The second week of the 18th edition of New Original Works (NOW) Festival at REDCAT, October 14-16, 2021, featured three artists whose creations examined living with dementia, perils of immigration, and a fictional account surrounding filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. One was personal and moving, another personal and disjointed, and the third was tedious. I applaud REDCAT for providing inspiring artists a venue to experiment and present their work and all three of these pieces had merit, even if they need editing, altering or are simply seeds for another creation.
Song Cycle was created and co-directed by Los Angeles based composer and multi-media artist Joshua Hill. The piece was inspired by and featured Hill’s father, Greg Hill, who was diagnosed with dementia early last year. Joshua Hill’s mother Maureen Russell was also featured via her recorded words and appearing on projected video. Song Cycle was a brief look into how dementia effects everyone who lives with or loves the person suffering with the debilitating disease that slowly erases one’s memory.
As with singer/songwriters Glen Campbell and Tony Bennett, Greg Hill becomes animated and pulled back into the present through music. Joshua Hill began Song Cycle inside a large canvas tent performing on an amplified violin that produced a haunting recycling of his music. Once the audience was settled, he came onstage, sat in one of the two wing-back chairs on stage right, and performed one of Campbell’s songs from his final album Adios recorded in 2017. He then spoke directly to the audience about his father’s recent diagnosis and what we were to experience. Greg Hill is also a painter, and his son wore a long-sleeved shirt with one of his paintings, a polar bear, on the front. A scrim is raised in the back with a large painting of a mountain sewn onto it to represent the mountains of New Mexico where Greg Hill met his life partner Maureen Russell.
Greg Hill then joins his son and together they performed a song which asked, “What Do I See When I Look In the Mirror?” Joshua Hill performed on a guitar and his father on a wooden neckless cigar box stringed instrument. Though the son did most of the playing and singing, Greg Hill did sing a verse or two and kept time with a small musical hammer.
Song Cycle was emotionally powerful and anyone who has a parent, relative or friend living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease could not help but be moved.
The Co-director of Song Cycle was Genevieve Fowler; Lighting and Projection Design by Christian Mejia; Scenic Design by Eleanor Tullock; and Video by Star Rosecrans.
Rosanna Tavarez is a Los Angeles based dance artist and founder of LA DANSA DANSA. She is a beautiful performer and an inspiring choreographer. Piece X Piece was conceived, created and choreographed by Tavarez in collaboration with dance artist Hyosun Choi. Both women performed in the work. It was a work that I had seen an earlier iteration of and I was honestly disappointed in how it has evolved. It is not an unpleasant work, far from it, but suffers from its sections appearing unrelated except through recorded dialogue. The theme was the perils experienced by migrant workers, and others, who come to this country seeking a better life.
The set and costumes were primarily all white. Large swaths of fabric hung in the background and on mobile costume racks offering the only hint of muted burgundy and greys. Two white sewing tables played a significant role in one of the strongest sections that clearly demonstrated the repetitive motions experienced by migrant seamstresses working endless hours in horrible conditions inside large factories for little pay. Here we felt the bodily wear and tear of the repeated threading of needles, the shifting of fabric to be stitched and the exhaustion felt by the women workers. Tavarez’s repositioning of the tables added to the universal nature of this abuse of workers.
The recorded dialogue between Tavarez and her mother and a podcast summary of the classic telenovela SImplemente Maria related the story, but often the choreography is too abstract or introduced but not developed. Tavarez and Choi are amazing performers and work well together, but Tavarez needs to take a closer look at Piece X Piece and stitch it together.
The production credits for Piece X Piece included Sound Design by Suzy Goldish and Rosanna Tavarez; Video Design by Robbie Shaw; Set Design by Paul McConnell and Robbie Shaw; and Costume Design by Jill Spector.
The program closed with Kubrick’s Aryan Papers or How I Learned That I’m in Pain 24 Hours a Day written and Created by Hunter Abal and David Blindauer both members of the recently established Eloquent Peasants. This one act play evolved around fictional events surrounding filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s unrealized project about the Holocaust titled that consumed him from 1976 until he finally gave up on it in 1995. One reason given for Kubrick’s ceasing to work on the film was the 1993 release of Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust-themed film Schindler’s List.
The play took the viewer through scenes of Kubrick (Jeremy Spektor), surrounded by a pile of celluloid and some of it cascading out of his pockets, filming an endless number of takes and retakes of an actor (David Blindauer) portraying a “priest with sad eyes.” The two men repeat the process with Blindauer dressed as a Nazi officer and the love/admiration/hate relationship between director and actor soon wore extremely thin in spite of its occasional attempts at humor.
Faring far better because of the more concise scenes was actor Gala Nikolić as the inspiring young actor thrilled to be cast in Kubrick’s film project. She was very convincing in this role, especially during the filming sections of her scene. One saw the actor transform into her character and back again.
The play came into clear focus during the last ten minutes when all hell broke loose in the relationships between Kubrick and his actors. Spektor gave a robust performance as Kubrick as did Blindauer as an all too idol worshiping actor. Gabe Giron Vives was wonderful as the Oscar Awards presenter in Blindauer’s dream sequence and their other bit parts.
Kubrick’s Aryan Papers or How I Learned That I’m in Pain 24 Hours a Day suffered because of lengthy, poorly written scenes that out stayed their welcome, not because of the talents of the actors. It was directed by Hunter Abal; Music by Colin Yeo; Lighting by Ry Burke; Scenic Design by Avalon Greenberg Call; Costume Design by Emerson Bualat; Video Design by Ly Eisenstein; Sound Design by Colin Yeo; Production Manager: Percent Han; and Stage Manager: Hera Jung.
The NOW Festival at REDCAT runs for one more weekend, October 21-23, 2021, with David, My Goliath by choreographer Jobel Medina, TALGED, Her Body Che Care for, Her Sol/s (She) Guards by performance artist and operatic composer of experimental theatrical sound installations Jasmine Orpilla, and There is No Other (The Remnix) choreographer Amy O’Neal.
To learn more about REDCAT and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: REDCAT NOW Festival 2021 – (L-R) Rosanna Tavarez, Hyosun Choi in Piece X Piece – Photo by Angel Origgi