johan Johannsson’s elegiac music of the Miner’s Hymnsadded to my sensation of wonder. I wondered what those men’s dreams were? And did those dreams include a life spent largely beneath the earth? What were their days above like? Were they happy? What would they think about being immortalized so many years later as part of a dreamscape created by music and film artists?
This weekend brings yet another dreamscape, an entre into a secret inner world of a percussionist. Schick Machine isn’t just a theater performance. It isn’t just a music performance. It is a shared moment of invention, a celebration of the tinkerer, the mad scientist, the creative explorer in us all.
I’ve also been thinking of tightropes. Theater legend Peter Brookuses the concept of the tightrope as a rehearsal technique, which he allowed his son Simon to document in a new film called (appropriately) The Tightrope. He takes a seemingly simple idea—move with freedom, abandon and cleverness all while adhering to the idea that you are suspended above air on a two-inch surface.
The most important requirement is that they convey a sense of reality, as if they were genuinely suspended in the air, their feet hugging a thin cord. After a while, it becomes clear that the tightrope is also a metaphor, standing for the existential risk inherent in every serious instance of playing.
All art, invented by dreaming, through imagination and exploration, exists on a tightrope, a precipice of risk. Creators create in a landscape of unknown outcome.
We as an organization gladly and gratefully also walk this tightrope with every performance, every year as we carefully shape a season of what we believe will be deeply nourishing and meaningful experiences that will in turn instigate more dreaming, more reasons to step on a sliver of reality and look at the world, ourselves, our art, our relationship to art and artists from a new perspective.
The art-making never stops. Not even for the holidays. And, that is as it should be. While we took a much-needed pause to reflect and celebrate with loved ones, we’re delighted to be fully back in the swing of things this week, including hosting one of our fabulous artists-in-residence for the second time this season.
The ever-luminous Sussan Dehyim and her collaborators are currently installed in the Royce Hall rehearsal room, putting the finishing touches of a work-in-progress viewing of “The House is Black,”a multimedia performance and film project inspired by the works and life of Forugh Farrokhzad, one of Iran’s most influential feminist poets and filmmakers of the 20th Century.
This highly anticipated 45-minute preview will take place on Jan 19th at Freud Playhouse as part of Sussan’s creative residency at CAP UCLA. She was in residence in November 2013 and we’ve been proud to support Sussan and her collaborators thus far with the time and space for this emerging project. We now invite you to directly support her as well and get a glimpse of what’s in store from this eclectic and engaging new work. Visit http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-house-is-black for more information on how to get seats to this performance.
Sussan has created a series of non-linear poetic tableaux inspired by the poems of Forugh Farrokhzad. The audience travels through a visual, sonic and theatrical journey into the heart of Fraough’s prophetic vision where her most intimate; soulful and provocative moments leap of the page and onto the stage. Her message is as poetically and politically relevant today for the women of Iran and the world as it was fifty years ago when she died tragically at the age of 32.
“The House is Black” features original score composed by Deyhim and the Golden Globe winning composer Richard Horowitz, featuring brilliant special guests, creates a cinematic musical landscape for the piece. The composition will include influences routed in Persian and Western contemporary classical music, jazz and electronic music with an elaborate sound design component. Archival images and scenes from Forugh’s documentary The House is Black and Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1965 interview with Forugh, along with Deyhim’s original film and visual projections, will create the backdrop and provide a window into the life of Iran’s most controversial poet and filmmaker.
In October we were also proud to host an in-progress showing of another engrossing music and multimedia project from another CAP UCLA artist-in-residence–the interdisciplinary artist and curator Ellina Kevorkian.
In “Some Dreams Contain Dead Time,” Ellie explores the porosity of time and dreams through video and music influenced by the works of Symbolist painter Odilon Redon, 19th-century Spiritualist photography and Victorian fairy paintings.
Ellie took us on a journey of the mind…while our bodies remained seated in the muted darkness of the Royce Hall stage, we watched Ellie’s impressionistic video work—a series of ghostly vignettes treated with splashes of color and Ellie’s own paintings and punctuated by a gloriously eerie and provocative score of vocalizations from Coloratura-in-exilio Juliana Snapper and electronic loops of virtuosic cello, created in the moment by composer/musician Skip vonKuske.
November was a busy month for residencies. The fantastically talented multi-hyphenate artist DBR (a.k.a Daniel Bernard Roumain) was joined by a group of aspiring young musicians from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. By all accounts it was a love-fest between DBR and these incredibly inspiring students who workshopped a new composition from the acclaimed composer/violinist/bandleader, who is known for blending funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music into an energetic and experiential sonic form. DBR is assiduously morphing a new phase of his already impressive career and we’re incredibly proud to be a part of it.
