RADAR L.A. Festival & Residencies


Funding Received: 2013
Los Angeles, CA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 6, 2013

Radar L.A., An International Festival of Contemporary Theater, lights up the historic Palace Theater in Downtown Los Angeles

Radar L.A. Festival and Artist Residency Program

The dust has barely settled from Radar L.A., An International Festival of Contemporary Theater. Thanks in part to the extraordinary support of ArtPlace America, the festival and the artist residency program had an extraordinary impact.

An editorial in the Los Angeles Downtown News titled “For Downtown, Radar L.A. Festival was Remarkable” captured the essence of the project, describing it as “a magnificent event that will go a long way toward putting Downtown on the international theater map . . . the organizers managed to activate a bevy of Downtown spaces and buildings (the majority of the productions took place in the Central City). In the process they showed or reminded people—including a lot of first-time visitors—just how much the area has to offer.”

International projects included the first Los Angeles appearances by some of Latin America’s most acclaimed theatrical innovators. Argentine director Lola Arias mixed music, film, and theater in a special work of documentary theater piece developed in collaboration with an ensemble of Chileans born during Pinochet’s 17-year regime who reflect on that tumultuous era by revealing and recalling their family histories. (September marks the 40th anniversary of the 1973 military coup in Chile.) Mexican director Claudio Valdés Kuri and his company Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes staged the acclaimed music/theater/opera production “El Gallo” at the historic Los Angeles Theatre, inviting the audience to experience the grand building in unexpected ways. Mexico City-based company Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol was represented by incisive writer/performer Mariana Villegas, who recalled some unusual twists in her family history in “Se Rompen Las Olas” (Breaking the Waves). Famed Argentine ensemble Timbre 4 presented the critically praised production “Tercer Cuerpo” (Third Wing). Colombian director Manuel Orjuela led an audience between four different downtown locations to experience writer Rodrigo García's provocative “You Should Have Stayed Home, Morons,” which was translated into English for the first time. Argentine theater artist Mariano Pensotti collaborated with Los Angeles writers on a free installation/performance project designed for downtown pedestrian encounters at the popular Grand Central Market.

The Festival’s international programming also highlighted innovative productions and collaborations by artists from Pacific Rim countries. Renowned New Zealand-based director and choreographer Lemi Ponifasio and his company MAU brought the historic Palace Theatre to life for the avant premiere of “Stones in Her Mouth,” developed collaboratively with an ensemble of ten Maori women, whose ancient and contemporary chanting, choral work and ritualized movement form the basis for a stunning blend of theater, dance and stagecraft. “Dogugaeshi,” a spellbinding work developed by acclaimed theater artist and puppeteer Basil Twist together with Japanese master musician Yumiko Tanaka, offered a highly visual theatrical experience at REDCAT. Theater company Complicite performed “Shun-kin,” its collaboration with Japan’s Setagaya Public Theatre (presented as part of the season of performances presented by CAP UCLA).

Los Angeles artists unveiling new work in the festival at the culmination of development residencies included Skid Row-based theater ensemble Los Angeles Poverty Department, working in collaboration with Dutch theater ensemble Wunderbaum on the provocative new work “Hospital” at the historic Tower Theater; choreographer David Roussève artfully blended theater and dance in Stardust at REDCAT; and incisive writer and performer Luis Alfaro, whose new work St. Jude was presented at Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre as part of a three-event repertory program also featuring Los Angeles-based solo artists Roger Guenveur Smith and Trieu Tran. The local program also featured theater and puppetry artist Janie Geiser in a collaboration with writer Erik Ehn, physical theater ensemble Theatre Movement Bazaar, writer Dennis Cooper in a collaboration with French director Gisèle Vienne, and the CalArts Center for New Performance, which mixed contemporary jazz and brilliant stagecraft in a production of Prometheus Bound at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa.

Downtown Los Angeles was a theatrical hot spot during Radar L.A., with events taking place at ten different neighborhood sites, from historic theaters on Broadway, to REDCAT in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and multiple venues in the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC), with special events staged at the neighborhood’s Spring Street Park and at Automata in Chinatown. The historic Broadway Street theaters brought to life for the festival include The Million Dollar Theater, The Palace Theatre and The Tower Theatre, which are rarely used for live performances. Programs in other parts of Los Angeles include three new solo works produced by Center Theatre Group at The Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, as well as special co-presentations at the Getty Villa in Malibu and the Center for the Art of Performance (CAP) at UCLA.

Recent Wins
In addition to the editorial quoted above, the Los Angeles Times praised the festival in an article headlined “Radar L.A.’s Vibrant, Expansive Scope” which said “The festival of contemporary performance yields a cultural event of depth and audacity . . . The value of these works lies beyond their artistic refinement. One of the great joys of participating in Radar L.A. is the holiday it offers from the consumer mentality of theatergoing. Let’s hope the festival finds a way to become an annual sport.”

Additional partners joined the community-wide effort, and exciting new venues were added to the mix of festival locations including: MOCA Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art, to co-host performances of a contemporary puppetry and performance work by Dennis Cooper and Gisele Vienne; the Million Dollar Theater, one of the first movie palaces to be opened in Los Angeles (in 1918!) to be the site of performances by Mexico City’s Teatro De Ciertos Habitantes;  the re-vitalized Grand Central Market to be a location for Mariano Pensotti’s installation-based project “Sometimes I think, I Can See You.”

The activation of vacant downtown locations is an exciting part of the festival and residency program, and it has prompted a lot of discussion about the “revitalization” of the historic downtown area – especially the Broadway district.  In an L.A. Weekly story, John Malpede of the Los Angeles Poverty Department, which works with the skid row population of Los Angeles, made an important observation:

"It always seemed weird the notion of revitalizing Broadway, because I always thought it was the most vital street in Los Angeles," he says. "So I didn't quite get it. But it might mean making it vital for somebody else."