August 31 began Week Three of the NOW Festival 2023 at the REDCAT space for experimental and progressive work. The program featured works by Los Angeles based artists, Mark Golamco; Huntrezz Janos and Antigoni Tsagkaropoulou; and Erica Bitton.
The opening piece, ‘The Ghost of Ted Dragon’ by Mark Golamco is a heartfelt paean to Edward (Ted) Dragon, who was a successful ballet dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet and New York City Ballet, and his lover Alfonso Angel Ossorio, who was a renowned artist from the circle of Lincoln Kirstein, Paul Cadmus, Eric Gill, Jackson Pollock and Jean & Lili Dubuffet. Golamco tells us in his opening monologue that he is ‘obsessed’ with this gay, artistic, power couple and then goes on to prove it by singing songs he has written about them and telling anecdotes from their life together.
The stage has been set as Golamco interprets their surroundings at their grand estate, ‘The Creeks’ in East Hampton. He enacts a series of tableau vivant with slightly more movement in order to recreate the fabulous parties which the couple produced throughout their time at the estate. The costume design by Will Gomez is meant to evoke the simplistic style of many Balanchine Ballets in that they consist of simple tights, leotard and ballet shoes. Surely what Ted Dragon would have worn in his years at the New York City Ballet. However, while the tights and leotards were one color, the Ballet shoes were different, either white or brown, which made them stand out, and us extremely aware that none of the performers used their feet as well as Ted Dragon would have.
The music was ably suited to the piece by Allen Bleyle, Michael G. Bauer, Aeon Lux and Mark Golamco, who played a variety of instruments that helped accompany his storyline. The Choreography by Craig Biesecker evoked tableau vivant and set Golamco up as the Master of Ceremonies. Dancers were Aeon Lux and Kayla Aguila.
Second on the program was ‘Dentaxuvia’ by Huntrezz Janos and Antigoni Tsagkaropoulou. This is a futuristic romp through animated video landscapes where Janos and Tsagkaropoulou play protagonist against faceless forces which would squelch their fabulous gender bending fashion sense.
Two door-size screens are set up on either side of the stage and the backdrop serves as the major screen behind. The two smaller screens come to life and display our two avatars trying to decide what to wear while they take on the galactic gender police. There are some fantastic design elements to these costumes and then, voilá! they both emerge from behind their screens in the very same outfits as their avatars! These were wearable sculptures by Janos and Tsagkaropoulou. Through the action on the screens, we join them on their journey. This was very fun play, as the screens deliver much in the way of a computer gaming experience. Both Janos and Tsagkaropoulou are talented in technology and media arts to be sure, but we were an audience in a theater and the human element of that exchange suffered from too little exposure to either of them on the actual stage.
The poetry was catchy and served the scenario but was displaced through microphones from behind the screens as if the animated avatars were speaking. This was a cool beginning but did not develop once they came out. The movement of the piece happened when they revealed themselves to the audience and stood in front of their screens facing their avatars. As they posed and postured, the avatars mimicked their movement. If you like computer games you will love this piece.
Finally, we arrived at Erica Bitton and her piece, “Vacuum Girl”. Most of the ‘movement’ inherent in this piece happened during the set-up of the various boards and lighting tech necessary for its fulfillment. There was a tacet admission of this as an amusing voice-over commenced during the set-up explaining what it all was for and how it was all a part of Bitton’s plan to engage us in the work. She also declares very strongly that her piece is not a work of theater and I wondered why I was there.
Bitton is a very good storyteller, and she takes us through her ‘Television Pilot’ at breakneck speed. Her delivery in fastball phrases is reminiscent of Howard Hawks’ ‘His Girl Friday’ or Preston Sturges’ ‘The Lady Eve’. Bitton is funny and keeps the audience awake and paying attention. It would make a great podcast. She is present behind a table with her array of tech in front of her and a few lighting tubes attached to stands at the sides of the table. She is engaging and I wonder what she would come up with without all of the tech? Lighting and sound by Erica Bitton.
Experimentation was in high relief for the third week of REDCAT’s NOW Festival and it is wonderful that there are still theaters where this kind of experimentation can still take place. The future of live entertainment depends upon it. Artists grow by doing and that is what REDCAT affords.
To find out more about what is happening at REDCAT, please visit their website.
Written by Brian Fretté for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: REDCAT NOW Festival 2023 – Huntrezz Janos and Antigoni Tsagkaropoulou in “DENTAXUVIA” – Photo by Angel Origgi