Another young composer was firmly ensconced on campus this past fall—Mohammad Fairouz, also working with students. Just before we broke for the holiday campus closure, Mohammad and the UCLA Philharmonia presented a gorgeous program of original music devoted to the concepts of peace, unity and multi-cultural religious understanding. We co-presented the concert, titled “Symphonic Poems and Prayers.”
We worked closely with Mohammad on the extensive program notes for the piece. He was eager to make sure his libretto was represented in multiple language texts—Arabic, Hebrew and English. Over the course of working on the notes, we talked a lot about his time here and he was clearly moved by the great spirit of generosity he experienced from the faculty and students he worked with. It’s wonderful to interact with an artist who’s on a total high because they have found their creative pursuits at UCLA incredibly uplifting and rewarding. That’s important to us. It’s an important part of what our residency project is all about.
Mohammad also shared a fun anecdote when I asked him if he was enjoying the sunny respite L.A. has to offer.
He said he was surprised to run into DBR on the streets of Westwood one day, an incident that usually only occurs in the two artists’ home base of New York City.
“What are you doing here?” he asked DBR.
“I’m working with CAP UCLA,” DBR replied. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m ALSO working with CAP UCLA,” Mohammad said.
And that my friends, brought a great smile to my face. That’s the idea. Let’s bring great artists together into this space of ours and see what kind of creative energetic wavelengths emanate from them.
More to come on the residency front. Read more about who will be around in the coming months and how to get involved.
Cedric Andrieux takes the stage tomorrow night in the eponymous solo work created by Jerome Bel. We asked him a few questions about this very intimate and revealing piece of dance theater.
CAP UCLA:You worked very closely with Jerome Bel on the creation of this work and in it you speak very candidly about your early inspiration and your work with Merce Cunningham. What part of the piece was the most difficult or challenging to synthesize into a brief period on the stage?
CEDRIC: I think we struggled a bit more on the Merce Cunningham section. The rest of the script follows a chronological order, but we couldn’t do that for the middle part, the Cunningham part. We then had to find a different way of organizing ideas and thoughts.
CAP UCLA:Do you have a favorite part and if so, what is it?
CEDRIC: I am very happy that we found a way to render onto the stage the creation process that Merce used to create new dances. I also love performing one of the scenes of “The Show Must Go On.” It is one thing to perform it in the context of the whole piece, but it changes completely when I do it in the solo.
CAP UCLA:Was it challenging or nerve-wracking to be solo on stage and speaking directly to the audience throughout? As a dancer in a company, I assume it’s rather rare to have spoken moments. Was that something you had to work on as a performer or did you already have some experience with that?
CEDRIC: I think it is part of the project, to have on stage a performer who is in a situation that he knows, the stage, but having to use a tool that he doesn’t necessarily control, in my case, voice. But since it is not about pretending to be comfortable, or trying to hide the discomfort, the challenge becomes more about being in the moment and letting go of the image of oneself that one wants or is used to portray on stage. It is about allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
CAP UCLA: Toward the end of the piece you say that working on the creation of this solo made you realize you had never spent that much time thinking of what you had done and why you had done it. Are you still learning, still discovering more about yourself and what drives you? If so, what continues to surprise you?
CEDRIC: Since the solo, I would say that the flood gates are open! What continues to actually surprise me is the realization that you always end up banging your head against the same issues. They take different forms, but it always come back to the same, even though you constantly feel that you’re resolving those issues, or that you finally have enough distance….
CAP UCLA:You have performed this work extensively in France and toured the world, most recently even a stretch of performances in Africa. How does your performance translate when you are visiting audiences of other cultures? Do you get different reactions at different moments? Is there a particular kind of audience who “gets it” the most quickly or deeply?
CEDRIC: That is another interesting and challenging aspect of the solo for me, the fact that from one audience to the next, even in the same city, even in the same theater, the response might entirely be different. There is an aspect of Jerome’s work that plays with the codes of theater, and theater goers, what are we doing here, what are our expectations, and the deconstruction or the highlighting of those codes, that can get lost with people that may not have as much experience or awareness with those actual codes. But the solo was made to be comprehended by everyone, not just the elite of theater goers, not just dancers, so whatever the context is, I always feel like the information that the solo exposes comes across….
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.
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.
This weekend marks the final performance of the 2012-2013, with LACO’s Concerto Finale. It’s been a great year and now is a great time for us to settle down and reflect a bit, before the joyous frenzy of bringing you the amazing array of 2013-2014 artists begins in earnest.
I thought I’d take some time to acknowledge and sincerely thank the many students and other members of our vibrant campus community who generously applied considerable heart and talent toward enhancing and contextualizing performances of our past season. There’s a whole wonderful lot of them!
