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  • 501 (see three) ARTS & Highways Performance Space Present

    Who’s Hungry – Santa Monica


    Experimental Puppet Theater

    Putting a Face on Food Insecurity

    With Four Performances on Fridays & Saturdays
    January 27 to February 4, 2012

    JUST ADDED: A 5th Show on Sat. 1/4 at 5:00pm [details here]

    LOS ANGELES, CA – October 24, 2011 – 501 (see three) ARTS and Highways Performance Space present Who’s Hungry – Santa Monica, part of an ongoing series of experimental tabletop puppet plays that give a voice and face to hunger, with four performances on Fridays and Saturdays from January 27 to February 4, 2012.  The plays, produced and written by Dan Froot, designed and directed by Dan Hurlin, with music by Amy Denio (a Meet The Composer commission), aim to raise awareness of the lives of those of us who, on a daily basis, must choose between life’s basic necessities – food or rent, food or medicine, food or bus fare. The upcoming production weaves together the stories of five homeless and/or hungry residents of Santa Monica, California, incorporating puppetry, dance, music, and text.  Nightly shows start at 8:30pm. General admission tickets are $20, students and seniors are $15. Highways Performance Space at the 18th Street Arts Center is located at 1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404 (310-315-1459; http://highwaysperformance.org).  For more information on Who’s Hungry, please visit http://danfroot.com/repertory/.

    “This project is about people’s lives – people who, at times, happen to go without food,” says Froot, “They have some truly beautiful, moving and hilarious stories that might otherwise go untold.”

    Who’s Hungry – Santa Monica Synopsis –
    In Who’s Hungry – Santa Monica, the performers serve the audience a visual and narrative feast.  The 90-minute puppet theater adaptation tells the oral histories of five very different homeless and hungry Santa Monicans, through five 15- to 20-minute segments, woven together much as a chef weaves a succession of flavors into a cohesive multi-course meal.  Overall, the project incorporates a range of puppetry styles in order to give each of the five stories its own aesthetic treatment. Presented on a specially built 24-foot dinner table, the audience views the action from one side, as if they are banquet guests.  Incorporated into the evening are Delft china, Matchbox cars, televisions, rod puppets, as well as puppets inspired by Japanese Bunraku, and much more.

    Joining the audience at the table are:
    Angel – who tumbled into homelessness after a prominent career as an interior designer
    Sharon – a caseworker for an addiction recovery agency and recovering heroin addict herself
    Chris – an original member of the notorious 1970s surfing/skateboarding crew known as the Z-Boys
    Mike – who endured an eviction from subsidized housing while undergoing a dire health crisis
    Chanel – who headed to New York City when the World Trade Center towers collapsed, feeling the need to run down the street in fear with her fellow New Yorkers

    The production will feature four puppeteers and three musicians.  The highly collaborative cast, performers with rich puppetry, dance, and acting backgrounds, includes Zachary Tolchinsky, Rachael Lincoln, Sheetal Gandhi, and Darius Mannino. Original scores have been commissioned from the award winning Seattle-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Amy Denio (a Meet The Composer commission), to be performed live.  Denio’s work merges jazz, experimental folk, ska, and funk with a range of instruments including, but not limited to, many that are in scale with the puppetry such as toy pianos, ukuleles, and bongos.  Denio will lead a small ensemble, choreographed and staged in the space to interact with the puppeteers and the puppets/objects themselves. Collaborating with Denio in the ensemble are musicians Mike Flanagan and Daniel Corral.

    “Sharon” puppet designed by Dan Hurlin. She’s a Bunraku-style puppet, operated by three people simultaneously: one on feet and/or arm, one on one or both arms, one on head/torso. Photo credit: Jeff Woodward

    The inaugural set of Who’s Hungry puppet plays premiered in West Hollywood in 2008 with narrators from that area.  This new Santa Monica installment in the series takes the experimental strategy of the project to a new level, primarily by inviting the local community narrators into the heart of the creative team. These narrators have collaborated with Hurlin and Froot throughout the process – from story adaptation through construction, rehearsal and performance.

    “The project allows each of these individuals to clearly imprint their agency onto the play, deepening it,” says Hurlin, “While they may not have complete control over their lives, we wanted them to have control of their own stories.”

    Robert Coughlin, one of the community narrators from the West Hollywood pilot project, reflected on sharing his story with the Who’s Hungry audience: “I’m just so grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to have some clarity and to pull back from my own life.  I get to detach from all that and use it as a tool, and not let it consume me any longer.  I get to build from it; not let it bring me down.  It’s beautiful.”

