Jennie MaryTai Liu's latest work, "Actress Fury," is a dramatic journey that explores the very nature of ambition, an interdisciplinary examination that parses out a conundrum of aspiration, vanity, discipline and fear. (Courtesy of Steve Gunther/REDCAT)
Right in the bosom of Los Angeles, we have a hidden gem, The Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT). It’s found inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex.
Here, the minds of contemporary artists and spectators can flourish in experimentation. That guided us to Week Two of this year’s New Original Works Festival, which has been held yearly for the past ten years wowing newcomers and veterans of the contemporary realm every time.
I was surprised with what I saw at REDCAT.
The night was full of unexpected surprises, from moans and groins to cultural and media influences, starting with the piece called “Actress Fury” by Jenne Marytai Liu. It zoned in and out of the frustrated struggles of actresses addressing issues from the deepest and darkest corners of an actress’ mind. However, the piece was concluded with a very introspective poem that started with the self and ended with, well it ended. Yet, somehow I was captivated by its cyclical melodic rhythm that seemed to start and end nowhere. I have to admit that it was all a jumbled procession of events that my mind some how sorted into a message about the intimacies of the actress and her inner god and although I would be lying if I said I was able to fully appreciate it, I can say it intrigued my creativity.
After a brief intermission, Wawdao Sirisook and Ronnarong Khampha introduced “Fauwn Leb/Identity.” The opening scene was enough to bring the viewers to a gaze. All eyes were on the elegant and intricate movements of Sirisook and Khampha as they performed a Thai ceremonial dance that was used to pull us into the world of reverence, respect, tradition and values. The arms were in complete unison with every sway of the dancer’s body, as they were particular about every movement being independent from the rest. With a traditional attire of gold long nail tips for the woman and a draped pant like piece for the man, the two slowly shed their Thai identity and into a mainstream relaxed garment of cartoon pajamas in which they spoke about Thai idioms that were lost in translation once they were explained in English.
This idea carried a powerful social question as they slowly got up and began dancing again only to end with a union of their traditional garments and their mainstream pieces. It was an impactful voice speaking on the clash between a culturally rich people and the pull to become mainstream. This piece was elegantly enveloping at the same time as it brushed our social senses back to life.
Lastly but quite certainly not least, the audience was abruptly awakened by the oh so entertaining “100 Years of Noise: Beyonce is Ready to Receive You Now,” starring Tyler Mathew Oyer, Mireya Lucio and Tim Reid. This trio had the best chemistry on stage and radiated humor and sarcasm, enough to bellow out laughter from all four walls.
The three critiqued today’s pop culture media through the targeted queen, Beyonce, highlighting and quoting her comments in interviews, her personal actions at home as well as her self assessed overvalued position in our world – with a narrative voice interjecting throughout all this how ridiculous society was for being in such a trans for the sounds of music of this era.
Of course, my mind is untrained in the field of contemporary professionalism, so I am sure more than some attempts at intelligence went over my head. Nevertheless, as a simpleton, I can say this show had my ribs splitting open from laughing so hard. Beyonce was in the building all right and we were not ready for her jelly.