Known for its experimental programming, REDCAT is set to begin its NOWfest 2011 of new original works Sept. 8, scheduled to run through September 24 and include eight new works by Los Angeles dance, theater, music and multimedia performing artists.
The top picture, left, comes from the 2010 REDCAT NOWfest, which included Christine Marie’s three-dimensional shadow theater presentation. With the audience in 3-D glasses and her integration of classic Balinese shadow techniques with live dancers, Marie made it seem the players were dancing right beside all of us in the theater seats.
REDCAT stands for the Roy and Edna Disney/ CalArts Theater, also known as downtown LA’s innovative arts venue for the California Institute of the Arts.
Certainly the theater’s last show this summer: Sandra Bernhard’s “I Love Being Me, Don’t You?” (bottom picture, this page) delivered exactly the kind of unique fare that REDCAT patrons have come to expect. A mix of stinging wit and passionate musical numbers, her show overflowed with surprise – starting with her improbable opener, “Across 110th Street.” Backed by a four-piece rock band, Bernhard belted out the tune with all the fervent intensity of a ghetto resident, intimately familiar with the worst of street culture, as described in the lyrics, all the while, she later told the audience, dressed in haute couture.
As Bernhard glittered from her supremely chic, silver-sequined cocktail dress, she recalled her life in 1970s Los Angeles, when she lugged a canteen of tap water to Venice Beach, where the old-time body builders lifted sand bags and she told the one with the Austrian accent that she wouldn’t vote for him. Between the eclectic mix of songs, she offered her takes on Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton, Tyra Banks in “America’s Next Top Model,” and the teaming of Bristol Palin and Hayden Panettiere of “Heroes” to preach abstinence.
Literally ripping a monologue from the pages of today’s journals, Bernhard read newspaper and magazine clippings, including a Jennifer Aniston ad pitching bottled water, (declaring Aniston hopeless in competition against an Angelina Jolie who brings water to Africa); a review of a restaurant in Lebanon that touted the virtues of creamy hummus; and a “Who Wore it Best?” item comparing Diane Kruger with a random starlet in the same dress. Everyone has the same clothes, Bernhard lamented, remembering actress Dina Merrill who wore one-off Balmains.
Bernhard has had a long and varied career – and lest one wonder about her age, she announced, “I’ve been sober for 56 years.” She has had Broadway and off-Broadway shows and roles in “Roseanne,” “The L Word,” and the brilliant Martin Scorsese film “The King of Comedy,” with Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis. Onstage, she reminded the audience of her talk show, “The Sandra Bernhard Experience,” which she said lasted a week before 9/11 caused its cancellation. “I have my own bone to pick with Osama Bin Laden,” she said.
Bernhard executed her final number in a catsuit topped in a transparent, feathered overlay. Glamorous to the end.
For tickets and more information about the REDCAT NOWfest, click here or call 213 237-2800. To read my LA Times story about last year’s NOWfest, click here.
Photos from top, artist Christine Marie and REDCAT associate director George Lugg, taken at 2010 REDCAT NOWfest; Sandra Bernhard, photo by Steven Gunther, courtesy of REDCAT.
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Published August 17, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA