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Taper’s ‘13th Hour’ Seeks to Build Bridges : Performance art: The three-day array of new work by local artists is the theater’s first foray into the genre.

While performance artists such as Karen Finley, Annie Sprinkle and Holly Hughes take much of the heat in the controversy surrounding the National Endowment for the Arts, the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum is entering the field with its first full evening of performance art.

“The 13th Hour: A Celebration of Performance” features an array of new work by local artists working in Western and non-Western forms, at the Taper, Too (John Anson Ford Theatre), Thursday through Saturday.

Produced by Taper resident producer Corey Beth Madden and Taper associates Robin McKee and Josephine Ramirez, “The 13th Hour” may prove to be a step toward what Madden describes as a goal “to enfranchise and connect the community of artists in Los Angeles to the Taper.”

“We may be the monolith on the hill,” she says, “but we can be approached and we want to create a dialogue.”

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“It’s important that it build bridges,” adds Ramirez. “Particularly for artists who are people of color.”

On the program will be works by Luis Alfaro, Kamau Daaood, Jan Kaczmarek, the team of Dan Kwong and William Roper, and Karen Tei Yamashita.

Two years ago, the Taper New Works festival presented works by three local performance artists--as well as a collaborative work called “The Undead” last year--but this is the first entire bill devoted to such multidisciplinary work, and the first time here for these artists.

“We wanted to create an event alongside of the New Works festival that would begin to deal with multidisciplinary arts as they feed into the theater,” says Madden.

“We were getting a lot of performance artists submitting work to the New Works festival. We thought we should be doing something with these artists, meeting people we wouldn’t ordinarily get to meet and supporting them.”

That support, which consists of what Madden calls “presenting rather than full-scale producers,” is notable for work that strays from the usual Taper fare--an adventurous move at a time when artists in this genre are in the middle of the NEA censorship battle.

“The future of the theater is in being able to do more successful collaborating between the disciplines,” says Madden. “Theater in that sense takes on a general term meaning performance, not only plays.”

It is also the controversial nature of the performance art that appeals to the producers.

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“It’s raw. It’s rough,” says McKee. “It tends to deal with issues that are close to the bone and close to the heart.”

“Because (the artists don’t) always put it into verbal and literary channels, it can be shocking and incredibly visceral for the audience,” she explains. “In traditional work you can distance yourself a little more, saying ‘that’s an actor on stage pretending to be somebody else.’ ”

“It comes out of an alternative tradition,” says Ramirez. “When the dominant culture likes a certain format, to have another voice saying this is just as valid” means there’s going to be a reaction.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily about content,” Ramirez continues. “Because the form is so new relative to the theater, what we have is something that is constantly changing. Performance art has emerged out of a tradition that’s been coming along just since the ‘20s. There’s not a party line.”

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That dynamic quality, says Madden, may be just what theaters such as the Taper need.

“One of the concerns in the American resident theater over the past 10 years is what’s been happening to writers: Are the great voices of American art coming out of the theater? Some of them are, but there’s also a number of them--like Robert Wilson and Ping Chong-- that are in a category that includes many different art forms.

“We’re interested in the future of live performance and live performance now includes all of those things.

“You can have a deep, abiding interest in the literary aspect of presentation, but you can also want and need for your organization to develop interest in the whole world of kinetic communication. Whatever title you want to give to live performance, the best of it is using as much as possible of the layers of communication.

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“This has to do with the future of the theater in general,” says Madden. “It’s also the future of this organization in this city. It’s our responsibility to be open and to be a forum for what goes on in the community.”


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