Theatre in the city of Los Angeles has always existed as a carefully cut gem of drama, comedy, and tragedy that has skillfully played out for decades on stages across the city with a regality that is simply unparalleled in the arena of performing arts.
There’s a certain majesty that has become synonymous to the theatre, but while some theatre companies rely on a muse of fire, a kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold the swelling scene—the Rogue Artists Ensemble, like any good theatre, offers much and asks for little.
If John Cusack’s impish, puppeteer character in the 1999 film Being John Malkovich succeeded in commandeering the body Malkovich and started a theatre group, it’d have no doubt been something akin to the Rogue Artists Ensemble.
Specializing in “Hyper-theatrical” performances, their extraordinary puppeteering is matched only by the intricate costumes and mask work crafted by the group—and their visual aesthetics are only supplemented with spectacular dance and music routines that are often accompanied by projection, technology, and audio sampling.
According to the mission statement on the company’s official website: “Rogue Artists Ensemble is a collective of multi-disciplinary artists who create Hyper-theater, an innovative hybrid of theater traditions, puppetry, mask work, dance, music, and modern technology. Through a collaborative development process, with an emphasis on design and storytelling, the Rogues create original, thought provoking performances. We cultivate unique audience experiences that appeal to multiple generations of theatergoers in order to expand the boundaries of contemporary American theater.”
Founded in 2001 by students at the University of California, Irvine, their first three shows, “Hyperbole,” “The Poe Play,” and “Pip,” were performed on campus and featured the subject matter of famous literary authors and their pieces.
In 2003, they became a not-for-profit company and began performing independently in small venues around Los Angeles and Orange County that included The Geffen Playhouse, Segerstrom Performing Arts Center, Rio Hondo College and others.
Then, in 2006 and again in 2008, the Rogues received grants from the Jim Henson Foundation to produce an adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch.
The group is also highly committed to community outreach and education geared to engage young audiences. Their “The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone and Zen Shorts” is only one example of their all-age shows that have been performed at a number of community events and schools across the county.
For the summer season, the Rogues are revisiting an act from their early days with a Stratford-upon-Avon twist: “Hyperbole: bard” which will borrow the most memorable of Shakespeare’s immortal scenes and characters as the fodder for a colorful menagerie music and puppeteering.
Drawing from their fervent passion, creative ingenuity, and minimalistic style that echoes Elizabethan theatre, “Hyperbole: bard,” boasts a small cast of five, each of which play multiple roles throughout the 70 minute performance.
The shows will take place in July and August throughout L.A. and Orange County, as well as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Green Show. Their last “Hyperbole” project, “Hyperbole: origins,” was performed at the Ford in 2010 and was nominated for Production of the Year by L.A. Weekly.
Preview videos and pictures of the show are up on their website at www.rogueartists.org.