Our on-campus group, Student Committee for the Arts (SCA) this year launched a new programming track for the Royce Hall terrace. Aptly dubbed “The Terrace Series,” SCA sought out performers (most of them also UCLA students) to create free concerts open to all UCLA students prior to our main stage presentations. A happy (and not entirely unexpected) byproduct of having these talented young performers sharing their work outside the hall before the artists on our season took the stage, was the energetic tone they set as audiences arrived.
The first Terrace Series concert featured hip-hop and experimental DJ Co. Fee and experimental soul/jazz singer and UCLA student Moses Sumney who set the stage for an evening of boundary-defying jazz and soul artists with the Robert Glasper Experiment plus special guests José James, Taylor McFerrin and Austin Peralta, a program CAP UCLA co-presented with SCA.
The second Terrace Series got groovy inside the Royce Hall west lobby (thanks to rain). UCLA student acts Ace Mack and Free Food started things off just right as later that night Charles Bradley and Menahan Street Band brought the Royce Hall crowd to its feet in a truly soul-stirring performance.
Most recently, SCA teamed up with noted UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival to create a head-to-head competition between two student groups—The Wes Coast and The Street Hearts— who battled it out on the Royce Terrace before our presentation of avant-groove jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood. Winners The Street Hearts will be the opening act at Jazz-Reggae Fest on campus next weekend—an amazing opportunity for young musicians. We’re proud to say we knew them when!
Our student advocates at SCA also helped us perpetuate poetry this past season, presenting an incredibly inspiring open-mic poetry slam, hosted by author and poet Carl Hancock Rux, as part of his appearance on our season.
Speaking of poetry, in conjunction with SCA, we created a live poetry bureau on the steps and terrace of Royce Hall the evening of David Sedaris’ performance. Audience-goers from the literarily inclined crowd made great use of a dozen waiting student writers by filling out a small questionnaire and in return, getting an on-the-spot personalized poem.
Student writers Megan Lent, Denise Lin, Meagan Hogan, Wendy Du, Katie Neipris, Brendan Hornbostel, Catherine Kang, Anthony Cerrato, Lena Muratova, Ashley Simmone, Eric Lim, Jeanette Zhu, Makayla Bailey dutifully (and gleefully) clacked away on old-school typewriters and created a very special sense of occasion for our final spoken word event. Check out our full photo gallery and some poetry samples on Flickr.
The winners of our annual humor-writing competition, UCLA students Ida Cutler, Jenna Westover and Patrick Nolan, not only poured their hearts into some truly poignant pieces of writing, but also bravely faced a sold-out Royce Hall audience to do an impromptu live introduction of David Sedaris. They took on the task of informing the rapt crowd that Sedaris’ most recent book had just hit No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. “I’m so embarrassed they mentioned the bestseller,” Sedaris teased when he took the podium a moment later. “I was afraid I was going to have to do it myself.”
There’s something automatically energizing about having UCLA student performers and artists on site. The extremely talented young instrumentalists of We the Folk joined us several times this year—leading audience-goers (who arrived, string instruments in tow) in a “Pick Your Brains Out” jam session on the terrace prior to David Grisman Sextet plus special guest David Lindley and also providing live music in the Freud Playhouse courtyard before several performances of Cheek by Jowl’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. Fellow student musicians Los Tres Compadres also greeted theatergoers during Cheek by Jowl’s run with a the trio’s classical music approach to modern tunes.
Prior to our presentation of fiery Argentinian group Bajofondo, we invited WAC/Dance grad student Sharna Fabiano and partner Isaac Oboka to host a lively mini-milonga and tango lesson on the Royce Terrace, which the audience participated in to full effect.
And, while they’re not technically UCLA students or teachers, we must thank the dance activists of CONTRA-TIEMPO and Latin percussionists from Son of the Drum for a glorious salsa-dancing sunset as part of our “Carmageddon Tailgate Party,” which kicked off the first of 2012-2013 music performances in Latin style on the evening of Bebel Gilberto plus Forro in the Dark.
Our major April program, Trisha Brown Dance Company: The Retrospective Project, would not have happened without the support and efforts of many campus entities, but we were particularly delighted to witness first-hand the transfer of knowledge from Trisha Brown Dance Company to the student performers of Floor of the Forest, which ran in the Hammer Museum Courtyard from April 1-21.
The work was performed by: Courtney Ryan, Rachel Getman, Sarah Jacobs, Elena Yu, Emily Nelson, Ahilya Kaul, Anna Eliza Pastor, Eydie McConnell, Gwyneth Shanks, Myrrhia Rodriguez, Hana Cohn, Cyndi Huang, Samantha Goodman, Alexis Wilkinson, Brynn Shiovitz and Katherine Ann Kaemmerling.
Not only did these talented young artists volunteer for a rigorous rehearsal period and performance schedule, but several of them also made a point to dive into every element of the Trisha Brown programming, attending talks and other Company performances throughout the week.
Here are a couple Floor of the Forest dancers getting into the moment during the Company’s performance of Roof Piece at The Getty Museum.
Earlier in the year another amazing group of students (and a few non-students) leaped at the chance to work with Meredith Monk as she returned to CAP UCLA in January to complete her artist residency and debut her new work, On Behalf of Nature. Monk collaborated with this group of artists to create a very unique installation piece that they performed in the Freud Playhouse courtyard before each evening of On Behalf of Nature. The subtle and individualized movement of each artist happened among the foliage and gathered crowd. The performers came together several times to sing a gentle wordless refrain reminiscent of Monk’s newest composition. It set a delightfully pensive tone for the audience as they entered the space to enjoy Monk’s elegiac and meditative work.
The Meredith Monk installation performances featured: Sonya Chávez, Chankethya Chey, Meryl Friedman, Jean Garcia-Gathright, Kaitlyn Huwe, Sarah Jacobs, Mary Neely, Odeya Nini, Hap Palmer, Courtney Ryan, Tommy Schulz, Gwyneth Shanks, Alexandra Shilling, Brynn Shiovitz, Elaine E. Sullivan, Kanwal Sumnani and Laurel Jenkins Tentindo.
Our collaboration with UCLA Library Special Collections and the wealth of cultural history and passion that resides in the documents, images and curators of that department yielded a wealth of events related to our presentation of Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish. Two exhibits on Beat writers and the history of Beat culture in Los Angeles continue through June. Special Collections also graciously welcomed both our Artist Fellows–Laurie Anderson and Robert Wilson–to explore the treasure trove of cultural archives on this campus. Inspiration ensued! (Stay tuned)
This season we also launched a new informal discussion series for our donor audience—“Tonight in the Lounge.” Supporters of our organization at the Sustainer level and above are invited to the private Royce Hall lounge before performances. For “Tonight in the Lounge” we often mined the deep expertise of this campus to create significant moments of insight and inspiration around the artists on our season. These casual talks made an indelible impression on our generous supporters thanks to the great enthusiasm and generosity of many UCLA students and faculty members.
Michael Hackett, Professor and Chair of the Department of theater in UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television helped us welcome international theater back to the 2012-2013 season and gave our donor audience a primer on Eugene Ionesco before performances of the acclaimed playwright’s Rhinoceros from Theatre de la Ville-Paris.
Sahba Shayani, fifth-year graduate student in UCLA’s Program of Iranian Studies/Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, provided thoughtful context around the work of Rumi to performances of Akram Khan Company’s Vertical Road, a compelling dance work inspired in part by words from the beloved Persian poet.
Alex W. Rodriguez, UCLA PhD Student in Ethnomusicology joined us for a lounge talk prior to performance from jazz legend Ron Carter, celebrating the enduring bassist’s stature, legacy and influence in jazz.
James Newton, Distinguished Professor, Ethnomusicology and director of UCLA Charles Mingus Ensemble shared his distinct expertise to set the stage for jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, who performed in several combo configurations and was joined by a personal mentor, saxophonist Steve Coleman.
Oded Erez, second-year doctoral student in the Department of Musicology helped contextualize the passionate music of Israeli band Yemen Blues.
Eric Schmidt, second-year MA/PhD student in the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology joined us to celebrate the work of Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and share thoughts on the legacy of his legendary father Ali Farka Touré. (Eric also did a wonderful interview with Vieux in preparation for his talk with our donors–scroll down to the January 31 issue of our blog.)
Cheryl L. Keyes Professor of Ethnomusicology & Director of Undergraduate Studies, HASOM came out for our Mardi Gras party, talking to our supporters about the colorful culture that surrounds New Orleans music, as we presented Allen Toussaint Band and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in Royce Hall.
At every turn, we discover how fortunate we are to be surrounded by the students, staff and professors who populate this campus. The exchange of ideas, the energy created by embracing an atmosphere that is dedicated to new ideas and experiences is an important part of who we are. And we thank them all.
Many thanks to everyone who joined us last night in Royce Hall before David Sedaris took the stage as Kristy Edmunds unveiled our upcoming season.
It’s a doozy, with plenty of theater and dance, the launch of Tune-In Festival L.A.– a weekend of amazing contemporary music– plus so much more. We welcome you to dive in and discover it all.
Check out our teaser video and peruse our online program guide. And, we sincerely thank you for all the energy you brought to our artists and programs over the last season. Here’s to more amazing times ahead.