Summer is the time for festivals, and the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), CalArts’ downtown center for contemporary arts, is gearing up to present one of the most prestigious of them.
The 16th annual New Original Works (NOW) Festival, set to begin on July 25, is a three-week celebration of Los Angeles’ vibrant artistic community, premiering new contemporary dance, theater, music and multimedia performance by visionary artists who invent hybrid disciplines, re-imagine traditions and confront urgent issues.
True to the spirit of CalArts, REDCAT’s parent institution, the NOW Festival has served over its 16-year history as a catalyst for creativity and new ideas, premiering over 120 works by an impressive list of artists, and this year’s installment will continue that tradition by launching nine new boundary-redefining works by emerging and mid-career LA artists.
REDCAT Associate Director Edgar Miramontes, who oversees the annual festival, calls it “a vital initiative for experimentation.”
“The Festival creates opportunities for the artists that are all too rare,” he says. “There is a great need for infrastructure to develop new performances, so NOW tries to address that need each summer.”
For this year’s festival, Miramontes promises, “The work presented at this year’s NOW Festival is a mix of diverse ideas and artistic forms — amplifying the voices of women, queerness, artists of color and of aesthetic diversity in Los Angeles that are re-defining the boundaries of contemporary performance, inventing hybrid artistic disciplines, re-imagining traditions and confronting urgent issues.”
Three of this year’s participating artists will represent expressions of a queer viewpoint.
Andrew Ondrejcak, whose work will be presented during the first weekend (July 25 – 27), is a visual artist who focuses on “the divine feminine and the non-binary.” For the NOW festival, he collaborates with choreographer Katherine Helen Fisher on “The Muses,” a performance that conjures a communal space in celebration of the divine feminine. Nine femme and non-binary dancers/performers render a suite of lush and riotous dances, pulsating to the imagistic nature of Helado Negro’s cosmic synth-folk sounds, accompanied by visuals and costumes from Ondrejcak which link historical art objects with contemporary iconography, providing a queer perspective on classical forms.
Paul Outlaw (Aug. 1-3) explores American bigotry and sexual violence in his solo performance “BBC (Big Black Cockroach),” directed by Sara Lyons and inspired by Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” A white, cis, heterosexual, American woman awakens to find herself transformed into what she considers to be a monstrous vermin – an African-American man – and now held prisoner by her own husband. Through the absurd, Kafkaesque lens of this scenario, the audience will experience an evocative, farcical horror show about black virility, white fragility, xenophobia/racism, gender confusion, internalized homophobia and misogyny – which Outlaw believes is the true essence of homophobia.
Austyn Rich (Aug. 8–10) will offer “Bl**dy Spaghetti,” a fervent and virtuosic new performance work inspired by images of queer men of color in the military and honoring black/brown troops. Dance artist Rich invites the viewer into a highly charged (sexual? sensual?) room where two sailors, sensing an end is near, refuse to communicate with each other and instead engage in a dance celebrating companionship, death and unspoken love. Remembering and honoring black and brown troops who were front-lined, “Bl**dy Spaghetti” celebrates companionship, self-worth, death and unspoken love as something worth feasting over.
Each of these three pieces, like the other works slated for inclusion in the NOW Festival, are rich with themes that resonate with today’s social and cultural environment.
Miramontes points out, “The 2019 edition is concerned with our current political climate; adding perspectives that allude and move us to engage in systematic change inclusive of queerness, race, and political action.”
“In my point of view,” he continues, “artists are the answer. Artists have long been at the forefront of being disseminators of new ideas and creative solutions, being mediators of change. The works manifest in various ways that, through their artistry, have a heightened impact.”
The artists participating in the NOW Festival have been in residence at REDCAT since late May. All artistic teams receive free rehearsal space, technical support, and artist fees.
In addition to the artists listed above, NOW Festival will feature works by:
Sola Bamis (“The Tutorial Part II: The White Tears Tea Steam”)
zach dorn and Danielle Dahl (“Sponge Hollow”)
Kate Watson-Wallace, Hprizm and Verónica Casado Hernandez (“kim”)
Alexandro Segade and Amy Ruhl (“Popular Revolt”)
Source Material (“A Thousand Tongues”)
Jesse Bonnell (“Paradise Island”)
Each of the three weekends features a triple bill of three premieres in a shared evening. Each program is premiered on Thursday evening and repeated Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:30 p.m.
Miramontes – who says he sees his job as “being at the service of artists” – is excited to unveil the work of all these talented visionaries as the NOW Festival kicks off this weekend.
“REDCAT’s NOW is a place,” he says, “where artists not only experiment with their artistic from, but are encouraged to take risks, be bold in their ideas and in the end, whether you like or dislike an artistic work, it certainly leaves you with something — whatever that may be. It’s always fun to experience the results.”
REDCAT’s NOW Festival runs July 25–Aug. 10. For more information on schedule, venues and tickets, visit redcat.org.