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LA Theater and the Kool-Aid of Simplicity

Notes from a Stealth Revolution— Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to produce close to forty full runs of new theater in Los Angeles, many of which I also participated in as a director and playwright. I have moved several of these productions to stages in New York, Edinburgh, Atlanta, Prague and Berlin, and been thrilled and inspired by the results. A good part of my ability to work in this way has to do with the strong and largely unmediated collaborative relationships that can be forged in Los Angeles with actors and designers, and also with the comparatively low cost of working in an arena that everyone understands to be, quite simple, not a part of the commodity economy. It seems possible, however, that in 2015 all this … [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...]