Projects include: ‘Towards Belonging’, ‘Light Leaping: Spittin’ Truth to Power for the People’ and more.
La Jolla Playhouse has announced five more projects for its Digital Without Walls (WOW) series, including three world-premiere Playhouse commissions by local artists: Towards Belonging, a dance and spoken-word poetry film by Anjanette Maraya-Ramey of Maraya Performing Arts, with Khalil Bleux, produced in association with the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation’s Arts Park @ Chollas Creek; Light Leaping: Spittin’ Truth to Power for the People, a spoken word piece set to music by poet and Playhouse Leadership Council (PLC) member Alyce Smith-Cooper and musician/DJ Shammy Dee; and Listen With The Lights Off, a collection of haunting radio horror plays, produced by So Say We All (2017 WOW Festival’s Incoming: Sex, Drugs, and Copenhagen).
The Playhouse also announces two acclaimed productions by New York-based companies: A Thousand Ways, by 600 Highwaymen, a three-part piece that brings audiences back together in touching moments of connection over time; and Taxilandia, by Oye Group, that explores the gentrification process of local neighborhoods.
“The appetite for our Digital WOW work keeps growing, and we’re pleased to add five more extraordinary pieces to the roster. This new cohort of productions once again demonstrates how artists are harnessing new platforms while responding to current events with a deep passion, a hunger for connection, and a clarion call for social justice,” noted Christopher Ashley, the Rich Family Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse.
Towards Belonging is a powerful dance film with original spoken-word poetry and music. Choreographer Anjanette Maraya-Ramey and her company Maraya Performing Arts, in collaboration with local artist and activist Khalil Bleux, create a deeply moving piece that unapologetically acknowledges systemic racism, with an urgent call to act and create change. Filmed at the Arts Park @ Chollas Creek, home to Writerz Blok, this love letter to Southeastern San Diego shares the joys and challenges of the neighborhood through evocative narrative, graffiti art and movement, while shattering biases and celebrating the deep pride, culture and history of the region.
Light Leaping: Spittin’ Truth to Power for the People is an intergenerational piece using images, music and storytelling styles reminiscent of the griot. Between fire and brimstone preaching, the intimate vulnerability of prayer, and the invitation to fellowship, renowned poet and PLC member Alyce Smith-Cooper and acclaimed DJ and musician Shammy Dee are reaching to penetrate the hearts of the people. This three-part spoken verse will encompass the juxtaposition of past/present, yin/yang, male/female with the dream of transformations hoped for and imagined. It is both a personal moment and a collective piece – a springing forward into a leap of light.
Listen With The Lights Off offers a series of frightening, October-appropriate radio plays created in collaboration with San Diego-based literary and performing arts nonprofit organization So Say We All. Intelligent, original and unsettling, this new take on the radio drama features stories from diverse writers who will have listeners on the edge of their seats. Twisted up in paranoia, magical realism, ghosts, monsters, sibling rivalry, and even earth death, Listen With The Lights Off takes patrons to wholly unexpected worlds – sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, but always memorable, and eerily plausible. These fictional short plays, adapted from So Say We All’s literary horror anthologies Black Candies, will be brought to audio reality to make sure Halloween thrives, even during quarantine.
A Thousand Ways is a three-part work of theater from 600 Highwaymen that brings audiences back together in poetic and revelatory ways. In Act I, over a simple phone call, two strangers take an hour-long journey together, where they are transported to a shared fiction they create, guided by a set of automated directives, before returning to their own daily existences. In Act II, taking place several months later, two audience members encounter one another across a table in a socially-distanced format. With just a stack of cards and a few objects, what begins as a simple exercise of working together becomes an experience of profound connection with another person across a small distance. In Act III, when it is deemed safe, all the participants gather for the first time all together in one space for a collective, celebratory, communal event – with the knowledge that someone in that space is the person with whom they shared a very singular phone call and/or connected with across a table. This stirring reintroduction into a world where people bear witness to, and hold space for, one another both accentuates and transcends the collective isolation of our moment and asks how to rebuild our vocabulary for communing with strangers in all their complexity – something that had become endangered well before COVID-19.
Taxilandia, created and written by Oye Group’s Modesto Flako Jimenez, is a site-specific play-within-a-tour of a city. The piece immerses its audience in the flavors, sounds, sights and dynamic history of a neighborhood confronting social stigmas and the realities of gentrification. Weaving a dramatic, performative ‘tapestry’ that interconnects generations, social classes, races and cultures, Taxilandia complicates our notion of what it means to be a native, an immigrant or a resident of a place, challenging us to answer: “What is my personal roadmap of home?” Originally developed in Jimenez’s own neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn, the piece was inspired and drawn from his nine years driving a taxicab and his documentation of conversations with passengers, residents, natives, and immigrants to the neighborhood. The Oye Group now works with companies all over the country to develop local versions of the work specific to each city. The piece is devised in three phases, beginning with a series of virtual salons with local artists whose work intersects with gentrification. Phase two involves a creative collaboration with one of the salons, where Jimenez works with the Playhouse and the local artist to identify a tour route, conduct interviews, write a script and photograph portraits of community members. Once public gathering is allowed, phase three includes live presentations and an interactive gallery.
These five projects join the previously-announced Digital WOW productions of Ancient, by San Diego-based artists Mike Sears and Lisa Berger (2019 WOW Festival’s How High the Moon); Binge, by UK-based artist Brian Lobel (2013 WOW Festival’s Carpe Minuta Prima), Portaleza, by internationally-renowned immersive designer David Israel Reynoso (Sleep No More, WOW Festival productions of Las Quinceañeras and Waking La Llorona); Show Me A Good Time, by the Berlin-based Gob Squad (2017 WOW Festival’s Super Night Shot); The Society of Wonder, by San Diego-based Animal Cracker Conspiracy (2015 WOW Festival’s Gnomesense), The Totally Fake Latino News with Culture Clash, by Culture Clash (American Night, Zorro in Hell); Walks of Life, by the San Diego-based Blindspot Collective (2019 WOW Festival’s Hall Pass); The Wizards of Oakwood Drive, by New York-based artist Tom Salamon (Accomplice: San Diego, The Grift at the Lafayette Hotel); and You Are Here, by Los Angeles-based artist Marike Splint (2017 WOW Festival’s Among Us).
Since its inception in 2011, Without Walls (WOW) has become one of San Diego’s most popular and acclaimed performance programs. This signature Playhouse initiative is designed to break the barriers of traditional theatre, offering immersive, site-inspired and digital works that venture beyond the physical confines of the Playhouse facilities. Over the last decade, the Playhouse has commissioned and presented a series of immersive and site-based productions at locations throughout the San Diego community, including Susurrus (2011), The Car Plays: San Diego (2012), Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir (2012), Accomplice: San Diego (2013), El Henry (2014), The Grift at the Lafayette Hotel (2015), The Bitter Game (2016), What Happens Next (2018), and four biennial WOW Festivals in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019.