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A Sign of Life from the Post-Dramatic

Wooster Group & New York City Players, Early Plays, directed by Richard Maxwell, REDCAT, February 21-24, 2013 — I’m in 7-11 – the one on Silver Lake Boulevard. I’m buying ice for a field trip my daughter’s 6th grade class is taking later in the day. There’s nothing unusual about the errand, but something about the way the sunlight slants across the surfaces of the Salt Snack displays and the Slurpee counter, or maybe it’s the warmth in the smile of the woman at the register as she hands me my change – she’s from the Indian subcontinent and seems so happy to be here I imagine she’s a new arrival still in the honeymoon phase of the American dream - or perhaps it’s the small courtesy shown me by the young woman who holds the door … [Read more...]

Repairs are Being Attempted

GATZ by Elevator Repair Service, Directed by John Collins  at REDCAT, Nov. 28-Dec. 9, 2012 — We reach a point in dreams sometimes of sudden precarious flight, the unfolding of an odd, slow-motion knowledge that we have become untethered, the way participants in car accidents are sometimes launched through windshields, and we can imagine ourselves filled with a kind of instant nostalgia for the firm ground just left behind, and for the time before our weightless freefall. Even before we make impact with whatever surface approaches — hard, or if we are very lucky in our dreaming, soft and giving, a warm embrace perhaps, the arms of a wise and trusted elder perhaps, wearing a soft cardigan with leather patches at the elbows possibly, and … [Read more...]

A Larger Hunger

And God Created Great Whales, Rinde Eckert, REDCAT, January 2012 – Rinde Eckert takes to the stage, house lights on, sits at a piano-cum-surrogate-captain's-table strewn with post-its and and tinkers endlessly with what appears to be sheet music. The stage lights dim to black and then rise again, and Eckert appears now as Nathan, a hapless piano tuner, who, along with his imaginary muse Olivia, trace, tack and travail the last vestiges of Nathan’s memory in order to piece together his magna opera “Moby Dick”. Strapped around his waist and hung around his neck are color-coded tape recordings. These are Nathan's memory devices; they supply him with directives on how to complete his musical masterpiece, if only he could recall long enough … [Read more...]

The Brokered Heart

Tim Crouch’s England, Skirball Cultural Center, November 9, 2011 – We’re in the atrium of the Skirball Cultural Center atop the Sepulveda pass in Los Angeles when the tall Englishman begins speaking to us. His voice is clear, his diction flawless, sharpened by the cheerfully aggressive precision of high British elocution. An Englishwoman is with him, and she speaks to us also, her voice equally clear and certain. The two of them describe their love of art. They both have a boyfriend who is an art dealer, and they talk about him too. After a few lines volleyed in this fashion, we realize they are two performers inhabiting the same character, and, listening as closely as we can, it remains impossible to know which of them is the “real” … [Read more...]

Working Woman

Sandra Bernhard, REDCAT, Los Angeles, August 12, 2011 – Performances run through August 21. www.redcat.org Sandra Bernhard is back in L.A. for a two-week run at REDCAT to promote her recent album, I Love Being Me, Don’t You? Or perhaps the album promotes the tour--it’s hard to say since she included hardly any of the recorded material in her 100-minute performance Friday night. If you know Bernhard only through YouTube videos or guest appearances on talk shows, or even from her albums, you don’t know her vast range until you’ve seen her live. The show was a balanced blend of standup, stories, and music. Bernhard’s an assured, emotional singer, and the audience responded to the risk inherent in the intermixing of music and … [Read more...]

Vieux Carré

The Wooster Group, REDCAT, December 1, 2010 - December 12, 2010 – Art, like life itself, is an activity rich in paradox. The style of an artist, their aesthetic signature, limits as well as shapes their expressive energies. Great artists embrace and also rebel against their own style with equal ardor, and it’s this tension that creates the evolution, the trajectory of their work. Some artists tuck all that struggle behind the drapes; some let it become the direct subject matter of the work itself. Either way, this tension is exactly where we, in our self-created lives, connect to the artistic project in an urgent way. The struggles of the artist with form and style, hidden or shamelessly displayed, show us how to derive pleasure from our … [Read more...]

The Koons Moment

Reflections on Abraham and Isaac in Jerusalem Claire Trevor Theatre UCI, World Premiere, September 29 -October 2, 2010 – I’ve always hoped to dismiss any claims the artist Jeffrey Koons might make on aesthetic legitimacy, but a recent trip to UC Irvine to see Robert Cohen’s production, Abraham and Isaac in Jerusalem, has illuminated why, in all likelihood, this ambition will continue to elude me. For those who take theater seriously, UC Irvine occupies a special place. Since the 1970s, the program, which Cohen helped found, has been a haven for those who share a more European view of how theatrical expression connects to the ongoing project of “civilization.” Theater, from this perspective, is a uniquely embodied mode of … [Read more...]

In the Playground of the Post War Period

Brewsie and Willie, by Gertrude Stein - Poor Dog Group, UCLA Hothouse Residency – When we share with a work of art an experience of presence, we come close to understanding art’s intrinsic value. Deploying skill and emotional force, the artist imbues the material with a living, emergent quality that engages the viewer fully, inducing an open stance toward the immediate moment. There is a small awakening to the radical freedom inherent in the embrace of the ever-shifting present. In theater, this mark is being hit when you hear yourself say, “okay, now something new needs to happen,” and then immediately find that what you had in mind (three women enter, for example) is actually happening. This kind of small elation, for me, took place … [Read more...]

Hysterical Historiography – Part Two

In this, the second installment of a two part interview, playwright and Times Quotidian contributor Rita Valencia speaks with associate artistic director (and co-founder) Lex Steppling about his motivations to form the new Los Angeles based laboratory theater group, Gunfighter Nation. Gunfighter Nation debuts "The Alamo Project" at the Odyssey Theater, May 28th and 29th, 10:30pm. Gunfighter Nation presents The Alamo Project An Interview with Rita Valencia and Alexis Steppling I meet Alexis Steppling, associate artistic director (and co-founder) of Gunfighter Nation, in an Altadena coffee house where he is hanging out with his wife Suzanne and their toddler daughter, the lovely and good-natured Stella. Lex has a friend along who is … [Read more...]

Hysterical Historiography

In this, the first of a two part interview, playwright and Times Quotidian contributor Rita Valencia speaks with Gunfighter Nation Artistic Direct John Steppling about his motivations to form the new Los Angeles based laboratory theater group. In Part Two Valencia will be speaking with Lex Steppling about the youth connection and contributions to Gunfighter Nation. Gunfighter Nation presents The Alamo Project An Interview with Rita Valencia and John Steppling The Alamo Project is an evening of short plays about the Alamo. The Alamo, the legendary 1835 seige of a Texan mission, is emblematic of the ease with which past events can become myth, and how myth serves the purpose of the mythmakers. As part of this process, history, real … [Read more...]