    Object Theater –
    Object Theater, a sub-category of puppetry, is a performance style that utilizes the animation of objects – found and/or constructed – for theatrical effect.  A theater of objects goes beyond merely “containing objects” – practitioners of the genre employ the rich functional and symbolic values inherent in objects as potent tools for the theater.  Froot felt that combing puppets with the materiality of Object Theater – bridging theater, visual art and puppetry – was the perfect way to tell these stories for, among other things, the intimate environment and endless creative potential to create a vast range of sensibilities from intense depth to whimsy, from realism to poetry.

    “This form of puppet theater creates a very close, communal experience since the audience must sit together, near the action, in order to see these small objects,” says Froot, “It also puts the audience in an empathic role, more so than live theater with human actors – when we watch object theater, we must engage and project ourselves onto the puppets and objects with an active imagination.”

    Food Insecurity –

    The USDA classifies those who at times go hungry because they cannot afford enough food as having “very low food security.” According to the USDA, around one in six Americans had a hard time putting food on the table at some point last year. That’s roughly 49 million people (14.5% of the population). This figure is virtually unchanged from the previous year.

    “To clarify, though, we’re not making a statement about world hunger, or even about hunger in the U.S. per se,” says Froot, “The project is more about who is going through your recycling bins… we want to help them tell their stories.”

    left-to-right: Dan Froot (producer/playwright), Amy Denio (composer) and Dan Hurlin (designer/director) Photo credit: Jeff Woodward

    Dan Froot, Producer / Playwright –

    Dan Froot’s work has toured internationally since 1983. Awards include a Bessie (New York Dance & Performance Award) and a City of Los Angeles Artist Fellowship. He has worked with Yoshiko Chuma, Ping Chong, David Dorfman, Mabou Mines, Ralph Lemon, and Victoria Marks, among others. He teaches at UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures / Dance.

    Dan Hurlin, Designer / Director –

    Dan Hurlin received a United States Artists Fellowship, two Obie awards, a 2001 Bessie, and a 2004 Alpert Award. His puppet theater work tours internationally. He has performed with Ping Chong, Janie Geiser, and Jeffrey M. Jones, and directed works by Lisa Kron, Holly Hughes, and John C. Russell among others. Hurlin currently teaches dance and puppetry at Sarah Lawrence College.

    Amy Denio, Composer –

    Amy Denio is a multi-instrumentalist composer and singer based in Seattle, WA. Her music has been heard at Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Seattle Opera House, Detroit Institute of Art, and the Venice Biennale, among many other venues. She tours as a soloist as well as with her projects Tiptons Sax Quartet and Kultur Shock.

    Highway’s Performance Space –

    Highways Performance Space is Southern California’s boldest center for new performance. Now in its 23rd year, Highways continues to be an important alternative cultural center in Los Angeles that encourages fierce new artists from diverse communities to develop and present innovative works.  Recently described by the Los Angeles Times as “a hub of experimental theater, dance, solo drama, and other multimedia performance,” Highways promotes the development of contemporary socially involved artists and art forms.

    501 (see three) ARTS –

    Who’s Hungry is a project of 501 (see three) ARTS, an independent artist-run non-profit corporation supporting the creation and production of original dance, music, theater and interdisciplinary performance works by its members. The company is dedicated to redefining the role of the performing arts, artists and audiences in a globalized world through innovative approaches to artistic production.

    Supporters –

    Who’s Hungry – Santa Monica was commissioned in part by Vermont Performance Lab and was developed in part during a creative residency at Vermont Performance Lab. The project is supported in part by awards from the National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America Program; Los Angeles County Arts Commission; UCLA Center for Community Partnership; Southwest Oral History Association; The MAP Fund; a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation; The Jim Henson Foundation; a Performance Practice and Research grant from the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts; and a grant from Meet The Composer’s New Music USA’s MetLife Creative Connections program, leadership support for which is generously provided by MetLife Foundation.  Additional support is provided by ASCAP, BMI Foundation, Inc., Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, Jerome Foundation, mediaThefoundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Foundation and the Virgil Thomson Foundation, Ltd.  The score is commissioned through Meet The Composer’s Commissioning Music/USA program, which is made possible by generous support from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund.

    “This is not didactic victim art, some sort of pity party,” says Froot, summing up the production, “It’s not about feeling sorry for anybody – each of these people is sharing their unique oral history with us, their lives – with dignity and a fair amount of humor.”

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    For more information, images, or to request an interview, please contact Green Galactic’s Lynn Tejada (née Hasty) at 213-840-1201 or lynn@greengalactic.com.

    Rachael Lincoln in rehearsal for “Who’s Hungry – Santa Monica,” with Delft Buddha by Dan Hurlin Photo credit: Jeff Woodward

    Posted on January 29th, 2012 lynn-hasty No comments

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