In its 12th annual presentation, the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) brings nine Los Angeles-based theater, dance and music collaborations to its New Original Works Festival. Beginning this Thursday, July 30, and running until Saturday, Aug. 15, three distinct programs will fill the stage with innovative ideas that blur the boundaries of the traditional theatrical experience. Described in promotional materials as an “artist-driven creative laboratory,” this year’s focus is on interdisciplinary teams that investigate their art forms as they push envelopes and build unexpected results.
In Week One, running this Thursday, July 30, through Saturday, Aug. 1, at 8:30 p.m., the adventurous artists and their creations include: Nguyễn Nguyên and Maria Gillespie: “Bloom”; Sheetal Gandhi, Ulka Mohanty and Mark Gutierrez: “In|Expiration”; and Zac Pennington, Jherek Bischoff and Steven Reker: “Crying.”
Co-choreographers Nguyen and Gillespie, working with video artist and astrophysicist Fabio Altenbach, explore home and dislocation in “Bloom.” Vietnamese Nguyen and Nashville-born, UCLA-trained and now Wisconsin-teaching Gillespie should have a few things to say about those themes. And this writer knows that these two are both compelling performers, in their own work and in the work of others.
The Gandhi/Mohanty/Gutierrez creation, “In/Expiration,” blends percussive dance (Kathak, Bharatanatyam and contemporary movement), “stirring” vocalizations and a live bass to reveal “issues of personal justice and identity, the imperative of breath, and the repercussions of race-fueled violence.” Sounds like a meaty stew of ingredients. Broadway and Cirque du Soleil alumna Gandhi has also previously toured the world with a music/dance one-woman show and earned a City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Award (COLA) in 2011.
“Crying,” the new work from composer Bischoff, vocalist/co-composer Pennington and choreographer Reker, is described as “a lush, four-song suite [that explores] . . . incongruities of pop personae — performer as icon, androgyne, messiah and martyr.” Interpreted by a string quartet, vocals and movement, “Crying” is said to “transcend the concert form,” of which this writer isn’t all too sure what that means. But, given the context of the event and the NOW Festival’s raison d’etre, it’s bound to yield something unexpected and entertaining.
—Benn Widdey, Culture Spot LA
REDCAT is located at 631 W. Second St., LA 90012. Tickets ($14/$16/$20) can be purchased at the box office, by phone at (213) 237-2800, at http://www.redcat.org or at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/948726. For more information, visit http://www.redcat.org/festival/new-original-works-festival-2015.