Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood Fringe Festival’

deFineArtsLA Exclusive: Now is the NOW!

Picture-1Late July and we’re knee-deep in festival season. You’ve likely hit a few events from the Slamdance, the LA Film Fest, the Fringe Fest, Outfest, Comic-Con, the Middle Eastern Comedy Fest, Lilith Fair…the list goes on and on. The urge to see it all keeps us coming back, but I know, festival fatigue is strong. Hang in there, though—we’re at the home stretch. The REDCAT’s NOW Festival, which kicked off this weekend, should bring festival season to a spectacular end.

The New Original Works Festival features new dance, theater, music, and multimedia performance works by artists who are known for their often radical and unconventional approaches. While Week One (with work from Maureen Huskey and Killsonic) may have past us by, there’s still time to catch Weeks Two and Three, beginning this Thursday, July 29th.

Three artists make up Week Two of NOW: Christine Marie & Ensemble, in the expressionist theater piece “Ground to Cloud,” uses projections, electric light and shadowplay to unfold a multidimensional mythology of nature and human intervention. Systems of Us, from choreographer Rae Shao-Lan Blum & composer Tashi Wada, explores the disruption and transformation of relationships in a dance collaboration that may call to mind those early experiments of Cage and Cunningham. Finally, master of Breaking and hip-hop dance innovater Raphael Xavier’s “Black Canvas” explores the body of the Breaker in relation to the stage and life.

Week Three, beginning August 5th, features theater, dance, and animation. Alexandro Segade’s “Replicant vs. Separatist” depicts Segade himself calling the shots on a live sci-fi film shoot in which two male couples navigate the murky waters of state-mandated marriage. Hana van der Kolk’s “Once More, Again, One (Solo)” uses familiar pop music as the background for her solo dance adaptation of a work originally conceived for four dancers. To close, animator Miwa Matreyek (of Cloud Eye Control) uses animation with live projection to explore fantastical worlds in “Myth and Infrastructure.”

- By Helen Kearns

Each “week” of NOW is really only a Thurs/Fri/Sat, so budget your time accordingly. If you only attend one more festival this summer, consider the power of NOW. For more information, please visit www.redcat.org, or call 213-237-2800.

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Posted in Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Dance, deFineArtsLA, Downtown, Festival, Mixed media, Music, Neighborhoods, Performance, Personalities, The Social Scene, Theatre, Video Art No Comments »

The Fringe of Friends

friendsliketheselogoGregory Crafts’s play Friends Like These, which had a brief, successful run at the first-ever Hollywood Fringe Festival, is a smart, brooding possum of a show. I say this because it initially plays dumb and light. When we first meet our small ensemble of characters—Garrett the geek, Diz the freak, Brian the nice guy, Jesse the jock, and Nicole the cheerleader—they cling so tightly to their clichés, one wonders if they had accidentally slipped into a cheesy, eighties high-school movie. But once you start to really listen to the dialogue, you realize something odd: these stock characters can’t stop talking about their own stereotypes. They seem to be self-consciously obsessed with their own roles in life. And that’s when Friends Like These starts to reveal itself as a play less about high-school or petty romance, but about identity and the darkness that often feuls it.

Before any actors even enter stage, a montage of semi-hysterical newscasts can be heard over blackness; reports of a school shooting, four victims, lots of questions. The incident is not brought up again for some time, but serves as what a high-school English teacher would dub as foreshadowing. Images of Columbine-like violence are conjured up in the minds of the audience, only to lay dormant for the majority of a seemingly harmless production. You have Garrett, who meets up with the much more popular Nicole. The two go on a date, hit it off, and before you know it, they’re attracting the jealous attention of Nicole’s ex-boyfriend, Jesse, as well as Garrett’s female partner in crime, Diz. We, as watchers of this John Hughes-esque tale of geek-meets-girl, are left to wonder how such events can lead to the something so extreme.

Along this journey, we are introduced to the world of LARP-ing (aka Live Action Role Play). It’s where Garrett and his geeky friends go to act like they’re characters in World of Warcraft, and it provides a nice break from the high-school hum-drum, but also serves a much deeper function. It’s an update of Shakespeare’s woods, where lovers’ identities are jumbled and proven false, where truth reveals itself in strange ways. One of my favorite moments from these LARP-ing scenes is when Nicole (who Garrett brought to the event) is suddenly attacked by black-hooded, enemy figures called “Darknesses.” They surround her menacingly, until Garrett steps in and fights them off.

The reason I like this bit so much is because I feel it is representative of Garrett’s personal test in this play. He has to fight off the Darknesses in order to get the girl. And in Crafts’s vision, as brought to life by directors Sean Fitzgerald and Vance Roi Reyes, the Darknesses are all-encompassing. There’s so much hate in high-school, so much raw anger, rage, and cruelty. It’s hard to fend it off.  And everything about the production reiterates this theme loud and clear. The set: five colored pillars (symbolic of the five characters) enshrouded by looming blackness. The music: mid-90’s grunge and pop-metal, emlematic of the post-Cobain struggle to compromise between 80’s mindlessness and early-90’s self destruction. The costumes: Garrett, for instance, swims in the customary black attire of goth kids, his hands constantly squirming in their pockets, dying to break out.

Despite a few technical snafus and a couple missed moments acting-wise (though Ryan J. Hill and Sarah Smick were consistently on their game), Friends Like These does what it sets out to do: it questions the identities we wear, whether in high-school or older. And it asks an important question for our time, which is whether or not these identities are just heavy defense pads against something brighter within us. According to Crafts, you can fight the darknesses, but in order to do so, you have to first realize that they’re really just other geeks like you wearing black-hooded robes. Otherwise, you’ll get smothered.

- By Joshua Morrison

For more information on Friends Like These, please visit www.theatreunleashed.com/friendslikethese.

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