Posts Tagged ‘Ken Roht’

Thomas Hampton Reviews SONGS AND DANCES OF IMAGINARY LANDS -Overtone Industries

July 9, 2010

“There is something about that real, hands-on, making it together art… that is so real.”  O-Lan Jones

Photo Credits:  Christina House and  lennyBruce Lee

You must see SONGS AND DANCES OF IMAGINARY LANDS.  Counting tonight’s performance at 8pm, you have nine more opportunities to be a part of this incredible new work, seven years in the making.

The show opens with Tom and Sue visiting the Social Services Office.  They have an appointment, but no ID.  They cannot recall their identities.  Our protagonists set forth on a journey through imaginary lands, taking part in their indigenous songs and dances, attempting to reawaken their sense of self; reclaiming their id, and then hopefully ego and super-ego.

The audience physically follows Tom and Sue as their adventure leads to new, distant lands, each a site specific set within the massive square footage of The Songs & Dances Warehouse, a re-purposed car dealership in Culver City.  Depending on your ticket, each participant rides in a train car(t) from location to location, or carries their own chair while following the action.

Any seat is a good one, but allow me to recommend the train for those of you who have difficulty walking, and the chairs if you like to sit close to the action, or want to see all of the tremendous details of the sets and costumes.  Bringing a pillow or cushion is also a good call; only the ‘luxury trains’ have cushioned seating.

The first act takes Tom and Sue to Jam, where the denizens don western wear, the daddies are drunk, everyone is over-consuming and drowning in debt, and the dance is a variation on the Virginia Reel.

We also visit the University of Alaska, where academia is skewered as nothing more than a 12 step rehabilitation program, where submission is mandatory, and signals one’s abandonment of the personal ability to actively participate in life’s outcome.  The student body is encouraged to settle for a zombified state of semi-frozen consciousness by their counselor/ instructor.

By the end of the first act, Tom and Sue enter in to their marriage contract, allowing Sue to escape the mundane rituals of office drudgery, setting off a kinetic dance of office desks and revelers.  Tom and Sue’s union transforms their denim duds in to the sparkle of satin-y finery as they transition form their workweeks in to a private familial bliss.

O-Lan Jones coordinated over twenty writers, scores of musicians and performers, impeccably skilled production teams of designers and builders, as well as the input and efforts of countless local community volunteers.  So many people had a hand in the creation of the show that they could not fit in the program.  As an addendum, an enormous chalkboard stretches across the lobby inscribed with the names of all of the contributors.

So many ideas- both big and small- are awakened by the unique collaboration that is SONGS AND DANCES OF IMAGINARY LANDS.  Does socialization and engagement in society force us to strip away one’s sense of self?  Is our coming water crisis to be worsened by the disappearance of fish and dance instructors?  Are modern wars fought for the good of those engaging in the battle?  Do our personal relationships merely provide us with escape from our daily grind, and how do we reconnect to the cosmic/ divine spark within us to reclaim our own sense of spiritual completion?  How do we prepare for our departure from this existence; how do we let go when it is our time to die?

A conversation in the lobby after the performance juxtaposed the public monies spent on LA Opera’s recent Ring Cycle, and how many SONGS AND DANCES could have been funded for the same cost, even including living expenses for O-Lan Jones for the last seven years.  How many other cities could get their hands on the magic that is this show?  How many empty retail stores and economically devastated communities could come together to create this wondrous project in this time of need?

The retort was that there is not enough money or interest in experimental theater.  But what does that moniker mean?  This show is in many ways a grown up theme park attraction, full of moving people and parts, high tech trickery, stunning sets and costumes, and top notch musicianship and vocal prowess.  It explores themes relevant to all people who live in our modern times.  That sounds suspiciously like regular ‘old’ opera.

Of note are the performances of MJ Silva as Curf on Oldie Mountain, Michael Harris as the University of Alaska counselor, and Silvie Zamora, whose intense physicality throughout the show was a pleasure to behold.  You will certainly walk out of the show dazed by its transformative ability, with your own precious favorites lingering in your head, haunting your return to the industrial Culver City streets that await you.

