Wednesday, August 20, 2014

reflections from this oasis...

Here we are - a week and a half after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO - and since I started working here at the Beach House - the racial tension in our country has continued to escalate and rightly so - as the repeated and recorded police brutality seems to be spreading, and a disregard for and cracking down on people's right to assemble and protest has become common place - it feels in some ways surreal to find myself in this place surrounded by such beauty - open expansion of space and possibility - while the world around me feels like it is on fire. The Beach House feels like an oasis of space that I have been gifted to think about some pretty complex and difficult ideas - but this space is proving to be exactly what I need to get clarity before launching a year of creating, conversing and engaging those around me to think, dance, talk, move through all of what we and generations before us have carried and continue to pass on around race, color and privilege... 

I have spent some of this week so far moving, but a lot of the week has been spent in a space of reflection, thinking, writing, engaging in conversations with other artists - questioning... what does it mean to be making work right now about race? Who am I and what role can I play to help facilitate honest, open and compassionate conversations about race - as a Cuban American, as a woman, as a person of color that has in my life learned to slide in and out of 'passing as white' how can I acknowledge the privilege from where I come and use that as a way to impact and move this conversation forward - to change the narrative and bring new empowering narratives and counter narratives that will help to build a world of not just racial tolerance but better than that - a future where my own son won't have to fear for his life when walking down the street with his friends...  As the swell of 'ain't gunna take it no more' - 'no justice no peace' is palpable - I am becoming more excited to create and scared to create this work - which I imagine is a good thing. I always tell my students and dancers to run towards the fear - now I get to practice what I am preachin'.  As someone who grew up in a family (I am the child of two labor union activists) that taught me to never stand by and be complacent when I see or experience personally injustice - this piece has feels urgent but also extremely uncomfortable - good. That means I am moving in the right direction. 

This week we taught a Salsa class of over 50 people at the beach house and I am excited to have one of dancers come out and 'play' with me and explore some of these ideas via movement on Friday. If we were all able to live and be who we are in the dance - if we could take those principals of compassionate partnership, listening, pushing back, engaging, patience and persistence - into our everyday lives - I know we could build a more beautiful and just world... I know it. I feel it. 

No, no we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. - Martin Luther King 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Let the 'flow' begin....on your mark, get set - GO!

I am excited to say this week I will officially begin working on site - This fall CONTRA-TIEMPO and I will launch a series of site specific community choreographic laboratories. Part performance, part engagement of community in art making & story sharing, these choreography laboratories will take place in four distinct bodies of water all over Los Angeles, starting at the Pacific, at Santa Monica's Annenberg Beach House. These labs will happen while we are continuing to develop a full evening length work for the concert stage that will debut late Fall 2015 and be ready to tour in the Spring of 2016.  

I am creating a framework inspired by the Tempest, challenging notions of race, gender & upheaval, and I am interested in Sycorax: the only female character of color, the indigenous witch, with a referenced origin of Africa. She is seen as monstrous, evil and vindictive and her maternal power undermines the dominating force of white male privilege. Much has been written about her character’s role that threatens to blur the boundaries of the emerging binaries of home/away, colonizer/colonized, white/black, & chaos/order. My own work and interest in existing and creating in the ‘in between’ has drawn me to her and her clear connection to Oya, the Afro-Cuban deity of the wind/storms. Oya, the most volatile and unruly of the female orishas, is feared among most. As I physically uncover multiple narratives connected to that of the Tempest I am constantly brought back to agua: waves of family betrayal, the relentless current of absent fathers, raining down of persecution based citizenship/color lines, drowning of exile & the Africanist past washed ashore. Creating in a public space where all are welcome, that was once a space where people of color were not allowed - unless serving - I am excited to connect this larger framework of race and agua to the local and specific history of this space... stay tuned as I start delving into imagining, creating and allowing this all to 'flow'...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Welcome to Ana Maria Alvarez, Choreographer in Residence!

Ana Maria Alvarez has soft-started her project here at the Beach House. Titled "Agua Furioso," the new piece combines public inquiry within the structure of a dance performance, and deals with water’s connection to family, migration, scarcity and abundance. Free Community Choreographic Laboratories that liberally mix dance performance and public participation are offered as the culmination of her work here on Saturday September 13 from 3-4pm and Sunday September 14 from 5-6pm along with a free rueda salsa dance workshop at 6:30pm on August 19 and an open rehearsal from 10am-3pm on Friday September 12. Check back here weekly for updates! 

CONTRA-TIEMPO, a bold and multilingual Los Angeles based dance company, is dedicated to transforming the world through dance. Founded and directed by Ana Maria Alvarez in 2005, their unique form of Urban Latin Dance Theater brings to life voices that are not traditionally heard on the concert stage, while building community, facilitating dialogue, and moving audiences to imagine what is possible. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

BEHOLD: The Official NOAH Trailer

The Old Testament story of Noah and his Ark.  As told by clowns.  Opens July 9.  FREE.  Reservations now open.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah- Mass Murderer? (Blog Post #6 by Don Colliver)

Incendiary title, I know.  Bear with me.  Four Clowns is getting closer to our opening- just 10 days away!  Our troupe is busily going through the nuts and bolts of putting up a production: learning lines, figuring out blocking, finding props, creating costumes, etc.  

