lost chord radio

am out in los angeles for the weekend. i came out to see a cool show called Lost Chord Radio at REDCAT which is the Roy & Edna Disney/CalArts Theater. It is part of the huge Frank Gehry-designed Disney Hall which is amazingly beautiful.

REDCAT is a fantastic space – beautiful theater & gallery with a little bookstore/bar/cafe. Mark Murphy, the executive director, is doing some really progressive programming out here and it was fun to talk to him about what he’s doing. I also had a great chat with George Lugg, the associate director. Both Mark and George came down to REDCAT from On The Boards in Seattle so George & I had some fun playing “who do you know”? (Culturebot lived in Seattle in the early 90’s).

Lost Chord Radio was a really cool piece. A collaboration between the theater company Wunderbaum and the rock band Kopna Kopna, it is a really accomplished hybrid of devised theater and live music. Drawing on everything from William S. Burroughs’ seminal spoken word album Dead City Radio to Nick Cave to Radiohead the show tells the story of four strange days in which Los Alamos, NM is beset by plagues. Following the lives of a few iconic characters – the high school beauty/math whiz, the hardened bar mistress, a radio dj, a young mother at her wit’s end, a crazy wheelchair-bound poet and a man in a white pick-up – the overall feel of the piece is reminiscent of films such as Bagdad Cafe, with its distinctly European take on a singular aspect of American Mythology – the small town in the West.

The piece is in the stylistic vein of the Wooster Group but still altogether it’s own. The music, text and staging are integrated seamlessly – all the more surprising since they work without a director.

Talking to the company after the show I learned that the piece is often performed in a tent outside or in rock clubs, but I have to say that I was glad to see it in a beautiful, well-equipped black box theater. The sound design is so intricate – including the use of a few musical instruments of the company’s devising – that it would have been a shame to lose the texture and richness in an outdoor environment. That being said, the piece could work equally – but differently – well as a rock show.

I’m not sure where they’re off to next but if you come across Wunderbaum and/or Kopna Kopna in your travels, be sure to check them out.

Also, of course, I think Culturebot needs to come to L.A. more often. Seems like, largely due to REDCAT and UCLA Live Arts, the city is getting serious about culture. given the lower cost of living and the awesome weather, there’s no reason l.a. couldn’t give nyc a run for the money. especially since nyc is gettin’ so disney-fied completely on its own.

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