Thematic Content includes:  Bring Kids, Redemption, Love, Violence, Puppets, Singing, Live Music, Dance/ Movement, Highbrow, Humor.



7/8 to 7/25 $25-$50
Th,F,Sa,Sn 8pm, Sn 2pm
Map of The Songs & Dances Warehouse 
Purchase tickets online or by phone: 323-655-2410
Visit the event’s web page

PERMISSIBLE UNION a one act opera FREE! 6/18

June 9, 2010

PERMISSIBLE UNION is Ken Roht’s response to Prop 8.  This one act opera features Ken, Christine Zirbel, Clay Wilcox, and was composed by Curtis Heard.

It is being performed as a part of LA’s Grand Performances, an annual outdoor series of free performances at California Plaza, Downtown Los Angeles.

a one act opera
6/18 8:30pm FREE!
Map of California Plaza
Visit the Grand Performances web site
Visit Orphean Circus, Ken Roht’s website

Thomas Hampton Reviews PROJECT WONDERLAND, at Bootleg

January 20, 2010


Fifteen years ago, director/ adaptor Robert Prior’s Fabulous Monsters created Project:Alice; a piece based on the classic Alice in Wonderland.  Faced with an open spot in their calendar due to the delay of the newest $.99 show, Bootleg’s Alicia Hoge-Adams, Corbett Barklie, and Jessica Hanna have produced a re-tooled, revved up version, making great use of talent already lined up for the delayed $.99 show (including Ken Roht, John Ballinger, and innumerable members of the cast and crew.)

The show begins conventionally enough, in the real world of Reverend Charles Dodgeson, aka Lewis Carrol.  Soon enough, his doctor delivers some high grade opiates, and we follow the Reverend down his (and our) personal rabbit hole.

Just as PROJECT WONDERLAND is itself a telling of the Reverend’s personal journey/ hallucination; it truly excels at opening our (the audience’s) eyes to personal issues and questions we face in our own journeys through life.

Not that it is “all serious.”  The show is far from it.  It keeps the pacing light and fluffy with interludes and incorporation of shadow (and non-shadow) puppets, fantastical movement, costume, lighting, and song.

Early in the show, the ensemble rolls out a large mirror facing the audience.  A subtle reminder of our actual location IN a theater, as theatergoers, as we are able to spy the dark outlines of the audience (many other shows are employing self-reflexive techniques currently, including Twenty-Two at Knightsbridge that seats the audience on stage inside the set, and last season’s Family Planning by the Chalk Repertory which played INSIDE actual living rooms around the city.)

And as the Reverend makes his way (and takes us with him) deep within his priss and prim, and loosens the “proper” self-restraint, what are we to think?
I found myself questioning and affirming a tremendous sense of self… Who am I?  And who am I as I change, grow, and learn- emotionally, mentally, physically…

The caterpillar asks the Reverend/ Alice, “What size do you want to be?”
And I know that whatever size I am, or become; well, that is the perfect size.  Because as I learn to accept myself, fully accept who I am and what I desire; this acceptance allows me to find beauty in the most unexpected of places:  a neon garden, an over sized, outstretched leg of a Hatter, an undersea dance troupe… even an old bra factory on Beverly Boulevard.

Thematic content includes: Bring Kids, Redemption, Puppets, Singing, Live Music, Dance/ Movement, Highbrow, Humor, Drug Use

PROJECT WONDERLAND runs from 1/15 to 2/7
Th,F,Sa at 8pm Sn at 3pm, $15-$25.
Map of Bootleg
Purchase Tickets
Visit the Bootleg Website
(Free parking available to Bootleg customers behind the Praise Christian Fellowship Church across the street at 2235 Beverly Blvd. Turn North on Roselake Ave. off of Beverly and the parking lot entrance will be on your left.)