Puppetry on the Beach

I've been reading and rereading and rereading these scripts, particularly Noah, as I'll be playing his character. I can't help but be struck by the way this Bible story deals with the issue of faith, and how the conclusion is just not wrapped up in a nice little bow (like most blockbuster films these days).

Current Noah beard status.  10 days to go!

Noah is a man with faith.  That's a good thing, right?  His God tells him to do something, which he does, unquestioningly.  But, then, he is seemingly complicit in a mass 'cleansing' of humanity, maybe even genocide, depending on how you define the term.  So, where does that leave Noah? Just following orders?  And what about God?  What's his deal, anyway?

So, at what point does faith become a bad thing?  When is it okay to question authority?  When is it okay to trust that which we don't understand? I'm vacillating day-to-day about how I feel about Noah. He'd been told his entire life to obey God, so he does.  And then what?

Lighthearted rehearsal fun

So, in addition to fart jokes and general zany-ness, this production will definitely raise some big questions.  If you figure out the answers, let me (and Noah) know.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah and Jonah (Blog Post #5 by Lis Vizcarra)

Life's A Beach

This is my first ever blog entry.  I'm going to write from the heart and hopefully coherently.  First off, if you haven't yet visited the Annenberg Beach Community House, you must, immediately.  It is an oasis and such a beautiful place to visit and even more welcoming as it is a public beach house.  That is very cool.
I relish the time I've spent rehearsing here.  Nothing beats having the ocean as an audience and as a source of inspiration.  I can literally stare off into the distance whilst trying to remember my line and I imagine it looks as if I am deep in spiritual thought.   To a certain degree I am.
For the past five years, spirituality and a connection to the Great Creator as I like to call it, have been a daily practice for me.  Clowning and the Pacific Ocean are two of the main sources through which I tap into that divine source.  It is so thrilling to have these two entities come together at the Marion Davies Beach House and to be telling such epic tales.
Telling the tales of Noah's Ark and Jonah and the Whale has felt very epic.  Four Clowns and all of its amazing creatives I am blessed to work with ask me to dig deep down into the heart of myself for the funny, the poignant, the human.  I have been mining for these for the past 10 years through my education in theatrical clowning.
Clowning to me is all about bringing to the surface those basic human turmoils and triumphs that penetrate through language and culture and are universally human.  What better material to test this out on than The Old Testament and what better setting than the beach?
I am so looking forward to the next weeks of rehearsal and then 6 performances we have.  I hope to see all of you there and please stop by and watch us rehearse.  It's a hoot and a half. See you at the beach!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah & Jonah (Blog #4 by Jamie Ann Hultgren)

Living in LA can be a real goat rodeo. 

Maintaining a (functional) life as a performing artist here means a constant juggle of day jobs and family responsibilities while carving out the time and space in your head/heart to expand instead of holing up in bed after an epic car battle on the 405. I suppose every career and geographic choice poses its challenges, but coming from the MidWest several years ago, I find myself having to work much harder to stay sane and grow.

I’ve been very fortunate to find an artistic home in the Four Clowns company and the associated Clown School (where many of us train). When I first moved to LA I tried a slew of different acting classes and found most of them to be a bunch of networky bull. So almost defiantly, I decided to delve into clown work and found a sanctuary where the work I was first drawn to as a performer (emotional, physical, spiritual, et all) was getting done. The work of the clown is being ever present, ever true- and if you avoid the work, you are slaughtered by the searing wit of an instructor or colleague. So in an effort to not get slaughtered, you prepare and scare yourself silly, making a complete fool of yourself while exposing your vulnerabilities on a regular basis. And at the end of the day, you're relieved because you’ve been through the good, the bad and the ugly- you’re no longer carrying it with you.

But Four Clowns has the challenges of any young theater troupe- securing rehearsal space, funding, and selling enough tickets to keep the company alive are near constant concerns. So having the opportunity to be in residence at Annenberg for the summer is a really a dream for us, because the support of the City of Santa Monica and The Annenberg Foundation takes so much of the drudgery out of the equation, allowing us to focus more on the work itself- and not only that, but it is an awesome excuse to get out to the beach everyday.

So many company members keep saying what a relief being at the Beach House is. Exiting off the 10, heading through the tunnel onto the PCH, the ocean comes into view and suddenly my anxieties dissolve and brain expands, the frustrating jungle of LA ceasing to exist, only sun and water now. At last, I am free- to play and be a part of a community. Every care disappears and the creative work just sort of happens.

Both of our shows, Noah & Jonah, obviously have strong water themes, and performing against the facade of the Marion Davies Guest House, I don’t have to imagine all that hard to find myself in the shoes of the characters we play. I just look out on the ocean, already in awe of its beauty, power, and magnitude, swiftly delivered to a frame of mind where reflections on humanity and our place relative to all creation is uniquely available- thoughts that can feel so far from my little head when I’m squeezed into my Corolla on the 101.

Jamie Ann Hultgren
Performer, Noah & Jonah
Company Manager, Four Clowns